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.

 

 

 

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Thinking Your Own Thoughts

I was on an airplane the other day having a hard time. I’m not a great flyer. The stress of nearly missing the flight did a toll on my body. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I was on a different timezone. The only food I had that day was hotel breakfast, coffee, beer, and some fried mac and cheese balls. I needed real food and space to move. My body was pissed.

I decided rather than trying to work or be productive on this late night flight where I felt like garbage, I’d just watch movies. I normally let a movie or a TV show on a flight be a treat rather than the norm. But on this flight, I needed to just keep my mind distracted from the various (understandable) whining happening in my body.

The only movie that looked interesting was “Leave No Trace.”

It was slow. The acting was great. The writing was refreshing. The cinematography was beautiful. And it was so different than so many blockbuster films I’ve recently seen. I loved it.

More importantly, it kept me from murdering my seat mate out of pure hungry rage. So that was nice.

leave no trace 2

There was a line in the movie that stuck out to me and has been in my head since I heard it (the sign of a really good story). In the film, the father and daughter purposely choose to live on the outskirts of society, wandering in the woods and staying off technology. At one point, their circumstances change and they have access to more technology. The daughter, who has spent more of her life completely off-the-grid, is somewhat anxious about what this means for their relationship to each other and to the world. The father assures her that, even with the distractions presented around them now, they can “still think our own thoughts.”

That line resonated with me. I’m by no means anti-technology. I participate (albeit often begrudgingly) in social media. I have a phone. I take my laptop on every trip I go on.

But I’m part of that older millennial generation that grew up in our formative years without it. I spent a lot of time looking out windows, playing in my back yard, creating stuff for the fun of it.

This is weird, but whatever – you’re here and reading this so you deserve a fun little weird tidbit. I used to love to lay upside down on a recliner and imagine that the world was flipped and the ceiling was the floor and the floor was the ceiling.

Yes, really.

The point is, I spent a lot of time thinking my own thoughts. I let my mind wander. My brain grew up with the understanding that it’s important to be present and it’s important to formulate your own thoughts and choose to spend your time in ways you feel drawn to (rather than are accidentally addicted to).

Like many people my age, I was an early adopter of texting and cellphone technology. I’ve been on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram all almost since they started. I was even part of that generation that needed a college email in order to get a Facebook account.

Stories for another time.

The point is, I’ve let social media and technology interweave and change my brain and my lifestyle without much thought. And now that I’m realizing the repercussions of that, I’m trying to give it some thought. My own thoughts. Not the responses or reactions of other people that the web is inundated with.

When I heard that line from the movie, I realized that, out of habit, I tend to let my mind wander on other people’s thoughts and creations rather than letting it wander on my own musings and observations like it used to. I’ve swung the pendulum far too far in one direction and it’s time to come back the other way.

not a drill

A world without social media or technology isn’t a world that exists anymore. But I can choose to create a world that better balances its existence with my own priorities. I can create a world where I participate in technology but don’t let it control me.

I can choose to create a world where I still think my own thoughts.

 

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 109: Little Decisions

Hi again, friends.

This episode, we talk all about how those little decisions that seem meaningless in your every day life can really add up to big changes.

We discuss letting things go, how I’ve experienced big transformations through a series of small decisions, yoga (of course), the Myth of the Life-Changing Moment and, for some reason, limp dicks and Doomsday preppers.

***I also had major sound issues this recording, so thank you in advance for sticking with me as I figure out MicrophoneGate 2019.***

Also, I mention this in the podcast, but please @ me anything, everything, and always.

Subscribing and rating are major helps, but listening keeps it going.

 

Taking Up Space

At the end of a good yoga session  – wait have I ever mentioned before on this blog that I like yoga? I can’t remember…

Anyway, I like yoga. Just a reminder.

At the end of a good yoga session, the final pose is always savasana. It means “corpse pose” or “resting pose” and is basically supposed to symbolize being reborn after a good yoga session. Recently, in a rare class where we had a lot of space, my teacher encouraged us to spread out and take up as much space as possible.

I realized that I tend to go out of my way not to take up too much space. I tend to always be thinking that I’m in the way. Or at least I grew up with that mindset. I was supposed to make sure other people weren’t inconvenienced by me somehow. Make sure to always look out for them and their needs first. Make sure that I’m always looking out for them even if it means I can’t get comfortable myself.

There’s a lot of good in looking out for other people. I’m not criticizing that in itself. Part of the reason our breed of human beings survived is because we’re very good at looking out for each other.

