Interruptions

The more you learn about listening, the more you realize what a skill it actually is. It’s something everyone can do, sure. But it’s not something everyone is necessarily good at.  And I’m not just talking about listening with your ears. There are lots of ways to listen. Yet we often do whatever is the bare minimum and whatever is easiest.

Have you ever been listened to? Like, really really listened to? The type of listened to where you can feel it in your bones? Where when you’re done speaking or communicating (however it may be) there’s a pause while the recipient takes it in and further validates that you were really listened to and not just heard?

So many times in conversations we just wait for our turn to talk. We may be thinking of something or want to steer the dialogue in one direction, so we obsess with getting our thoughts out so that we can talk about the thing we want to talk about. It’s not listening. It’s patiently waiting for your turn to scream into the void towards a specific person who is also only hearing you while they patiently wait for their turn to talk.

I hope you get listened to. It’s a wonderful feeling.

I make it a point to listen often and as much as I can. I don’t always nail it. But I do make a consistent effort. And because I’m often willing to be more patient and listen more intensely than your average bear, I find myself often interrupted by people who are so eager to get their thing out, they can’t wait another moment. My usual immediate reaction is to defensively and interrupt them back to steer the conversation where I wanted to go. My other typical reaction is to quietly get frustrated and judge the person who interrupted me. Who are they, after all, to think their ideas are more important than my own?

But I’ve recently changed tactics a bit. I’ve realized that by getting frustrated at people who constantly interrupt and judge them, I’m wasting energy wishing for them to be someone they are not. Or I’m wasting energy putting too much clout into their thought process behind the interruption. As if they meant to do so as an outward act of aggression. Or by actively waiting for them to stop talking so I can get back to my thing, I’m wasting energy sitting on pins and needles rather than just going with the flow of the conversation.

So I’ve been making an effort now to stop wasting energy. Instead, I’m going to view interruptions as an opportunity. They’re a chance to actively work on staying present. They’re a chance to practice my flexibility and willingness to just go with the flow.

And they’re a chance for me, most importantly, to listen.

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Wrapping Up My Year of Jesus

My birthday is right around the corner. Very exciting, indeed.

(If you’re not into astrology, that makes me a Leo and we love attention so feel free to wish me lots of happy birthday wishes because I will very much appreciate them. If you are into astrology, you already knew that.)

Anyway, this time about a year ago I decided I missed blogging and that I was going to commit to writing more. Though it took me a bit to settle on the general time of day and my favorite day of the week to let ‘er loose, I more or less held true on that commitment. I mean, I’m still here typing right now, aren’t I?

Oh, god, seriously, aren’t I? If I’m not doing that what on earth and I doing because I think I’m doing that… AHHHH!

I called this past year my “Year of Jesus.” I remember when I finished up the pictures and the post I was at an airport. The Philadelphia airport, I believe. At some point they all look the same. But I do know I was waiting for the others in my crew to show up so we could get rental cars and head off on our touring adventure.

This year, I’m sitting sipping (surprisingly bitter) coffee on my porch with my beautiful and newly-groomed pups around me. I have another solid 24 hours before I have to be on multiple airplanes and traversing multiple timezones for a prolonged period of time. I’ve somewhat purposely gone into my little shell to recharge before the trip.

So much has changed. But, then again, so little.

I’ve made a ton of small often incremental changes in my life. For several months out of this year, I was absolutely on top of my sh*t. But that motivation came from getting low and frustrated and feeling completely out of control.

I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve created some cool things. I’ve sold some project and completed others. I’ve failed and triumphed. I’ve probably made major decisions that will impact me in the future without even knowing it. I’ve ended relationships or cut off personal energies that don’t serve me anymore and don’t fit into the person I want to become. I’ve transformed completely yet so much has stayed the same.

I don’t yet know what I’m going to call this next year of my life. I was exited about 33 because of the whole Jesus thing. No matter what you believe, there’s got to me some sort of cool spiritual energy around 33 if that’s the age the stories of Jesus decided upon.

As I’m thinking about it, I was really excited for 30 because it was the start of a new decade. 31 was gonna be a rear up for 32 which I was beyond stoked for. And 33 was my spiritually transformative year.

