Limitless (and the Pitfalls of Private School)

It’s natural to have doubts. We don’t start out that way. In fact, we start out trusting everyone. We talk to strangers, reach for the hot burner, don’t look both ways before crossing the street, attempt to stick our fingers in the light socket… (okay well perhaps not all of us, but we get the warnings regardless) We are born fearless and without prejudice. We know no strangers. We have no issues of weight or body image. We don’t doubt ourselves. Why should we? The world is a great big mystery to be solved and it’s all out there for us! And then… we’re thrust out into the real world.

I remember my first bitter taste of reality. My parents sent me off to Junior Kindergarten at a private school that required all students to wear uniforms. We couldn’t even wear our winter coats on the playground at recess because our school emblems needed to be visible at all times. That first day Mom also sent me off with a few toy cars in my pocket. As soon as I pulled them out at recess, they were quickly stolen by a girl named Mary Alice Askew. I asked for them back, she refused. I asked again to no avail. Recess ended and we were ushered back inside.

Class started, but I was still distraught over the injustice that had just occurred. I whispered to Mary Alice while the teacher’s back was turned, “Give me back my cars!” She snickered. Overhearing this, the teacher called me to the front of the class and asked what was going on. “Mary Alice stole my cars!” I said. The teacher then promptly collected the cars from Mary Alice, put them in her desk drawer and gave me a spanking in front of the entire class! I returned to my seat, car-less and mortified. This was the exact moment I learned that life was not fair.

I spent 10 years at that odd little school with its strange rules and stringent dress code. My Mother was under the impression that if I attended a private school, I would meet people of a higher social standing than those in public schools. What she didn’t realize was that many of the students at this school were sent there because they were kicked out of everywhere else. She also didn’t realize how badly I was being treated by my peers. I was never taught to stick up for myself, so I was bullied and talked down to probably more often than I even noticed.

Mom used to arrange after-school play-dates with girls in my grade who she assumed I was friends with. I wasn’t, and I was usually surprised when they told me they were supposed to come home with me. They were nice to me one-on-one, but when we got back to school nothing changed. Mom kept arranging these hangouts and I kept wanting real friends. I may have been young, but at least I knew the difference.

My teen years were painfully awkward. I was too ugly, too skinny, I’d never kissed a boy and I didn’t know what all the sex slang terms meant. If I wanted a guy to pay attention to me, I had to grab the new transfer student before he started hanging out with the cool kids and making fun of me as well. I wasn’t cool by any stretch of the imagination, so I just did my best to get through.

I found an escape through the world of musical theater and collected a handful of quirky theater nerd friends along the way. There was a great theater camp during the summer and I had started getting a few lead roles here and there. (All the while, my parents were hoping I’d switch gears and tell them I secretly wanted to become a Doctor or Rocket Scientist) One year, right before school started, I landed the role of Baby Louise in Gypsy, which required me to dye my hair a deep, dark brown color. The bullies at school didn’t miss a beat on that one. The prank calls about my hair looking like “excrement” started a few weeks before the show opened. Luckily that was about the extent of it.

But all of that never broke me. Sure, I had plenty of teenage “sequester yourself in your room-listen to loud music and cry” moments, but doesn’t everyone? And I finally found my voice. It took me a long time to learn how I needed to stick up for myself, but I finally have. My friend JD used to say that I had a habit of going from zero to bitch in 60 seconds. This was because I wouldn’t say anything until I was past my breaking point. I put up with all sorts of things that I should have nixed from the start. This comes from a history of self-doubt. When you experience so much unpleasantness, you start to question yourself and wonder if you’ve done something to deserve it. Then in later life, it takes a while to realize that it was never you at all. It takes a skilled eye to see through people.

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So I’ll leave you with this…

be-kind

Happiness & the Pursuit Thereof

It’s funny how little I’ve thought about happiness lately, yet I’m perfectly happy. I have great friends and I’m finally starting to make a dent in my super-huge “to do” list (which is giving me a much-needed feeling of satisfaction). As much as I’m loathe to admit, I’m a born list-maker, so I do a tiny internal “happy dance” each time I get to check something off.

In my Facebook memories today I ran across an article I’d shared from a blog which mentioned The Happiness Project. Basically, Gretchen Rubin, then a writer at Slate.com, began chronicling her year-long journey toward happiness. It became a best-selling book, which turned into a phenomenon. Now she’s published a few more on the subject (as well as a few on completely different subjects). Happiness is indeed a much sought-after commodity.

