My Husband Loved Me into Skinniness

Okay, listen. I need to know. Why did you click on this article?

Was it because you were already subscribed to this blog and a notification popped up and you knew that, despite the title, the content would probably be something unrelated? Was it because you saw the satirical title, knew me, and figured it was probably some sort of a joke and needed to know what on earth I was talking about?

Or was it because you wanted to genuinely know how my husband “loved me into skinniness” like it was some sort of diet fad or strange controlling relationship where I don’t even realize I’m being manipulated into becoming his perfect woman while losing myself in the process?

What was it? Was it the click-baity title? Because that title is a joke. And I’m worried about you if you clicked on this thinking it wasn’t.

Well, sure, it’s somewhat inspired by true events. But as inspired by true events as like the movie Titanic. The Titanic really sank (I’ve genuinely lost weight) and people were on board (my husband does love me). Otherwise, most of the in between is make believe.

Fine. Let’s get into it. Why even write a title like that?

I found a video of myself on my old archives (when I was actually looking up stuff for my old show Femoir which is now the name of my ongoing podcast – check it out!). The video was an early performance of my touring show and one of the first times I ever visited Los Angeles. I was living in Chicago at the time but came out for a festival being performed at a now defunct comedy theater right on Hollywood Boulevard. I was so excited to be out amongst the showbiz hubbub. At the time, I figured I’d probably move to LA but I didn’t know when and wasn’t in a hurry. I enjoyed the show, had decent audiences, and got to tell people I performed in the heart of Hollywood. And I saw some celebs come in and out of the theater, so all in all a very exciting event.

All this was long before husband. It was when I was either dating someone forgettable (they all were) or when I was single and being rather forgettable (I often was boringly focused on my work).

I saw this video and started laughing because, boy, I had a few extra pounds on me if I do say so myself.

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I wasn’t laughing because there’s anything wrong with carrying some extra weight. Nor was I laughing at myself because I looked weird or was shaming former me. I was laughing because, until that moment, I had honestly never seen it on myself.

See, I always had the gift (curse?) of plenty of confidence. I loved athletics and my body is and has always been pretty strong. Though I’ve gone through phases of being more toned than others, putting on some extra weight never really bugged me. I guess you could say I knew how to work it. And I still felt plenty beautiful. (And still snagged hot dudes because I was (and am) funny AF.) Or maybe, at least, I was so focused on being funny I really didn’t care too much what I looked like.

Seeing that video made me realize for the first time why people were, as of a couple years ago, starting to say “You look great” or somehow imply I had lost weight. I didn’t really get it. I knew that I had begun running more and (and this is the big one) become absolutely obsessed with yoga. Eventually, I did notice that my clothes fit different. I had a bit more confidence about how I looked in some slinkier outfits. But honestly? Overall? I felt about the same despite getting markedly more in shape (thank you again, hot yoga).

So what does my husband have to do with any of this? Welp, he started dating me when I had slightly more weight in inconvenient Santa Claus style places (as you can see in the picture). Maybe not as much as what this picture shows (this was Chicago weight – the result of 9 month winters and a genuine love of beer). But I wasn’t good at taking care of myself generally. I’d workout enough – I have always really loved/needed physical activity. But I never pushed myself to hard out of my comfort zone. And, more than anything, I ate garbage.

Nutrition always had to come at the expense of my genuine love for acting and comedy. I felt like I had to choose. I could eat rice and beans and butter to feel satiated in order to have enough money to pay for classes and shows and all the stuff that goes along with it. OR I could eat somewhat healthy. But even healthy eating meant time I didn’t want to spend meal prepping when I could be writing or creating. I was obsessed and simply using coffee, sugar, and chocolate to push through the plateaus of adrenal exhaustion.

Enter: Hubs. He’s provided a lot of wonderful things in my life. But, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the fact that he’s a great cook and an extremely healthy eater. From the time I started dating him, I started getting much healthier food in my life more regularly. He makes this salad – a SALAD of all things – that’s incredibly filling and delicious (and healthy).

Before dating him, I honestly thought of anything green as a pointless filler. They were the useless stuff on hamburgers that restaurants were obligated to put there so it looked prettier. You needed to take them off so you could just enjoy the burger and the buns. Now, thanks to what I’ve seen in terms of my physical health and energy levels, I try and figure out ways to insert something green in every meal like a freaking weirdo health monster.

When he transitioned from boyfriend to husband, the benefits have only skyrocketed. We now take time to meal prep. We both are committed to eating healthy and sticking to a budget when doing so (so I can’t go splurging on my sweet tooth anytime it tickles my fancy because we’ve got goals bigger than that chocolate bar now). And, because he’s a good cook, he gets on my case if all I’ve eaten is rice and beans. He’s shown me ways of eating economically but still balanced and way better overall for my body.

