Three upcoming workshops: Wanna hang out?

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I have three writing & yoga workshops coming up! During these workshops, we come together to practice, discuss, create, and connect. (And, no, I will never make you share your writing!)

No experience is necessary, all my workshops are open to beginners to both yoga and writing. And if you have a writing and/or yoga practice already, these workshops will help you take it to a new level.

June 23rd - Oak Island, NC

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I'll be at Rebel Soul Yoga doing a half-day retreat on meditation, yoga, and writing for anxiety. We will explore mindfulness,  yoga philosophy, and journaling prompts. There are only a couple of spots left, so reserve yours here.

September 6 – 9 - Boone, NC

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I will be leading a Writing and Wellness Yoga retreat with the incredible yoga teacher and health coach, Cecily Armstrong.  We'll be covering topics such as the various aspects of emotional and physical wellness, nutrition, journaling as a form of healing, and using yoga as a way to reconnect to your life.  Get more info and sign up at Art of Living Retreat Center.

September 28-30 - Buckingham County, VA

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I will be leading a Yoga and writing for anxiety retreat at Yogaville.  Both Yoga and writing offer ways to tap into the heart of the present moment and see what is true and real in everyday life. The key to more inner peace lies in learning to drop the story and access the serenity of the present moment so we can stop obsessing about the past and future. For those of us with anxiety, that may seem like an impossible task, but there are proven ways to retrain the brain and create healthier habits. Sign-ups are open now!

For more information about my Pose & Pose Workshops, click here.  And feel free to contact me with any questions. Hope to see you at a retreat!

That time I met Barbara Bush and her running shoes

As a twelve-year-old Canadian, I really didn't know what I was supposed to wear when I met the First Lady of the United States.

Had I known that she was going to show up wearing running shoes, I think I would have felt much better about the whole thing.

I had acted alongside the spectacular Jessica Tandy in "The Story Lady" a TV movie that exulted the joys of books and reading to kids. The role was tailor-made for me, the pre-teen nerd who frequently walked into walls because she could not put her book down. The show got some attention, and it inspired Mrs. Bush to create The National Story Lady Project, a nationwide project to foster inter-generational reading. And when the invitation for the program kick-off party arrived, I was rather embarrassed to find it was it was me, and not the First Lady, who was on the cover.

My mom and I, plus the writer and producers of the movie, went to the White House. I don't actually remember what I wore, but I'm sure it was full-on-preteen-circa-1991 glory. I would be surprised if lace gloves were not involved. We stood around a very flowery room and drank tea with the First Lady and pretended this was just what we did on Monday afternoons.

Barbara Bush was very kind to me and sweet about my role in the film. I was trying to pay attention to her, but I could not stop staring at her shoes. She was wearing a beautiful suit, accented with white sneakers (were they Reeboks? I'm pretty sure they were) that had the word “READ” on them in puffy gold paint. They were incredibly dorky and wildly endearing and they were the best things I had ever seen.

I wondered if she had done that herself or if there was an official White House bedazzler. Was this a career I could grow up aspiring to?

We drank tea from tiny floral china cups and I learned how to eat finger sandwiches without dropping the saucer. There were photo ops and Mrs. Bush gave a little speech about the movie and then my mother and I just stood around awkwardly for a while, trying not to touch anything. Neither Mom nor I ever felt comfortable in fancy situations. We were the kind of family that went camping for vacations and considered dinner at Sizzler to be only for extra special occasions. So, we passed our uneasiness back and forth, while we stood below a larger-than-life-size painting of Jackie O in a gilded frame that probably cost more than our house.

But I kept thinking about Mrs. Bush's shoes. Even in the midst of all the secret service and crystal chandeliers and crustless sandwiches - she was cool and normal and maybe even kind of like me. All while wearing those awesome shoes.

I presented the First Lady with a book, which seemed like the right thing to give someone who had all those libraries. It was a book I loved, by an Indigenous Canadian author, since I assumed the White House library wouldn't already have that one. She later mailed me a thoughtful thank you note, which must be somewhere in my basement.

