Monthly Archives: February 2015

Week 28 – Little Bits of Bullying. And Compassion.

*HUGs* to you today, Celebrationists, in case you’re in need of one on this particular Monday! Today I bring you a moving, generous, and kind-hearted GBD. We’re going to chat about bullying, and what a Little Bit of Good it is to respond to aggression with grace and compassion. But first:

1.I am grateful that whatever weirdness has been happening with my eyes is officially NOT an infection!

2. I am grateful for the random and insightful conversation I had with an elderly gentleman at Starbucks today.

3. I am grateful that I’ve been gifted with many opportunities to see amazing theatre for little-to- no-money, this month.  It’s wonderful getting an injection of inspiration, and I’m grateful to the kind folks who made that possible for me.

All right, friends. This incredible man is Justin Talkington.

10505423_10152334275777181_6158411602170816238_n

This week something happened to Justin that powerfully caught my attention.  Bullying takes many forms these days – and internet bullying is growing as a popular form, it seems.  This incendiary method of harassment can sometimes be anonymous, as it is in this case – but remains no less aggressive and horrific. I’m interested in how we can respond to such acts in ways that diffuse the cruelty, affirm our own goodness, and stop the “Little Bits of Bad” (or really, Big Bits of Bad) from spreading any further. I asked Justin if he would be willing to discuss this experience with me, as well as chatting about bullying in general, and he kindly agreed. (The following contains several bits of strong language in the form of slurs used.)

Can you walk us through the recent experience you had? As much as you’re willing to share about what happened?

What a boy has to do to sit and eat Pizza Hut in his sweatpants and watch Golden Girls in peace I will never know. A few days ago I made a solid effort but, alas, my phone buzzed and with cheese still on my face a bit of tragedy struck. I was informed by a kind acquaintance in my hometown (which I was visiting for a few days) that someone in the nearby area had been posing as me on the social media “dating” app Grindr. Not only posing as me, but using a profile photo of me from high school when I was significantly overweight linked with a vulgar and blatantly suggestive profile. Pizza night was not ruined as it is indeed still pizza and therefore delicious, but a dark cloud had definitely been placed overhead.

What was your first thought/impulse after discovering how your image was being used?

Everyone has things that they struggle with, be it internally or externally. It so happens that this person posing as me struck a chord in both soft spots. My first impulse was laughter; however, I later realized upon examining the profile that this laughter was indeed a means of defense. My weight was a struggle my entire adolescence and into high school. I peaked in high school at approx. 250 lbs at 5’10” and that is when the photograph on the profile was taken. The photo used was of me on Christmas morning in the comfort of my home, and though I am now able to look at said photo with a smile, the thought of someone using it against me to solicit a fake fetish was incredibly offensive.

1509221_10151789347842181_1204058898_n

Have you encountered other experiences in your life where you’ve been bullied?

I am an openly homosexual Christian from a rural farm town in Indiana. Throw in some severe muffin tops and love of singing and you have yourself a prime candidate for ridicule. For the majority of my life since the age of 11 or 12 through my early twenties, bullying came in both mild and severe doses. Putting up with the frequent “Faggot” and “Cocksucker” slurs in the hallway grew tolerable; however, even upon returning home for Christmas break my junior year of college I was attacked in the parking lot of Dicks Sporting Goods by three middle-aged men.

What were some of the greatest challenges of those encounters, and what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned?

The greatest challenge I have faced through my battle with bullying and harassment is not losing my faith in people. I have told myself since an early age that a few spots of dark and murky ink do not make the entire ocean black. Losing faith in humanity was never an option. You don’t stop loving others simply because a large handful of broken people tried to break you of your ability to do so. The greatest lesson you can learn as one who has gone through severe bullying is to love all the more and love more powerfully than those around you. If compassion was not shown to you in the way you craved so intensely in your youth; get your revenge. The ultimate revenge is happiness. Loving others and exercising compassion will bring happiness. Those who tried to break you will in some way always be broken. That’s when you come in. You can’t fix people, but damnit you can love people.

