A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

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My first big meltdown when I moved to New York City two years ago wasn’t upon touchdown or our first night in an empty apartment. It wasn’t because someone was rude to me, or I lost my way, or I missed a subway stop or four.

Nope. It was in the gym locker room.

I remember that first week so clearly: the champagne buzz I felt from the newness, the novelty of being able to get anything.you.want.at.all. delivered to your apartment instead of having to lug it home in bags that cut off circulation in your fingertips. The way you could be walking, skipping, singing, sobbing down the street and people accepted you like whatever you were doing was a part of the flow. The waking up early just because we were so excited to experience the morning. I remember so clearly. It was love at first footstep.

And then I lost it. I mean, I knew it was coming at some point – I definitely cried my second night, mostly out of sheer exhaustion – but I didn’t expect that my anticipated feelings of shock, overwhelm, and longing would show their sad faces in the women’s locker room on Greenwich Avenue after I made a corny joke to a stranger thrice my age and she genuinely giggled back.

My gym had been my safe haven in LA, and LA had been my safe haven in my life. Having grown up visiting the City That Never Sleeps on a regular basis but living in the City That Sleeps In Then Goes On A Hike my entire life, I was very familiar with New York but not enveloped in her. It wasn’t just my immediate neighborhood that I felt protected by in LA; it was EVERYTHING. The street signs, the off-ramps. The familiar faces and the predictable reactions. The sunrises, the sunsets, and the days the ocean-fog took over the whole sky so you couldn’t tell when one finished and one began. I knew LA from birth. She WAS me.

I tried my best to recognize this when I lived there, but just like so many things, there is always some little important bit of a-ha that happens when you no longer have that thing you loved. For me, that a-ha came in a locker room when I realized how alone and unfamiliar I felt within my surroundings. How, while I valued anonymity, I also valued (and took for granted) my ability to CHOOSE it.


Humans are pack animals; we’re tribal. We’re not meant to wander the hills alone until we find a mate and then go back off again to raise and let go of our kin. Our brains are hard-wired for connection, and even the most introverted of us need to feel a sense of togetherness to truly thrive. It’s been proven by sciency people who are book-smarter than I am: loneliness leads to depression and is a huge indicator of how long you will live.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of Brené Brown lately (you should be, too!), especially the interviews and articles surrounding her newest book, Braving The Wilderness. The book is all about belonging, and (no, this isn’t a spoiler) how “fitting in” is actually the exact OPPOSITE of belonging.

When I moved here, I wasn’t looking to fit in – I wasn’t interested in molding myself to fit the shape of someone or something else – but I was struck by how shaken my sense of belonging had become. And moreover, how much I tied my sense of belonging to other people RECEIVING me.

That’s why the older woman laughing at my lame-o offhand comment got me so choked up. That’s why I started to panic as I became new eyes on centuries-old surroundings. I felt unfamiliar. I felt routine-less. And the smallest things like seeing the same parking lot attendant I only thank-you’d and have-a-nice-day’d and gym members I never even spoke to and just silently awkward-nodded to while we grabbed adjacent dumbbells were things I didn’t expect to crave. I thought I was autonomous in LA and above all that neediness, but boy did I have myself fooled. I was dependent on other people to validate my experience.

The last couple years have brought more change to me than I thought possible: two apartments, two neighborhoods, a new job, multiple events, brand new soul-friends, marriage. And as I contemplate where I go from here, as I head closer and closer toward my thirty-second year, which I have ALWAYS felt in my gut holds something major for me (micro- or macro- major, who knows at this point), I think about how my sense of belonging has changed too – or maybe how it hasn’t. I am on the precipice of something big, but for the first time in a while I’m hesitant to take a much-needed step to fall and build my wings on the way down.

Brené says that we belong everywhere when we belong to ourselves. So if I belong everywhere, then why is it that I’m so tied to THIS sense of place? Maybe it’s for the same reason people stay in relationships that are fine but not GREAT, or stay in jobs that earn enough to live but don’t add enough to LIFE. Because I “know” this sense of belonging is secure IF I just do all the right things, and check off all the to-do boxes, and it’s a very external and define-able belonging. Predictability and ease. Mother-effers.

