Monthly Archives: March 2015

Week 33 – Little Bits of Kindness

Happy Monday, Celebrationists!  Writing you today from beautiful St. Petersburg, Fl.

  1. I am grateful for my current view, as I begin writing this post:

photo 12. I am grateful for the wonderful Tampa Bay theatre community who welcomes me so kindly every time I come back here to work

3. I am grateful for my new bracelet!

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Right now I’m rehearsing for a play called Harvey, at freeFall Theatre. If you want to read more about the play, (and purchase some tickets if you feel so inclined!) you can check out this link.

During our first table read (which is exactly what it sounds like – the cast and creatives sit at a table and read the play, hearing the piece out loud together, for the first time). Before we began, our director said something that made me take pause, and make a pointed mental note. It was to the effect of, “One of the things I think this play is about, is how we treat people who are different.” 

In the world of the play, the character who is seen as most “different” is a man named Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible six-foot three-and-one-half-inch foot tall rabbit, named Harvey. I think most of us would agree that a guy like Elwood would meet nearly anybody’s criteria for what it means to be a little “different.” But the play has a number of eccentric characters really, all of whom Elwood regards with total grace and kindness.

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Our director’s words were inspiring for me as a lens to examine the play through, but also as a means to measure my own judgements by, in my day to day life.  However compassionate and open-minded I aim to be, there are definitely times when I make a snap judgement based on some kind of unconscious pattern of reaction I don’t even realize I have.

How many times have we all done that? Had an initial judgement about a person because of things like their:

  • Clothing
  • Hair
  • Speaking voice
  • Physical characteristics
  • Where a person lives
  • Where a person works
  • A person’s approach to a job
  • Who a person’s friends are

The list goes on and on…

Case in point – I’d like to share two very short anecdotes that happened to me just today.

Anecdote 1:

As I sat down around 2pm to begin writing this post, there were four teenagers sitting near me. They were talking loudly – laughing, teasing each other with wet straw wrappers and something else that was apparently “gross,” but I had no intention of glancing over. And I immediately thought: Obnoxious. I’d been restraining myself from giving them a little bit of shade for being “completely rude.”  But the truth is…it’s a public space, a beautiful day, and these kids were having a BLAST. It’s completely up to me if I choose to see them as annoying…or joyful.

Anecdote 2:

Rewind to 11:30 a.m. –  I was having coffee with my dear friend Katie.  We were sitting outside and sipping our iced coffee, working on our respective projects, chatting.  About halfway through our little date, I got up to use the restroom.  When I came back, Katie said “That man at the table next to us (who left while I was in the restroom) was judging us SO hard.” Totally confused, I said “What was he doing?” Katie laughed, replicating his face – basically rolling his eyes, glaring, etc.  I was shocked. “Wow!” I said, “I wonder what that was about…” I tried to scroll back in my brain and remember the conversation we’d been having. Katie laughed good naturedly, “ We were talking about clothes.  And boys.” This made ME laugh. Katie and I often have many hours of super deep, thoughtful conversation, but it was true that this morning we were just having a great time talking about…well….clothes, and boys.  It was interesting to examine the lens that man saw us through.  And to think what an incomplete picture he had of who we are.  And as I’m finishing this post now, at nearly 11:30 p.m, it makes me think, How many times have I had that reaction to someone…someone who I probably don’t have a complete picture of at all…like maybe those kids I was sitting near, in anecdote 1.

It’s probably impossible to fully turn off the part of us that registers an initial impression about someone based on our previous experiences. But moving forward, I want to challenge myself to open my mind as much as possible. To remember that I don’t know the whole picture.  And what defines being “different,” anyway?  Each of us, at one point or another has probably been seen as “different” to someone.  I think about my own quirks that someone out there might view as strange, or categorize me by in a particular way (and there is plenty I’m sure I’m not even aware of).  I bet there’s been a moment where someone has noticed that I:

