The Collective Heart: When Tragedy Hits The High Notes.

The Collective Heart: When Tragedy Hits The High Notes.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

No sweet without sour, no peace without war, no joy without sorrow.

We’re all well-versed in the laws of opposition and the truths of our world: in order to have the good we must know the bad.

Still, is this any consolation when tragedy strikes? It’s unjust, unexpected, and grossly unfair.

Whether it is a personal tragedy experienced within our own familiar circle or an international tragedy experienced on a global level – we feel. Empathy is instinctual. It could have been me. It could have been my sister, my brother, my best friend. I could have been there.

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As I’ve discussed before, I honestly believe we are all equipped with the exact same tools to learn the exact same lessons, just at different times (or even different lifetimes). So if this is true, then it also must stand true that our minds and hearts each possess equal capacities for thought and feeling.

And if this is true, then the reality of our world is that we are all interconnected. Life is an energy exchange; we are all responsible for the education and growth of everyone around us. We are all gifted with the exact same capabilities, we simply learn to access and use them in different ways.

So when tragedy hits one of us, it hits all of us. It awakens that primal feeling of grief and loss, of where-do-I-go-now?

We're all gifted the same capabilities, we simply learn to access and use them in different ways. Click To Tweet

To me, “The News” has always been akin to watching a horror film, but in real time and real life. I set up Google alerts about topics that matter most to me, I follow my favorite news outlets on Facebook and Instagram, but for the most part, I trust my highly intelligent friends, podcast hosts, and NPR reporters to give me the information I need. The anger, violence, and hatred are too much to soak in (and I always soak it in). Constantly diving into such information, as a highly sensitive person, spirals me into a kind of sadness that’s crippling

It’s somewhat unfortunate that we haven’t even needed a regular TheNews-watching practice in our lifetimes to have had to cope with large-scale tragedy on a very consistent basis. The earliest I can remember being shaken by a tragedy was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I was in fourth grade. Since then, I’ve bore witness to the planet we call Home being torn to shreds, built back up, then beat up all over again. I remember the first Clinton election and talk of prosperity and change even though I had zero clue as a five-year-old what it even meant. Two wars in my lifetime, watching the response to terrorism change everything from the way I boarded a plane to the way, to my horror, I heard adults speak of others. I grew up in Los Angeles, in quite the inclusive environment. Never before had I realized that even the most seemingly inclusive weren’t all exempt from racism.

We’ve learned a lot about each other in these times of darkness. Some bad.

And, some good.

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Sometimes, my first impulse is to feel furious that we exist in such a cruel, awful time. I’ll find myself nodding when I hear “We live in a sick world” and using a word I rarely speak: “Hate.” In the last few days, it was hard not to.

But then…without even thinking of it…into my head popped my favorite passage from a favorite poem. Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life. “In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul,” it begins…

In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. -Desiderata Click To Tweet

I see the images of strangers comforting strangers. My Facebook page is filled with not just memorial posts and photos, but articles about how to help and where to donate. (ps – here, here, here, and here)

And I remember that all of life is an energy exchange, and my anger is doing no one any good. It is not helping families and friends heal. It is not saving the injured, repairing the city, and it is certainly not tipping the peace:destruction ratio in favor of the former.

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In times of tragedy, we feel in unison. That equal capacity for thought and emotion we spoke of is rarely as apparent as in charged times. The same door unlocks in each of us, and our reactions become a harmony.

We have a choice in the song we sing – so choose wisely amidst the hurt and pain. Choose to put aside the maliciousness and bitter notes, and instead sing a beautifully dissonant song of mourning and reverence and compassion and hope. One that lights up from the inside like a pulsing candle flame – not a forest fire of destruction.

The best thing we can do is keep loving the world, even with its shattered pieces. Click To Tweet

We will never not know tragedy or sadness. But how we react will inform the collective heart of our planet. We must never lose sight of the fact that, yes, we CAN conquer hate with love. Yes, we have the power to heal. Yes, only light can drive out the darkness.

