In Good Company

in-good-companyYesterday I may have distracted my 1 1/2-year-old with a bulk size bag of goldfish so that I could binge watch Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath . A beer may just happen to appear in my hand when I wash my floors in the middle of the afternoon. My car may miraculously take the long way home from work so that I can blare Sister Christian on a loop before returning to reality. My Friday nights may consist of hour long marathons of iTunes movie trailers. My mind may overanalyze to the point of combustion when I’m feeling vulnerable or threatened.

What’s for certain? I always know that I’m in good company. I always know that one of my incredible girlfriends will join me and not judge me for my moments of humanness. I don’t have to be afraid of being seen (or invisible for that matter). With my girlfriends, there is zero fear of feeling like a complete moron. Zero fear. That’s pretty freaking incredible. My good fortune is to have gathered a lively array of women nationwide who fill me up no matter what mood I’m in.  People say you’re lucky if you have one good, true friend. Then, I’ve hit the tribal karma jackpot with an overflowing colorful cup of grounded, strong, hilarious, kind-hearted and real real real girlfriends. My definition of real may be completely different than your definition of real. That’s awesome! That makes it more REAL. Whatever and whoever lets your freak flag fly with complete liberation and straight up relief – is REAL. That’s it.

It is all about the company you keep. It is about taking an honest look at who’s in your life and realizing if they are helping or hurting it. It’s hard. Really hard. It’s also the biggest gift you could ever give yourself and the rest of us.

“Sometimes it’s not about getting ahead…it’s about getting a life.” This is the tagline for the 2004 underrated Dennis Quaid movie, In Good Company

I say: sometimes it’s not about getting a HEAD… it’s about getting a life.

Sometimes I need to get out of my head to really get into my life. I need to give my mind a break and remind myself that the people who are in my life are choosing to be there for a reason. I need to give myself a little kudos (or if needed, a straight talking to) about who I’m surrounding myself with and then… get on with it. Once we all do this, as the kids say: shit is about to get real. Suddenly, wow! There’s more space in our heads for playful pranks and purposeful projects. The fire in our bellies turn fears into “Why the hell not’s?” The petty, clingy and self-sabotaging thoughts about people or …people (it’s always about people, right?) begin to fade away. The guilt, jealousy, and resentment? There’s no room (or much less) anymore – because you’re shifting your focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want.

More of the “in good company” peeps, please.

Then…

(Cue: tinkling wind chimes.)

…you find yourself in even BETTER company. Yes, that’s how it happens. Yes, it’s free. Yes, it’s possible.

And yes, I may have been reminded of In Good Company because of a late-night solo dance party to its theme song: Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill.  And yes, I may have, just may have, even spent 15 minutes on the phone with my husband’s childhood friend convincing (convincing? slurring? who’s to say?) him to download Solsbury Hill immediately because “once you hear the first few notes you feel like you’re on a cloud.”

Cue: head drop and crickets.

Sorry, Roc.

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:
Scotch?

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”

Good Enough and Better Still

as_good_as_it_getsThere’s a scene in As Good As It Gets where Melvin Udall, Jack Nicholson’s character, is sitting across a restaurant table from Carol Connelly, Helen Hunt’s character, and he says “You make me want to be a better man.” It stops her in her tracks and makes me cry every time. The reason being, Melvin Udall is a total prick through the entire movie. He is arrogant and selfish, and yet, there is still something in him that we’re rooting for. There is still something in him that allows us to like him. There is still something in him that we see in ourselves.

Life isn’t about grand sweeping gestures that bring clearer understanding or a deeper awareness in our lives. It’s about paying attention to the people and the moments that happen every day. The instances that we allow to pass us by as we wait for the more momentous occasion to shake us up or the once-in-a-lifetime miracle to happen, are the opportunities that allow us to feel and be better.

Having our antennae raised to become a better person doesn’t mean that we believe we aren’t good enough or unworthy. It’s not about self-pitying or self-loathing. It’s about having the clarity and courage to realize that we are good enough and are worthy enough. It’s our freaking birthright!