  • wear scarves practically year round, and thought: Hippie.
  • have sensitive eyes and tend to blink a lot under bright light, especially when I’m in natural light outside, and if it’s windy.  I frequently wear sunglasses, even when it’s super overcast, or when it’s raining, as additional eye protection.  Someone may have seen me with my sunglasses on in the rain, and thought: Diva.
  • I pack my days full when I’m home in NY, which often means carrying around multiple bags. Sometimes I’ve got a change of clothing, my computer, audition shoes, a water bottle, lunch, and my bulging audition binder. I’m sure someone has seen me with a small collection on my shoulders and thought: Bag lady. Or Annoyingly taking up too much space on the subway. (Despite what I promise are my best efforts to NOT take up too much space on the subway)
  • I love retro/period hair, and enjoy experimenting in ways that are probably unique. Maybe someone has noticed, and thought: That’s weird.
  • When I get nervous, insecure, or overwhelmed in social situations (which is actually reasonably often) I start to speak in a low glottal fry, clear my throat a lot, and feel like I can’t raise my speaking volume to a normal level.  Most of the time this is totally unconscious.  I’m sure someone has noticed this and thought: She’s an actor? She seems shy and boring.

And all of that is just SURFACE stuff, without even digging into things like beliefs.

So Celebrationists, I hope you’ll join me in moving through this week with an extra level of awareness. An awareness of our reactions to the magnificently unique humans on this planet. And when we are faced with a choice of how to treat someone we don’t understand – that we choose kindness.  Because as you’ll find out if you come see Harvey…we can almost never be sure of anything…

Until next week, Celebrationists!

Week 32 – Little Bits of Best Life

HAPPY MONDAY, CELEBRATIONISTS!

I’m so stoked and humbled to bring you today’s GBD. This was a super exciting interview for me, and I’m thrilled to introduce you to a manimal who is doing some major Little Bits of Good, on a number of levels.  But first, today’s three statements of gratitude:

  1. I am grateful to be back at my home-away-from-home, freeFall Theatre, about to begin rehearsals for the play Harvey
  2. I am grateful for today’s much anticipated coffee date with my very dear Katie Berger
  3. I am grateful to be in a climate where it isn’t 25 degrees outside : )

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, badasses of all ages – please allow me to introduce you to…BRIAN PATRICK MURPHY!!!

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I first heard about Brian when my boyfriend signed up for the Mark Fisher Fitness program, Snatched in Six Weeks. Mark Fisher Fitness is a place for ridiculous humans and serious fitness.  Complete with unicorns, capes, and Kettlebells, MFF is a place for people who want to transform their habits, bodies, and minds while having wild and crazy fun doing it!  You can read some fantastic testimonials from MFF Snatched ninjas here: http://markfisherfitness.com/testimonials/

So. Brian is a trainer who had a huge impact on my boyfriend – and not just because of his mad skills, but for his ninja-warrior-kindness-guru-super-positive attitude. Fast-forward to a year and a half later, and he tells me about Best Life Radio, a podcast started by the very same Brian Patrick Murphy.  After taking in one episode, I was super inspired by Brian’s concept of interviewing highly successful people on how they live their best life.  With questions like What’s one thing you do EVERY DAY?, What do you do for fun?, and What books do you recommend? – I immediately fell in love and binge-listened to all of Brian’s beautiful best life radio.  It has been my favorite way to start the morning.

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I’m so moved by the Little Bits of Good that Brian and the whole MFF team are doing for their ninjas on a physical, psychological, and spiritual level…it’s AWESOME. Whether it be training in the MFF clubhouse, a life coaching session, or via this incredible podcast, Brian’s philosophy, shared with the rest of the MFF team, of “Die Empty,” – show up every day and and GIVE until you’re spent, made me dizzy with excitement.   Brian was kind enough to meet me at FIKA Espresso Bar to chat in person for this interview, and I couldn’t be more grateful for his time, generosity, and kindness!  Read on to catch hi-lights from our interview : )

How would you explain Mark Fisher Fitness to someone who may not be familiar with you guys? Also, what is your role there?

It’s the unexplainable! Honestly. People come to us for all kinds of different goals. Here’s what I can boil it down to: my actual job title at Mark Fisher Fitness is the Minister of Belief. I’m one of the co-founders of MFF, and that particular job title came to me because…yes, I train people, yes, I sell memberships, yes, I’m part of the business team, but my ultimate goal is…I’m there to…sherpa, for lack of a better word, people into believing that something better (whatever they deem that to be) is possible! That’s probably the most grandiose statement ever to make in a genuine way, but I mean it.