But for this upcoming year, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have expectations. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know what theme I’m going to approach it with.

Then again, right now I’m deeply interested in studying the Tao Te Ching and have been drawn to numerous stories and books about how to be present and simply trust in the flow rather than working against it. I’ve been actively trying to let my intuition take over while listening to the subtle movements around me and the opportunities that arise and how I feel while doing certain things to best determine how to be my happiest, most fulfilled self. And all of that study pretty much says the same thing: Slow down, be present, and listen… then let yourself go with it.

So maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s a year of flow. Of enjoyment. Not of taking off work, of course. But more of doing work that feels the most fulfilling. Letting go of judgments about work and choices and what happens to and around me. Simply deciding how I feel about something, trusting that, and leaning into it.

I guess the answer is there isn’t an answer. Now that the year of Jesus is up… I’m on my own. And I’m excited to see what I sage advice I have for myself.

Also, happy birthday to me.

 

 

Enjoying the Garden

I got a piece of advice recently that I’ve been absolutely obsessed with.

I don’t really feel like giving you the full context of how I got this advice. Not out of laziness. I think just out of boundaries. As my ongoing readers already know, I’m working on learning boundaries.

Anyway, I had sought out a person with more knowledge in a certain field than me and was asking them for help with various elements of something I’m working on. Yes. I can say that. That feels fine. And, it’s true!

This person was talking about a few creative projects I had been focusing on lately and they very casually reminded me of a wonderful lesson. They used a happy woman in the garden as the metaphor and told me that the woman in the garden isn’t out there yelling at her plants to grow faster. She’s simply taking care of their needs little by little. She’s not overdoing it. She’s not constantly replanting. She’s simply enjoying her time in the garden.

By nature, I am a very fast-moving person. I like to see results quickly. Even though I’m aware that the most dramatic changes in my life happened gradually, my natural personality likes to see something happen fast. And I’m sure living in a society that’s grown accustomed to immediate gratification at every turn certainly doesn’t help.

So the idea of a woman just enjoying time in her garden was so powerful to me. And the ridiculousness of her yelling at her plants to grow faster feels like it puts a mirror on my own actions and helps remind me to just be more pleasant and more present.

Yelling at plants is a waste of energy and goes against the natural order of nature. Why, then, do I insist on thinking that I, a human existing in nature, somehow can control my own circumstances and force them to go against the natural flow of nature? Like the woman yelling at her plants in the garden, all I’m doing is getting myself all worked up in a tizzy and frustrating myself while not allowing the plants to do their thing because I can’t just leave them be.

I’m not saying I do it all the time. But I certainly feel the impulse to do it often.

I’ve decided, then, to start simply enjoying my time in the garden. I can recognize the garden needs tending while not overdoing it while I also simply enjoy the seeds as they grow and stay present in the delights that the garden has to offer and the relaxation gardening can bring.

The feels good. That feels right. So that’s what I think I’m going to do.

On Not Being Liked

I think a friend of mine is upset with me.

It’s unclear to me if perhaps this is the case or if perhaps I’m misinterpreting a number of signals. When his actions first shifted shortly after we were creating something together in a larger group, I asked him about it. In fact, because of his energy shift, I asked him several times in different, varying ways. I wasn’t confrontational. I attempted to be constructive. I kept it lighthearted. Then I let it go.

Recently, I saw him again. And either he’s always been someone who avoids eye contact and only answers in one word answers and I was only make-believing I’d both gotten eye contact and full sentences before or he’s recently shifted into someone who doesn’t prefer eye contact and only likes one word answers. Or, maybe, he’s mad at me. It’s excruciatingly hard to tell. His wife makes eye contact with me. She smiles. She answers things. But he has stopped and I don’t know what triggered it.

But I’m not going to spend any time trying to figure it out. Aside from the fact that I am only a passing acquaintance with this person and they’re nowhere near my inner circle, this is not something that I need to investigate. But more importantly, I’m not going to invest any energy figuring it out because, at my core, I don’t care.

Why not?