Our hearts are crying, but the best thing I think we can do is keep loving the world and seeing the best in it, even with its nicks and cuts and shattered pieces. In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

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[p.s. I posted an update on Facebook that read “I wish there was a world flag, so we could all raise that together.” A friend sent me this link. A proposed flag for Planet Earth, united as one. Can we make this happen please, NASA or UN or whoever? I’ll even change my profile pic.]
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Making Friends As An Adult, Part II: Vulnerability + The First-Best You

Making Friends As An Adult, Part II: Vulnerability + The First-Best You

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools

Friendship as an adult is complicated. No longer bonded by the confines of proximity (“You’re in my class? Let’s be friends!”), we’re now able to choose who and what we keep around. In theory, this should make for even richer, deeper, more prolific friendships. But in reality, more and more of us are finding that the playground of adulthood is surprisingly barren. Last month, we dove into why it’s not about the bestie, it’s about the soulie. This month, we’re talking how to find those like-minded souls.


 

Maybe you’re at the gym. Maybe you’re at work. Maybe you’re at a coffee shop, trying to squeeze in a few hours of writing before the weekend’s over.

And then you see her.

She’s laughing, chatting with the person next to her, seems to be engaged in her own world apart from the thumping of dumbells being dropped or the screeching cars in the street nearby.

And you wonder – could she be The One?

Or rather, one of The Ones?

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Soulies, or soul-mate friends, are all around. The act of making friends as an adult isn’t hard per se, but challenging. Without the security of scheduling or proximity, making friends as a grown-up – not superficial friendships, but the the kinds of friends that lift you up – requires you to do one thing: be courageously vulnerable.

As Brené Brown says in her brilliant TED talks and books, vulnerability is courage. Vulnerability is the new strength. And in the case of friendship, vulnerability is the magnet that draws people together who are just the right fit at just the right time.

Vulnerable is the new strong. Click To Tweet

I find it interesting that I have made some of my most meaningful connections online. It started when I was 13, and after seeing Les Miserables, the speculation that I was wired differently than other teens was confirmed. I retreated to message boards and subsequently AIM, back before it was cool or even safe to meet people online, spending hours with other les misfits of all ages (mostly in the 16-30 set) talking not just theatre, but about all the things. Offline, I was the kid who pretended to like “normal” teenage stuff and struggled to keep up superficial conversations. Online, I was the person who didn’t think twice about being herself, and felt perfectly at home doing so. I told no one.

Years later, I found blogging (way before blogging was considered a “thing,” btw – what’s with me and not-socially-acceptable ways of meeting people?!). I met some incredible people through that blog; first online, then in person. Online, I was witty, punny, thought-filled. In my “real life,” I was the person who struggled between wanting to stand out and wanting to be accepted. Again, I told no one in my “real” life about my online friendships. It was like I was living a double life: in my “real life,” I was the person who struggled between wanting to stand out and wanting to be accepted. In my online life, I was just Me.

Friendship, just like any relationship, is a risk. Will they like me? Will I fit in? And while I think that certain aspects of adulthood make friend-finding more challenging, there is a self-awareness we have as adults that lends itself to some of the most important, fulfilling connections of our lives.

All worthwhile relationships are based in vulnerability. Unfortunately for us, we’re mostly taught that vulnerability is best used when it’s used selectively. Being “let in” by someone is seen as a rare victory, and the image of “walking around with your heart on your sleeve” that is commonly associated with vulnerability is taught to be dangerous. We’ll get hurt. We’ll be taken advantage of. We’ll be “found out.”

But in the process of hiding our heart, we’ll also shield ourselves from love.

I’m not saying to go and tell your life story and how you feel about each part of it to everyone you meet on the street. But no one can let you in if you don’t allow them the chance. If vulnerability seems like too harsh of a term for you (I understand), try easing into the idea by replacing the word with “honesty.” Being honest with who you are, at all times, means you’ll never be “found out” because who you are is right there on the table.

Pretending to be someone other than who you are means that you’re not really making friends – your alter-ego is. And in that case, we’re more likely to develop friendships that raise our blood pressure, make us feel anxious, and ultimately either make us withdraw or resign ourselves to defeat.

Basically, it comes down to this:

True friends want you to be the first-best You, not the second-best Them. Click To Tweet

I’ve always had a knack for befriending the people I’ve looked up to in my immediate circle. The funniest girl in class. The most talented girl in the show. The star at the yoga studio. I felt pride in being let into their inner circle. They proved to be loyal friends, yet my sense of less-than-ness kept me silently, positively pleading for their love. Doing favors. Showering gifts. Pulling out all the love languages hoping I’d keep their affection.

