One Step at a Time

I’m currently in the midst of a particularly busy season.

If August was the sprint, this is the marathon. This is the part that feels overwhelming and exciting and where all the growth and anxiety and change happens.

This is the best and worst part.

I’m loving and hating it.

Without going into detail, mostly because I don’t have time, I just wanted to take a moment here in my personal space to say that I believe these big projects get accomplished one little choice and one little step at a time.

I heard this story about Desi Arnaz once and the huge piles of scripts and work he always had on his desk while he and Lucille Ball basically transformed modern television.

When asked how he got it all done, he simply said “One script at a time.”

In looking at some of the tasks ahead on the current project I’m embarking in (which is happening while all the other projects I’m involved in are still very much going and not relenting at all), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or wonder how the hell it will happen. But down that way lies madness. And even worse, not getting it done.

So instead a trust in the magic and I trust in myself and I do each task one at a time.

I just get it done.

No time for complaints or judgement. There is time to listen, but that’s different. Time now is just to act. Soon will be to reflect.

But until reflection, it gets done one script and one step at a time.

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That Little Voice

I was inconvenienced yesterday. It was minor but I found it annoying because it was very nearly avoided. Ten extra seconds and the next twenty minutes of frustration could have been avoided.

I wasn’t proud of my initial reaction. I was pissed. I was annoyed. I was resentful. I was heated. I thought the person who made a mistake was an idiot. I thought the company who employed the person was automated and didn’t care. I thought the customer service representatives I talked to were obnoxious. I was even pissed that they were using soothing tactics with me that were working. I didn’t like to be calmed when I wanted to be annoyed and angry.

I was pissed at myself for getting so angry. I was peeved I let my temper flare again. Unfortunately for my husband, he came home right in the thick of it and left again without plans to help. That didn’t bode well for him, as you can imagine.

I felt the tension in my body. I felt the “I have to everything myself” and “People are so stupid” pity party starting. I even lost my patience on my perfect pups and begrudgingly walked them with very little care for what they actually wanted to do or smell or sniff.

The whole time it was happening, I heard this little voice in the back of my mind saying “Make it a joke,” and “it’s okay,” and “it’ll turn out fine.” It whispered that there’s a bigger perspective I’m missing and a version of me that actually could ride this wave…maybe even – dare I say it – find a way to get joy out of it.

I resented it. I knew there was some truth to what it was saying but I just wanted to let it let me be pissed.

I don’t know about you, but I was often told that I’m overreacting. That I’m being too dramatic. My emotions were mitigated so much that whenever I felt something that wasn’t beautiful, I got a side order of shame served right along with it for even feeling. The fact that I express and manifest emotions differently meant, to some people, I was obviously doing it wrong. So I’ve rebelled in recent years and been very protective of my own self worth and the fact that I’m allowed to feel whatever emotions I am feeling.

So I yelled back at the voice and told it that I’m allowed to be this pissed and I’m allowed to go on a small rampage and take it out on the creatures I love most and it can eff the eff off. It just patiently agreed and reminded me that’s true but also that’s probably not the most fun use of my time. I listened but raged anyway.

The dogs and I went on a walk. Long story short, because of the walk and listening to that little instinctual voice inside me, I was able to fix the problem set out. I even did so pretty quickly and with help of a kind stranger. And now I’ll be able to leverage this problem into a gift.

I petty quickly let go of the anger and listened more intensely to that voice again. It didn’t gloat. It didn’t berate me. It didn’t say “I told you so.” It simply calmed me down and reminded me that there is another voice in my head now even when the old frustration patterns creep up. It’s okay to be mad. But you don’t have to be that mad for that long.

I’ve worked hard to have another voice in there. Hours of meditation, reading, self growth, spirituality studies…you name it. There’s clearly plenty of work to do because that voice wasn’t my go-to. The old patterns still took over. But having her in there and having a seat at the table gives me hope.

This morning, I made it a point to meditate for a bit longer than usual. Yesterday, it didn’t happen (shocking). I tend to run hot and move quickly. The best thing I can do is in the moments of calmness, cultivate that voice more and give it more empowerment and muscle memory in my bones. That way, if and when something goes awry again, I can increase its influence over my reaction.