Two reasons that are my happy learning lessons from this current experience:

1. He’s a grown ass man.

He is allowed to have feelings. If I have wronged him somehow, which would have been done accidentally and (quite literally) while playing around, he could talk to me about it if he wanted to. He could have also reached out in any number of options I gave him when later discussing it lightly. If he doesn’t have the emotional capacity to do this, that’s not my problem. And if he wants to hold a grudge for something I’m absolutely not clear on, that’s also not my problem. How people choose to feel is up to them and them alone. It is not my problem.

2. I can’t please everybody.

This is actually the harder lesson for me.

I’m generally what people would describe as “likable.” I wear this like a superpower. I lean into it when I’m feeling insecure. I trust it when I’m in precarious situations. I enjoy having lots of friends in different groups. It’s a comfort blanket for me. And “likable” is only one shade away from “people pleaser.” And for a long time in my life, those two things went hand in hand.

So it has been a harder lesson to learn that I can’t please everybody. Even (and especially) if I’m just being myself and being true to myself. That doesn’t mean I go out of my way to upset people. And it doesn’t mean I’m not open to having conversations if lines are crossed. In fact, I’ve gotten really open to it. It’s part of how I continue to be my most authentic self. It doesn’t mean I’ll always listen or care what you say (that honor is reserved for very few people out of self preservation). But we can talk about any miscommunications. I can take notes and learn. I can be more aware.

We can all always grow.

Even with all that, you simply cannot please everybody.

When I was in high school, I was generally liked. I remember senior year, there was this one girl who did not like me. It was a smaller school. We all knew each other. I tried my best to go out of my way to be liked. Even so, she probably had her valid reasons. And I didn’t have the emotional or self-awareness tools I now do to confront her. Not that it may have done any good anyway. Despite that, it bothered me. It deeply bothered me.

When someone used to not like me, I would obsess over it. I would wonder what I did wrong and how I could right it. My ego would get so heavily involved that either I would bend over backwards to make them love me and maybe go out of my way to befriend all their close friends so they can’t help but be swayed to get back on “Team Briana.” Or, if all was lost and it was hopeless, I would convince myself of all the reasons they’re a terrible and horrible person and nobody likes them so it’s okay that they don’t like me because they’re wrong.

But as I’ve grown and as I’ve worked on myself, I see all that as exhausting ego exercise. So with this current situation, I’ve decided to simply let it be.

He can feel however he’d like to feel. He can even bad mouth me for all I care. I’ve considered bringing it up yet again when I see him based on our last cold interaction. But the truth is, I don’t care. And, honestly, I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve caught him at off times and am reading the situation wrong.

Whatever the case, it’s not worth the energy. I will continue to like him. I will continue to enjoy his company. Hell, I’ll even pretend I don’t notice how cold he’s being. I won’t go out of my way to make him love me. And I won’t go out of my way to convince myself he’s a cranky immature brat. I’ll just leave him to be a complicated human with his own thoughts and emotions and trust that I’m enough just as I am.

Because the truth is, I like myself. And, at the end of the day, that’s the only person whose opinion I actually give a shit about.

The Small Promise

There have been several periods of time in the past year or two that I have dedicated to waking up early. They’re interrupted by long and short periods where I’m traveling too much or my schedule explodes and it’s physically irresponsible (notice I didn’t say impossible) to get up early and have the same schedule.

But when I can, I do. And I find it to be really delightfully productive.

In order to get myself back on track when I have the time and space in my life and schedule to commit to my early morning routine, there’s one small act I do every night religiously. Well, I guess there are two. The first and main act is that I sleep. I like my sleep. I need my sleep. I make sure to prioritize and get my sleep.

The other thing happens before I sleep though. I’ve read tons of articles, books, watched videos, and listened to podcasts about getting up early. It does not come naturally to me. Even when I do all the things you’re supposed to do, it’s still difficult. I get used to it but it never gets easy. I do it because I know that overall it will make me a happier and more productive person all-around. I enjoy that. I don’t enjoy getting out of bed while my dogs and husband are happily, quietly still snuggling. 

But see I’ve already done this one thing that, for me, somehow makes it easier to get up and get after it. You ready to hear it? I’ve done so much build up in order to get to this point. Now I feel a lot of pressure to make this thing life-changing.

Eh, whatever. Here’s my secret: I’ve set my workout clothes out the night before.