But left unchecked, it created an unhealthy attitude about my own self worth. I’ve literally apologized to people who weren’t paying attention and ran into me at a grocery store with their cart even though they weren’t paying attention and I was the one hurt. In my instinct, I did something wrong just by being there. That is taking this idea to the extreme. It seeps into many aspects of my life and psyche. And it is not healthy.

sorry

This small reminder in yoga class to “take up space” brought that to light even more.

Once I became aware of the mindset and how it was affecting me, I was able to start keeping it in check. I’m not saying I go around to everyone now elbowing my way through life. But I have begun embracing and recognizing that I have every much a right to be in a space and take up space as anyone else. We have to all look out for each other – but it’s not my job to make sure other people are doing that. It’s my job to do my best and to enjoy taking up space.

The universe is huge and we are tiny little specs here for just a moment of its lifetime, so we might as well breathe into (and grow into) as much of it as possible while we’ve got the chance.

Since I’ve embraced taking up space, I also realize that it means I can draw attention to myself. Not because I need attention per say, but because it’s okay to do my own thing and just be me, even if other people aren’t doing the same thing. I don’t need to just occupy as little space as possible in well worn paths. I can do my own thing and take up plenty of space while doing so.

Luckily for me, living in Los Angeles means that there’s a lot of opportunity to practice owning my own space. Even my favorite yoga studio is insanely crowded any given day. Every class is a great chance to both embrace the idea that I can be thoughtful for others (who might need me to move my mat so they can squeeze in) and also okay with taking up my own space without feeling like I need to squeeze in a corner so everyone else can have plenty of room.

It’s a balance and a challenge. It’s a balance challenge. Like a handstand. OMG we brought it back to yoga!

yoga

(Well done, Briana. Thank you, Briana. You’re ok, Briana. Are you ok, Briana? Unclear, Briana. Let’s move on, Briana. Sounds good, Briana. Never talk about this to anyone, Briana? Agreed, Briana.)

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 107: Momentum

Hi friends,

This episode is all about momentum. Getting it. Keeping it. Why it’s necessary. How to harness it. And how it can be intimidating.

Clyde makes cameo noises again, like the cutie he is.

We discuss trains leaving stations, how momentum builds, how new demons show up, Resistance (my favorite), and how there’s always something in the proverbial box (not like this box, a much sweeter more imaginative and less gross box).

Plus, there’s some talk about improvisation and dating…two activities that are both super fun on their own that become significantly less fun when you overlap. Take it from me (and my mistakes).

Subscribing and rating help the show get momentum (what we’re talking about!). But listening keeps it going, so thank you, as always.

 

The Myth of the Life-Changing Moment

We have the pervasive story in our culture that is not only inaccurate, it’s destructive. We have this idea that in one given moment, everything can change. I get why we say it. And I get that there’s some truth behind it. But I’d like to at least challenge it because I think it’s unhealthy.

There’s a story about how the cast of Friends went out for drinks just before they began filming the show. The producers of the show told the whole crew that their lives would soon change. They were right. For many people, that’d be considered the life-changing moment.

In A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s character (who cares WTF her name is in the movie itself, it’s Lady Gaga’s character) has a life-changing moment when she goes out on stage with Bradley Cooper’s character (again, I’m not going to take the time to look it up…okay I just remembered it was Jackson Maine but whatever, I’m sticking with Bradley Cooper’s character). He encourages her to sing her heart out. She does. She becomes a viral sensation and soon a superstar. All thanks to that life-changing moment.

But I believe that’s thinking of time as far too linear. There are a million small moments, opportunities, and choices that are made before that “life-changing moment” that made it possible in the first place. 

To take apart my own examples (which is why I used them in the first place), the cast of Friends didn’t have one night that everything changed. You could back up to the moment they auditioned for the show was a life-changing moment. Before that, the moment they got whatever representation that got them in the door of the audition was a life-changing moment. The day the decided to do the showcase or class or performance that got them noticed by that representation was a life-changing moment. The day they committed to becoming an actor was a life-changing moment. That time they had an intense rejection and considered quitting but didn’t is a life-changing moment. It could go on and on…

joey surprised.gif

Same with the character in A Star is Born. The day she sang was as much of a life-changing moment as the day she wrote the lyrics that Bradley Cooper’s character became enraptured by. The day she first started singing at the bar he met her at. The day she first started waitressing at the bar she’d eventually sing at. The day she met the friend who ushered Bradley Cooper into the bar and got him a drink so he’d watch her. The day she learned she liked to sing. These are all life-changing moments.