In the moment, it’s not going to happen. But I can do it in the in-between moments.

That’s where all the juicy good stuff happens anyway.

Remembering Your Why

The same question has been popping up lately in my world. It’s come up in myself. It’s come up with people I think are successful. And it’s come up with people who are trying to find their big break.

That question is variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

When my peers get big – or even small – successes in their lives, I used to constantly ask myself (or the universe, whoever was more open to listening at the time), “Why didn’t I get that?”

When talking to people who are in early stages of their career or who are trying to figure out how to pursue creativity as a career, I’ll often hear then bemoan about people who are in similar boats to them who have found some traction. They’ll ask variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

Even people who are successful will look at others who have made different choices and wonder, “Why didn’t I get that?

It’s a natural question. We’re creatures who love to compare. But it’s even more potent at the moment in a world where we share more information than ever before, so it’s easier and more addictive to compare yourself to others than it has been throughout human history.

Though the question is natural, it’s not helpful. And the longer you entertain it, the more it will lead you down a spiraling path where entitlement and victimhood are unhealthily entangled.

The truth isn’t what you want to hear. The truth is, you didn’t get that because it wasn’t meant for you. It was never your thing. It was always the thing of whoever has it. And the longer you bemoan the loss of something that wasn’t yours, the more opportunities that could be yours pass you by.

The best advice I’ve recently heard about changing this same perspective into a more positive and productive one is from a person who is killing it in their respective field at the moment. They said their major mental shift came from thinking “Why isn’t the world giving me what I want?” to “What can I do to really make an impact on the world?”

Not to get all JFK on you, but ask not what your creativity can do for you, but ask what you can do for your creativity.

The more you lean into what you really want to do and the type of content you want to create, you start to inevitably become more unique. And the opportunities that are unique to your particular perspective and interests start to appear. And those feel more tangible and more uniquely you because you’re creating tangible things that are more uniquely you.

It’s about remembering your why. Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Why do you want to do it? What is it that originally drew you to this world? What makes you stick around or keep coming back even when it’s difficult?

Once you understand and lean into that, your interest in comparisons diminishes. It doesn’t really matter to you what other people are doing because you’re not doing it for the outcomes they’re receiving. You’re doing it because of the reasons you remind yourself. You’re doing it for the purposes of really making an impact. You’re doing it because you love it and you need it.

Accolades are fine. But spending your life staring at the accolades of others and wondering “Why didn’t I get that?” seems like a boring existence, if you ask me.

And you didn’t. But you’re reading this. So I’ll pretend you did.

You didn’t get something because you did get other things. So recognize, embrace, and utilize what you’ve got and use it to make your unique mark.

Or don’t. I can’t control ya.

Above the Clouds

One of the most powerful visuals I remember learning when I was first learning how to meditate was the idea of your thoughts being like passing clouds. Usually you hear this when you’re learning Buddhist-based meditations, which I probably was. But the truth is, so many good meditation teachers this same idea (and I’ve always been pretty voracious about learning so I like to learn multiple styles at once…so who knows where I first heard this).

It’s often been repeated to me. I’ve always loved it. I’ve loved the idea that if you allow a thought or feeling to enter, you can simply observe it as it passes through your mind, letting it pass as easily out as it did in.

I’ve always found a calmness in looking up at the sky and the clouds. Even when the earth itself seems dirty or chaotic, there’s a calmness to the clouds. In their meanest form  (like thunderstorms or hurricanes or lightning) they’re still incredibly beautiful.

I’ve been back at traveling season for me lately (hence the belated post today). Traveling is not easy on the body. It’s not easy to find good nutrition. It’s a lot of weird hours and time spent in cars. It’s a lot of negotiating with your travel companions and attempting to find balance when and where you can. I didn’t get any (any!) yoga classes in this year. (I did a couple small sessions on my own in my hotel room, so I did something but stillllll) I didn’t get too much sightseeing in the beauty of nature. I got a few adventures and stolen moments away. But I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate and a lot of personal ambition to satiate. So I often felt frustrated, even if it was just an undercurrent.

When I travel, I have to be in a lot of airplanes. I’m a decent flyer. I’m not great, but I’m not terrible. I can handle it. I’m usually the first one to jump at the slightest turbulence and like to grab my seats to help the pilot concentrate to get us through it… but otherwise I’m alright. I have my methods for getting through it.

