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.

 

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Push to the End

I’m excellent at starting projects. I’m excellent at creating lofty goals for myself and ambitious schedules that will help me reach them.

But, boy oh boy, sometimes I have serious issues following through to the very end. I’m not talking about the almost end. I mean the very end. The last mile. The last class. The last week. The last few seconds of an exercise. The last anything.

There are times when this is reasonable, like when I set an already somewhat ridiculous goal for myself and am ok with ending it before I thought I would. But I realized not long ago that I was in a pattern of not finishing the very last stretch of what I started.

I didn’t go to the last class of my first acting class. The teacher was verbally abusive and not my style, so I had an excuse. I didn’t go to the last acting class of my wonderful acting class after that one. I was out of town and always knew I’d miss it. I didn’t go to the make up option I had because I was overwhelmed with work. And I almost didn’t go to the last class of another acting class I took, my reasoning being simply “it would go late and I was a little busy.”

When I started having those thoughts, I checked myself. That wasn’t healthy. That wasn’t helpful. And that wouldn’t get me where I wanted to go.

It’s fine to have a personality (like mine) that’s great with getting things started and excellent at blueprinting the method to achieve goals. But consistently not finishing – that last little push – what you start slowly erodes trust. It’s not bad, necessarily (since bad is a judgment and a great excuse to berate yourself, which I am not all about). It just means that I have to watch it. I have to learn from that. I can still harness and embrace the things that I’m good at. But I need to just be aware of the patterns I’ve set up for myself.

Even in my intense yoga class (yes, this yoga again), there are plenty of times when I want to stop. I have every excuse running through my head as to why I can just go into child’s pose instead of finishing that set of mountain climbers. But I have to train myself to follow through and trust myself that I can do it. 

Inevitably, when I force myself to follow through on what the whiny voice inside of me wants to skip out on, I find that there’s immense value in it. At the very least, I’ve shown that I will finish what I start. If I still don’t like what I’m doing or have other issues with it, I can decide in the future that it may not best serve me to commit to doing something like that again.

But if I say I’m going to do it, I have to do it wholeheartedly. And that means following through finishing every little push.

 

Overthinking

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

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

I overthink. A lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

90 Days to Disappointing Glory

Over the past 90 days, I embarked on a little self challenge. I did an acting self tape every day. Like, every day.

My goals were plentiful, but the main focus was improving my self tape skills and making it something that I just do easily and without questions. There was also a technique for self tapes that I learned not long ago that I wanted to keep sharp (especially because I wasn’t going to be in classes for a bit).

I had a ton of travel on my schedule. I had plenty of other things on my plate. But I did it. I did a self tape every day. For 90 damn days.

Yet, the title of this post as the word “disappointing” in it. Why?

Well, my friends, that’s because my quiet goal was actually 108 self tapes every day. It’s a weird number, but any of you yogis out there know that 108 is a magical number of transformation. I quietly told myself 90 would be amazing. But I figured by the time I got to 90, I’d be able to just keep plowing through to get to that strange and wonderful 108.

That wasn’t the case.

Instead, I found I was often phoning in the self tapes. Sometimes, it was by necessity. I would be traveling and simply didn’t have ten minutes to set aside to get on tape. There were other times my travel plans went awry and I thought I’d have time and I didn’t. I was in about 20 states on the east and west coast and plenty in between (some multiple times) over the course of these 90 days. So, for me, the fact that I could keep up the commitment to putting myself on tape every day no matter what was totally worth it.

But by the end, I was drained. I was physically exhausted and creatively pretty numb. I still kept up my self tapes but I was phoning it in. The last self tape was me doing one line from a movie (a famous line, to be fair). I tried to give it my own spin. I was simultaneously rewriting a feature script I’ve been toying with for years that I finally have the motivation to redo. So, again to be fair, I wasn’t doing nothing. I just wasn’t focused on the tapes.

And when that magical 90 hit, something in me said “We’re done.” Not that I won’t do more tapes, I actually have made some promises to writers that tapes are coming (and if those writers are reading this, they’re coming!). And I really enjoyed the exercise and, for the few real self tape auditions I did get sprinkled in there, it certainly made it easy since I was already in the groove.

But part of me feels like I failed. I set out for a certain number and I didn’t do it. This is a habit I have of setting myself up for something pretty intense and then often petering out just before the finish line. That’s why and where the “disappointed” comes from.

I let myself wallow in this for about a day. And then I looked at the body of work I had accomplished and listened to my own instinct which is begging me to spend more time focusing on some other projects, and I accepted it. Though these tapes didn’t take a ton of time, I wasn’t devoting the type of energy in the end I needed to devote for them to have any benefit. But I was going through the motions, which is something I’m not a fan of.

