That Little Voice

I was inconvenienced yesterday. It was minor but I found it annoying because it was very nearly avoided. Ten extra seconds and the next twenty minutes of frustration could have been avoided.

I wasn’t proud of my initial reaction. I was pissed. I was annoyed. I was resentful. I was heated. I thought the person who made a mistake was an idiot. I thought the company who employed the person was automated and didn’t care. I thought the customer service representatives I talked to were obnoxious. I was even pissed that they were using soothing tactics with me that were working. I didn’t like to be calmed when I wanted to be annoyed and angry.

I was pissed at myself for getting so angry. I was peeved I let my temper flare again. Unfortunately for my husband, he came home right in the thick of it and left again without plans to help. That didn’t bode well for him, as you can imagine.

I felt the tension in my body. I felt the “I have to everything myself” and “People are so stupid” pity party starting. I even lost my patience on my perfect pups and begrudgingly walked them with very little care for what they actually wanted to do or smell or sniff.

The whole time it was happening, I heard this little voice in the back of my mind saying “Make it a joke,” and “it’s okay,” and “it’ll turn out fine.” It whispered that there’s a bigger perspective I’m missing and a version of me that actually could ride this wave…maybe even – dare I say it – find a way to get joy out of it.

I resented it. I knew there was some truth to what it was saying but I just wanted to let it let me be pissed.

I don’t know about you, but I was often told that I’m overreacting. That I’m being too dramatic. My emotions were mitigated so much that whenever I felt something that wasn’t beautiful, I got a side order of shame served right along with it for even feeling. The fact that I express and manifest emotions differently meant, to some people, I was obviously doing it wrong. So I’ve rebelled in recent years and been very protective of my own self worth and the fact that I’m allowed to feel whatever emotions I am feeling.

So I yelled back at the voice and told it that I’m allowed to be this pissed and I’m allowed to go on a small rampage and take it out on the creatures I love most and it can eff the eff off. It just patiently agreed and reminded me that’s true but also that’s probably not the most fun use of my time. I listened but raged anyway.

The dogs and I went on a walk. Long story short, because of the walk and listening to that little instinctual voice inside me, I was able to fix the problem set out. I even did so pretty quickly and with help of a kind stranger. And now I’ll be able to leverage this problem into a gift.

I petty quickly let go of the anger and listened more intensely to that voice again. It didn’t gloat. It didn’t berate me. It didn’t say “I told you so.” It simply calmed me down and reminded me that there is another voice in my head now even when the old frustration patterns creep up. It’s okay to be mad. But you don’t have to be that mad for that long.

I’ve worked hard to have another voice in there. Hours of meditation, reading, self growth, spirituality studies…you name it. There’s clearly plenty of work to do because that voice wasn’t my go-to. The old patterns still took over. But having her in there and having a seat at the table gives me hope.

This morning, I made it a point to meditate for a bit longer than usual. Yesterday, it didn’t happen (shocking). I tend to run hot and move quickly. The best thing I can do is in the moments of calmness, cultivate that voice more and give it more empowerment and muscle memory in my bones. That way, if and when something goes awry again, I can increase its influence over my reaction.

In the moment, it’s not going to happen. But I can do it in the in-between moments.

That’s where all the juicy good stuff happens anyway.

Advertisements

Remembering Your Why

The same question has been popping up lately in my world. It’s come up in myself. It’s come up with people I think are successful. And it’s come up with people who are trying to find their big break.

That question is variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

When my peers get big – or even small – successes in their lives, I used to constantly ask myself (or the universe, whoever was more open to listening at the time), “Why didn’t I get that?”

When talking to people who are in early stages of their career or who are trying to figure out how to pursue creativity as a career, I’ll often hear then bemoan about people who are in similar boats to them who have found some traction. They’ll ask variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

Even people who are successful will look at others who have made different choices and wonder, “Why didn’t I get that?

It’s a natural question. We’re creatures who love to compare. But it’s even more potent at the moment in a world where we share more information than ever before, so it’s easier and more addictive to compare yourself to others than it has been throughout human history.