Over the past several years, my body hasn’t slimmed down crazily, but it has toned up significantly. And a huge part of that is largely because I live with a healthy, happy guy who has helped me become as healthy and happy. He treats food like fuel not like something you shove in your mouth so your body stops yelling at you so you can move on. I’ve found balance and actually enjoy spending time cooking with him (not to mention enjoy having healthy foods readily available because it makes my body so happy).

He didn’t force me into being skinny so he could love me more. He just loved himself enough to take care of his body and understand what it needs. I saw that and took it on. And he supported me because that’s what good partners do. And, I gotta tell you, it feels great. I highly encourage all of you to find love in a hungry place.

I feel good and I look good. And that’s largely thanks to my husband. And, of course, my beloved hot yoga.

 

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Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 98: Fairweather Fans

This episode is how I’ve learned from being a fairweather fan in my own career, and how that knowledge can help me (and you?) be more voracious and loyal even on the off days in your own life.

Hello friends!

This episode is how I’ve learned from being a fairweather fan in my own career, and how that knowledge can help me (and you?) be more voracious and loyal even on the off days in your own life.

I talk about the Super Bowl, the podcast Off Camera with Sam Jones (specifically the second episode with Matt Damon), the Boston Red Sox winning (and how they beat the Dodgers), the Cleveland Browns and their loyal fanbase, and the fact that I want you to take me to sports games, please and thank you.

 

I’ve Flip Flopped on Tom Brady. Forgive me?

Be gentle with me. It’s hard on me, too. Just…you know… hear me out.

I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. My most formative adolescent years were spent growing up in the Peyton Manning Colts Era. In fact, the owner of the Colts had a daughter my age. The year he signed Peyton Manning, everyone on the team got rookie Peyton Manning jerseys.

I gave it to my brother. I think. He cared about football. I didn’t. I was an average pre-teen girl in a state that worshipped basketball who grew up idolizing in-his-prime Reggie Miller. The Colts had never really been all that good and I didn’t play football. So the jerseys were cool and having the owner be our first base coach most games was cool but, again, I was an average pre-teen girl. I pretty much didn’t care.

 Hindsight being 20/20, of course I wish I had kept that sucker. 

Under his leadership (and massive paycheck), Peyton Manning would transform Indianapolis sports. He made the Colts worth watching. He was good. We were starting to be good. I learned the rules of football so I could enjoy the games more. We watched them together. Eventually, Reggie retired and Ron Artest (it was his name at the time) punched some dude in the face during a game and the Pacers became the embarrassment while the Colts were the city’s pride and joy.

Anyway, on the east coast a young quarterback was also coming up the ranks. The (evil) Tom Brady had his own team that he started making really good. The (evil) Patriots under the leadership of the (evil) Bill Belichick. Since both teams were in the AFC South, it started to become a little rivalry. Then it was a big rivalry. I knew that even when I didn’t care who was playing, I always wanted the Patriots to lose. It was in my genes.

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New to instagram.

A post shared by Peyton Manning (@peytonmanning4real) on

Seriously, when you form thoughts and habits in your formative years, they stick with you for life.

I remember watching intense games with now-passed family members in their homes. It was often heartbreaking but we always had hope. And sometimes that hope paid off because, as you recall, we did eventually get that Super Bowl win.

Anyway, it’s been years – maybe decades at this point – that I have despised Tom Brady and the Patriots franchise. The cheating. The scandals. Deflategate.* And he has a perfect wife? Psssht. What a dick.

I root against the Patriots no matter who they’re playing – especially in the Super Bowl. And this year it was especially easy when it was against my (now) hometown team, the Rams.

So it was heartbreaking yet again to see a team with some shady dealings in the past take yet another W on the world’s stage at the biggest game. Knowing Brady’s model smile will have another reason to be smug makes my skin crawl.

But something strange happened to me this year. And I’m still not sure how to deal with it.

I don’t think I hate Tom Brady anymore. In fact, I think I actually might respect him.

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Happy Saturday! 🎈😍🦄❤️

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be greeting him excitedly like my dog Clyde does to every dog. I’ll be much more like my dog Bonnie. When she respects a dog, she ignores them. When she doesn’t like them, she goes after them. I’ll no longer be going after him, but he may get a small, subtle tip of my hat.

Here’s the thing: I know and remember all the B.S. the Patriots have done in the past to secure their wins. According to a Patriots fan of mine, everybody does it…they just get in trouble for it. My argument, of course, is: If you’re so good that you always win, perhaps consider not cheating in order to get the win.

But I’m not behind the scenes in these locker rooms. I don’t know the truth of what’s happening in every NFL franchise. So, you know, who knows?

All that aside, here’s why I find myself cultivating the slightest amount of respect for the man. He seems pretty genuine and pretty simple.

