Monthly Archives: August 2015

Week 54 – Little Bits of Spinning Out…

  1. I’m grateful for the generosity and valor of a certain special gentleman who drove, lifted, carried, and helped me ship many things at FedEx and the post office, today – I feel so much better and more secure as I prepare for the big move, and could never have done it without you
  2. I’m grateful for having seen two wonderful shows this week, with the same special gentleman – Fun Home and Avenue Q – beautiful jolts of inspiration and heart!
  3. I’m grateful for time spent with these two amazing little ladies and their lovely mom, yesterday

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Two ideas have been competing in my brain today, to be the subject of this post. I’m going to attempt chatting about both, because I think they are (or can be) related. The two concepts are:

Waiting for the other shoe to drop and Spinning out

What is my definition of waiting for the other shoe to drop, in this context, you ask? I’m talking about the sensation we sometimes feel when life is going “a little too smoothly.” When one area of our existence is fantastic, and we await “the catch.” As in – “Well, this one part of my life is going amazingly right now, so something in my romantic relationship is probably going to bomb, or that plane I’m getting on tomorrow is bound to crash, or my identity is going to get stolen.” Or even if those thoughts don’t become as fully realized as that, it might still manifest as the general sensation of waiting for something bad to happen. We think, “Oh, this is way too good – it won’t last…”

Do you experience this, when life is “a little too smooth”? I feel it in a much more unconscious way than I used to, but from time to time I still find myself in this headspace.

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(I recently found an old journal from college. It has many lists with titles like you see above. I cropped out the actual list, but there are 18 items in this particular entry, with fears ranging from “paying my car insurance” to “what I’ll be doing over the summer,” to “disappointing _______.”

What is my definition of spinning out, in this context, you ask? – I’m talking about the sensation that occurs when one worrisome thought leads to another, and another – and suddenly we are drifting in a dizzying state of overwhelm, unable to root ourselves in the present moment, or move forward and accomplish anything.  The kinds of activities or situations that tend to trigger spinning out for me, are:

  • Moving (which I do a lot)
  • Reading Web MD
  • When I have to make a decision that feels especially big or important
  • When I’m about to do something I’ve never done before
  • When I feel like my actions might disappoint somebody
  • When I was in school, having projects due in multiple classes, on the same day
  • Other things I’m sure, but these are the first examples to pop into my mind

When a person “spins out,” one might experience feelings of

  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Mental Fog
  • Desire to crawl back under the covers
  • Inability to focus
  • Desire to distract oneself with absolutely anything else that is mindless/has nothing to do with what needs to be accomplished
  • General paralysis
  • Guilt over having spun out in the first place

Sound familiar at all? And honestly, I think that waiting for the other shoe to drop can (but not always) lead to spinning out. And one of the reasons I think they are connected is that they are both rooted in limiting patterns of belief. We’ve (however innocently) trained our bodies and minds to respond to certain trigger situations (which are different for everyone) with the belief that we aren’t worthy of the good in our lives, that things are hard, and on some level we should expect problems and difficulties. That if we aren’t worrying about something…there is probably something wrong with us! After awhile, this line of thinking becomes an unconscious response to stressful situations. So how do we rewire? How do we move forward? I’m a big fan of acrostics, acronyms, and mnemonic devices of all sorts, so I made us this – A.C.T.I.O.N.

Acknowledge – Own the experience, exactly as it is. “Ok, I’m really worried right now, and can feel my thoughts leading to a freak-out, or at the very least – more worried thoughts. I hate the way this feels! I’ve read in thirteen self help books that we have the power to choose our thoughts! Why do I feel so out of control??” Let it all out. Feel all the feels.

Clarify – Dissect the thought and see if we can find the root of what’s troubling us, precisely.  If the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened – what would it mean? Why are we scared of that? What’s at the core of the worry?

Thank – Thank our bodies for functioning properly and alerting us when there is a possibility of danger! This seems to be a good alternative to guilt. Even if the warning is not useful to us, we can be glad that we’re firing on all cylinders.