I know that you are a certified life coach, and also a trainer at MFF – which came first? Or did they arrive in your life in tandem? 

I actually grew up with a lifting background – I had been an athlete and a dancer, my dad is a certified Kettlebell instructor. He started teaching me Kettlebells twenty years ago, so I went in with that understanding – and it was very interesting to me, I just wasn’t certified. Then Mark said – go get certified, here’s a stack of books, learn these, and the day after you get certified, you can teach!  So that’s what I did first. Then I got better and better as a trainer, we got our location on 39th street, and then Michael Keeler, another co-founder said “I know what we should do. We should send you to Life Coaching School. Are you interested? MFF will pay for half of it.”  And then Michael and I went through it together, learned a ton, and what the life coaching did is really inform how we run the business. And while I was taking on clients to coach, and I still do a little bit, it’s really opened up a conversation that we have in our team meetings every week – it’s the way we run our business. The skills that Michael and I learned in coaching school is how we treat our ninjas.  How we treat our vendors. Our neighbors. Our landlords. While we are using those same coaching skills with our one-on-one clients or big group programs, we wanted to have have these tools in our toolbox for knowing how to best deal with our customers, or with each other, really. We respect each other, we listen to each other…and I think the skills that Michael and I learned, I think it helped make that kind of amazing communication possible.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is like TODAY – when I came to meet you, and you said “Your podcast has REALLY helped me!” Or like last night. I was doing consultations with three brand new ninjas, ladies who had some significant health concerns. And to be able to sit in that room with them…and to be able to honestly look them in the face and say that if they are willing to just keep showing up, that it was possible for their lives to get better. And to fully believe that.  And the thing is, for the ones who DO keep showing up, it happens. We live in a society where we’re used to instant gratification, and unfortunately when it comes to our health and our bodies, and even our minds – it doesn’t happen that fast. But it CAN happen!…I can almost cry thinking about this, Kelly…but I don’t open my paychecks.  And maybe that’s totally fiscally irresponsible..but the truth is that at the end of the day I’m just SO FILLED.  I have no idea if my paycheck is right or not…but that’s how you know you love what you do.

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On your podcast, you self-identify as one of the most positive people you know! I love that! So, when you’re having a “dark day” – where you feel run down or “over it,” what do you do to get jazzed about life again? What inspires you and keeps you going?

I read a LOT.  I’m working on an article right now that I’m writing about 3 easy steps to start a successful day, and one thing I’ll share is: every day I start with reading a mantra. I’m a huge fan of Og Mandino, and every single morning I read a particular passage, and then I read it before I fall asleep at night, too. The one I’m reading right now is a whole chapter, but essentially it boils down to “I will live today as if it is my last day on earth.” And I do that every morning, because just like our physical bodies, you HAVE to put the time into your psychological health.  So if I have to be at work at 8am, I wake up at 5:30, because I do an hour of education every morning.  It’s amazing to me then how, when certain things come up – I’ll remember that mantra, it’ll click in…it’s habit forming. We have two kinds of habits. Good ones and bad ones, and the great thing is that we have the choice to change the bad ones into good ones! And I do think it is a choice. And I honestly believe that happiness is a choice.

So let’s say a person is trying to make positive changes in their life and they’ve fallen off the wagon, in whatever way that manifests for them – they haven’t met a particular goal for the day and are beating themselves up about a negative behavior or choice.  What advice would you offer them?

It’s only a day. It’s only a moment. And while things have happened, and they’re real, we now have a choice to make the rest of the day better. We make decisions and we must live with them. And since we’re going to live with them already, we may as well choose the best way to deal with them. We have to let it go. Because all those things we hold onto are things we carry with us forever.  And a lot of people are carrying a lot of weight out there. You hear people say “I got baggage,” all the time!

Who is someone out there who inspires you? Someone you believe to be out there doing Little Bits of Good?

Jerry Mitchell, always.  Jerry and I are super close friends. He is FULL OUT. We met doing Broadway Bares, and then he cast me in Legally Blonde, the musical. Jerry walks the walk. He will SHOW UP. He is willing to put himself on the line every day, and no matter what any critic has to say, he’ll still show up the next day.  I have so much respect for him.