Excuse me while I puke from muscle memory. Thanks to years of hating him, it’s hard to give Brady a compliment without the very foundation of my body rebelling against me.

He could have retired a long time ago. He could never work again and be a millionaire forever. He could never take another paycheck from anything and be a millionaire (his wife is worth an estimated $360 million…twice his measly $180 million net worth).

But he keeps playing. He keeps his body in tip top shape. He uses the resources he has available to do the work.

That’s the crux of it. He does the damn work.

He’s been doing it for decades. He delivers in the clutch. He gets the stupid job done and follows through with what he sets out to do. He seems to genuinely be in love and even does sappy posts supporting his (reminder: worth more than him) wife.

There’s plenty to dislike about him. It’s easy to find reasons to hate him. Believe me. I’ve spent years wallowing in them. But as someone who has been finding more and more value in showing up for myself and my own craft, I’ve started to see him in a new light. He seems to really love football. He’s very good at football. He continues to work hard to keep playing football, even when he’s arguably one of the best football players of all time. It’s sort of that simple.

I used to hate that he had this supermodel wife. He must be so out-of-touch, you know? But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t go out of his way to gush about her and to make her (and his kids) feel super special after his accomplishments. This stupid group hug got me freakin’ choked up.

In Indiana, we used to pride ourselves on having a QB that married his college sweetheart and is a one-woman man. She’s a normal, down-to-earth girl who supports him and stays out of the spotlight. But I’ve lived a little. I’ve gained some perspective on what I admire in people. But I heard stories that reminded me that people aren’t always what they seem. And stupid stunning Gisele (who, again, I just love saying it, is worth twice what he is) having a happy relationship with all the pressures of fame and her own incredible career is something I stupidly admire. It’s so stupid.

Sure, maybe they know to put on a good show. They’re media savvy and worth almost a half-billion dollars combined (she’s worth more, subtle reminder). But they also seem to really enjoy each other. And he held his stupid adorable daughter while receiving the stupid awards he got at the stupid Super Bowl while she smiled her cute face off and it was all so damn touching.

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Family and Football! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

And they got that moment because he did the damn work.

Plenty of haters on the sidelines and millions of people judging, yelling at the screen have never known the pressure his stupid handsome face has known. And he’s mentally and physically maintained his ability to follow through and be a champion. Even if you want to go down the (small minded) path of him cheating (which he and his “Dynasty” have been caught for multiple times), he still throws incredible throws. He makes plays. He keeps his aging body in tip top shape. He works on his mental game. And he seems to find time for some balance in his life.

So freaking stupid.

As someone whose team you’ve run over multiple times to get your championships, Mr. Brady, I have to say you actually have my respect. (STOP CHEATING, THO K?.)

But as an athlete and a champion, you have my respect.

I respect the man in the ring more than the critics on the sidelines. Always. And when the man continuously steps in the ring with millions of critics on the sidelines trying to tear him down for over a decade, you can’t help but admire the gumption of continuing to get up and keep going.

But if you tell anyone – I mean anyone – about this, I will deny it vehemently.

Oh, and for the record, Petyon Manning still has the best SNL sketch any football player will ever have of all time. So take THAT stupid Tom Brady, whom I mildly respect.

*for the purposes of this post, I’m not going to touch the MAGA hat. It’s a whole different beast I have super strong opinions about but doesn’t really serve the lesson learned here. But just be aware, I’m aware of it. It’s very easy to dislike him, is my point. Especially when he’s egregious. 

 

 

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 97: Goo Goo for Goggins

My podcasting platform, though reliable for years, has been acting like a real douchebag this morning. So I apologize in advance if these show notes are published before the episode finally figures itself out. How embarrassing would that be!?

Anyhoo, this episode I focus on all things David Goggins. I talk about his book, Can’t Hurt Me and reference one of my favorite recent obsessions, Jocko.

We talk about why you might want to listen to bullies, how to properly stare at yourself in the mirror, and I say “asterisk” multiple different ways.

Don’t forget to rate and subscribe!

 

Stoop Sittin’

If you do a quick perusal of anything I write about or share, it won’t take you long to figure out that I’m a big fan of dogs in general. And I’ve got what some have called an “unhealthy obsession” with my own dogs. Or, as my neighbor once put it, “I’ve never seen a human love her pets as much as you love those dogs.”

And it’s true. They’re perfect light creatures meant to bring nothing but happiness and companionship into this world. So, yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with them.

But it’s not just their doe eyes and floppy ears that I love. I’m constantly learning from them.

Okay, listen. I realize that people saying they learn from their dogs is as innovative and refreshing as people saying “boy, men and women are really different, aren’t they?” So let me be clear that I understand that I’m not breaking new ground here. I’m not trying to. I’m just trying to further fertilize ground that has been broken for years so I can plant a new seed for this current season.