On Monday (day 91), I took a long look at myself in the mirror and asked if we were doing this. I knew the challenged of the week ahead and the focus that has been begging for me to put it in other places. I know this weekend I’d be heading off to celebrate my husband (who helped me do these self tapes no matter what his chaotic schedule and despite the fact that he is not – at all – an actor). He’s celebrating a major career goal and the last thing I want to do is ask him to pause time from his own celebrations to do my thing for a minute. We’ve done a lot of my thing over the past three months. We can take three days and do his.

There’s an ambitious part of me that’s angry I didn’t finish those last 18 days. And the funniest part is, a lot of my actor friends are beginning their own self tape challenge in May. So it’d be a great time to get motivated by other likeminded people do to something like this and follow through.

But I’m on my own journey. And I’m learning from every major accomplishment, minor victory, and overly ambitious disappointment. I appreciate things most when I actually focus and follow through. And sometimes that means pulling focus from one thing to have energy to focus on another, rather than trying to half-ass a bunch of things simply because I said I would.

90 days of self tapes, especially given my atypical travel schedule, is something to celebrate. Other people’s challenges and journeys are their own. I can let them inspire me and need not worry about missing out on them. In the interest of balance as a human and creative person, it’s okay to tap out now and still revel in the glory rather than berate myself for the misses.

 

Inspired by Insta Models

In an effort to get myself feeling like myself again, I’ve been attending a new fitness class. Unsurprisingly, it’s yoga-based (I know, I know, I never talk about yoga – you’re likely shocked…). It’s called Yoga Sculpt and it incorporates both yoga movement and weight-based workouts, plus intense cardio, plyometrics, and all sorts of other torture.

But I don’t just go to this class any time of day. I go to the very first class in the morning at 6 am at one of the busiest studios in the city. I go with the intense early birds and go-getters. It’s crowded and sweaty but effective…so I like it.

And, I learned after the first class I went to, that’s the time of day where the Insta Models workout.

Now you don’t have to be in insanely great shape (or insanely talented, let’s be honest) to be Insta Famous. And I have my own clear perspective on how I generally feel about being too obsessed with Instagram.

But there are a ton of people on Instagram who consistently show off their healthy lifestyles. And some of them don’t even need photoshop to do so. These are some of the people I’ve begun working out with in the morning.

Keep in mind, too, I live in Los Angeles where actors, models, and personal trainers (and often various variations of the above three labels) abound. I’m used to seeing pretty people and I’m used to seeing very in shape pretty people. So when I say I see these Insta Models…I mean they are genuinely beautiful people. Even with their sleepy makeup-less faces early in the morning.

When I went in the first day of class, I was intimidated. I already knew the class was difficult from previously trying it out (at a more reasonable hour). Generally the people in the class studio are in pretty good shape. But these 6 am class people… they’re no joke. The yoga outfits are on point, their weights are ready, and they are already warming up. Once we get started, they go hard. And you can see the results in their incredibly toned bodies.

There was a part of me (who I used to listen to a whole lot more when I was younger and insecure) who wanted to curl up and hide from these women. I felt like I wasn’t worthy. I am not in my best shape. And, honestly, even when I am these women are still on another level.

Instead, however, I decided to let them inspire me. I’d take my cues from the hard work they’re putting in all around me and let their motivation fuel my own. When I wanted to quit at something, I’d look around at the badasses who are putting in the work around me and try to keep up. And I’d let their fit bodies be a reminder of what you can achieve if you really commit. Because they’re not just filtering themselves and pretending to be in shape. They’re there putting in the work.

There’s one woman in particular who, I’m gonna be honest, is a freaking glamorous beast. Her outfits are beautiful. Her body looks photoshopped. She doesn’t even put her perfectly curly hair in a ponytail as she annihilates every exercise by going above and beyond even the rest of the class. While most of the class (myself included) are struggling to keep our 5 lbs weights going during some of the more intense reps, she’s using 10 or 15 lbs and going hard.

The other day as we were warming up, I saw her start to really dance to the loud music like she was getting in the zone. Years before, I might have listened to the forced inside and outside of me that said “Be jealous of her” or “Who does she think she is?” Now I see her getting her groove on with her heavy weights at the ready and doubling up on most of the exercises by pushing herself harder than anyone else and I think “Fak yeah, girl. If you can do that, I can do this.”

She and the other people in that early morning attack class are total badasses. And I’m inspired to be the same simply by being with them. Though, to be fair, you won’t see me post about it on Instagram because that’s just not my thang.

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.

star cry.gif

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.

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!