We all need someone in our life who reminds us of this and  makes us want to be better. Who makes us want to make better choices. Who makes us want to do better deeds. Who makes us want to look within ourselves and see that we have goodness in us and we need to let it out. The majority of us stick to our goals, trek through the storms and celebrate our accomplishments knowing that what we’re doing is for someone else’s benefit, as well as our own. Why? It just plain feels good.

Who makes you want to be a better person? See them clearly in your mind, thank them if you have the chance (or the nerve) and go be it. It’s whoever is in your life and motivates you to see the best in yourself and become it. Your mom? Your best friend? Your grandpa? Your son?  Your partner? Your clients? Your neighbor?

As we enter into the holiday chaos, it’s helpful to keep this person in our mind’s eye as an anchor to remind us of the good in ourselves. What happens? We shine brighter, love deeper and laugh easier.

So, thank YOU for making this bold move because, in the end, it helps us all.

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Kindness Isn’t For Pussies

“Make America Kind Again” is taking social media by storm. It’s being hashtagged, tweeted, posted, linked, shared and liked faster than a mouse to d-CON. The idea of it is … well, nice.

Just that: Nice.  Therein lies the problem.

There is a HUGE difference between nice and kind. Just as a mouse suffers a slow death from d-CON, so do incredibly rich, tangible and meaningful words when we dilute them with hashtags at a viral speed. Throwing the word “kind” into a trending phrase deflates its true meaning and makes it “nice”. Nice is what my mom calls the plumber after he fixes the toilet – which she paid him to do. Nice is what she calls the hostess at the restaurant who walked us five feet to our table. Nice is what she calls anyone who she has a two-second conversation with on a regular basis who smiles at her. My mom’s not hard to please. She also looks for the good in people. She’s a true blue believer that people are innately decent human beings. She wants the comfort, that we all do, of being around people who make us feel good.

The problem is when everyone is “nice” then no one is kind. Nice is shallow and skims the surface. It’s speedy and dodgy and on the verge of falling apart with one wrong move. Kindness, on the other hand, is deeper and more thoughtful in its action.  It’s a slower process that brings people together on an even playing field and transcends language.

When we observe, or even better yet experience, a true act of kindness we know it. We feel it. We can press “mute” and no matter our native tongue, we would still feel the same way: nourished, soulful and grounded. Deep in our souls, on a visceral level. That is kindness in its purest and simplest form.

The catch is that kindness is anything but simple. Anger is easy. Sarcasm is a breeze. Kindness is difficult. We don’t like difficult. We have peaked as a society that wants fast and easy. Fast and easy works – until it doesn’t. It keeps us moving forward at record speed without having to slow down and deal with our own shit.  We don’t have time to slow down. Slowing down is the kiss of death.  #FOMO has created a sad humor to this acceptance. We want to be everywhere at once so we become nowhere in an instant. Throw a hashtag on it and it’s laughed about instead of worked out. Need attention? Hashtag it. Feel lonely? Hashtag it? Want to punch someone in the face? Hell yeah, HashTAG it! We’d rather buy stock in Band-Aids as temporary cover-ups than take the time to sow the seeds of dealing with our own issues and patiently wait for the remedies to harvest. It takes hesitation and stronger choices. It takes the courage to feel uncomfortable to do what is right. It takes the strength to dig past our shiny public persona to uncover our own shortcomings. It takes the bravery to not say what they want to hear but what is true.

Then, through  tears, sweaty determination, and stick-with-it-ness, we find our own way back up to the surface again with a newfound sense of who we are and why we’re here. It takes shedding years of layers of tough, callused skin that have been built up to protect our vulnerabilities and God forbid, fear of showing who we really are. What will they think? Will she still want to hang out with me? Will they still think I’m cool? Will he still love me? 

In the literal and timeless trend setting sense:

Niceties are out. Kindness is in.

