Fires and Resilience

Welcome, 2019. I’m happy to see you. I always love welcoming the new year. Just like I love celebrating birthdays. As my grandpa always said, it sure beats the alternative.

I’m not going to place any judgments on 2018. It was what it was. There were all sorts of beautiful and horrifying things happening simultaneously because that’s life and it’s full of dramatic dichotomies that we have to constantly navigate.

As a resident of Southern California, 2018 sure did get me thinking a lot about fires. Mostly because there were so many incredibly destructive fires that ravaged the region leaving ashes, confusion, and sadness in their wake.

Lives and homes were lost. There’s no getting those back. And there’s no part of me that wants to at all mitigate the genuine loss so many people affected by them felt. And we, as a global community, also felt through some of our precious natural resources being forever changed.

As the last fire of the year, the Woolsey Fire, overtook some favorite ares of my beloved Malibu – an area I have always adored visiting for its relaxed vibe and natural beauty. I found myself feeling what I can only imagine lots of humans felt…powerless and overwhelmed by sadness. Even though I understand fire is sometimes natural, I felt like we’ve done so much to hurt and destroy our gorgeous planet at this point that it always feels like we might be watching a natural disaster unfold that may be the turning point to keep us from having the balanced nature we need to survive as a species.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. But there’s some science to back up my notions.

But I’ve never been a dweller. I hate dwelling. You can stew for a minute if you need. You can let off steam occasionally. I don’t have issues with being in touch with your honest emotions. But I do have issues dwelling.

Rather than dwell, I started to think about what it could mean. What could I do to help and what does it mean to watch parts of the world I love burn down?

What I could do was start genuinely giving back to this planet in small and large ways. When I can, volunteer to help clean it up. Choose more green alternatives whenever possible with every purchase I make. Not only change elements of my lifestyle but change the companies that I support to make sure they have more environmentally conscious approaches to their output.

Say what you will about veganism and vegetarianism, but if the entire human population chose to do it for a single decade, we would give our earth a much needed reprieve from global warming. Then, maybe, when we reintroduce eating meat, we could do so in a more sustainable way. Nobody is asking for you to give up your lifestyle in any way – from what you eat to what you drive to what you choose to purchase or do.

It’s simply a matter of becoming aware that our planet has limited resources and maybe small decisions you make within the confines of those resources could help out your fellow humans so that we can continue to use those resources for longer without losing or ruining the ability to have them forever.

So there’s that. There’s small choices and lifestyle changes that could be made.

But even in embracing those and slowly weaving them into every day life, it doesn’t change the fact that, for at least a while longer, the earth will be mad at us and enacting a number of natural disasters as a result of our own manipulation of its resources. Maybe I shouldn’t say mad. That means that somehow we’ve angered it and it’s personifying something that, though I love referring to it as Mother Earth, it doesn’t need to have an human emotion attached. It’s simply reacting to years of human actions that have, at least so far, gone relatively unchecked. And, of course, none of this changes the fact that fires burned down people’s homes, livelihoods, and took lives.

That’s where it’s time to get a bit more philosophical about what it means. It’s easy – and easier to keep your heart stone and your emotions on an island away from everyone else – to say it means nothing. Nothing means anything and we’re all just feathers in the wind attempting to survive until our time floating around is done. But, at least for me, down that way lies madness. So I refuse to accept it.

Instead, I like to think of how to make it a positive thing. No, what happened isn’t inherently positive. And no, I don’t wish fire upon anyone so they can find the “meaning” behind it. But for fellow feathers still floating in the wind, I choose to see a beautiful symbolism behind the fires. There’s a chance to completely rebuild from the ground up. The old ways have been razed and it’s time we choose to rebuild them with a new perspective in mind.

I heard about these large trees who sprout seeds that often die because the roots of the trees they come from are too large and the forests they’d be sprouting in are too shaded from the massive trees. But if there’s a fire, those seeds not only survive, but need the fire to be planted into the ground. So the tree basically ensures its own survival from a fire.

