Taking Leaps

Welp,  I made good on what I said I’d do. I just wrote and submitted an article to a publication that pays. And I have a good feeling about this one. The topic they were looking for was “stepping outside your comfort zone.” I had quite a few stories I could’ve written about, but the easiest story for me to pull from is my trip to Bali.

Thinking on the topic made me realize how the happiest times in my life have always been direct results of leaving my comfort zone.

So why is it still so scary to do so?

When I was younger I had no problem leaping hastily into all the various things that called me. But I leapt a little too hastily into a few things that weren’t necessarily calling me, though they certainly grabbed my attention. And some of those mistakes were doozies, which led me to stop taking leaps, to stop leaving my comfort zone. And the longer I nestled myself into my comfort zone, the scarier it became to step outside of it.

But when I think about it, the past three years have been a series of leaving my comfort zones. And usually it started with some sense of discontent- the need for change. So I’d make a decision- a plan, and I’d start putting the pieces together. Then I’d get scared. Then I’d do it anyway. Then I’d experience immense and deeply authentic joy. Then I’d get all comfortable again, until the comfort led to stagnation and stagnation led to discontent and discontent led to deciding to do something that scared the shit out of me, but I know I needed to do, and the cycle would repeat.

And usually in the tiny spaces between stagnation and taking some big, scary leap into the unknown there were whining fits of proverbially kicking and screaming. Perhaps akin to a baby learning how to walk, but crying every time the mother puts the child down, when the child just wants to be carried. Come to think of it, according to my mother, that was the kind of baby I was.

Oh god, do these patterns start that early?

Well, I recorded a video application for a scholarship to Marie Forleo’s B- School. It felt pretty cheesy, but it certainly got me out of my comfort zone and taking another step forward.

I decided that either way, I am going to enroll in this course. If I don’t get the scholarship, instead of using the money from selling my furniture to save up to move, I’ll be investing it in B-School. The intention being that the return on the investment will lead to sustainable income that can still get me out of California.

Plus, I remembered that this is my year of saying “YES!” Or was that last year? I don’t remember when the saying “YES!” started, but I think I am going to keep it up. It’s good for me.

So, once again, I am leaving my comfort zone- in about thirty different ways at once. I’m scared shitless, I’m kicking and screaming, but I know I am going to be so glad I did it.

In the meantime, I’m still waiting to get placed with a SCORE business mentor. I made a little more progress on improving my LinkedIn profile. And I talked to an artist friend about the possibility of designing me a logo.

This week I’m going to talk to another friend about his online business, continue researching,  and I  have scheduled on my calendar (in red) to dust off and take pictures of all the rest of my current round of items I’m selling and get them posted. I’m also going to submit to another paying publication as well as continue working on my book.

It’s funny because when I’m working on a lot of this stuff, there is a part of me that feels like I’m doing something I might “get in trouble” for (which is part of the fucked up patterning I’m trying to bust). There is a sense that if I am enjoying it then it’s not ok, and not something to be taken seriously.

For as much as doing all of this scares me in a hundred different ways, once I am actually doing  it I really enjoy most of it. The hardest part of any of it is facing my own shit. And that’s true of any aspect of life.

But it’s all just growing pains. And the growth is the best part!

The scholarship winners are announced in a couple of days and the enrollment period ends next week, which means by this time next week, one way or another, I will be enrolled in an 8 week business coaching course that is completely aligned with my values in every way. So there will no doubt be some growth (and probably more kicking and screaming).

It’s going to be an interesting week. Can’t wait to see what all I’ll have to say next week!

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And So It Begins

After I published my last blog post I had a huge vulnerability hangover. For the rest of that evening I felt almost physically ill. I was curled up on the couch thinking, Oh god! What have I done? Am I crazy?

Then all of those detrimental “what ifs” started harassing me. I felt embarrassed and even more scared than before I posted that blog. But when I woke up the next morning (ok, I’ll be honest- it was after my coffee) I felt fine. My inner voice said something to the effect of, “You got this!”

I very genuinely felt confident in my abilities to make this all happen. Because the truth is, I am smart, intelligent, very competent, incredibly creative, insightful, and a super fast learner. I know I can do this. But knowing and believing are two different things, and since that morning of hearing myself say, “You got this!” I have gone back and forth from what I know to be true about myself, to those dirty, old limiting beliefs that have kept me too far from where I want to be in life for far too long.

I have felt an anxiety over the past couple of days that I haven’t felt in months! I may waver back and forth from knowing what I’m capable of to being scared that I will fuck everything up, but at least it’s back and forth, and not stuck in the latter, staying in one place, not doing anything.

I have been taking steps every day. Even when they feel completely insignificant. At least I’m doing something.

I downloaded my free trial of Adobe Illustrator. I tried a month-long free trial of AI a few years ago when I was trying to design a logo I wanted to use at the time, and I found that it to be indredibly complicated to use. It was like learning a new language. But I figured I was just working with lettering this time so it would probably be a lot easier.

