Coronavirus Cured My Anxiety

It’s an anxious time right now.  Not only are people dealing with the fear of getting sick, but they’re also dealing with the financial insecurity that comes with getting laid off and the economy shutting down.  Self-help articles abound on the NY Times and the Washington Post featuring relaxation tips and tools for managing stress.  For someone with chronic anxiety, the current state of the world should be like a shot of adrenaline right to my brain.  And yet, for the first time in my life, I am calm.

I am an anxious person.  I was put on this earth for one reason and one reason only—to be anxious.  My earliest memory is from when I was in preschool, having just told my friend Lauren how to spell the F word.  We sat together on the ground in class, my hand cupped around her ear as I whispered the forbidden knowledge.

The next day Lauren came into class with a letter addressed to the teacher from Lauren’s mother.  This letter detailed just exactly what I had done.  In this letter Lauren’s mother laid out all of the horrible details of the sin that I had committed and, for good measure, she threw in what she thought my punishment should be: instant and merciless execution.

Or so I had convinced myself.  In reality, the letter had nothing to do with me, but that didn’t stop me from interrogating Lauren.

“Did you tell your mother?” I asked her, breathing heavily through my mouth.

“Did I tell my mother what?” she replied.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” I said.

We had a field trip to a museum scheduled for later that day, which was fate’s malicious plan to slowly torture me.  As we walked through the museum, I shot nervous glances at my teacher.  I knew she was simply waiting for me to let down my guard before she pulled me aside to inform me of my punishment and potential incarceration.

As I got older, my anxiety did not go away.  It began to shift forms, settling just long enough for me to become aware that it was my anxiety that I was feeling and not something else.  Then it would dissipate, drifting through my fingers before it would take on another form to torment me with.

When I was 11, it took the form of nighttime panic attacks.  I felt like I was going to die, paralyzed with the thought of me as an 18-year-old lying in bed at night in my college dorm having just found out my parents were dead.  These nighttime anxiety attacks always featured two intermingling scenarios: I was in college, and my parents were dead.  It became hard not to link the two together from now on.

When I was in my late teens, anxiety took the form of quicksand, pulling me down into the floor and suffocating me every morning.  Usually this was because I was hungover, the aftereffects of alcohol triggering my panicked “fight-or-flight” response every single morning.  I would always choose flight (if by flight you meant avoiding going to class and letting my anxiety build to a breaking point).

Then my anxiety felt like a blanket.  But not a comforting blanket; it was a suffocating blanket, one that made my breath shallower and shallower until I felt my lungs screaming for oxygen.

Next, it was a fist slowly squeezing my heart.  It felt like my chest was getting tighter and tighter as I became lightheaded and didn’t know why.

Then it was a cup of water in my lungs, slowly pouring itself out.  The water would dribble out of the cup, run along my fingers and then down my wrist.  It would continue down the length of my arm and into my sleeve, making its way down my body before hitting the ground.  There it would slowly build until it drowned me from the inside out.

After I got sober, my anxiety settled a bit.  Now, gratefully, it confined itself to a single moment each day.  Every day, the moment that I woke up, I felt as if I was going to die.  My anxiety was a spear that pinned me to the bed, waking me up as though an ancient warrior had thrust his javelin right through my chest and left me to choke on my own blood.  It was unpleasant, to say the least.

I decided to stop taking anti-anxiety medication 3 years ago.  My anxiety had become a lot more manageable thanks to the fact that I was no longer binge drinking nor obese.  But although my anxiety became milder, it did not go away altogether.  My anxiety became a shadow, tormenting me with pokes, prods, and pinches that I wasn’t sure were really real or if I’d simply made them up.

Then the coronavirus happened.  Everyone lost their minds, buying up food and water for a good reason and toilet paper for no reason.  Hand washing became the newest craze, and “social distancing” entered the lexicon as the latest buzzword.  And I became calm.  Something in me switched off.

Maybe the coronavirus put into perspective the fact that everything I normally feel anxious about didn’t matter.  I think another part of it is that it took away a lot of the daily social pressures to perform and to be productive, which are the usual sources of my anxiety.  I’m not the person to think, “God sent a pandemic to teach me how to chill out.”  But I am grateful that, as an anxious person, I am not anxious now.

Now don’t get me wrong: I definitely take the coronavirus seriously.  I’m social distancing, I’ve stocked up on my groceries, and I’m washing my hands with the best of them.  But I’m not worried.  Not in the slightest.  Maybe I should be.  Maybe I should be freaking out about food shortages and scores of people dying and being stuck indoors for the next few weeks or months or years.  But my question to that is: why?  What would I accomplish by worrying about any of that?  It’s all out of my control.  I’m doing my part to slow the spread of this disease, and I’m checking in with my family and loved ones to make sure that we’re all being safe and smart.