Some brush needs fire in order for it to clear the old and grow new seedlings. Fire is natural and, at times, necessary. Knowing that, the question then become: What can we do to embrace it, learn from it, and grow into a culture that doesn’t become completely at its whim, but knows how to work with it for sustainable growth?

We get the chance not only to rebuild and to rethink, but to show resilience. Not to get all Batman on you, but we fall so that we may learn how to get back up. We’re creatures that are meant to be in movement. And movement means risk of failure and risk of falling. We’re not just risking failure when we choose to be in movement, we’re almost guaranteed it. But every time we get back up, we teach ourselves that we can. We remind ourselves that we can be strong and we can make new choices and we can learn, grow, and improve.

So, as Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent forest fires. Love nature and respect it. Let’s learn from our cumulative mistakes and agree to see the world for what it is – a community that is inherently interconnected with each other. Within that recognition and understanding, we may choose to help each other out by making small but meaningful decisions that will give the earth a chance to rebuild and give future generations a fighting chance of experiencing the beauty and balance that the world naturally wants to give us.

Oh, and more on bears next week…

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A Year Ago

back in timeA year ago, I got some news that surprised me. Someone tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough for something. Well, the truth was, they did tell me that they didn’t think I was good enough for something. He basically told me I didn’t make the cut.

After I got over the initial shock since I found the assessment completely unfounded, I thought about the deliverer and I thought about the actual outcome of this news and its impact on the rest of my life. I realized that the deliverer wasn’t someone I admired who’s opinion I needed to listen to and the outcome I thought I wanted was absolutely unnecessary to the goals I had in my own life. Another outcome would have allowed me to check off a box that didn’t need checking in order to prove I live up to arbitrary standards of a system that’s becoming more archaic daily.

But rejection is never fun no matter what perspective you can later spin it into. It can bother you. And, despite the fact that I am now more relieved and well-aware that world is not one I want to be a part of, this one still bothered me for a while.

I mean, you want to get in an invite to the party even if you have no intention of attending.

So I was going to write a whole article in response going into detail about all the things I’ve done in the year since this day. But when this day neared, I lost my edge to write a vengeance-filled post bragging about all my accomplishments. First of all, it’s not really my style. And secondly, I just didn’t care enough. The truth is, this mattered so little to me by the time the day came and went, that I just let it go and forgot about it. I was too busy actually doing the things that I love to take time out of my day to focus on telling people that I’m doing the things that I love.

And when I realized I missed my chance for my year-later response, I couldn’t find a shred of me that really cared. It all felt so long ago and my life has been progressively getting better, more fulfilling, and happier since that day.

When the issue comes up, of course I’m candid and honest about how I felt about the whole situation. But the underlying truth of the matter is that I care about it a lot less now that I thought I would. Which, for the most part, is liberating. But a little part of me still wishes I were angry so that I could let their rejection continue to fuel me.

But I’m not angry. While initial frustrations and rejections can make for good tinder for a fire, they ultimately cannot sustain the flames. They can provide a little help making it burn brighter, but they flare up and burn out quickly. It’s the thick logs and constant care that keep a fire burning. For me, those thick logs are my own passion for creativity and storytelling, and the constant care is the diligence and consistency with which I approach turning my passion into a daily, viable reality.

To put it bluntly, I realized that the best way to show ’em up is to show ’em you don’t even need ’em. Cuz you don’t.

Inside Out Shirt

success kid shirtYou’ll notice that I do my best on this blog to never gym shame anyone. Unless it has to do with basic gym etiquette (or sometimes basic human etiquette).

But you won’t hear me making fun of people. Part of that is I just in general have a policy of kindness. But part of it is because I recognize that I often don’t have all my sh*t together, so far be it from me to point out somebody else’s shortcomings.

Case in point: I saw a woman the other day with her shirt inside out. I thought, “Come on lady. Check your shirt.” Then I caught myself judging, realized it was just because I was exhausted while working out and trying to find something else to think about, and made myself find three things about her to compliment in my mind. I felt guilty for passing judgement (I’m Midwestern. Feeling guilty comes naturally.), so I made myself do kindness penance.

