dear me in my 20's...

...No one told you it would be like this. No one prepared you for the "fall."  I know it feels like someone should have pulled you aside at some point during college, or even graduation and said...

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"Look kid, it's gonna suck for a while out there. You'll do everything wrong. Get a bunch of parking tickets, go into debt, work minimum wage jobs-- because that's all you'll be qualified for--  these jobs will barely pay your bills (which by the way, said bills will be Chinese to you because no one ever showed you one before -- who needs to learn about bills? Ignorance is bliss, right?) You'll get your car repossessed, almost get arrested at least once and be homeless and couch-surf for 6 months. You'll hate your completely out-of-control life and cling to your co-dependent relationship for survival, which is ironic in that it will nearly destroy you when you inevitably break up.  You'll experience sexual trauma, struggle with an eating disorder and even think about killing yourself. Then you'll develop adult-onset acne in reaction to your severe stress and self-loathing. But not to worry. You'll survive. Have a blast!" 

But no one told you that. Perhaps they forgot what it was like. Perhaps they blocked it out. Most-likely they blocked it out. Those at your college graduation said "way to go kid!" as they handed you envelopes of graduation money-- money that was gone as fast as it came, as you promptly spent it on frivolous adventures, since no one taught you about investing (not that you would have listened.) They watched with a mix of nostalgia and terror as you hooked up a u-haul to your boyfriend's plymouth and rode off into the LA sunset to make all of your dreams come true! (Even though you really wanted to go to New York.  But hey--HE was going to LA...so...yeeahhh.)

Well. We both know how the story goes from there.

Yes, your 20s are a decade of fuck-ups and finding yourself...hopefully without dying or being evicted first. But maybe that's the magic of it. We suddenly have so much freedom. ALL the choices.  We can choose any path...and only in this place of ultimate freedom can we truly discover what's for us... by discovering... no. By experiencing what's NOT. 

You are so hard on yourself.  You somehow think you should know more than you can possibly know-- lessons I can tell you now have taken years to learn. You assume 20s means "adult" when it really means "adult-child." A hybrid version of the two: The inexperience and naivete of the child, in the body and circumstances of an adult. This is clearly a recipe for disaster.  And what a beautiful disaster you are.  

But I see you. You are always trying to be better. You give so much. You are kind, compassionate, trusting. You love fiercely-- though you forget to include yourself amongst those you love.  And perhaps that is your only real mistake.  All the others are part of the game-- lessons on the road of life-- nothing that can't be fixed with a debt-consolidator, some duct tape and the passage of time.  

A little kindness to yourself.

A little patience with yourself in the messiness.

A little compassion in the newness of it all. 

A little laughter at how NOT serious it all actually is.

And self love.

These are your only missing ingredients.

But who cares. Because we survived, kid. We turned out okay. And we are still "turning out." It never ends, this learning-by-experience of "adulting" that you started. Thank you for having the courage to make all the mistakes that make us the woman we are today. We are only happy today because you were willing to experience being profoundly unhappy.  We only found the life we dreamed of because you were willing to suffer the loss of the dream of the "perfect" life.  We are only happy and healthy in love today, because of your courage to love all of those broken-winged birds who couldn't love you back. 

So thank you. 

You are doing everything right.  

Maybe they were right at graduation after all.

 Way to go kid!

Love,

Older & (a little) wiser me

where there's a yin, there's a yang

YIN ~ soft, slow, yielding, passive, receptive, feeling, feminine

YANG ~ hard, fast, focused, active, initiative, thinking, masculine

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The Yin & Yang of Chinese philosophy has me captivated right now. What a stunning idea that these two equal, but opposite energies must flow in a balanced way within our beings for health to occur. 

Now I don't pretend to know more about this than anyone else. My "education" consists of mostly google-searches and expands to the extent of the cyber-catalogue that is Wikipedia.

What I do know... what I may have even mastered, is the "art" of creating the imbalance of these two energies and thus, knowing the havoc this plays on the body.  