I have no power over the rest of it.  I can’t stop people in Florida from going to Disney World or Republicans from going to the Golden Corral.  And I don’t need to.  Coronavirus taught me that 99% of the things I spend my time worrying about don’t matter, and for the things that do matter, worrying isn’t going to help.  All I can do is focus on doing my best, taking care of myself, and being of service.

Coronavirus got rid of my anxiety.  Maybe it’ll be back; maybe next time it will feel like a slug nibbling on my left toe.  But I’ll be able to look back at the time when it felt like the whole world was falling apart and I’ll remember that sense of calm I felt.  And I know that I can feel this way anytime I want.

-Theodore Dandy

How To One-Up Your Ex-Boyfriend At The Driving Range

So your boyfriend dumps you but then, a month later, suggests a casual get-together at the driving range? This has happened to all of us. Don’t worry that you don’t know the first thing about golf. Use the following simple tips to show him your life is way better without him:

First, do not rent your golf clubs. Ex-bae is going to think you’re weak if you have to rely on other people (i.e. men) to provide for you. Avoid this problem by bringing that club you picked up on the street the time you got lost in K-town (the one you carried around drunkenly for several hours for no clear reason); it’ll do.

Second, remember at all times to keep in mind why you are here: it is not to be good at golf, it is to look as though you are good at golf. So, dress super-cute, and super-impractical.  Hopefully he won’t notice whether you successfully hit the ball, as long as you keep smiling and laughing (at him, or so he thinks).

Don’t forget to document every single waking moment of it all on Instagram. It’s crucial that everyone believes there is no bad blood between the two of you, so make a post with the caption: “So glad we can still be friends!” (Feel free to block him so he cannot see you have done this).

Most importantly of all, when the game is over, do not go home with him. I know you’ll be tempted (after all the aphrodisiacal golf), but it is only going to make things more complicated. At the same time, however, life is life, and it’s important to have fun with it. So to hell with it, go home and sleep with him if you must. As long as you’re being true to yourself, you can’t go wrong!

-Theodore Dandy

How Stella Got Her Libido Back

My first crush was Zac Efron in High School Musical.  I was a 13-year-old boy at the time, which meant I knew to keep this to myself.  Still, my love for High School Musical had to be expressed somehow, so I told everyone I was in love with Zac’s co-star, Vanessa Hudgens.  I even painted a portrait of her in art class to demonstrate my heterosexuality.  (Of course, I did love her as well, but in a girl crush kind of way; what Zac and I had was different).

Later, when I was a sophomore in high school, I fell in love.  His name was Adam Lambert and he was a contestant on American Idol.  My explosion from the closet (helloooooooooooo!) occurred on the same night that he tragically lost the competition.  It was a queer whirlwind of emotion; leaving me devastated for his loss, but thrilled at my newfound freedom.  I kept our dream alive by purchasing an abundance of Adam Lambert merchandise and boycotting American Idol.

The next year, Adam Lambert had become a stranger to me.  I tossed him aside like an old, dusty portrait of Vanessa Hudgens, in favor of my brand new crush: Darren Criss.  My new love had just begun starring on the TV show Glee (a show which premiered the day I came out – truly a day for the gay history books!)  I loved Darren’s voice and his cute outfits, with their whimsical bowties.  I attempted to copy this look, with only minor success.  I suppose this is a question that plagues every gay man regarding their crush: do I want to be with you, or be you?  Perhaps both.  (I’ll let you know when I figure this out).

When I got to college, the male-objects of my attraction grew from fantasy to reality (for the most part).  I began dating boys and hooking up, which for most people starts in high school.  For gays, it’s often delayed by a few years while we come to terms with our identity.  My early dating experience can perhaps best be summarized by the Taylor Swift lyric, “when all you wanted was to be wanted”.   Whereas, after a few years, I like to think it transitioned to, “takes me home, lights are off, he’s taking off his coat (Hm yeah)”.

After I got sober, it took me a while to develop the confidence required to refine my dating palette.  I had grown up with the subconscious thought, “you might as well date whoever’s interested, because who’s really going to love you?” (self-esteem not being my strong suit).  But I began dating men I actually liked and was attracted to— the temerity!