And, wouldn’t you know it, a couple weeks later, I’m at the gym and realize midway through my workout that I had my shirt on inside out.

I could have gone and changed, but I figured “Meh. Such is life” and let it go.

Because we’re all human and we have days we’re more “off” than others. And I figured anyone who noticed wouldn’t care. And anyone who would notice and care about such things wasn’t worth my time anyway, so I shouldn’t care.

Because…

be-who-you-are-and-say-what-you-feel-because-those-who-mind-dont-matter-and-those-who-matter-dont-mind-11

Why I Love Online Dating

Because the title of this article is so self-explanatory, let me start with a little disclaimer. I’m biased when it comes to online dating. I have a personality that suits online dating well. I love meeting people and am extremely open to new people and am anal-retentively organized which allows me to make time for whatever I find to be important. So when I decide that I want to meet people and date, I actually make the time to do so and meet a lot more people than the average person and find time for more dates.

Secondary disclaimer: I am currently dating and am all kinds of crazy about a guy I met online. So this article will inherently be influenced by that. But to be fair, I’ve gone on dates with and even dated other men I met online who didn’t make me swoon like current boo. So I’m not totally biased.

online-dating2-1h3togtBut I want to write about my experience only because I feel like people can look so snootily down upon online dating. They act like by meeting people through the internet, you’re somehow taking away from some sort of human experience and toying with the “fates” or something cooky like that.

I disagree. Big time.

I had a great time when I was online dating. I treated it like a game. It was fun and easy. I didn’t take it all that seriously. I didn’t get highly invested in any guy I never met in person. It didn’t matter how much we chatted, I’m a firm believer in meeting in person. If that in-person meeting was too hard, screw it. I’ll go back to the numbers game and meet other people that could be easier to meet. I met lots of people who were fun and interesting who I would never engage in a romantic relationship with, but had a great time getting to know. I made friends and went on crappy dates that I could laugh about later. I went on mediocre dates that I could reflect on and figure out why I had the experience I did. I learned what I wanted and what I’m looking for. And I had a great time just having a fun game-like distraction of chatting with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet in what I considered to be a large online bar.

Maybe it’s because I deal with so much rejection in my own career that I’ve developed really thick skin. Maybe it’s because I just never got that invested in someone I never met so I never let them have any control over my mood. Maybe it’s because I have a friendly and open personality that likes to flirt. Whatever the reason, it suited me to at least try out dating people I met online. I could find time for a coffee. Who knows what will come of it. One coffee I got lead to a really interesting conversation from a guy who was in charge of a huge movie producer’s estate and going through all these incredible artifacts of this man’s life from a 3rd party perspective. A year later, another coffee down the street lead to me meeting a man who I would fall totally in love with in no time.

You never know where this stuff will lead. People take it very seriously. They think there are some sort of rules. I think that’s silly. We’re changing the nature of how we interact. We’re changing the nature of how we communicate. We’re changing the nature of how we interpret and express ourselves in the world. Why wouldn’t, then, we change the nature of how we initiate and experience our romantic relationships?

By getting on a dating website, you’re putting yourself out there. That can be scary if you let it. But you could just treat it like another game. It’s a variation on Angry Birds. Have fun with it. Let loose and be open to whatever it could bring. And if you don’t like it, don’t force yourself to do it. I have a very close friend who I adore who finds herself not feeling good when she’s playing with dating apps. For whatever reason, they don’t suit her. She’s seen how much I like them so she’s tried. But it just isn’t her speed. So I told her to stop! Do whatever makes you happy. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.

When I was dating, it was fun for me to go online. I treated it like window shopping. And I like to shop. I like to check out my options and just know there’s something out there. I’m lucky enough to have met someone who suits my needs and makes me have no desire to “shop” online. I’m a satisfied lady on all levels. We have a ton in common and are highly compatible but likely would have never met in “real life.” So we connected online. Then we met in real life. And connected in real life. And now have created a real life romance that enhances all aspects of the other very real elements in both of our lives.

