Monthly Archives: July 2015

Week 50 – Little Bits of…50 weeks. That feels pretty cool…

Happy Week 50, Celebrationists.

  1. I am grateful for my marvelous roomie with his incredible listening ear, brilliant sense of humor, and deep understanding of anything I ever say, even when I’m not explaining myself wonderfully
  2. I am grateful for the ceiling fan in my bedroom
  3. I am grateful to be reconnecting with friends who I haven’t seen in a few months

50 weeks is a lot of writing. But it hasn’t felt like it.  And to be honest, I don’t have much sense at all about who reads this blog regularly, once in awhile, or not at all.

For as many self-help books as I’ve devoured since I was a teenager, and as much personal work as I’ve put into “enjoying the journey,” and “focusing on the process” of things, the truth is that at the end of the day, 9.5  times out of 10 I still crave results. Like many, I’m something of a progress-addict, which makes it frustrating when I don’t feel like I’m making enough.  But I have to say that writing this blog has been different. It’s something I’ve done because I really love to write. And I really love exploring heart-thoughts. And I really love people. And drawing parallels between our experiences in the hopes that we might not feel so alone.  This blog is something I’ve done with the humble intention of maybe of helping others, but also – it’s been very much something I’ve done for me.

It makes me think, “What are the other things I do in my life that are just for me? Because I just want to do them?”  I’ll tell you I can’t think of a ton.

What are the things we do that aren’t (even indirectly) about furthering our career, personal growth, making money, etc? As adults, I feel like that list gets shorter and shorter over time as we become ruled by words like “should,” and “responsibility.” And responsibility is a totally important and legit word (I’ll save my thoughts on “should” for another post), but I think it can be really healing to sometimes do things that have no larger function other than…because we just want to. Because we are worth it. Because by giving ourselves these small joys, we don’t feel deprived. And then we can spread joy from an authentic place, and not a conditional, bargaining, withholding place.

You’ve read it before, I’m sure, that we are able to care much better for other people when we take care of ourselves first. I’ve seen proof of this truth over and over again. Hard-working and driven people who become jaded and bitter because they don’t take time for themselves. And as much as it’s nice to feel appreciated by others…we have to give ourselves that validation, too. A million compliments, words of appreciation, and affection will mean very little if we aren’t giving ourselves a little TLC every once in awhile. Unconditional TLC. TLC that has nothing to do with results.

So in honor of my 50th blog week, I want to gift you with 50 ideas – things you might do just for yourself because they bring you little bits of joy.

1.) Get your nails done, or do them yourself

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2.) Read a book that has nothing to do with your career, or self-improvement

3.) Spend the time and money cooking yourself a really fancy and wonderful meal

4.) Wander through a part of town you’ve never explored before

5.) Paint. Even if you’re bad at it. Especially if you’re bad at it

6.) Watch a few episodes of something on Netflix

7.) Give yourself a facial

8.) Sleep in

9.) Go through old Facebook albums and remember good times

10.) Make a vision board

11.) Read a children’s book or young adult novel

12.) Get dressed up and go somewhere fancy

13.) Get dressed down and stay in

14.) Bake yourself something

15.) Skype someone you miss

16.) Get yourself some flowers

17.) Turn off your phone for a few hours, and don’t check your email

18.) Write something

19.) Read a poem

20.) Dance

21.) Do something active because you enjoy it, and not because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t.

22.) Find a friend with an animal, and cuddle it. Or cuddle your own. Or go to a Petstore and cuddle one if you’re allowed.

23.) Watch a movie that makes you cry. Or laugh. Or eat a lot of popcorn.

24.) Make an old-school craft

25.) Plant something. Or buy a plant. Or visit a place with plants.

26.) Try something just because you want to, and not because it’s useful. Like learning Russian.

27.) Plan your dream wedding

28.) Get your favorite childhood snack food, and just eat it for goodness sakes

29.) Listen to a podcast while laying on your bed. Or running. Or cooking. Or wherever you feel like.