Well, first off, this time, they don’t tell you how long the free trial is, until you install it. I assumed it would be a month long again, but it was only one week! Had I known that, I would’ve downloaded it at a later date, because I was not able to leverage my time as effectively with the timing of when I installed it. The following two days were packed full and I didn’t end up using it at all.

Once I finally dove in, even though I was only doing lettering, it was still really difficult for me to figure out. It took me a long time just to figure out which type of document to even open, let alone figuring out how to actually use the program.

Between google and just fiddling around for a while, I managed to learn a few things.

As I was doing all of that I ended up, unintentionally refining, and simplifying my ideas. And found myself coming back around to a concept I was working with a few years ago, right before everything got derailed from my father’s death (and all the circumstances around it).

I called SCORE and I’m in the process of being placed with a mentor.  I got a bunch of my belongings out of storage and I’ve been posting more items to craigslist and eBay. I’ve been working on my book. I’ve been researching. And I found myself, for the first time since my dad died, interested in some of the people whose work I used to follow religiously.

The two people whose work I appreciate the most are Jonathan Fields, whose book Uncertainty- Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, I am currently reading. And Marie Forleo whose videos I have finally started watching again.

I am a huge fan of Marie Forleo and everything that she does. And fortunately, despite being derailed for the past three years, and letting myself get pulled further away from my passions and focus than I’d prefer, I still could never bring myself to unsubscribe from her newsletters. Even though I no longer even opened most of them.

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe in coincidences.  The fact that one of her emails showed up in my inbox with the subject line reading, “The 6-Step Roadmap to Start & Grow Your Business,” right when I have decided to start a business, I don’t believe to be a coincidence. And as soon as I watched her video, it was like the Universe snapped its fingers in front of my face and broke whatever spell I have been under for the past three years.

I remembered everything I loved about her, her work, and how her work has such a positive effect on me. The email and video was announcing the launch of her annual B-School business coaching program. And not coincidentally, enrollment begins on the anniversary of my dad’s death. Talk about full circle!

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to enroll in the program. But I’m not not saying it either! It costs a lot of money that I don’t have yet. And it’s yet another thing to add to the list of things that scare the shit out of me.

But the truth is, when I was reading through all of the details of the program, which I have read all about several times in the past, I found myself starting to cry, in a way I never have before. I was crying for several reasons. I was crying because it really scared me. I was crying because I knew it felt right. I was crying because I knew it would call upon parts of myself that I am not used to bringing out, or maybe never even have brought out. And I was crying because I think deep down I knew that if I do this, my life will forever be changed in ways I can’t even imagine yet. And that means saying goodbye to this life, which is something that I can’t even begin to process yet.

I may be planning to leave the life I’m living in California, but wherever you go there you are. Whether it’s Seattle, or Bali, or anywhere else, there are still certain areas of my life where I constantly struggle, and while I have no doubt that environment matters, so does nurturing and a development. Yes, a cactus cannot grow in a swamp, nor can a lotus grow in the desert, but if you aren’t feeding it, watering it, giving it the right soil, it doesn’t matter what you are trying to grow or where you are trying to grow it, it may not grow into all that it can be. Or maybe what you have planted has grown beautifully, but it won’t fruit.

When it comes to personal growth, I am a rock-star at doing the internal work.  But when it comes to other areas of personal development, the external stuff, like money and career, I am quite slow on the uptake. I may even go as far as to say I am handicapped in that area of my life. Not handicapped beyond repair, but handicapped in ways that make certain things more challenging for me perhaps than most people. But that’s what makes all of this simultaneously terrifying, exciting, necessary, and fulfilling.

In the past, when B-School has shown up in my inbox and newsfeeds, I completely dismissed it. I knew I didn’t have it in me at the time. And to be honest, I think I believed that I didn’t have it in me at all.

But now I’m in a place where I am willing to look at it differently. I can see how much I will benefit, in many ways, from this program. And I know that I do have it in me.

As my life seems to be circling around in a very fascinating way, I realize that I had to go through all I did in the past three years in order to evolve into who I am now and progressed (even if it hasn’t felt like progression) to where I am now, so that I can be in the place where I am even open to taking these steps. Had I not moved through so many anxieties to get myself to Bali, I don’t think I would have the courage to do all of these things that are scaring the shit out of me now. I know I wouldn’t have.

I’m not sure how I am going to make all of this happen, but I am finally willing to commit to making it happen, which includes trusting in the uncertainty, and trusting in myself.

So here are a few action steps I’ll be taking this next week:

Work on my LinkedIn page (mine sucks). Write one article and submit it to a publication that pays. Continue to research and educate myself. Post more items for sale online (nothing has sold yet, but hopefully that will change this week). Continue working on my book. Continue refining my ideas. Participate in social engagement (it’s important for the health!), and maybe get in a hike.

So, what are you all working on?

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A New Adventure

I spoke in a previous post about taking you with me on my every day adventures (which there have not been many).

Well, I finally have another “adventure” I am embarking on. And I’m taking you with me. It begins the same way my adventure to Bali began. Being utterly terrified of what I am about to do.