I wasn't very political when I was twelve. I knew that the Bushes were Republicans and we were Democrats and I knew those things were different. But I also knew that the only thing I cared about was that the First Lady of the United States had smiled kindly at me, had lit up when I gave her a book -- and had rocked out the coolest shoes I had ever seen.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush. Rest in peace.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook,  Instagram, or Twitter!

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Dear Gods of Whatever: a prayer from a highly sensitive person

Dear Gods of Whatever,

This is a prayer to care less.

This is a heartfelt wish to have it not matter.

To be the Queen of Whatevs.

To let it all roll off my back, like a nonchalant duck.

I think there are those people, people who are cool and calm and collected. Who shrug their shoulders and laugh it all off.

The blessed ones.

They can handle the awkward comment, the whining dog, the unanswerable question, the brutal unfairness of the world.

They seem to know they will survive, they will move on. It will all fundamentally be okay.

Why do I move so quickly to life-ruining conclusions? Why does my stomach churn at a mere thought? Why do my eyes tear as I imagine complete devastation?

So I pray to you, Gods of Whatever, to help me to care less.

To be more callous.

Less empathetic.

Please --- just make me a tiny bit more of an asshole.

Amen.

Public Speaking Event: Hi, Michigan!

I'll be at Glen Oaks College in Centreville, Michigan this Thursday!

I'll be speaking about my new book Not Just Me, talking about leaving L.A., writing, mental health, yoga and whatever else might be on my mind that day. I'll be signing books and attempting small talk, so come hang out and let's be awkward together!

For more information, click here.

Writing & Wellness Yoga Retreat in Boone, NC!

Join me for a Writing & Wellness Yoga Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, N.C. Nov. 2 - 5th, 2017!

You already know me, but you'll also get to know my retreat co-leader, the amazing Cecily Armstrong! Cecily’s trainings span decades and explore all facets of the mind, body, and spirit. She has a Health Coach Certification from the Integrative Institute of Nutrition and is a graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. Cecily has been teaching yoga for twenty years and is a facilitator at the Hero’s Journey.

Join both of us for a fun, restorative and empowering retreat exploring various aspects of emotional and physical wellness.

The retreat will include:

writing exercises to understand anxiety & the inner critic

nutrition talks - examining both physical and emotional nourishment

discussions on purpose, connection, and authentic power

yoga, meditation, and pranayama

healthy Ayurvedic meals (all included in the registration price)

free time at the beautiful retreat center - massage, pottery, hiking

You'll return home with tools to help you live a more happy, healthy, vibrant life. And we'll have a whole bunch of fun, too! This retreat is open to everyone. No writing or yoga experience necessary.

Tuition includes accommodation and meals for 4 days/3 nights:  starting at $677   *$50 off for early birds registering before September 1st!

Get more information and register at: artoflivingretreatcenter.org

And please let me know if you have any questions! Hope to see you in North Carolina!

 

Interim Time: now what?

Transition. It's supposed to be a word that is exciting, full of newness and opportunity. But more often, it's just scary.

For the past eighteen months, I've had my head down, writing Not Just Me, my new book about anxiety and depression. It's been a wonderful experience and is incredibly meaningful to me.

But the book that has been the center of my universe is pretty much done.

I feel like I just got fired.

Now that I've lifted my head from the page and I'm looking around, I'm asking myself that question that is full of possibility and uncertainty.

Now what?

Of course, there will still be blog writing and yoga teaching and speaking events.  There will be tea dates with friends and Friday Night Lights marathons with my husband. But The Book that has been the center of my days is no longer. I have to let it out into the world to be liked or hated or ignored. That part is none of my business. I need to let go and move on to....something else.

It's unsettling.

At a time when I find the world to be particularly chaotic and confusing, I feel even more need to be intentional with my own life. I'm coming back to the questions I asked myself when I left Los Angeles and quit being an actor. What do I want my life to be about? What do I want it all to mean?  I asked those questions when I was 22 years old, and I find myself annoyed that I need to ask again at age 38. But I'm realizing that this an essential part of being awake - circling back to the essential questions. Revisiting them and being open to new answers.