If the person who took your photo and used it to create a profile were reading this right now, what would you like to say to him or her?

You ruined my pizza night…

Kidding. If the person who created that vulgar profile is indeed reading this message, please contact me personally.

What advice do you have for a person who is, or has been a victim of bullying?

Message me on Facebook. The thing I wish I had in high school was a network. As cliche as it indeed sounds, it gets better. Sometimes life gives you a few cards that are terribly, sometimes tragically, difficult to play. Play them anyways and do it confidently. Too long growing up I played the supporting character in my own life and put my own happiness on the back burner. I played sports that I hated and spent time and money on things I thought I needed to impress people that I didn’t even like. Being yourself is shitty advice because when people are consistently pointing out that yourself isn’t good enough, how do you embrace how wonderful you are. It gets better. The person being picked on is usually the threat, the one others are jealous of, the foreign presence or the one breaking free of what others view as normal. Break free now. The sooner you jump the sooner you fly.

36429_408772257180_5389969_n

Who is another person or organization that inspires you? Someone you feel is doing Little Bits of Good?

Organizations to research and donate to: The Trevor Project http://www.thetrevorproject.org, Ali Forney House for Homeless and Struggling LGBT Youth http://www.aliforneycenter.org, LGBT national help centerhttp://www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org , ALS association http://als-ny.org and ASPCA NYC www.aspca.org . All of these affect my life in some way or another.

The person I choose to focus on so much of the time however is my grandmother, Cheryl Collins. My grandma is the voice in my head separating good from bad and right from wrong. She is the kindest and most earnest woman I have ever met and takes little bits of good and molds them delicately into miles and miles of great. I believe whole heartedly that I have overcome so much of hardship life has thrown at me because of this woman’s influence on my life. The beauty of it all? She likely has no idea.

What is the best thing that has happened to you today?

You know what? Today was a whirlwind of joy. I woke up and filled out paperwork and packed my suitcase for a new job and career path I am beginning on Monday morning, had lunch the queen of my heart, my mother, and ended the night off having a few drinks and slices of pizza with my brothers and sisters. Filling in all the little grooves, I continued planning for my best friends wedding next spring and got ready for bed whilst video chatting someone very special to me. What was the best thing about my day? I lived it.

10395860_10152365498047181_2103749078142866127_n

Justin, thank you so much for sharing your goodness, hope, and optimism with us. I know I’m launching into this week inspired to be a little kinder, a little braver, and a little more mindful.  Wanted to leave you all with a great article by one of my favorites, Jen Sincero – on Confidence. http://www.fastcompany.com/3042665/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/six-habits-of-confident-people

Until next week! xoxo

Week 27 – Little Bits of Tenacity…and Presidential Wisdom

Greetings, Celebrationists! Hope you had a lovely weekend, and a blissful (or fun, or low-key, or staunchly defiant) Valentine’s day – if the holiday holds meaning for you.  I wanted to share with you one more Shakin’ Things Up post before launching back into a new series of GBD interviews. This week I want to talk about Tenacity (as you probably put together from this week’s blog title) But first…

  1. I am thankful for one of the most restful weekends I’ve had in a long time
  2. I am thankful for my new sparkly silver glove and sock liners, given by a special someone
  3. I am thankful for this beautiful piece of art I received in the mail, for Valentine’s Day

photo 1  Created by my beautiful friend, Willa Johann : ) Double-sided and incredible!photo 2

So, some personal thoughts about tenacity. Working towards a goal can feel particularly challenging this time of year, I think. Or maybe I should just say that everything feels challenging when it’s about 6 degrees outside (depending on where you are). Either way, I know I can feel my own passionate drive decrease significantly when I can’t feel my various appendages.

Whatever you might be trying to create or cultivate in your life right now… whether it’s a new job, a relationship, a personal artistic project, love for yourself, or something else entirely, we might ask ourselves: Is tenacity something that certain people just have, or can it be learned? Even if you identify as someone who “just isn’t wired that way,” I think that tapping into our own personal kind of tenacity is totally possible.  It seems to me that the two things that make the greatest difference are approaching a goal with purpose, and action.