I knew how that story would end though. I have no idea how this story is going to end, and that scares me even more. But just like my travels, I cannot keep living my life paralyzed with fear. That is not living. I cannot let the possibility of failure keep me from even trying, because that would be the ultimate failure- never trying.

Since I’ve been back from my trip, I have been processing my experience and assimilating the life lessons.

One of the biggest lessons I learned, or rather got honest with myself about, was my discontent with life in California.

I already didn’t want to leave Bali. I know I am meant to be there for a longer period of time, and I know I will be going back. What made it even more painful to leave, was knowing that I did not want to come back to California. That was beyond evident to me even when I first arrived in Bali. In fact, I have not truly wanted to be in California since I moved back here thirteen years ago. But I kept trying to make a life for myself here. And it kept never working.

I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I am beyond grateful for having been born and raised here. It will always be a home base for me. But at this point, I cannot wait to get out of here!

I know I want to go back to Bali, but there are so many other places I want to go too. Places I’ve never been before, and places I know and love. One of the places I know and love the most is Seattle.

The happiest time in my life was when I lived in Seattle in the early 2000’s. When I left there, my life fell apart, and all these years I have been too scared and ashamed to move back. Plus, I am not so naïve to think that it would all be exactly the same as when I was there before. I am nowhere near the same person I was back then. And I know Seattle isn’t the same as it was back then either. But there are elements that I think are integral to that city that will probably never change. And like I said, not trying is a worse failure than trying and having it not work.

So I finally got honest with myself about wanting to leave California and go back to Seattle.

And I made a decision. I decided that I will move to Seattle in June, spend the summer there, and in October go back to Bali for six months. That’s about as far as that plan goes for now.

There’s only one problem. I’m broke as fuck. I think language is powerful and I normally don’t like to use the word “broke” (I will never have a problem with the word “fuck”), but in order to get the point across let’s call a spade a spade…. I’m broke. I was broke before I went to Bali, and it was miraculous that I was able to make that trip happen. I went out of season, when airline tickets were at their lowest, and once you are there everything is so damn cheap! I got clever and resourceful with my finances and managed to make it work.

I’ve been really private about how I’ve been generating income for the past couple of years. I’ve wanted to keep the focus on my personal growth work and my writing. But my personal growth work is based on getting down to the truth in all things, and if I’m going to take you on this journey with me, I have to bring my truth. So here’s a bunch of truth…

I’ve been embarrassed about how I generate income. I’m a pet sitter. It’s not that big of a deal and not really something to be embarrassed about. I get paid to play and cuddle with cute animals, and for the most part my time belongs to me, which is invaluable.

The money is shit though. I pay my bills, but barely, and that’s about all I have money for. It doesn’t help that I live in one of the most expensive places in the country.

The only way I am able to do the work I do is because I don’t have rent to pay. When my dad died a couple of years ago, I put my belongings in storage and moved in with my mom to help her through the devastating transition. But my family is toxic and abusive, and living at home in my thirties is yet another thing I’ve been embarrassed about.

I was working at a restaurant when I made that transition. I’ve worked in many restaurants and bars in my life, but this one was by far the most stressful, with the most abusive clientele.  And it got to be too intense as I was mourning the death of my father, so I quit.

I had wanted to teach meditation for a long time, and forces seemed to be aligning for that to start happening. So I started teaching. But I was struggling, for many reasons, and I ended up giving up. I’ve gone back and forth about whether I was giving up because it truly didn’t feel right, or because I was letting fear win. There are a lot of variables in the situation, but ultimately I think the answer is a little of both. I may get back into teaching meditation again at some point, but right now, while I’m in California, that is not where my focus is.

The pet sitting just sort of happened on its own, and  when it started gaining momentum I decided to go with it. Pet sitting has given me a lot of time and space to focus on writing, and to incrementally get out of my mom’s house without feeling too much guilt about leaving her on her own.

And that brings me to where I am now.

When I came back from Bali, I returned to dreadfully low bank balances. And like I said, the pet sitting generates minimal income. Have I mentioned I live in one of the most expensive places in the country? How the hell am I going to get to Seattle and Bali and hopefully many other places in between, when I have no money?

I’m already working on trying to generate income through my writing- I’ve been doing the starving artist thing for too long now (and I don’t care what anyone says, being a starving artist does not mean you have more integrity. It sucks.)

Now I want to build a career that will generate enough income to live, write, and travel anywhere in the world?

That calls upon three of my biggest passions- writing, entrepreneurship, and, even though I’m a travel newbie, travel.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve always been an “idea person.” I’ve just never known anything about doing any of it. I’ve been studying entrepreneurship for years, usually with an emphasis on personal growth, but over the past few years my focus has shifted.

I think I will always be passionate about personal growth, but I have grown a bit bored and frustrated with the personal growth industry- at least right now (though I’m hoping my enthusiasm will be reignited one of these days).

My passion for entrepreneurship never really went away. I am a naturally creative person, and entrepreneurship is the ultimate creative process (except for life itself). Plus, at this point in my life I am adamant about being in control of my time.

One of the ideas I’ve had for years is starting a T-shirt company. That idea has recently returned to me again, only this time I didn’t dismiss it.