My dear friend Susan sent me this poem and it soothed my soul.

(It's a longer poem, but these are the sections that got me.)

Interim Time ~ John O’Donohue,

The path you took to get here has washed out; The way forward is still concealed from you.

You cannot lay claim to anything; In this place of dusk, Your eyes are blurred; And there is no mirror.

The more faithfully you can endure here, The more refined your heart will become For your arrival in the new dawn.

So I'm doing my best to love the questions and accept the uncertainty. I'm filled with gratitude that I have options at all and I understand that having an existential crisis is a great privilege. I get it.

And I also think that getting intentional about our lives--not operating on auto-pilot--is how we act as a benefit to the world. We all want our lives to mean something, we all want to contribute in a meaningful way. That looks different for everyone and it's worth spending some time on.

If your way forward is concealed right now, you are not alone. I have faith that there is a new dawn for all of us -- and our strong, beautifully refined hearts.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook,  Instagram, or Twitter!

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No is a complete sentence

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 12.06.48 PM.png I did a keynote speech at The Lady Project Summit recently and Avery and Erica made a meme of it. Which flatters me beyond belief. I LOVE being a meme.

It captures something that I said during the Q&A section of my talk when a woman in the audience asked me about finding balance. Dozens of heads around her nodded as if they were equally baffled by this idea of how to have a balanced life while still having clean clothes, a side-hustle, fulfilling relationships and a strong core.

Like many people, I have a hard time saying no. There are a million prettier ways to say this, but the reason I struggle to say no comes down to one thing:

I want people to like me.

Actually, I want people to love me.

That desire has been prevalent my whole life.  I have always tried to make people happy: I do what they want me to do, I am who they want me to be. I want people to think that I am reliable and kind and just...good. In the brief moments where I feel like maybe I've succeeded, there is this emotional high. But then, like all things, that feeling of approval fades. And I have to find some other hoop to jump through to prove something to someone.

It's not one of my most charming attributes.

It's not a bad thing to want to help people--a life of service is a beautiful thing. But when it happens in place of your own needs, it's unsustainable. You burn out. And then you're no good to anyone.

I had to say no to someone recently. Two years ago I would have said yes because it would have satisfied my people-pleasing nature. I would have hated every second but I would have done it, waiting for that moment when someone patted me on the head and called me a Good Girl. Which might happen. Or it might not.

But I took a deep breath and tried not to cringe visibly as I said no. I didn't go into a diatribe about why I had to say no. I just said that wasn't going to be possible. (And then I blurted out "sorry" because that's my reflex - it was like trying to hold back a sneeze.)

And it all felt terrible.

But then pretty soon, it didn't feel terrible anymore.

Because I wasn't being selfish. I was being reasonable. It was not something I could have done without being totally overloaded and resentful. It was not going to be good for anyone.

No is a complete sentence.

I can't make everyone happy all the time.  I'm going to do things that piss people off and make them mad at me. Not everyone is required to like me.

But I like myself a hell of a lot better when I say no sometimes. I remember what my priorities are and I include myself on the list of people who deserve to be happy.

And then I can give my own self a pat on the head.

Good girl.

——–

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Revisiting: Unpopular authenticity: so…you don’t have kids?

*I'm working hard on my new book and finding myself with little time for new blog posts. I decided to bring back some older posts, that you might have missed... Hope you enjoy! -------------------

I was shamed by a nine-year-old the other day.

She stood there, hands on hips, glaring up at me. She'd just asked me if I had kids. I told her that I did not.

"Why?"

"I never felt that was the right choice for me."

She told me that my life was boring and sad.

It was actually pretty cute.

What took the sting out of her statement was the fact that grownups have been shaming me over this for quite some time. Sometimes they attempt to lessen the blow by saying something along the lines of - "you do what is right for you, but you should know that becoming a mother makes your soul expand and you become capable of love bigger than you've never imagined and it's the most valuable thing you could ever do with your life."