Once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity - which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it - everything is magic. Click To Tweet

When I moved here, I felt placeless. I remember telling my friend Sarra that I felt freaked out by the amount of places I could go where I knew no one and no thing (Soak it in while you can, she said). I belonged to no one and no thing. I was trying to see where I fit, and tried on a lot for size. I don’t think I really knew how to belong to myself yet. That’s the cool thing about New York, though: it FORCES your identity out of you. The people who try to fight the force are the ones who have it hardest in life, but especially life in this city. But once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity – which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it – everything is magic.

I don’t think everyone is able to belong – or rather, find a sense of belonging – in NYC. You’ve got to be a little wild, a little crazy, and very comfortable getting uncomfortable, to even catch the first glimmers of it. That process and this city will kick your ass before you realize that your recovery is a part of your becoming. It will spook you, but your challenge is to never let it SCARE you. You’ve got to be next-level brave to become and belong – everywhere, but especially in this city that could care less whether you walk around anonymously and disconnected or full and enmeshed.

And now, I’ve found my way, and I’ve found my spaces. I have a “place.” Of course, I know that’s just a feeling and an illusion. And I wonder: is my newfound sense of place, coupled with my acute memory of what it’s like to NOT have one, keeping me in a new loop that doesn’t serve me? I think so; maybe. I’ve been here before, so I can recognize when I am here again.

The great thing, though, is that I know that I am my own and no one else’s, and that an external sense of place is fab but an internal one is fabber. If I know I’ll be okay no matter what, and I know I will be mine no matter what, then maybe, just maybe, I can start to take those steps that lead me to places I don’t know yet.


Two years ago I woke up for the first time as an NYC resident. I know it’s only been two years but I honestly can’t imagine waking up anywhere else.

Brené Brown says that true belonging only comes when you belong to yourself and yourself only, everywhere and nowhere.

Living here, I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.

belonging sense of place katie horwitch

“I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.” ― Ed Koch


 

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Reframing regret.

Reframing regret.

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Up until about a week ago, I used to say that I didn’t believe in Regret. Regret is a useless emotion, I’d scoff when people would ask me What’s my One Biggest Regret or the One Thing I Wish I Could Do Over. You can’t do anything about the past, I’d say, feeling all enlightened and shit. But you do something about the future.

But all along, here was my secret: Regret was the tagalong I couldn’t quite shake. The third wheel on all my friend dates, all my work meetings, all my nights alone scrolling on my phone. Regret liked to follow me whenever I did an interview, or went on a date (yes, with my husband, who I’m certain will love me no-matter-what-within-reason, no Regret necessary), or walked out of a subway station and noticed the people around me walking slower or faster or asking for spare change and I realized I had none. Regret was always popping by, “just to say hi.” And I am an introvert. I don’t DO casual drop-ins where people pop by “just to say hi.” I’m allergic to them.

Regret and I know each other so well, I laugh and bury my head in my hands when I think about all the times I’ve denied her existence. (See? Head-in-hands. Regret’s even there when I speak about regret. Meta.) NO REGRETS! We’re told to shout it from the rooftops. Regret means weakness. Regret means failure.

About a week ago, I got hit on the head with a major paradigm shift. I wish I could remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but as I was sitting in silence and reading through whatever my nighttime reading was, I came across this:

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time.

Woah. So wait a second. You mean all this time, when I was cringing at that lame thing I said or ignorant thing I did or that time when I felt so awkward that I think I might have changed the climate zone with my beet-red cheeks….you mean all those times, my Regret was there to HELP me??

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time. Click To Tweet

Just like any form of negative self-talk, Regret isn’t good or bad – it’s information. What usually happens is we sense a pang of remorse or embarrassment and since it FEELS uncomfortable and maybe even aches a bit, we give it a name. We use our self-talk muscles to warp and translate FEELS BAD to IS BAD.

But is Regret really all that horrible? Well, maybe, if we push it down. We can’t blame her for acting out, though, if we keep shoving her into the back of our emotional refrigerator and letting her grow mold. Eventually, she’s gonna stink up the whole damn fridge. Like, obviously.