I told my therapist about it and he encouraged me to look into it. So I googled something like “how to start an online T-shirt business,” and started researching.

What I found was that there are enough resources and technology out there that I can create products and build an online store to sell them, without ever having to physically touch any inventory, and with very low upfront costs.

But it would still cost some money, and I started to think of how risky it would be and how little money I already have, and wasn’t sure if it would even be worth it.

June is officially less than six months away. I need to be able to make enough money in less than six months to be able to live and travel (which was the exact amount of time it took me to get to Bali, from the moment I decided). Could this even work?

I’ve already decided to sell off a lot of my stuff I have in storage, in order to make money for the move, but once I’m there I need to make enough to live comfortably.

I went back and forth with the T-shirt idea until I started to notice two things. One was how scared I was by the idea. The other thing I noticed was that whenever I would get swept into anxiety about whether or not it could work, I kept bringing myself back to researching- as in, doing the work. I turned my anxieties into action. And both of these things that I noticed are exactly what I experienced when I planned my trip to Bali- being scared shitless and turning my anxieties into action (which subsequently has severely diminished my overall sense of anxiety).

When I pushed through the fears and anxieties and made my trip to Bali happen, I loved it so much I am moving there! Or at least plan on spending longer chunks of time there.

So when I realized how similar the processes are and how beneficial the results were with the first process, I thought to myself, then you have to do this!

I don’t know how I’m going to do it. And I can’t guarantee that it will have the same beneficial results as my Bali trip did, but if it scares me and gets me to take action, then it’s already worth doing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had an idea like this. Being the idea person that I am, I have had countless business ideas in my life. What I did for many years is get super excited about an idea, map out the whole idea in my head, and then talk it to death before I ever took one step with it.

When I really started to turn my life around, I tried a new approach. I didn’t tell anyone my ideas. I just started working on them. I figured I’d start talking about them when I actually had something to talk about. That seemed to work out well, because all of the people who would discourage, judge, scrutinize, and wait for me to fail, had nothing to work with.

I may not have had discouragement, but I also didn’t have much encouragement either. And, well, I’m still broke.

The thing is, although I want to generate income, I’m not just looking to make money. I don’t want to just build a brand. I want to build a community. I want to build the community that I seek. I don’t have to tell my friends and family about it. But I can share my experiences with you, and build a supportive community, instead of trying to find it someplace it doesn’t exist.

I can’t forget my writing either. Another idea I’ve spent years pushing to “someday,” I have pulled out, dusted off, and added to my endeavor. An idea for a book that I not only think people will benefit from, but also would align well with my T-shirt line and could sell on my store.

As I’m researching all of this and starting to put pieces together, I am realizing how ancient my trusty beast of a computer is. And I am going to need a solid machine for this endeavor. Add that to the list. Get a new computer.

Ok so let’s break it down. Start selling off my belongings. Buy new computer. Design T-shirts. Create an online store. Market, market, market! Write a book. Self-publish it. Market, market, market! Move to Seattle. Perhaps take a few weekends trips elsewhere. Move to Bali. Perhaps take a few weekend trips elsewhere. Do all of this while also writing other pieces. Submit those other pieces to publications. And maybe… perhaps somewhere in there, meet the man of my dreams and begin building a life-partnership together.

And to up the ante of fear factors, I’m going to blog my process.

There you have it. My one year plan. Have I mentioned I’m scared shitless?

If I fail, I fail publically. If I give up, I’ll have to do so publically. If When I make mistakes (because everyone does), I will do them publically. When I am painfully challenged and just want to kick and scream, it will be public.

But my successes will also be public. My milestones and accomplishments will be public. My joys, my lessons, and my growth will be public. And hopefully, whatever I make public will help others on their journeys.

So if I’m going to do this, I have to start somewhere. My first goal is by the end of the month to have my online store launched.

Anne Lamott famously wrote about “shitty first drafts.” And in my research, it has been suggested that it’s better to launch a very basic store while you work out the kinks, instead of waiting until it’s “perfect” to launch. So I can start a shitty first draft of my store, while I write a shitty first draft of my book. Then I can tweak and edit and polish and turn it all into something beautiful.

Here are some of my first action steps. I’ve already purchased a domain. Today I will download a free trial of Adobe Illustrator to try to start playing around with some designs. I will post another item on eBay to sell. And I will contact SCORE to see if I can get connected to a mentor.

Right now I am in the nervous, but excited stage, where that energy drives me. I have learned enough to know that there will be times when I am filled with agonizing and crippling doubt. Those are going to be the hardest times. I just have to keep reminding myself that there will always be what-ifs, but I get to choose which what-ifs I ask myself. As the viral quote (written by a nineteen year old, Erin Hanson) says, “What if I fail? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

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I Write, Therefore I Am

Yesterday, I wrote about my New Year’s intention of helping myself more than others, and my dedication to creating the life that I want for myself.

To be clear, what that means to me is- I want to generate income from my writing so that I can travel and work from anywhere in the world.

I know a lot of folks who may think that’s a pipe dream. But tons and tons of people are doing it every day, and there is no reason why I can’t be one of those people.