I’m not totally sure but I think I really like that metaphor.

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Anyway, I want to tell you a little about one of my absolute favorite activities my dog does that is the best lesson in the world for me.

Clyde (my younger pup aka my Tasmanian Devil with a heart of gold) has a lot of quirky personality traits. But I’ll be damned if there has ever existed a dog more happy to be alive than that little hooligan. His favorite thing in the morning is just to go outside and sit and smell the fresh air.

Though right now we only have access to a balcony for them to enjoy the breeze without going on a full walk, he and my girl Bonnie don’t care. She likes to sit outside and watch over her kingdom (aka the apartment complex) and yell at intruders. And my Clyde likes to just look and smile. He just sits outside, takes in the smells, and is more present in the moment than any zen monk who ever meditated for hours.

My in-laws joke that first thing in the morning, Clyde likes to get up and just sit outside by himself. He smells the early morning air and listens to the birds as the world awakens. It drives them crazy because he wants to be outside at least an hour before sunrise to really take it all in. But he’s more than happy just enjoying it on his own without any distractions.

At home, he sleeps in and enjoys morning cuddles. But you’d better believe after his day has started, all he wants to do is enjoy the fresh air on the porch and feel the cool breeze on his perfect golden mane.

My absolute favorite thing he does, which is what I titled this piece after, is when we walk back in from a walk and he just wants to sit on the stairs of the apartment complex by our entrance. The first time he did it, he just sat down and looked at me, basically beckoning me to sit by him. At first, I thought we didn’t have time for this. But I quickly realized that he just wants a couple minutes to soak in the beauty around him with someone by his side. So for such a worthy cause, there’s always time to be made.

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Now, when we walk in  and he’s in the mood for “Stoop Sittin’” he just walks right up to the step and sits down with his little cute face turning around to me asking to join. When I sit next to him, he often puts his paw on my knee and smiles his big dopey smile. And I get to scratch him while we simply smell the air and listen to the leaves and watch the hummingbirds fight each other over the apartment feeders.

It’s bliss.

I have a tendency to move fast. I like to be productive and get going. I like to be active and get my energy out. Funny enough, both my dogs have similar tendencies – especially my sweet little psychopath boy. But if he can insist on finding time to simply be in the present moment and enjoy the world around him, I certainly can, too.

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 96: FEAR & FLOPPY EARS

img_1173Let me apologize in advance. This episode centers around a story that involves my dogs, therefore you’ll be getting a lot of dog pictures in this post because any time we talk about my dogs, I feel it’s incredibly important to show you just how cute they are.

 

 

Seriously, though, look at them. They’re so precious.

 

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Anyway, this podcast features a story about how a lady was terrified of these dogs.

Yes these same cutie cherubs sitting right here, cuddling in their floppy softness with each other.

The whole podcast is really about fear, and how this one random lady’s fear was a great learning lesson in both patience and empathy. And how her physically paralyzing fear is a lesson for all of us.

Spoiler alert, she was somehow scared of these cutie patooties.

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Pretty ridiculous, I know.

Anyway, the podcast is available today along with a bunch of other archived ones if you subscribe on iTunes.

Now two more pics for good measure.

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For Brittany

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I used to be a pretty petty, jealous person. Hopefully by being self aware enough to see how much of this type of person I was in the past, I can truthfully say that I’ve grown. I’m usually able to see when these old patterns and thoughts creep back up and keep them at bay. But that skill has taken years of work and practice. It used to be second nature for me to judge and dislike people, especially those who were really similar to me.

I don’t know why. Then again, we never really know why we make the choices we do, do we? Especially when they end up making us unbalanced, unsatisfied, and unhappy. Those are always the most confusing of the choices. I heard once in a movie it’s because humans are self destructive by nature. But that movie was fiction so I refuse to believe it (even though there might have been enough truth in the statement to make me at least remember it years later).

I got thinking about how silly this pettiness is recently when I heard a girl I knew (who I used to be jealous of) took her own life.

I’ve always known life is short and precious. And I’ve usually at least attempted to keep a positive perspective and to recognize that we are all on our own paths. But when I met Brittany, I was in a much more insecure internal place and it was in an insecure external environment. I genuinely liked her. And I admired her work. I thought she was funny and talented and really nice. But I was jealous because she was younger than me and I saw her as a threat. I thought there can only be one adorable, young, funny, talented midwesterner in the room. How dare she take that throne from me. How dare she be better at some of the creative exercises we were doing. How dare she smile so much and be so friendly with everyone.

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brittanybelland/Instagram

How gross this all feels to admit it later.