If you subscribe to the scientific theory that energy is neither created nor destroyed, then where does all that intense energy from Regret go when we push it down? It doesn’t go away, that’s for sure. Rather, it starts to morph. Into anger. Rage. Hate. Narcissism. Regret is an expert shape shifter under duress; she’ll come back out and sneak-attack using something else as her cover-up.

What if we used all that intense energy that’s brought up when we Regret, to fuel enlightenment or understanding instead? Regret would shape-shift into a Lesson, which then morphs into hindsight, which then translates into a deeper, more meaningful understanding as we experience things over for the first time. That insensitive comment you made to an acquaintance then becomes a deeper sensitivity to experiences that are unlike your own. That huge blow-out you had with a family member that’s now beyond the point of repair becomes a more thoughtful way you interact with the loved ones you’re still lucky enough to have by your side.

Regret can actually be the most useful tool you have in your belt to help you grow and evolve into the you you know you’re meant to be.

This shifted perspective has, as an HSP, completely changed me. Instead of rehashing certain conversations or interactions out over and over again in my brain (and this is a daily occurrence for me if not hourly; I’ve started to tell Jeremy that my vocation is actually Professional Noticer) and CRINGING to near-mental-paralysis over what I SHOULDNT have said or SHOULDNT have done, I now halt the Regret track and ask myself:

What can I take from this?

It takes a LOT of determination to do this. Bravery? Ladyballs? I dunno. Doesn’t feel so brave to me. What it does feel is uncomfortable, and I have to muster up all the determination and follow-through I have within myself to NOT slink away and push that Regret to the back of the refrigerator shelf to gather up mold somewhere. That’s would be what’s fast and easy, not what’s necessary and right. I’ve got to stick with it and see if there are lessons and hindsight and greater understanding at the end of the tunnel. And every time I do this, I realize those things are always there.

~

There are certain questions you get asked a lot in questionnaire-y, quickfire-y type interviews. They’re open ended questions that attach themselves to universal experiences, like wishes or secrets or pet peeves. And one of the most common ones is – you guessed it – What’s Your Biggest Regret?

So here’s my new thing. If I get asked that question again, I’m going to answer this way. I don’t have a Biggest Regret because most all my Regrets have morphed into lessons and hindsight and understanding. And because of those Regrets, I’m able to be a more present, more empathetic, more inclusive and more aware woman that I was before. Sure, I might still have some Regrets, but they just haven’t revealed their true nature to me yet. They’re both inconsequential and paramount at the same time; both everything and nothing.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned are to NEVER underestimate my own power, and that the only person who is the expert on me, is me. My instrincts are never wrong, and if I can differentiate the objective guidance from the emotionally loaded suggestions, I’ll get to where I need to go. The biggest lessons I’ve learned have to do with timing – with truth – with living in a world as someone who is unquestionably herself and questionably questioning everything – with being proactive, not reactive.

The Regrets that got me there? I don’t even remember them.

 


WANT Yourself:
When do you find Regret pops up most in your life? Is it triggered by certain actions or interactions, or is it random? What’s one thing that a recent mini-Regret could teach you?

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I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

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I will never forget the person who changed my relationship with money.

No, not a parent.

No, not a boss.

It was my first…

…tax guy.

 

My friend Roy referred me to Wardie back when I was twenty-something, broke-ish, and realized that if I ever wanted to truly become a self-sufficient adult, I needed to woman up and stop passing off Tax Duty to the accountants most broke-ish twenty-somethings use: the parentals.

I was a lucky, lucky girl to have parents who would take on this task for me. I recognize and understand my privilege, and how closely I toed the line between Uninformed Young Person and Stereotypical Spoiled Millenial. I think it was when I realized that I had a choice between the two – owning my uninformed-ness and learning, or making someone else do my dirty work and staying in the dark – that I took a deep breath and got myself my very first (non-relative, non-unpaid) accountant.

Wardie had been in the business of money for over fifty years. His office was perched on the third floor of an inconspicuous putty-colored building, sandwiched between a production company and a plumber’s HQ. I vividly remember driving up one Sunday and parking in a spot reserved for the production staff. The irony that I was there to take control of my finances yet practically asking for (yet another) parking ticket was not lost on me. *This* is how I got broke-ish, I thought.