Much like happiness, freedom has been a focus lately. It feels AMAZING to be unapologetically me. I answer to myself and that’s it. I have wise friends and if I want their advice or help, I know I can seek it, but I enjoy the feeling of not being confined by the rules or expectations of another. As if by telepathy, this appeared in my Inbox this morning. It’s an article about freedom in love relationships. I can’t tell you how much this resonated with me.

if-you-love-something-set-it-free

Now I actually understand what that means.

In the years that followed the viral success of The Happiness Project, there were a number of people posting the results of their own Happiness Projects to social media. Every one is different. Each person has different things that create their own brand of happiness. No two results are the same. I challenge you all to go out and begin your own Happiness Projects. I know it’s March, so we’re a little late to the party for New Year resolutions, but here is a tiny excerpt from the book to start you in the right direction.

And a list, because I love lists.

Rock Star Sparkle

This past week or so has been a crazy happy blur. I had a magnificent time in Charlotte and got to meet K. Flay! If you haven’t heard her music or seen her live, she’s touring now (so this is your chance) and she’s the absolute sweetest. She’s a hugger! The first thing she did when I approached was hug me! And when I told her that I’d driven over 3 hours to see her, she grabbed me and hugged me again! She may have even hugged me more than twice. I was so drunk with post-concert giddiness I hardly noticed. It was like hanging out with one of my best girlfriends. (If said girlfriend was a badass rapper/vocalist who made music you love.) She signed 2 cds and posed for so many photos with Allison and I (the lighting was SO BAD it was almost a must.) I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. In fact, I’m still all smiles just thinking about it.

It was nice staying with Allison for a day or 2. We look after each other. She cooked for me and made sure I had all the comforts of home. And I ended up coaching her on some online aspects of her business. I had brought her a book full of inspiration that I thought she’d enjoy, but I never saw myself fitting into a coaching role. I think the more we grow, the more we don’t think we have it “together.” We realize how little we actually know in the grand scheme of things. But growth isn’t supposed to be comfortable. That’s why so many people don’t do it. I’ve never been one of those people.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
– Anaïs Nin

After a few days of adjusting and jumping back into work, I got to hang out with a few of my favorite people this weekend. Unfortunately, we were reminded that sometimes when things come too easy, there’s a catch. Lee Ann got ROCKSTAR parking in front of the venue, but when we returned to her car, she’d been hit by a party bus full of drunken millennials. I use the term “Party Bus” loosely. It was actually a retro school bus spray-painted black. I won’t go into details, I’ll just say that I hate that this happened to one of the most amazing people I know. In other news, the food and the company were nothing short of amazing. And I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to our friend JD, who is always there for us. (#theoriginalJD)

Saturday morning I had one of the most interesting makeup jobs I’ve had in a while. A friend of mine who I’d met when I dated his college roommate (funny story… I totally got Delta Chi and Theta Chi confused. WHO DOES THAT? Luckily, he set me straight before I went on embarrassing myself for too long) hired me to do makeup for the Intro to his local cable access show. The makeup was to be a closeup shot of lips as they spoke the opening catch phrase. What I didn’t know was that he would arrive equipped with craft services of an edible arrangement, champagne, brie, crackers and a vegetable tray for the talent to enjoy after it was photographed. He was taking care of a few jobs he needed to photograph or film that day and we all got to reap the benefits.

As it turns out, Randal is a dental hygienist. It just so happens that the practice he works for has developed a kit for in-office tooth-whitening with a take home component and a nifty reminder app that whitens at least 3 shades without sensitivity in 30 minutes. Everyone on site got to try this out for themselves and it was GLORIOUS! It’s not every day that I show up on set, get spoiled with fancy treats AND get to leave with a shiny new smile!

Evidently, this tooth-whitening system will soon be featured on the TV show Shark Tank, so I’m not allowed to give too many details, but I may end up in some of the preliminary promotional materials.

And if you get a chance, listen to my new friend K. Flay. You’ll be glad you did.

New Year’s Resolution #5839 – Stop putting other people first.