When I got back from my trip to Bali, I committed myself to writing every single day, even if it’s terrible, even if I don’t post it. So far, I have kept that commitment (except for a couple days here and there over Stressmas and New Year’s holidays).

I have tried, so many times in the past, to have more self-discipline when it comes to my writing, but I had so much trouble making it a daily habit. I waited for inspiration to write, and sometimes then I wouldn’t even write! Part of that is because I had so much anxiety residing in me, which used up so much of my energy and focus, and replaced it with self-doubt and insecurity.

But the other reason it feels different this time is because I am approaching it differently. In the past I was “shoulding” all over myself. Now, I have a clear idea of what I want and am approaching it as if my life- the life that I want for myself- depends on it. Because it does.

I can’t expect to have a writing career if I treat writing like it’s a chore to be avoided. So now, with this new approach, I honor the craft and the time spent working on it. The more I stay with my daily commitment, the more my relationship to my craft deepens. I am slowly developing a reverence for all that it is and all the places it will take me. And now, my writing almost feels like it’s its own entity, like it’s a deity that presides over my life. It’s like my Mother Mary.

I show up at the altar of my art, and I say my prayers by putting words to the page. Instead of hearing the sounds of monks chanting, I meditate on the sound of my keyboard tapping as I type, feeling such joy and gratitude as the sound washes through me.

A lot of the self-doubt has been exorcised, but not entirely. It still shows up in funny ways. I am not immune to Imposter Syndrome. Whenever a friend tells me that I’m a good Writer or compliments any of my writing, I think some variation of- they’re just saying that to be nice.

I have been writing my entire life. Since the age of six years old I have been receiving praise for my writing skills. But for so much of my life I dismissed it. I knew I was good at it, but it wasn’t anything that I was interested in. My love was music. I’d write loads of song lyrics and poems, but it was always with the idea that I wanted to be involved in music.

Back in 2009 when I went through my big life transition/transformation, I realized that even though I love music and always will, it’s not what comes naturally to me. And, so often, what resonated with me the most were and are the lyrics, the words.

That’s why I love Hip Hop so much. It is the most brilliant, ingenious, clever, and intelligent use of words that music has to offer. And most Hip Hop has a really positive message to spread on top of that. I remember a few years ago an article circulated, (I think it was from the New York Times, but this is the closest I could find), which discussed a study on Hip Hop and the English language. The study concluded that Hip Hop employs a more complex use of the English language than Shakespeare. (I didn’t need a study to tell me that).

But I digress; I spent most of my life not believing that I could be a Writer, when I was, in fact, already a Writer.

And recently I became a member of the National Writers Union. It’s not the most exclusive club in the world and I didn’t think much of it, until I got my welcome packet in the mail, which included a membership card that I was not expecting. It was a proud moment for me, because it was one step closer to establishing myself as a professional Writer.

I posted about it on social media and I got all kinds of congratulations. But the whole time what kept running through my mind was- Any real Writers who see this will know that it’s not that big of a deal and the fact that I’m acting as if it is a big deal just proves that I’m not a real Writer.

I am literally a card-carrying Writer, yet I catch myself thinking that I’m not a “real Writer.” What does that even mean! Real Writer?

I write. Period. Therefore I am a Writer.

Having my daily practice helps to disengage that old, outdated belief, and reinforce the new belief that I am, in fact, a Writer- because I write. And showing up to work every day demonstrates my dedication and keeps the action and energy flowing in the direction I want to go.

Because, as I have said many times before, when I am living in my Truth, I am placing myself in the flow of all else that is true. And the more I show up to this life every day, the more I am actually in the life that I am creating.

And that feels pretty damn good.

Help Less

It’s a new year, and without even trying, my theme for this year has become very clear to me… help less.

My role in life has been The Caretaker, since I was a child. Whether it was helping take care of sick family members, taking care of the emotional needs of abusive family, friends, and partners, “babysitting” wasted friends- making sure they don’t end up dead or raped in a ditch somewhere, or just a general sense of wanting to make the world a better place through volunteering and being of service, my role has consistently been The Caretaker.

It’s second nature to me. And I’ve been ok with it. In all the work I’ve done over the past few years, there is no mistaking the fact that being of service is a necessary and noble undertaking for living a fulfilling life. I tend to live by the Aung San Suu Kyi quote, “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.”  That is without a doubt the best cure for a bad day (or week, or month, or life). Helping people gets you out of your head and out of your own experience and connects you with others.

I also avidly feel like, with all of the ugliness in the world, if you don’t like what you are seeing, do something to change it. Which means, if you don’t like seeing hatred, put more love in the world. If you don’t like seeing people starving, feed someone. It doesn’t have to be a whole country- one person is better than no one at all. Find ways to put more good in the world, to negate and remedy the problems. And I really prefer to be part of the remedy.

With all that being said, there’s the old adage- you can’t pour from an empty cup. I wholeheartedly believe that. Which means we must first take care of ourselves, help ourselves, feed ourselves, love ourselves… make sure that we are happy and healthy and whole, before we start trying to doing that for others. Make sure that we are standing steady on our own two feet before we try to pull others to their feet. Otherwise we might fall. Then we aren’t able to help anyone.

