As I write this with a clear and happy head at 6AM on January 1, 2020, I am struck by the remarkable things I have accomplished over the last couple of years.
I lost sixty-five pounds adopting an Ancestral/Keto lifestyle.
I quit drinking alcohol.
I restarted my Bikram practice after a twenty-year hiatus.
I broke a nicotine gum/vaping addiction after fifteen years.
I stopped biting my nails, a shame-inducing habit I’d had since I was a toddler.
I chose digital minimalism and significantly reduced my screen time.
I cooked at least 700 meals from scratch.
I fasted for four days more than once and am doing a 7-day fast soon.
I launched my website CarlaGericke.com where I blog about The Art of Independence.
I co-host a weekly local cable access show called Manch Talk.
I co-host the best podcast you have never heard of (yet) called Told You So.
I celebrated my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary to a man I love and who loves me back.
I write in my journal every single day since the day I promised myself I would.
I will be publishing a collection of short stories and essays, The Ecstatic Pessimist, in the next couple of weeks.
But, the most important thing I did is to finally, fully internalize the notion that in order to advocate the virtues of individual liberty and personal responsibility—from health to wealth and beyond—it has to come from the inside out.
In order to be free, I had to understand me.
A friend who hasn’t seen me in yonks recently said: “I don’t know what you’re up to, but your aura is, like, totes a different color.” I don’t know if auras are real. I can’t see them. I didn’t think to ask what color my aura was, or what color it is now. But aura or no aura, I am totes different; I am a better, less anxious, more balanced, me.
If YOU want to change, you can. You just have to choose YOU.
We hate to admit it, but there is a very simple recipe for feeling good. You know the drill, routinely: eat right (low carb, medium protein, high good fats); get enough sleep; exercise; don’t abuse the fun stuff; and sometimes hang out with other humans. Routinely. We know it, and yet, if you are like me, you resist anything that smacks of “routine.”
After a very unmoored childhood, I waited almost forty-eight years, three continents, two careers, one miscarriage, and an arrest to start following the script routinely. And while I have always set, met, and surpassed my professional goals, leading to success as a lawyer and nonprofit executive, in my personal life, I’ve resisted looking too closely at what makes me tick. This resistance involved copious hard drugs, hard liquor, and hard partying. YOLO, baby!, until your friends do start dropping like flies.
A while ago, my husband Louis randomly asked: “When are you happiest?”
Me: “On holiday, d’oh!“
Louis: “What is it about vacation that you like?”
“Well, for starters, there’s more,” I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively and we laughed, “and, I suppose, because I get enough sleep, and, oh, I read a lot.”
Louis: “You realize all of those things are within your daily control, right?”
Me: Oh, screw you, Babes, hmm, huh, wait a minute… Dammit!
Another “huh” moment was when I accepted my calendar didn’t just have to include work obligations and Things That Must Be Done, but rather could, and indeed, should include the things you love to do. Things like, “Massage,” or “Call Kari to Chat,” or “Date Night” are totally acceptable ways to spend your time, and that:
1. It’s OK to schedule fun;
2. You are more likely to do it if it is on your calendar;
3. It’s satisfying and healthy to treat yourself like a priority.
These observations may seem obvious, but they helped me understand that I was “The Keeper (and Giver) of My Time,” and that this is the most important job I will ever have, because… this is literally… my life. All life is, after all, is figuring out how you have spent your time (your past), how you are spending your time now (the present), and how you plan to spend your time (the future). Your time equals your life. Spend it wisely.
The radical notion that I could tweak my “everyday experience” to feel more like vacay simply by choosing to read in bed instead of, say, watching another episode of a show that would still be there tomorrow, or arguing with some idiot online, was… liberating.
The next part of “Unpacking Me” involved one new habit, two books, and a quote.
The new habit was journaling. First, my sincerest apologies to every friend who over the years suggested I keep a journal. For every eye-roll, every semi-disparaging sigh, every “yeah, yeah, whatevs,” I’m sorry, and promise to accept all future Moleskines with super extra delight. Now I know.
Seriously, if you only adopt one new habit this year, make it journaling, by which I mean, keep a handwritten notebook and write in it each and every day with a firm commitment that triggers something terrifying inside yourself if you don’t. Natch, scratch that, since that’s a perverse incentive and there are better, more positive ways to motivate yourself, which I only figured out by, you guessed it, writing shit down in my journal.
How about this: Stick to journaling routinely because positive habits create positive feedback loops which lead to positive outcomes which make you want to do the good things more. It’s like a cocaine habit, except the exact fucking opposite.
