What's the Story You're Telling Yourself?

Let me create a scenario: You are texting with someone you might not know that well, and after sending a text you see the three pulsating dots, then hear nothing back. Do you: a. Assume they got busy and go on with your day or b. Create a narrative in your head where they are mad at you, disappointed with you, don’t like you? Yeah, me neither. Fine, i’ll let’s be real. I do the latter all the damn time.

It was while I listened to an interview with Dr. Brene Brown that I learned a new technique for confronting this nasty habit. When you find yourself plummeting down that rabbit hole, ask yourself, “What is the story I’m telling myself?” I tell myself the reason I haven’t heard back that that person reading my most recent play is because they hate it and don’t know how to tell me. Of course I do! I can create worst case scenarios at the speed of light. And let me say, the stories are never good. It’s not, “Oh, this person hasn’t gotten back to me because they’re busy with other things, had to go out of town, have a child home with a cold...no, it’s always, always, always something negative about me. Not super helpful, or at all steeped in any kind of reality. About 95% of the time I am completely wrong, and have caused myself hours, days, sometimes weeks of angst solely because of the story I told myself.

The energy around this is especially strong when you are taking a risk. When you send that manuscript out, audition for a role, inquire about a new job. Or on a personal level, ask someone out, join a group or take to step to make a new friend. Risk is scary. Putting yourself out there is scary. So we create a worst-case-scenario in our heads, partly as protection, and put ourselves through hell for something that isn’t true. It seems when it comes to risk, most us are still in the fifth grade waiting to be picked for the team. It’s scary. Sticking your neck out is hard.

What I have learned is, by using the phrase, “the story I’m telling myself” in my head, or maybe even to a trusted friend, or my partner, is that very quickly I disempower the gremlin stomping through my head and get snapped back to reality.

Here’s a recent example - on Mother’s Day I was talking to my oldest son on the phone. I was making the bed when my partner came in and asked if I minded if he went out to rehearse with his band that evening. I sighed and said I guessed not. Because I had earbuds with a mic on, at the exact same moment my adult son and partner said, “Why did  you say it like that?” I was busted by two people at once. Because the story in my head was, “I know I’m not the mother of YOUR children, but none of mine are here and you are going to go out, not go anywhere with me, and my Mother’s Day sucks! You’re telling me you just don’t care.” And the thing was, it was all a story in my head. I love hearing from my kids, but Mother’s Day is not a huge deal to me, but somehow I created a story where it was all a big deal. Now it’s something we openly say when one of us is making assumptions. “Hey, the story I’m telling myself when you say I don’t need to go with you to that show is that you are sick of me and don’t want me to go.” It's not easy to be vulnerable, but it sure saves us a lot of time that making assumptions eats up.

Brene Brown says, the stories we make up are, “around our greatest shame triggers and fears about ourselves in order in insure maximum protection.”

So my action step for anyone interested in changing this pattern is to be mindful of this reaction. The next time you find yourself creating a story in your head take a breath, stop, and realize that’s exactly what you’re doing. It isn’t reality. It’s a story. Don’t shame yourself around it, know it’s there to protect you. The voice that says, “I didn’t want that job anyway,” is protecting your heart and your spirit, don’t punish yourself even more.

For me it’s become a bit of a game, and it makes me laugh. When I don’t hear back from that theater director, or potential new client, and I start down that road, I remind myself that it’s just a story, and not a very good one at that. My hope is that the more I do this the less I will need to because I won’t need the story anymore. At least that’s the goal.

So what’s the story you’re telling yourself?

Feng Shui is Bulls**t!

There, I said it. Feng shui is bulls**t. And so are affirmations about abundance, crystals, visioning and “The Secret.”

I know this because I’ve done them all. And none of it ever did a thing.

When I was at a very low time in my life I was reading every single self-help and new-age book I could find. As a journalist I interviewed two Feng Shui consultants who even came to my house and gave me tips!

I placed red tape around pipes, on the bottom stairs (to keep chi from flowing from my house). I also placed my bed in the proper place to attract a committed relationship, put items in my “prosperity corner” to attract money, and picked paint colors for abundance. None of it did a thing. Sure, I bought myself some hope, so there’s that, but none of it increased my flow of money, happiness or love.

There was also the “abundance” class I took, and the only person to welcome more abundance into their life was the person charging us for eight weeks of nothing real.