30.) Have friends over and just hang out

31.) Be totally alone if that’s your jam, and don’t see another human for a whole day.

32.) Make music

33.) Make no noise at all

34.) Make tacos

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35.) Find out what’s free in your ‘hood this week, and go do that

36.) Rearrange your furniture

37.) Send someone something fun in the mail

38.) Listen to a record on a record player (Make a friend with a record player)

39.) Take pictures of things

40.) Find someplace with a great view, and go sit there

41.) Frame a photo and put it somewhere nice

42.) Get a massage, make someone massage you, or find a tennis ball, lay on it, and roll around on the floor.

43.) Roll around on the floor. Friend optional.

44.) Play a game

45.) Go find someplace where you can listen to live music

46.) Go to a museum

47.) Take a bath. And if you’re one of those people who thinks that baths are gross (which I can respect, but just can’t agree with because I LOVE them in an appropriate and clean tub) take a long shower

48.) Wear your favorite outfit

49.) Watch a sports game. Or a play. Or performance art piece. Or something else awesome and live that gets you excited. (A sports game will never get me excited unless it is my sister playing one of her various sports that she played as a youth, but I understand this has appeal, and respect athletes immensely…)

50.) Start a blog : )

You might think “I don’t have time to do these kinds of things.” I hear you, validate your feelings of busy-ness, and respect your words. But I have to tell you. I don’t put a lot of stock in that statement. We all have the same 24 hours and no one is steering our ship but us. We can use those 24 hours in any way we like. Who do you look up to? Mother Teresa had 24 hours in a day, Bill Gates has 24 hours in a day, *insert your personal rockstar here* has 24, as well. That’s not to say it’s always easy. That’s not to say that other things sometimes need to get done first.  Probably they do. But I don’t buy that we never have time, and never will time. We have to make it. We get to make it.

Be good to yourselves this week, Celebrationists. Happy 50th : )

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Week 49 – Little Bits of Adult-ing

Greetings, Celebrationists! Happy Monday.

1.) I am grateful for a certain special gentleman who picked me up at the airport this afternoon, transported me and my bags home, took me for a delicious dinner, and is sitting here with me looking adorable, as I finish writing this post : )

2.) I am grateful for two new friends who taught me to sew, and gave me the tools and knowledge needed to sew my very own dress! (Hard to tell, but it’s a Disney Princess print!)

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3.) I am grateful for the people in my life who challenge me to grow in a multitude of ways.

I used to think that there was a magical time when a person became an adult.

A real adult.

I have this particular memory of being…how ever old a child is when they read The Babysitter’s Club book series, by Ann M. Martin. I remember standing in the children’s section of our little library in Bedford Ohio, leafing through the second chapter of a particular book in the series.  The second chapters are always the same, in that they introduce you to the book’s main characters – in case you happen to be picking up the series somewhere in the middle, or reading  one of them at random.  My favorite girls in the “Club” were Stacey – the trendy, seltzer- drinking New Yorker, and the shy, quiet Mary Anne. Together, these two most closely represented a blend of my own self, I thought – or in the case of Stacey, a self I aspired to. What strikes me most about the memory of this one moment is my reveling in the fact that the girls were all sixteen. SO mature. SO grown up. I remember imagining what I might be like at sixteen. And then at twenty or more – I’d be a real woman by then. It was weird to think about ever being that old. What would I be like? Where would I live? And the truth is that in many ways I don’t feel a heck of a lot different from the little girl standing in the Bedford library, holding the bubblegum pink volume in my hands.

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I’m sure I’m not alone in having had the child-like belief that at some juncture a sizable amount of knowledge, logic, and the wisdom would just pour into my brain and heart – and that suddenly I would “know stuff.” Like how to be a parent, schedule my time, manage my money, make hard decisions, decide who to love, what direction to take my life in, where to live…you know…all of the things. At some point in my twenties I realized that this never happened to me, and it was never going to.  It’s a little petrifying to think…how does anybody figure this stuff out? What happens if I’m the one person who can’t, or doesn’t?