Imagine – Imagine, in detail, the situation we are worried about – but with our ideal desired outcome.  I read about this idea in a dozen books and thought it sounded hokey, before I tried it.  I’m not talking about unicorns and butterflies (though I am admittedly fans of both) – I’m talking about responding to situations with confidence and flexibility. I’m talking about taking action, making phone calls, using our words effectively, and getting things done with positive outcomes. If it’s moving to a new place that worries us, for example – when we’re in bed the night before, imagine walking through a successful move, and everything that would mean, in perfect detail.

Open – Open our minds to the equal possibility that the situation we are stressing about has just as good a chance of turning out wonderfully, as it does being a disaster. And however it goes, that we will be able to handle it.

Navigate – Navigate our way back to the present moment. Our worries are based on things that haven’t even happened yet, and may never happen. If we can find our way back to where we are right now, and identify what we can do in THIS moment, if anything, to help create our desired outcome (like pack a box, make that phone call, pick up that pen, ask for the help we need), shifting our focus to that little bit of action can definitely contribute to feelings of peace and confidence

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This time last year I was preparing to play Cinderella in Into the Woods. Someone whose other shoe did drop – literally. And look what happened to her : ) A girl who was relegated to the cinders, abused by her family, and (at the beginning of her story) exemplified many of the core worries we may all share – that we’ll experience or be doomed to a life of loneliness, isolation, poverty, unfulfilling work, love-less relationships and not being seen/appreciated for who we really are. Through hard work, resourcefulness, kindness, and action, Cinderella pierced  through the pattern that her life was, and created a new reality. I think we frequently adopt the belief that “nothing good lasts.” But I would argue, “nothing bad lasts, either.”  

I can’t say for sure what the ideal antidote is for spinning out, or waiting for the other shoe to drop – but moving forward, I’m going to try action. Want to join me? : )

See you next week, Celebrationists, for the first GBD we’ve had in awhile!

Week 53 – Little Bits of Distraction

Hope you are having a merry Monday, Celebrationists – and if you’re in a part of the world that is as hot as it is here in New York, I hope you are staying cool!

1.) I am grateful for this beautiful piece of artwork, purchased for and sent to me by a dear friend – it is the character I just played in The Importance of Being Earnest, and I’m about to dig into that same role again under a different set of amazing circumstances, in a couple of weeks!

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2.) I am grateful for a lovely evening of lady-time this week, with a collection of truly kind, creative, compassionate women.

3.) I am grateful for the many supportive friends who have reached out during this sad time of losing my dog, Teddy.

Today I want to talk about distractions.

I feel like nearly everyone I know, myself included, is frequently fussing about time, and not having enough of it.  We are all so busy, and there never seems to be enough time to do all the things we want to do, am I right? And yet, I consistently find that I am more productive and accomplish a higher volume of things when my schedule is full. I’m much more given to distraction when I have more time on my hands. Do you find this?

Like many artists, I don’t have a 9-5 job. My schedule is erratic at best, and no two days tend to look the same. I typically enjoy this, and function really well with a self-created schedule. When I structure my time effectively, life is great.  But I have to say that there are definitely periods where I slack off, feel less focused, and don’t organize my life well. Usually this happens when I have more time to play with. And when I don’t have a laser beam focus, it can be easy to get distracted by…well, everything! What are your top-level distractions? Maybe you are most distracted by…

  • Netflix/television
  • YouTube videos
  • Facebook
  • Coffee breaks
  • Incessantly checking email
  • Texting
  • Snacks
  • Phone calls
  • And so on…

I really like lists. I have quite an assortment on my phone – short and long term to-do lists, places I want to visit someday, future baby names, songs I want to learn, spots in New York that just make me happy, books to return to when I’m feeling down…lots and lots of lists. The to-do kind are especially helpful when I’m trying to prioritize and make a plan for my week. I find these items satisfying to check off, but sometimes overwhelming to look at all at once. When I find myself getting distracted, I can usually go back to the list and hop myself back on track. But not always. And when I stop to consider why we give in to distraction – the actual reason that lies beneath “Well this TV show is just really great!” this is what I’ve been thinking about…

I think that giving in to distraction can be symptomatic of fear. Just go with me for a second.