I got to know her throughout the course of our class and became aware that she was actually as nice as she seemed. That let some of my jealousy dissipate. Of course, it didn’t help that the class was set up as a cut-throat pass or fail style course that made you feel like everyone in the class was your competition (even though that’s not how either comedy or life actually works).

Anyway, we were Facebook friends for a while and pleasant acquaintances. As I distanced myself from the theater that had made me so competitive and worked a bit on my own perspective, I became more supportive and excited for her when I saw she was working. I’d see her in commercials or stuff would pop up on social media. I realized that I had a lot more in common with her than I ever had to criticize, and began quietly cheering on her successes.

Several years later, a group she was in hosted a comedy night and invited me to perform. It was actually a friend of hers in the group who asked me to come, but I was pleasantly surprised when Brittany was at the show. They called it a “House Party” and spent the first hour of the show pretending their parents were out of town and they needed to drink like high schoolers. I walked in on Brittany chugging beer in flip cup and laughing while cheering the rest of her team on. She gave me a hug and was as happy to see me as I was to see her.

After the show, which was a lot of fun, she gave me a ton of compliments on how my style has grown and changed and strengthened since we last saw each other.

She was a genuinely nice human being. And this past fall, she took her own life, losing an ongoing and open battle she had to depression.

Just a couple months before, she had staged a one-woman show that gave all its proceeds to suicide prevention charities.

The news hit me hard not because we were close, but because I realized that a bright light had been extinguished from the world at a time when we need all the light we can get. And I kicked myself for ever having wasted any time or energy being “jealous” of this incredible human. Every moment I spent quietly stewing could have been spent being grateful to be around someone so inspiring.

But above all the personal stuff, the news hit me hard as a reminder that you simply don’t know what’s happening in someone’s personal life. Though Brittany was open about her struggles with depression, even championing causes to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She was smiling and seemingly happy. Yet she fought hard against her mental illness, eventually losing the battle.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have brains that don’t rebel on such a massive level on a daily basis, we can’t fathom what it must feel like to feel so low that you just want it to be over. And yet, as humans, we all need to have empathy and recognize each one of us is on our own journey, fighting our own battles, and here on this earth for a blink of an eye.

So there’s no need to waste any of that time looking at your fellow soul-travelers with envy. See them for the bright shining lights they are and know that every little bit of light can help illuminate someone else so they can see more clearly. And they, in turn, can help illuminate your path when you’re fighting your own darkness.

Brittany will be missed intensely by those who knew her well. And as for people like me who only got to know her in passing, she will continue to be a beautiful inspiration and a reminder to be kind to everyone because, seriously, you just never know.

Mother-bleeping Discipline. Learn It. Love It. Get Some.

At the end of last year, I went on a discipline binge. I got introduced to Jocko Willink through some general “research” about early risers I was casually doing on YouTube (aka I was going down a productivity rabbit hole) when I saw this motivational speech by a man who looked like a freaking statue of Hercules come to life.

I started listening to more of his stuff and I was soon hooked. I bought his book on Audible, Extreme Ownership, and found it really motivating to listen to while I ran. I heard stories of modern warfare and these incredible physical feats overcome through drilling and discipline that helped me convince myself I could go one mile longer on my little fun run in paradise. I started talking about Jocko to whoever would listen. On film set I was on, it even became a joke among the cast and crew to “Get Some” (one of his favorite phrases) when you were feeling tired or low energy.

Though I had gone through plenty of phases of being an early riser before, something about reading that book and listening to that information at that time became a huge transformative step in what has been a wonderful past few months for me.

Here are the main lessons I’d like to remind you, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year and people’s motivations are likely waning.

First, discipline starts right when you wake up. You don’t judge what you’re doing as good or bad. You just do it. If you don’t want to wake up, that doesn’t matter. Discipline means you just choose to do it anyway. And when you do, it builds a tiny little muscle that can become a foundation for a much stronger muscle. Discipline isn’t some big choice you make every day. It’s not bench pressing 1,000 lbs when you walk into the weight room your first try. It’s showing up every day and slowly but surely increasing your strength and your confidence so you can eventually achieve what seems like superhuman strength. When, really, anyone could do it as long as they give the amount of work and discipline required. Don’t judge. Just do.

Well, maybe everyone can’t bench 1,000 lbs in their lifetime, but you get my point.

Oh and Jocko for sure can. I have no doubt. He probably does that as his warm up before eating an entire farm for breakfast. He’s a beast.

Secondly, there’s no point in complaining. It’s fine to get something off your chest. And it’s wonderful to be in touch with your emotions so you become aware when something isn’t serving you or when you may be in an environment where you need to make a change. But complaining doesn’t help fix anything and it wastes precious time and energy on absolutely nothing.

If you need to communicate something happened, communicate it. You don’t need to put all the judgements on top of it being good or bad. Zen philosophy would argue that nothing is inherently good or bad anyway, so the time you spent judging or complaining about some thing that happened is a total waste and doesn’t serve you at all.