I ended up using Wardie as my accountant for years, up until I moved to Manhattan. Walking into Wardie’s office was a little like walking into a page out of the I Spy series of my childhood: books upon books and knick-knacks randomly scattered around the shelves. A framed set of coins, a USC championship banner from who knows when. Old family photos and Hemmingway anthologies. Notebooks and textbooks and file folders galore. The haphazard space was strangely calming, the lack of outward order making me sigh with relief every year – because once I sat down at his desk, I knew he had my back. His hands shook slightly more and more each year, and he used the same calculator he’d had since 1984.

And when I expressed concern or asked a question, he reminded me to Not Worry; that I had things under control – a reminder I needed, because much like his office, my exterior world could sometimes feel a bit confusing.

~

Money: it’s a topic most of us tap-dance around, even with the people we trust most. There’s a sense of shame associated with not having as much as you feel you should…or not being able to afford what you once could…or not be able to afford what others can…or looking at your paycheck and seeing how much is taken out from taxes…or doing your taxes and realizing you owe more than a few paychecks’ worth and not really understanding why. Mo’ money, mo’ shame. Less money, mo’ shame. Basically, Money and Shame are the toxic dynamic duo who just won’t quit.

And hey, it’s not ENTIRELY our fault we let Money Shame beat us up so bad. Managing personal finances in a balanced way is something most of us never learn how to do until we’re deep in the weeds. Whether that’s because our practical-education system is flawed/nonexistant, or because most of the adults who came before us carry Money Shame and pass it onto us…? I don’t know. It’s probably a little of both.

Money Shame scares us into scarcity mode in more way than one. We latch onto poor financial advice without doing research or getting multiple opinions, because it’s something. We hang onto time-sensitive monetary guidance for longer than it serves us, sticking by principles or processes that might have been appropriate a few years back but are since outdated for the life we lead in the present (and hope to create in the future).

Oh, and don’t forget the other side of scarcity mentality: the idea that a full bank account (or desire to have one) is greedy or narcissistic. Even when we ARE in a comfy spot when it comes to money, we cling to our old, dusty financial fears. Even if we’re blessed with abundance, we adopt a less-than mentality. We’re starved for an open conversation; we’re conditioned to make money our enemy.

You guys.

It does not have to be this way.

I remember my second year working with Wardie. He looked over my numbers and pulled out my prior year’s files from one of his many floor-to-ceiling file cabinets. “Look at that!” he exclaimed. “You made DOUBLE this year what you made last year. You keep this trend up, you’ll be a millionaire in five years and we’ll be having all different kinds of conversations!” Hm. I’d been hustling and stressing so hard all year, I hadn’t even registered that I was literally bringing in more than double what I’d been earning the year before. That one little comment from him, while a liiiittle exaggerated, was the first time I’d heard any sort of positive reinforcement when it came to how much money I made – or was able to make.

It’s very likely that if the thought of checking your bank account balance makes you break out in cold sweats, you’ve got quite a few people around you who are reinforcing this. Family, friends, coworkers, media personalities, Money Shame is everywhere. Just like Casual Negativity, money problems can be a way of bonding with others: commiserating over how expensive something is or how you really can’t afford such-and-such or UGH taxes amiright??

It can be a relief to know that you’re not alone…but it can also be damaging if you’re not devising a game plan to shift into a more positive and proactive reality. Here are some tools to break out of financial fears, shift into a rich mentality, and stay…shall we say…ACCOUNTABLE.

Let’s talk about CENTS, baby. Or for a more current pop culture pun…


FIVE WAYS TO MAKE MONEY MOVES
 

1 – REVISIT YOUR OWN FINANCIAL HISTORY.
Think back to a time you felt as if you had nothing. Then think of a time that felt more abundant. Remind yourself that money ebbs and flows just like the weather and the waves of the ocean. Everyone (even Oprah!) has had these ebbs and flows – we just don’t hear about them. What might feel hopeless now is just a low spot in the cycle of your financial flow. No, you can’t just sit back and wait. But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive – even, ESPECIALLY, when it’s toughest – more IS on its way.