How would we classify the feeling we get when we engage in any distraction from the list above (when used mindlessly)? I would say that these things offer a sense of immediate short term satisfaction, comfort, relief, and self-soothing. Would you agree? When we’ve got a project before us – whether it’s accomplishing something for a work deadline, a personal writing project, or even a task as simple as paying a bill, sometimes I’m filled with an unconscious (or conscious) sense of dread. Half the time, starting is the worst part. A string of thoughts will frequently pop into my head, leading with commentary such as:

  • “This is going to take me hours, and I just don’t want to…”
  • “I’m tired, and don’t have the mental energy to do this right now…”
  • “I don’t feel like paying this money, and then not having enough for something else that I’d rather use it for…”

But if we peel back another layer, and get beyond this stuff? It seems like these little excuses that lead us down the path of another Netflix binge (and trust me, I’m not knocking an occasional Netflix binge) are really about something else. Taking each of these three excuses apart for the sake of example…

  • “This is going to take me hours, and I just don’t want to…” becomes something like What if I invest hours of my time and then it still isn’t any good?
  • “I’m tired, and don’t have the mental energy to do this right now…” – If I commit 100% to this job at hand and give it my all and it doesn’t turn out well, I’ll have no one to blame but myself.
  • “I don’t feel like paying this money, and then not having enough for something else that I’d rather use it for…” – I’m scared of not having money, and I hate watching it leave my bank account.

I think we can take almost every excuse that we make and find an underlying fear beneath it. And then to squash the fear, we cozy back up to our friend, distraction. And as much as I think we should be gentle with ourselves here, I also think we aren’t doing any favors by giving into these immediate acts of self-soothing.  There’s a difference between making a conscious decision like “I’m going to allow myself a half hour of such and such as a reward for an hour of good work, or to clear my head and then get back to it,” and the thing that happens when we just drift mindlessly into something that gives us a little injection of pleasure, and come up for air three hours later.

Image courtesy of http://www.buzzquotes.com/quotes-stir-crazy

Image courtesy of http://www.buzzquotes.com/quotes-stir-crazy

It’s the difference between mindfulness and mindlessness. So how do we combat distraction? How do we commit to making conscious choices, and also leaving ourselves space for doing things we enjoy in moderation, at an appropriate time that serves us?

 

1. ) I think awareness is the first step. Figuring out what our triggers are for acting mindlessly

2.) Eliminate the possibility for distraction as much as possible – turn off our phones, move to a room that the TV isn’t in, only allow ourselves to have one computer screen open, etc.

3.) When we “just don’t feel like” doing something, identify what the underlying fear, or piece of resistance is

4.) If it helps you, for larger tasks, find an accountability buddy – tell someone “Today I’m going to….” and ask them to check in with you to make sure it’s done. Choose someone who will do this in a loving way, or in a manner that is helpful to you, and offer to return the favor

5.) Designate a specific block of time for the task, and schedule it on your calendar like anything else. And if someone wants to have a coffee date – you’ve got an appointment with yourself, and schedule the coffee date at another time

6.) Allow ourselves a few minutes of something we enjoy, in a conscious way

I don’t know any of this for sure, but I’m going to give it a  try this week. Want to join me in a week of mindfulness? Not of deprivation or restriction, but of real joy in accomplishing and enjoying our days with intention? And when we slip up and indulge in distraction, let’s pat ourselves on the head and get back to it!

Onward! : )

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Week 52…One Year – Little Bits of Unpopularity

Happy Monday, Celebrationists! August is totally ticking by…

1.) I am grateful for this interview that I watched yesterday. I’m a huge admirer of Mindy Kaling to begin with, but what she says from 25:10 to  26:35 speaks to me in a really major way.  Do yourself a favor and check out that little bit of brilliance : ) Also I can’t wait for her next book to come out, in September!

2.) I am grateful for my brand new Toms, procured by a certain wonderful gentleman who likes to make sure I’m not walking around with holey and unfortunate looking shoes…which I frequently do, left to my own devices…

3.) I am grateful for a fantastic walk (and excellent conversation) through Fort Tryon Park with an incredible friend. Our stroll was sponsored by the magical powers of Vitamin D (aka sunshine) and Cafe Buunni.  And truly, I don’t think I’ve ever been SO caffeinated by a cup of iced coffee – but this micro-roasted, Ethiopian brew really creeps up on you! ZING!!!! Delicious.