If something happens to you, spending your energy complaining about it not only wastes that energy, but it can feel disempowering. Rather than realizing you have the power to do something about it, you act like you’re being productive when you whine and moan. Either you can do something about it to improve the situation for you – in which case figure out what it is and do so immediately – or you can’t – in which case you can’t so simply accept your new circumstances and figure out how to make the most of them. If something happened because of actions you took, own them. Blaming someone else or complaining about someone not stepping up again disempowers you. You are in control. You have power. You are worthy of being in control and having power over your life and how you approach the circumstances within it.

Things just happen. That’s what things do. There’s no need to waste your energy complaining. Once you accept this, you can reallocate that energy into fixing problems around you so that you can live a smoother, more productive existence. Until, of course, the next thing pops up. But deal with issues as they appear. Don’t worry about them or what might happen in the future. Understand that your current actions have repercussions down the line and everything that happens just is. It is what it is. No use in complaining about it so spend your precious short time on this earth complaining.

Jocko’s head is shaved like a monk. I don’t think that’s the look he was going for when he did it, but it’s the look I see. He’s a zen beast.

And finally*, you’re capable of so much more than you may currently believe.

I’m not sure this was a lesson that was outright stated in any of Jocko’s writing, but it’s definitely something I saw directly in his work and his stories. People who are willing to teach themselves intense discipline practices and who spend their time and energy devoted to bettering themselves and their world without complaining or blaming tend to start creating some pretty awesome lives. They slowly but surely start discovering that the world is more malleable than they may have previously thought. They begin believing that anything is possible and that they can achieve incredible new heights in their life, goals, and career simply through constant and consistent application of these efforts.

Our brains are conditioned to be a little lazy. It’s not their fault – it actually usually helps us as humans. We want to stay safe and we want to do whatever will require the least amount of output. If our brain had to exert a lot of energy in order to consistently do the involuntary actions it does to keep us alive, we wouldn’t have much brainpower left to thrive.

The second our brain wires something in as a habit or a learned trait, it becomes part of our hardwiring so that the next time we want to do it, it’s already ingrained and easier. This usually works in our favor. But when it comes to creating new habits – healthier ones to replace the old ones no longer serving us – it can get frustrating. Your brain will want to revert back to what it’s always said, thought, and done. It’s easier. Maybe at first the new habit will be easy because it’s novel and fun. But eventually, when your brain realizes it has to do some work to break the old synapses and replace them with new ones, it will rebel. It will begin to fight back to keep the old synapse alive so that it doesn’t have to do work to create the new one. That’s when you need to be aware and fight it.

A couple weeks into the new year, your motivation may be failing and you may or may not have cultivated the right mindset to have the discipline to follow through on whatever your ambitious resolutions were. And your brain is most definitely putting up a fight not to replace the old habit because that means it has to work harder than it wants to.

Fight back. Recognize what’s happening and recommit to the you you want to be. Don’t settle for the you now if it’s a you that isn’t satisfying. You don’t need some major external change to make a minor internal one that can lead to more dramatic future changes. You just need to know, and maybe sometimes be reminded, that you are capable. Resistance is natural. Choose to commit.

As a dedicated yogi, I have to throw in that it’s totally fine to listen to your body. Nobody is asking you to go to incredible extremes immediately. Even though my beloved Jocko is all about the word “extreme,” I do believe it’s totally fine if your body is telling you it cannot to listen to it. But I would encourage you to have a conversation with it. Get honest and get in tune. Is it telling you to stop because it doesn’t want to? That’s different. Is it telling you to stop because it’s scared? That’s different. Is it telling you it wants to stop because it’s not ready and you’re going to break something? In that case, listen to it and learn how to improve so you can get a little closer to your goal in the future.

Get in your own version of Beast Mode, whatever that may mean, and make Jocko proud.

Oh also sometimes I call him my best friend and life coach. He would hate that if he found that out. I’m not doing it to make him hate me, I’m simply trying to manifest someday meeting him and having a positive interaction. Shoot for the Jocko moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the Seals.

Now quit reading and go out and get some.

*There’s plenty more that I discovered and glean (and continue to glean!) from his book Extreme Ownership and his podcast, Jocko Podcast and his various interviews (not to mention his Ted Talk). But these are the few I boiled down for simplicity sake. Jocko says simplicity is the key to good communication (another thing you’ll learn from him!). So as part of a my tribute to him, I’m keeping this short and sweet in three simple main lessons.

 

 

Femoir the Podcast: Episode 94, “Season 3 Introduction” – Show Notes

Boy if that title didn’t explain what you’ll be getting here, I don’t know what will.