The first book in question is Charles Fernyhough’s “The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves.” I’d heard a segment on NPR and thought it sounded intriguing.
Then I started reading the book.
Then I became hyper-aware of my own thoughts.
Then I started hearing a lot of voices.
Then I worried I was crazy.
Then I stopped reading the book.
But the voices in my head did not shuddup. And, thanks to journaling, I was able to isolate them. Some were smart and helpful, a couple were wise and pleasant, a handful were manageable assholes, but one, one was a Certifiable Cunt.
World: Meet my ego.
My 2020 mission is to kill this Cunt. (Do your best, she says, and just to show her who is boss, I write that down. Every time I hear her nasty, belittling, backstabbing, negative, cunty voice, I take notice. The more I see her, the weaker she becomes.)
From my notes, I discovered The Cunt’s negging is always in the second person, always with a “you,” or “your,” or “you’re” statement. She’s meaner than my worst enemies (and I’m a libertarian politician, so my enemies are… loud and plentiful).
A typical mind-convo goes something like this: “You’re useless!” “What have you accomplished in the past five years? Nothing!” “Why haven’t you finished your book!” “Why did you say that?!?” “Why didn’t you say that!?!” “Not good enough!” “Never good enough!” And my all time favorite worst critical comment that can shut me down for days, “Who cares?”
Fuck you, Cunt. I care.
Why? Why do I have this voice in my head who only talks to me in the second person as “you,” and never “me/I”? Who is she, if she doesn’t think she is part of “me”? Where did she come from? And what will it take to kill her nice and dead?
Around this time, I ran across a quote by Lao Tzu on Pinterest: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
I want to be at peace, so next, I started reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” which I’m pretty sure I read years ago but the message just didn’t resonate with me then. Important ideas are like that sometimes, you need to circle back when you are ready. The book’s back cover says, “To make the journey into The Power of Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind.”
Sounded to me like I’d found the roadmap to kill The Cunt: a little mental time travel, baddabingbaddaboom, and, voilà, peace in the now, right?
Then I started to delve into my past.
I looked at the story I told myself about my childhood. Child prodigy! Genius-level IQ! International travel! Exotic locations! Chauffeurs and maids! Penthouses with elevators that opened into the apartment itself! My whole persona was wrapped in this belief that my upbringing had been oh-so-glamorous, diplomat’s daughter, what, what, that I had never stopped to consider—not true, I taught myself not to—the potentially damaging effects of living on an entirely different continent, separated from your—my—parents, when you are—I am—a ten-year-old girl. Sure, we spoke on the phone once a week, usually for less than five minutes because international calls were crazy-expensive back then. We mostly talked about the weather. The standing joke in our family was that my sister, Lizette, and I would always ask, “Please send money!”
Please send money to buy your own—my own—toothpaste when you are—I am—ten years old.
Please send money to buy your—my—first bra when you are—I am—twelve years old.
Please send money to buy your—my—first tampons when you are—I am—thirteen years old.
Please send money to buy your—my—first bottle of booze when you are—I am—fifteen years old.
For a while, I wondered if the negative back-talk stemmed from suppressed memories of awful teachers or matrons or “Mean Girls” who bullied me, but, for me, unlike my sister, that wasn’t the case. Sure, I was bitterly hungry for five years straight, and any All-Girls boarding school is going to give you some food and body issues, and I did for a time become a compulsive exerciser, and I definitely leaned into my neurotic nail-biting, but for the most part, Pretoria High School for Girls gave me a solid education, impressive leadership skills, a stiff upper lip, and, at least publicly, what appeared to be a great deal of confidence.
In the Mystery of Carla’s Secret Cunty Ego, turns out, the culprit all along, was… me.
After my parents left me at that ivy-covered, cabbage-reeking hostel with its metal-framed prison beds, I was so alone, so confused, so sad, so devastated, that in order to cope, I told myself my parents were dead.
When you miss something so intensely that it is easier to pretend the subject matter is dead, you are probably going to create a few voices in your head. When you are also a very bright, analytical child, you know, deep-down, the “Dead Parents” narrative isn’t actually true.
So you create a voice that starts with bargaining (if you run that extra lap, they will come get you), moves to chastising (you should have done better on your math test, then they wouldn’t have left you here), and eventually settles into something malevolent (of course you are a failure at everything you do, even your own parents don’t want you).