My father is, to me, the most courageous person I know.  He’s an imperfect human, he makes mistakes.  But what I’ve always been so attracted to about my dad is that he’ll just constantly GO.  I’m sure he’s scared, but I’ve never known him as scared. Courage has nothing to do with fear, it only has to do with being willing to keep going even when you are scared!  (And we’re ALL scared.)

The author Steven Pressfield, who wrote The War of Art. It’s amazing! I’ve basically read his entire lexicon now, and he’s great.

My buddy Rory Vaden who wrote the New York Times best seller Take the Stairs (blogger plug – I LOVE this book and am reading it now! It is WONDERFUL) 

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

Ooh! Besides this, of course! Haha no I do mean that. I love doing this. I mean, any moment I spend with my fiance is humbling. (blogger note: I wish you could see the beautiful and loving look on his face during this moment)

Thank you SO MUCH, BPM!!!!

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And thank YOU, Celebrationists! Please check out Mark Fisher Fitness and Best Life Radio! Go take a tour of the clubhouse, sign up for a class, listen in to the podcast, and prepare to get inspired, get attuned to some serious Little Bits of Good, and live your best life!

http://markfisherfitness.com

See ya next week : )

Week 31- Little Bits of Inspiration

Wishing you a marvelous Monday, dear Celebrationists!  We are in week 31, and to those of you who’ve been reading each week, I’m filled with gratitude that you would spend a bit of your week with me.  It’s truly an honor : ) To those of you who may just be joining – welcome!  Every Monday I like to begin with 3 statements of gratitude…

1. I am grateful for this past weekend, and the wonderful visit with my parents. We had the chance to see a show, catch up at my favorite brunch spot, and spend time with some of the very special people I share my days with, here in the city.

2.  I am thankful for tahini.  It’s just a really great condiment.

3.  I am thankful that a week from tomorrow I will be starting rehearsals for Harvey, with my family at freeFall Theatre.  I’m so thankful to be welcomed back to a community committed to creating exceptional art for all the right reasons.

This week, as we are on the very BRINK of spring, I wanted to gift you with some little bits of inspiration!  If you’re like me, you may be shaking off the last traces of winter in preparation of this season of growth and new beginnings. One of the things that inspires me most is finding an exceptional read, and today I want to share some of my favorites with you! This is by no means a complete list, and I also couldn’t bring myself to stick to a “top ten,” so instead I bring you a “Favorite 14.” These are also in no particular order, or confined to a particular genre of book.  I’ve mentioned 3 or 4 of these in previous posts, but I’m just ON FIRE with excitement to share some of the brilliant pieces of writing that inspire me to get out there and create, find, and celebrate  Little Bits of Good!

  1. You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero.  Ok – I know I said these are in no particular order, but this is my number one.  I’ve mentioned this book in several posts, and truly, give yourself a huge gift and go read this book. Jen shares her thoughts on how to get out of your own way, unlock your inner badass, and live an awesome life. Her voice really speaks to me, and I re-read pieces of her wisdom on a very frequent basis. A little passage I particularly love, that’s always wonderful for keeping myself in check: “It never ceases to amaze me the precious time we spend chasing the squirrels around our brains, playing out our dramas, worrying about unwanted facial hair, seeking adoration, justifying our actions, complaining about slow Internet connections, dissecting the lives of idiots, when we are sitting in the middle of a full-blown miracle that is happening right here, right now. We’re on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space! Our hearts beat! We can see! We have love, laughter, language, living rooms, computers, compassion, cars, fire, fingernails, flowers, music, medicine, mountains, muffins!”  Go grab this account of AWESOMENESS, and prepare to kick some serious ass.

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2.  Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown – This has been on my book list for awhile, and I just finished it yesterday. I loved Brene’s book The Gifts of Imperfection (which I’ll talk about next), and was really eager to tear into this one. Brene’s assessment of vulnerability is mild-blowing to me. Tackling topics like worthiness, courage, and shame with humor, warmth, and understanding, this is must-read for anyone who is out there trying to live their best life.  Of her own struggles with vulnerability, Brown says, “For me, vulnerability led to anxiety, which led to shame, which led to disconnection, which led to Bud Light.” (This one quote captures her voice so perfectly). She is right there “in the ring” with us, which I find incredibly comforting. “To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.” 