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My math-resistant brain realized only recently that there are 52 weeks in a year. Which means I’ve been writing this blog every week, for a year.  I know I’ve already acknowledged how good it felt to blog for 50 weeks – because 50 is a fun number for acknowledgements…but a year kind of feels…well, pretty neat. 52 love letters to dear Celebrationists, 156 statements of gratitude. 17 amazing Good-Bit-Do-ers. Very much looking forward to what the next year will bring. I wanted to somehow make this week “special” – maybe write a heart-felt post about everything that a year can mean. But I’m just too excited to chat about the little bit of interview that I referenced during my first statement of gratitude. And to me, this topic is about as special as it gets : )

So. In this not-even-two-minute sequence (25:10-26:35), Mindy Kaling offers a beautiful, brave, and generous piece of advice – advice that she admits is probably unpopular, by today’s standards. And I’m obsessed with it.

She talks about how in our current culture, a high premium is placed on speaking what we think and feel, and that this has become the number one way in which we celebrate our personal power. That we are encouraged to share our feelings in a public way because it validates our voice. That if a television show called “I feel this, and I should say this” (she sings this title, in the clip) were created today, it would be a popular one – opposed to a title like, “I’m listening and I understand what you’re feeling.”

She offers the opinion that, as fantastic as self expression can be – it is equally important, if not more important “To be perceptive. To be sensitive. And I feel like we don’t talk about that a lot because we feel like the only way to show that we’re empowered is to speak it…”  She goes on to advocate for all of us to “…listen to others more than necessarily putting such a premium on being able to say what you feel….” She credits her observant and intuitive nature as a child to playing a significant part in her success as a writer. I would go a step further and say that her advice is powerful and poignant for all humans – regardless of age, and regardless of their interest level in putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. Let me break it down.

I think it’s amazing that we live in a society where we are free to speak up, share our thoughts, and express our views. Social media in particular has made this possible for folks who may not otherwise have access to an outlet for their voice. But I think about all the ways in which society encourages us to take this self-expression and “empowerment” to perhaps unhealthy extremes (hence the quotations around empowerment). Sometimes it seems like we’re all shouting our greatness and “rightness” at each other, doesn’t it?  And it only seems to be reinforced by our day to day environments. In school and in the work-place for instance, I feel like there is a lot of emphasis placed on competition, getting our two cents in, making progress, achieving more, leaving our mark….none of which are negative things really, but I just don’t think there’s a lot of talk about empathy. About closing our mouths and opening our ears (and not just silently planning our next statement or come-back while we do it) and actually listening.  Paying attention to detail. There isn’t a lot in the media today that talks about the fact that sensitivity and vulnerability are strengths, not weaknesses.  To me, this seems like…maybe the most important thing we can remember and apply to our basic human interactions…and we don’t talk about it. Or learn about it. Or advocate for it much at all.

I think that active listening, and trying to relate to and empathize with another human without becoming defensive is one of the best displays of strength we can show. I think that when we get off of our soapbox for a moment, unplug from our personal headspace, put down our cell phones, and just experience the vulnerability of taking in another person’s experience, and really being present with it…we can learn an awful lot. And we can contribute to a lot of healing. By taking a step back and engaging in active listening, we are empowering, giving life and validation to, and lifting up another person – who might just be inspired to do the same for someone else. Have you ever been out to dinner, on a coffee date, or experienced a phone call where the other person never asks one thing about you? Have you ever been on the other end of it? What good is it if we are all sharing our feelings, but not doing any of the taking-in? What are we learning? And what kind of society are we contributing to?

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Apart from the kindness and compassion factor – and the point I think Mindy was trying to make really, is that when we listen and observe, we learn. We learn in a different way than we do when studying a textbook and spitting back information. We learn in perhaps a more complete way, and are developing our social and emotional IQs. Being an observor of the world makes Mindy a great and relatable writer, and it can make us better and kinder humans, more capable of empathy.