I consider many of the people I’ve met in my life who seem to be the most “together.” Who seem to really have a handle on how to live life well, get stuff done, and create meaning wherever they go. The later I get into my twenties, the more I see the paint peel, and realize that absolutely none of us has it together.  That even the most highly capable, gifted, hard-working folks I’ve come to admire are out there in the arena with the rest of us, just figuring life out one moment at a time.  That even they feel scared, clueless, directionless, and a mess sometimes.

As terrifying as this can be to see that our parents, mentors, and teachers are just scared little kids holding books in libraries…I’ll tell you what I love about it.

Something about this realization can, I think, help us cultivate what I’ll call radical empathy (a phrase I first heard from the incomparable Cheryl Strayed, in her book Tiny Beautiful Things, which I recommend to everybody!).  When we dig deep within ourselves, past our penchant for judgement, criticism, and the need to give our two cents about what everyone else is doing all the time…we can choose to see the deep, deep interconnectedness that we all share. Of really not knowing anything. Of doing our best to figure it out. Of messing up, making mistakes, and trying again the next day. I have a hard time with the phrase that a person should “know better.” I always wonder, should they? How? Has their experience been identical to mine? Do I know that for sure, or am I assuming? Have I actually made that same mistake, and that’s why I’m judging so hard? Because I still feel guilty or ashamed? And aren’t we all just learning, un-learning, and re-learning all. the. time.?

What if the next time we were frustrated by how another person’s actions or words affect us…what if we were able to acknowledge our feeling about the situation (anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, whatever it is), think about why we might be feeling that way really, and then encourage ourselves to remember a time when we made a similar choice – lashing out, being selfish, choosing irresponsibly, taking out our aggression in an unfair place, etc. What if instead of steeping in judgement, we immerse ourselves in solidarity? Knowing that our own less-than-stellar choices came from a place or pain or fear – not malice…and that there’s probably a good chance that this person’s choices did too. That we are all just little kids in libraries, trying to figure out how a person becomes an adult. How many times have we uttered or thought the phrase, “I just wish that so and so (or such and such situation) would give me a break!”? What if we become the impetus of break-giving? Sometimes a little compassion goes a long way (I think) in giving people the confidence, strength, and fortitude to be able to make progress. And isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?

We won’t nail it every time, or maybe even most of the time. But if we could encourage ourselves to expand our thinking even slightly in this way…I like to imagine the kind of compassionate impact that could make. On our world, and on our fellow humans who are all out there just trying to do a little bit of adult-ing : )

photo 2Have a wonderful week, Celebrationists!

Week 48 – Little Bits of Tweenery

Hi There, Celebrationists. Hope you had a memorable Monday filled with many good things.

1.) I am grateful for a lovely cabaret experience, this evening.  A chance to sing a few  songs I love in a warm and supportive atmosphere, while appreciating, admiring, and lifting up the beautiful souls of the other folks who performed tonight.  So fun to see them sparkle. : )

2.) I am grateful for a surprise package from two dear friends. It really couldn’t have come on a better day.

3.) I am grateful to have two real and true days off.

Back during week 12 of this blog, I wrote about how much we can learn from children. About certain qualities that I think we are born with but have somehow un-learned…and seem to spend much of our adult lives re-learning. In that post, I expanded on these ten basic ideas:

Children are direct

Children love their bodies

Children are honest

Children breathe perfectly

Children know how to play

Children know how to dream without limitations

Children believe in magic and possibility

Children notice the little things

Children love unconditionally

Children are kind to themselves

That post was inspired by a few very young children – several members of the “under 5” set whom I’d been interacting with regularly.  Like this little guy, who is now grown to be THIS little guy : )

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a very sweet performance – an afternoon of musical theatre pieces performed by kids in two age groups – roughly 7-11 and 12-16. There are three things in the world that are perfectly certain to enthrall me – an adorable and well-fitting sundress, exceptional iced coffee or hot sauce, and children performing, who LOVE it. (Ok, I guess that’s four things).

