14 Thoughts I Had While Presenting to a Room Full of Teenagers

Today, my coworker (and fellow cheese-appreciater) and I gave a career presentation to a couple of high school classes. We discussed the education and work experiences we underwent in order to became counselors, as well as what our jobs look like on a day-to-day basis.

It was pretty fun, actually. But there’s a reason I didn’t seek a career where public speaking is more common.

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I get nervous, and then distracted by my own nervousness, and then my brain sort of implodes.  Here are some of the things I was thinking about while speaking to the students:

  1. Literally every kid in here is wearing a t-shirt and comfy pants. I never thought I’d feel so overdressed in jeans. Should I take my pants off to fit in? No, pantslessness in front of minors is probably frowned upon.
  1. What – what is that girl eating? IS SHE EATING PANCAKES? With Nutella on them?!? What kind of magical-ass school is this?
  1. Can I go to school here?
  1. I think I’m using my arms and hands way too much. I’m like an over-caffeinated octopus over here.
  1. Alright, my hands are down now. Wait, no pockets! Where do I put my hands?
  1. I wonder if the students are thinking that my hair looks like a sea anemone today. They’re not wrong, but I still hope they’re not thinking about it.
  1. I just mispronounced a word. Should I correct myself, or keep going? Nah, just keep going, keep going – you’re doing great! Aw shit, you just did it again.
  1. Man, the English language is HARD. How do make sentence?
  1. Oh cool, my coworker and I are both nervously swaying at the same time, in the same direction. I’m sure that doesn’t look crazy at all.
  1. I wonder if other people find it this hard to act like a normal person. I think I’ve used up all my social skills for the day.
  1. Crap, my hands have crept their way into the conversation again. Sneaky hands.
  1. I hope someone asks about my hobbies, so that I have an excuse to tell them about my cheese blog.
  1. Okay, please don’t leave me standing here in awkward silence. Ask SOMETHING!
  1. Oh god, don’t ask THAT. Anything but that.

 

This was one of those experiences that I genuinely enjoyed, and yet am relieved is over. Does anybody else struggle a bit (or a lot) with public speaking? What strategies do you employ for making yourself more comfortable?

 

 

 

 

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Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife, & Hide Ya Dogs

Actually, you can keep your wife and kids. But you should hide your dogs from me, because I want to kidnap them.

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I’ve experienced the full spectrum of appreciation when it comes to dogs. For the first few years of my life, I was petrified of them, and then I gradually grew to love them – especially our family dogs, Abby and Caramel.

Unfortunately, I’ve been dogless for the past few years that I’ve lived alone, and lately, my love for them has grown into an obsession. Instead of homesick, I’m dogsick.

 Too bad my apartment complex doesn’t allow pets.

I think about the cuddly fur balls way more often than a grown-up should. I squeal over pictures and videos of them on the Internet. I visit family members I haven’t seen in awhile, only to ignore them and make a beeline for their dogs.

I’ve even volunteered to house-sit for my friend when she was only going to be gone for a few hours – because I wanted to hang out with her energetic, loving canine.

Now, when I see dogs out in public, living their doggy lives, I entertain the idea of abducting them.

I have thoughts like, “I wonder how quickly I could unhook that corgi from his leash and get him into my car.” Or,  “Hmm…that chihuahua is pretty little. I could probably slip her in my pocket without anyone noticing.”

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You know how when you’re trying to eat healthier, you say to yourself, “You can’t have sweets. You can’t have pizza. No pasta!” Then you spend so much time telling yourself what you CAN’T have, that suddenly the no-no foods are all you can think about. And then you go crazy and wind up stuffing your face with every single item in the refrigerator. Including the Tupperware.

It’s like that, but with dogs.

My inner voice is saying, “You can’t have a dog, Amanda. It’s not allowed. No, stop it! Stop considering moving to another place just so you can get one! And stop Googling ‘how to hide dogs from landlords’! NO DOGS.”

My fear is that if I keep saying these things to myself, I’ll eventually snap. I’ll free all the dogs in the nearest shelter, herd them into my apartment, and then sleep in a ball on the floor, because they’ll all have taken over my bed. Worth it.

Currently, my life is more like this:

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But I’d LIKE for it to look more like this:

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I’m sorry, but what kind of evil overlord doesn’t want me to have a cute, furry-faced friend, or twenty?  Clearly, my apartment management is made up of droopy, dreary people who probably eat kittens for breakfast and laugh at crying children.