I was okay with being second-best to them, their sidekick – and in some of the relationships, that’s where I actually thrived. But in others, I realize in retrospect, I was more happy being a second-best version of them because I feared being a first-best version of myself. I got myself so deep into these relationships that I feared being found out for who I “really was.” What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not funny enough, cool enough, smart enough, or worthwhile enough? A sense of conditional-ness permeated these relationships. And it was all on me.

As I started to become more comfortable with vulnerability – nay, honesty – I noticed that my friendscape started to change. Slowly, these relationships started to do one of two things: fall away as we realized we didn’t have all that much in common, or grow closer because we realized how much we did.

True friends want the first-best YOU, not(3)

Some other friend-making tips?

•Start small: Practice that unquestionable you-ness on people you encounter on your regular routine. It’s easy to be yourself when you’re with yourself, but with other people? That’s when the fear of judgement, rejection, or humiliation all come into the picture. Next time you’re out, say hello to the barista at your local coffee shop. Ask how the day was of the teenager who’s bagging your groceries. And then do something unexpected: react and respond. It doesn’t need to be a long conversation, but we are so used to asking how someone is doing out of habit that we rarely take the time to actually hear what the other person’s said. Say hello. Ask how someone is. Then respond not as a character, but as yourself.

•Listen to the way you speak: When you’re talking t0 others, do you water down how you really feel? Do you share objective details only, or maybe only the opinions that make you seem a certain way? Friendship is not born out of conformation - it's born out of soul collaboration. Click To Tweet

•Join a class, club, organization, or setting where you can do what you love: Making friends as an adult has one huge advantage over making friends as a kid: values. When we’re young, we make friends based around what we can see: our location, our pre-established family friendships, our classes, our activities, etc. As adults, especially courageously vulnerable adults, we make friends based around our values. And whether we realize it or not, our activities and hobbies become a reflection of our unique values set instead of our age or demographic. When anyone asks me where to meet new people, I always tell them to find a fitness class they love and stick with it…because they love it. But if you’re not a class, club, or volunteer type person, simply put yourself in settings that allow you to express your values through doing/be-ing what you love. Kind of like the IRL-version of my Les Miz message boards. Show up at a coffee shop with a book or sketchpad, and see what happens.

I stopped my blog in 2010. At the time, I thought it was because my life was becoming too busy. But in reality, it was because my life was beginning to happen. I was no longer cloaking myself under the veil of the caretaker, the sidekick, or the second-best someone-else. And I was not relegating my personality to the written word, I was living it out loud. I still have friends I made during those times of message boards and AIM, and crazily enough, they’re now some of my oldest friends. Probably because that was our safe haven where we could just be who we were at our core – which is who we still are, really.

Vulnerability does not have limits or end goals. It is an ongoing process, because our lives will always be shifting. We’ll always have new thoughts, new feelings, new fears, and new dreams growing and expanding inside us. And just as we think we have everything all figured out (including ourselves), in will come the next curve ball or some new nuance will be revealed that we never realized existed. Old friends will drift and new friends will come in, and some people who’ve been there all along will all the sudden seem brighter to us than they ever have before. Our friends will look different at different points in our lives, and that’s because we’ll be a little bit different too.

But if we’re our whole selves all the while, living for what makes US unique and makes US tick moment by moment, choice by choice, the right people will always find their way into our lives and our hearts. And if you devote yourself to being unquestionably the first-best version of you, I promise with all I’ve got that you will find The One. Or rather, all of The Ones.


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Shift Of Power: Love And The Whole Spectrum.

Shift Of Power: Love And The Whole Spectrum.

Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

I used to think my heart would toughen up, it would take the experiences accumulated and build some sort of resistance to the repetitive motions of life. The ups, the downs, the expectations, the disappointments. And yet it somehow remains as delicate as ever. I looked at the news stories of today to find an example of hope and yet all I saw was bleak. A cocktail of death, hatred, and pop culture factoids. Betty White is on Instagram. That was the highlight.

I look outside and I see an old couple crossing the street five stories below. They’re arm-in-arm, moving step-by-step from side to side as the light counts down to One. The cars honk, the woman speeds up a little, his arm at her side. The man stops and stares the honking driver square in the face and I wonder if they really see one another. I wonder – what would life be if we just let ourselves care?

And then the man turns, and he sees his gal, and they make it to the other side together.

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Love will tear you up. 

It’ll fight a good fight, it will leave you black and blue and bleeding just a little. Love will soak your carpet with tears and scratch up your throat. A love that does not sometimes hurt, that love is just not love – it’s complacency.