Ye olde Femoir: The Podcast is up and back in action. If you’re not already caught up (or subscribed – wink wink, hint hint, nudge nudge) check it out on iTunes!

In this episode, I basically let you know you that I missed the crap out of creating this thing, so here’s what to expect from this upcoming “season.”

We talk about adding to the noise, figuring out that whatever you have to say is valid, GOAL-ing HARD, and how too many possibilities can lead us into doing nothing.

And I mention my dogs, of course.

Enjoy!

A Bear in the Sensory Depravation Chamber

As I stared up – or was it sideways? – while floating for an undisclosed amount of time in what I can only imagine my mother’s womb probably felt like, I felt the presence of a terrifying grizzly bear I hadn’t interacted with in years. And I was absolutely trapped and unable to have any sense of what direction in might come from to attack me. For a few moments – or was it hours? – I was convinced he would finish the job he attempted to so many years before in the Smoky Mountains.

Let me give some context here.

A couple years ago, my husband and I decided to try a sensory depravation chamber. As with most experimental holistic decisions, we did so with a Groupon. You know, to make sure we were getting top-of-the-line service with the people we would soon be trusting to keep us alive in a scenario where we would have absolutely no way of calling out for help…but on a discount.

As we prepared to go in our separate chambers, I was anxious. I had heard and read about sensory depravation before. And I’ve been meditating off and on long enough to know how to breathe through some intense monkey mind complaining. But the idea of floating in an underground chamber in a small bit of water with absolutely no way to see or hear anything happening in the world around me made me, understandably, anxious.

I considered not going in. I live in LA, after all, and “The Big One” (aka a catastrophic earthquake that everyone in LA is constantly hoping will wait until after their lifetimes to hit) could happen at any time. What if there’s a terrible earthquake while I’m in the chamber and I get locked in and I’m stuck there and I suffocate and that’s how I die?

Or what if I have a heart attack or an anxiety attack and I can’t call out for help and my body rebels and I lay there and they don’t know it until they find my body two hours later?

Or what if [insert any real or imagined catastrophe] happens and I [insert any real or imagined physical ailment of any degree] and that’s how I die?

My mind was already resisting, which is why I knew I needed to press on.

I did it. I got in the chamber. I closed the doors. And I floated in my own thoughts, eventually resigning myself to the fact that anything in the external world might happen at any time – including some major catastrophe. And, as fun as it was to worry about, I am generally powerless to do anything about it anyway so I might as well live life on my own terms and choose to face my challenges whenever I can. My first little zen moment of serenity.

Of course, I didn’t count on that damn bear showing up and haunting most of my experience.

More on him in a second.

If you haven’t experienced a sensory depravation chamber, it’s a fascinating challenge for your brain. I don’t want to say it’s good or bad because those are arbitrary judgments that mean nothing anyway. And I don’t want to outright recommend it because everybody is different and what works for one brain may genuinely be awful for another.

But, assuming you’re a pretty normal human living in this loud and distraction-filled world, it’s a fascinating way of shutting it all out and getting deeply in touch with the abyss of your creative mind.

The tank is essentially set up so you float in a shallow pool of body temperature salt water (so you float easily) without the ability to see or hear any element of the outside world. And you do that for some pre-disclosed amount of time. Basically, you want to feel like a floating brain completely unaware of your external surroundings. They come in and knock on the door when you’re done and then you sort of float around to find the handle and reenter the previous world, a little more in touch (hopefully) with some truth about your own self or your own mind. Or, you just got a refreshing two hour nap in a weird underground tank. There’s no right or wrong to the experience, just that you experience it.

It took me a minute to adjust to the fact that I had basically lost my body and was more or less just a disembodied brain. It felt sort of like en episode of Black Mirror where my conscious was present but I couldn’t figure out where my body went.

And then, you guessed it, that damn bear showed up.

Okay, pause again, I want to take you even further back in time so this makes a little more sense.

When I was in fifth grade, I went on a school field trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The two most memorable parts of that field trip, for me, were the scat scarves we all got that told us how to identify all sorts of woodland creature poops and the mile-long solo walk we went on to get in touch with our own minds.

All of us in my small class would all take part in this half mile-long solo walk. It was an easy enough, clear path we were told not to stray from at all. A teacher went first and chaperones were periodically placed in the line up. They’d have someone go, you’d wait a few minutes, and then the next person went so that you couldn’t see who was ahead or behind you. It was a very awesome way to experience nature quietly with none of the usual distractions.

I remember I went after John Loser. Fun fact, his younger sister would go on to marry my older brother. That has nothing to do with the solo walk, it’s just funny how life works out like that sometimes. Anyway, he plays a tiny little role in this so I figured I’d mention it and throw in that fun aside because why not. You’re still reading aren’t you? Okay, great.

