I’ve been trying to get my email inbox in order. It’s a long process.
I’m nowhere near finished, but it’s really brought to light the importance of a periodic cleanse.
First, I sifted through the junk emails. I started by just deleting them, but quickly realized that, if I was going to cleanse, I needed to wholeheartedly cleanse. I didn’t want to half-ass it. I don’t half-ass my work, so why should I half-ass personal communication?
So I started going through and unsubscribing for all of the email lists I probably signed up for, the lists that I simply regretted signing up for in the first place. Then, I filtered any work or freelance-related emails, and was mostly left with emails from friends. The good, the bad, the funny, and just the FYIs.
And then, there are the emails that you mean to purge after a life-defining moment: a bad break up, a period of frustration or sadness, or just toxic relationships that cloud the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself.
With my professional life as hectic as it is, I find myself swamped in freelance. That’s nothing new, though. But in the next two weeks, I (for some terrible reason) committed to designing 5 infographics and 6 entirely separate logos for Google.
I’ve always been someone who works well under pressure. Actually, without some sort of looming deadline, it’s unlikely that I’d actually get anything done.
So, I find myself either working or traveling. Or in some sort of Netflix black hole. There really isn’t anything in between. And in procrastination, I found myself cleaning up six years of trash from my personal email account. Those were the easy ones. And the difficulty lies within the possibility of remembering both the good and the bad. Letting the bad overpower the good.
But why do we even consider putting ourselves through that kind of torture?
The closest thing I ever had to love was actually a pretty toxic relationship. It wasn’t based on mutual interests or mutual friendships, and to this day, I’m not even confident that our relationship stemmed from a mutual attraction. And it will probably, forever be one of those “what-ifs” in my life. What if things had worked out? What if he and I actually treated each other with respect? What if it never happened to begin with?
When I first realized it was toxic, I was overcome with sadness, and sometimes denial. And we tried to talk about it, but suspicions of insincerity made it ironically impossible to open up and be completely honest with him — a case of the painful lose-lose, and one reason why I value honesty and open communications so much in my life today. It somehow evolved into a friendship based on one-upping each other, on frustration, and on simply wishing that the years were in all actuality, based on something real. But when I finally got to the point of being utterly fed up with our lack of proper communication, I severed ties. Clean. Break. I had prepared myself with misery for so long that ending whatever dregs of the relationship left was easier than I ever thought it would be. And if anything, severing ties was my own liberation, the signal to cue myself: take back the emotions that only brought about insecurities. It took years, and even a 3,000 mile move. I thought I would never see him again, and I was okay with that. I came to terms with the likeliness that the one and only thing we may have had in common was the inability to communicate effectively to each other.
Several relationships later, some romantic and most platonic, I found myself faced with old emails and gchat records that left me reminiscing. I’ve always been good about deleting texts and phone numbers when the time is right, but email is something that lingers; other messages build up, and each day covers up the last so thoroughly that email cleanses aren’t a big deal. And the messages originating from that initial toxicity, for the most part, preceded smartphones and gchat, so even though I lacked that specific evidence, other instances lingered. Toxicity is inescapable — it seeps into our thoughts, and sometimes we push it out, but sometimes, it finds its way into your head. It sneaks up when you’re nervous about a presentation, meeting someone new, or when you’re supposed to be zoning out on your morning run. And much of the time, it has little to do with whomever you associate that toxicity with. Often, the toxicity is yours and yours alone.
A lesson I’ve kept very close to my heart since living in Los Angeles comes from the Tuesday night yoga class I became utterly addicted to. After my move, I tried seeking out a yoga class in DC that would give me the same refuge that Ally gave me — and I have yet to find that. Luckily, she blogs, and streams her classes online.
The thing that I remember every single day is that emotions, like physical pain, are all temporary. The happiness, the sadness, the frustration: they pass. They end, you find release, and solace. And, if you can find comfort in that, you will grow and learn from every emotion that traverses your heart. I promise you, it will pass.
Writing about personal relationships, or pain, is something that I spent much of my life avoiding. Even in elementary and high school, I refused to write about anything sad, solely for the reason that I never wanted to relive the pains of sadness. But sometimes, it’s not so bad. At some point, the anger passes, the denial passes, and the sadness passes. And I can look back and remember the good things, and carry the sad ones, and aim to never make the same mistakes twice.
But we do so anyway.
So, last night, I deleted everything I didn’t need from my Gmail. It’s a new day, and a clean slate. It’s not a zero inbox, but I was ready, and taking out the trash felt just right.
Salmon with Roasted Asparagus and Harissa (serves two)
1/2 lb. fresh salmon
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Drizzle of olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus (I like the skinny variety more than the chunky)
1 red bell pepper – substitute orange or yellow if you don’t like the red ones
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Breadcrumbs and parmesan for garnish
In a cast iron pan, broil the pepper and jalapenos until charred. Turn as needed to char all surfaces of the peppers. When complete, place all three in a tupperware (or a bowl covered with saran wrap) and let them steam for about 15 minutes.
Then, using kitchen gloves, slice the peppers open. Peel the charred skin off and remove all the seeds. Slice the peppers into 1-inch strips, and place in a food processor. Add the garlic and lemon juice, and pulse-grind until you have a nice pepper paste. Let cool, and then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the Greek yogurt.
Note: when slicing jalapenos, you should ALWAYS use gloves. Trust me — you will NOT remember until you rub your eyes and find yourself Googling remedies with one eye shut and then have to wash your eye out with a shot glass of whole milk. Just… trust me.
Chop the ends off of your asparagus, and place them on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle and brush with olive oil, and broil for about 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with a few spoonfuls of the harissa, and garnish with breadcrumbs and parmesan.
In a skillet, heat a drizzle of oil. Just before it smokes, go ahead and cook the salmon, skin side up first. I like my salmon a little on the rare side, so I recommend cooking it for 4 minutes per side. You can always throw it back on the skillet if you want it cooked further.