Instead of putting it out there for others to be kind, how about we drop the hammer into reverse, go inside and be kind ourselves? Take the time to do the work to practice random acts of kindness. Once you put it into practice it becomes clearer and more natural.Take it from me. The more I do it, the more I realize what a punk I am to my husband and mom. Always the closest people to us get our baggage. Not fair. Time to gain perspective and check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Once you slow down to reflect on whether your action will be done with good intention or be thoughtless, that in itself is an act of kindness. Slowing down gives way to clarity the same way that chaos breeds confusion.

There’s a reason that “actions speak louder than words” is such an overused phrase – because it’s TRUE. 100% truth! When someone says something to you but their behavior isn’t moving to the same beat – we know they’re Milli Vanilli-ing the HELL out of the situation! Their lip-synching is losing fans instead of gaining groupies. You’re not buying anything close to what they’re selling. And the truth is, deep down inside, they’re not buying it either!

Stop talking about it and just do it! Just do it. Show don’t tell.  Then something truly freaking awesome happens. People start sincerely being kinder to each other. Know why? Because once we feel it we want to give it. We want to “share” it in the ol’ fashioned sense of the word: through flesh and blood interactions. Knock yourself out. Try it on for size. Resist the need to post anything about it and sit with the pure feeling. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth it.

Girl, you know it’s true…ooh…ooh…ooh…

 

Fireside Chats

I have a major internal grip. It’s a clutch that is grasping so desperately that the only logical next move is for It to let go.  We’ll call It, Josie.  So, the last thing that Josie wants to do is ease up. The minute that she feels any slip of easing control or uncertainty of any kind, she goes into emergency tree hold like a toddler koala bearing its mother’s leg. The difference here is that every single aspect of myself is wrapped up into her. It’s not just fear of abandonment or fear of failure (or success, for that matter) or fear of embarrassment or fear of exposure. It’s all of that, and then some rolled up into a complex ball. On good days, it’s the size of a golf ball. On bad days it’s a professionally packed snowball that flies down a snowy hill growing exponentially in size and picking up reckless speed. It’s not intentional. She doesn’t mean to project a threatening presence. Her aim isn’t to take out anyone who dare steps in her way. In fact, her target is always one person. Only one person. Me. The thing is, She doesn’t have a brain. (Sorry, Jose, but you don’t.) She doesn’t realize that the person she is looking for is the brain of the operation.

Funny thing neither did I.

Upon this realization, we sit down for a fireside chat. I lure her in with bottomless hot toddies and stove top popcorn. We pop a squat. I break it down that we’re not breaking up, we’re just shifting gears. She’s not being evicted. Far from it. It’s more like a house reno with a padded sledgehammer. Life as we know it is no longer in session. Old thought patterns will be realized instead of passed by. We won’t be aiming for a screeching halt awareness but more of easing into the stop. The days when old mental habits do drop the hammer and fly into automatic pilot, I will refrain from frantically Wack-a-Moling them. Rather, I will do my best to catch them like a butterfly in a net, acknowledge their purpose and beauty and release them back into the sky.  It sounds poetic in theory. I’ll do my best.

As you can imagine, Josie didn’t take this well.

I continued with fairness and compassion as she continued sobbing into the popcorn bowl. I expected this. Josie’s M.O. is to fly straight into Eeyore victim mode. I wasn’t falling for it. The Rabbit in me wanted to bulldoze over this manipulation, reprimanding her for snotting all over the popcorn with her tears, but I resisted. I chose to take the high road and play Kanga to her Eeyore. I broke down the house rules. She can hang with me to ensure that I make sound judgments for my well-being and for my loved ones, but the minute she jumps into making petty or vicious judgments, her soap box will be kicked out from under her feet. She can play in the room as I dive into any creative endeavor, but the minute that she uses scare tactics just to get attention, she’s locked in the closet without dinner. (Okay, just kidding. My imagination just gave Josie a bear hug with that image.) Any usage of scare tactics, and I will slide open the door, releasing her into the world to run off some steam. And if all else fails, we will have a dance party (a Sauvignon Blanc dance party, depending on the day) to P!nk’s “So What”.  The lyrics will give her some much needed tough love and perspective. In the end, she will be humbled, refreshed and no longer Missundaztood.