What struck me most about this performance was the whole-heartedness and willingness of nearly every young actor to GO FOR IT. To get up there in front of a sizable audience with less than a week of preparation, performing songs that most of them had probably never heard of before the beginning of that week. They didn’t make excuses, apologize for themselves, or add any qualifiers to their performance the way that we adults tend to without even noticing it – we are too tired, under-rehearsed, not feeling well, don’t identify with the material, are anxious, ill, out of practice, etc.  (I include myself in this, from time to time, certainly).  And yet, we adults have had far more training, experience, and tools in our tool belt of knowledge…so why do we have such a hard time just doing what we do/being who we are right now? Not who or what we aspire to be, but really enjoying our uniqueness/what we bring to the table at this particular juncture in our lives. Because we’ll never be exactly as we are in this moment, again. All of our beauty and imperfections present, and just tapped into the love of whatever it is that we do – whether that is something artistic, another kind of job, the way we behave in our romantic relationship…whatever you’re focused on right now.

I think back to my tween/early teen self.  In creative endeavors I was willing to try anything because I didn’t “know any better yet.” And truth be told, I was probably at my most awkward, and clueless state of being, in many ways.  But also probably my most free.  Do you identify with that at all? Isn’t it interesting?  My younger self thought process would have been – “Do I want to do this? Great. I’ll do it. Done.” There was no litany of follow up fears and excuses.

One might argue, “Well it’s the beauty of knowing less. Once you’re exposed to the world and see how hard things are/how quick people are to judge…trust me, those kids will be jaded someday, too.” And to be honest…I get that line of thinking, I really do.  But I also think…that we are not victims of our own knowledge.  We are not powerless to our wordliness. Knowledge is wonderful, and we can use it to our benefit as easily as we can use it to get in our own way.

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With two incredible teen/tweens : )

How do we do that? How do we tap back into that freedom and clarity of passion, free from the bondage of excuses, apologies, and qualifiers? I really have no idea.  But here are some ideas I’ll be playing with…

1. Allow yourself to do something you really enjoy, that isn’t remotely productive.  Don’t feel guilty about it. Just do it. And enjoy it.

2. Try something new that you might very well be bad at. And if you are…know that it’s ok. That your abilities are unique, and you don’t have to be excellent at all of the things.

3.  Find a great picture of your sweet tween/teen self and remember who you were back then.  : ) What are the residual qualities that still feel the same?

4.  When you feel the impulse to apologize for yourself, make excuses, or put on some kind of protective armor that doesn’t allow for any hint of vulnerability, pause and ask yourself – “What am I trying to protect myself from? What am I so scared of?” Sometimes acknowledging our fear and giving it a proper place (just not in the driver’s seat) can calm it down, and keep it from rearing its ugly head too much.

5.  I think we were all born to create. And I know that I’m happiest when I’m creating as much as possible. I remember doing this as a tween/teen constantly. Writing books, stories, poems, making home-made dinners for my parents complete with hand-written menus, producing and directing projects in the basement and at school…and I never criticized my work. I just did it to do it. On very few occasions do I do anything for that reason, anymore.  Why not find something now? No one else even has to see it. Do it for the joy.

I want to leave you today with a little piece by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

photo 2Have a great week, Celebrationists! Do something bold and daring – that’s just for you. You deserve it : )

Week 47 – Little Bits of Bunburying

Hi there, Celebrationists! Hope you’ve had an absolutely beautiful Monday.

My 3 statements of gratitude today are all about people!

1.) I am grateful for a wonderfully sensitive, gentle, hilarious, talented new friend who is an extraordinary listener – and let me keep this beautiful creation:

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2.) A delightful, loving, and brilliant new buddy who is helping me revamp my website out of the goodness of his heart.  He also helps me not take myself too seriously. Or tries to.