As I was prepping this blog, I found a great list of synonyms for tenacity, and have high-lighted my favorites:

persistence, determination, perseverance, doggedness, strength of purpose, tirelessness, indefatigability, resolutionresoluteness, resolve, firmness, patience, purposefulness, staunchness, steadfastness, staying power, endurance, stamina, stubbornness, intransigence, obstinacy, obduracy, pertinacity

Getting clear on what we want, in the most specific terms possible, can really help light the fire of resolve.  It’s difficult to be tenacious when we only have a very watercolor idea of what we want, as opposed to a pointillist painting, with lots of great detail. A goal might be to be a published author, let’s say! Maybe you’ve been inspired since you were a young child to travel the world giving book talks and signing hundreds (or thousands!) of freshly printed copies for your adoring fans – awesome! This kind of dream could remain just that, a dream…forever, possibly, until you ask yourself things like “What kind of book am I passionate about writing?” “Who is my audience?” “What is the reason that this story or topic has a place in the world?” etc. It’s difficult to be truly persistent about something when you don’t even know where to begin. Figure out where to begin. What is it that you want? Get specific : )

We’ve all heard that “actions speak louder than words.” We may have heard the phrase so much that the sentiment has completely lost its meaning. As someone who very much identifies as a “thinker,” making myself LEAP – shut my own brain up and just do, do, do – those are the moments when the magic can start happening. To go back to the example of the last paragraph – let’s say you’ve gotten specific, and decided that your mission is to change the face of young adult fiction (like my friend, Stephanie Kate Strohm! Check her out at:

http://www.stephaniekatestrohm.com)

authorphoto

Now get writing! Planning out actionable tasks that move you closer to your goal can be enormously satisfying. Following through with them will fan the flame of tenacity that was lit by purpose! And if you’re as motivated by a to-do list as I am…getting things done will turn that flame into a veritable bonfire! If you don’t know which actions to take, and find yourself spiraling into that place of apathetic inaction,  I know it helps me to:

– Talk to a mentor who can help me brainstorm, or offer words of wisdom

– Hop on the ol’ interwebs and research, research, research

Overwhelm yourself with outside inspiration. Podcasts, art galleries, books… when I’m feeling like a lost mess, it really fills me up to be able to talk to, watch, and listen to other people who are out there working hard and going for it, in their lives!

In honor of Presidents’ Day I wanted to share some favorite presidential quotes that are definitely rekindling my own spark of tenacity, today : )

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” ― Thomas Jefferson 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams 

“Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.” – James Garfield 

“A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.” – Grover Cleveland 

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” – Teddy Roosevelt

teddy-roosevelt

Hard work certainly made Teddy pretty happy : )

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb … Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge

“Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt 

“Piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.” – Jimmy Carter, Jr.

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” – Bill Clinton

“One voice can change a room. And if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” – Barack Obama

Have a great week in the driver’s seat of your beautiful lives, Celebrationists! See you next week : )

Week 26 – Little Bits of Resistance

Hi There, Celebrationists.  Hope your Monday has been great.  Mine has been a little frustrating, to be totally honest.  But this frenetic buzz I’m feeling is maybe useful in the creation of what I hope will be an interesting and thoughtful post.

But first:

  1. I am thankful for a beautiful weekend with two amazing young visitors, from Florida : )
  2. I am thankful for Cayenne pepper, because it just makes everything taste better
  3. I am thankful for coffee shops in this city that have well-placed, plentiful electrical outlets

Today I’m thinking a lot about two words: resistance, and trust. Three little anecdotes about these words, if you will…

Anecdote one: Pajamas and Pandemonium 

I babysit a number of adorable children when I’m home in New York, in between gigs. I love and appreciate all of them for the cuddling they allow me, the patience they teach me, and the lessons they provide me with. There is one baby who I love especially dearly. He’s a great little boy, very playful and affectionate, and as he’s getting older, his boisterous bouts of baby-despair are becoming fewer and fewer.  It amuses me though, that one common occurrence absolutely guaranteed to send this little guy into fits of hysteria, is when it’s time to change him out of daytime clothes and into pajamas – usually this is also accompanied by a diaper change. After the clothing comes off, the process of getting fleecy, soft pjs on is head-to-toe fraught with heartbreaking sobs and thrashing.  The level of struggle is intense, as my poor little pal wails a song of confusion and betrayal.  I’m always amused. Because if he would just sit still and stop struggling, he would be comfortable, warm, and happy so much sooner. And it happens again and again – his response is always the same, even though the end result of comfort and happiness is, too.