I'm an actress and athlete, A teacher. An entrepreneur. I'm a go-er. I'm a doer. A "Let-me-do-it-I-can-do-it-better-er." A to-do-list-maker. A task-master. I measure my success by the number of items left on the to-do list at the end of the day. Did I do enough? Of course not. Impossible. 

That's a lot of Yang. 

And I know I'm not alone.  So many actors, artists, musicians, entrepreneurial and creative-types that I know have a similar story: a cross-country-with-nothing-trip to pursue their dream kinda story. Active. Initiative. Focused. And when they arrived in LA they hit the ground running-- get the job, make rent, pay for training, hustle to get an agent, hustle more to get the audition, book the job, write the show, get the money, go, go, GOOOO and make that dream come true! It's amazing. And I love it. It's exciting! Thrilling even. ALL. THAT. YANG. 

But what about YIN? 

For me, slow... has been synonymous with lazy. Soft with weak. Passive with apathetic. Yielding with passionless.  All negative judgements. And I have to ask myself how did I get these ideas?  Where did they come from?? Well, for one we're "America! home of the free, land of the brave where you can make all your dreams come true!" It seems to me that as a society we still lean heavily to the patriarchal end of the spectrum - the Yang end -  and the fact is, this society values Yang more than Yin.

All you have to do is turn on the television and watch a few commercials to see what our society values (and buys,) and it's a YANG world my friends: 

Faster cars are better!

Get more for less!

Make twice as much money!

DO more in less time!

This machine does 10 things at once!

You work hard, you deserve it!

And my personal favorite: Get your pre-baby body back in 6 weeks!

Efficiency, Initiative, active... of course, these Yang qualities are all good things in and of themselves, but when lacking balance with Yin, frankly.... $&it hits the fan.  I've experienced this firsthand. Usually the body and immune system starts to breaks down. And we get sick. I think "coming down with something" is the body's way of forcing us into Yin: Oh, you don't wanna slow down? No problem. BAM! The flu.

And when we take a wider view outside of our own bodies, into our communities, politics, government... I feel we are grossly deficient in Yin. When is the last time you saw a political broadcast where people were truly receptive of each others ideas? Where people spoke softly with compassion? Where people yielded their self-interest to a purpose higher than their own? Hmm. Sounds like qualities I would love my government, politics, communities and leaders to have.

Well, I'm starting with me. Embracing Yin. Embracing slow, soft, and yielding. Embracing the balance. Embracing health. And maybe my pebble dropping into the pool will make rings as more and more people give themselves permission to do that same. A Yin revolution. I like the sound of that.

enough

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I see you

Where she keeps you

Behind eyes of glass

I see you writhe and shake her branches

The mask

begins to crack


I see you

Where she stuffs you

Down down to a whisper

In the corners of her flesh and bones

where the wounds

have kissed her


I see you 

Where she holds you

In the corners of her mouth

That quiv'ring promise of a smile

swallowed by

self- doubt


I see you 

Where she knows you

A hunger furrowed upon her brow

To know more than knowing and for that more

To prove itself

somehow


I see you 

Where she hates you

Waging war against your love

For hate is free and the risk is high

To accept that

She's enough


how to top-off your love tank

The car won't start when the gas tank is empty...

The plants won't grow without water...

The debit card is declined when the account is overdrawn...

So... Why do we think we can give love, when we haven't filled up our own love tank?  Love is one of the only commodities we expect ourselves to give in aces... without topping-up our own supply.

There is no scarcity of love in the universe, but when we withhold it from ourselves, we create our own scarcity and we limit how much can flow through us to others.  

And even though our tank may be empty, we still want to be perceived as loving... so we pretend.  We dress-up in the knowledge of what we think love looks like, acts like, and talks like...and we put on the "love show" for the objects of our affection in hopes of receiving the love we want and need from them.

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But even if we get their love in return for our performance, it's never enough. Not for me, anyway.  