And I have a so-called “dumb” dating website to thank for one of the best things that I’ve got going for me. Take that, internet.

So pooh on you if you’re philosophically opposed to online dating without ever even trying it. If you try and you don’t like, you don’t have to commit to it. Just like a person you met online. So what have you got to lose? Try it already! You just never know!

Also, don’t be an idiot. Always meet strangers in public places and keep friends up to date on your whereabouts until you’re sure they’re not a terrifying serial killer. I went on a lot of dates and only met one certified creeper, so… may the odds be ever in your favor.

 

Femoir: The Podcast – Partners! Show Notes

GoT-6I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately… so forgive the very specific partnership picture. I talk about being a lone wolf, but if you watch the show there’s a wolf in this picture so I’m counting it (nerdy laughter!).

Anyway! The latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is live in iTunes. And it’s talking about PARTNERSHIPS!

I talk about how I’m going to vary my intro like the Simpsons, then I dive into being “particular about my company,” and talk about a famous song from Chicago about partnership. I discuss my solo show and my stand up comedy, make a reference to a delightful Chris Tucker moment, talk about how I write about partnership often, discuss Stage 32, The Other Client List (my web series), talk about Closure, and how not all partnerships can work out.

And I also discuss my upcoming Western.

So much discussed! Take a listen and subscribe for free if it please ya!

And now back to Game of Thrones for me…

So Much Partner, Talk!

partners_backgroundI’ve been working on lots of projects lately. Which means I’ve had lots of partners. And I got to thinking about it. Then I got to writing about it. And then I got to publishing the writings about it. And now I’m sharing it with you.

3 Characteristics of a Good Partnership – Ms. In the Biz

And now I’m gonna go keep working on things. Perchance and perhaps you should do the same.

 

Why I’m Monogamous

Monogamy-SWANSI grew up in a family with a mom and a dad in the traditional-valued Midwest who are still married after over 35 years together. Every relationship I knew and saw growing up I took for granted that they were monogamous. Of course I didn’t know the in’s and out’s of other people’s business- because it wasn’t my business so I certainly didn’t need to know- but it was the underlying assumption. It was the culture I grew up in. I heard stories of my grandpa doting on my grandmother. I saw my father doing the same to my mother. Every healthy relationship I saw in and out of my family was on based on monogamy.

For those of you salivating right now thinking, “My god! She’s gonna delve into details of her personal life! She never does that! I can’t wait!” Sorry. No go. No details. Generalizations and philosophy only. I don’t like other people knowing my personal business. Because it ain’t yours.

Though I do like talking the juicy details of yours. Feel free to dish because I genuinely love that shit.

But here’s what I will say:

A couple years ago, I got thrown into a loop. I was introduced to the notion that monogamy might be an unfair cultural expectation that we force upon our relationships and thereby nearly doom them to fail because in many ways it’s unnatural. I read the book, “Sex At Dawn,” which is an extremely interesting and fair assessment of how we’ve become what we’ve become in terms of our cultural expectations of our traditional relationships. It makes a strong case for reevaluating how we view the nature of our relationships and how they can better serve our own innate human sexuality.

And over the past couple years, I got to really evaluate and asses what that means to me. Like the good student I am, I was willing to question completely my own belief systems and challenge them. I had a number of first-hand experiences where I got to learn and question and be open to different lifestyles that what I was accustomed to. I willingly tried on different values to see if something fit me better or enhanced my lifestyle in unexpected ways. I challenged myself, grew, and learned a whole lot about what I truly want in life.

I learned, at my core, that I’m still monogamous by nature. Or maybe it was by nurture. Either way, that’s the path for me.