When I lost my virginity, the flood gates were truly opened.  I could do whatever I liked.  I wasn’t bound by arbitrary rules attaching moral stigma to sex or relationships. What freedom!  My wild, free-loving 60s phase lasted about a month, until I got into a new, long-term relationship – this one lasting over a year.  It was my first real relationship; full of love and lust, fighting and loss.  By the time it ended, I was ready to take a break.  I needed some space just for me, to focus on improving myself, rather than singularly devoting my attention to another.

A few months passed.  Then a year. “Are you dating anyone?” people would ask me. “No, I’m just focused on my writing,” I’d say. But the truth was, I had no interest in dating anyone.  I hadn’t thought about sex in months.  In the brief time following my break-up, I figured this was normal. But a year and a half later, I was starting to get worried.  When would I regain my interest?  I started to get in my head about it.

I have always had a healthy libido, even when I was at my most unhealthy with food and alcohol.  But now here I was – healthier than I’d ever been, mentally and physically – and yet I felt nothing.  I was a eunuch.  Who had I become?

It wasn’t so much the lack of interest in dating that worried me, it was the lack of interest in men at all.  I hadn’t felt attracted to one in months, not even handsome men at the gym, or those passing on the street.  I felt like a different person; as though this part of myself I had always carried was gone.  Most of the time I forgot about sex entirely.  But when I did think about it, it felt like a gaping chasm I had no idea how to cross.

I felt the irony suddenly of all the hours I had spent researching ex-gays and celibacy for my writing, only to now inadvertently become celibate myself.  The ex-gay community would finally love me!  But I was devastated; I was pretty much gay in theory only.  I remained grateful for the free life I had created, but lamented my lack of physical desire. Desire is a part of what makes us human.  Regardless of whether it’s a healthy desire or an unhealthy one; everyone wants something.  Whether it’s food, sex, money, connection… everyone has desires they try and fulfill.  To walk around with one of the most fundamental of these gone, left me feeling like a shell of a person.

I agonized over what could be the cause of my low libido.  Was it low testosterone?  I had no other symptoms. Was I depressed?  I didn’t feel depressed.  Was I working too much?  Maybe I was stressed?  I tried a variety of natural supplements to help bring my mojo back.  Some were more successful than others, but none could ultimately make me want something I apparently no longer desired. I felt lost and ashamed to talk about it.  How do you tell friends and family you’ve lost interest in sex?  It’s not exactly something you share on Facebook.  But at the same time, what was I supposed to say when people asked me about dating?  How was I supposed to explain the emptiness I felt about something so intimate and personal?

One day a beloved friend of mine suggested I might be low in iodine.  There is a history of thyroid autoimmunity in my family, and a natural iodine supplement (from sea kelp) could be helpful.  So I started taking it.  Slowly but surely I felt myself coming back.  It was subtle at first – a naughty thought here, a suggestive glance there.  But then it came flooding, like a repressed memory I had recovered and unleashed.

I felt like I had awakened from a dream, and come back to life.  “I’m in my prime,” I suddenly thought, “what am I doing?”  I need to get out there, meet new people, date and experience life on its own terms again.  I needed to find Zac Efron and see what he’d been up to.  I dusted off the portrait of Vanessa Hudgens, threw on an Adam Lambert t-shirt and watched an old episode of Glee with Darren Criss crooning.

The difference was like night and day.  I had gone almost two years without this vital part of myself, and now that I had it back, I swore never to let go of it again.

Sea kelp had saved me.  It gave an integral part of my life back – my desire.

That little boy, who fell in love with every attractive man with the voice of an angel, had returned, and he was here to stay.

I still don’t know exactly what happened to me, but it taught me something important.  Even if it’s embarrassing or personal, there’s no reason to suffer alone.  Asking for help has invariably led me to the solution to almost every problem in my life.  Shame only prolonged my suffering, but pushing through that shame and becoming willing to talk about it was the key to recovery.

-Theodore Dandy

8 Dogs You Didn’t Know Existed But Sure Are Glad You Do Now

  1. Borzoi

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Also known as a Russian Wolfhound, the Borzoi was originally used by the Russian Aristocracy for hunting wolves.  It was common to see a hundred of these long bois engaged in the hunt.  I imagine this is the sight that will greet me when I enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nowadays they seem to always be photographed galavanting around the forest like giant woodland nymphs (perhaps harkening to their long-forgotten past).


  1. Whippet

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Nicknamed the “Poor man’s racehorse”, the Whippet originated in England.  They were used for racing as a cheaper alternative to a traditional greyhound, from which they decend.  Hence why this boi is smol, but still long.  Like tiny Martians, these goblins are almost always trembling, probably because they’re so excited to meet you.  They may also tremble because of the cold, which makes sense since they’re almost always photographed in tiny sweaters.