This is what I call the Oxygen Mask Theory. When you’re on an airplane, they tell you that if you are traveling with a small child, and the oxygen masks come down, you must secure your own oxygen mask before your child’s.

We must put ourselves first, especially when we are trying to help others.

All of this is a struggle for someone like me who is both an Empath and a Codependent.  I think that both Empaths and Codependents share the desire to want to save the world. But that desire comes from different places.

As an Empath, I hate to see people suffer. I feel their pain. It’s even worse if it’s someone I know and care about. I recently found out that the wife of someone I know passed away six months earlier, and I cried for three days (and felt emotionally raw and tender for at least a week). I never even knew her, but the thought of what this person and his family had been going through gutted me. I’m getting teary eyed right now thinking about it. That’s being an Empath.

As a Codependent, there is more of a gripping sense of urgency of wanting to save people who are suffering. I want give them the magic formula, say the right words, offer the right advice that makes them change their life for the better. It comes from a place of desperation and seeking validation. If I can help them, save them, push them hard enough to salvation then maybe everyone will understand that I know what I’m talking about.

Truthfully, that’s just translation for, “maybe if my abusive family members see what I am capable of, they will finally give me the credit, the respect, and the love they never gave me before.”

But the reality is, I could have a fucking Ph.D. in everything, and they still would act as if I have no clue what I’m talking about, they’d scoff and name call when I’d claim my knowledge, they’d ask everyone in the room except me about the very things that I have expertise in. Because this is what they have always done, and this is what they continue to do (yes, these specific things have all happened- minus the Ph.D.).

I cannot expect to ever get the validation I seek from my abusers, and I most certainly won’t get their validation through others. Plus, it’s not very loving and kind to “help” others in this way. It’s manipulative. And it is not at all generous. In fact, quite the contrary. It is seeking to get something under the guise of “giving”.

And I do this, still. Even after all the years of work, all of the healing, all of the self-reflection and transformation, I still find myself doing this.

I give, and I give, and I keep on giving. And when I have emptied my cup, I still try to give. Then I start finding these covert ways to try to fill my cup back up (i.e. codependence).

That is why this year I am going to try to give less, help less… and receive more. Everyone who knows me knows I love volunteering. Because I do love contributing and being a part of something bigger in this way. But I know now that I need to focus on filling up my own cup- until my cup runneth over.

It’s not that I won’t help people at all. There are people I still feel very called to help, and happy to do so. And it doesn’t mean others can’t ask me for help. It’s just that, I won’t go actively seeking to help. My energy won’t be spread far and wide with the main focus being on helping others. It’s time to help myself. And ask for help. And be ok with receiving help.

Unfortunately, asking for help is so often perceived as a weakness. Truthfully, it takes strength and courage to ask for help.

But I still have such a fear of asking for help. I come from a family where everything you say and do will be used against you. So if I ever asked for help (which, as an adult, I almost never have) that help was never given with love or even with the intention of actually helping. It was always given with condition, with the intention to control and condemn.

So that pattern has still been at play. And all that has taught me to never ask for help, or never take it if it is offered.

I keep thinking of the phenomenal book, Outliers, which goes into tremendous investigation of success. The crux of the book is that, it undeniably takes a lot of hard work- ten thousand hours to be precise- to achieve success (I’m just talking the conventional definition. We all define our own idea of what success is), but hard work alone is not enough. It also takes opportunity (which includes resources).

I have been so determined to achieve my goals and my successes on my own, without anyone’s help, but nobody can do anything solely on their own. And I am starting to wonder if I have denied myself opportunity and resources that may have helped me get ahead. If I had more money to invest in myself then I wouldn’t have as many challenges to overcome. Instead, my energy could go to simply doing the things I want to do, and contributing in the ways I want to contribute.

I know this is pretty much true of everyone- if we all only had more money, right? But my point is, that even if the resources are there, I have not allowed myself to receive them.

The catch 22 with trying to have more money is that usually in order to make more money you have to sacrifice your time. It seems that our society is set up in such a way that you can have one or the other, but not both. Especially here in the Bay Area! But when what you need is both time, to work on your goals, and money to invest in them, you’re kind of screwed. Unless you ask for help.

I have spent my entire life helping others. It’s ok for me to take a break (I need to remind myself of this because it is very challenging for me to not feel like I am helping). And it’s time to be more honest with myself. Right now I need help. And I need to ask for help, and be ok with receiving help. I’m not quite sure what that means exactly or what that help will look like for me. Sometimes it’s simply asking The Universe for guidance. Or sometimes it’s something much more specific. I just know that it is time to start asking for help- and allowing myself to receive it.

I am smart, intelligent, competent and entirely capable of having the life I want for myself. Yet I still struggle to meet my basic needs. I know at this point that a lot of this comes from the many abusive relationships I’ve had in my life, and my abusers doing their jobs very well. The classic abuser/victim pattern (though I don’t like using the word victim) is for the abuser to break down the confidence and self-esteem of their victims so that the victim becomes dependent on the abuser, thus giving the abuser a greater sense of control.