I always wonder how they know how big my love is.

People who decide not to be parents hear this a lot. (And actually, there are increasing numbers of us Childfree folks.) I've been questioned and cajoled and told that I'll change my mind. There seems to be this assumption that I've not quite thought this through, but the questions posed are always ones that I've asked myself a hundred times. I've never met a Childfree person who has come to the decision haphazardly.

Sometimes when people decide to say what they really think, they call me selfish and say I'm not really a woman. I'm still confused about why anyone cares if my husband and I have kids or not, but it sure seems like a bunch of them do.

I like kids. Even the ones who stand with hands on hips and call me boring and sad.

But in my 37 years of life, and 10 years of marriage, I've never once felt the ticking-clock twinge of wanting my own children. (And believe me, I've held babies and smelled their powdery heads, trying desperately to kickstart it, because I felt like I was defective.) But there isn't anything wrong with me. It's just not my thing. I'm also not interested in having a boat. I like boats. I'm sure it's super fun to have a boat. I'm happy for other people who enjoy their boats. I just don't feel the need to have my own.

And yes, I am aware that children are not boats - they are even better than boats and having a child brings much to one's life. I know it changes everything and brings buckets of joy and does all sorts of other things that I will never understand. I believe all of that. I've seen it in action.

But raising children is an incredibly important job and it just doesn’t make sense to hand it to someone like me who doesn’t want it. If I were half as interested in having a child as I am in volunteering at an animal shelter, I would do it. It’s like choosing a President who is fonder of ceramics than politics. Who is that good for?

If you choose to grow and learn and leave your legacy by having a kid – I think that's awesome. And while you do that, I'll work on improving the world that kid will eventually inherit. That just seems like good tag team long-term planning. It's easy to imagine that childfree folks spend their entire lives thinking only of themselves, sleeping in late and getting drunk at brunch. But I promise that I'm doing my part to contribute to the world, just in a different way than parents. (I'll skip the part where I list all the important, non-selfish things I do - it'll make me sound boastful and more than a little defensive.)

But the real reason I'm writing about this is because it's indicative of an issue I keep seeing everywhere, something that causes a lot of suffering. I know moms who work outside the home and moms who don't. Both have been bashed and abused for that decision. I know homeschoolers and Montessori lovers and public school parents - all of whom feel they have to defend their decisions. And the judgment doesn't stop with parenting issues. I know painters and sales people and jazz singers and almost all of them feel like they need to justify what they do with their lives because someone is always waiting in the wings to tell them they are doing the wrong thing.

There are so many critics out there and we tend to internalize the disapproval and feel like we are constantly failing. Why does it matter that my husband and I don't have kids? It doesn't. It's not really that interesting, but people keep asking about it so I'm happy to discuss it.

Why does it matter what personal decisions any of us make for ourselves? I wonder what the world would be like if we assumed that everyone was doing their best. What if people made different decisions and we didn't see that as a threat to the validity of our own choices? What if we kept our eyes on our own papers - our own lives and families - and stopped bashing our neighbor for not buying organic? Things would be incredibly dull if we were all the same. What if we celebrated the fact that life is not homogenous and realized that everyone is doing what they needed to do to wade through this challenging world?

Because when it comes down to it, if you're spending your time criticizing someone else's personal choices, it just makes you seem insecure about your own life.

As for me, I like being able to act as the designated driver for the Girl’s Nights when my mommy friends can let loose. It seems that my “alternative lifestyle” has its perks for all, but most importantly, I get to live my life authentically -- even if it's hard to explain that to a deeply offended nine-year-old.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook,  Instagram, or Twitter!

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Revisited - Recipe for happiness: squash the expectations

*I'm working hard on my new book and finding myself with little time for new blog posts. I decided to bring back some older posts, that you might have missed... Hope you enjoy! i-f7dC4Xd-L

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This is apparently the mathematical breakdown of what it means to be happy. I totally agree, don't you?

Actually, my idea of happiness doesn't ever include exponents, but what this equation means is totally fantastic.