When “The Secret” came out, yeah, I’m still kind of annoyed with Oprah for that one, I did everything they suggested. I visualized my success, the money, the perfect relationship...nothing.

Like many people, I was attracted to all these practices when I was going through a tough period of time. I was divorced, lonely, unsure of what was next, and scared. The idea that I had all this power to attract what I wanted was incredibly appealing when everything in my life so out of control. But it’s not real.

Wishing, hoping and dreaming in and of itself isn’t bad, but most of the time all that happens is you’re left feeling like you’re not doing it right. You didn’t say the affirmations correctly, or enough, your vision board lacked a certain j’nais se quoi, or you put your gold coins in your family quadrant rather than the abundance one.

There’s no shortage of guilt to be had when your visions don’t come to fruition. But I think there’s something more at play. Something missing. Actually several pieces are missing.

Some things aren’t meant to be. The relationship you think is the best thing that ever happened, and you’re devastated when it doesn’t work out? Down the road you will probably be extremely grateful you didn’t get the one you thought you wanted. The same with the job, house or car.

We don’t always get what we want. Yes, that’s harsh. When I wrote my novel, “The Best Worst Year,” I was in the thick of my affirmation/attraction craze. I was convinced it was going to be a best-seller, be made into a movie, and set me on a path to success and riches. It didn’t happen.

When I decided it was time to sell my home because it was financially untenable for me, it came after years of working on gratitude and abundance. I don’t know if there has anyone who voiced their gratitude and their love for their home more than me. It didn’t work out. I sold it, didn’t get what I hoped I would, and had to deal with that stinging reality.

But the good news is, there are things you can do to help yourself that have nothing to do with magic. You can keep going even when the world knocks you down, and believe in yourself enough to keep trying. You can learn from the things that don’t work out, and keep getting better.

Success isn’t a given for any of us, and we don’t know what lies ahead. The boyfriend I was heartbroken over? He wasn’t the right person for me. A couple of years later, I met the person who was. I didn’t find huge success as a novelist, and discovered a much better medium for me is playwriting.

Make a vision board if you think it’s a fun way to see what it is you want to achieve, just don’t think because you glue a photo of a Ferrari on a piece of posterboard it’s going to appear in your driveway.

I still hope, and I still pray, and I still believe that some unexplainable things happen - like I was supposed to go to that story slam six years ago and meet my boyfriend. So okay, I haven’t given up ALL my new-age thoughts. And I do think being positive helps, because, of course, who doesn’t want to work with, be with, be around a positive person?

What I don’t believe is that we can shoehorn our wishes into reality. We can do our best, work hard, and then let go. Or as one of my dearest friends says, “Do the thing, and then let the thing do its thing.”

Don’t ever feel you failed if sometimes things fall apart and you don’t get what you hoped for. It can really stink when that happens, but it can also be a chance to pick yourself up and rewrite the script. In my case, I am literally rewriting my script.

There’s no silver bullet and there’s no shortcut. There truly is no “secret.” Your dream partner or job aren’t going to show up magically. Think positively and be optimistic, and then just do the work.

New Year, New Goals

New Year, New Goals?

On January 3 I walked into my gym and wished someone I hadn’t seen since the New Year, wished her a happy one, and jokingly, the owner of the gym said, “It’s the 3rd! We’re past saying ‘Happy New Year!’” I don’t agree! Happy New Year!

So here we are on the 9th, and I’m writing about it. And I’m not going to apologize.

It took me some time to get my own goals in order. A combination of a bit of SAD and my fake-husband’s brand new retired status has me adjusting my game a bit. He and I are adjusting to his new life, and I’m trying to not give into the lower energy and temptation to nap and snack until spring. So far I’m doing okay, though a silly toe injury slowed me down for a few days.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions very much. And I don’t think most people do either since the majority of the time they are history by the middle of January. Going from zero to a hundred only works for machines, not humans.

What I am a fan of is goals and intentions. Big believer in those. And having steps to reach those goals. Saying you will go to the gym everyday when you haven’t gone in five years might work for a week, but then, like most humans, you will revert to what you usually do - not go to the gym.

One thing that helps me is I’m ridiculously frugal. I can’t stand to waste money. I am so cheap that last year from my hospital bed I froze my gym membership.