Real love, strong love will offend you and make you cry. And real love will crack you, it will break you in those places you thought were toughest and thickest and unmovably eternally solid, and it will scrape your knees in the dirt.

But isn’t that lovely?

Love will break your heart, then mend the area around the crack so it’s stronger than ever, so it’s safe and secure and needs no bearings. Love will crack and tear and rip you open, then meticulously cement and gorilla-glue the sharded edges so that forever on, light will shine through those cracks like glorious sunbeams feeding the flowers. Love will leave you in tears and just when you thought there were no more, in they’ll flow again.

My heart is delicate and my heart is bruised. All the loss and the passing, the way time never stands still and yet sticks with you always. My heart misses my dear friend but remembers his smile. It pangs from betrayal but holds onto the sweetness. My heart aches when I read the news and it sings when I hear the door unlock. Breakups, breakthroughs, they’re all the same, really.

Love makes you feel and makes you come alive.

Love opens up the darkest corners of who you hope never-to-be and draws a flashlight upon the mold-encrusted attics of your soul. You will get lost in love and you will lose in love, but when it’s real you will never lose yourself and you’ll never be alone. In those awful feelings of abandonment even, you will know, this is love, this is what i am here for.

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Love knows no boundaries and heeds no parameters. Love is your mother, love is a man, love is your best friend from first grade and your sister-friend now. Love is your mentor, love is your dog, love is that first heart flutter; it always leaves an imprint.

Love won’t fix you or perfect you, and isn’t supposed to make you whole. True love takes all that you are, strips it down, and says look – here is your path and here are your dreams; look how nicely they fit into one another, look how you have everything you need already, look how you are home.

Love cries with you, love cries at you, love sometimes forgets about you because that’s just how life is, sometimes. What would life be if we let ourselves care? 

Love is what happens when you know who you are and cherish who you are, and you find some person who enhances those parts, the whole spectrum. 

And love is when you see who they are and cherish that, too; when you find you in turn somehow seem to enhance their authentic soul as well.

Keep breaking my heart, keep scanning that flashlight and making me cry. I am here love, I am flying, through those cracks I feel the sunshine.

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Shift Of Power is a series on WANT that explores the darker parts of our emotions, empowers us to embrace them, and shows us how they can make us stronger. From loneliness and “uncoolness” to fear and jealousy, Shift Of Power shines a light on the shadows of our psyche – recognizing that these are very real parts of us and can, in fact, serve a higher purpose if we allow ourselves to feel them full-force. Part prose, part essay, part self exploration, Shift Of Power looks at the inner workings of what we truly want from a whole new angle. Because in order to want it all, you need to learn to feel it all.That, my friends, is power.

The Pigeon + The Nox: On Awareness, Responsibility, and The Most Fragile Of Loves

The Pigeon + The Nox: On Awareness, Responsibility, and The Most Fragile Of Loves

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

It has been a long week. Finally it’s Thursday. Finally, it’s almost over.

The weight of my Nike bag made the walk up the stairs a teeter-totter, and I was planning on creating the kale salad to end all kale salads. And believe you me, I know a kale salad.

I gym-tote-hobbled to my car on the third floor and immediately saw a pigeon no more than 3 feet away from my little silver car. And as I walked closer, it wouldn’t budge. My first thought was that it was wounded, but as I inched closer it slowly centimeter’d away to reveal something even worse: a round white egg.

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There it was, sitting on the cold concrete saturated in car exhaust and caked sweat, surrounded by no more then 10 to 15 twigs: a last attempt at some sort of shelter, some sort of home, some sort of safe haven. I stopped in my tracks and gasped. Careful not to move, I watched the mother bird, this little creature probably both on guard and terrified. Slowly, literally by millimeters at a time, it eased back on top of the egg. It fluffed its feathers, just like in a Pixar movie*, and slowly, so slowly, settled back down on its baby.

I broke down.

My first thought was to call the Wildlife Waystation, even though it was 8 PM and they were probably closed and they are out in Temecula or something ridiculous. I called anyway – visions of my field trip in first grade and the baby bunny fiasco of 1995 (story for another time) came flooding back to me as I thought, it’s their job to be empathetic. It’s their job to know.

