Fires and Resilience

Welcome, 2019. I’m happy to see you. I always love welcoming the new year. Just like I love celebrating birthdays. As my grandpa always said, it sure beats the alternative.

I’m not going to place any judgments on 2018. It was what it was. There were all sorts of beautiful and horrifying things happening simultaneously because that’s life and it’s full of dramatic dichotomies that we have to constantly navigate.

As a resident of Southern California, 2018 sure did get me thinking a lot about fires. Mostly because there were so many incredibly destructive fires that ravaged the region leaving ashes, confusion, and sadness in their wake.

Lives and homes were lost. There’s no getting those back. And there’s no part of me that wants to at all mitigate the genuine loss so many people affected by them felt. And we, as a global community, also felt through some of our precious natural resources being forever changed.

As the last fire of the year, the Woolsey Fire, overtook some favorite ares of my beloved Malibu – an area I have always adored visiting for its relaxed vibe and natural beauty. I found myself feeling what I can only imagine lots of humans felt…powerless and overwhelmed by sadness. Even though I understand fire is sometimes natural, I felt like we’ve done so much to hurt and destroy our gorgeous planet at this point that it always feels like we might be watching a natural disaster unfold that may be the turning point to keep us from having the balanced nature we need to survive as a species.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. But there’s some science to back up my notions.

But I’ve never been a dweller. I hate dwelling. You can stew for a minute if you need. You can let off steam occasionally. I don’t have issues with being in touch with your honest emotions. But I do have issues dwelling.

Rather than dwell, I started to think about what it could mean. What could I do to help and what does it mean to watch parts of the world I love burn down?

What I could do was start genuinely giving back to this planet in small and large ways. When I can, volunteer to help clean it up. Choose more green alternatives whenever possible with every purchase I make. Not only change elements of my lifestyle but change the companies that I support to make sure they have more environmentally conscious approaches to their output.

Say what you will about veganism and vegetarianism, but if the entire human population chose to do it for a single decade, we would give our earth a much needed reprieve from global warming. Then, maybe, when we reintroduce eating meat, we could do so in a more sustainable way. Nobody is asking for you to give up your lifestyle in any way – from what you eat to what you drive to what you choose to purchase or do.

It’s simply a matter of becoming aware that our planet has limited resources and maybe small decisions you make within the confines of those resources could help out your fellow humans so that we can continue to use those resources for longer without losing or ruining the ability to have them forever.

So there’s that. There’s small choices and lifestyle changes that could be made.

But even in embracing those and slowly weaving them into every day life, it doesn’t change the fact that, for at least a while longer, the earth will be mad at us and enacting a number of natural disasters as a result of our own manipulation of its resources. Maybe I shouldn’t say mad. That means that somehow we’ve angered it and it’s personifying something that, though I love referring to it as Mother Earth, it doesn’t need to have an human emotion attached. It’s simply reacting to years of human actions that have, at least so far, gone relatively unchecked. And, of course, none of this changes the fact that fires burned down people’s homes, livelihoods, and took lives.

That’s where it’s time to get a bit more philosophical about what it means. It’s easy – and easier to keep your heart stone and your emotions on an island away from everyone else – to say it means nothing. Nothing means anything and we’re all just feathers in the wind attempting to survive until our time floating around is done. But, at least for me, down that way lies madness. So I refuse to accept it.

Instead, I like to think of how to make it a positive thing. No, what happened isn’t inherently positive. And no, I don’t wish fire upon anyone so they can find the “meaning” behind it. But for fellow feathers still floating in the wind, I choose to see a beautiful symbolism behind the fires. There’s a chance to completely rebuild from the ground up. The old ways have been razed and it’s time we choose to rebuild them with a new perspective in mind.

I heard about these large trees who sprout seeds that often die because the roots of the trees they come from are too large and the forests they’d be sprouting in are too shaded from the massive trees. But if there’s a fire, those seeds not only survive, but need the fire to be planted into the ground. So the tree basically ensures its own survival from a fire.