But as I was flying this time and letting my brain wander while staring out my window seat (my preferred seat so I can see we’re still in the air during turbulence), I had a thought that connected my love for meditation and my frustrations on the road. I remembered that every small frustration is something that can simply be observed, learned from, and let go. I realized that the frustrations are often a result of my own expectations or something happening in my own personal life or from my own personal perspective. They have nothing to do with anyone being “out to get me.” They just exist. And if I see them, allow them to come in, and let them go, I’m giving them as much power as the thought I treat like a temporary cloud during meditation.

And…get this.

When you fly, you’re often relatively smooth after you get up above the clouds. Even if you’re escaping rough weather, it’s typically close to where the cloud cover is. And some of the roughest parts of even smooth flights are when you’re getting just above the clouds.

Because… you guys the clouds are what keep us from seeing clearly.

Sure, I’ve been in intense thunderstorms where I saw our big plane hit by lightning on the wing several times and have often prayed to whatever god was listening for a second chance at life even when my plane was above the clouds. But typically the meanest weather and the roughest air is when you’re at or below them.

So I’ve been forcing myself to see every frustration as a passing cloud, even outside of my meditations. When I’m really in a good headspace, I become genuinely curious about the frustration. I wonder where it’s coming from. What underlying belief is it bringing out in me? Do I really believe that or is that something I’ve been programmed to believe? And do I want to keep thinking that? What does this emotion feel like in my body? Where does it live? Have I ignored it before and there’s a lot of residual emotions in that particular location? And so on…

Once I had the cloud realization about flying, I’ve been able to approach it with a lot more patience and surrender. The air will be whatever it wants to be. I can’t control it. I can simply experience and learn from it. And I can wait for the moment we clear the clouds and enjoy the “cruising altitude” for however long it lasts.

Wrapping Up My Year of Jesus

My birthday is right around the corner. Very exciting, indeed.

(If you’re not into astrology, that makes me a Leo and we love attention so feel free to wish me lots of happy birthday wishes because I will very much appreciate them. If you are into astrology, you already knew that.)

Anyway, this time about a year ago I decided I missed blogging and that I was going to commit to writing more. Though it took me a bit to settle on the general time of day and my favorite day of the week to let ‘er loose, I more or less held true on that commitment. I mean, I’m still here typing right now, aren’t I?

Oh, god, seriously, aren’t I? If I’m not doing that what on earth and I doing because I think I’m doing that… AHHHH!

I called this past year my “Year of Jesus.” I remember when I finished up the pictures and the post I was at an airport. The Philadelphia airport, I believe. At some point they all look the same. But I do know I was waiting for the others in my crew to show up so we could get rental cars and head off on our touring adventure.

This year, I’m sitting sipping (surprisingly bitter) coffee on my porch with my beautiful and newly-groomed pups around me. I have another solid 24 hours before I have to be on multiple airplanes and traversing multiple timezones for a prolonged period of time. I’ve somewhat purposely gone into my little shell to recharge before the trip.

So much has changed. But, then again, so little.

I’ve made a ton of small often incremental changes in my life. For several months out of this year, I was absolutely on top of my sh*t. But that motivation came from getting low and frustrated and feeling completely out of control.

I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve created some cool things. I’ve sold some project and completed others. I’ve failed and triumphed. I’ve probably made major decisions that will impact me in the future without even knowing it. I’ve ended relationships or cut off personal energies that don’t serve me anymore and don’t fit into the person I want to become. I’ve transformed completely yet so much has stayed the same.

I don’t yet know what I’m going to call this next year of my life. I was exited about 33 because of the whole Jesus thing. No matter what you believe, there’s got to me some sort of cool spiritual energy around 33 if that’s the age the stories of Jesus decided upon.

As I’m thinking about it, I was really excited for 30 because it was the start of a new decade. 31 was gonna be a rear up for 32 which I was beyond stoked for. And 33 was my spiritually transformative year.

But for this upcoming year, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have expectations. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know what theme I’m going to approach it with.