 Barring a move to a new place, I do have a couple of Dogsickness remedies to consider:

  1. Ignore my apartment’s rules and get a dog anyway. Carry the dog wrapped up in a blanket, and occasionally push it around in a stroller, so everyone thinks it’s a human baby. A human baby who barks sometimes. No big deal.

Troubleshooting: If someone mentions the impressive hairiness of my baby, I’ll cry and  say that she “looks just like her father.”

 

  1. Get a life-sized stuffed dog. Spend a great deal of time convincing self that it is indeed a real dog. Consider getting hypnosis so that the lie sinks in even deeper. Take stuffed animal, er…I mean, real live dog, on walks around the neighborhood.

Troubleshooting: When questioned by others, imply that they are the crazy ones for thinking my dog is fake. If they press me, proudly declare that she “looks just like her father.”

 

Or maybe I’ll just quit my job, move to Maybee, Michigan, and beg for a position at the Lucky Puppy Dog Daycare.

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I’ll probably permanently smell like wet dog. Worth it.

If you have dogs (or other pets), what’s your favorite thing about having them? Do you see any downsides to pet ownership? If you don’t have pets, how badly do you want one?

 

Life Lessons from Jerry Springer

Recently, my “work wife” and I started a tradition where we occasionally go to my apartment over the lunch hour and watch The Jerry Springer Show. I’m not sure whose idea it was, or why we continue to keep doing it, but it’s a delightful custom, and I have learned many valuable lessons from it:

Life Lesson #1: Neck Tattoos Will Get You Far in Life

According to the episodes I’ve seen so far, in order to get on Jerry Springer, someone in your party MUST have a tattoo on the neck. Your “party” includes:

  • you
  • your baby daddy/mama
  • the person your baby daddy/mama has been cheating on you with
  • any other extraneous characters that you bring with you, like aunts, friends, strippers, or farm animals

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Life Lesson #2: Self-Defense Skills are Important

Normally, I would NOT be the right person to ask for instruction about self-defense. However, in every episode of Jerry that I’ve seen so far, there’s been some sort of scuffle between guests – and watching these fights has turned me into an expert of sorts.

Here are the tips that you must follow in order to do well in a physical fight – televised or not:

  • Take your high heels off first.
  • Rather than throwing actual punches, simply spin your arms around like a human windmill. This will make it much harder for your victim to dodge you.
  • If your opponent has a weave, you’re obligated to rip it off her head and then proceed to whip it at her.
  • Feel free to take a break from the fight in order to show the onlookers your twerking skills. This is completely normal fight behavior.
  • When you’re handed a cup of water under pretenses of “cooling off,” it’s imperative that you chunk this across the room at your opponent.

Life Lesson #3: Don’t Buy into Gender Stereotypes

Speaking of fights, the brawls between women on Jerry look much more terrifying than the ones between men. The women are brutal – they kick and punch and karate chop and pull out hair. Meanwhile, the men look like T-Rexes on muscle relaxers. There’s a lot of half-hearted clawing at each other’s faces.

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Life Lesson #4: Don’t Give Up on Love

Based on what I’ve seen from watching the show, love can endure all sorts of relationship disasters.

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No matter how many of your partner’s relatives you’ve had an affair with (or how many of their limbs you’ve stolen) – he or she will probably still take you back, if you sound convincingly apologetic, and say romantic things.

If romance isn’t your strong suit, these gems from the show should give you some inspiration:

  • “Even though I cheated on you with my own cousin, I want you back.”
  • “We have to make it work for our kids. Even though one of the kids isn’t actually yours.”
  • “You used to make me barbecue. I miss it now.”

And this one, which didn’t actually happen on the show (yet), but still sounds tempting:

  • “Let’s go off into the sunset and get our necks tattooed together.” Swoon.

And finally…

Life Lesson #6: Stay True to Yourself

Don’t let others’ judgmental ways keep you from making your dreams come true.

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You do you, buddy.

Some might say that The Jerry Springer Show is the cause for society’s decline, but I say that if you look really, really, really hard – and maybe get a little bit drunk – you can find all sorts of important messages. In fact, the show is like Aesop’s Fables, if Aesop had cheated on his girlfriend of six months with her uncle, and then gotten into a fist fight with his best friend on television.

 Has anyone else ever watched this classy show, or similar ones like Maury? What lesson(s) did you take from these shows?

 

Book Spine Poetry

Feel like creating a little poetry? I saw this idea on Sometimes Stellar Storyteller – Nicola put together the spines of several books in order to make a poem out of it.

So clever! It was fun to mix and match different books to see what was created. Now I’ll just have to go back and put them all in the correct spot 😉

Here’s my spin on Book Spine Poetry:

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A disobedient girl.

Can you keep a secret?