Part of becoming a true adult is realizing that we cannot go through life blaming all our problems on other people. But it’s important for me to know why I am the way I am and where my patterns come from, so that I can change them.

I have changed many of my patterns. And I continue to change my patterns all the time. I have worked incredibly and indescribably hard. I have definitely put in my ten thousand hours as a Writer. So, at this point what’s missing is the opportunity and resources.

This is more than a resolution. This is an intention and dedication to creating the life I want for myself. This year, as challenging as it will be, I am going to reserve my energy. I need it for Me. I will focus less on helping others and more on receiving help (and not resisting it). Because right now my cup is nowhere near full. And if it’s not filled full, I cannot be fulfilled.

So it’s time for me to truly fulfill myself and my goals.

Stay tuned!

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Mama Bear

The thing with writing about my most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences, is that people read them. And when those thoughts, feelings, and experiences involve other people- who read them- things can get interesting.

I woke up yesterday to a message from The Handsome Indian man I hung out with in Bali. He read what I wrote about him, our interactions, and my confusion around the context. And he wanted to clear up the confusion.

He explained that he did indeed have a girlfriend, and told me why he didn’t mention it (basically he didn’t want to be presumptuous about where I was coming from). He also apologized for any way in which he may have misled me, though he was intentionally trying to not mislead me by intentionally not do anything he would normally do when trying to drop hints or make a move, which is basically just showing affection.

When I first read it I thought, Aww that’s really sweet of him to communicate that. I truly appreciated it and still do. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself stricken by something he said. The ways in which he drops hints and makes moves. Showing affection, holding hands, touching, etc., simple, right?

It made me realize how rare it’s been for me to have men do that as a means of dropping a hint. Those few actions, which he considered dropping a hint- as in, just the beginning of what he has to offer in a relationship- have been pretty much the extent of the effort most men dudes have made for me- as in, the end point of what they have offered me- even deep into relationships. It’s more often been me to be the one to do those things as a means of dropping hints.

I started to wonder, is this a cultural thing? Are American men just lazy, unromantic, and incapable of chivalry? Probably. Is it (and I say this as a proud and avid feminist): the ways in which I think feminism has damaged modern relationship building? Possibly. Or was it just my experience with men dudes, the ways in which my own issues have played themselves out time and time again, and the men dudes that I got myself involved with being a reflection of who and how I was at the time? Most definitely.

The thing with The Handsome Indian is that he was just a handsome Indian man I became friends with, and for a moment I thought something more might be happening, until I realized that it wasn’t, and now he’s just a handsome Indian man (with a girlfriend) who I’m friends with, again. That’s all it is. But you know me- nothing is ever “that’s all it is”.

I’m always going to look for the lesson and deeper meaning in every situation (because it’s always there).

It felt so good to have him clearly communicate to me (another thing a lot of American men seem to lack). It felt so good to be in a space of unobstructed Truth. But the more time I spent in that Truth, the more I could see and feel that it was exposing a wound that still needed to heal.

See, I wasn’t even trying this time, yet I still, even if just for a brief moment, found myself in a situation where I was allured by an unavailable man and ended up feeling a sense of rejection.

I have done so much work around this. I have gotten to know that pattern well- too well. I have become very conscious of my old, detrimental ways. And I have gained so much knowledge about how to shift those old ways. I have grown and evolved and become a much healthier person. But despite all of the growth and all of the knowledge– I still hadn’t truly learned.

And this time I could feel it, deeply. I am done. In the depths of my Truth I am so done doing this to myself.

That pattern has played itself to death.

I’m an intelligent, attractive, kind, caring, funny woman, to say the least. It’s not unreasonable for me to want to be treated with a basic sense of value… to say the least.

Yet, it still tends to be an anomaly for me. And it hasn’t just been with guys either. This has existed across all genders and contexts.

And one simple, parenthetical set of words, said by one handsome Indian friend, has really gotten me to take a deeper look at all of this.

When I look back at my tumultuous past, and think about the things I permitted people to say and do to me, I am fraught with indignation like never before.

After years of inner child work I finally… truly, feel like a mama bear protecting her cub, when it comes to taking care of the innocent little Julia inside me. I can finally say- and without a shadow of a doubt mean it- “Never again.

Whether it was family, friends, lovers, co-workers, or bosses, I always found ways to say, “It’s ok.

“It’s ok for me to be treated this way.

“It’s ok for me to be underappreciated, taken for granted, walked all over, used, and abused. It’ ok for me to be disrespected and disregarded. It’s ok for me to be underestimated and over-scrutinized. It’s ok to not be shown common courtesy and common decency. It’s ok.

I’ll do it.

“I’ll be the one to treat you how I want to be treated. I’ll be the one to initiate contact. I’ll be the one to make plans. I’ll be the one to make the first move. I’ll be the one to make romantic gestures. I’ll be the one to communicate… I’ll be the one to apologize.”

And I did it again, and again.

But I’m not going to say “It’s ok” anymore. Because it’s not ok.