Though the question is natural, it’s not helpful. And the longer you entertain it, the more it will lead you down a spiraling path where entitlement and victimhood are unhealthily entangled.

The truth isn’t what you want to hear. The truth is, you didn’t get that because it wasn’t meant for you. It was never your thing. It was always the thing of whoever has it. And the longer you bemoan the loss of something that wasn’t yours, the more opportunities that could be yours pass you by.

The best advice I’ve recently heard about changing this same perspective into a more positive and productive one is from a person who is killing it in their respective field at the moment. They said their major mental shift came from thinking “Why isn’t the world giving me what I want?” to “What can I do to really make an impact on the world?”

Not to get all JFK on you, but ask not what your creativity can do for you, but ask what you can do for your creativity.

The more you lean into what you really want to do and the type of content you want to create, you start to inevitably become more unique. And the opportunities that are unique to your particular perspective and interests start to appear. And those feel more tangible and more uniquely you because you’re creating tangible things that are more uniquely you.

It’s about remembering your why. Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Why do you want to do it? What is it that originally drew you to this world? What makes you stick around or keep coming back even when it’s difficult?

Once you understand and lean into that, your interest in comparisons diminishes. It doesn’t really matter to you what other people are doing because you’re not doing it for the outcomes they’re receiving. You’re doing it because of the reasons you remind yourself. You’re doing it for the purposes of really making an impact. You’re doing it because you love it and you need it.

Accolades are fine. But spending your life staring at the accolades of others and wondering “Why didn’t I get that?” seems like a boring existence, if you ask me.

And you didn’t. But you’re reading this. So I’ll pretend you did.

You didn’t get something because you did get other things. So recognize, embrace, and utilize what you’ve got and use it to make your unique mark.

Or don’t. I can’t control ya.

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.

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.

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.

Overthinking

I have a tendency to overthink. It’s likely the byproduct of an overactive imagination. I like to think. I like to let my mind wander and get lost in the worlds of could be’s and possibilities. It’s helpful when I really want to get the root of an issue or a problem that’s bothering me. And sometimes it can be helpful in thoroughly planning for the proper preparation of a major goal.

But it has a dark side. My overactive imagination can easily wander down dangerous dark alleys. I can often find myself certain that there’s some underlying issue to a minor problem either in myself or in a loved one. I can convince myself through overthinking that whatever excuse I’ve come up with that will keep me from doing the work I promised myself I would do is reasonable and valuable – and that I’ll certainly find time to do that work later in my schedule. I can overthink reactions and interactions and getting to action.

I overthink. A lot.

But because I’ve become aware of this trait, I’ve been able to harness it better. I can let my overthinking out to play when it comes in handy. When I’m thinking up the rules of an imaginary work I’m creating, I’ll let myself overthink. When I’m crafting a business plan for a new endeavor and want to brainstorm all the possible ways I can get myself to a new goal, I’ll let myself overthink. When I’m staring out a window on an airplane considering what I want to do with my life, I’ll let myself overthink (assuming the airplane isn’t turbulent…that’s a bad time to overthink). When I’m planning to pursue a major goal and I need to craft the foundation of a schedule that will allow for it, I’ll let myself overthink.

Part of the reason I let myself overthink is because later, when it comes time to executing all the things I’ve been thinking about, I can put my overthinking mind down and simply act. I’ll know that I already thought through all the possibilities and decided this was the best course of action. So I don’t have any more thinking to do and can devote all my time to action. Once the action is done, I can go back to the thinking and see how I feel about the action. More often than not, I’m happy I did the action and didn’t let my overthinking keep me from it.

Overthinking isn’t the same as listening to your instinct. In fact, I’ve spent much of my life trying to shut up my overthinking mind so I can get in better touch with my instinct and my intuition. I’ve spent years overthinking the “right” move rather than listening to what I wanted to do most. I’ve convinced myself multiple times that I didn’t need to do something because it didn’t make perfect sense at the time, even if I really wanted to (and visa versa). And almost every time I overthink something and don’t let my instinct have any say in the matter, I regret it.