Then again, right now I’m deeply interested in studying the Tao Te Ching and have been drawn to numerous stories and books about how to be present and simply trust in the flow rather than working against it. I’ve been actively trying to let my intuition take over while listening to the subtle movements around me and the opportunities that arise and how I feel while doing certain things to best determine how to be my happiest, most fulfilled self. And all of that study pretty much says the same thing: Slow down, be present, and listen… then let yourself go with it.

So maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s a year of flow. Of enjoyment. Not of taking off work, of course. But more of doing work that feels the most fulfilling. Letting go of judgments about work and choices and what happens to and around me. Simply deciding how I feel about something, trusting that, and leaning into it.

I guess the answer is there isn’t an answer. Now that the year of Jesus is up… I’m on my own. And I’m excited to see what I sage advice I have for myself.

Also, happy birthday to me.

 

 

On Not Being Liked

I think a friend of mine is upset with me.

It’s unclear to me if perhaps this is the case or if perhaps I’m misinterpreting a number of signals. When his actions first shifted shortly after we were creating something together in a larger group, I asked him about it. In fact, because of his energy shift, I asked him several times in different, varying ways. I wasn’t confrontational. I attempted to be constructive. I kept it lighthearted. Then I let it go.

Recently, I saw him again. And either he’s always been someone who avoids eye contact and only answers in one word answers and I was only make-believing I’d both gotten eye contact and full sentences before or he’s recently shifted into someone who doesn’t prefer eye contact and only likes one word answers. Or, maybe, he’s mad at me. It’s excruciatingly hard to tell. His wife makes eye contact with me. She smiles. She answers things. But he has stopped and I don’t know what triggered it.

But I’m not going to spend any time trying to figure it out. Aside from the fact that I am only a passing acquaintance with this person and they’re nowhere near my inner circle, this is not something that I need to investigate. But more importantly, I’m not going to invest any energy figuring it out because, at my core, I don’t care.

Why not?

Two reasons that are my happy learning lessons from this current experience:

1. He’s a grown ass man.

He is allowed to have feelings. If I have wronged him somehow, which would have been done accidentally and (quite literally) while playing around, he could talk to me about it if he wanted to. He could have also reached out in any number of options I gave him when later discussing it lightly. If he doesn’t have the emotional capacity to do this, that’s not my problem. And if he wants to hold a grudge for something I’m absolutely not clear on, that’s also not my problem. How people choose to feel is up to them and them alone. It is not my problem.

2. I can’t please everybody.

This is actually the harder lesson for me.

I’m generally what people would describe as “likable.” I wear this like a superpower. I lean into it when I’m feeling insecure. I trust it when I’m in precarious situations. I enjoy having lots of friends in different groups. It’s a comfort blanket for me. And “likable” is only one shade away from “people pleaser.” And for a long time in my life, those two things went hand in hand.

So it has been a harder lesson to learn that I can’t please everybody. Even (and especially) if I’m just being myself and being true to myself. That doesn’t mean I go out of my way to upset people. And it doesn’t mean I’m not open to having conversations if lines are crossed. In fact, I’ve gotten really open to it. It’s part of how I continue to be my most authentic self. It doesn’t mean I’ll always listen or care what you say (that honor is reserved for very few people out of self preservation). But we can talk about any miscommunications. I can take notes and learn. I can be more aware.

We can all always grow.

Even with all that, you simply cannot please everybody.

When I was in high school, I was generally liked. I remember senior year, there was this one girl who did not like me. It was a smaller school. We all knew each other. I tried my best to go out of my way to be liked. Even so, she probably had her valid reasons. And I didn’t have the emotional or self-awareness tools I now do to confront her. Not that it may have done any good anyway. Despite that, it bothered me. It deeply bothered me.

When someone used to not like me, I would obsess over it. I would wonder what I did wrong and how I could right it. My ego would get so heavily involved that either I would bend over backwards to make them love me and maybe go out of my way to befriend all their close friends so they can’t help but be swayed to get back on “Team Briana.” Or, if all was lost and it was hopeless, I would convince myself of all the reasons they’re a terrible and horrible person and nobody likes them so it’s okay that they don’t like me because they’re wrong.

But as I’ve grown and as I’ve worked on myself, I see all that as exhausting ego exercise. So with this current situation, I’ve decided to simply let it be.

