This episode should be subtitled “The Conversation That Gave Me A Vulnerability Hangover.” And that’s exactly why I love talking to Jessica – she’s a pro at being kind, inclusive, AND pushing you to examine your belief and your norms at the same time.
Jessica Murnane is an author, women’s health advocate, host of the One Part Podcast, and founder of endometriosis awareness platform Know Your Endo AND One Part Plant, a movement that’s all about eating one plant-based meal a day to make a big difference from small changes.
In this episode Jessica and I talk about depression, moving through mental and physical health struggles (especially in our “sharing” culture), her endometriosis advocacy, being an influencer vs having influence, fitting in with the other people in your industry, how the new-age wellness industry can step up their game and how YOU can help, and – my favorite – making change happen and creating impact out there in the world, FAR from the online space.
Every season, we’ll be spotlighting an organization that’s making strides when it comes to making shift happen. This season, we’re proud to support She’s The First, an award-winning non-profit organization that fights gender inequality through education. To learn more, go to shesthefirst.org
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I open my door and walk out into the still-sleeping streets and they close in. The busses plow by and I’m hit with their force. Signing onto Facebook, tweeted out on Twitter. On fitness product placards and grocery story windows and spa practitioners and mega-store outlets.
I know them so well: the claims and calls to change your life.
They make it seem so easy – just sign up and go. Just buy this thing or set this goal, and once it’s yours you’re the You that you want to be. Simple as that.
Honestly, we’re the ones that should be laughed at. We’ve been duped, and it’s at no fault of the companies and corporations. I mean, maybe some fault…but it starts with us. They know where to hit us in our soft spots and seize every opportunity. We WANT change. We’re starved for it, even. They’re just giving us what we ask for.
Why is it, then, that with so many available outlets for change…we’re still endlessly craving it?
There’s this somewhat confusing, somewhat contradictory feeling that comes with big change. It’s excitement, it’s anticipation, it’s bliss…but it’s also a little fear, a muddle of oddity, a dash of discomfort. The contrast can be enough to frighten us away.
And that’s where they get us:
Offering us a place to go when the real steps are too scary.
Working out is too hard? Try this machine.
Eating well is too expensive? Buy this cheap box of massive claims.
Finding love in all the wrong places? Gurl, you totally need a new wardrobe, and also a facial.
Hello, just go to that class 3xs a week and watch your life fall into place! It worked for us, it’ll work for you.
We often associate discomfort with something bad – but what if we’re just displacing our true emotions? Discomfort merely means a state of non-comfort. And sure, sometimes that’s a by-product of a very bad place to be. A place of falseness, lies, of going against who you truly are.
But discomfort can also be the by-product of massive shifts and important changes in motion – the by-product of being affected by them.
To make lasting change, we must allow ourselves to be affected and moved.
We must allow ourselves to feel.
Sure, joining a gym or buying a new pair of jeans can be awesome. But they’re baby steps on the road to lasting change. Supporting players, not leading roles. Going to a spin class for the sake of checking it off your to-do list won’t get you the change you want, attending yoga so you can SAY you did won’t make you FEEL zen, and eating healthy foods for bragging rights won’t get you glowing. You’ve got to surrender yourself to the experience. Because there will be bumps in the road, and they WILL be uncomfortable. But that feeling won’t be because you’re doing something wrong. Nope – it’ll be because you’re breaking new ground on the way to doing everything so very, very right. Breaking through anything is uncomfortable. If you disengage from feeling, you disengage from change.If you slam down on the breaks, you miss the breakthrough.
Ever entered a room or started a conversation and felt an immediate coldness? That is what happens when someone disengages, when someone decides they don’t want to be affected: everything freezes.Connections remain on a surface level, interactions are completely on the outside. No wonder so many of us flip out when we’ve found a new soul-friend or a lustworthy romantic prospect! It’s not that the depth of character is so rare – it’s that too many of us fight against depth or freeze it out. Depth is uncomfy, depth means you can be affected. Depth means you feel things that sometimes will hurt.
But depth is also what warms us up from the inside out. It’s our internal thermostat.
Ready to have your mind blown? Change does not come from something. It comes from all things. The insides, the outsides, the marriage of the two. There is possibility for change everywhere, and you never know for sure where you’ll find it. Allowing yourself to be affected, to be moved, to feel, is to allow yourself permission to move into that change that’s so meant for you.
And so while the bus sign and Newsfeeds and grocery-store windows try as they might, their claims are no substitute for the magic that unfolds when we just open up and feel. We’re fine-tuned on the inside to respond to every effect and affect in a way that’s all our own. Taking a deep, long breath and opening up our insides to our outsides is way more effective than any claim you’ll read.
You don’t need a pill to see a shift. You don’t require rules to make a difference. And just going THROUGH the motions is nothing compared to what happens when you are shaken to the core by the way they make you feel.
Open your doors. This is all yours.
Now go and change your life.
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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.
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.
“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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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.
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.
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 myThrough 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.
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We’re back in action, baby!! I can’t think of a better guest to kick off Season Three (which, by the way, will be 20 episodes and now run every other week instead of every three weeks) than author and host Katie Dalebout.
Katie is the host of the Let It Out Podcast and the author of Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling (Hay House 2016). Katie is a writer and podcast host focusing on self-care, self-awareness, and self-expression for the greater good. Through her speaking and writing, she aims to help people develop a positive image of their bodies by embracing their creativity and personality outside of their physicality.
In this episode, Katie and I talk about major transitions, navigating change (when you don’t have a high threshold for change – and GUESS WHAT? Neither Katie or I do!), moving across the country and what it’s taught us, why constant growth and goal-chasing isn’t always a good thing, the value in doing what doesn’t feel like yourself, and so much more (including a topic I was really excited to dive into with her: INTERSECTIONAL WELLNESS).
MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).
Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.
And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.
As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.
I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.
This, I told myself, was not normal.
And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.
And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.
It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.
Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.
How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…
Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.
It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.
Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.
You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.
Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.
And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.
We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.
Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.
WANT Yourself: Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.
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