But here is the reality: No one said these things to me but me. So no one gets the blame—if there is any to assign—but me. My parents genuinely loved and spoiled us when we did spend time together. And because no one else created this monster, no one but me gets to off her. No one but me gets to set me free.
For my entire life, I said awful things to myself in my head, and I allowed that voice to become an integral part of my internal life. No more. True freedom comes from loving yourself, and the way to love yourself is to like yourself, and the way to like yourself, is to know yourself, and the best way to know yourself is to examine yourself, and in examining yourself, you have to figure out what the hell you are spending your time on, both physically and mentally. And, from now on, I am not spending another second being mean to myself. I do not blame Little Cunty Abandoned Mini-Me. From now on, my slate is clean, because I choose what’s in my head, and I choose to forgive all of me, now, and in the future, which is always now.
LISTEN NOW… With the advent of the year’s first major snowstorm, we’re taking a break from politics to discuss how to survive and thrive during New Hampshire’s long, cold winters. From recipes and fitness tips to metaphysical speculation, your hosts have some thoughts. Find out what they are on this week’s Told You So! LISTEN NOW…
[PS: This episode could also be called, OMFG, what did I commit to learning to do? Whyyyyyy??? LOL]
Procrastinate much? I do, and I don’t. In my quest to put off whatever it is I am supposed to be completing at any given moment, I will finishing several other tasks or chores. This means shit. gets. done. Not always the right shit, in the right order, and not always perfectly, but somehow, one procrastinated task after another, my life goals progress.
Except my writing.
Except my “It’s-Taking-For-Fucking-Ever” book-in-progress. Word of advice: It is very difficult to write a memoir in conjunction with living your actual life. Arrests, lawsuits, rallies, protests, elections, and whatnot else, tend to get in the way.
It’s like being your very own reality TV star while also producing, directing, and shooting the show, which sometimes, in your life, is The Shit Show. So you are living your life, but also, you know, having to record what’s happening as it is happening. That’s… hard. Basically, it is the closest I’ve gotten to legit (mental) time travel, so you will excuse me if my book is, let’s say, taking a tad–by which I mean a decade–too long to write.
To drive this point home, the (fantasy) actress who is supposed to play me in the (fantasy) Oscar-winning movie version of my (fantasy) bestselling memoir is now too old to play my younger self, which, when you calculate this out in Hollywood years expressed as Common Core Math where Actress X = 47 but looks 37 because of the infused blood of lithe 18 year olds plus Vitamin E & K divided by Botox, you still get: Finish your fucking book!
So this year, I am committing to NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, kicking off on November 1st. You are supposed to commit to cranking out at least 15,000 words, but I am shooting for 30,000 at a rate of 1,000 words a day, because I am nothing if not a very accomplished over/underachiever with a sadomasochistic streak. And don’t forget: I am also a Master Procrastinator, so this should get goal/soul-crushingly interesting fast!
I’m super-pumped for several reasons:
- It’s been 11 years since I received my Masters in Creative Writing from City College of New York. While I was completing my degree, Professor Mirsky always said: “Writing is the unraveling of the riddle.” I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but now, since I have finally cracked the key to my own riddle, I do, and now I am ready to write the living BeJebus out of this book. (Unlike certain writers who unravel the riddle on the manuscript page, I needed to unravel it in my journals and mind first, because in my writing process, I needed to know where I am going before I can go there. Now I do.)
- I have wanted to do NaNoWriMo for all 11 of those years, but have never been in any sort of life position to make it happen. I knew I would blow it, and I didn’t want to set myself up for that kind of failure. But, in the ensuing years, I have learned a lot about failure, and setting and meeting goals, I have learned to prioritize myself in my life–if YOU don’t do it for yourself, trust me, NO ONE WILL–and I know I can nail this because I am, er, telling you I will.
- I am willing to be selfish to make this happen. If this sounds a little cray-cray, work with me. I am a natural people pleaser, and tend not to put myself or my goals first. I am also a bit batty, obsessive, and weird, and actually have a phobia about going off the “deep end” as an artist (dirty dishes, wrecked relationships, overflowing ashtrays–and I don’t even smoke anymore!), and so I hold back. No more. November is my month to yell at the world: Sorry, Sammy, I will not be doing X, Y, or Z because I am WRITE. (Say it like, “I am Groot!”)
This will be my mantra for November: I am right to write, and everything will be alright. Keep your fingers crossed for me because I will be needing mine to type. One word at a frigging time! One thousand words a day. One manuscript finished by Christmas. One book published in 2020. See? Easy-peasy, pudding and pie!