He can feel however he’d like to feel. He can even bad mouth me for all I care. I’ve considered bringing it up yet again when I see him based on our last cold interaction. But the truth is, I don’t care. And, honestly, I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve caught him at off times and am reading the situation wrong.

Whatever the case, it’s not worth the energy. I will continue to like him. I will continue to enjoy his company. Hell, I’ll even pretend I don’t notice how cold he’s being. I won’t go out of my way to make him love me. And I won’t go out of my way to convince myself he’s a cranky immature brat. I’ll just leave him to be a complicated human with his own thoughts and emotions and trust that I’m enough just as I am.

Because the truth is, I like myself. And, at the end of the day, that’s the only person whose opinion I actually give a shit about.

The Power of Silence

When I perform, my favorite sound in the world is laughter or giggles or some sort of visceral response (ideally not a “boo”). I like to hear it. I like when everybody hears it. I like when people hear themselves.

I like that the organized noises I make with my mouth make other humans make noises with their body. It’s fun.

I don’t usually think of performing comedy like that. It’s a weird way to phrase it, sure. But I was thinking about it in the context of silence. Of pause. Of quiet. I was thinking about how I’m obsessed with responses. I want a giggle, even if holding off a little bit might get me a bigger laugh. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to pace myself more. To slow down. To enjoy the pauses. To…

…wait for it.

Sometimes when I see excellent performances, I’m reminded of how powerful pauses are. But over the weekend, I saw a show that was done by people who never actually spoke. I saw The Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Without ever once saying anything, they made me laugh heartily for the full show (they did have a little monitor that spoke and a voiceover every once in a while to forward the bits).

It was magic.

Throughout the course of the performance, I often had to remind myself that they had said nothing. They communicated so much with their expressions and with the games they were playing and their physicality, that I was never at a loss for what was happening. And they relished in the silences. Maybe partly because they only exist in a curious silence themselves, the quiet doesn’t bother them. Or maybe cause they so trust in the show and in themselves that they know a little quiet is just a set up for a huge laugh. Whatever it was, it was pure delight.

There’s a ton of audience interaction in the show. The fact that they never once say anything makes the interaction even more satisfying. You know what they want without them actually asking it. And seeing people play along made my little imagination squeal with joy.

I even got to go onstage and interact with them for a while.

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One of the Blue Men kept eyes on me as they wandered the crowd. I was cracking up at it and said, in my head, “Yeah sure I’m down to play if you all want.” I guess he heard it because before I knew it, I was having a bizarro Twinkie dinner with the three Blue Men onstage.

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I know I was the only one talking. Usually I was just cracking up or saying “okay, okay, okay, sure.” But at no point did I feel like I was the only one communicating. Without saying anything, they got me to (attempt to) light a candle. They got me to open Twinkie wrappers for them and then subsequently clean them up. They got me to bop my head along to some music. They got me to eat Twinkie bites with them and even feed them Twinkie bites. And they even fed me some weird banana stuff that I tried not to eat at first then was like, “Yeah, sure I’m down to play if you want” (which happened to be the very thought that likely got me onstage in the first place).

They took a picture at the perfect moment, of course.

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After the bit was one, they helped lead me offstage and two of them squeezed by hand twice as a signal that I felt like was a “thank you” or “good job.” Whatever it was, I just played along and continued to enjoy the rest of the show.

When the show was over, we were meandering in the lobby and one of the Blue Men ran up dramatically. He smiled and I said “Hello! I’m married but that was the best date of my life!” He smiled again (maybe it was just with his eyes? I don’t think they actually smile now that I’m thinking about it. Anyway, we took a picture and then he turned to me, covered his mouth and quietly said “That was amazing.”

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That’s all he said. That’s all he had to say. Because he had spent so much time silent, the power of those simple words were enough. I felt like my goal of being present and playful was achieved if this Blue Man was willing to break his vow of silence to let me know the energy was appreciated.

I thanked him profusely for the opportunity and the incredible work they do. He just nodded and continued pictures with the crowd that had formed around him. I then showed off my blue paint to my husband and threatened to leave him for the Blue Men.