Anecdote two: Jostling the Jelly-legged

I also walk some dogs in this city. One of them is an extremely loving french bulldog whose Craigslist personals ad would be something like this: Loves to play ball, spoon as often as possible, and is a regular Casanova at the dog park. 

Photo on 6-13-13 at 12.22 AM #2

I love him to pieces, and he drives me completely out of my mind every time we take a walk.  If he isn’t ready to go home, or move on to the next piece of sidewalk, he assumes what I call the “jelly legs position,” which basically means that he relaxes his legs out (all of them) and acts like he is complete jelly/won’t move. Much as I drag him down the sidewalk, he won’t use his legs, causing people to stare at me like I’m a bad dog-parent, or say things like “Awwwww, he’s tiiiiiiiiiired!” or “Oh my goodness! Look at that poor thing…” while I grit my teeth and put my full weight into prodding him along, with coos that land somewhere between a gentle scolding and a threatening indictment.  What he doesn’t realize is that I always have his best interest in mind. We either need to get home so there is time for me to play ball with him, or I’m moving him away from the curb because a car is about to park two inches from his toes.  But every time, he’s certain he knows better, and makes himself miserable in the process.

Anecdote three: a Tale of Trust

Two pre-teen/teen girls fly to NYC on their own, without their parents for a weekend with an older friend (yours truly). They are complete dependent, in some ways, in this city that they’ve visited before but don’t know incredibly well. So many variables like crowded subways, steep expenses, navigating the streets, an unknown itinerary, the freezing cold weather and others are at play during this whirlwind weekend.  I think back to my younger worrywart self, and how I would have handled such an experience.  I can only guess that I would have dealt with my discomfort and lack of control by asking a MILLION questions. These girls didn’t. Never for one minute did they question, second guess, worry (or show it, at least) or resist the fact that their  full itinerary wasn’t completely known to them. Instead, they displayed a beautiful, generous, and total trust.  Completely in the present moment, these two wonderful and brave girls trusted that all of the unknowns would work out, and that there was some kind of plan, even if they didn’t know what it was.

IMG_1838

I think about how much I’d like to be like the incredible ladies of anecdote 3, when really, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m more like the baby and dog of anecdotes one and two, much of the time.  Do you ever feel that way? Worrying, resisting, and thrashing against what seems like is going to be painful, scary, and uncomfortable (and hasn’t even happened yet)? I know I do.  I think about the moments in my life when I see something coming, and have a response to it that goes something like “Oh no. Oh nonono. This is going to be awful.  This is going to be weird. This isn’t what I want. This isn’t what is supposed to happen. I’m going to MUSCLE my way out of this, and make something ELSE happen…*worryworryworry* *thrashthrashthrash*” – and in all that digging my heels in and flailing my arms around, I might be missing something unexpected and wonderful. I might be hurting myself more than I’m helping myself. Probably, I’m not alone.

I’m a big believer in personal agency, accountability, and creating the lives that we dream about, but maybe sometimes it’s important to take a step back, breathe, and say “You know what? I’m just going to trust, today.” I know that moving forward in my week, I’m seeking inspiration from the ladies of anecdote three.

Here’s to a week of trust, dear friends. Trusting that you are safe, loved, cared for, and that the universe has your back.  Even when you feel like it doesn’t.

IMG_1828

See you next week for an exciting new Good Bit Do-er!  All my love to you : )

Week 25 – Little Bits of Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day, Celebrationists!