Silence. Josie lets the new guidelines settle in.

She flat hands her mouth with the last bits of popcorn and slowly licks her fingers. I can see her mind weighing the pros and cons. She takes a deep breath and says “Why the hell not?”. We do a Babysitter’s Club style secret handshake, throw on Jorge Miguel’s, “Freedom”, and dance in unity to our newfound bond.

How Giving Birth Kicked My Ass

You may be wincing as you read this. One eyeing the screen, readying yourself for the moment that I go full on graphic and gory with my birth story. I will relieve you (or possibly disappoint you) in saying, easy there, tiger, this ain’t that kind of story. This is a different birth story altogether. This is a moral of the story kinda tale that everybody needs to hear because, to be honest, you’ll probably (hopefully) see yourself in here. Somewhere. At some point. Even a glimmer…Like it or not. After all, that’s the first step: To face it all, sleeves rolled up, ready to really see who we are – like it or not. Or as a friend perfectly states it: with warts and all.

Just showing our razzmatazz side to the world is the death of creativity. We can all smell inauthenticity like bloodhounds. It’s false advertising that keeps the stakes high in the least productive way possible. The energy that is raising the stakes to scrape the social sky needs to be redirected pronto to whatever your creative jam may be. It doesn’t need to be screamed from the rooftops, posted with a gazillion emojis or said out loud at all. It just needs to be put into motion. Hey, if you want to have a “Muse or Lose” housewarming party with your nearest and dearest because that will drop the hammer for you, then do it. Whatever we need to do (and we all know what we need to do, sorry to break it to you) has to be set in motion.

I need accountability. So do you. We all do.  No matter what shape it comes in. In my 20’s I dabbled with what I thought was accountability. From the outside it looked like I was diving right into the deep end, but in reality I barely stuck my toes in the water. The minute I would feel the creative push raring to go inside of me, I would redirect myself straight into a bar stool. I was  so terrified of the lurking rejection sharks, that I consistently stayed in the shallow end teeming with stories, ideas and characters in one hand and an overflowing vodka in the other. Not only did my self-discipline muscle begin to atrophy at record speed, but my anxiety and envy of others’ successes ballooned to the point of bursting.

What to do? What to do? (Cue: finger drum, finger drum) Well, duh? More vodka, please! Fortunately for me, the self-sabotaging ways did not stick for too long. We all know the self-applied victim label doesn’t look pretty on anyone. (Nope, not even her.)

I’ve tried it all on for size: I’ve blamed. I’ve procrastinated. I’ve bobble-headed the hell out of storylines, inciting incidents, character arcs and the best endings OF ALL TIME without writing anything. Not.One.Damn.Word. I’ve done it. Not proud of it, but there it is.

You know what got my ass in the chair? Not therapy. Not money. Not even heartbreak.

One word: Kids.

You may be deflated with that response. You may have been expecting a magical, novel tip. You may be thinking I’m saying that everyone who wants to push themselves needs to go run and pop out babies (or help pop out babies). Not at all. Wrong message completely.

Hear me out: When I was free as a bird, with no cares in the world and all the damn time I wanted, I wrote in thick doses in random moments. No consistency. No perseverance. For me, no accountability equaled no drive. Little did I know that was all about to change when I fortuitously went ahead and fell in love with another creative. Next thing I knew, I was advising, informing and spewing out witty false confident statements. When in reality, I was projecting my own fear in spades. It would cause fights, frustrations and major angst. Until finally, I realized that I needed to a) stop talking and b) heed my own advice.

Fast forward to now: two kids and one marriage later…I’ve come to practice what I preach. There’s a good chance that one of our kids will be drawn into the arts (pun intended). And you know what? Even if that isn’t their path, rejection is inevitable, no matter what the future holds for them. This is especially true when you find the strength  to push yourself towards reaching your highest potential. I want our kids to reach their highest potential. I want them to brave it on through their fear and moments of self-doubt. To come out on the other side, possibly wounded, but in one piece feeling even stronger and more resilient than ever. Don’t we all want that for the people we love? Of course! So why then, am I rooting for my kids to be that way when I was having such trouble doing it myself? How can I be the role model I strive to be: showing strength through fear and growing resilience through rejection, when I’m lounging on the sidelines cheering them on? Don’t I love myself as much? Don’t I deserve to be rooted for and dusted off just the same? HELL YEAH! We ALL do!