If being cheap doesn’t work for you, set up a plan that will. Sign up for a class that you will feel guilty for not going to having taken a spot from someone who would have showed up. Make a plan with a friend to meet at a specific time to workout together. Tell people you are beginning a new workout regime and to hold you accountable. Sign up for something that delights you - a hip hop class, kickboxing, zumba, yoga - you won’t do it if you don’t like it that’s for darn sure. You have have to try a few things to find what you do like. I was always a dance person and for years took a dance-fit class. Now, I’m more yoga and on the days I don’t go to yoga, do the treadmill and strength training. I see people who love the elliptical, or jump roping and spin classes. The key is find something you like. You wouldn’t sign up to go to the dentist everyday, make this more fun than that.

Let technology help you too. Get a FitBit or find an app to track steps and time you workout. If you can, do a session or two with a trainer to get a good plan in place.

All these tips are pretty applicable to anything you might like to start in the New Year. Want to write a novel? Join a writer’s group in person or online. Set aside a time every day to write, tell people you’re doing it. I tell you to share your goal because you are a lot more likely to do it if you have someone to be accountable too. It’s a huge reason Weight Watchers works and lots of at-home diets don’t.

I spent about an hour the other day writing down my goals and intentions for both my personal and professional lives in 2018. The intention is the why and the reason. For instance, part of my intention for taking good care of myself is, yes, to feel good and be healthy, but also to be a vital and fun partner, mom and friend.

I want my play, “Love and Disaster” to be produced in 2018 for the advancement of my career, but I also want to employ actors, a director and crew. I also want to give people a fun night out and perhaps get a subtle message across (while they’re laughing) about love and forgiveness. Thinking about the bigger picture with your goals gives them more weight, more meaning. Wanting to make more money is great, but when we get clear in your intention - to make more money to buy a newer, safer car, or take your family on a memorable trip, it all means a lot more.

When thinking about changes you want to make in your life get clear and be specific. What steps are you going to take? Who can you ask for help and/or support? Why do you want to reach this goal? What could be a reward for yourself?

And lastly, I’ve saved the most important thing for last - well, I think it’s the most important. My overriding goal is gratitude. Being grateful makes you happier, It’s been proven! Being grateful will make you a happier and less angsty person. I’ve taken it a step further and many times a day randomly and silently wish people happiness. Especially people who may be bugging me a bit! It calms me down, and makes me happy. If you can find ways to be grateful even when things don’t go as expected, you will be well on your way to a happier life. And isn’t that what all of us want? Take the time everyday to jot down three things you’re happy for. The other night? For me it was when I miscalculated the bottom stair in my house I only injured my big toe - I didn’t break a leg, a wrist or something else. It’s pretty hard to be grateful and feel sorry for yourself at the same time…

Take some time to intentionally plan what you’d like your 2018 to look like. What do you want to accomplish? Why? And how are you going to get there? You know you always accomplish more with a to-do list? Think of this as your to-do list for the year, then see how much you accomplish!


Let's Be Honest About Fear and Success

For three years I have been working on a play called, “Love and Disaster.” The opening scene popped into my head, whole cloth one day, and then, during a writing workshop, the rest of it began to come into focus.

I had completed the first act, had a scene performed in a showcase, and was feeling pretty good about it. And then I got sick. Like really sick. Hospitalized four times in less than a year sick. After selling my beloved home, and six moves in under two years, my body rebelled. I was diagnosed with acute ulcerative colitis, and until they found a medication that worked, I kept getting sick. And I wasn’t feeling very funny.

Months went by where I could barely shower, never mind come up with witty dialogue and plot lines. I was scared, depressed and wondered if I’d ever come back to being me again.

And then, about two months after my last hospitalization, I felt like reading what I’d written. And I laughed and laughed some more. My brain had begun to function again and I began to write. Five months later the second act was done. One hundred and twenty-two pages and three years after it had burst into my head, it was done.

I handed over a copy to my teacher/mentor/friend, and a few weeks later, I got back a bloody corpse of a manuscript with more notes written in red ink than I knew what to do with. But I tackled it one note, one page at a time and rewrote it. And then rewrote it some more.

Three weeks ago I got word that the theater where I’ve been studying for almost four years was going to do a stage reading of it. We’d discussed the possibility, but this was way sooner than I could have imagined. I was excited, terrified and terrified some more.

A cast was chosen, and we had one week to prepare.

For those new to theater, a stage reading is a cast, sitting in chairs with music stands and scripts reading, but still acting like gifted actors do.