3. The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown – This was my first experience with Brene, and reading it felt like being wrapped up in the softest, fuzziest blanket of compassion. For as gentle and empathetic as she is, there are moments that socked me in the gut, too…in a great way – “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”  Woof. Yup. 

4. Dreamwork, by Mary Oliver – I LOVE this book.  It is actually a collection of poetry by my very favorite poet.  I had a hard time choosing which of her collections would be on this list, but this one won out because it contains two of my favorites, “Wild Geese,” which is my favorite poem of all time, and “Magellan.” Reading her words makes me feel like Rose in Titanic, arms spread out to the wind – feeling wild, free, and in utterly in love (but with life, and not with Jack, though I’m totally a Leo fan.) Flying : )

5.  Odditude, by John R. Powers – This book is a crazy-amazing reminder to celebrate our uniqueness.  That what might be seen as “odd” to the world is also what sets us apart, and that developing our passion for individuality is useful and important! Written in perfectly bite-sized chunks, Powers shares his hilarious, inventive, gut-stirring, clever prose in a way that reignited my own sense of purpose and inspired me to make a little attitude, er…odditude adjustment of my own : ) Also a big fan of his The Junk Drawer, Corner Store, Front Porch Blues.

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6.  When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron – This book has profoundly changed my life for sure, and of everything I’ve read has had one of the biggest impacts on the way I move through the world, or strive to.  This bit says everything: “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.  Poignant, tender, tough, witty, and full of courage, this book is also the perfect gift for anyone who is going through a tough time.

7.  Pocket Pema Chodronbecause it’s impossible for me to pick just one more of her brilliant works, I have to say that I looooove my Pocket Pema. It’s teeny-tiny in size, and contains 108 mini selections from most of her works.  I keep it in my purse and pull it out when I need a burst of something. I think I got mine for something like seven dollars.

8.  Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – Obviously this one has become super popular because of the movie with Reese Witherspoon, and regardless of your feelings about the movie, I cannot recommend the book more highly, if you haven’t read it. I’m also an enormous fan of Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, and Torch.  Reading Strayed feels like reading the words of a sister, a mentor, and a best friend all at once. Her writing is graceful, gritty, and captures an aesthetic I like to refer to as “whipped cream with knives.” My favorite : ) I remember feeling physically sad after finishing each of her books, I enjoyed reading them so much. If I had to choose one word to describe how her works make me feel, it would be: hopeful. My sense of hope is always renewed by the courage, humor, and wisdom in her writing.

9.  Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey –  This book really fun.  Currey has gathered the daily rituals of 161 of the greatest writers, philosophers, scientists, painters, mathematicians, and musicians and shares their day-to-day routines.  I find this kind of thing absolutely fascinating.  Knowing who drank 8 cups of coffee before they could write, enjoyed long baths, afternoon walks, or two hours of sleep…studying the lives and habits of successful people is super intoxicating and inspiring to me : )

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10.  The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks – This is another one I’ve referenced in an earlier blog post. Straight from the mouth of Hendricks: “Here’s the bottom line: We have an inner thermostat that determines the amount of love and success we allow ourselves. When we exceed our setting, we tend to sabotage ourselves so that we can return to the old, familiar zone where we feel secure. The thermostat was set before you could think for yourself, usually in early childhood.” Does that BLOW YOUR MIND as much as it blows mine??? Amazing! He walks us through the sometimes arduous process of busting through our self-created walls with great care. Expanding our comfort zones, taking a closer look at self-sabotage, and exploring how magical it can be to exist in our Zone of Genius…this is great read if you’re looking to take the “next step” or move to a “new tier” of your life.

11.  A New Earth, by Eckart Tolle – This Oprah’s Book Club favorite has become SUPER popular, as is its brother, The Power of Now.  This gem of a read was a little over my head the first time I read it, and parts of it probably still are.  It’s the kind of book where I’ll read a sentence or paragraph, need to stop and take a drink of water, read it again, think about it, and put the book down again and return after I absorb the ideas a little.   The chapter on our pain bodies remains one of the most influential and eye-opening chapters of anything I’ve read, ever. “There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges–the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.” 