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My point is, I’m a talker. Sure, I’m expressive and use my expressive face to get my points across and make people laugh. But talking is my security blanket. It’s the way I trust myself most to communicate. And getting laughs in response to what I’m saying makes me feel safe. Drama is terrifying to me because you don’t get laughs, you get silence. Things where you have to wait for a payoff are terrifying because you don’t get immediate responses, you have to wait in the delicious silence for the gratification.

I guess right now my life is in a bit of a silence. I’m doing things, but it’s not making enough noise to get the responses I’m comfortable with. I don’t feel validated in the ways that I get to feel when I’m onstage and throwing out jokes or listening to people laugh at something I’ve created. I have to just trust in the process. As an audience member, I enjoyed the silences. I wasn’t thinking “when’s the next laugh?” I was simply thinking, “This is wonderful I hope they keep it up.”

Maybe I should start thinking of myself as both the performer and the audience member in my own life. Rather than desperately needing the immediate validation, recognize that there are times when it’s necessary to relish in the quiet. Sometimes a little quiet for a good set up means a bigger response in the future. So just sit back and enjoy it.

And, of course, keep working.

 

Monk Mode

I’ll keep this short and sweet since I made some ambitious deadlines for myself this week that, at the time, I thought were reasonable. Now that I’m in the thick of it, I see now that they were somewhat unreasonable.

But, hey, I like a good challenge and all this stuff is creative anyway, so I won’t complain.

In fact, I almost skipped the blog this week. I have too much on the plate. But then I remembered that most of these deadlines are somewhat arbitrary anyway (people are reasonable and everything is negotiable, right?). It would be totally understandable if I missed one and if I skipped a blog. Who would even notice?

But I would know. I would notice. And when I make a promise to myself to get something done by a certain date, just like when I make a promise to myself to get something done for someone else, I follow through.

Even if it means I skip my hour-long yoga class that I love and do ten minutes at home just to stay sane.  I will write. Because I am a writer who does yoga. I am not a yogi who writes a lot. There’s a small distinction between the two, but an important one when it comes to where I focus my time.

The past few weeks I’ve been in what I consider “Monk Mode.” I’ve been getting up early, going to bed early, in a pretty set little routine (thanks to my puppers who really like to remind me that certain times of the day mean either walk or eating or playtime or porch time or pool time). I’ve been going to my yoga class in the morning (when possible), coming back and setting up the house the way I like it before diving into some focused writing. I have a quiet lunch at home while I read the entertainment trades and then take my dogs on a walk. I take a quick nap (I’m an excellent napper – 20 minutes to a totally transformed human), then have another round of intense writing or creating before Bonnie lets me know it’s time to feed and play with the pups. Maybe after they eat and play, I have another hour or so of creative time before they need a walk. After the way, I snarf some food then, maybe eek out a few more pages before I start my pre-bedtime relax mode.

And, at the moment, that’s it. I will change up the routine if people are in town or coffees must be had. But in weeks where I’m on intense deadlines like right now, I’ll only change it up to give me more time to write (sorry yoga, you got axed today). But I’m careful and thoughtful about when I change it up. I make sure there’s still plenty of routine available to keep me balanced even when I know one day will not be as productive as the others. So I don’t do coffees daily. And I don’t do drinks every night. I keep it balanced and protect the creative boundaries I need to continue to feel my best.

If I’ve ignored your text or been hard to pin down for a meeting, this is likely why. And I would apologize for it, but honestly I don’t feel bad. It’s called setting boundaries and I’m learning it and loving it and the people closest to me respect it, as I do their own boundaries.

So why am I sharing? What does this even matter? Those mundane details of your life mean very little to me, Briana (you may be saying and I’ll pretend you are so I can answer).

Well, here’s the funny thing about Monk Mode. I really like it. I’ve spent a ton of time traveling and on wonky schedules and all over the place. I haven’t had a lot of time or space in my world for routines. And, to be fair, I often avoid them because the wrong ones focused in the wrong places can make me freak out and feel stifled.

But this routine is a happy routine. It’s a productive little routine. Even though my weekends are all over the place and it’s more of a goal than a reality most days, it makes me feel like I’m focusing on and forwarding my career.