The job of getting the scripts copied and put in notebooks was up to me. That ended up being a complicated wreck of a situation where it wasn’t downloading, and I was freaking out. There I was at the Staples copy desk, laptop in my arms and no one could help me. Blood sugar and patience plummeting I went home to get lunch and gather myself. I was panicking. With a history of panic attacks, this wasn’t unfamiliar, but it was really unwanted. So I ate something, talked to my brother on the phone, and gradually calmed myself down. And then I called a friend who’s a tech wizard. He very calmly told me to go back to Staples, download it to a thumb drive as a PDF, and bingo, it would work. It did. $170 in copying fees, a new thumb drive and eight notebooks later, I was in business.

The next morning as I prepped for a radio show I host, I stopped to run to the store for some bananas for breakfast. As I drove to the store I was talking to myself about why I was still feeling anxious and on edge. My live-in boyfriend was away for the week taking a class so he wasn’t there, but it’s not like I haven’t been on my own before. Then all of a sudden, it came tumbling out - oh my god, I’m so scared! What if no one laughs? What if no one comes? What if everyone who does come happens to need to leave at intermission? In the three minutes it took me to get to the store I wrote a mental list of about 247 reasons why this was a bad idea and cried like a baby. I pulled it together,  bought my bananas, recorded my show and re-read an email from a wise friend that said, “Do the thing, and then let the thing do its thing.” Meaning, let go and see what happens.

Miraculously, after I acknowledged the fear, had a good cry and remembered my friend’s wise words, the angst subsided. I began to get excited. Still nervous, but also excited.

The night of the reading I was scared, but happy scared. About 40 friends, associates and fans of theater came. They laughed in all the right places, were on edge in others, and ate the cupcakes I had baked at intermission. At the end we got a standing ovation. It was a moment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We did a talk back - me, the director and cast, and it was surreal. And something I will never forget.

The reason I wanted to write this and share it, is because I want everyone to know that no matter how it might look from the outside, when you’re taking a leap forward, it’s scary. I described the feeling to a friend, saying, it’s like taking all your clothes off, standing on a stage and asking people, “What do you think?” Vulnerability makes us squirmy. But we don’t always see the vulnerability in others and think we’re the only ones who get scared. Take it from me, you’re not.

Whether it’s a presentation at work, singing in front of a crowd or asking someone out, it’s a risk, and it’s scary. Please know that. Putting yourself out there is always scary. But it’s also the only way to grow, to move forward. As my brother said to me, “How lucky are you that you have something to be this nervous about?!” He was right. If you’re never nervous, you’re not growing.

I don’t know yet what the future of this work is, and I’d be lying if I said I’m cool with that. I’m not, I’m worried, and I want it to move forward. But while I wait I am doing the only thing I know how to do - I’m working on my next play. Because you know, I need something to look forward to being nervous about.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mood

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had one of those days where inexplicably you wake up in a bad mood? Apropos of absolutely nothing you're a grump? Yeah, me neither. Honestly, who wants to admit to that? Fine, I will. Yes, periodically for no good reason I just wake up and feel like something is wrong, that I’m wrong, and that life is bleak.

When that happens I do a quick inventory to see if there's something I’m not dealing with, some issue lurking below the surface like a shark trolling for a seal to snack on. If there is I allow myself the time to just be in it. To feel what I feel and work through it. Not too long, but long enough to acknowledge it.  Sometimes that involves a good cry, the utterance of a few choice expletives, railing against the universe, and then, like a thunderstorm it passes.

Then there are days, like the one I woke up to today, where there's no good reason at all for being unhappy, and probably not a lot of fun to be around.

The thing is we have some control over our moods. We're not victims to them. We have the power to change them and rescue our day from the clutches of grumpdom. Of course I am not talking about depression, a bad mood doesn’t affect your life in a big way, well, unless you’re a habitual grump, a bad mood will pass, and the good news is you can do some things to help it scurry along. And unlike some unhealthy behaviors, like binge eating, drinking or lashing out at others, these are things that are good for you.

When I’m besieged by irritability, there are a handful of strategies I pull out of my tool box, and whether one is more effective than another depends on you. I think it’s a combination of many things. Like building a sandwich, pick the ingredients that appeal to you. Great, now I want a sandwich.

In a bad mood? Try all, or some of these:

Exercise. We all know how exercise releases endorphins, those are feel good hormones. Whether it’s hitting the gym, a yoga class, going for a walk or whatever activity pleases you, getting your blood pumping changes your brain chemistry and is often all that’s needed to feel better.