It was an honor to once again participate in the 6th Annual FreeCoast Festival. I gave a presentation about “How to Renegade Right” at the Praxeum in Dover on Saturday, and on Sunday, spent a charming afternoon hanging out with dedicated liberty lovers at a special edition of Market Day. Good times, great to see everyone, and meet newbies. Welcome to the prickle!
LISTEN NOW… Do you have a complicated relationship with food and exercise? With more Americans succumbing to the “illnesses of wealth” like heart disease and diabetes, something is obviously wrong with the way our food and fitness culture operates. So what’s the answer?
Your hosts discuss their personal history and experience with different fitness and diet regimes, and work through the difference between a diet and a lifestyle. While this week’s episode is a bit of a detour from our regular subject matter, at its core it’s about self ownership and working to make life better. We hope you’ll find something useful! LISTEN NOW…
I have suffered from stage fright my entire life. When I say “fright,” I mean a full-blown, out-of-body experience during which time I have zero recollection of what is happening, and cannot recall a single word I said. It is terrifying. Imagine having a blackout on stage, in front of an audience. This is me. Every single time.
Forget about imagining the audience naked or, if you’re more polite, in their undies. Forget about emulating your favorite public speakers. Forget about Ouma’s ‘Five Ps’—Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!—because you are about to go on stage, and you are not prepared!
At PorcFest 2011, I looked around the main tent, trying to still my breathing. The space is filled with people I know. Donors. People who want to see the Free State Project succeed. People who want to see me succeed… I think?! I glance across the field, watching brightly clad teenagers playing pick-up basketball. I try to sync my breathing to the bounce of the ball. It doesn’t work. I glance at the notes I’ve jotted down over the past hour in the VIP tent while downing three gin and tonics: “Yankee Hong Kong!!!!” “Success stories!!!” “Gimme your money!!!”
The first time I experienced a blackout speech was at Mafikeng Primary School. I must have been eight or nine. I was two years younger than my classmates, which came with its own set of challenges, but mostly manifested itself in me trying too hard. I won’t lie: I was a Smart Aleck.
(As smart as you can be when you are constantly playing catch-up.)
As part of our curriculum, we did a public speaking course. Half your grade came from prepared speeches given over the term, and the other, from impromptu talks where the teacher gave you a topic, five minutes to prepare a short talk by jotting down your ideas on flash cards, and then you were expected to give a three minute speech to the class.
My topic that day was about what would happen if the drought we were experiencing never ended. I wrote ‘World Wars!!!!’ on my card.
That was it.
When I came to, when I reentered by body, no longer hovering above myself watching my mouth move, when the electrical charges coursing through my insides left, and the shooting starbursts in my peripheral vision disappeared, when I could again identify my peers and friends sitting in front of me, and I returned to the stuffy classroom trailer that smelled of dust and chalk, the teacher was on her feet, giving me a standing ovation.
She had never reacted like this before. I could tell my classmate were confounded, perhaps even a little jealous. They were clearly not as impressed with whatever had come out of my mouth as the teacher was, but, being polite and intelligent enough to understand her enthusiasm should translate to theirs, they joined in, clapping. I have no idea what I said, but apparently, my doom and gloom rendition of a world without water and the perpetual wars that would follow had struck a nerve with Miss.
The next distinct memory of such an out-of-body experience was during my interview to become a Rotary Exchange student. I was sixteen, a senior in high school. I was dating my first boyfriend, Stephan Le Roux, and had become ambivalent about leaving South Africa (him, really) for a whole year to lands unknown, but the competitive part of me wanted to prove that I could win. That I could be picked over my more mature (and likely better balanced) compatriots.
Being a Rotary Exchange student from South Africa in 1988 came with baggage. Big White Apartheid Baggage. Even if you were anti-apartheid, as I was, you had to be able to frame the despicable Nationalist policies with some semblance of nuance. Like being able to defend the homelands—the shithole areas designated as “tribal lands”—by arguing that most of South Africa was a shithole, so they weren’t being especially punished by being banished to these inarable places.
My parents, who both worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs at the time, prepped me good and hard, sitting around the kitchen table every evening after dinner.
Ma: “What percentage of South Africa is arable?”
Me: “Less than 27%”
Pa: “Good, good. Remember to point out that means lots of areas are less than optimal for human occupation, not just the homelands. Now, let’s go over Nelson Mandela again.”