So I started my solo walk and I did my best to stay calm. I was nervous. I’m an extrovert and like being around people. I’ve always been someone who enjoys having people around. Though my active imagination and general love for the outdoors combined with my brother’s introversion and preference for video games meant I often played outside by myself for hours, I generally liked to experience life with other people around. A solo walk was way outside my comfort zone.

Combine that with the fact that, as a girl, I have been reminded from a young age that if I go anywhere by myself, I will probably be hurt, robbed, or swept up into some horrible underground life, I wasn’t exactly comfortable chilling by myself.

But even in fifth grade, I understood that I was probably safe enough in the constructs they had provided for this solo walk. After all, plenty of middle schoolers before me had done it and none of them had been hurt or sold into human trafficking, so I’d probably be okay.

I tried to walk slowly but my normal pace is pretty fast. So I made a point to breathe and go way slower than felt normal just to enjoy the beautiful fall surroundings. I remember thinking how cool it was that it was so quiet and that the leaves were so bright. I remember thinking the crunch of the leaves below my feet into the muddy ground combined with the gorgeous views off the side of the mountain made me feel pretty lucky to have the experience.

All that lasted probably just a few minutes before the damn grizzly bear made his first appearance.

Let me be clear, I never actually saw the bear. But I knew he was there. All of a sudden, in my anxiety, I realized that I was alone and anything could happen and that I didn’t trust myself to know what to do if something out-of-the-ordinary happened and what if I’m going to slow or too fast and they leave me behind and I’m stuck out here lost forever and it turns to winter and I’m still out here and I freeze to death? All of those terrified, insecure thoughts rushed through me. And, though I am grateful for my imagination, I didn’t yet understand that sometimes an active imagination can work against you when combined with primal fear.

So as those thoughts began ringing through my head, replacing the gratitude and enjoyment I had been previously feeling in nature. And they manifested themselves in the form of an unseen grizzly bear I was absolutely convinced was stalking me. I knew for sure that I wasn’t safe, I shouldn’t be alone, how dare I enjoy nature on my own when there are so many dangers out to get me, and I’d better speed up so I can make sure I’m not on this journey anymore by myself or at least so someone can hear me if that grizzly decides to pounce.

I picked up my pace. My heart rate and brain terrors picked up with it. No matter what I did, that damn invisible grizzly continued to watch me from the forest above, waiting for his chance to come attack me.

Eventually, I saw John and became comforted by the fact that another human was nearby.

The immediately realized that I was no longer experiencing this immaculate nature alone and now I had to share what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience with someone else when I could have had it alone.

I may have been young, but I always held some regret about how quickly I let my anxiety take over my brain that day and how I squandered what could have been a transformative experience. And all because of being convinced of my own pending doom in the form of a stupid grizzly bear I never even saw.

Okay, now fast forward again.

Maybe the bear showing up makes a little more sense to you now. I didn’t see it again. But I felt it. I felt my anxiety start to bubble up. I became convinced – absolutely convinced – that if I didn’t get out of the chamber right then, it would attack me. It had waited all these years for the perfect moment when I was completely alone and vulnerable again. And it would finish the job it started back in the day.

But I was older now. I knew that the stupid bear only had the power I gave him. I knew that I technically could get out of the chamber at any time. I could end the experience quickly and just wait around for my husband to finish his time while I continued to be distracted by my phone or any other external distraction my brain knew and loved.

Instead, I stared that bear back in its invisible face – or maybe it’s butt? Again, I had no sense of direction in there – and I told it to back off. I told it that this time, I was going to finish this experience. I wasn’t going to rush it. And I wasn’t going to let its fear keep me from being present and breathing calmly. Eventually, it went away.

I have no idea what the end ratio was of monkey mind wild thoughts to eventual calm brain after my chamber experience. It could be that my brain was insane for an hour and 50 minutes, and crazy calm for the last 10. Or maybe it was insane for 10 and crazy calm for the rest of it. I do know that after I stared down the bear, it started a quick chain reaction that eventually led to me being so in a calm zone, I was shocked to hear the eventual knocks to let me know my time had passed. I know that when the knocks eventually came, they brought me back from somewhere between awake and sleeping that helped me better understand the nature of myself and of reality as I know it.

I loved my depravation chamber experience despite the safety failings that allowed a bear to join me for a short – or was it long? – time. I also know that the bear will be back again. He shows up whenever I’m out of my comfort zone and getting in deep touch with myself. He remind me that danger could be around every corner. But now that I beat him in the chamber using only my mind (seriously, I couldn’t find my body, I had temporarily misplaced it), I know that I can handle him whenever and wherever he shows up next. Maybe it’ll be next week, maybe it’ll be next decade. But I beat him once, I can beat him again.

Hey, but if you see a grizzly bear for real, please don’t try the stare down technique. It only works for metaphorical bears.