And ps…I’m not talking Oprah status, speaking of Oprah. A lot of times when we think of abundance, we think of a Scrooge McDuck-type wealth where we’re suddenly diving into a sea of gold coins. Maybe a sea of coins is in the cards, I have no idea…but if you’re so stuck on that one singular image of “wealth,” you’ll miss out on so many literal value adds that happen in your life throughout your life. When I say more, I’m talking MORE. More than what you have when you’re feeling low. More than you have when your finances don’t seem to be flowing. More than now. More than then. Just…more. No one season defines you, and no one season is forever.

No one season defines you, and no one season is forever. Click To Tweet

2 – FIERCELY EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Abundant mindset is awesome, but nothing beats good ol’ brainwork. Schoolhouse Rock was right: Knowledge truly is power – and wealth. Get some. Even if everything you read sounds like a foreign language at first (and it probably will. the acronyms definitely will.), just read. Or listen to a podcast. Or watch a lecture or a TED Talk. We’ve got so much information at our fingertips, and most costs virtually nothing to access. My favorite resources are personal finance guru Suze Orman, who is a favorite of the Big O herself, and money maven Kate Northrup Watts, who gives brilliant, grounded financial advice that’s both relatable and attainable. And never be afraid to ask around, whether it be from a professional financial advisor or just someone you view as having it “together” who you can confide in without fear of judgement. It can be scary to seek awareness, but that feeling too shall pass. The more you know. Literally.

3 – PARTNER UP.
If you’re one half of a dynamic duo, it’s ESSENTIAL you and your partner create a safe space to discuss money. Not only is this healthy for your mind and bank account – it’s healthy for your relationship! Sit down during a neutral time (not when the actual problems arise or big decisions need to be made) and have a conversation about your current respective attitudes towards money and how they have been formed over the years through upbringing or experience.

Most financial fears stem from a place that goes waaaaay beyond dollars and cents. Aim to understand each other’s views and emotions surrounding money, then discuss how you can help each other shift into a positive space together. There are few things worse than feeling as if you cannot share deep-set worries or fears with the person you love most. Make sure each other knows you have a safe, respectful place to turn and strategize when you’re anxiety-ridden.

4 – GIVE MORE TO GET MORE.
This might sound counterintuitive, but when you feel financial fear making its way into your mind, spend a little on someone. It can be anything from donating to a friend’s marathon efforts to buying a coworker her morning coffee to donating to a cause you believe in or a random GoFundMe campaign that hits all your heart’s soft spots. To combat feelings of having nothing, we must actively create a sense of positivity and worth.

It doesn’t have to be much – you don’t even need to spend more than a couple dollars for this to work. The amount is NOT the point. It’s about cultivating worth and value. That means showing someone else they’re valued. The fact that you are able to give enough to make someone else smile can set off a chain reaction in your brain and heart that makes you feel truly rich.

5 – PRACTICE THE ART OF BENCHMARK BUYING.
While researching/acting upon return policies is a MUST when necessary, sometimes the act of making a return when the reason for return is finance-related (been there, done that) can reinforce that poor person mentality we’re trying so hard to break. Am I saying keep the thing if you can’t afford it? Hell no! But there’s gotta be something more to halt sub-par spending in the first place.

Spender’s Remorse usually comes from impulse buying, which usually comes from feeling a lack of control in some other part of life OR this idea that someone else’s opinion (salesperson, friend, family, that ad you saw on Facebook) matters more than your own. Enter what I have coined Benchmark Buying. It’s essentially this: if you have a certain amount of money that you CAN spend, how do you choose to spend it? If a new outfit costs as much as a plane ticket to Los Angeles to see my family, it BETTER be a damn good outfit I’ll be wearing for years to come. If I’m taking my husband out on a date, I’d rather pay for a quality intimate experience than a bunch of sub-part cocktails at an ultra-hip new hotspot known for its Instagrammableness. If I’m feeling lazy and want to pick up my lunch twice a week instead of make it, that convenience is probably not worth more to me than the boutique bootcamp class I could take later that costs the same amount. Comparing and contrasting the ways you spend your money not only encourages you to slow down your impulses, it empowers you to feel control over the direction in which your bank account is going.