That’s it. A shirt, pants, and sports bra are waiting for me on the couch by the door. 

For me, that’s the little extra edge I need to get after it. That’s the proof of a quiet hopeful promise that I made to myself before this day even started that it might be a good one. That’s the little boost my past gave my present Briana in order to make our ideal future a reality. Just those clothes sitting there beckoning me and making it easier to change then immediately get out of the door to my early yoga.

If you were reading this thinking you were going to hear some new or totally mind-blowing tip, I don’t mean to disappoint. The truth is, you’re either going to find what little trick works for you and let your own discipline and commitment see you through to your goal or you’re going to continue to have excuses.

There’s no one thing that I read that made me think “Oh that’s the hack, I just need to do that and getting up early to attack the day will work out easy.” Instead, I read a ton. Like, obsessively. I read books by Navy Seals (lots of them) who are open about their early bird philosophies. I watched videos of people who try it out. I tried to discuss tactics with natural early bird friends.

While I’m sure bits and pieces of all that information were implanted in my brain simply by sheer volume, none of them were the deciding factor. It was when I realized that I was really obsessing over this idea that I might as well use some of that energy to simply try it.

I had to make space in my life and schedule to make it doable for me. But once I made the choice, I started noticing how it felt. And it felt good. Knowing that it felt good added to my motivation to do it despite the fact that it wasn’t getting any easier. I was feeling better throughout my day and improving my own life in the process.

And even with all my new motivation and happiness surrounding the not-so-easy ongoing choice, I still have to set my clothes out the night before. And, when I do, I’m still significantly more likely to get after it.

I’m not saying everyone has to get up early. It’s irresponsible (notice again, not impossible) for some people to commit to it. But whatever goal you want to achieve, find that little personal hack that makes you feel more emotionally committed to it and maybe makes that goal slightly easier the next day when your motivation is waning and the demons in your head are slowly moving from whispers to shouts. Quiet them with the incessant sound of that soft mantra you already promised yourself. For me, it’s simply, my clothes are here, I might as well go.

The Power of Silence

When I perform, my favorite sound in the world is laughter or giggles or some sort of visceral response (ideally not a “boo”). I like to hear it. I like when everybody hears it. I like when people hear themselves.

I like that the organized noises I make with my mouth make other humans make noises with their body. It’s fun.

I don’t usually think of performing comedy like that. It’s a weird way to phrase it, sure. But I was thinking about it in the context of silence. Of pause. Of quiet. I was thinking about how I’m obsessed with responses. I want a giggle, even if holding off a little bit might get me a bigger laugh. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to pace myself more. To slow down. To enjoy the pauses. To…

…wait for it.

Sometimes when I see excellent performances, I’m reminded of how powerful pauses are. But over the weekend, I saw a show that was done by people who never actually spoke. I saw The Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Without ever once saying anything, they made me laugh heartily for the full show (they did have a little monitor that spoke and a voiceover every once in a while to forward the bits).

It was magic.

Throughout the course of the performance, I often had to remind myself that they had said nothing. They communicated so much with their expressions and with the games they were playing and their physicality, that I was never at a loss for what was happening. And they relished in the silences. Maybe partly because they only exist in a curious silence themselves, the quiet doesn’t bother them. Or maybe cause they so trust in the show and in themselves that they know a little quiet is just a set up for a huge laugh. Whatever it was, it was pure delight.

There’s a ton of audience interaction in the show. The fact that they never once say anything makes the interaction even more satisfying. You know what they want without them actually asking it. And seeing people play along made my little imagination squeal with joy.

I even got to go onstage and interact with them for a while.

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One of the Blue Men kept eyes on me as they wandered the crowd. I was cracking up at it and said, in my head, “Yeah sure I’m down to play if you all want.” I guess he heard it because before I knew it, I was having a bizarro Twinkie dinner with the three Blue Men onstage.

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I know I was the only one talking. Usually I was just cracking up or saying “okay, okay, okay, sure.” But at no point did I feel like I was the only one communicating. Without saying anything, they got me to (attempt to) light a candle. They got me to open Twinkie wrappers for them and then subsequently clean them up. They got me to bop my head along to some music. They got me to eat Twinkie bites with them and even feed them Twinkie bites. And they even fed me some weird banana stuff that I tried not to eat at first then was like, “Yeah, sure I’m down to play if you want” (which happened to be the very thought that likely got me onstage in the first place).