  1. Pekingese

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Known as lion dogs for their resemblance to Chinese guardian lions, these little emperors were bred to live in palaces.  You can most clearly see this by the dignified way they waddle when you pass them on the sidewalk. They are one of the oldest breed of dogs and, surprisingly, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf.   So be careful around these little guys, because there may be darkness hidden behind those calculating black orbs.


  1. Bergamasco Sheepdog

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Originated from the Italian Alps, this breed of dog was used for herding sheep.  The Bergamasco Sheepdog is known for its trademark matted hair, which served as protection from the cold as well as predators.  These dogs are often mistaken for giant mops roaming the Italian countryside.  Buca Di beppo, that’s no mop!  That’s a pupper.


  1. Xoloitzcuintli

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Also known as a Mexican hairless dog, this dog is the ancient Aztec dog of the gods.  They are characterized by the developmental absence of one or more of their teeth, as well as being almost completely hairless except for the small tuft on the head.  All of this means you might mistake them for that old man at your gym who keeps bringing you DVD’s of old movies even though you told him you don’t have a DVD player.  Just take them and say thank you, he’s lonely.


  1. Afghan Hound

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Some authorities believe the Afghan hound is the oldest breed of purebred dogs.  In fact, an ancient myth states they were the dogs on Noah’s Ark.  You might recognize this dog as the “Cher” dog, in that every single one of these beautiful hounds looks exactly like the singer Cher.  The Afghan hound is aloof and dignified but isn’t without its silly streak (also like Cher).


  1. Bedlington Terrier


Known for its pear-shaped head and sheep-like fur, this terrier is surprisingly a relative of the Whippet (though with significantly less trembling).  The Bedlington Terrier earned the nickname “Gypsy Dog” for its use as a poaching partner by Romanies.  Known interests include lace, flowers, and Stevie Nicks.  The one above is a patriot, but not all necessarily are.


  1. Catalburun

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These dogs are one of only three dog breeds with split noses, basically making it look like a dog split in half.  Vaguely reminiscent of the creature from the movie Splice, something about this dog stares directly into your soul.  Luckily for you, however, they are virtually unheard of outside of Turkey.  So you’re safe.  For now.

A Note To The Dancing Man At My Gym

Dear Dancing Man,

Why do you dance?

I see you almost every day, with your large over-the-ear headphones and your sleeveless muscle tee. You work out alone, while I work out with a partner. During our exercise, my friend and I chat about television, art, and our own existential angst. You, on the other hand, dance.

I’m not sure which of us enjoys ourselves more. A part of me wishes I could be that free, to shake my hips the way you do and sashay around the gym like it’s my own personal club.

Why do you dance?

Do you feel compelled to?

What are you listening to? I like to imagine that you listen to nothing, that the noise-canceling headphones on your head allow you to block out the rest of the world so that you can truly connect with the Holy Spirit. The dance comes from within, so that it is less a reaction to something external than it is the inevitable expression of your soul.

I look at my own soul, and I wonder when I stopped dancing.

Why do you dance?

It was fun at first, an interesting quirk you had. We would always call you “The Dancing Man”. We thought you were fun and carefree. But now your dancing seems different. Your body language has turned condescending; the sway of your hips has become a mocking criticism of my own failings.

Do you think you’re better than me? How dare you dance? This is a public gym after all. Show some class and behave yourself.

And just what are you listening to?

Why do you dance?

I’ve never heard you speak, although something about the way you look leads me to believe you may be foreign, possibly Russian. Your shaved head and beard are surprisingly masculine compared to your delicate moves and your campy tank tops. You are a walking contradiction, an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a gay Jaime Dornan.

Sometimes I wonder that if you did speak, I would hear nothing but the sound of my own deepest fears.

Please don’t speak. Just dance.

Why do you dance?

Do you ever think of me? How must I appear to you, with my signature gym shorts and my collection of tank tops?

Or perhaps you don’t see me at all; you just see your own reflection staring back at you.

I’ve never met anyone as self-obsessed as you. Last week you stole all of the 10-pound weights to do a barbell row. I needed those weights.

How can you dance with the guilt of what you’ve done to me?

Why won’t you notice me?

Why do you dance?

Can I dance with you?

-Theodore Dandy

My War On HAIM

I’m declaring war on the band HAIM.

HAIM, a musical trio of sisters, are known for their casual rock/pop sound and similarity to Fleetwood Mac.  I used to love them.  A part of me still does.  But I’m killing that part of myself. Because I know what needs to be done.

On July 31st, 2019, HAIM released their new single, “Summer Girl”.  The song was an instant hit, with soothing saxophone vibes throughout and lyrics that speak of hope and inspiration.