12.  29 Gifts, by Cami Walker – Another one that I’ve mentioned before. A beautiful and soul-baring account of the power of gratitude. Part memoir, part collection of essays, part call-to-action, this book is sure to make you smile, examine your views on the scarcity mentality, and explore what giving and receiving might mean in your own life.

13. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert – Another book made wildly popular by a movie.  This is another read that felt like a friend. I was so happy reading this book. I cried, I smiled, I hi-lighted…the three words that come to mind when I think about this book are: transformational, wholehearted, and delicious.  It also spoke to my own insatiable wanderlust. One of my favorite pieces that I highlighted into oblivion: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”  Cannot WAIT for upcoming book, Big Magic, set to come out in September!

14. Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch – I read a LOT of memoirs. I could do a whole post with my top 15 favorites, but this one is the tops, for me. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Glee, and wasn’t as familiar with her body of work on-screen when I read this (I certainly am familiar now) but absolutely TORE through these pages . I really identify with Lynch when she says, at the very beginning of her book, “I don’t know why, but I was born with an extra helping of angst…” and yet she achieves a level of optimism in this book that filled me up to the very brim.  Funny, gripping, and full of hope…I. Love. This.  Book.

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Happy reading, Celebrationists! Feel free to comment with what you’ve been reading lately that inspires YOU! See you next week with a SUPER exciting GBD : )

Week 30 – Little Bits of Line Walkin’

Greetings, Dear Celebrationists!

Today I feel inspired to chat about putting ourselves on the line.  (Which is different from being in a line…which is different from being online…which is different from saying to someone “But, I was standing on line.” I’m sorry…you were standing in line…)

But first:

  1. I am grateful for Dirty Sugar Photography, who took my new actor headshots. A kinder, classier, more creative and welcoming bunch, there is not. Their skill, attention to detail, and nurturing demeanor are not to be beaten.  If you’re looking for some new shots, please consider checking them out!
  2. I am grateful for the Asssscat performance I saw last night at Upright Citizens Brigade.  If you live in New York and haven’t been, I highly recommend it.  A wonderful reminder of how thrilling it is to create/observe creation while it’s happening. And how healing laughter can be.
  3. I am grateful for the new podcast that has been consuming a substantial number of my morning hours, MFF Best Life Radio (do yourself a huge act of self-love and CHECK. IT. OUT)

So. What does it mean to “put ourselves on the line?” These are some of the first thoughts that pop into my mind:

  • Taking a risk
  • Exposing ourselves to the possibility of failure, loss, criticism, or the whole trifecta
  • Putting ourselves in a position where we are faced with unpredictable outcomes
  • An act of trust or faith in a source partially outside ourselves
  • A gamble
  • A leap of faith

We are basically putting ourselves on the line every time we choose to be vulnerable in a relationship, take a risk at work, create something new, or open ourselves up to criticism of any kind. And let’s face it – it can feel like everyone is a critic, am I right?

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Isn’t it crazy how quickly we can go from feeling like one of these guys to the other?!

I can’t speak for you, dear Celebrationist, but I know I have many a day where it just feels easier, safer, and much more comfortable to step back in line. To keep 8% for myself instead of putting the full 100% out there. Have you felt this way? And perhaps you haven’t kept the 8% reined in because of laziness…maybe you do it because you’ve experienced what feels like rejection, smells like failure, knocks the wind outta you like criticism…and it hurts. Our egos, which we usually mistake for our sweet ourselves, get beaten up enough and suddenly it doesn’t feel safe to “go for it” in that relationship, audition, job, creation, (insert your own thing).  We suddenly feel certain that negative outcomes are imminent, and no matter what positive thoughts we try to feed ourselves, there’s still a hair-raising danger in engaging too fully.  Have you been there? If you haven’t, I promise we’re going to meet for coffee and you’re going to tell me the secrets of life.  But if you’re like me, what do we do about it? How do we face that fear, leap anyway, and continue to live our most authentic, full lives?  Because there isn’t anything happening underneath that bushel basket, I can tell you that for certain

I’ve been on a mission lately of finding new ways of challenging myself to continue the good fight of “stepping out of the nest,” as Pema Chodron would say. I’ll share what I’ve been experimenting with, for those days when you’re feeling like a tiny baby birdie clutching onto the nest for dear life.