3.) A kind, sparkly, generous new friend who is a lovely human, and is being so patient, teaching me to sew! Hopefully I will be a good student and this dress will be as marvelous as her teaching is…

photo-3As you may remember, I’ve been in rehearsal for what I would say is a delicious production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.  The play is fantastic fun – with sumptuous language, richly entertaining characters, and a cast/director who I’ve enjoyed working with very much.

I want to introduce you to a little term that will help “set the stage” a bit, if you will – in case you haven’t read or seen The Importance of Being Earnest : )

In the play, Oscar Wilde coins the term “Bunburying,” which is a devise created by one of the principal characters – Algernon, to avoid undesirable social engagements, while trying to preserve the appearance of utter respectability.  Algy creates a fictitious friend, Mr. Bunbury (who seems to have chronic poor health and requires nearly constant care), giving himself the excuse to go about as he pleases, while claiming to be at the aid his invalid companion. His friend Jack has been “Bunburying” in his own right, creating an entirely new identity for himself when he is in town or the country depending – even down to a new name.  This name essentially allows him to escape and be “himself.”  Algy follows suit and assumes an alternate identity, all contributing to one of the play’s many themes – the idea of living a double life, and keeping up a desired appearance.  In the story, all of their “scrapes” and hypocrisy are hilarious and downright whimsical, as Wilde satirizes Victorian sensibilities.

My Libra brain enjoys exploring opposites and extremes of all forms. It’s like setting a concept down on the scale of thought, then slamming the most extreme or opposite version of it on the other side, to see what happens – and with as little judgement as I can manage : )  I’ve been turning around the idea of Bunburying in this way. Thinking about how we might experiment more than we care to admit with a contemporary sort of Bunburying.  It seems like the biggest difference is that our contemporary Bunburying, unfortunately does not produce the light-hearted and mirthfully ridiculous result that we find in The Importance of Being Earnest. I think of examples like:

– Devising elaborate excuses about where we “have to be” instead of politely saying no thank you to an invitation, when really the “no” is well within our right – and doesn’t make us unkind at all

– The different versions of ourself that we cultivate depending on who we are around

– The creative ways we find of boosting and maintaining a particular image of our own design

– The beautiful incongruities we all have – the ways in which we manage to be serious and ridiculous at nearly the same time

– The many methods we develop to escape or distract ourselves from our “real life lives”

– How we may, at times, use social media to enforce a desired image (If you know The Importance of Being Earnest, take a moment and think about what these character’s Facebook statuses would be like…it’s pretty wonderful and hilarious, I think…)

But in all seriousness, and without being remotely critical or harsh to our sweet selves – I think most of us have done a version of something on that list, even unconsciously.  The desire for escape is real, and we’ve become better at it than we think.

This contemporary Bunburying brings to mind a quote I LOVE, by another kind of smarty-pants, Mahatma Gandhi – “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” It feels kind of funny to set Mr. Wilde and Mr. Gandhi up next door to each other, but I think it’s kind of neat since they are both brilliant.  Anyway.  That level of happiness is certainly a tall order, but I continue to work on it. It’s a struggle! To allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to synthesize our thoughts, actions, and words. To be confident but humble enough to know that we are adequate for all situations without having to posture, prove, pose, or pretend we need to be elsewhere.

To be exactly where we are at, exactly as we are, and say exactly what we mean. To be comfortable enough in the groundlessness to plant our feet and not run away, using mindlessness and extravagance as a shield. To know that any judgement that passes our way is someone else’s “stuff.” To leave the Bunburying to the folks in Wilde’s wonderful world. To laugh with good nature at their folly, and forge our own path of authenticity as best we can. And to be gentle with ourselves on the days when we need a little Bunburying…or an entire plateful of cucumber sandwiches : )

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Until next week, Celebrationists!