There was recently an article in The Atlantic that offers this equation and says that happiness doesn't depend on how things are going. It depends on whether things are going better or worse than you thought they would.

Happiness is all about expectations. 

This is entirely true in my experience. My life used to go like this:

  • I get crazy excited about something (starting a Facebook page to share my blog)
  • it starts off the way I hoped it would (I post stuff, I have 9,000 people following the page)
  • then, that's not enough, I change my expectations and emotionally crash because I don't have the upgraded version of that exciting thing (why do I not have 90,000 people following the page?)

And when things don't go at all as I expected? If someone doesn't respond the way I want them to respond, or I work really hard on something and it flops - suddenly I'm curled up on the couch claiming I'm eternally destined to be a dismal failure. It's a screwed-up roller coaster of emotional angst.

And it's the nature of the human condition.

It seems we've always been that way, and that's why 2,500 years ago, the Buddha said that life is suffering. (He used the Pali word dukkha, which could be less dramatically translated as "unsatisfactory" or "stressful.") We suffer because we are constantly clinging to something that is slipping away. Everything is slipping away because everything is impermanent and nothing lasts forever.

Which seems kind of dark and horrifically depressing, until you realize this is just the reality of the world and there is an answer for dealing with it:

    • The Buddha called it equanimity
    • The coach from the UVA men's basketball team told his guys to not get "too high on themselves or too low"
    • The Gin Blossoms said, "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down."

It's all about managing expectations. Of course there are things we want. That's good. But when we tie our self-worth and inner peace to whether or not we get them, that's when the trouble starts.

I want to do well in life.

I want everyone to like me.

I want to have a nice glass of scotch without it giving me a massive headache.

I can't always have all the things I want. But I want them anyway. And sometimes, I expect them. Which, if I look at that another way, can seem like I'm saying that I am entitled to have those things. And an attitude of entitlement is gross.

So, is the answer to never want anything? Or to wander around like Eeyore expecting life to generally suck? No. It's finding that beautiful middle ground. It's about living in a place of contentment, where what you have is enough, and your expectations are humble - so you are pleased when things are going well and only slightly ruffled when they are not. It's riding that wave of life with gratitude, rather than fighting with the tides because you'd prefer if the ocean was a puddle.

Let's stop thinking the world owes us something, let's work hard but let go of the emotional attachment to the outcome, let's be kind without looking to get something in return. Suddenly, 99% of what happens is a joyful surprise.

And that is a really happy thing.

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

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Revisited: Clubbing baby actors