  • When I get most deeply entrenched in a fearful state, I’ve noticed that those stinky trenches are decidedly me-focused. I’m obsessed with how putting my self on the line in a particular way will affect the course of my life. What I want. How the outcome will have an impact on my self-esteem.  It’s only natural that I’ll take the results super personally with this line of thinking. By making a slight adjustment in perspective however, I’ll start to notice some of the following:
    • There are other people down in the trenches with me. EVERYONE is sliding in and out of them. I’m not the only person who is leaping, risking, and trying. Connecting with the universal vibration of vulnerability can be mightily grounding
    • There’s a great deal of perspective in the words failure and success, I think
    • The idea that I know what is best for me at all times is just pretty silly. I may know what I think I want.  But the wisdom of the universe may have something different in mind that is so much better
  • Keep a diary, or just write your thoughts down on occasion.  And maybe especially when you’re at your happiest.  Deconstruct your happiest moments.  Why are you feeling so jazzed about life at that moment? What’s working? Why is it working? Having your own wisdom to go back and read when you’re feeling tentative and frightened can really help synthesize the broken parts of our insides. Reconnecting with our own wisdom can be seriously awesome.
  • I’ve come across this concept before, but it’s been crystalized beautifully in my brain recently, as shared by the incomparable Bonnie Gillespie (who you should absolutely know/check out, if you’re an actor) and it is this: Give more than you take.  Putting ourselves on the line, creating, taking risks can be an act of generosity. When we focus on the ways in which our sharing, creating, loving, and trying are making a positive impact regardless of the outcome, there’s a new energy and vitality to everything we do!  Offer twice as much as you ask for, and see what happens.
  • I think back to the times in my life when I felt the most brave. I notice the most common denominator for me is that I feel bravest when I make a habit of creating. I think back to college when I’d be working on a Shakespeare monologue for class, haunting the practice rooms as I crafted a song for voice lessons, digging deep into a Chekhov scene, rehearsing for a department musical, sinking my teeth into a student directing lab project, and directing a play at the local high school. I wasn’t just making something new every day, I was a proverbial creation machine.  Everyone in my class was! There wasn’t as much space for self-doubt, you just had to do it.  That kind of hard work, sweat, and risk was everything to me – and it was a habit I’d cultivated.  I think there’s such wisdom in being a constant student of life.

1929506_557105623778_9716_nJust a sensible painting party, after class, in the midst of the aforementioned creating…

Have a wonderful and brave week, Celebrationists. Live boldly out there, and go for the things your heart feels most called to do! Put yourself ON that line, and let those little lights SHINE.

As I round up a new batch of GBDs, feel free to email littlebitsofgoodblog@gmail.com if you’d like to nominate someone who is doing a Little Bit of Good – making the world a brighter place to play, in a unique way! Glance back over past interviews if you’re looking for some inspiration, and consider lifting up a special person in your life : )

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Week 29 – Little Bits of Celebration, Midwest-Style

Happy March, Celebrationists! In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, March also features such holidays and special celebrations as National Chip and Dip Day (March 23), National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day (March 29), and Make Up Your Own Holiday Day (March 26).  It also has the distinction of being National Craft Month, National Nutrition Month, and National Women’s History Month.  This is only a selective representation of all that March has to offer us! Not to mention that later in the month, spring will begin : ) Thank. Goodness.

Today I want to talk about Celebration.  The fact that I call all of us who read or write this blog “Celebrationists” is probably enough to warrant a post about why I think the act of celebrating (life, people, moments) is healing, important, and a little bit of good, in and of itself. But first –

  1. I am grateful for this weekend spent with my sister. I am truly moved by her kindness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion for others, ridiculous number of talents, sense of humor, commitment to what she believes, passion for bringing people together, and inexplicable  humility

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Also she’s kind of a big deal on campus…

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with Joe Deer, a professor and mentor from college with a beautifully generous heart. It was wonderful to check in, reacquaint, and remember.  I will always be grateful for my time at Wright State, and a faculty who remains so supportive : )

3. I am grateful for Amy, Erica, Maureen, Sara, Summer, and Tia for welcoming me into their home this weekend, letting me crash their floor meeting, eat their soy ice-cream (Maureen), and share the warm and inviting space they have cultivated!

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Back to celebration. Have you had moments in your life where you experience a group of people (or a single person) where the following sensibilities seem to be true?