Our attempt at playing the "love card" may succeed at getting us some approval perhaps. A smile from that special someone. Some good laughs from our friends... a pat on the back, a hug, or even sex. But when we are alone, out of the presence of the object of our affection, left to ourselves...their love is not enough to fill us up. We find that we are empty even still.

I always know that my Self-Love Tank is low when I am trying too hard. I am with a group of people and find myself laughing a little too loudly, smiling a little to broadly, listening too hard, being too clever, too likable... an over-amplified version of myself.  Me x 3.  In over-efforting myself, I am clearly in a place where I believe just me isn't enough.  These kinds of exchanges usually leave me exhausted and anything but fulfilled.

So what to do? Well, for me, I know I need some time alone to get really honest with myself.

I've learned over the years, from the destructively harsh way in which I used to speak to myself, that gentleness is key-- and far more effective.  I learned to talk to myself like I would to a small child... that I loved.   Because honestly, I've found that us "adults" are nothing but older, more experienced children in grown-up bodies. And that's not a bad thing... children are, after all, the most authentic and honest of human beings. 

When I am over-exerting myself, feeling not enough or just plain have the blues, I'll speak from my higher self and ask... "What's going on?" "How are you, really?"... and then I wait. I find that when I talk to myself like this, the noisy scattered thoughts in my brain meant to distract me from the uncomfortable feelings underneath, quiet themselves... and then the truth can emerge. This very act of asking myself how I am doing brings me one step closer to love... and begins to open my heart.  

And then the answer comes... and it's always so simple. Sometimes it seems so childish, even silly... but if I can suspend my self-judgement and truly listen, I am able to get to the heart of the matter.

"I feel so insecure today."

"I feel jealous of so-and-so."

"I'm sad that I wasn't invited."

"They don't really like me."

Always asking these questions leads me to the uncomfortable feelings I'm experiencing under the surface and it brings them to light. And then it is exposed... the place in me where love is needed.

This is what I've learned to do instead... instead of reaching for the trail mix, the "healthy" snacks, or drinking a forth cup of coffee, or driving to the store to pick up some chocolate, or packing my schedule with more more and more until I'm too busy to pay attention to my feelings... Self-love is what I do instead of taking those "drugs."  

What is your drug?

What do you do instead of self-love?

So, I speak lovingly from my higher self and pour affirmations of love over that seeming silly issue, or hurt feeling... sometimes I'll even wrap my arms around myself.  This is where the Self-Love rubber meets the road. As I speak into myself with words of love, those feelings of lack and unworthiness melt away and bring me back to a place of balance, worthiness... peace.  

"I understand, dear one."

"I'm sorry that happened."

"You are so loved... beyond what you even know."

"Everyone makes mistakes."

"You are enough."

"I love you anyway. Just as you are."

And if you really wanna top-off that love tank, follow-up your affirmations with one of your favorite self-love actions... a bath, a walk, a nice meal, a good book, a yoga class, time alone to relax and breathe.

Because you ARE worthy.  

...And we need you to love YOURSELF by filling up your Love Tank, 

so you have more love to share with us!

Self Love or Selfish?

Ohh this is a passionate subject for me!

I have experienced so much misunderstanding and well.... fear surrounding the subject of Self-love, especially as it pertains to the idea that self-love is selfish. (NO IT'S NOT!!! More on this later.)

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Having grown up with a lot of "Churchy-ness" around me, I absorbed the idea that one should put others before themselves... even better? Put yourself last.  I (not surprisingly) interpreted this to mean that all of my personal desires, feelings, dreams, opinions were secondary-- even selfish.  This belief is in direct opposition to loving ones-self.  

Ironically, the popular Bible verse "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31,)  doesn't even make sense without the implicit idea that you in fact... love yourself.  In other words, you cannot love your neighbor as yourself... if you don't already love yourself. Am I right?

This was a radical idea for me in the beginning. Love myself first? But isn't that selfish? Conceited? Arrogant? Narcissistic? Egotistical? Stuck-up? (P.S. These are all words listed as synonyms of Self-Love in the Thesaurus. No wonder I was confused.)