They were open – yay! – and a guy no older than me answered with no clue what was about to be spewed out on the other end of the line. I explained my scenario – parking lot – pigeon – nest – Equinox – and judging by his silence, he probably thought I was clinically insane. He directed me to animal care services, whose voicemail directed me to their emergency hospital, whose voicemail directed me to a recording about birds, which mentioned absolutely nothing about a nest, an egg, or a parking lot in the middle of Sepulveda Boulevard on the third floor of a luxury gym. I called my parents (who are used to my empathetic cries) and Jen (who I knew would empathetically cry with me). There was nothing I could do. I sat there, scared of how unaware everybody is around me that nobody would probably even notice; that the man hired to clean the gargantuan garage overnight would hose the nest and egg and bird away; that a car would run it over early the next morning; that someone who didn’t know any better or think to know any better would try to move the egg and the mother would never come back.

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Jen texted me her friend Lynne’s brilliant – BRILLIANT – idea that I should get cones. I went down to the first level by the maintenance closet and found three cones, then one upstairs by a pile of trash and broken plastic bins. I sanctioned it off, startling the mama in the process, yet she never went more than four feet away, watching me with untrusting beady eyes.

Then I saw him: the security guard. I walked up to him, tear-stained and tired, prefacing with the fact that I was probably clinically insane. When he told me the cleaning man was coming in an hour, my heart sank. I wanted to stay there all night.

But major kudos to Equinox, you’ve hired a top-notch security dude: I don’t know if it was his kind heart or the pressure of the tears running down my makeupless cheeks, but I’ll be damned if that man was not invested after twelve seconds of talking with me. “You should put up a sign!” and next thing I knew, he was handing me scotch tape and assuring me he would tell the maintenance crew not to mess with it. I waited for the scared shitless pigeon to return to her egg, and slowly, deep breath, one hour later, I drove away.

~

I don’t know why I had such an intense emotional reaction. Crying harder than I had in months, uncontrollably, just sitting, just waiting for I don’t even know what. I felt an obligation to this mama bird and its baby; who else would notice? Who else would think of their safety, of preserving their connection, of their tiny heartbeats? If I left, maybe no one. If I left, I would have this nagging feeling I had let another living being down. That I could have done something but didn’t.

That moment when I hovered so close to the haphazard twigs I feared the mom would be scared off for good, that little eternity when the security guard (Ray; I should be respectful and call him by his name) unrolled a strip of tape long enough to wrap around the metal-wire fence, he watched me with awe: “Most people wouldn’t even notice.”

 

Is it pretentious to reference my own writing?

Because here’s the thing:

We run things over and call them roadkill.  We say it’s just how life is, it’s just how this world is, it’s just what happens.  But guess what? It’s not. It is but it is SO not. Things get run over and we keep going and we forget.  I just can’t help it. I feel like I am walking – driving – through a ghost.

Just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. Just because they got in our way doesn’t mean there was no fear.  

Why have we not been able to fix this yet? We’ve displaced these little guys. It’s survival of the fittest – we’ve evolved in ways that allow us to build freeways, commission strip malls, lop off whole chunks of mountain to develop a community of condominiums. Most of these tiny creatures are born into it.They did not know the trees, the acorns, the Disney-esque thickets. They just know the concrete and the luxuries of our world. The light posts are their trees – the moldy Subway their acorns – Sepulveda Blvd their thicket. Our asphalt world is not where they are supposed to be yet we just expect them to be there. And they don’t know how to adapt. They don’t know that an airplane is not a bird and a car won’t just leap over them like a rabbit. They just don’t know.

No love is too small, no nest is too careless, no responsibility is too insignificant. Click To Tweet

It made me so sad, like with roadkill, like with the squirrels I see running up the light posts and the rat traps in the garage. This sweet little bird – and I don’t even like birds! I saw the way it hovered closeby even when it got scared. It would not fly. It would not dart. It took careful steps, it kept one eye on its egg and one eye on the impending danger; I saw how she fluffed and pillowed her feathers and how as she sat down ever so carefully she cocked her head down to the side to check that everything was just.right.

We all have something to love. Something we protect, something SO. FRAGILE. it is worth the risk of the careless drivers and the leaf blowers and the hoses that water everything down so it looks immaculately innocuous; it’s safer that way. We might not be able to understand it all, but we can still respect and revere.

No love is too small, no nest is too careless, no responsibility is too insignificant.

At the very least, we can be aware.

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*P.S. I named it Kevin.