They took a picture at the perfect moment, of course.

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After the bit was one, they helped lead me offstage and two of them squeezed by hand twice as a signal that I felt like was a “thank you” or “good job.” Whatever it was, I just played along and continued to enjoy the rest of the show.

When the show was over, we were meandering in the lobby and one of the Blue Men ran up dramatically. He smiled and I said “Hello! I’m married but that was the best date of my life!” He smiled again (maybe it was just with his eyes? I don’t think they actually smile now that I’m thinking about it. Anyway, we took a picture and then he turned to me, covered his mouth and quietly said “That was amazing.”

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That’s all he said. That’s all he had to say. Because he had spent so much time silent, the power of those simple words were enough. I felt like my goal of being present and playful was achieved if this Blue Man was willing to break his vow of silence to let me know the energy was appreciated.

I thanked him profusely for the opportunity and the incredible work they do. He just nodded and continued pictures with the crowd that had formed around him. I then showed off my blue paint to my husband and threatened to leave him for the Blue Men.

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My point is, I’m a talker. Sure, I’m expressive and use my expressive face to get my points across and make people laugh. But talking is my security blanket. It’s the way I trust myself most to communicate. And getting laughs in response to what I’m saying makes me feel safe. Drama is terrifying to me because you don’t get laughs, you get silence. Things where you have to wait for a payoff are terrifying because you don’t get immediate responses, you have to wait in the delicious silence for the gratification.

I guess right now my life is in a bit of a silence. I’m doing things, but it’s not making enough noise to get the responses I’m comfortable with. I don’t feel validated in the ways that I get to feel when I’m onstage and throwing out jokes or listening to people laugh at something I’ve created. I have to just trust in the process. As an audience member, I enjoyed the silences. I wasn’t thinking “when’s the next laugh?” I was simply thinking, “This is wonderful I hope they keep it up.”

Maybe I should start thinking of myself as both the performer and the audience member in my own life. Rather than desperately needing the immediate validation, recognize that there are times when it’s necessary to relish in the quiet. Sometimes a little quiet for a good set up means a bigger response in the future. So just sit back and enjoy it.

And, of course, keep working.

 

Monk Mode

I’ll keep this short and sweet since I made some ambitious deadlines for myself this week that, at the time, I thought were reasonable. Now that I’m in the thick of it, I see now that they were somewhat unreasonable.

But, hey, I like a good challenge and all this stuff is creative anyway, so I won’t complain.

In fact, I almost skipped the blog this week. I have too much on the plate. But then I remembered that most of these deadlines are somewhat arbitrary anyway (people are reasonable and everything is negotiable, right?). It would be totally understandable if I missed one and if I skipped a blog. Who would even notice?

But I would know. I would notice. And when I make a promise to myself to get something done by a certain date, just like when I make a promise to myself to get something done for someone else, I follow through.

Even if it means I skip my hour-long yoga class that I love and do ten minutes at home just to stay sane.  I will write. Because I am a writer who does yoga. I am not a yogi who writes a lot. There’s a small distinction between the two, but an important one when it comes to where I focus my time.

The past few weeks I’ve been in what I consider “Monk Mode.” I’ve been getting up early, going to bed early, in a pretty set little routine (thanks to my puppers who really like to remind me that certain times of the day mean either walk or eating or playtime or porch time or pool time). I’ve been going to my yoga class in the morning (when possible), coming back and setting up the house the way I like it before diving into some focused writing. I have a quiet lunch at home while I read the entertainment trades and then take my dogs on a walk. I take a quick nap (I’m an excellent napper – 20 minutes to a totally transformed human), then have another round of intense writing or creating before Bonnie lets me know it’s time to feed and play with the pups. Maybe after they eat and play, I have another hour or so of creative time before they need a walk. After the way, I snarf some food then, maybe eek out a few more pages before I start my pre-bedtime relax mode.