I’m not sure why this hasn’t been the mantra recited in my head daily. I think it’s because I’ve been a people-pleaser since birth. But when you take a step back and think about it, it’s stupid to sacrifice your own feelings only to spare those of someone else. Most people can see through you when you aren’t being authentic… at least that’s the basic assumption.

All of this finally sunk in at the end of last year. I put it into practice. I was miserable, so I got out of my miserable relationship. I said NO to IT and YES to ME. I was scared to death of hurting him, but I finally convinced myself that my happiness was simply more important… not more important than him or his happiness. That’s not it at all. It’s just that for the duration of the relationship, I had been so concerned about him that I never really thought about myself. And for a change, I needed to think about what would make me happy.

I took a day and thought and cried and kept to myself. Before I knew it, I had an answer. I needed to get out of the relationship. So I put on my big girl panties and did it.

“Deciding is freedom. Indecision is torture”
– Jen Sincero
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

I felt awkward and weird for a little while. Some days I even wondered if I’d made a mistake. Then one day the happy set in. I realized that I could do whatever I wanted again. I didn’t have anyone making demands on my time or watching every move I made via social media. The tightness in my chest released. My smile came back. I started making plans with friends I hadn’t spent quality time with in what seemed like ages. The smile became bigger. I started setting goals, creating budgets, making to-do lists, researching things I’d only dreamed of doing.

“It’s all happening.”
Penny Lane
Almost Famous

Now every morning I get up and look forward to my days. Even though most of them have been packed with the sort of homeowner minutia that makes most people groan with disdain. I’ve been kicking ass at work. (I even got an email from a recruiter about a job I would have given my eyeteeth to do a few years ago and even today considered shooting him a resume just for fun) I have a great side hustle and get to meet famous people constantly. The workmen destroyed my mailbox post? Meh, I got another. And the company was super-sweet in their correspondence with me, which made the entire process feel less daunting. Even the bad stuff seems good now.

This weekend I’m going to visit my friend Allison. We’re celebrating our friend Renee’s birthday with our friend Tracy. These are 3 of the strongest, bravest, most awesome women I know and I’m grateful to have them in my circle. Renee’s celebration also happened to fall the day before the K. Flay concert at my favorite venue in the same city. When I saw the concert announced, I’d lamented first because it was on a Monday and second because it was at my favorite intimate venue. It seemed impossible for me to be able to make that happen.

Then one day Allison sent me a text asking if I would come celebrate Renee the night before the concert. I immediately told her about K. Flay and asked if we could figure the concert into our plans. Before I knew it, I was asking for time off and purchasing concert tickets.

You only get one life. Live it the way YOU want.

Notes From the Universe

Eight years ago I went through something that changed me. I fell in love with someone completely wrong for me and kept having to convince myself that I was doing the right thing for myself. All evidence to the contrary, the Universe was screaming WRONG WRONG WRONG! But I’m stubborn and I persevered, ignoring all the signs. It ended badly. of course, but it was also the first time that someone had ever looked me in the eye and told me that I was “not allowed to exist in his world anymore.”

I’ve had good, communicative, healthy breakups and I’ve had a few awful ones, but this… This life event made me question everything. I’d never had anyone I trusted and loved so much just throw me away as if nothing ever happened. I was deeply devastated and most of all, I stopped believing in love. In fact the jury is still out on that one. Before this point in my life I gave freely of myself and I loved with everything I was. Now I became guarded, bitter and resentful. My world was turned upside-down and most of my choices were motivated by fear. I would never be the same.

One day when I was browsing the web, I stumbled upon some motivational sites, a few had emails that you could subscribe to… so I did. I knew I needed a great deal of positive motivation and I wanted desperately to put the traumatic event behind me so I could move forward with my life. You never realize how difficult it is to get out of a mindset and truly let go of something until you’ve experienced something like this. I needed all the help I could get. My first gurus were Ariel & Shya Kane. I ordered their audio book “Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life” When I was finished, I went on to find Marc and Angel Chernoff. I immediately signed up for everything I could on their website and years later, went on to purchase their book on Kindle and attend their workshop when they came to NC.

I’ve been receiving almost daily emails from Marc and Angel and Ariel & Shya ever since. A lot of the basic principles are common sense, but we tend to forget them when we need them the most. Marc and Angel are big advocates of meditation, but meditating is always a big fail to me since my mind is always whirring with thoughts like 20 hyperactive hamsters in a wheel. It’s been a journey and it still is. But it’s only recently that I started REALLY thinking about the bigger picture and what sort of energy I’m sending out into the Universe.