Our children, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and future leaders are looking up to us and soaking in our behavior on a much deeper level than our words will ever permeate. If it’s not for a child in your life, then who? Yourself? Your community? Your ancestry? The greater good? Find your “who” and don’t get fooled again! Just get on it!

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to be a warts and all human being who steps up to the plate even when I’m out of balls, having solid faith that if I keep practicing my swing, balls will emerge and a home run will be in my future. Batter up!

Go Hugh or Go Home

When do I break it to my husband that his biggest nightmare has turned into a reality?

That my last year’s birthday present wasn’t just a one-time deal but is being declared an annual event?

My rationale is this. One of the unanimously agreed best  movies of all time is Love Actually. It begins 5 weeks before Christmas. You know what else happens 5 weeks before Christmas? My birthday!

Put that together,  you’ve got a fine lookin jew. No, wrong…well half-wrong anyway. You’ve got an annual birthday present of decorating the house, TOGETHER (operative word here), for the holidays and ending with a fireside viewing of Love Actually. I mean, really? That sounds fantastic! Pure bliss, actually.

Now, some may say, “Whaaa? That’s WAY too early!”

To them, I say: Let’s get the shit kicked out of us by Christmas! If the entire world can shove holiday consumerism down my throat before the last fireworks explode into the sky, then I’m taking back my holiday rights. I’m taking back the warmth and coziness that Christmas is meant to be. I’m taking back the feeling of being wrapped up in one huge ass hug by all of my grandparents and their grandparents and their grandparents. I’m taking back embracing the bittersweet nostalgia of it all instead of defiantly turning a cold shoulder to a holiday that I love. I’m letting go of the put upon feeling that every decoration has to look identical to Pottery Barn’s page 27  or you’ll have a stocking full of coal. I’m squashing the stress of buy, buy, buy and blazing through with enough, enough, enough. I’m seeing through the naysayers who Bah Humbug the first sight of tinsel, and realizing that they may just need a hug and a smile. I’m realizing that we’re all our own versions of George Bailey and Clark Griswold , overwhelmed by trying to do our best and aiming to find peace in who we are and who we love. I’m listening to Seth McFarlane and Willie Nelson and Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas records anytime I damn well please. I’m blaring Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song on a loop in the car so that I can hear the heart melt inducing squeal from my daughter when she hears her name being sung. I’m going in for the magic of it all. I’m shifting my feelings of guilt and unworthiness to pure innocence and tingling appreciation. I’m sharing space for the millions of people in the world who are grieving and recovering and dreading the holidays and I’m sitting with them. ALL of them. I’m closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and sending them all a huge mental blanket full of love, compassion and light. I’m being truly grateful for the people in my life and the events that have brought me here. I am corralling all of my loved ones, past and present, into my mind and dedicating my thoughts to each one of them every single day.

I’m taking back my holiday, dammit.  Hugh’s comin’ with me?

5 Life Lessons in Animation

In the past month I have cried at every single animated film I’ve watched.

Every. Single. One.

Storks – water works. Zootopia – opened the flood gates. Brother Bear – forget it. Am I a pansy ass? Maybe. Do I have a case? Absolutely!

The hook for each of these toddler tearjerkers is that each protagonist achieves what every flesh and blood human craves: a genuine sense of belonging and clear purpose without the sacrifice of integrity and drive. Not to mention, solid humor! (Major bonus for the sloth bank scene in Zootopia which was a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene in animated form. And Jason Bateman voicing the fox? C’mon! Sold!)