And, at the moment, that’s it. I will change up the routine if people are in town or coffees must be had. But in weeks where I’m on intense deadlines like right now, I’ll only change it up to give me more time to write (sorry yoga, you got axed today). But I’m careful and thoughtful about when I change it up. I make sure there’s still plenty of routine available to keep me balanced even when I know one day will not be as productive as the others. So I don’t do coffees daily. And I don’t do drinks every night. I keep it balanced and protect the creative boundaries I need to continue to feel my best.

If I’ve ignored your text or been hard to pin down for a meeting, this is likely why. And I would apologize for it, but honestly I don’t feel bad. It’s called setting boundaries and I’m learning it and loving it and the people closest to me respect it, as I do their own boundaries.

So why am I sharing? What does this even matter? Those mundane details of your life mean very little to me, Briana (you may be saying and I’ll pretend you are so I can answer).

Well, here’s the funny thing about Monk Mode. I really like it. I’ve spent a ton of time traveling and on wonky schedules and all over the place. I haven’t had a lot of time or space in my world for routines. And, to be fair, I often avoid them because the wrong ones focused in the wrong places can make me freak out and feel stifled.

But this routine is a happy routine. It’s a productive little routine. Even though my weekends are all over the place and it’s more of a goal than a reality most days, it makes me feel like I’m focusing on and forwarding my career.

When I’m doing things outside of the routine, I’m working on my acting craft or taking meetings for my writing. I’m not immediately seeing the results of my work, but I know that doing a little every day and maintaining my focus will eventually help me to stay sharp. I feel inspired by the productive yet quiet lives of monks who spend much of their day devoted to the work they believe in, with small tasks and chores sprinkled in throughout their day. I don’t pretend that I’m a monk. But I do enjoy the quiet and focused time working (not to mention a good Belgian beer that some monks basically perfected).

This time of year can feel particularly tumultuous for me emotionally as I round the corner to another birthday and the age demons try to pester me about what I’ve accomplished with my life. But doing my best to stay in Monk Mode has kept them at bay. And has kept my own spiritual connection to both my more intuitive and more creative self even stronger.

Straight up Monk shit, yo.

 

 

 

When Something Is Hard

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how many people like to complain about how hard things are.

Let me give you some context to help specify this very general statement.

My friend is very, very pregnant. Like, I was ready at any point during our conversation to drive her to the hospital if she started making a pained face. She’s about to pop. So she’s had a lot of conversations (some requested, most unsolicited) about parenting lately. It’s her first kid, so she’s getting all sorts of advice (again, most of it she’s not asking for). One of her closer friends had recently gone on a mini tirade about how hard it is to be parent.

As a woman of child-bearing age who’s been getting pressure for a decade to procreate, this is a refrain I hear a lot. I have dogs (I mention them often). People love to remind me how having dogs is so different and so much easier than having children (again, I don’t ask, they just offer this up as if I made the comparison on my own and asked them their opinion of it).

The most frustrating part about people telling you how hard something is, especially parenting (besides what I’ve made obvious in these parenthetical asides about people offering up opinions that nobody asked for) is the fact that they make it sound like hard is the worst thing you can do. And that you’ve never done anything as hard as this thing you’re about to do.

In a world filled with comforts, hacks, and affordable luxuries around every corner, I get why doing something “hard” gets more and more terrifying. But just because something’s hard, doesn’t automatically make it something you need to be afraid of or complain about or worry about. It’s just something different from most people usual existence (unless you’re David Goggins).

Childbirth, more than almost anything, remains incredibly difficult. Even with the advances in technology and increases in our ability to protect, track, and plan the birthing process, that large baby still has to come out of that woman’s body one way or another. There’s no hack for that (at the moment).

Yet after the childbirth process, you’ve created a freaking human life. You now get to enjoy and raise this kid. And yes, you’re going to have sleepless nights and goo in places you never expected and smell crap you never thought could come out of a human being. And that’s going to be “hard.” But you also get to snuggle with an innocent life form and hold its hand when it learns to walk and get butterfly kisses before it goes out to play in the yard and watch it learn to talk and run and grow.

Are you going to sacrifice all of that because it’s hard?