Help someone: When I was feeling crabby I went to the grocery store. As I was walking into the store I saw an elderly woman with a cart full of bags, also tucked into the cart was a cane. I offered to help her put them in her car, learned she’d been a ballerina, had family coming for the weekend, and had grandchildren who loved cereal. She was so grateful for the help, and I smiled as I wheeled her cart back to the store. Hold doors open, pay for someone’s coffee, let someone in the endless line of traffic. Doing good makes you feel good.

Gratitude: You can't be sulky and grateful at the same time. Sit for a few minutes and think of three things you’re grateful for. Really feel it. Think of people you love, who love you, your cat or dog, a lovely meal you had the night before, anything that sparks some joy and heartfelt gratitude in you.

Breathe: Yes, you’re breathing all the time. But being consciously aware of your breath is something else. There are many types of breathing exercises, but a simple one I use is to making my exhales twice as long as my inhales. It calms my nervous system and changes the jagged feeling I get when I’m aggravated and my breathing is shallow. Take a deep breath. Yes, right now. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Don’t you feel better?

Meditate:Slowing down and letting thoughts drift by as you focus on breath calms you and gets you out of the cycle you’re in. Take ten, fifteen or twenty minutes to just be.

Music: Ah, good music is some of the best medicine there is. For some it might be classical, for someone else headbanging rock, or maybe you feel good when you listen to music that makes you want to dance! Find your own jam and turn it on.

Podcasts or books: Stay away from anything political or upsetting. There’s lots and lots of positive messages out there. Find one that resonates with you. I listen to spiritual podcasts, humorous ones and helpful non-fiction books. Escaping into another world is a good way to get out of your negative space.

Take the time to try one or all of these ideas. The good thing about a bad mood is it doesn’t last. For me, just knowing I don’t have to let my mood take control, and that I have the power makes an enormous difference.

So later, after going to the gym and helping the lovely woman at the grocery store, and after meditating, thinking about how grateful I am for so many things in my life, I noticed I was no longer grumbling. I was actually happy. And everyone I encountered after that was I’m sure grateful as well because just like a bad cold, grumpiness is very contagious.


Year of Yes - Again

Three years ago I sold my home. I thought it would be my forever home when my former husband and I built it, but it wasn’t to be.

I was bereft at first. I felt adrift, no longer able to depend on my (way too expensive for me) beloved homebase, I was lost. Then I discovered a book. As often happens to us, the right book shows up at the right time to teach us what we can’t learn alone. Such a book was “Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person,” by the amazing Ms. Shonda Rhimes. Shonda Rhimes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “The Catch” fame. I decided I would be a fool to not follow her advice.

Under the tutelage of Shonda (since I am entering my second go-round with her I think she’d be okay with me calling her Shonda) I said yes to lots of things I never would have, left to my own devices.  I did a stage reading of a play when a (real) actor couldn’t appear, I took a playwriting workshop, I submitted a play to a festival, it was accepted and performed. I said yes to parties, opportunities to teach and lots and lots more. It was wonderful!

And then I got sick. I was on a roll doing so much, and totally unrelated to it all, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It took me away from saying yes in any kind of big way, but I will say I said yes to all that was asked of me by doctors, nurses, nutritionists and therapists. I can’t say it was as fun as hiking in Montana, but saying yes was better than fighting what was happening.

So here I am, two years out from my first Year of Yes, and I find myself in need of a tune-up. Being sick and frankly, scared, I did retreat a bit into my safe little shell, but now, feeling healthy and whole again it’s time to begin saying yes to the world outside my own four walls.

What you realize when you read a book like this by a successful and accomplished woman is that everyone, absolutely everyone is scared. They might not be scared of the same things you are, and vice versa, but we’re all white-knuckling it through something. I guarantee it.

Right now for me, it’s having my play accepted to do a stage reading at a theater. I only finished the third rewrite two weeks ago, and when the offer came, I panicked (of course) and then I took a deep breath and said, you guessed it, yes.

Yes is scary because it’s thrusting us into the unknown and uncharted waters. We are creatures of habit, most of us, and we like things how we like them. Saying yes messes with our routines and where we feel safe.

But saying yes has a lot going for it. It brings excitement, opportunity and color to our lives. It makes life more interesting, and in turn, makes us more interesting. It shows us what we can do, even if we’re kicking and screaming as we go.