  • Being jaded is considered “cool,” in an unspoken way
  • Being glib or “not caring” too much about things or people or about the way we speak is seen as a “realistic” or obvious way of moving through a difficult world
  • Getting excited in a big way about almost anything is considered naive

I’ve encountered many moments of the above. There was a time not so long ago where I felt like I had to keep my Celebrationist mentality hidden, downplay it, or be very selective about sharing my passion for appreciating the positive.  I have this particular memory of working at Starbucks, back during college.  It was a small moment, but I remember it vividly. I was helping a customer figure out what he wanted to drink, just being myself, and he actually sneered, “Are you always this happy?”  I remember feeling really embarrassed, somehow. I probably wouldn’t have the same response to this now, but at the time I felt very self-conscious about my capacity for experiencing and sharing joy.

I find it amusing now when people regard “happy” folks as those who “just haven’t been through enough sh*%” yet. I would actually argue that many of the people I know who celebrate life and approach it with a positive attitude have experienced their fair share of darkness, and because of it are able to look for, and appreciate the light.  But I digress.

This weekend I visited my little sister at The University of Dayton.  I couldn’t wait to spend time with her, and knew that a big part of the weekend would be about meeting all of her friends, which I was thrilled about! At one point the thought crossed my mind, “Oooh, maybe I can also find a Good-Bit-Do-er to interview, here in Dayton!” I figured I would have no trouble finding a great person to interview, based on stories I’d heard about Sara’s group of friends.

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As we moved through the weekend, my sister was super on-board, and excited to help me find an awesome GBD to interview. As she introduced me to more and more members of her social circle (and I easily met forty new people) she would ask them which of their own friends they might nominate as a GBD for my blog. The responses didn’t go the way I expected.

Nearly everyone we spoke with had multiple friends they would nominate, and for a list of reasons. This would be one thing if five people responded to me this way.  But we’re talking…probably twenty people responded this way. The biggest problem for every single student asked was “Well…I mean..this person does a LOT of things. I don’t even know what you would interview them about….” and then proceed to list off some pretty amazing bits of good.

For a time, my focus during these conversations was mentally sifting through their responses to find the most interesting possible GBD to interview (and moreover, staying present and having an awesome weekend with my sister, which was the whole reason for the visit), but I found myself so touched by these students at The University of Dayton – engaging in activities as varied as tutoring at prisons, spending their spring break on service related trips, shoveling the snow from a friend’s stairs without being asked, collecting/donating unwanted clothing “just because” they thought of it, having a weekly roommate check-in so they could be on top of each other’s needs/know when to send good vibes for tests (as important an item of business to them as who is on trash duty for the week) …and what touched me most was their eagerness to celebrate each other. Not one of them, my sister included, thought their own bit of good was “the most interesting” or “special.” When asked about the “really cool bit of good” that they were doing, the response, without exception was a very sincere “Oh, that doesn’t really count….but what about my friend…” and so it went.

I feel a little like I stepped into a Celebrationist Commune for the weekend, truly.  I don’t know that I’ve ever met a larger body of consistently kind, genuine, thoughtful, service-oriented, generous, patient, sincere, non-judgmental young people with clear or developing visions for making the world a better place.

Not one of them was afraid to care. About their peers, their campus, their friend’s visiting sister, or about the world we are all creating together. Not one of them was afraid to get excited…about any number of positive things. Not one of them was “too cool for school.” And it was deliciously energizing.  I met a GBD COLLECTIVE this weekend, and wasn’t prepared for it at all.

So join me in being inspired by these fantastic young people – let’s remember that it’s ok to get excited about life, celebrate the accomplishments of our peers, love our friends with abandon, and live fully and richly.  I can tell you that the joy was palpable.  And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so much of it is spread around, there.

What makes us afraid to celebrate? Are we fearful that it won’t last? That whatever we love and are most excited about will be taken away from us? I really get that. But also, nothing lasts. Everything changes. And this moment is all we’ll ever have. So whether it’s jumping for joy at National Chip and Dip Day, or lifting up a friend who made your week a little nicer – will you join me in celebrating someone or something, this week? Allow yourself to experience the fullness of that joy, for however long it lasts.

And who knows? It might just be contagious : )

 

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