They released a music video for the song in which the three sisters walk through various neighborhoods of Los Angeles wearing multiple layers of clothing that, one by one, they proceed to remove.  My friend Victoria sent me the video and I loved it.  We were hooked.  We were summer girls.

As part of the song’s promotion, HAIM launched their #summergirlchallenge on August 8th, 2019.  I was at work at the coffee shop when Victoria showed me the band’s Instagram post in which they challenged fans to create a short video of their own, in the style of “Summer Girl”.  The winner of the challenge would receive a “Summer Girl” t-shirt and box of merchandise.

The rules were breathtakingly simple:

  1. Put on “Summer Girl”.
  2. Put on layers.
  3. Record yourself taking them off.
  4. Post the video on Instagram with the hashtag #summergirlchallenge.

Sounds innocent enough, right?


I had no idea of the chaos this was going to usher into my life, nor of the bitter tears of disillusionment that awaited me at the end of this dark tunnel of despair.

Naive nymph that I was, I asked Victoria to immediately retrieve the clothes from the Lost and Found, which I wasted no time adorning myself in.  We put on the song “Summer Girl” and she filmed me making a cappuccino while I successively discarded the layers.

It took several tries to get it right – partly, because we kept getting interrupted by customers rudely wanting us to make them drinks.  But after a couple of false starts, we got the perfect video.  I posted it to Instagram a mere two hours (TWO HOURS) after they had launched the challenge, and we waited to see what would happen.

The next day, I was overjoyed to discover HAIM had reposted *my* video to their InstaStory!  In fact, they had mistakenly posted it twice!  Surely I would be named the winner now.

Surely this wouldn’t all be for naught…

Days went by.

Then weeks.

Would they even choose the winner?  When?  Would I get that box of merch that was rightfully mine, or would I be inhumanly denied it in a cruel twist of fate?

Eventually they posted an update to the #summergirlchallenge.  The winner would be announced on September 1st.  Perfect!  All I had to do was wait.  Surely even I could do that.

But the closer September 1st drew, the more nervous I became.  What if they forgot about me?  Maybe I shouldn’t have rushed to post so soon, or waited until the end for maximum effect.  Oh, well.  It would do no good worrying about it now.  All I could do was wait.

When September 1st came, I could hardly breathe.  My entire life depended on the whims of three sisters from the San Fernando Valley.  I checked Instagram obsessively, refreshing the band’s page in a fever whirl.

Nothing.  As the sun began to go down, a terrible fear crept in: what if they never choose a winner?  I banished this chilling thought from my mind.

As I lay down, bitterly, to sleep, I checked Instagram one final time: still nothing.  Sure enough, I had been betrayed.

More days and weeks passed. Still no word on the winner of the HAIM #summergirlchallenge.  Cruelly (and perhaps intentionally), the band continued to post on their Instagram about other things.  But no update on the promises they’d made (and broken), or the endless lies they’d told. Our hopes had been built up only for HAIM to hack them to pieces with a machete of indifference, while laughing cruelly.

Then one day, a ray of light.  I was with Victoria and checked my Instagram to find the band had finally posted about the #summergirlchallenge.  They announced they were just about to choose a winner.  In fact, they were going to choose three winners!  I was ecstatic.  My chances of winning had tripled! Was this so I could win three times?  I was sure to nail a prize.

The first winner was announced.  It wasn’t me.  Victoria and I clung to one another, our fingers crossed and our lips moving in silent prayer.

The second winner was announced. Still not me. Strike two.  I began to feel desperate.  Victoria tried to calm me with her useless words.

The final post appeared, announcing the third winner…

Hindsight is a funny thing.

It’s crazy to think you can go from being a happy, innocent, young gay man with the whole world at his feet to the human embodiment of malice, putridity and loathing.

A seed of hatred had been planted inside me, and the buoyant young man I once was faded now into the whisper of a shadow.  I became a shell.

And so, I declare war.

I declare a war on HAIM.

Because, really, my video was the best.  It deserved to win.  Do you know how hard it is to try and make a cappuccino while wearing four jackets, none of which are yours?  You don’t, and you never will.  No one will ever understand my pain. But that’s fine.  I’m resigned to walking this highway alone.

From hereon I shall banish every HAIM song from my phone.  I will plug my ears when they come on the radio.  I will take the CD that I made for my mother (which included a whole two HAIM songs) and I will burn it in front of her.

No… wait. That CD has a lot of other really good songs, so I won’t do that.  But I will forbid her from listening to those two tracks.