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The reason I find the myth of the life-changing moment so destructive is because I think it makes us spend our whole lives anxiously anticipating some big magic moment that really never comes because life is full of little magic moments happening constantly.

Sure, there are bigger opportunities that can exacerbate changes more dramatically – no denying that. But for the most part, those opportunities only come along because of a series of tiny decisions you make beforehand. And you’re only able to see and capture them because of the same series of tiny decisions you made up to that point.

We can never know where the magic will lead. So don’t miss out on the joy and excitement of the small miracles in hopes seeing a major one. The major one might feel even more joyous if you’ve recognized the small ones along the way.

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).

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 105: Doing What’s Good For Us

Hello again friends,

In this episode, we explore why it is we never want to do what we know will make us feel good. Why do we choose something else even when we know it’s a choice that won’t bring us the most happiness? What’s up with these small, seemingly innocent decisions that lead us down a path that doesn’t help at all.

We talk Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater (and Mission IMPROVable).

We talk Netflix & Chilling.

I give a quick shout out to the hubs.

We discuss Resistance (my fave), Steven Pressfield, and slaying the dragon.

Of course I mention yoga.

And we talk about the small lies we tell ourselves and how getting down looks different on everyone.

Oh, and my sweet little Clydie makes some auditory cameos.

Subscribing and liking helps the show, but listening keeps it going 🙂

Enjoy!

When It Rains (in LA), It Pours

This feels like a particularly timely post on many levels. Not only because Los Angeles has been under a deluge of water for months (so much water!), but also because I have been particularly overwhelmed at times in my own world.

I’m not going to go into details about all the happenings. Mostly because they’re not important. I have perspective on them. I understand that there are worse things that could be happening but also that there are better. But I’m also not going to go into details because the truth is, if you feel overwhelmed it’s ok to feel overwhelmed no matter what the circumstances may be.

Your feelings are valid. They come up as lessons and you can learn and grow from them.

Anyhoo, let’s talk about the pouring rain.

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What really got me recently that was particularly frustrating is that there were many things that normally act fine that all began to act up. And these were on a few different fronts. They reminded me, too, that there are other elements of my external world that I’m not particularly proud of yet or things I feel like I’m missing from the execution of and manifestation of my own dreams. And these factors were glaring right in my face, reminding me that these small things are still things that can get me totally off kilter and force to me to look in a mirror and, likely, see something I know still needs improvement.

If they had all happened separately, they would have been an inconvenience. Because they happened at the same time, they were overwhelming.

It’s one thing to go out for a walk in a light rain. That feels manageable. But when the skies open and the rain feels like it’s coming up from the ground and there are unavoidable puddles on every corner, that’s when you need to actually take action to attempt to do something about it.

And, like the rain, there’s only so much you can do. You put on the right gear, you stay smart, and you hope for the best.

The nice part about a deluge is, unlike a sprinkle, you have to confront it. You have to accept that it’s happening and take measures in response to it. I am particularly guilty of doing just enough to keep myself on course without being too inconvenienced by small issues around me. But when there are a ton of small issues that, when put together, make it impossible to actually do some of the basics I want to do, that’s when I have to put everything on pause and deal with them. And as obnoxious as it can feel at times, at least it forces me to do something about it instead of just pretend it’s not happening.

In that way, I’m grateful for the downpour. It’s a reminder that if and when you need to make life changes – even if they’re small – they’re better to confront quickly when they come to the surface rather than ignore them because they’re not a major issue yet.

The other nice part about the rains that it’s temporary. Deluge or not, it doesn’t last. There are repercussions to the rain (both physically and metaphorically). But it doesn’t last. So when it’s coming at you, you can just brace for impact and wait it out. Figure out what you have to do to keep yourself as dry and warm as possible (and it’s not always possible), then learn from the experience, do what you have to do, and move on.

I feel like I flipped between metaphor and pragmatic pretty ineffectively this post. I could go back in and figure it out, but my head is a rain shower at the moment so I’d rather let this be art and let it mean whatever it might mean to you without overthinking it, and move on.

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 102: Sh*t Happens

Back again, friends.

In this episode, we talk about Mercury Retrograding. (Yeah, it happens, sorry).

I mention finding perspective.

I give a quick shout out to my hubs.

I talk traveling.

I hint about an upcoming blog post you should check out (hey, get caught up here!).

And I generally discuss chilling out.

Mostly, I’m trying to make everyone a teacher and trying to make my acting teacher proud.

Or, maybe, just make my best self proud. Who knows.

Subscribing and rating helps out, friends. But you know what helps more than anything? You being you. So keep doing that.

xo