I can think of so many every day opportunities to try our hand at this kind of paying attention:

  • What story is a person’s body language telling us – what are they really saying about what they need?
  • If a person is rambling, instead of growing impatient and dismissing their story, re-routing the conversation back to ourselves, what if we invite ourselves to dig deep beyond the rambling? What are they unable to get to? When we ramble, what does it usually mean for us?
  • When a person is bragging, complaining, or doing something else that drives us bonkers – instead of zoning out, what would happened if we listened harder to what is actually going on? Because we’ve never done any of those things…by which I mean we’ve all done all of these things..
  • When in a large group, instead of shimmying our way into the Life of the Party position, and claiming our spot as the center of attention, what would happen if we tune into the quietest person in the room? The one who is speaking least?
  • When a child appears to be talking nonsense or asking the same thing over and over, instead of brushing them off and pushing our adult wisdom on them immediately, why not back off, listen, and see where they are coming from? What do they need from us?
  • When a person seems irrationally angry, sad, or emotionally overcome in one way or another, what if we let them be there? What if we just sit and listen, not offering any advice at all?
  • When someone is on a religious, political, or ethical rant, instead of firing back immediately, what would happen if we just listened?
  • What if we listened more to our bodies?
  • What if we listened more to our fears?
  • What if we listened more to our pain?
  • What if we listened more to our gut?
  • What if we asked people more questions and really listened to their answers?

Want to join me this week in being totally and wonderfully unpopular? : ) In being sensitive to, taking in, and perceiving more than we share? In asking more questions than we spout off answers for?  In exploring what kind of deeper empowerment pops up for us when we are still? When we are quiet? When we try to understand a person we just don’t understand? How beautiful might this be….

Not to embarrass anybody, but a few of the greatest and most empathetic listeners I have the pleasure of knowing : )

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Happy one-year, lovelies : ) It’s an honor.

Week 51 – Little Bits of Dreamwork

Happy Week 51, Celebrationists! Hope you had a great weekend.

1.) I am grateful to be spending the next few days out of the city, with a certain wonderful gentleman

2.) I am grateful for my new window air conditioner, from said wonderful gentleman

3.) I am grateful for podcasts, because they make a radical impact on my mornings, and continue to improve my entire day through their inspiring messages. Some favorites: This American Life, TED Radio, The Moth, MFF Best Life Radio, Radiolab, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and Magic Lessons

My musings for the day are inspired by one Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love – also her upcoming book, Big Magic is sure to be spectacular. And Magic Lessons (see above) is her podcast!

This week, Liz posted something on social media that inspired a lot of thought in me. She saw the following quote on Instagram, and shared some compassionate but direct words about it: “If you don’t know where you wanna be in 5 years…you’re already there.”  

She describes the “oof” effect that reading this had on her, and offers the following simplified translation: “If you don’t have a plan for where you’re going to be in five years, then – after five years have passed – you will still be exactly where you are right now.” You can read more of her thoughts on this matter (which I highly recommend, because she’s the best,) on her Facebook page (and give it a like, if you haven’t!) here.

I’ve been turning all of this over for the past few days. As an artist, I’ve spent a decent part of my life fleshing out the narrative that it’s impossible for me to plan almost anything. Which, at times, is not untrue. Frequently, actors don’t know what city we’ll be living in next, how much money we’ll be making, who we’ll be spending our time with, when we’ll have health insurance through our union, or not…it’s hard to plan for an upcoming holiday trip home, much less the next five years of life.  I can have ideas, certainly, but getting too excited about their potential can only lead to disappointment, right?

Whether you are an actor or not, you may also have pieces in the pie-chart of your life that seem impossible to claim a specific vision for. I have such wholehearted compassion for this. Our lives can sometimes feel wildly out of our control – people get sick out of nowhere, circumstances change, promotions and firings happen in the blink of an eye, – life can shift so quickly in ways that we never plan for. So why try to plan anything? Why claim, for instance…the age you want to be married by, the location of your dream apartment, the places you want to travel, or the specific kind of career success you hope to have? These circumstances require at least one other person to achieve…so why try, possibly disappoint yourself, and contribute to already present (though sometimes buried) feelings of underachieving, or even failing? Well. I’ll tell you what I think…

And let me begin by saying that I’ve barely dipped a toe into this idea- I’m right there at the edge of the pool with you, trying to make sense of it all. And I’ve read several books (most notably Dr. Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade which is an exquisite and important read for anyone in their 20s, in particular. Seriously, it’s SO good…) – but I always thought that some of these concepts – a five year plan for instance, didn’t apply to me. Couldn’t apply to me. I mean…I’m a gypsy! I’m an artist!  And now I wonder – is this a limiting belief?

