Glow On

rudolph“Who even thinks that?” my mom asked with complete and utter confusion.
“I don’t think that conversation ever needs to be had. Ever.” she urged, flicking the blinker with an extra oomph, a hint of teenage “Ew!” lingering on her tongue.

“Mom, hear me out,” I said shooting up a little straighter.
“The reindeer are total assholes to Rudolph the whole time. The only reason they even like him is when Santa realizes that Rudolph has something that they need. “Then how the reindeer loved him?” Come on! Major teaching moment!!“

She threw me one more sideways glance, a curled lip and shook her head.

My mom was not jumping on board the sleigh ride of movie magic crushing. Not so much.

Do I plan on breaking this to my 3 1/2 year old anytime soon and crapping on the pure joy that Rudolph brings her on a daily basis? (Gotta love the holiday movie loop.) No! Of course not! By the time she’s 7? Yeah, probably.

We don’t want to see through the bells and whistles of it all. Most of the time, the bells and whistles are shiny and twinkly and make beautiful sounds. They can stay. The bells and whistles can definitely stay. That is, as long as we realize that more than not, they are pure distractions inhibiting us from thinking for ourselves, or thinking at all for that matter. I’d bet a dozen butter cookies and a pint of milk that at least one of those reindeer had some major GI issues from not trotting up and sticking up for Rudolph.

I want my kids to know that going to bat for someone, especially when that person is the odd man out, is one of the most courageous moves you can make. Not only do people remember that for the rest of their lives, but courage begets more courage! Joy to the freaking world! I want them to learn that it’s not cool to jump on board only when the ring leader says so. A true leader is one who sees strengths in everyone’s uniqueness and celebrates them (sorry, Santa). Having a mind of your own and standing up for yourself and others are hardcore, lifelong admirable qualities.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Rudolph. I love the movie, the song, Hermie, the elf turned dentist, the overall message. I really do. We all love the idea of receiving adulation and cheers in our honor, especially for the one dreadful disparity that makes us a “misfit” from the pack. Seeing the underdog rise? That’s incredible! What’s not incredible is that if we become swept up in the masses and don’t think for ourselves about who, what, or when we like or don’t like – then the reindeer shit will really hit the fan. We will become so lost in the woods that we won’t be able to find a way out for the life of us. Think for ourselves? Is that a new band?

So, this holiday season while we come together with family and friends, carrying in our old baggage and new, remember that we’re all misfits in one way or another. Share the love, not because someone else gave the go ahead, but simply because we all can use it. You may even make someone glow.


Hall Pass Your Own Ass

a_nightmare_on_elm_street_1984_theatrical_posterWhen I was 11 years old, my older and only sister, Lori, and I had a warm and loving nightly ritual. I would nuzzle all snug as a bug in my bed and my sister would slowly open my door to whisper a sweet goodnight. Then faster than a crazed Linda Blair, she would drop her voice an octave, widen her eyes like a crazed loon, whip out her hand like a claw, and in her best Freddy Krueger impersonation, scream, “GOT A HALL PASS?!”

DOOR SLAM! Darkness. Silence.

As Lor well knew, I was terrified of all things Freddy Krueger. The scene she delightfully tormented me with was when Freddy shapeshifts into a pig-tailed teenage girl in a high school hallway and then screams “Got a hall pass?!” and reveals his infamous blades of fingers. In retrospect, yeah, not a huge deal. At age 11, it brought me to the brink of insanity.

I’ll admit. The first surprise attack, I bolted up and shot out of bed in a frenzied panic,  frantically patting the bedroom wall as if my time on earth was numbered in the next five seconds. I came out drowning in sweat, tears and fired up fury wanting to punch her in the face. Instead? I did what the baby of the family does best. I flew straight to Mom like a victimized fawn while my sister, the satisfied villain, stood confidently in the background cackling like the bath tub corpse in The Shining.

After a few weeks of this nightly torment, I realized a few things:

Instead of anxiously awaiting the attack, I could actually proactively prepare for it . Psst. No, not physically – my sister had nails that would rival Freddy’s any day, and she knew how to use them – plus she’s my big sis, I wanted her to like me and feel superior – natch. I’m talking mentally. Instead of visualizing Freddy’s mutated face, sinister smile  and  blades of glory I could focus on more beautiful visions like Christian Slater or Kirk Cameron. Becoming the newest band member in The Bangles, meeting Judy Blume, or what it would be like to actually be Kristy from the Babysitter’s Club. Lots of options here. What did this do?  It lessened my reaction because I was in a better place mentally – by choice. Which in turn, decreased the pure joy on my sister’s face and took the wind out of her stealthy sails from terrorizing the hell out of me. It showed me that running to Mom may fill me with the warmth and coziness that only immediate gratification can provide, but that I needed to buck up and deal with my fears on my own. All the while, knowing that Mom is unconditionally ready with her claw-free bear hugs when they’re needed most.  Above all, it brought us to a deeper level of sisterhood. My courage (even when feigned) and Lor’s shifty masterminding actually merged together quite nicely to become partners in crime for much bigger fish to fry aka babysitters. (Sorry, for the fake blood-ketchup incident, Kim, we honestly didn’t think you’d fall for it! What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?)