According to our plushy-looking prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, we are in for six more weeks of wintry weather. Phil saw his shadow this morning at 7:25am, and so back we plunge into the winter of our discontent ; )

I think some of Phil’s buddies (past prognosticators) should also be recognized on this fine day (because their names are just really fun to mention, and this is only a handful of them) – past marmot mini-meteorologists include:

  • Staten Island Chuck
  • Chuckles
  • Balzac Billy
  • Dunkirk Dave
  • Fred
  • Poor Richard
  • Susquehanna Sherman
  • Nibbles
  • Winnipeg Willow
  • Malverne Mel
  • Holtsville Hal
  • Sir Thomas Hastings
  • Gus
  • Charlotte Senior – the stand-in for Staten Island Chuck (I love that there is a groundhog stand-in…)

I’ve read a number of statistics – some claiming the groundhog’s meteorological accuracy is around 75%-90%, and others claiming as little as 39%. All in all, it seems like our furry friend’s predictions about when change is coming are perhaps nothing to set our clocks (and clothing choices) by, but it’s fun to tune in and be part of the yearly tradition.  Before I launch into some musings about the possible wisdom of Groundhog day……

  1. I am thankful for the beautiful walk I had by myself in the east village, last night. I was early for a coffee/dinner, and had a half hour to walk around, just before it got very dark.  I was struck by one of those moments of magic that still happen for me here, from time to time. Those moments when New York looks special and beautiful, and full of possibility
  2. I am thankful for my sister, who I am SO excited to visit in Dayton, next month
  3. I am thankful for my new foam roller and S-shaped back massager, given to me by a very thoughtful gentleman

When I was in the third grade, (you may remember from a previous post that this was my most enjoyable year of grade school, with a teacher who took my creative aspirations as seriously as I did) I received the coveted role of Little Hog-ette in the third grade Groundhog Day play. (Probably it was only me coveting the role in a serious way, but I digress…) What I remember most is that I was thrilled to rehearse a PLAY during class time, that I got to wear a lovely white bow, and proudly donned a men’s white t-shirt dyed brown, with mailbox letters that spelled out “Little Hog-ette.” I also lobbied for (and ultimately wore) frilly white ankle socks. The play was the ONLY play performed at my grade school from Kindergarten through 8th grade – yes, there was ONE shot to be in a school play, and I was DOING it.

IMG_0806-2

(A blurry photo, but documentation nonetheless)

The two parts of the play I remember most distinctly are the unison line, “SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTRY WEATHER,” that the class chanted in a charming third grade monotone, after Chuck sees his shadow – I also remember getting to sing “Must Be Groundhog,” a re-written version of the Christmas classic “Must be Santa.” It. Was. Everything. I also recall that I took the groundhog’s prediction very seriously at the time, in my real life. If the groundhog predicted an early spring – that was it. I believed unconditionally that it would happen, no questions asked.  If he saw his shadow, I was gravely and quietly despondent and threw on another sweater. This little guy held our chilly Cleveland fate in his paws, as far as I was concerned.

In my adult life, Groundhog day makes me think less about frilly ankle socks, and consider a couple of other things:

1. The degree to which I take the molehills, if you will, of my own creation and make them into mountains, regardless of their “real life” accuracy

2. The times when I’m basking in the “sun,” see my own shadow, get scared, then crawl in a hole and avoid the good that I say I want.  And yes, sometimes it can take six weeks to come out

3. How I let outside sources (sometimes as small and bizarre as a groundhog) determine for me when things in my life are going to change

In the way that a groundhog’s predictions are only right a certain percentage of the time – what if the things that we worry about are, too?

Instead of burrowing down deep and possibly missing something wonderful because we’ve got our heads in the mud, maybe it’s time to look at ourselves the way we look at Winnipeg Willow or Charlotte Senior – with humor, grace, and nostalgia – “Oh yes, sweet self, there you go again doing that cute thing that you do. I know this is what this pattern meant to me in the past.  But let’s just see what happens this time.” What if I decide when change is coming in my life, in my calendar year, in my heart?

Here’s to a beautiful winter, however long it lasts, and a glorious spring, whenever it comes. And to affecting our own personal, internal change of season : )

photo-3