HAIM will rue the day they decided not to name me their Summer Girl.

Every tear I shed will be on their hands.  They will have to live with what they did to me. And that is the worst punishment I can think of.

As for me?

I’ll have to settle for Taylor Swift.

-Theodore Dandy


Silence Of The Moths

It began with a single moth, fluttering around my kitchen. 

I killed it instantly, intoxicated by power.

I marveled at my ability to snuff out the life of such a small creature without a single feeling of remorse.  But then, the next night, there was another moth; this time in my bedroom.  Then another appeared in my bathroom, and another in the living room. I killed them all.  Pretty soon, my murderous routine became monotonous, and I longed for the same sweet release of death that I so eagerly provided the moths.

I looked around my apartment for the source of all these moths.  Why did they plague me so?

I had just paid for the annual cleaning of my apartment – surely they couldn’t survive in such a pristine environment? And yet here they were. And I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I would become the Elizabeth Báthory of moth-killing.

So I did the one thing I swore to myself I would never do: I opened my closet.

Stillness.  But I was not deceived.  I pushed aside an old cardigan from Forever 21.  Wings fluttered.  My heart sank.  The killing began anew.

I spent the rest of the night clearing out my closet, taking out cardigans and jackets, towels and sheets, and killing every single moth I stumbled upon.  I vacuumed the closet, wiped down the shelves, and went through my clothes to see what I had to toss and what I could salvage.

Luckily there wasn’t any major moth damage, although I did find a nest on the sleeve of a corduroy dinner jacket I’d bought in high school.  (Man, I have a lot from Forever 21).

I decided I’d rather toss most of the clothes than wash them, since they were mostly old sweaters that didn’t fit anymore, and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered.  I took four loads of laundry to the laundromat on the corner and prayed that the worst was over.  I’m still itching just thinking about the nest.

The next day, I put everything back in my closet, which was now perfectly clean and organized.  I went around the apartment, wiping down underneath my furniture to ensure they didn’t try and recolonize.

No more moths.  The coast was clear.

The next night, as I made dinner, a solitary moth-soldier took flight.  But how? I’d eradicated them, or so I thought.  I went back to the closet, going through my jackets.  No moths there.  Where did this one straggler spawn from?  I went back to my kitchen, looking through my cabinets.  Were they pantry moths? Was I dealing with an entirely different specimen?  I didn’t have any unsealed food and I certainly didn’t have any grains.  Did I even have a pantry? What were these creatures?

I looked through the kitchen cabinet where I keep bowls and plates, and was surprised to find what appeared to be coffee grounds on the third shelf.  How did they get there?  They didn’t.  Upon closer inspection, it dawned on me they were tiny little bits of round wood. Now I also had termites.

Apparently when drywood termites are ready to reproduce, they send out swarmer termites to fly around and find a new America for them to eat.  The kitchen “moths” I’d been killing were in fact winged termites, completely unrelated to my closet-moth infestation.  I took everything out of my cabinet and wiped it down completely with orange oil, hoping to kill the termites.

There were a few tiny holes in my shelves, but to be honest they were almost unnoticeable.  My biggest fear was just that I’d have to share my apartment with a colony of termites, when for years I had told people I lived alone.

In a week or two, I’ll check and see if there are any more wooden termite droppings, but in the meantime local nuns are taking shifts to ensure that someone is always praying for me and my insect-colony apartment.  I just hope I’ll be able to give up this life of violence and make amends for the souls of the dozens of insects whose lives have been lost so casually by my hand.

But more importantly, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from all of this: Being an adult involves taking care of yourself and your possessions, and a home requires care just like anything else does.  When you live alone, you can’t take for granted the things you had when you lived with your parents.  Nothing will get dusted unless you dust it.  Pests will get in if you don’t keep things clean and vigilantly inspect your home.  No one is going to come and clean your apartment (unless you pay them to).

In the meantime, I have decided my annual cleaning will now be a bi-annual event.

Take that, pests!

-Theodore Dandy

Goodbye Day Job, Hello Career

Whenever I met new people and they asked what I do, I would always tell them I worked at a coffee shop.  I would never dare tell them I was a writer. Because part of me felt I was just pretending to be one.

But two weeks ago I submitted my letter of resignation at work.

I have been working in coffee for the last three and a half years and it’s a job I have loved.  Working in customer service has its own unique set of ups and downs, but at the end of the day it has enabled me to earn a living whilst pursuing writing in my spare time.  And now, after moving to Los Angeles a little over four years ago, I am finally ready to quit my day job and become a full time writer.