Well... if Self-Love isn't selfish... than...what is it? What does it mean? 

Self-love, as I have come to define it, is simply gracious self-acceptance expressed with acts of compassion, gentleness, gratitude and celebration.

Self-love is putting yourself FIRST. 

For some of us, this is a hard pill to swallow.  We don't trust that we won't become hoarding, self-obsessed trolls under a bridge if we embrace such an idea.

The opposite is true. You see, Self-love is humbling. It requires us to embrace all of ourselves-- flaws and all. To look at our mistakes and blunders -- to take responsibility for them, and to forgive ourselves. Self-love is admitting our truth. What do I really want/feel? What do I really need to say in this situation? What boundaries do I need to set for myself with others? What is the most loving choice for me here? Self-love is patience with ourselves and our learning curve.  Self-love requires sticking it out, even when the rest of the world abandons us and we wanna give up. Self-love is listening to that little voice that says "keep going."  Self-love is HUGE and teaches us to overcome that which is small within us. Self-love is the fuel we create ourselves that gives us the love we overflow to others. 

There is no loving them without loving you first.  There are only shallow gestures painted in the colors of love...that look and smell like love... but are actually chains that bind us to future resentment and obligation. 

If you want to know what is selfish, it is this: to deny yourself your own love -- approval, forgiveness, patience, compassion, gratitude, celebration, joy, fun, beauty-- and then to masquerade as someone who is whole.  To pretend to be someone who can fall in love, give to others, commit to anything, pursue a dream, follow-through, trust another, be honest, forgive.... when you cannot possibly know how, since you have never done it for yourself.  

To deny the world the wonders and joy and light of the truly loved you -- why, that is pure selfishness.

Why a Blog About (SEXY) Self-Love?

Okay, fine. Self-love... is not exactly a sexy term.  It has been misused and misunderstood,  shoved in the corner with all the "touchy-feely" Hallmark cards and shallow saccharin-sweet social media memes.  Many of us grimace at the mention of it, preferring that the term remain as potpourri scattered among book pages in the Self-Help section.  Most can't say the term without an apology or at least a healthy dose or sarcasm.

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I personally do wish there was a better term for it... something sleeker, more hip or deep, some sexy slang even... But no, "Self-love" is all we got. I checked. When I entered it in the  urban dictionary it was assumed that I meant "words meaning to masterbate"... Aaaand that is certainly a form of self-love, but the Urban Dictionary didn't even register the context in which self-love had a higher application.

I was even more alarmed to find that when I looked up synonyms for self-love in the Thesaurus, I found things like... conceit, narcissist, egotistical, pompous, self-absorbed, stuck-up, etc. These findings made me even more certain that self-love needs a new word all it's own. A fresh coat of paint, if you will. The term discussed in private rooms with therapists and at AA meetings, in self-help groups and written in diaries... needs to be liberated from the shadows. Emancipated from the corridors of shame...

Why? Because Self-Love is a skill. Self-love is a superpower. Self-love is badassery at it's highest level.  Self-love is healing. Self-love will turn your life around. Self-love is your dreams and your happiness. Self-love is your best life. And lastly, Self-love is indeed...SEXY

But don't take my word for it. Test it for yourself. And tell me how your life changes! What do you do to love yourself? 

my self-love story

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In 2006, I found myself face-down in a puddle of my own tears.  I'd been contimplating my death-- an option that seemed at the time like a viable solution to the merry-go-round of personal hell that I had created of my life. Without an ounce of pride left to stop me, I dialed the number of my best friend. "I can't live like this anymore! I can't keep living like this..." This was my response to her unsuspecting "hello."  I sobbed for what seemed like forever into the phone... and then I called another friend... And then another. And they just listened. They loved me. They stayed on the phone.  And when I got off, I wasn't crying anymore. And I knew I would stay in this world a little longer. 