Okay, I’ve been harping on baby making for a second, mostly inspired by my friend who is probably in labor right now (you guys, she’s was SO PREGGO). But that’s not my point here. If you don’t want to have kids, totally cool. I’m not interested in a discussion about kids. I’m trying to make a point about what people think is hard.

Every morning when I get up in the dark and leave my warm bed and snuggly dogs (and husband) to do some mind clearing and head to workout, that’s hard. I don’t complain. It’s a choice I’m making that makes me an overall better human.

When I go to my hard workout class and my peppy teacher yells “Mountain climbers!” and my body starts instinctively kicking my own ass, that’s hard. I don’t complain about it. It’s a choice I’m making to improve my health and challenge my muscles to be an overall better human.

When I’m slogging through writing something and I don’t know what to say and I’m convinced I’ve already used every word in the English language and there are no more sentences that will come to me ever, but I’m only halfway through the project and I have to keep going because I’m on a deadline, that’s hard. I don’t complain. It’s a privilege to get the opportunity to create and do what I’m good at and add value to the world in a way that makes me feel fulfilled.

All of these small choices in my typical day pale in comparison to some of the much harder jobs other people have and the lives they live, and the choice they make to go to and improve themselves (or sometimes just get through them) daily.

Thank god no firefighter, military service person, police officer, construction worker, single mom, high-risk public school teacher, first responder, ER doctor, or air traffic controller was thwarted by someone warning them their job would be hard.

And those are just the choices we have. Hard things happen to us all the time. They’re inevitable. Complaining about them or worrying about them or wishing they were over doesn’t make them any easier or help them to go any faster.

The only trick to surviving something hard is just to do it. Once you’ve done one hard thing, even if it’s small, you start to get confidence that you can do something bigger and harder. And if you’ve been through something big and hard already, the hard smaller things feel more manageable.

Hard is what it is. It’s unforgiving, challenging, and unresponsive to your complains. So just do it. Learn from it. Survive it. Get through it. And your spirit will get stronger for it every time.

(And also maybe don’t offer a pregnant woman – or any woman – your opinion unless asked, k? Thanks!)

 

Choosing Calm

I’ve been called feisty more than once in my life. My temper used to be a strange point of pride. I’d think, “Oh, man, you’d better not cross me or you’ll see the wrath of a version of myself that I can’t even handle.”

Even though I didn’t always love that my emotions would take over (and quickly), I was scared to do too much to curb it because my crazy was also a large part of my identity. I liked that I was considered somewhat unpredictable and that I wore my emotions on my sleeve and felt those emotions really strongly (and often quickly).

But as I’ve grown up, I realized that those same emotions are utterly exhausting. And, like any bad habit, they slowly fester into something uncontrollable. They’re not a big deal when you’re younger and you have more energy to fight them back and recover from the temper tantrum. But as you get older, they really do wear on you. It becomes harder and harder to fight them off. And, because you’ve let them run rampant for years, they’ve grown in their strength.

In case I’ve lost you here, the “they” I’m talking about is negative emotions. Okay, we’re back on track. Good.

Anyway, it took a leap of faith for me to accept that maybe I could more consistently be calmer. I worried what that would mean for the empathetic feelings I wanted to feel and the ability to feel emotions strongly. It turns out, when I’m able to more regularly listen to my emotions from a calmer and happier state of mind, I continue to feel things just as strongly. I actually feel them even more strongly because I feel them with more clarity.

When a negative emotion starts to take over, I’ve done the work to see it coming and notice it start to take over my mind (and tense up my body). That doesn’t mean I’m always able to control it and keep it at bay. But I can at least see that it’s happening and a part of me remains aware of the situation. Plus, as a bonus, that part of me that is aware of the situation is able to start assessing what’s really going on, while the rest of me continues to temper tantrum away. By the time my calm(er) self has returned, it’s able to have a short conversation with the emotion and identify where it’s coming from.

For example, the other day I was worried about something that y dog may have ingested. It was unclear whether or not he actually ate this thing. And, if he did, the repercussions were likely not dire, just sort of uncomfortable and unknown. The moment I caught the (possible) act, I got really upset and frustrated immediately. In the past, I may have let those emotions take over and inform the rest of the day. Instead, I talked it out for a moment. I was able to stay calm(er) and start evaluating all the opportunities here. My husband (god love him) tried to tell me everything was fine and that I didn’t need to worry. That only made me angrier and I couldn’t figure out why. Again, in the past, I easily could and would have lashed out.