Fast forward over 25 years and what I’ve learned the most (besides the fact that the real line is “Where’s your pass?”) is that hall passes aren’t just for teens to spy on their crushes or adult men who act like all wives are nags and that they actually “need permission” to go have a good time. (By the way – you look like a spineless douche when you say your wife gave you a hall pass to go out. Just sayin’.)

Hall passes are for anyone who wants one! They’re free for the taking. The real problem is that when you give yourself the hall pass then you’re holding yourself accountable and then what? God forbid. You actually have to face your fear of responsibility. There’s no one else to blame when things go wrong. Most adults’ version of the “Freddy Krueger hall pass” comes in the shape of something much scarier – accountafreakinbility.

Funny thing. It’s the same solution to give Freddy and our fear of accountability the old heave-ho: Knowing that even though you may have to hurt yourself a little bit to wake up, on the other side is pure unadulterated freedom.



You’re Doing it Wrong

mr-momOn days when I’m rolling at a level 1 vibration, my thoughts flood my brain like bats in the belfry. I’m a tornado of worry, senseless babble, and confusion.

My go-to thought is to be more selfless and more caring but all this does is create a growing resentment inside of me for, well,  pretty much everyone. What actually works is the most unlikely and counterintuitive approach imagined: Some call it selfish I call it spending more time alone. Here’s why it works. When I consciously allow myself to put myself first – which is no easy feat, (born from a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, I have the weighted blessing of the double guilt whammy) I actually become a better person. How do I know this? Did anyone tell me? No. Not one.

I feel it. I sense it through the extra long hugs from my kids, the extended smiles from strangers, and the increased helpful gestures from my husband. I realized that for decades I had been doing it wrong. Just like Jack Butler, Michael Keaton’s character in Mr. Mom, I had to shift my role. I had to start spending time “off”. I had to go in instead of out. I had to allow myself to be uncomfortable with knowing that I may be doing it wrong and being swarmed by self-doubt. I had to let myself settle into knowing that this frustration is really a fool proof scratch-off ticket that will lead me to the jack pot of having faith in the uncertainty of outcomes. Cha-freakin-ching!

Once I began being more aware of this I actually enjoyed myself a little bit more. I increased my self-compassion and decreased my self-criticism. I stopped telling myself that spending time for myself and showing myself more forgiveness was “letting myself off of the hook” and instead focused on the light release that I was feeling. I stopped raking myself over the coals for not doing or saying enough of the right stuff and stopped being so concerned with pretty much everyone but myself. I began to lighten up. Spending time with myself allowed me the luxury of reading more. A lot more. I now show up for meditation with anticipation instead of obligation. I write more consistently with less fear and more clarity. I loosen up if I miss a day of writing or meditating instead of repeatedly cracking the whip on myself for the rest of the day. I care less about saying the right thing to connect with people and focus more on being true and honest with myself – which, ta-da, connects with people. Spending time alone is the magic carpet ride to fulfilling your wishes and hopes for the people you love, the community where you live and the whole wide world for that matter (go big or go home, right?). The quality of time spent with loved ones and strangers is more vibrant and radiant than ever before because you put in the solid time for yourself. That inevitably will radiate out love like a champ! It’s fool-proof and easy on the wallet, if not free. Spending time alone needs nothing but you.

Reading, writing, walking, breathing, dancing. Take your pick!

As a true blue ENFP  facing the fear of going in and spending more time alone was pretty terrifying at first. Then, you know what? I realized that I am so much more of a giver and lover when I have tapped into the introvert that is thriving pretty hard core inside of me. Even more, I learned from Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, that I’m actually an ambivert. You may be too. Who knows?

The great realization is that there’s no blame, shame or finger pointing (or raising) required to give yourself this time.  What is necessary is an awareness. If you’re anything like me, awareness is tough. We like to think that it’s easy and simple and all it takes is a few deep breaths and “Voila!” we’re the Dalai freaking Lama. Not so much. It takes work to realize that 99.9% of the time we’re not aware (no research here just a wild, observational guess). It requires dedication and some big time self-reflection. Once again, Solitude is cheering “Pick me! Pick me!”

We live in a society that mocks doing the deep work. Thanks in part to Stuart Smalley, (yes, aging myself here) we mask the fear of failing to fulfill our potential with arrogant name calling and stereotypical labels.  “That New Age trivial and cheesy positive self-talk is for suckers. sniff , sniff. What is that patchouli? Ugh, Gawd! Ya flakey hippie.”

Effort is judged as giving in and being exposed as un “gifted” and solitude  is looked at as anti-social at best and straight up rude at worst.

News flash: effort and solitude are the key ingredients to tap into the most tingly dance in your pants creative endeavors ever! I’m not just talking artsy-fartsy creative here. I’m talking creative in the sense of you making life happen the way that you want to see it. Then relationships are cleaner, clearer and all around less crappy.

Collaborations and opportunities arise like never before and you actually feel less fearful of taking the risk of just goin’ for it. You re-learn yourself and realize that You and Self need to make date nights a regular occurrence.

So, just like Jack Butler, it’s time to own up that we’re all a little clueless and scared that we’re going to make fools of ourselves. Thing is, we won’t learn how to do it right until  we do it.

And hey:

Jack Butler:
You wanna beer?

Ron Richardson:
It’s 7 o’clock in the morning.

Jack Butler:

No judgments! Your time is your time!

“Honey, you gave me some real good advice once, so let me give you some of my own. It’s real easy to forget what’s important, so don’t.” – Jack Butler, “Mr. Mom”