I'll back up a little.  That dark night of the soul, if you will, was the rockbottom of my plummet into food addiction, or emotional eating, or what they are now calling B.E.D. (Binge Eating Disorder-- a term I hadn't heard at the time.) All I knew is that what had started as a desire to "eat better" at the age of 13, had spiraled into behavior around food that I couldn't stop. I was like an alcoholic who takes their first drink, or the crack addict who takes their first puff...there wasn't just gonna be one "serving." Oh no-- I would stop at nothing to get my fix.  

Food was comfort. It was instantaeous relief from my uncomfortable feelings. It was my company in the darkest moments. It was my friend, confidant, ally.  Food could make me forget my pain, numb my feelings, give me an excuse not to do...anything, help me procrastinate, sugar-coat my shame, and aid my denial habit.  It was the perfect tool for personal torture as I alternately gorged and starved myself for 14 years.  I was always excusing my behavior with the idea that I just needed to lose 10 pounds and that once I did, everything would be fine.  It was the perfect excuse to deprive myself, and then when that didn't last, I would binge for as many days... always promising myself as I scraped the bottom of that "last" pint of ice cream, "I'll start again tomorrow."( I think I made that promise to myself over 2,000 times-- no exaggeration.)

So, how does the story end? Well, I'm still here, first of all. But not just here. I am in love with my life. And I am so grateful to those who helped me to stay here.  No healing story happens over night. They happen one challenging step at a time... one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time, one decision at a time... and sometimes just one breath at a time... until before you know it... it begins to get easier.  And that's how it was for me... I decided to make my healing my first priority-- I knew that nothing else mattered if I couldn't even find the will to live. I started seeing a therapist weekly. I started going to AA... and then Overeaters Anonymous. I started working the 12 Steps and journaling my Morning Pages.  I started listening to myself.  To those voices I had denied by shoving food at them for so long.  I listened to my hurts, my pain, my sorrow, my anger... I put it all on the page, I shared it with my therapist and in the 12-step rooms. And slowly, over time, the smile I wore wasn't just a mask.  It became real. The torture chamber wasn't quite as extreme.  And then I added a life coach to the mix, my dear Nicole.

 Nicole was an artist herself, like me, an acting coach, and the leader of an Artist Way group among other things. She came into my life through a mutual friend-- and I am forever grateful.  With Nicole, something changed.  I don't know if I was just finally really ready to change, or if it was the combination of her incredible patience and compassion-- probably both-- but, there is no better way to put it, Nicole loved me back to health.  She looked at me and listened to me with eyes of such compassion-- compassion I had never had the strength or wisdom to give myself.  She was so gentle with words-- so gracious and patient and wise and sweet. And through her eyes... I began to see myself as lovable.  Beautiful even,  and kind, good, forgivable, and the capable person I had lost somewhere along the journey.

When I spoke harshly about myself in our sessions, she was tender, "That's ok, we all do that." She ever-so-gently exposed me to how hard I was on myself, how negatively I spoke to myself, how quick to shame and guilt I had been.  And I began to see that I had been nothing short of a tyrant to myself-- demanding, unforgiving, punishing, shaming, hurtful, and downright mean.  My self-talk had become this way unconsiously and now I could hear it so loudly, it hurt to listen. Nicole helped me to see that what I was missing was self-love.  There wasn't any there that I could find at that point.  And this is where my real healing began.

Nicole had me write all of my feelings out in a journal everyday, she had me do loving things for myself from a list we'd made. She helped me forgive myself for over-eating, she helped me to learn to LOVE my body with the food I fed it and to stop starving myself.   She helped me confront the pain I'd been masking.  All of these gestures, or rituals, of self-love became my life-line: my journals, my books, the healthy foods in my fridge, the precious time I gave myself to heal.  These were the life-rafts keeping me afloat... and they still are. But now, there are so many more. 

Once you begin to incorporate the practice of Self-Love into your life... it's amazing what life brings to you.  It's as if life supports you in this self-love practice-- and why wouldn't it?! It is LIFE, after all. And life wants to be LIVED.