It’s not ok to say and do the horrifically manipulative things that so many people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to do the heinously aggressive- and almost worse, passive-aggressive- things that people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to antagonize and throw tantrums, then play the victim when there’s a reaction. It’s not ok to gaslight and guilt trip.

It’s not ok. None of it is ok.

I am finally, from the depths of my Truth, saying, “No more.”

I will no longer make excuses for people. I will no longer believe the lies. I will no longer take the bait. I will no longer hold out hope for others to become anything other than what they have shown me.

And that has never felt more true.

The Handsome Indian wasn’t doing any of these things- he’s a wonderful person. He just held the magnifying glass over an old wound, gently touched it, and proverbially said, “There, that’s where it still hurts.”

Had none of this happened the way it did, I would not have arrived at the profoundly important place where the mama bear within me can wholeheartedly lick the wounds of her little Julia cub, so those wounds can finally heal.

I guess I know what my current totem animal is.

mama-bear

I have no idea who owns the rights to this image, but it is perfect.

Everyday Adventures

I’m sitting here, on a slightly sunny, slightly cloudy Monday morning in Marin County, California. I’m slightly rested, and slightly tired. But I’ve made a commitment to myself to write every single day. Even if it’s terrible. Even if I don’t share it publicly.

I’ve attempted this before, but I’ve never committed to it. And I never had my energy in the right place in order to accomplish it before. I usually have plenty of things on my mind that I can write about, but this morning as I opened up my empty Word document, I had no idea what words would come out.

As I muse, I’m thinking about where my personal evolution has led me. A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was on a determined mission. My life, and the work I wanted to do, was devoted to mindfulness and personal growth, and how to share and spread those lessons.

Part of the healing I’ve experienced in the work that I do has been letting go of perfectionism. As I’ve released the tight grip that perfectionism had around my neck, I feel like I’ve shifted direction quite a bit.

My work seems a bit less fixated, and a lot more authentic. Not that it wasn’t authentic before, it’s just that now it showcases a more full spectrum of who I am and where I’m at.

I have long considered my number one job to be: doing my work and telling my stories about it. That means it is also my job to tell my truth. The more work I’ve done, the more relaxed and vulnerable I have become in showing you who I am. Not just certain parts of me, but all of me.

Instead of just revealing the part of me that loves mindfulness and personal development and wants to help others heal and grow, I am now revealing the Julia who is passionate about women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, and the atrocities that have been happening to the Native Americans at Standing Rock. The Julia who is silly and messy and real and raw. The Julia who loves hip hop and comedy and nature and art. The Julia who is still unfolding and evolving every day.

I can’t just be a one faceted person, nor do I want to be. As I get more honest with who I am, I also get more honest with you.

In my travels, both globally and internally, I have continued to learn, grow, and evolve, which has shifted my focus and re-framed my mission a little bit.

Although I think I will always consider my job to be doing my work and telling my stories about it, I think, as a Writer and Truth Seeker, the emphasis has become more on telling my stories.

When I saw the enthusiastic response I received from sharing my adventures in Bali, I saw how beautiful it was to be able to take you all with me wherever I go, and how much people seem to enjoy feeling like they are on the ride with me.

Since I’ve been back in The States, I continue to tell my stories about my experiences, but I try to think of it less as telling my stories about my personal issues that I have to overcome, and more sharing my everyday travels with you. Whether those travels are the journey self-discovery, exploring life without anxiety for the first time, my experiences walking around town or in the woods, or whatever new adventure I plan to embark on (I have a few in the works right now), there are always lessons to learn from the experience. And there is an opportunity to share those lessons by taking you on my journey with me, which draws upon one of my favorite aspects of life- human connection.

I feel much more connected to all of you this way. It’s like I’ve broken the fourth wall. In fact a lot of my walls have come down. And I’m just here, showing you Who I Am, in various circumstances.

Another way in which I feel this new approach brings you inside the experience with me, is because instead of just generally talking about how I may have worked through a certain issue, let’s say insecurity for example, I can actually give real life, real time, examples of which insecurities I am working through and the who, what, where, when, why of it all.

I can talk about my fears, as a general concept. Or I can talk about my fears of getting money exchanged in a foreign country or riding a motorbike for the first time. I’m still confronting fears, and I’m still showing you my process and my lessons, but I’m giving life to the lessons and letting you feel the wind in your hair as you ride the motorbike with me.

I’m also allowing myself to share something else I love with you- taking photographs. In our device driven, selfie-obsessed world, I have shied away from whipping out my phone to snap a picture of everything all the time. Plus, as a mindfulness practitioner, I feel like it often takes us out of the moment. But I have always loved taking photographs. So now, I am thoroughly (and mindfully) enjoying capturing the moments of my life, and instead of just stock piling my own collection of images, I think of it more as providing you with visuals to go along with the stories I tell.

I love my life, and I love getting to share my experiences with you!

Maybe my next story will be about the answers to life questions that came to me in meditation, or maybe it will be about that incredible time I had at a Mos Def show the other night. Both experiences brought me closer to my truth. And both are opportunities to bring you inside the experience with me.

Stay tuned!