I might not always like the angst that comes with saying yes. Actually I sometimes hate it. But I’m going to keep saying yes even when it scares me. And now that I’ve said it out loud, or, well, in print. I know you’re all going to hold me to it.

And I’ll do the same for you.

So tell me, what are you going to say yes to?

Love, Hope and Doing the Best We Can

Yesterday I hosted a very small sort of bridal shower for a younger friend. She’s actually within the range of age of my own kids. We met at our UU church and became friends. She dubbed me her “church mom” which I found very flattering. She and her fiance are actually eloping, and she’s not into all the traditional bride-y things. So I planned a very small gathering with just a few close friends, and kept it very casual.

As I sat, clearly the elder amongst these thirtysomethings in my living room sipping lemonade and Pellegrino, we discussed worst and best dates, and more seriously, why do so many marriages don’t work out. Being a child of divorce herself, she was concerned about how to bulletproof her relationship.

As the designated elder, and only one who had been married and divorced, I found myself wishing that I had some concrete answer at my fingertips to tell this soon-to-be-bride. Just do this and it will never happen to you. But there is no concrete, pat answer, because as humans intimately involved with other humans it is extremely complex.

For instance. I am writing, well currently REwriting a play. The main characters have a problem - he cheated, she’s hurt. Do they reconcile or don’t they? For many people this is a very black and white issue. Infidelity is a complete and total deal breaker to those folks. Others can find forgiveness and move past it.

More often than not, I told my friend, it’s a slow wearing away of a connection and the love that once kept you bound to one another. I liken it to water dripping and slowing wearing down a stone over time. There’s not one inciting incident. Children, jobs, aging parents, and the stress of the day to day can quietly and slowly erode what once felt like a strong foundation.

My own marriage didn’t end overnight. There were issues, which are private, that over time created distance and disconnection. Add to that having married very young, both of us children of failed marriages, and it was a recipe for not really knowing what we were doing, and being ill-equipped to handle some very challenging crises that came our way.  Devastated at first, I eventually found my footing, and while I have not followed a traditional or linear path, I have created a life that is rich, challenging, creative and fits me. I am happy. I don’t have regrets, other than the sadness I have felt for our children having at their family reconfigured. Having experienced that myself I’d hoped to spare them that.  And for that I will always be sorry.

The best advice I could give my friend is to not fall asleep at the wheel in her relationship. To stay awake and aware. Notice your partner and don’t take them for granted. Don’t take your life together for granted.

Over the many years since my divorce I dated and had a few relationships. I actually didn’t date for quite a while. Having married at such a young age, and having three children to raise, I focused on that. And while raising them, I also raised me. I’d never been on my own having gone from my mom’s house to college, to living with the boyfriend who eventually became my husband. I needed to build my own foundation for myself before jumping into something else with shaky roots. When I did finally meet someone with whom I now live, I was a whole person, as was he. We’d each done our work and no one needed to be fixed.

The Internet is full of lists of how to have a happy relationship. I won’t bore you with a long protracted one of my own, but I will leave you with a few tips.

Be honest. Except when you shouldn’t. Sometimes there are things - not the big things, that it’s best to just shut up about. There’s lots of things that aren’t worth nagging someone about.

Know yourself well enough to not live through a partner. Have a true sense of who your are - interests, friends and a life that sustains you apart from your partner. No one person can all of another’s needs. We all need a team.

Have a sense of humor about yourself, life and your partner. Especially about yourself. Taking yourself too seriously is just the worst.

Needing to be right at the expense of being kind is never good.

Be kind. Really, it’s that easy. Just be kind.

And lastly, I leave you with this. Marriage advice from Kenny and Selma. Married 72 years and clearly relationship experts.

How Learning to Not Give a F**K Changed My Life


I’m going to warn you upfront, that there will be a few expletives in here. If that offends you I understand and you have every right to not read. Hopefully, I’ll see you next time!

A few weeks ago I listened to a book, a bit of a parody, but also quite serious, called “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck.” Yes, this book is tweaking that best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” a book too crazy for even neat-nick me. Seriously, Marie Kondo needs to chill the heck out. This is the video that opened my eyes to the concept of not giving a f**k. Watch and be transformed.

Saying “no” has always been hard for me. I’m a pleaser. I have a hard time speaking up and asking for what I want. It’s really, really hard for me. But, I have been getting better at it. Especially now that I have the words ringing in my head, “Is this something I give a f**k about?” If the answer is no, I don’t do it. Easy peasy. Well...not necessarily. But It’s getting easier with each no.