I think part of what the aforementioned quote could be getting at, is to take a look at how specific – really specific goals affect our mindfulness, and day to day choices.  In contrast, when we adopt a drifting mentality, it seems that we operate with much less intention when it comes to the minutiae of our lives. Minutiae that makes a gigantic difference over time. We spend that extra dollar instead of saving it. Going to this or that audition becomes arbitrary because there will be another one tomorrow. Taking a trip, accepting a job, or making any kind of life change feels as scary as it does exciting, because we don’t know if we “should.” We don’t know what will be “best.” We feel lost, roll the dice, and hope for the best.  But the thing is, we actually get to decide what’s best.  We’re driving the train of our life. Obstacles will show up on the road, but we’re still driving.

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Some things I can think of that seem GREAT about setting really specific goals – and for the sake of consistency I’ll stick with the example of a five year plan, are:

  • When we know what we want and allow ourselves to inhabit that desire fully, it gives us purpose and direction, inspiring us to ACT, instead of just think about things
  • When we know what we want, it clarifies how we want to spend our time most effectively
  • When we know what we want, it makes decisions easier because we can ask “Does this align with my mission?” If it does, even indirectly – we do it, if not – we can let it go, if we choose
  • When we know what we want, we feel more in control of our choices – we can feel less guilty about that Netflix binge, late evening out, or whatever your release is, when it feels like a choice and not an escape because you’re scared and drifting
  • When we know what we want and GO FOR IT we inspire others to want things, and go for it, too

That’s not to say that life is going to stop throwing curveballs in our path. That surprise doors won’t present themselves at every turn, and when we least expect it something will happen and upset the whole “plan”. But then we adjust, refocus, and keep our hands on the steering wheel and our eyes on the road. Just because we can’t control the end result doesn’t mean that we should abandon our dreams.  And maybe our dreams will change!  But if we never voice them to begin with, we may never even find out what they are. So it seems to me that getting clear about what we want enables us to live with intention.  And that’s some pretty powerful stuff.

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So what gets in the way of our getting razor-sharp-specific with ouselves, I wonder? Probably:

  • Fear
  • Netflix and Thai food is just more satisfying in the moment
  • We are embarrassed about wanting things that might be considered “too big”
  • We don’t feel worthy
  • We don’t trust ourselves to be ready for such good things/responsibilities/opportunities
  • It’s not that cool to want things unless the results are immediate
  • The fact that writing things down and claiming goals is a lot of work and thought
  • We “don’t have time”
  • Name your own

But here’s what I say we do. Acknowledge all of the above and then say “SO WHAT???” Let’s stroke our adorable little excuses, sit them down next to us, and keep working anyway.  Don’t wait for them to go away, because they probably won’t. So will you join me this week? In WRITING DOWN (as per Liz’s suggestion) what you want? Let go of the inner crazy-monster that thinks things are “too much,” “too big,” or “just not going to happen for me at my current age, status, life place, etc.” In your perfect world…what do you want? When do you want it? Not what will you settle for, but actually.

If I know I want to get a book published by the time I’m 30, I need to get writing. If I want to go to London in the next two years I need to get saving. If I want to own a dog, I need to get clear on the breed, where I need to live, how much money I need to make, and start thinking of potential names : ) Because, why not? Because getting clear is exciting. Because it gives you focus.  Life is going to do what it’s going to do – but getting clear helps us do our part more effectively.

If you decide to get clear this week and create a list of what you want out of your next year….your next five years – whatever you feel excited about, Celebrationists, feel free to comment below and share what that experience is like for you – I’d love to know!

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Also – I’m aiming to get back into the groove of doing some interviews. If you’re new to the blog, some of my earlier (and intermittent posts) have been interviews with GBDs (Good-Bit-Do-ers) – folks who are making the world a better, more compassionate place, in creative and interesting ways. Scroll back through posts to find examples, and if you’d like to nominate a GBD in your life, drop me an email at: littlebitsofgoodblog@gmail.com – they don’t need to live in New York, and the sky is the limit as far as what constitutes a Little Bit of Good! In a world where it’s easy to feel disgust, disappointment, or dismay for our fellow humans, let’s spin that on its head and lift some people up, what do you say?

Have a great week, dear ones. *HUG*