I realized that financial success was this: not letting it control me. Click To Tweet

Moving from Los Angeles (an expensive city) to NYC (an even more expensive city) made me revisit my financial fears all over again. I knew I could do this…but what was it really going to take? And as someone who was part of a partnership, partners who were equal teammates but had totally different relationships with dolla-dolla-bills…what did financial success mean to me?

I realized that financial success in New York City was this: not letting it control me. It meant being able to fully support myself and understanding what all iterations of that would look like. It meant not letting my experiences with money – lots of it or littles of it – rule my emotions and dictate my quality of life.

Breaking out of financial fears is not about a specific number in your bank account, a figure on your paycheck, or a lucky winning lottery ticket. It’s about being tired of the control the mere THOUGHT of money has over both you and the people you love. Be your own positive example of what a healthy relationship with George, Abe, Alex, and Andy looks like. You might not have any plans to be a CFO or accountant or the next Wardie Jr. – but you CAN work to be a money-spending, money-saving maven and shift from Shame to Worth. No matter what the ebbs and flows of your finances look like, the act of feeling in control is something that only appreciates in value. That’s a richness that cannot be taxed.


WANT Yourself:
Now I wanna know…what are some ways you keep yourself in CHECK when it comes to checks? How do you stay ACCOUNTABLE when it comes to your bank account? What keeps you SANE-ing when you’re SAVING?
(How many more bad money-related jokes can I write? That last one didn’t even make much CENTS…) 

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Relearning How To Run.

Relearning How To Run.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

My steps always feel heaviest in the winter. Confined to a treadmill and no wind or road variation to keep my gait a-guessing, I make do with what I have and fall into a sense of comfort doing three miles on a glorified conveyor belt…just enough work to make it work for me. It’s fine. I’m fine. My body is satisfied but my heart works hard to suppress its longing for open air and a pace that’s not made of buttons.

Running has been the only “sport” I ever really excelled in. Too independent for team sports and too scared for risky business, running was what it felt like my body was built to do. Unbridled enthusiasm harnessed, unending determination streamlined. Running long distances as a kid was NOT my jam, but the 100-yard dash? Start the timer and I’m zipping ahead of the crowd.

Each year the running opportunities got harder to find. First I moved to a school that mostly ran as punishment, then I got scared of the treadmill when my cousin was horsing around on my uncle’s NordicTrac and crashed through the wall. Then P.E. became a time you talked to friends instead of letting out your inner competitive streak, then I went to high school and opted for Dance instead of P.E. because that’s what you did if you were a theatre kid. I’ll never forget playing a cast-bonding game of Not It / It (ok, so it was Duck Duck Goose) and chasing one of the senior boys around the circle and him gasping for breath, “Katie Horwitch, you are FAST!!!” Yes, I am. I just don’t have a chance to use it.

And then I went to college and I discovered the escape that was The Gym. How liberating it was, so many people with so many shapes using their bodies in so many ways! The perfect respite from the image-obsessed world of Being Eighteen juxtaposed with the image-obsessed world of taking ballet and jazz every day and having to scrutinize your form in the mirror at 8AM. There was an indoor track and I quickly became enamoured. But dancers can’t run, I was told. Bad for the knees. I learned to use the elliptical and not only stay stationary, but never lift my feet. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Winter reminds me of those years that running felt all but forbidden. I technically have the freedom to move as I choose, but the oppressive gloom and dipping temps cajole me like an assertive mother figure to turn away; you don’t want that, it’s just better that way.

And so I finally come back to it months later, on a day where the weather feels…well, less like inviting, more like permissive. My legs feel heavy under my body as I force them forward beyond the comfort of the treadmills and taxi cabs that December through March make more readily available.

I get where I want to go in the winter…but do I get there the WAY I want to?