Some brush needs fire in order for it to clear the old and grow new seedlings. Fire is natural and, at times, necessary. Knowing that, the question then become: What can we do to embrace it, learn from it, and grow into a culture that doesn’t become completely at its whim, but knows how to work with it for sustainable growth?

We get the chance not only to rebuild and to rethink, but to show resilience. Not to get all Batman on you, but we fall so that we may learn how to get back up. We’re creatures that are meant to be in movement. And movement means risk of failure and risk of falling. We’re not just risking failure when we choose to be in movement, we’re almost guaranteed it. But every time we get back up, we teach ourselves that we can. We remind ourselves that we can be strong and we can make new choices and we can learn, grow, and improve.

So, as Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent forest fires. Love nature and respect it. Let’s learn from our cumulative mistakes and agree to see the world for what it is – a community that is inherently interconnected with each other. Within that recognition and understanding, we may choose to help each other out by making small but meaningful decisions that will give the earth a chance to rebuild and give future generations a fighting chance of experiencing the beauty and balance that the world naturally wants to give us.

Oh, and more on bears next week…

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Attitude Adjustment

attitudeI had to check myself before I wrecked myself the other day.

It was the first Saturday of the New Year and I went to the gym in late morning. And, to no surprise, it was packed.

And, unfortunately also no surprise, I immediately became a brat about it.

As I walked in and looked at the crowds of people on the machines and on the equipment, I got testy. I kept thinking somehow they were in my way. I felt so self-righteous that this gym was my gym. And that they were in my way. And how dare they even consider slightly inconveniencing me.

In short, I was a little biatch about it.

But halfway through my workout (when the endorphins started kicking in and I was calmer than before), I realized I was the one with the problem. Here are a bunch of people who, sure, don’t really know what they’re doing yet at the gym. But you’ve got to start somewhere. They were not at all getting in my way. It’s not like I go there with a really clear training plan of certain exercises I have to hit and certain goals that have to be attained. Usually I go with a body group that I’m going to focus on for the day. And then I look around and see what’s available.

These people weren’t my enemies. They were my new friends.

Sure, many of them may not stick around past February. But some of them will. Some of these people will have made it their New Years Resolution to get in shape and go to the gym all the time, and this will be the very exciting start of that journey for them. These are more people I now have something in common with. New people with whom I can talk working out with. New people who can complain about the lazy people who don’t return their free weights with.

It’s so easy to think you’re entitled to something. So much of our world today makes you believe you are entitled to whatever you want in the exact circumstances you want it and exactly when you want it. IWWIWWIWI, I believe is what it’s called (I Want What I Want When I Want It). I wanted to have the gym completely quiet and to myself. I wanted to be able to choose any time and go without any convenience to me. I wanted to have access to all the equipment I could possibly want for my workout at any given time even if I wasn’t using it or didn’t end up needing it.

Entitlement is gross.

I’m not proud of my attitude that day. But I am glad to be reminded that it’s so easy to fall back into a negative mindset. It’s easy to forget that other people are not your enemy. I live in Los Angeles…like millions of other people. If I start getting frustrated at crowds or traffic or whatever, I’ll never be satisfied in this city. Or any city. In fact, if I start wanting everything in my environment to be exactly how I want it without any distractions, I might as well move to a tiny hermit shack in Montana and hide from the world.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve considered this at times.

Then I remember, I love people. I love LA. I love being out of my comfort zone and having shared experiences and the excitement of a crowd. The only reason there’s even a gym close to me is because there are lots of other people who are members. I don’t keep it alive on my tiny membership fee alone. If there weren’t lots of people who belonged, I’d have to go somewhere else.

We need each other.

So I have to wait an extra few minutes for the leg press machine in January because some girl is doing 20 sets of 10 lbs. Whatever. No big deal. She’s gotta start somewhere. And I’m not going anywhere. So I’ll wait.

And I’ll be sure to check myself before I wreck myself.

Femoir: The Podcast – GOALS – Show Notes

goalsIt’s back! And we’re gonna have new episodes every other Tuesday that talk about comedy and happiness, two worlds that I think should intersect more than they do.

This episode we talk about one of my all-time favorite things… GOALS!