I would say I “learn my lesson” but because I continue to do these things repeatedly, I’m not really sure I have.

The lesson I’ve really learned is that my personality and my mind enjoy tend to overthink. And once I know that, I can embrace it and watch out for it. I can start to hear the difference between simply thinking something through and overthinking myself out of something that would be good for me. Once I notice it, I can simply thank my imagination for its active work and let it take a little rest while I go ahead and do what my instinct is telling me I need to do.

This is part of the reason I meditate regularly. I appreciate guided meditations, but honestly some of my most clear moments have come with just simple music or (and often even better) silence. I’m able to let my mind just relax and know that the thoughts will pass as easily as they come. And that they’re just thoughts. The more I see them as noise, the more I can cut through to get to the more powerful instincts that will serve me better than any of the noise.

Some people don’t have an overthinking problem. I admire you. I like to be around people who just do it because they said they were going to do it, with very little judgment about the situation. I’m getting more like that, but it takes a lot of work on my end. It’s not a major shift, it’s an ongoing, small, subtle change that I’m committed to and see results of incrementally over time.

This morning while I was at the yoga sculpt class I wanted to talk myself out of going to (but didn’t), my teacher had us do a particularly difficult move at the end of a particularly difficult sequence. I hesitated and she yelled “Don’t think, just do it!” I know she wasn’t talking directly at me, but she hit the nail on the head with that direction.

To be fair, I already thought about it so I did throw my knee down for a one minute and took an extra breath. But I didn’t let myself stay down and think about it for too long before I forced myself back up to finish out the exercise.

Sometimes, it’s not about completely eradicating yourself of a certain trait or habit. That’s too much effort and asking too much of yourself. You’re setting yourself up to get frustrated, inevitably fail, and lose faith in your ability to transform in the future. Instead, as it was in this case, it’s about understanding you have a tendency to do something, recognizing it, and choosing to overcome it when it doesn’t serve the you that you want to become.

And of course when it does, let ‘er rip.

 

The Gifts of the Random Soccer Match

I was walking back from yoga not long ago by a busy bus stop outside a pretty big apartment complex in my neighborhood when I saw a dude “dribbling” a soccer ball by himself. I put dribbling in quotes not because it’s the wrong word, but because I’m not a soccer expert at all. So while I think he was dribbling, there might be some soccer term that’s more accurate for just playing around with the ball.

Or maybe it’s just that – playing around with the ball?

Ah, it doesn’t matter. I digress.

I sort of looked over at him playing and, I guess in doing so, I accidentally invited an interaction with him.

Now, you’ve got to understand. I actually really like talking to and connecting with people. I’ve done it for years and find that connecting with humans is part of what we were put on this earth to do. Much of my goal in comedy and entertainment is for all of us to know and recognize our common shared humanity rather than constantly point out our differences.

Now, please also understand I live in a big city and have lived in big cities for over a decade. I am accustomed now-a-days to looking down or walking defensively. I still smile. I am still friendly and welcoming. But, out of survival instinct, I tend to prefer to simply walk by people unnoticed than smile constantly and risk someone taking it the wrong way and deciding I’m their new best friend and/or someone they’re going to follow home and/or someone they need to objectify and/or ask out immediately.

I like to call it soft eyes. I keep soft eyes and a soft smile but I hardened exterior for my own safety. Once everyone in the world has control over their own body parts and their own ideas of what they deserve from a stranger, we can all go back to connecting constantly. Until then, soft eyes, hardened exterior for me.

In looking up for this moment, this man must have caught glimpse of my soft eyes (and probably a smile from yoga…god I love it) and decided to pounce. Often, this is the last thing I want. In this case, it was pretty fun.

I saw him smile and say to me “One touch.” I smiled back and said “Nooooo” but, like, playfully with a big smile. It was too late anyway, he already had my friendly number and had lightly kicked his soccer ball my way. I kicked it back and he kicked it back to me. I said “I’m no good at this” and he said, “Nonsense, you’re great!” I kept watching and he didn’t kick it back to me but instead said simply “Thank you for playing!”