Seasonal depression is a thing, for sure, but I also think much of the rut we find ourselves in during the winter has to do with the lifestyle we succomb to regardless of the Earth’s placement on its axis. It’s not that we outright choose to live differently, it’s just that it feels…easier. We bother ourselves with the wrong types of stimuli, we stay on high alert for the stuff that feels trite. It’s not until we step outside the box we’ve built for ourselves, thinking we can so easily bounce from one lifestyle to the next, that we’re repulsed by the way we’ve adapted to our space.

Shit.

It never felt this hard before.

I’ve been wasting time.

I’m so far behind.

It’s not just during the seasonal shifts when I need to relearn how to run. It’s when I’ve been giving so much of myself to everyone else that I forget what it’s like to have QT with my musings on a daily basis. It’s when over and over I say Yes when I’d prefer No, No when I’d prefer Yes, and one or the other when I convince myself that “Let me think about this and get back to you” isn’t a valid response. It’s when I tell myself too many times, it’s when I tell everyone else too many times: I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Each time a little more learning, each time a smidgebit new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. Click To Tweet

As I ran along the river this morning, way slower than I would have preferred, way shorter a distance than I would have liked, frustrated by the struggle but committed to the act, I passed by a small girl kneeling down to tie her shoes by her scooter. Her tiny pink helmet punctured the grey of the sidewalk-horizon meeting the grey of the water-horizon meeting the grey of the cloudy-horizon, like a little flower-bud-blip of brightness poking out from the ground promising sweeter weather right around the corner. I noticed she was watching me.

Who would I have been if I had not had women to watch as they relearned how to run? Maybe I couldn’t see their struggle out loud but I could feel it, because feely people always know. I don’t know that I ever thought I was the only one with dark days and hard times, I just sensed that some of us felt it darker and harder than others. Even if they weren’t talking about it, I knew. They said It’s fine; I’m fine. I knew. Their secrets were safe with me. And they kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And now I know, a rough patch or tough spot or even a drawn-out season of stagnation is not my fault. It’s not a failure, and it’s def not a sign I’m falling behind. It happens to everyone, because life happens to everyone. What matters is the relearning, the way I not only get reacquainted with my abilities but I expand on them. Each time a little more learning, each time a tiny smidgebit fresh and new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. My steps feel heavy and uncomfortable now, but I know they won’t soon. And I know that if I can get out of my own way and accept that it’s NOT fine and I’m NOT fine, that itself means I’m about to bloom and grow. Because little flower buds either wither in their pod or expand so uncomfortably hard that they burst into the epitome of springtime.


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It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.


I missed the theatre.

 

Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.

And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.

I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.

I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself – and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.

A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.

I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.

I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.

It's not easy, but it's right. Click To Tweet

We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.

What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?

It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?

I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.

Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.

I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but AND. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.

But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.

Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.

But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of my Through Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.

Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”

We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.

But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.

 

Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.

Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.

photo: krista ashley

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Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

It’s January 12th, 2014. Four years ago almost to the day. I’m sitting at the doctor’s office and I’m terrified to go in.

On a routine visit to a brand-new health practitioner who’s highly recommended by a friend, I find myself sitting in his eggshell-white waiting room filling out my paperwork and trying to keep from fidgeting. The receptionist is as sweet as can be, the vibe calm and friendly, and the multicolored bowl of lollipops sitting on the counter remind me of my childhood – back when I loved going to the doctor and I was self-aware in the best way possible.

The fidgety anxiety is not about a condition, not about a vibe – heck, it’s not even about the needles or the fact I haven’t seen a doctor in way too long. Even though I’m loving how I feel in my own skin, even though I am healthy and happy as can be, the reason my stomach won’t stop flip-flopping is because…for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to step on the scale.

~

It’s officially the end of what I like to call Resolution Season: that time of year people start to slowly forget their workouts, loosen their wallets, leave their closets in disarray – the time of year we generally start to “slip up.”

While most people simply assume this is due to lack of interest or motivation, I argue that what sends us spiraling is not the act itself – it’s the idea of what it SHOULD be.