When I’m doing things outside of the routine, I’m working on my acting craft or taking meetings for my writing. I’m not immediately seeing the results of my work, but I know that doing a little every day and maintaining my focus will eventually help me to stay sharp. I feel inspired by the productive yet quiet lives of monks who spend much of their day devoted to the work they believe in, with small tasks and chores sprinkled in throughout their day. I don’t pretend that I’m a monk. But I do enjoy the quiet and focused time working (not to mention a good Belgian beer that some monks basically perfected).

This time of year can feel particularly tumultuous for me emotionally as I round the corner to another birthday and the age demons try to pester me about what I’ve accomplished with my life. But doing my best to stay in Monk Mode has kept them at bay. And has kept my own spiritual connection to both my more intuitive and more creative self even stronger.

Straight up Monk shit, yo.

 

 

 

When Something Is Hard

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how many people like to complain about how hard things are.

Let me give you some context to help specify this very general statement.

My friend is very, very pregnant. Like, I was ready at any point during our conversation to drive her to the hospital if she started making a pained face. She’s about to pop. So she’s had a lot of conversations (some requested, most unsolicited) about parenting lately. It’s her first kid, so she’s getting all sorts of advice (again, most of it she’s not asking for). One of her closer friends had recently gone on a mini tirade about how hard it is to be parent.

As a woman of child-bearing age who’s been getting pressure for a decade to procreate, this is a refrain I hear a lot. I have dogs (I mention them often). People love to remind me how having dogs is so different and so much easier than having children (again, I don’t ask, they just offer this up as if I made the comparison on my own and asked them their opinion of it).

The most frustrating part about people telling you how hard something is, especially parenting (besides what I’ve made obvious in these parenthetical asides about people offering up opinions that nobody asked for) is the fact that they make it sound like hard is the worst thing you can do. And that you’ve never done anything as hard as this thing you’re about to do.

In a world filled with comforts, hacks, and affordable luxuries around every corner, I get why doing something “hard” gets more and more terrifying. But just because something’s hard, doesn’t automatically make it something you need to be afraid of or complain about or worry about. It’s just something different from most people usual existence (unless you’re David Goggins).

Childbirth, more than almost anything, remains incredibly difficult. Even with the advances in technology and increases in our ability to protect, track, and plan the birthing process, that large baby still has to come out of that woman’s body one way or another. There’s no hack for that (at the moment).

Yet after the childbirth process, you’ve created a freaking human life. You now get to enjoy and raise this kid. And yes, you’re going to have sleepless nights and goo in places you never expected and smell crap you never thought could come out of a human being. And that’s going to be “hard.” But you also get to snuggle with an innocent life form and hold its hand when it learns to walk and get butterfly kisses before it goes out to play in the yard and watch it learn to talk and run and grow.

Are you going to sacrifice all of that because it’s hard?

Okay, I’ve been harping on baby making for a second, mostly inspired by my friend who is probably in labor right now (you guys, she’s was SO PREGGO). But that’s not my point here. If you don’t want to have kids, totally cool. I’m not interested in a discussion about kids. I’m trying to make a point about what people think is hard.

Every morning when I get up in the dark and leave my warm bed and snuggly dogs (and husband) to do some mind clearing and head to workout, that’s hard. I don’t complain. It’s a choice I’m making that makes me an overall better human.

When I go to my hard workout class and my peppy teacher yells “Mountain climbers!” and my body starts instinctively kicking my own ass, that’s hard. I don’t complain about it. It’s a choice I’m making to improve my health and challenge my muscles to be an overall better human.

When I’m slogging through writing something and I don’t know what to say and I’m convinced I’ve already used every word in the English language and there are no more sentences that will come to me ever, but I’m only halfway through the project and I have to keep going because I’m on a deadline, that’s hard. I don’t complain. It’s a privilege to get the opportunity to create and do what I’m good at and add value to the world in a way that makes me feel fulfilled.

All of these small choices in my typical day pale in comparison to some of the much harder jobs other people have and the lives they live, and the choice they make to go to and improve themselves (or sometimes just get through them) daily.

Thank god no firefighter, military service person, police officer, construction worker, single mom, high-risk public school teacher, first responder, ER doctor, or air traffic controller was thwarted by someone warning them their job would be hard.

And those are just the choices we have. Hard things happen to us all the time. They’re inevitable. Complaining about them or worrying about them or wishing they were over doesn’t make them any easier or help them to go any faster.