I challenged it. I pretended I wasn’t. I tried to be the chick that strings along a lot of dudes. I tried to be the person who didn’t care about certain things and cared a lot about others. But no matter how many ways I stretched it, my mind always snapped back to the basic ideas I grew up with. I wasn’t my best self. I was weirdly insecure and indecisive. I sacrificed too much of my basic wants and needs and ended up losing myself. And learned from the process.

But the biggest reason why? I’m too busy for anything but monogamy.

That’s basically it. I’ve got too many other passions and projects on my plate. If I have a partner help me, support me, and delight me as I sail through these adventures, that’s all I want. I don’t need anything else. I appreciate the people who explore other lifestyles because it’s obviously important to them. And I appreciate that my choices aren’t for everyone. If I’m happy and satisfied, I’m too busy nurturing and caring for and investing in my partner to worry about what’s out there that I might be missing. I actually like working through things. I like being challenged and growing. I don’t believe in our constantly upgrading culture that seems to think our happier self is outside of the world we have access to right now. As long as I got a guy who wants the same things in life, and we’re bringing out the best in each other, that’s all I need. And I’ll save the rest of my energy for the millions of other elements of this life that I’m passionate and curious about.

Let me be clear- if you’re not happy in a relationship and it’s not salvageable, certainly move on. I don’t believe that we all have to mate for life and resign ourselves to whatever fate we chose in a partner when lives and people and wants and needs can change in dramatic and unforeseeable ways. You have to be true to yourself and your own happiness. So you have to be willing and open to whatever that means for you.

It’s just for me, I have a tendency to go all in with anything I’m investing in. Whether it’s a project or a person, I get focused on making the most of any opportunity. And if I spread that focus out too thin, I don’t feel like I’m giving it my best. And it’s not everything it could be. And then I regret it. And wonder what it could have been if I had just been more willing to focus on it.

So that’s what I do. I focus. I get tunnel-visioned. I invest. I care. And I’m willing to take whatever emotional blows come with actually caring about the outcome of something. I’m willing to go this distance and fight to the end of the line. If it ends, so be it. But at least I can know I gave it my all.

Plus, romantic relationships are just one element of life. There are so many wonderful things to experience and learn and create. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

And by nobody, I mean me.

And by dat, I mean dating multiple people.

But different strokes for different folks. My own values and choices are certainly not meant to threaten or judge anyone’s lifestyle. You do you, honeybear. What you do in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults is none of my business.

Unless you want to make it my business and tell me about it. In which case, like I said before, I’ll totally be into because I’m a sucker for listening to other people’s love lives.

Though sharing the details of my own isn’t my thing. Nor is sharing in general.

So if you’re the lucky suitor who wins my affections- you my boo, my bae, my mans, my babymomma- good luck and may God have mercy on your soul.

Femoir: The Podcast – COMPARISON – Show Notes

It’s another Femoir: The Podcast, friends and here are the show notes for all the things that are chatted about during this episode.

It’s a lot this time, so strap in… here we gocompare!

I mention 123 and me. I meant 23andme. Silly mistake!

I also talk about The Chicago Comedy scene, Wikipedia, and my previous podcast called “GUT.”

Then I mention what my favorite Zen Good/Bad story, Mindy Kaling, a great article by “Thought Catalog” called This is how we date now, my soul buddy Renee.

Then I invent Nude Feeds… naughty! And I make W sounds like “Cool Whip.

Subscribe for free on iTunes. Episodes out every other Tuesday!

Mirror Love

baby mirrorI play a little trick on myself.

It’s not an easy trick. And it’s not a mean trick. But it’s still a trick.

When I catch myself finding flaws and critiquing myself in the mirror, I stop and start giving myself compliments. Repeatedly. Out loud. Until I feel better. Then I walk away feeling a lot better about myself than if I had kept finding all the flaws.

I started doing this not long ago when I found myself engaging in some bad habits as a result of my own perfectionism and nit-picky-ness attacking my appearance. I’ve always been lucky in that I can keep a pretty balanced head about things. When I do go deep into that rabbit hole, I’ve got some fantastic support systems who get me out quickly.