Our ties to the Safe and Solid Endpoint are what really get us. The idea that there is some omnipresent rightest right, some all-powerful magic number, some goal that could be gone in the blink of an eye or glance at a figure…

And so the very second we veer from the path – well, it’s almost like those long-standing family arguments that never end up getting resolved. Both parties have been betrayed by their definitions of what love SHOULD be, what relationships SHOULD be like. God forbid they’re nuanced. God forbid sometimes we just don’t get along. Who even cares about the actual person anymore; we have our own fabricated notions of who they are to keep us up at night.

We wind up tightly and twist into knots, again and again, until one day we don’t even know where the untangling would begin.

I used to be double-knot-tied to my weight and that fluctuation on the scale, a memory that was triggered when I stepped into the doctor’s office that day and started to get upset at the fact that I remembered what it was like to get upset at a number. I used to be diligent about counting my calories, logging my workouts, making sure that I stayed within that self-defined coveted range between too much and not enough.

And then when the counting and logging got too out of hand, I landed on another tactic: avoid your body altogether, because if you don’t focus on it, it cannot betray you.

Thank goodness for that self-awareness I cultivated as a kid, because one day, all of a sudden, I just got…tired. I got TIRED of it ALL. It got exhausting, and I realized that by trying to avoid getting stuck in that place where my body dictated my happiness – by working so hard to cling so tight to the idea of freedom, the definition of what it would look like to love myself – I was holding myself captive and completely missing how happy the body I was in could actually make me feel, right in that very second.

We do the same thing with money, with exercise, with kindness even. Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection – even if it’s a standard we’ve defined by ourselves for ourselves. Isn’t that all resolutions are, really? Attempts to alter the definitions we’ve fallen into in the past? We define our resolutions at the beginning of the year, sometimes merely settling on a endpoint, sometimes going so far as to meticulously plan every step of the way for seemingly less-than-friendly navigation. We hang onto ideas of what things should be, so if and when they start to look different, we automatically associate them with failure.

Different is never failure. It’s just…different. Resolving to eat clean and then “cheating” on veggies with your main men Ben & Jerry one night is not a failure. Snapping at your coworker or best friend or child when you promised to be nicer this year is not a failure. Missing a day or two or even three (gasp!) of the gym, or logging a lackluster workout, or “accidentally” spending more than you should on those shoes (and shirt, and jeans, and trendy ear climber thingies) is not anywhere near a failure.

It’s become our default reaction to say we’ll get back on the wagon…
…but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether?

What if we realized that what truly makes us happy is fluid and constantly in flux?


As you move out of Resolution Season and into the rest of your life in 2018, I encourage you to remind yourself what it is about whatever you are doing that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. If your current definition and strategy is not accomplishing those things, then maybe it’s time to give yourself a break.

There will always be moments of the unexpected. Every thought is information. Every moment is a learning experience. Every decision is a building block. Sometimes we just don’t utilize them as such.

When we stop defining what happiness, success, health, or virtue must LOOK like, we actually allow ourselves room to experience things and figure out what is true to who we are, not who we THINK we should be.

There is no wagon to get back onto – because we never got on in the first place.

We say we’ll get back on the wagon - but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether? Click To Tweet

….oh, and as for the doctor’s office? Cue flashback music…

The nurse practitioner calls me in – a woman close to my age, with beached-blonde hair and an energy that was equivalent to a walking giggle. We chat about her day, where she’s from, bond over our love for cycling classes – and just like that, I’m on that platform.

And I realize, man do I feel fantastic.

I was scared those old definitions and feelings would magically reappear, those ones that told me that trying a stupid new cleanse or stupid new supplement or cutting out a food group for stupid amounts of forever was the road to the weight that was what happy must look like. They didn’t. How could they? I threw away definitions long ago, when I realized that the body and soul I admired most coincided with numbers that fluctuated daily and decisions that didn’t always exist in the rulebook, but sure made me the person I’d always hoped I would become.

The number pops up: far from what my “safe” zone was years and years ago, but right where I know I need and should be in that very moment.

And then, as if to challenge me in a moment of comedic brilliance, a mathematically intended yet emotionally-loaded word pops up next to the number.

Gross.

I smile at the nurse and the irony.

“I think your scale needs to watch its mouth.”

All we can do is laugh. I happily grab a lollipop on my way out.

resolution resolutions

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photo credit: made in chicago museum