Between you and me, it’s just us here, right?  I know I can be pretty driven, and somewhat compulsive. About work, about exercise, about trying to always look and be my best.

My life is a big, messy, eclectic assortment of jobs, volunteering, my own writing, (a big priority) exercise and yoga. And of course, time with loved ones.

One of the many things I do is twice a month is I host a radio show called “Arts Week” on a public radio station at the far end of the Cape, WOMR. I said yes to this close to two years ago because I love talking with creative people, and wanted to learn a new skill. I was further enticed when the producer said we could record at my home, saving me the 45 minute drive each way to Provincetown. That works out perfectly...except for my super-neat ways.

Most weeks I clean my home the day before the guests are coming, leaving me time to go to yoga class, do some last minute straightening up and showering before they come. Yesterday I didn’t have that time due to slovenly heat-induced behavior the day before. I knew it was going to be a stretch to do everything I felt I needed to do, so I did something unheard of for me. I skipped yoga. And you know what? The world didn’t end.

In actuality, instead of being harried and stressed, I sat down (after having a lovely breakfast and meditating) to start writing this very post. What a concept! Take something off that overflowing plate and voila! Life gets easier.

I tend to get on this treadmill (literally and figuratively) and it’s hard to get off. Then I find I’m grouchy, anxious and just absolutely no fun to be around. Trust me. It’s not fun at all. Even for me - patient zero of the bad mood.

What we need to remember is that when we say no to that thing we don’t give a f**k about, we’re not only saying yes to ourselves, but we’re creating a ripple effect of happiness and good mood. When I am not stressed or feeling put upon I am an absolute dream! Okay, maybe that’s stretching it, but I am much more pleasant to be around.

And yes, I know there are things we all HAVE to do, and that’s exactly why saying no to the things that we don’t is so vital. We need to feel we are masters of our own time and destiny. By learning to say no to what doesn’t matter so much to you, you get to say yes to what does.

Now pardon me as I go spend time with my beau, because that, dear people, I do give a f**k about.



Let's Take Off Our Busyness Badges


Earlier today I was talking to a friend about our national obsession with busyness. We wear it like a badge of honor thinking the busier we are the more successful and popular we seem. It’s everywhere.

When I was sick over this past year it was bad enough that I didn’t feel well physically, I also felt great guilt and even shame that I wasn’t working, I was barely able to even do something as simple as scooping cat litter. Rather than allowing myself the time I needed to heal, I was constantly worried that I was falling behind in progressing in my work, wasn’t keeping my home as clean as I was used to, and more than once referred to myself as a “burden.” None of this went over well with my boyfriend/housemate who hated me calling myself as a burden.

Now that I’m feeling well, (knock on wood) I have been feeling the pressure both financially and psychologically to get back up to speed, and it’s been hard. I am a writer. Not exactly a sure bet of an occupation, and one that requires one is constantly pitching, emailing, blogging, networking. When you’re not working you’re not earning. And feeling guilty if you’re not doing at least one, if not all of those things seven days a week.

Whether you’re self-employed or work for a company or business of some sort, the pressure is still there. When we run into people while doing errands or at an event we feel important when we can say, “On boy, I’m just SO busy!” It implies you’re doing it right. If you’re not flat-out busy you’re a slacker, lazy...you might even think it means you’re failing. But you’re not. We aren’t thinking if I’m not busy I’m not doing enough, I suspect what’s really at play is I am not enough. I know that’s what goes through my head.

As a writer I need time. Time to think, plot and let ideas bubble to the surface. I might look like I’m not doing anything, but I’m thinking, which is something we all need time and space to do.

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. As a matter of fact it’s often the opposite as you stressfully glide back and forth, not giving any one task your full attention.

I’ve decided to really work at feeling guilty if I’m not working 12 hours a day seven days a week. If I learned anything from my big sick it’s that what you earn or what you produce isn’t what’s most important. We all want to be successful and well thought of, but more and more I’m seeing that success isn’t just about output, it’s about input as well.

Five things you can start doing to get off the busyness treadmill:

  1. Make time every day to just be. No phone, no computer, no TV.  Start slow, it might be a shock to your system to not be distracted. Have a cup of tea, maybe your morning coffee, and just listen to your surroundings. Deep breaths, you’ll be okay. Try for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Let something go. A party you really don’t want to go to, the book club you’re just not loving... let something, or more than one thing go.