Instead, this time, he took the dogs on a walk (a smart move for him) and I evaluated what was going on. Once I figured out that my pup was in no major danger even if he did the thing I wasn’t sure he’d do, I asked myself what was going on. I realized it was a flare up of an old feeling of unworthiness that was festering again. I didn’t feel like I deserved the happiness that my dogs brought me. I didn’t “deserve nice things” basically. It took me a long time to find that hidden little brain thought years ago. But once I did, I’ve made sure she knows she’s unwelcome. I have to remind her of that when she pops up at various times (like in this incident). And the frustration that was directed towards my husband was because I felt like my feelings were being mitigated, which is a trigger for me. When he came back, I was calmer, clearer, and able to talk it out. All without having too much of a fit.

In a less complicated example, it took me a while to get a necklace on this morning. I kept starting to get frustrated and  starting to feel my temper flare up. Instead, I was able to keep the tantrum at bay by simply remembering, “Whatever. It’s just a necklace. Either it goes on or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. Getting angry won’t help anything and it will only make me more tense and make this harder.” So I stayed chill and, several tries later, I eventually got it.

Calm doesn’t always come naturally to me. But the more I choose it, the more it knows its welcome. And the more I feel it, the more I want it around. It’s a pleasant cycle.

Maybe that can help you consider the same.

The Magic in Failure

I went to a magic show last night at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

It was…yes, magical.

We got to see lots of shows and I even got to go onstage and help out the main magician for a trick. He was more of a Vegas style big trick magician and less, like, quick slight-of-hand-centric. This meant, in part, that there was some time to kill between his set ups of new tricks. So he had another act come and do some impressive juggling and ball throwing.

After his first opening bit, the magician said that it had been 19 years since he had performed at The Magic Castle (basically the Olympics for magicians). And he brought back the same friend he had with him 19 years before to help him out and entertain between his tricks. This was the juggling dude.

Juggle dude came out hot and fast. He was good, moved around, and did a bunch of impressive feats. But then at one point, he dropped one of the items he was juggling. Impressively, he was able to keep juggling the other two and quickly pick back up the third and resume as if nothing had happened. He changed the items and amounts he was juggling several times throughout the act.

He was extremely impressive, but not flawless.

In fact, at one point he was trying to blow a ping pong ball on his face and catch it with the bridge of his nose and eyebrows. He did it a few times and even sort of paused and mouthed “come on” before he finally nailed it. Because everything magic-oriented is so showy, it’s hard to know if his failures were part of the show. But what I realized was, I didn’t even care. Nor did anyone else there, really.

The man sat before a paying audience with a lot of pressure to be perfect. And nobody seemed to care when he screwed up a little. Part of me did wonder if he had been actively practicing in the past 19 years. But that was mostly because I expected perfection because I think we all do just out of habit.

What happened when I didn’t get it, though, was that I didn’t care. I didn’t feel slighted. In fact, I enjoyed sort of seeing him fail and try again. I enjoyed seeing him keep his spirits up and keep doing it until he got it. There was so much he already nailed that it didn’t matter to me that there were a few moments of imperfection. It made him human and almost more impressive that he was willing to fail in front of everyone onstage and keep going.

And, perhaps most interestingly, he was still interesting and entertaining even with the flubs.

That was the main takeaway for me from the event. I pressure myself regularly to be perfect, especially when onstage. I think that if I’m not absolutely polished, people will discover me for being some sort of fraud. The funny part is, I’ve screwed up before plenty of times on stage and in front of audiences. And I’m sure I will continue to. But seeing someone else do it reminded me how little I, as an audience member, actually care. I like seeing hints of behind-the-scenes as long as I still trust this person can get us all through it and remain entertaining.

If he had flubbed big time, it might have felt awkward. That’s when the audience starts to wonder if they can trust you to continue to entertain them. But they were just small things that happened occasionally. They were fixed instantly but not without self-awareness and a hint of happy humility.

The flaws were beautiful.

And, dare I say it… magical.