Atonement – leaving time.

Gone girl.

I couldn’t resist doing another one as well:

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Making it up as a I go along…

THAT went well!

The bright side of disaster:

Furiously happy.

If you want to participate, use the tag #Bookspinepoetry so Nicola (and other participants) can see the results!

A Beginner’s Guide to Optimism

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I’m a little disturbed by a trend I keep seeing. It’s mostly evident on social media (god forbid), and in the comments sections of yahoo articles (why do I keep reading those??), but does happen in person as well.

What’s the trend, you ask?

Individuals saying things along the lines of, “there are few good people left in this world.”
Or, “I weep for the future.”
Or, “I’m terrified for where our society is headed.”

If you’re one of these people, what exactly got your panties in such a knot? What made you lose ALL hope for the future? I ask this because the majority of people I know who have experienced all the hurts and horrors life has to offer, still see the good. These are people who have witnessed enough pain to make the rest of us think it’d be understandable if they hated the world – and they still don’t. They see strengths in themselves, and in their loved ones, and they would give you the coats off their backs if they saw you shivering.

No, the people who fear the “inevitable” destruction of our society, and the annihilation of our morals, did not get that way by experiencing one too many negative life experiences.

Perhaps these people have jobs and lifestyles that don’t provide a lot of positive social interaction, so they miss out on the good, decent people who are all around us. Some of these lovelies are doing HUGE good things – advocating for human rights, conducting research to cure cancer and AIDS, and ensuring that families around the globe have access to clean water.

Some are doing smaller, behind-the-scenes good things that the world at large may never know about, but that still contribute to the betterment of our planet – becoming licensed foster parents, knitting blankets for animals in shelters, and writing blog posts about cheese  volunteering their time in some capacity.

Surely any naysaying doomsdayers reading this can think of recent times when others were good to you? Maybe your coworker left you a sweet note when you were having a rough day? Maybe a taller person helped you reach something you couldn’t get to in the grocery store? Maybe your roommate let you have the last slice of pizza?

I hope you Cranky McCrankypants can think of something, because the only thing that terrifies me about current society is the idea of living around people who all think our world is wretched and doomed.

And no, remembering that there’s good around us doesn’t make us “Polyanna.” It doesn’t make us naïve. If anything, it makes us human.

Okay, I’m done.

Rather than apologizing for getting a little rant-y, I’ll instead say a “thank you” for reading this to the end. Like a lot of other bloggers, I usually prefer to keep my writing light-hearted and humorous – mainly because it’s more fun for me 😉 But when something a bit more serious is poking at your brain, dying to be written about, sometimes you just have to give in.

A little bit of loveliness to make you feel better about the world

Queso Critique – Mamacita’s

Mamacita’s – San Marcos, TX: We drove an hour and a half for cheese and shit got real

For our fifteenth (FIFTEENTH!) queso critique, my same-named cheese friend Amanda and I made the hour-and-a-half journey to San Marcos, Texas, where I lived during graduate school. Just for the record, the main purpose of this roadtrip was to donate our old prom dresses, and we simply decided to squeeze in a new queso while we were there.

It won’t surprise me if we eventually drive that distance JUST for cheese, though.

Mamacita’s was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in San Marcos, so I couldn’t help but feel a touch of nostalgia as we were seated. The menu offers a whopping four different quesos, three of which are the “broiled” kind that Amanda and I have come to love so much.

We easily picked the Queso Chihuahua Flameado, which featured white cheese melted together with green poblano peppers and bacon, and served with homemade flour tortillas. Being the sophisticated person I am, I refrained from ordering the dish as “the queso made from tiny dogs.”

When the waitress brought out the food, we were a bit puzzled when she didn’t put it on our table right away – until we realized that, for the first time ever, we were going to witness our Queso Flameado with…well, flames. We stared at our flaming cheese with child-like awe.

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Even after the fire died down, the queso and its tortilla sidekicks were still lookin’ mighty attractive. If we awarded points based on physical appearance alone, this one would definitely rank high.

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After a quick demonstration by our waitress on how to more efficiently coerce the cheese into their floury vessels (a lesson that Amanda eloquently summarized as, “do it twirly with two forks”), we dug into our meal.

Where do I even begin with this delicious beauty? Right away, we noticed that there was absolutely no grease, which is truly an impressive accomplishment when you’re dealing with a pile of melted cheese and meat. It lacked the “charred” flavor that we’re used to with broiled quesos, but we found that the lack of char allowed us to taste the actual ingredients better.