I visited my sister in Switzerland at the end of February this year and when I came back to Los Angeles, I knew I was ready to move forward in my life.  I had been pursuing personal writing outside of work for the last few years, but I wanted to make the push to leave the coffee shop and make a living from writing. I set an intention, and asked my writer friend and mentor for advice on what to do to make it a reality.

I started doing freelance writing at the beginning of March, setting up a profile on a site online and writing articles for barely any money in order to build up positive reviews.  Pretty soon I had amassed a collection of positive reviews, which grew steadily, and I raised my prices accordingly.  Eventually I was making as much per hour writing as I was at the coffee shop and I found myself inundated with work.  I slowly built my savings and continued to raise prices to match the level of work I was being offered.  Once I had reached a point where I was making twice as much writing as I was working the day job, I decided it was time to move on.

I gave one month’s notice at work (to be fair I had known for the previous six months that I wanted to leave).  When I sat down with the manager to tell him, it was a moment I had looked forward to for months.  I knew it would be bittersweet, because although I loved working at the cafe and have made wonderful friendships there, coffee is simply not the career path I am looking to take.  My manager was touchingly disappointed I was leaving but told me he was happy I was pursuing my writing.  He said my colleagues in the cafe loved me and that I am the kind of person who will succeed in whatever I do.

It was reminiscent of the conversation I had with my previous manager a little over a year ago, when I turned down the position of assistant manager.  We were even sitting at the same table.  And while I know I am a hard worker and try to support all of my coworkers on every shift, it still means a lot to me to hear.  I’m grateful that, through sobriety, I have learned how to put my all into everything I do.  I may be leaving my job at the coffee shop but I’m leaving on good terms and moving onward to pursue my chosen career.

The next step is an exciting one for me.  Being a freelance writer means I’ll be able to set my own schedule and have much more time to pursue my own writing.  There are still many steps to take, of course, but I am happy to imagine I may never again have to do anything other than write in order to support myself.

When I meet new people now and they ask what I do, I don’t tell them I work at a coffee shop.

I confidently say I am a writer.

-Theodore Dandy

How To Be Present (Even When Trump Is President)

Being present has been kind of a struggle for me lately.

Early on in my sobriety I learned about the concept of “smart feet”, where one essentially gets up off the couch and leaves their apartment to do the thing they know they must do, before their brains have a chance to convince them otherwise.  I try and apply that concept to getting out of bed every morning to write. So far it’s been incredibly effective.  I started writing freelance articles about two months ago and have already built up several gigs that I really enjoy.  It helped when I realized that waking up at 6.30 am each day was not, in fact, a sign of poor sleep quality, but a healthy body’s way of telling me I had had enough sleep (who knew I didn’t need 9 hours a night?)  Since then, my writing time in the mornings has doubled, and I have found myself writing more in the last two months than in my entire previous life combined.

I’m terrified of going back to the way it was before.  I used to consider myself lucky if I got two hours of writing done a week. Now I chastise myself for writing less than two hours a day.  Ever since I set an intention to finally leave my job in coffee and pursue a job in writing, I have been feeling more motivated than ever. At the same time, I find myself itching to get going in my writing career, which makes it harder for me to accept my present reality; instead of accepting when I am in the middle of the slog, I choose to live in an imagined future, where my hard work has already paid off; and I don’t have to work my day job anymore.

I heard a man say once that when he was drinking he was always in a rush, but he didn’t know where he was in a rush to go.  I find myself rushing through everything I don’t want to be doing – working out, walking to work, my day job, the dishes; and by the end of the day I ask myself, what was my favorite part of the day?  Was it the one or two moments I felt actually present?  And is it possible I could still enjoy myself while I am doing something I’d rather not be doing?

When Trump got elected, it felt like a nightmare.  There was so much fear about the next four years, about the things he would do, and the people who would be harmed.  It was tempting to look forward to the idea of 2020 when we could vote him out of office, but I made a decision not to do that.  I wasn’t going to give up four years of my life hoping a man I didn’t like would no longer be president.  I had to learn how to be happy and content in a Trump presidency, or the rest of my life would be 4 (or 8) year periods of alternating bliss and hell.  And as a result, even though things in politics have been horrendous, the last three years of my life have involved more growth and serenity than I have ever experienced before.

I don’t want to live my life dreading weekdays and praying for the weekend.  I want to find joy in the moment, and feel comfortable in my discomfort.  And the only way to do that is to be present; even if it means pulling myself from happy fantasies for the future, back to less-than-beautiful realities of the moment.  Because when I look back now, the me from 5 years ago would kill to inhabit my current reality.

It all depends on how you look at it.

