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.

clyde 3

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.

clyde 1

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.

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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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiGNXbOgCc1/
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.

Femoir the Podcast: Episode 95, “Finding Flow & Grocery Gurus”

This episode, which is recorded – as always – in my super soundproof studio, talks about those pesky New Years Resolutions (yes, still!), how you can feel like you’re not doing enough and yet you’re constantly overwhelmed at the same time, and how letting go will help you in your ongoing quest to be present. If, of course, that’s your thing.

I also talk about how exercise and yoga help to be present even more, helixes for no discernible reason, not letting our distractions own us, the difference between actually feeling and feeling because you think you’re supposed to feel something, and learning life lessons at the grocery store from surprising gurus.

All that and more SUBSCRIBE FOR FUN!

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!

My Year Of Jesus

I celebrated a birthday yesterday. Not just any birthday. My birthday. So I’m writing this for really two reasons:

  1. It seems as good of a time as any to hop back on ye olde familiar blogging wagon. Hello again, dear friend.
  2. I’d like you to please wish me happy birthday. Love me? VALIDATE ME?

Without giving away my age, it was a pretty exciting birthday because it makes me as old as Jesus was when he emerged on the miracle scene. If you really need to know my age, pull out a handy dandy Bible and you’ll quickly find your answer. Life Hack: You can also Google.

The last year of my life was a profound one. I married a kick ass dude. We added to our ever-growing dog family. I filmed a stand up special. I booked a lead in a pilot. I finally broke down and committed to a career I’ve wanted to do forever. In between, I yoga-ed my face off.

The truth is, I was looking forward to my last year for a long time. I was told years ago by a psychic I trust that that particular year would be a big one for me. I had high hopes for it. It lived up to them. Mostly.

But what I hadn’t thought about years ago when I got whispers that that particular year in my life would be a big one was what would happen after it. I supposed in my head I thought, well after that year, my life will be perfect and everything I ever hoped for will fall into place and I’ll finally be satisfied.

Yesterday was my birthday. (You: Happy birthday! Me: OMG Thank you for FINALLY saying something!) Well, I’m now in no-man’s land of prophecies. No psychic told me what would happen in this year. And, though my last year was a major success on many fronts, I’m not yet where I figured I would be by now.

When I first realized this a few weeks ago, I got mopey. Maybe it was the July heat. Maybe it was the stars. Maybe it was what Steven Pressfield calls “The Dragon of Resistance” attacking slyly. Whatever it was, I was mopey and felt really sorry for myself. And, as a result, did very little to really sprint to the finish line of that year. Mostly, I ate ice cream, let my yoga practice fall by the wayside, and scrolled around social media wondering why certain people were getting breaks I wasn’t. All in all, an underwhelming finish to a spectacular marathon of a year.

Despite the fact that this past year was major and wonderful on so many fronts, I still got mopey and kicked myself for not being the most famous comedy superstar on the planet yet.

Then I got thinking about Jesus. And I thought, next year I’ll be as old as Jesus when he was being all Jesus’y. And I realized, “My god, I mean, Jesus Christ, Briana, Jesus was just a carpenter until he was your age. This is your chance to make miracles like him.”

Now let me pause…and denote that I’m pausing by inserting a paragraph…with multiple ellipses…

I’m not a religious person. I’m a big fan of Jesus. I’m also a fan of Krishna, Buddha, and Mother Nature, among other admirable icons. My point being, my choice to be inspired by Jesus doesn’t come from an intensely religious place. It comes from a genuine admiration for people who have positively changed the course of history by living their truth so fully they become almost larger than life.

To me, that’s what Jesus can represent if you want.

For me, Jesus’ age reminds me that in order to truly make miracles, you’ve got to take time to train yourself to get there. As much as my ego (and fear) may want me to believe that I’ve been at this for so long and I’ve been working so hard and yada yada yada, even the son of God needed a few decades to get his sh*t together.

So I’m dubbing this year my Jesus year. I’m going to share about it here, if you want to tune in. I want to make miracles. Ideally, most of them involving turning a lot of water into wine because, you know, it’s wine.

Also, yesterday was my birthday. Please tell me happy birthday and that I’m special.

Thanks.

A Year Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Just Kidding” Weapon

When I was growing up, we had one particular rule I remember my parents implemented right about when I was a tween that irked me at first. I later realized this tiny tweak made a huge difference on not only on the type of humor I like and create, but also the type of person I’ve become.

What, say you, was this small but significant rule?

My brother and I were not allowed to say something mean then follow it up with “I’m just kidding.”

mean faceWe had to implement this rule because we were doing just that. We were yelling at each other (usually I did the yelling… my brother was more precise and cutting with his words and I just yelled loudly and incoherently most of the time), and we’d say something like “You’re stupid!” then follow it up with “I’m just kidding!”. We’d then act like somehow by saying we were kidding it made it ok and the other person was overreacting or had a bad sense of humor.

When really we were not kidding. We meant to insult the other one.