The dish was not at all spicy (which we normally deduct points over), but the strong flavors of the cheese, bacon, and poblano peppers were so mouth-watering on their own, we didn’t even miss the zing.

It should also be mentioned that Amanda and I fell deeply in love with Mamacita’s kick-ass, super-soft, thick flour tortillas. My God, you guys. Our focus is usually on the queso itself, and not so much on the chips or tortillas it’s served with, but, as Amanda so beautifully put it, “the vessel does affect the judgment of the cheese.”

In a previous post, I mentioned our hypothesis that cheese can serve as a sedative when you’re frazzled. This time, however, we got so excited about our melty-bacony-peppery cheese, that the enthusiasm short-circuited our brains, and caused us to clap our hands and bounce in our seats like total weirdos. And we weren’t even drinking. It was all cheese love.

You’d feel a little keyed up too, if you had this baby coming atcha.

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And that’s how we came to invent Cheese Therapy.

Under this therapeutic model, we will feed the dairy delight to our counseling clients, and it will either calm them or energize them, depending on their needs. The cheese will “meet them where they are” – just like regular therapy is supposed to do. Brené Brown  can keep her inspiring discussions about vulnerability and authenticity – as long as she stays out of our Cheese Therapy.

All factors considered, we awarded the Queso Chihuahua Flameado a well-deserving 9.5 (Revised: 4.5), putting it in a cut-throat tie with Sazón.

Criteria for judging queso

Mamacita’s website

 

How to Be a Mildly Attractive Human

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Do you ever feel that your physical appearance is way too gorgeous? Are you always looking for ways to ugly yourself up a bit? Well, look no further! I’ve got just the solution to help you take your looks from devastatingly beautiful to simple and run of the mill.

I don’t like to brag, but I’m a natural talent at looking normal and average. You know those days where all aspects of your appearance cooperate with each other and look on-point at the same time? I sure don’t! As one area of my appearance improves, another falls apart. Something about my appearance is always amiss.

How can you be more like me, you ask? Take a look at how I effectively balance my style and beauty so that I never look too attractive or put together…

  •  Just bought a brand new shirt! It looks great with my favorite jeans!
    –> Grows a fresh crop of pimples on face.
  • After tons of work, skin finally looks clear!
    –> Gets haircut that makes me look like an early-2000s pop star
  • Figured out a way to style my outdated hair!
    –> Attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes and have freakish allergic reaction that makes the bites swell up to the size of baseballs and take weeks to heal.

(I’m still not quite over that last one.)

If horrendous allergic reactions are a bit too extreme for you (pansy), there are other ways to de-beautify yourself. For example, if you have naturally clear skin, a red marker can go a long way in creating acne spots. If your hair is gorgeously frizz-free, I suggest washing it with gasoline instead of shampoo, and using dirty gardening tools to style it.

Giving up hygiene products for several days is always an idea too.

If one day you find that your hair, skin, and makeup are all looking good, and you’re even dressed in a nice outfit (the horrors!), you can always sabotage your look by accidentally breaking a pen and spilling ink all over yourself like some sort of unstoppable moron.

That never happened to me.

(Okay, that’s a lie. It did happen. I had to leave work in the middle of the day to change my clothes. I’m a style badass.)

It’s important to not go overboard in the anti-attractiveness department, however. The goal is to look as average as you possibly can – NOT to look like this guy:

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To help us all find the line between slight attractiveness and slight Shrek-ness, I created this handy table:

 

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If you’re greatly disturbed by people constantly asking you for beauty and skin tips, simply follow my advice, and they’ll pester you no longer!

What are your tips for decreasing the attractiveness of your makeup, hair, and skin? Is this something you struggle with, or do you find that you have natural talent for it, like I do?

Pros and Cons of Living Alone

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Back when I was living with my parents and brother, I so looked forward to the day that I could live by myself in my own (or rented) home, sans roommates. I fantasized about having total peace and privacy and being able to do chores according to my own timetable.

Now that I’ve experienced several years of living alone, I have to say – it is pretty awesome in a lot of ways. Admittedly, however, living alone is not all sunshine and rainbow-colored unicorn poop…

Pros and Cons of Living Alone

Pro: Eating a mountain of junk food, with no one around to judge me

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Con: Gaining five pounds, because there’s no one around to judge me

Pro: Not having to pick up anyone else’s messes
Con: It’s always my turn to vacuum
• “How can all this filth be MINE?” – me, on a regular basis

Pro: Putting on socks and doing some kitchen ballet!
Con: No one to peel me off the floor when I inevitably fall

Pro: No one to talk to after a bad day at work

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Con: No one to talk to after a bad day at work
• Note to self: get a pet

Pro: Not having to cook for anyone
Con:  

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Pro: Repairing minor fix-it issues by myself, and feeling a sense of accomplishment
Con: Having to kill cockroaches myself. I cannot do this. No.