The only trick to surviving something hard is just to do it. Once you’ve done one hard thing, even if it’s small, you start to get confidence that you can do something bigger and harder. And if you’ve been through something big and hard already, the hard smaller things feel more manageable.

Hard is what it is. It’s unforgiving, challenging, and unresponsive to your complains. So just do it. Learn from it. Survive it. Get through it. And your spirit will get stronger for it every time.

(And also maybe don’t offer a pregnant woman – or any woman – your opinion unless asked, k? Thanks!)

 

Choosing Calm

I’ve been called feisty more than once in my life. My temper used to be a strange point of pride. I’d think, “Oh, man, you’d better not cross me or you’ll see the wrath of a version of myself that I can’t even handle.”

Even though I didn’t always love that my emotions would take over (and quickly), I was scared to do too much to curb it because my crazy was also a large part of my identity. I liked that I was considered somewhat unpredictable and that I wore my emotions on my sleeve and felt those emotions really strongly (and often quickly).

But as I’ve grown up, I realized that those same emotions are utterly exhausting. And, like any bad habit, they slowly fester into something uncontrollable. They’re not a big deal when you’re younger and you have more energy to fight them back and recover from the temper tantrum. But as you get older, they really do wear on you. It becomes harder and harder to fight them off. And, because you’ve let them run rampant for years, they’ve grown in their strength.

In case I’ve lost you here, the “they” I’m talking about is negative emotions. Okay, we’re back on track. Good.

Anyway, it took a leap of faith for me to accept that maybe I could more consistently be calmer. I worried what that would mean for the empathetic feelings I wanted to feel and the ability to feel emotions strongly. It turns out, when I’m able to more regularly listen to my emotions from a calmer and happier state of mind, I continue to feel things just as strongly. I actually feel them even more strongly because I feel them with more clarity.

When a negative emotion starts to take over, I’ve done the work to see it coming and notice it start to take over my mind (and tense up my body). That doesn’t mean I’m always able to control it and keep it at bay. But I can at least see that it’s happening and a part of me remains aware of the situation. Plus, as a bonus, that part of me that is aware of the situation is able to start assessing what’s really going on, while the rest of me continues to temper tantrum away. By the time my calm(er) self has returned, it’s able to have a short conversation with the emotion and identify where it’s coming from.

For example, the other day I was worried about something that y dog may have ingested. It was unclear whether or not he actually ate this thing. And, if he did, the repercussions were likely not dire, just sort of uncomfortable and unknown. The moment I caught the (possible) act, I got really upset and frustrated immediately. In the past, I may have let those emotions take over and inform the rest of the day. Instead, I talked it out for a moment. I was able to stay calm(er) and start evaluating all the opportunities here. My husband (god love him) tried to tell me everything was fine and that I didn’t need to worry. That only made me angrier and I couldn’t figure out why. Again, in the past, I easily could and would have lashed out.

Instead, this time, he took the dogs on a walk (a smart move for him) and I evaluated what was going on. Once I figured out that my pup was in no major danger even if he did the thing I wasn’t sure he’d do, I asked myself what was going on. I realized it was a flare up of an old feeling of unworthiness that was festering again. I didn’t feel like I deserved the happiness that my dogs brought me. I didn’t “deserve nice things” basically. It took me a long time to find that hidden little brain thought years ago. But once I did, I’ve made sure she knows she’s unwelcome. I have to remind her of that when she pops up at various times (like in this incident). And the frustration that was directed towards my husband was because I felt like my feelings were being mitigated, which is a trigger for me. When he came back, I was calmer, clearer, and able to talk it out. All without having too much of a fit.

In a less complicated example, it took me a while to get a necklace on this morning. I kept starting to get frustrated and  starting to feel my temper flare up. Instead, I was able to keep the tantrum at bay by simply remembering, “Whatever. It’s just a necklace. Either it goes on or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. Getting angry won’t help anything and it will only make me more tense and make this harder.” So I stayed chill and, several tries later, I eventually got it.

Calm doesn’t always come naturally to me. But the more I choose it, the more it knows its welcome. And the more I feel it, the more I want it around. It’s a pleasant cycle.

Maybe that can help you consider the same.