I found my parent’s rule to be worthless at first. I found it to be limiting and started convincing myself they, too, had bad senses of humor. But they were relentless in their enforcement of it and it didn’t take too long before I just stopped the insults because I knew they were meant to be insulting. I had to get more creative if I wanted something to actually be funny. I realized that by pretending something was “funny” when it was really just mean, I was being lazy and I was being vicious. I never want to be either of those things, so I just stopped.

Years later, as I attempt to make a professional career out of “just kidding,” I make a solid point to make sure my humor (hopefully) reflects positivity and happiness. I want it to only be used as a “weapon” for situations where tensions are high and people need to be disarmed and remember we have more in common with each other than we tend to remember. I made a concerted effort and a specific choice to back off more polarizing careers and interests of mine in order to focus on humor partially because I love using it as a means to bring people together.

Plus I’m a lot better at selling a joke than I am at selling an argument.

I still hear people do it. I hear people say cruel things then, often passive aggressively, blame the very person they were insulting for “not getting it” because they were “just joking.” I call bullshit. You weren’t joking. You were being mean. So if you don’t want to be mean, don’t say mean things. Don’t try and protect yourself with the lazy shroud of pretending you have a sense of humor and the other person doesn’t.

I have a great sense of humor. I enjoy a good roast and will be the first to make joke’s at my own expense. But if I feel like the intentions behind your “insult” aren’t actually for the purposes of being funny but because you’re being mean, I’ll be the first one to turn on you.

So don’t be lazy. And don’t be mean. Just… be cool. Dawwwwwg.

How to Celebrity

Ijane lynch‘m lucky enough to work in Hollywood with people at all levels of the entertainment world. I’ve learned a lot from every experience and interaction I’ve had with tons of them and learn even more from other people’s personal stories. It’s no secret I hope someday to have a level of recognition for my work and influence like many of the “higher up” people I’m lucky to interact with.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all the stories and interactions is to be a freakin’ awesome human being. No matter how “big” you may get.

To be humble, to be friendly, to be generous with your time and your money, to take time to chat with people on whatever set or show you’re working on,keanureeves to take time to get to know them and remember things about them, and to accept that once you’re “known” doesn’t mean you have to overlook anyone, anything, or take any of it for granted.

In fact, it’s part of your responsibility to be awesome. That’s part of the fun.

Every interaction you have will be a chance for a person to have a story about you. And because you’re part of the cultural fabric of society and are a recognized figure, people will delight in hearing these stories. You get the opportunity to make (lots of) someone’s day every time you have an interaction.

keyWhen I hear a story about an actor or public figure who went out of their way to be friendly and kind, I take note not only of how the interaction went, but also of the excitement of the person telling the story. And I always think to myself  “I want to give someone that same feeling when they walk away from something they worked on with me.”

It certainly doesn’t mean an obligation. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. You can bring a level of professionalism while still being kind. And we should be clear, big-name celebrities don’t owe anybody anything.

But it is certainly an exciting opportunity.

And after having been lucky enough to see some wonderful people do it right, I know exactly what I want do to when I get the chance. I want people to walk away feeling excited and enthusiastic and like they were a real contribution to the creative endeavor’s success. Because no matter what level they contributed- fan or extra or executive producer- they are integral and important to success.

But more importantly, we’re all just humans looking for connection and happiness. So if you can give that in a meaningful way, you’ve just gotta, man.

Femoir: The Podcast – Repetition (Show Notes)

Another episode of Femoir: The Podcast is up and available for your happiness consumption, friends!outliers

And we are talking all about REPETITION! REPETITION! REPETITION!

I discuss Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” basketball but not soccer, a half marathon when I refused to slow down, The Inner Game of Tennis, the book “Body Mind Mastery,” working on training for long races little runs at a time, musical repetition vs intricate music, playing the saxophone, and Vine.

If you’re not an iTunes-er, feel free to download any number of other ways! Catch ya next episode!

 

 

Exercise for Sleep

Tpuppy snuggleshere are multiple excellent reasons for exercise. I write about them constantly.

One I rarely talk about is the fact that it helps me (and most people) sleep soundly.

I have a lot of energy. I’m a pretty energetic person. I’m actually really aware of my energy level because it’s a good indicator of my inner mood. If I’m exhausted midday, it’s likely because I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing. If I’m sleepy at night just before bed, it’s been a good day of accomplishments. If I’m still anxious when I’m going to sleep, odds are I didn’t exercise and/or be productive enough that day.

Exercise, for me, is the opportunity to not only clear my mind and gain some perspective on what does and does not actually need to be done in the day. It also gives me a place to let out some of the pent up steam from various projects or interactions throughout the day. It energizes me if I’m feeling drained (and know it’s not from lack of sleep) and it calms me for the rest of the day.

I use my energy level as an indicator. And it typically directly corresponds to my exercise consistency.

Yet another reason to add to the long list of why getting up and getting moving is good for you.