-Theodore Dandy

I Think Of The Last Two Years Like A Black And White Cookie

A big part of me doesn’t want to write this… 

It’s been a year and I don’t want to reopen an old wound.  I don’t want to cause harm to him or me, or us both.  But at my core I am a writer.  I have always written truthfully here about my life, and this cannot be an exception.

One year ago I was living with my boyfriend.  We had been together for thirteen months.  It had been the biggest year of my life – my first love; a whirlwind romance.  After only a few months together, his father died.  He moved into my place.  I loved him.  He loved me.  We helped each other.  We fought.  About a lot of things.  Mainly politics, our values, and the things which separated us that we couldn’t make fit, no matter how hard we tried.

I had never felt about anybody the way I felt about him.  

He was the first person I could see myself being with for the rest of my life.  After a while though, my feelings changed.  The more time we spent together, the more we grew apart.  Differences between us that had once seemed fun and interesting became destructive and depressing, and trying to make the relationship work started to feel like a full-time job.  This should have told me things weren’t meant to be, but it didn’t.  I didn’t see what was right in front of me because I didn’t want to.  I wanted what I wanted, and what I wanted was him, and he wanted me.

But about this time last year, I knew we had to break up.  

Things had crossed a line in my mind.  Once the decision was made, I couldn’t unmake it.  I couldn’t un-know the truth I had grown to realize.  I told him how I felt, and to my great surprise, he agreed.  He said of course we weren’t meant to end up together, and told me it was okay.  I couldn’t understand what he meant, but was pleased he took the news so well.  The next day however, he had a new angle: he wanted us to stay together, to just enjoy the present and not worry about the future.  But I needed to make a future for myself.  He was away on April 1st, Easter Sunday.  When he came back the next day, I sat him down. I told him we had to end things.  He did not take it well.

We tried to be friends.  People told me it wouldn’t work.  They said the wound was too fresh.  But I had to try.  I needed to find out for myself because I felt I owed him that friendship.  I couldn’t abandon him and break up with him all at the same time.  But there is a universal truth to the need for at least some period of separation following a break-up.  Being in the same room together, for us, turned out to be another form of trying to make something work that at its core did not work.  So we cut off contact.

Who am I? What should I do? I can do anything I want with this free time, what should it be? What do I want out of my life? What are my goals and how can I grow?  

I was left with these questions and more, now that I was single.  I had not been coasting in my life, even during the relationship, and I had put in countless hours of fitness training, writing, working and developing friendships.  I had a solid foundation, had made lots of progress and I was proud of that progress.  So progress would become my focus now.

I started pushing myself at the gym, rather than merely showing up and going through the motions.  I became more dedicated than ever to my diet.  My cheats and binges became so rare that I was able to make significant and noticeable changes to my appearance and health.  I could fall asleep within minutes, sleep through the night, and my anxiety was down.  I was feeling great and looking great, and this enabled me to further feed my creative side.

I became stricter with my writing.  I began to put in office hours, waking up an hour earlier each morning to write, whether I felt motivated to or not.  I began reading a little every day on my breaks, listening to podcasts on the walks to work, and watching TV for research while I made dinner at night; all of this in addition to writing for an hour every morning.  I filled as much of my life as I could with creativity and found the difficult balance between solid routine and rigid schedule. 

I learned how to be flexible within my routine, to accept life on its own terms and try to be present in whatever I’m doing.  I feel like every time I start something new, or set a new goal, this rush comes over me as if there’s a ticking clock counting down and I have to progress as quickly as possible.  It’s as though the moment I discover something, suddenly there’s a time limit on it for me to master completely.  Never mind the fact things have been going along quite well for years before I was born and will continue happily for years after I die, in my mind it’s no! this thing did not exist before I knew about it and within minutes it’ll be gone. I must act NOW! 

But I have learned how to balance my life into a routine that serves the me I am today, together with the me I want to be tomorrow.

Looking back on the last two years of my life, I have grown more than I ever could have imagined.  During this past year I have fed my creative side, my health, and my drive.  The previous year I learned more about life and love and the things most important to me, and did this the only way I could, by doing.

Looking forward, I am not sure what this next year of life will bring.  Maybe I will make strides in my career, begin to take the things I’ve been dabbling in and throw myself into them with full force.  They say leap and a net will appear.  I finally feel like I can see the edge of the cliff… 

I think this is the year I’m ready to make the jump.  And yes, this does seem like a suicidal metaphor, but I assure you it is not.  I realize that if I’m constantly seeking to grow, learn, and progress, then every day should be the best day of my life.  It certainly has the potential to be.

-Theodore Dandy