I walked away smiling (grateful that dude didn’t objectify, hit on me, ask me out, yell at me for existing, or follow me home…all of which have happened and are part of the reason I keep my eyes glued to the road when walking alone).

That random soccer player gave me three gifts without even knowing it.

First of all, he gave me the gift of whimsy. What’s the point in kicking the ball to stranger? There is none and I love it for that.

Secondly, he gave me the gift of connection. This is one of my favorite things in the world (see above) and by simply playing along for a moment, I got to connect with another human that I’ve never met before or since and be reminded that our shared human experience has way more in common with random strangers than different.

But finally, he gave me a gift of some self awareness. This one is way less obvious than the others, but it was the first thing on my mind and the only thing I could think about. Really, it’s what makes this story particularly interesting to me. Without it, this is just another story of a goofy stranger interaction.

When he wanted to kick the ball to me, I immediately lost my confidence. I immediately went into Adorable Dope mode, a role I’ve grown comfortable with over the years who I’ve recently started banishing from my repertoire. I said “I’m no good at this,” to a random stranger who just wanted me to kick a ball. I’ve never been excellent at soccer (it was too hard when I was younger, I didn’t like all the running so I didn’t keep up at it). So my self consciousness rears its head high when I don’t have some basic skills in something.

But how silly is that? We weren’t playing a soccer match. We weren’t picking teams. He wasn’t asking me to bend it like Beckham. He just wanted me to kick a ball in his general direction. A toddler could do it. They do it all the time.

So why, then, did Adorable Dope pop up? Why was I immediately hard on myself and less interested in playing with this guy? This is not me bashing myself further for it, it’s just being curious about it.

I was out of my comfort zone. I was interacting with someone and I, as we naturally do, wanted to please him and for him to like me. I wanted to be worthy of this moment – and that’s an absolutely crazy thing because we are all born worthy and don’t need to ever do anything to prove our worthiness. But we’re taught, groomed, and encouraged to prove our worth to others by being the best selves always. We can’t just be, we have to be awesome (#liveyourbestlife amiright?).

In that moment, out of my comfort zone, interacting with a stranger, I let Adorable Dope take over. It should be said that Adorable Dope doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She proves her worth by being, well, adorable. She’s got a great (heavily self-deprecating) sense of humor and there’s almost nothing you can say to her that she won’t have a playful or quippy way of undercutting herself.

Example: A lady on an airplane recently said to me “You have a beautiful smile.” I said thank you, then Adorable Dope took the wheel after a moment and said, “I’ve paid enough for it, I’d sure hope so.” I couldn’t let it just be a compliment. I wasn’t worthy of having a good smile without the help of dentists. I had to undercut it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love jokes. And I enjoy not taking myself all that seriously. But over the years, I’ve found that if I insult me before you insult me, I feel more powerful when really I’m covering up my own vulnerability. I won’t let myself go wholeheartedly into something because what if I’m not good enough at it? What if I care and I fail? And what if I just play a little soccer with that dude and enjoy it without insisting I shouldn’t because I can’t kick a ball?

The point is, that man gave me the gift of understanding I still have work to do on myself. I’ve been doing a lot of work over the years (especially lately). And I’m ok with being my own life-long project. But confidence and worthiness are foundational changes. They’re major shifts that, even when I think I’ve rebuilt my own personality house to my liking, a little quake like this interaction reminds me that it’s not quite as sturdy as I thought.

Man, I shouldn’t have used the quake metaphor. I live in LA and earthquakes are terrifying.

CAN WE ALL PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT EARTHQUAKES NOW?

Needless to say, next time a guy kicks a random soccer ball at me, I’ll hopefully be a little more willing to just play along, risk being bad at it and looking like a fool, and simply enjoy myself.

Unless he kicks it aggressively and at my face or something like that. Then I will throw down my yoga mat and warrior three the crap out of him (that means wishing him love and peace while working on my own balance…I think, I don’t know I just made it up right now).