Because struggling through another viewing of “The Secret” seemed pointless, I looked elsewhere. And there it was. Amid all the other health, wellness, DIY and other assorted junk mail reading in my Inbox was a link to a website called Notes from the Universe. Of course I clicked it.

“I’m a born lever-puller”
– Ringo, Yellow Submarine

So basically the idea is that you get daily emails of encouragement sent to your Inbox. You can even customize these notes to encourage you toward a few long-term goals. I’m always willing to let more positive motivation into my life, so I did it, and I’m glad I did. Even if your mailbox is full of clutter, these little notes are brief and stand out. I try to make them the first thing I read every day.

And the Audible service? I feel like I get a new benefit from it every day. Today I’m listening to Anna Kendrick’s book of biographical essays Scrappy Little Nobody. She narrates each story as if she’s talking to you, so for a few days I have Anna Kendrick as my co-pilot. I’m pretty sure the other drivers are wondering what I’m chuckling about.

I’m gonna let ’em wonder.

Just Keep Swimming

I understand now the importance of a good nap. It’s only Thursday and I’ve crammed so many appointments into this week that I’m about to fall over. I’m still having the dizzy spells too, which makes each day seem like a slow crawl through quicksand at times.

At the end of last year I subscribed to the Audible service so that I could get more reading done. Although I feel like tend to absorb more of a book when I am able to see the words in front of me, this is such a great service for getting in some much-needed reading while doing everything else. My first book was recommended to me by a friend who told me I was the “poster child for karma & all the good feelings”. She said that after reading it she felt like she was wearing an invisible cape when she left the house. I wanted to feel like that, so it was the first book I downloaded. It’s called The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon.

With everything going on, I hadn’t even thought of digging into this book until a few days ago on a long commute. This morning I set my plan in motion. I’m loving this new plan. The most important thing I’ve learned thus far is E + P = O (Experience + Perception = Outcome) It also occurred to me that I hadn’t been driving my own bus for a while. I wasn’t doing what I wanted. I’d lost sight of my goals. I lacked direction and my enthusiasm was nonexistent. For months I had resigned myself to doing what my boyfriend wanted. It was difficult to make him happy because he seemed to need constant attention and reassurance. I was drained. By the time I ended it, I was empty.

The timing of this book couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s a jump-start to get me back on track. The more I keep my eyes open, the more little things happen to reinforce the message. A co-worker took a trip with his wife over the holidays. He recounted with glee all the things they did. “We wanted to do everything we wanted while we still can.” I get it. Each year that passes, each doctor visit, each new medical dilemma… I am reminded of my own mortality. There are so many things I want from this life. I just need to manifest them.

As for the rest… I’ll just keep swimming.

Vertigo & Frozen Pizza

The New Year has been a rather rocky one for me. Before 2016 ended, I broke off a romantic relationship with a friend I’d had since I was 17. These are the trickiest of breakups because when you date someone who has been in your life for that long, EVERYONE, their brother and their cousin’s dog expects the two of you to live happily ever after. In real life, this is also a recipe for disaster. People change. People grow up. And sometimes we fall in love with the general idea of who we imagine the other person to be.

All these years Jeff was such a hero in my eyes. He was my “Big Brother,” my Savior, my Adviser. He could do no wrong. However, since his marriage and two children, I hadn’t tried to date him either.

Regardless, I ushered in the new year with a few of my favorite people. My New Year’s Eve ended with a frozen pizza and my best friend at 4 AM. This is more often than not the status quo.

Since then I’ve suffered 5 days of crippling Vertigo. I have no clue what could have possibly caused it, but my ENT refused to medicate me. He insisted that I “retrain my brain” to think that it isn’t spinning when I get that particular sensation. I was on my last day of symptoms before I could get an appointment, which is always disappointing, but they did a series of hearing tests. Newsflash… Somewhere along the line I’ve suffered severe hearing loss. They tried to sell me hearing aids. I’m officially old.

I guess the good news is that I’m equally as deaf in both ears, so at least I’m even. It’s not like I can hold a yoga handstand for any period of time or walk in a straight line, but my hearing (or lack thereof) is dead even. It’s the little things.