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Pro: Can sit in my shower or bath as long as I want
Con: Should I drown, it’d be a long time before anyone found me
• Note to self: get a pet get a Lassie

Pro: Free to roam my apartment in varying degrees of nakedness
Con:

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Pro: Feeling proud and independent about paying bills, cleaning, carrying groceries up a flight of stairs, calling the repair man, and everything else that I do without any help
Con: Feeling paranoid that maybe I’m too good at living alone, and that if I ever have a roommate, I may one day take drastic measures just to get some privacy.

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Those of you who have lived alone, are there any pros or cons you’d add to this list? What about those of you who have NEVER lived alone?

 

Suicide and a Snowman

It’s no secret that I love the television show Friends. In a recent post, I even watched all 230+ episodes in order to figure out which character worked the most.

You might call that weird or pathetic, but I call it dedication.

Anyway, some of my favorite scenes in the show involve character Phoebe Buffay playing the guitar and singing from her collection of songs, most of which manage to be both brutally honest AND somewhat whimsical at the same time.

Some of her songs describe the ups and downs of love…

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Others attempt to make sense of death and suicide…

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A few serve as outlets of Phoebe’s fury toward specific people…

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And many are simply…unique

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With her songs covering such a wide variety of topics, I decided it’d be interesting – no, make that important – to figure out what word or idea is expressed the most often.

To answer this question, I employed some highly technical and skilled research methods:
• Step 1: Found a site that lists the lyrics to all her songs
• Step 2: Copied and pasted everything into a word cloud generator.

And here’s the result:

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…Not exactly what I was expecting haha. But now that I think about it, a majority of Phoebe’s songs ARE accessorized with “la.” My guess is she ran out of clever rhyming lyrics to use, but the syllable does seem pretty versatile – it can be sung with either a dark or playful tone, depending on the mood of the song.

(Is it obvious that I’m trying to defend the overuse of this non-word?)

If we excluded “la” and “bum” (the drum noise, not the slang for homeless person) from this list, it looks like the top words would be “little” and “sticky.”

So inspiring. So meaningful.

Even though I really thought “love” (or even “death”) would be the top result, seeing that huge “la” cracked me up. I guess not every Friends research study can have epic results.

This Probably Isn’t Normal: A Poem

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One night in college, after a series of relatively minor but unfortunate events, I found myself unable to go to sleep because I couldn’t stop checking my alarm clock. I was sitting up in my bed, lights out and sound machine on, unable to put down the clock, no matter how sleepy I got, or how crazy I felt.

The thoughts and behaviors I was experiencing back then are often associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, BUT I am not assigning this diagnosis to my situation, because I never actually sought help for the issue, nor received a professional opinion. Also, I do think that the label is casually tossed around way too often, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

This post started out as a regular ol’ narrative, but I soon found myself wanting to make a poem out of it. If you’ve read my previous poem, you’ll know I’m no poet – but I have fun with them anyway, even when they’re relatively serious 😉

Once upon a time
During college – junior year
I developed a nasty habit
That sprouted from a fear

I overslept one morning,
And this bothered me to my core
Because I would be very late for class
By the time I walked out the door

I fretted my professor would hate me,
Or at least find me careless or daft
I made up my mind to be more careful
And this is where the universe laughed.

You see, as “fate” would have it,
I had set my alarm wrong again
What kind of person makes this error TWICE?
That thought got under my skin.

I knew that I was only human
And humans make mistakes
But I was really angry with myself
And I refused to give me a break

The habit started simply enough
At night, I’d double-check my alarm
Then “just one check” grew to two, then three
I didn’t think it’d be any harm

I’m sure you can tell where this is going:
My “checks” snowballed to 50+ times
I couldn’t stop thinking about my alarm,
And I became anxious at every bedtime

What if the time is set wrong?
Or what if it’s set to p.m.?
What if the clock somehow turned off?
…Maybe I’ll just check it again

I’d make myself exhausted
I’d cry from the aggravation
My rational side tried taking power,
But the logic train had left the station

My body’s primal need for sleep
Would finally, blessedly, take over
But should I awaken in the night
The thoughts would just carry right over

Anxiety is its own kind of torment
A prison from which there’s no escape
I often felt I was holding myself together
With Elmer’s glue and pieces of tape

With some time and a lot of effort
I broke myself of the madness
But I still get nervous that it wouldn’t take much
To just slip back into the practice.