I went into that interview with the Rotary Club of Hatfield as well prepared as Pik Botha–imagine a mashup between Robert McNamara and Dick Cheney: charming and dangerous, and not only when hunting–the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs would have been.
I nailed the interview. Except, once again, I have no idea what I said. The interviewers were concerned about my relative youth—there’s a big difference between sending a sixteen year old versus an eighteen year old overseas on their own, as we know from the Permissible Age to Murder Citizens (AKA, the draft)—so the Rotary committee decided I would be ineligible for a full year scholarship, but offered me six weeks in Germany instead.
I’d been to Germany before. The boyfriend won out.
Stephan and I wrote and performed anti-establishment plays during our ‘Varsity years. One, called “Die Klein Krul Swart Haartjie”—The Tiny Curly Black Hair, which referred to a pubic hair, not an afro, as people who refused to attend failed to grasp—was banned on campus, and pushed to the Fringe of the Grahamstown Arts Festival, the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere. Relegated to a 2 p.m. slot at a primary school miles from the downtown action, we were not the greatest of successes, although I did learn the meaning of a new word from a review we received—one that said the show was in the spirit of “Not the Nine o’Clock News.”
“Scatological?” Stephan asked, reading the review, English being his second language. “Is that good?”
“Very,” I said firmly, making a mental note to consult the Oxford English when I got home.
During that Grahamstown performance, my stage fright took an even more alarming turn, in that I literally forgot my lines. The final coup de grace of the scene was supposed to be mine, a zinger at the end, in a devastatingly critical and clever piece about the power of individuality as it triumphs over the state.
“You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole,” I was supposed to say.
But nothing came out. My mind dissolved into blankness, my synapses reaching out, searching for the answer, the words I knew came next, but all there was only a blindingly chasm of nothingness, a dark, empty blackboard stretching in my brain. Every word I knew, any word, just beyond reach.
Other times, it happened in court. When I started practicing law during my articleship, I took Legal Aid Board cases in the townships that no one else at the firm would touch. The country was on the cusp of radical changes, with a new Constitution in the works. One time, I represented a nineteen year old boy-child, who had been in jail since he was sixteen, who had not even been given a trial date yet. Even though the Constitution had not yet been adopted, we’d learned about all these newfangled, shiny human rights in Law School, and I made an impassioned plea in Court as to why the judge should release this young defendant on bail. Except I don’t recall a word. For me, that day: Blankety, blank, blank.
You cannot fit a square peg in a round hole.
You cannot fit a square peg in a round hole.
You cannot fit a square peg in a round hole.
Will it ever end?
Part of the issue is I have an artist’s heart and a lawyer’s brain. I once saw a Venn Diagram with two circles. One was, “Overwhelming Narcissism,” and the other, “Crushing Insecurity.” The part where they overlapped: “Art.” And so, I disregard my betraying brain, and I keep pushing through my fears towards my heart, towards my art.
Now in 2019, eight years from that time I took the stage at PorcFest, I get ready for my talk, which officially kicks off the 16th annual Porcupine Freedom Festival. In these ensuing years, I have quit drinking alcohol, which means I no longer get to drown my stage fright in amnesia-inducing booze. It means I no longer have to take a swig of tequila in the car in the parking lot at 8:30AM before heading into the NHPR office to be pilloried for believing in freedom, peace, and prosperity. I also no longer take prescription beta blockers to alleviate the stage fright, which helped with the symptoms of my anxiety, but for some reason made me sweat like a junkie in withdrawal–not a great look for TV! And, I haven’t vomited prior to an interview since 2016!
My positive life choices over the past two years (Keto diet, Bikram yoga, and ENOUGH SLEEP) means I have a new clarity, and yet, I am still nervous as hell, and, of course, not as prepared as I should be. But whyyyyyy!?!? On the Ouma scale, I’d say I’m at: “Partial Preparation Makes for Somewhat Passable Performance.”
I ask myself why I keep pushing. Why subject myself to this terror? Why don’t I just give up and say, Public Life is Not for Me (says the woman who wants that Senate seat!)? But I know why… Because I have important ideas to share and a unique voice to share them with. A voice that may tremble, a woman who may cry on stage when talking about what brought her to New Hampshire, and what broke and healed her on the journey to where she is today. I keep pushing because to give up would be to admit defeat, to say I can’t improve, when I know, and have proved to myself, that I can. Better… not perfect. But improving, consciously, actively, by choice, and hard work… I am becoming a better me.
[Stay tuned for the video of my 2019 PorcFest talk coming soon, “How I learned to stop faking it and become a better me.”]