  3. Engage others to join you and give each other permission to not be busy.

  4. Shut that annoying voice in your head off. Stop being the worst boss to yourself ever. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice you can learn to stop being so critical of yourself.

  5. Have some fun! What do you love to do but never make time for? Do that! And do it more often!

I truly believe we are here to be happy. We all want to do well, be respected and care for those we love. You can do that, and you should care about those thing, but you can still accomplish what you need to along with some much-needed time outs as well.

 *Truth be told I got sleepy while writing this and took a ten-minute nap. Take that busyness guilt!


Aging with Passion

The other night my partner/boyfriend/beau (I can’t come up with a proper name for what to call someone I live with and we’re not 17) and I watched a documentary on HBO about aging, and it wasn’t at all depressing. Actually, it was quite the opposite. At the end, he and I shook hands and vowed to keep each other engaged and being creative well into our later years.

 As I watched Carl Reiner speak with his contemporaries in show business I was amazed at how vital, active and engaged they all were. Both Betty White and Reiner were working on new books - both being in their mid-nineties. Norman Lear is developing new TV shows, and Mel Brooks is still working too. Staying interested and active seems to be the answer. 

That, along with of course the blessing of good health, seems to be key in staying physically and mentally agile. Staying excited and passionate about life is what makes all the difference in your world.

 Two years ago I read the book, “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. A National Geographic Fellow, he traveled the world studying the lifestyles of people around the world who were living healthfully and happily well into their 90s and beyond. What he discovered is what the people Carl Reiner interviewed are doing instinctively - they aren’t stopping, they are staying involved, they are continually learning, and have deep social connections. They also eat whole foods and exercise.

 Around the time I read “The Blue Zones,” I also read “Year of Yes,” by Shonda Rhimes - Miss Everything at ABC. After reading that I said yes to many things I would never have had I not had her voice in the back of my head cheering me on. Even as I was approaching 60, I was determined to not let a number define me.

 What have I said yes to? I, a non-actor appeared on stage in a reading of a play, I, along with my fake sister have appeared numerous times on stage as our alter egos, the Fix-it Sisters, givers of questionable advice, I said yes to hosting a radio show with no prior experience, and I began writing plays. I’ve also learned to say no (that will be my next post!) and am trying my damndest to live a life that if fulfilling, happy and thoroughly engaged.

 Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and I got knocked down for a little bit when I was sick, but I’m now back at it, rewriting my first full-length play, and starting the next one. I am back to doing life coaching because it brings me such joy to help others find their purpose and passion, and I have put health and fitness at the top of my list. Yoga and meditation are a priority, not a maybe.

 What works for me might not work for you, but I’m going to leave you with a little homework. Okay? Look at the things I’ve listed and write down your answers. Or at the very list think about them. Feel free to email me through my contact page and let me know how it goes. Chances are we’re not all going to live into our 90s, but I sure as hell am going to try, and I hope you do too!

 Until next time, see where you get with this:

 How is your health? Do you: a. Exercise ? b..Eat healthy, whole foods? c. Follow your doctor’s advice? d.Keep your weight in check? e.Avoid excess alcohol/stay away from drugs? f.Don’t smoke? g.Do you have sex? Sex is very good for you and helps keep you young.

  1. Do you have a sustaining, nurturing relationships? You may be married, you may not, but having people who love and care about you and vice versa is vital. Make an effort to see people, and do things together that you enjoy. Community and belonging are invaluable in a happy and healthy life. Church and other organizations can be very sustaining.

  2. Are you passionate about something? What sparks you with joy that you can do for hours and not even notice the time? And I’m not talking about watching TV or sleeping! For me it’s writing, time just whizzes by as I write. Well, most of the time! Maybe there is something you’ve always wanted to do - paint, sculpt, learn an instrument (or pick one back up you put down long ago) If you don’t know, that’s okay. Keep your eyes open, something is going to present itself It’s good for your brain and your psyche..

  3. Read, ask questions, go to lectures, museums and book clubs. Ask people questions about their work, their life, be interested and you’ll be interesting.

  4. Say no to things you are doing but don’t enjoy. More on this next time, but there are times that saying no is just as vital as saying yes.

 Please check out some of the links I put here. Choose something to read or listen to. I promise you will be glad you did! And let me know how it goes!