But it’s still not easy to make this choice. It’s not easy to be proactive about my positivity. It’s not easy to stop critiquing and start talking to myself like a best friend. And to forgive myself for my flaws.

That sh*t ain’t easy.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth looking like a doofus to the imaginary friends who are watching me talk to myself alone in my apartment. It’s worth feeling really cheesy as I repeat affirmations to myself in a mirror like a comedy sketch making fun of self-help gurus. It’s worth it sharing that I do this with you even though now you all know that I am as weird as you imagine I am.

Because down the other path lies madness. The other path doesn’t serve me. The other path doesn’t make me happy. But I can’t just ignore the impulse. I have to replace it with something positive. I can’t just tell myself “Don’t look at yourself in the mirror because you’re always hyper-critical.” I have to tell myself, “If you’re gonna look in the mirror, we’re gonna be loving about it. And that’s that.”

And… I’ll be honest with you all… it really does make a difference. I feel a whole lot happier and healthier after every one of my mirror lovin’ sessions. Which is nice since they could have gone the other way and made me feel a whole lot crummier.

Try it. Let me know how it goes. If you want a jumping off point of the how-to’s of this process, please refer to the following classic video:

Attitude Adjustment

attitudeI had to check myself before I wrecked myself the other day.

It was the first Saturday of the New Year and I went to the gym in late morning. And, to no surprise, it was packed.

And, unfortunately also no surprise, I immediately became a brat about it.

As I walked in and looked at the crowds of people on the machines and on the equipment, I got testy. I kept thinking somehow they were in my way. I felt so self-righteous that this gym was my gym. And that they were in my way. And how dare they even consider slightly inconveniencing me.

In short, I was a little biatch about it.

But halfway through my workout (when the endorphins started kicking in and I was calmer than before), I realized I was the one with the problem. Here are a bunch of people who, sure, don’t really know what they’re doing yet at the gym. But you’ve got to start somewhere. They were not at all getting in my way. It’s not like I go there with a really clear training plan of certain exercises I have to hit and certain goals that have to be attained. Usually I go with a body group that I’m going to focus on for the day. And then I look around and see what’s available.

These people weren’t my enemies. They were my new friends.

Sure, many of them may not stick around past February. But some of them will. Some of these people will have made it their New Years Resolution to get in shape and go to the gym all the time, and this will be the very exciting start of that journey for them. These are more people I now have something in common with. New people with whom I can talk working out with. New people who can complain about the lazy people who don’t return their free weights with.

It’s so easy to think you’re entitled to something. So much of our world today makes you believe you are entitled to whatever you want in the exact circumstances you want it and exactly when you want it. IWWIWWIWI, I believe is what it’s called (I Want What I Want When I Want It). I wanted to have the gym completely quiet and to myself. I wanted to be able to choose any time and go without any convenience to me. I wanted to have access to all the equipment I could possibly want for my workout at any given time even if I wasn’t using it or didn’t end up needing it.

Entitlement is gross.

I’m not proud of my attitude that day. But I am glad to be reminded that it’s so easy to fall back into a negative mindset. It’s easy to forget that other people are not your enemy. I live in Los Angeles…like millions of other people. If I start getting frustrated at crowds or traffic or whatever, I’ll never be satisfied in this city. Or any city. In fact, if I start wanting everything in my environment to be exactly how I want it without any distractions, I might as well move to a tiny hermit shack in Montana and hide from the world.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve considered this at times.

Then I remember, I love people. I love LA. I love being out of my comfort zone and having shared experiences and the excitement of a crowd. The only reason there’s even a gym close to me is because there are lots of other people who are members. I don’t keep it alive on my tiny membership fee alone. If there weren’t lots of people who belonged, I’d have to go somewhere else.

We need each other.

So I have to wait an extra few minutes for the leg press machine in January because some girl is doing 20 sets of 10 lbs. Whatever. No big deal. She’s gotta start somewhere. And I’m not going anywhere. So I’ll wait.

And I’ll be sure to check myself before I wreck myself.