What stood out the most (besides that sloth scene –  wow, that was a doozy!) was that each of these movies’ main players were grounded in perseverance, perspective and  passion. When they veered off course they pivoted back through self-forgiveness and love. (Yes, self-forgiveness and love. If this is too much to handle, dock your Mother Ship of Resistance so you can make a little more room for some S & L in your own life. I struggle with this area so I’ll give a full-on self-forgiveness focus in a future piece. And yes, I forgive myself for not concisely fitting it all in this article. See? Baby steps.)

In some non-animated circles, the beauty of the three P’s are embraced and celebrated. In others, perseverance is too aggressive, perspective is too disloyal and passion is too dramatic. To those circles I say: “It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault.” I call it the Good Will Hunting moment. The moment that we need to drop our guards, get out of our own way, and admit that we are human beings who want and need to be seen. One step further – seen for who we are, not how others want us to be.

The funny thing is, once we take the uncharted steps towards showing our true selves a few marvelous things happen:

1. You realize that it’s more freeing than you can imagine. A hundred pound imaginary weight is lifted and you feel lighter and clearer. Major revamp of energy. The fear of uncertainty is diminished. Notice, I didn’t say it’s gone, just diminished. You don’t allow fear to hold as much power as it once did. You may even begin to look at fear as a friend not a foe. You may create a new relationship with fear, finding clear lines for distinguishing  when it rises out of safety for your life or preservation of your ego.

2. You find your keepers. The ones who stick around are the partners who are there for you, not just when you need a shoulder to cry on for mishaps and challenges, but when you need a hand to cheer  for your successes and accomplishments. These are the people who are your bona fide tribe.  These are also the people who you can tell that you’ve been wanting to write a cookbook all about turnips, or go back to school at 50, or take a year sabbatical and travel, or open a business that has nothing to do with your current job, or make any other unfulfilled dream come true. These are also the ones you can call when you were a total jack ass to your partner and you’re not sure how to fix it. These are the ones who will call you out when you need to be called out. These are the people who will have your back when you don’t have your own. Find these people. They are life savers and game changers!

3. You understand what all of the cliché bumper stickers and magnets are talking about. When they root you on to be brave in the face of adversity and step into the world with your head held high and the wind at your brow? Or your back? The wind is somewhere and it’s helping stabilize you and support your every turn. You finally get it! Know why? Because you’re not just taking it in anymore. You’re actually acting on something. This allows you to make room in your life for more of the “keepers”. You won’t have to go searching because once you show yourself, they will too.

4. You have a a renewed love of life. You actually find yourself taking better care of yourself. You are no longer on the back burner.  You still ( or start to) show up to the gym, or your mat, or the pavement without indignation and a pout-fest. You do it with a new found grace and dignity. A 15 minute walk instead of nothing? Sure. 3 solid deep breaths because life responsibilities have you missing your yoga class? Better than nothing.

You don’t berate yourself for missing a day but actually forgive yourself. You have self-forgiveness (there it is again!) on your shoulders instead of the boot camp instructor, or Mussolini, depending on the day.

Which leads to a decrease in mindless consumption and an increase in mindful creation.

The scrolls, shops, scones, smokes, or sauce don’t have as much of a hold on you as they used to. You will feel resistance to go back to your old ways but you will actually find it easier to shift yourself away. Because you know that what you have to offer the world is through output not intake.  And hey, when you don’t have the will power in you, go back to #2 and call one of your “keepers”.

5. Then finally, you know what crazy thing happens? You’re not as pissed off. You’re not. You don’t feel angry at the world or your partner or neighbors or friends or your mom or the Facebook comment or the grocery clerk. You become more compassionate and light-hearted.  It’s as if resentment and frustrations begin to thaw and melt away. Now, we do live in Upstate NY so sometimes as in nature, it takes awhile for us to thaw, but it happens. It totally happens. You don’t have room anymore for the petty thoughts and hang-ups that took up space in your mind. You’re not forcing them out. That’s the thing. You’re not consciously not thinking about them. You just stop doing it as much because your focus is on what you can and want to offer.

It’s a beautiful thing.

“Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” – Brave