I talk about a Dungeons and Dragons dice and how you need to sleep to be productive. I mention my new Kurt Vonnegut picture (and how he’s one of my favorite authors).

I also mention how people feel the need to lose 10 lbs, sodoku puzzles, the Second City Chicago, and SNL. And wrap it all up with a Pinky and The Brain reference before mentioning my own new goal and organization consulting business, Reasonable Revolution.

3 Reasons You Should Do Your New Years Resolution NOW!

Everyone is gearing up for totally transforming themselves in the New Year. But as a person who loves to transform and work on goals and challenges year-round (and takes the New Year as a time for major shifts and personal assessments), here are my three reasons for starting your resolution ASAP.

1. It will help you exercise control yourself during the holidays

If you’re looking to lose weight or tone up (which most people at least have on their list), many people do huge amounts of health damage over the holidays. I’m a firm believer in balance and moderation in all things- no big deal if you have a crazy night or splurge in anyway- but you can often put yourself at a distinct disadvantage when you start off the New Year if you’re not careful.

As a runner, I know that I do myself more harm to my overall pace by going really slowly uphills than I can make up for by speeding down hills.

If you start a goal now and allow yourself only the occassional splurge, then the next six weeks don’t become one big calorie-gorging fest.

Plus, if you’re looking to become more comfortable at the gym, the New Year is a terrible time to do so. It’s always much more crowded than usual with people who are trying to change who they are completely. Unless you’re already comfortable at the gym or wherever you go to workout, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there are too many people. Get used to it now so you can handle it when it becomes nearly overwhelming in a couple months.

2. The New Year is arbitrary anyway

Don’t get me wrong- I love an excuse to work on personal goals. And I love that the New Year provides this arbitrary date that lots of people work on improving their lives.

But it’s just another day. It’s a delineation in time that actually means very little. You can start a goal any day of the week. Some of my most successful personal challenges happen at very arbitrary times. One day last November, I decided I want to start being more consistent in my journal writing. Now, almost a year later, I journal daily. I finally finished a journal I started in 2008. Five years later, I finally got consistent about it. Why? Because I just decided I wanted to start doing it. And I like the way it feels. So I’ve continued to do it.

If you want the excuse of New Year to begin something, great. But recognize that it’s a meaninless date. You can start to transform your life and make a goal into a reality anytime. And there’s no better time than right now. So just do it already won’t you?!

I still haven’t convinced you to start your resolutions yet? Fine. Here’s my last reasoning. Then I’ve got other things to do because I have begun working on some of my resolutions already so I ain’t got time for too much more of this shiz…

3. When the New Year actually comes, you can practice the most important part of attaining a goal…the ability to restart without judgement

Nobody’s perfect. And nothing worthwhile was ever attained overnight. All success stories include an element of emotional elasticity. The ability to look at what you have accomplished honestly and let it fuel you to restart after a failure.

Everyone will fail. At some point, you will not go to the gym and you’ll ruin your “Go To the Gym Daily” goal.

At some point, you’ll cheat and eat a brownie and ruin your “No Desserts for a month” goal.

At some point, you’ll call your ex-boyfriend when drunk and tell him you know all about the girl he was talking to when you two were together and that you put up with more shit than you should have and he was lucky as hell to have you as long as he did and it’s completely his fault that the relationship was ruined and how dare he de-friend you on Facebook when you were obviously the one who was wronged and the one who’s actively working on still being cordial to each other… and ruin your “Become a better person” goal.

Whew. We just got real personal there for a second.

My point is, the reason I’ve ever been successful at any goal ever is because I don’t give up after one mishap. Nor should you. Understand and embrace that fact that things can and do come up. That’s what makes life so exciting. If you could pre-plan everything in your schedule (and believe me… I’ve tried) it’d be boring and dull and predictable. Be open to the fact that you’ll slip up and make mistakes. That’s OK.

If you start your goals now, too, you’ll have a great excuse to re-assess whether or not they’re even valuable when you’ll inevitably be motivated again in the New Year.

Just some thoughts. Take ’em or leave ’em.

But before you go, tell me what you think about goals. I like hearing how others accomplish their goals. And what they went through to do so.