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*I'm working hard on my new book and finding myself with little time for new blog posts. I decided to bring back some older posts, that you might have missed... Hope you enjoy!

~~~

I just wanted to fit in.

Desperately.

All 15-year-olds just want to fit in. They skulk around like those fish on the ocean floor who can alter their skin color to match the rocks. That was me - trying to blend like my survival depended on it.

But Mrs. Doubtfire was still in theaters, breaking all kinds of box-office records and 20th Century Fox was putting two-page ads in The Hollywood Reporter thanking everyone for buying a movie ticket. Blending was getting harder to do. But L.A. was my life now and I needed to figure out how to be part of that Hollywood crowd. A club on the Sunset Strip seemed like a good place to learn.

We didn’t even want to drink. My friend Christine had a crush on the singer of the opening band. Her sister had been in a movie with him, and our entire intention for the evening was to jump up and down in front of the stage and scream.

The place was dark and throbbing with coolness. People oozed cool and rubbed it all over their already cool friends. People moved around the place with such great comfort that it seemed like it was their living room. I used all the acting skills at my disposal in an attempt to copy those people -- and knew I was failing miserably.

Just before the band was due to go on stage, Christine and I headed to the bathroom to preen. She dug through an extensive bag of tools, expertly applying and lining and touching up. I didn’t wear makeup and having no preening abilities of my own, I glanced around the dim, grungy bathroom. I noticed a condom machine hanging on the wall. It was apparently  “for our convenience.” I nudged Christine and snickered.

Both of us had sadly undeveloped chests and few social skills beyond giggling - the machine hardly intended us as its target audience in need of such a convenience.

Nevertheless, flavored condoms were intriguing. The machine’s label reported that they came in three thrilling flavors: piña colada, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. I didn’t drink and was allergic to chocolate, so the strawberry shortcake was the clear winner. Christine and I had a lengthy debate about whether the chocolate condoms were made with real chocolate and if they would induce an allergic reaction.

I thought it would be a horrible time to find out.

She thought I was an idiot.

She started rifling through her purse and pulled out some linty quarters.

"Here. Get two."

"Wait, why are we buying these?" I asked.

She snorted at me and handed me the change.

"Research."

As I loaded the machine with Christine's quarters, she leaned on the bathroom door. This was a scene best kept between the two of us. As our 50 cents went into the machine, slick pink and green packages slid out. They looked cheery. Fun. Yet, I was still scared to touch them. My heart beat quickly.

Christine appeared savvier, though I don’t think she really was. She was just one of those people who always appeared to know what she was doing. Whether on a film set or in a club bathroom holding a piña colada flavored condom, she always seemed as if she has been through it a million times. She was a stark contrast to me - it didn't matter what I was doing, I always looked like I was about to get yelled at.

She ripped open the packaging with her teeth, a move she must have seen in a movie. I approached the wrapper more tentatively, pulling on either side like it was a bag of Doritos. We removed the smooth creatures from their packaging. We unrolled them. We concluded that they probably looked kind of like penises...if penises were florescent, semi-translucent, covered in a strange powder and stinking of sweet chemicals.

“Ready?” Christine asked. I certainly was not but I was standing in a bathroom holding a condom, what could I say?

“Okay. Lick it!” Christine demanded and we each raised the limp rubber to our tongues.

At that moment, the door swung open, catapulting Christine from her guard post and a Goth girl, bedazzled with safety pins, blasted into the bathroom. Christine and I panicked, threw our condoms into the trash and ran the hell out of there.

Taking refuge in a dark corner with humiliated tears flooding my eyes, I cursed Christine for not guarding the door properly and letting us be the freaks who got caught licking flaccid condoms in a bathroom. She also had tears in her eyes, but hers were caused by stomach-cramping laughter. She smoothed out my hair and attempted to comfort me.

"Don't worry about it, Lis. Besides, you are not going to need one of those for a long, LONG time."

Before I could respond with something like "Shut up" -  she grabbed my hand, ran to the stage and screamed for the cute lead singer like nothing had happened.

There were many enviable people in that club, owners of designer handbags, prestigious addresses and powerful careers, but I only wanted what Christine had. Her lightness was admirable and something I could never quite locate within myself. My friend's skin fit her just fine and she never seemed to care too much about outside opinions. Her ease in this world was like a foreign language that seemed impossible to master. I borrowed some of her sparkly MAC lip gloss and hoped something deeper would rub off on me.

That night, I thought the worst thing that could ever happen was getting caught by a Goth. But four years later, Christine got sick. The lupus moved quickly, and she passed away when we were 19.

I'll spend the rest of my life trying to capture her lightness. Admittedly, whenever I think of that Sunset club, I can still taste strawberry condom dust and palpable shame in the back of my throat. But whenever I feel myself trying desperately to blend with the cool people, I always feel Christine smoothing out my hair as she laughs at me.

"Don't worry about it, Lis."

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

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Upcoming event in NY!

Hey, New Yorkers! I'll be doing a public event at Mohawk College in Utica on October 27th and I'd love to see you there. I'll be talking about my experience with mood disorders and the tools that help make life a little easier as an introvert who struggles with anxiety, depression, and a panic disorder.

But it's gonna be FUN, I promise!

You can get tickets here.

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My top 10 (anti-fairy tale) relationship tips

14233102_10209362119866558_7897483690873445041_n We recently passed the twenty-year anniversary of the day my husband and I met. Our eyes met across a room and I knew immediately that I would spend the rest of my life with him.

Except that's not at all what happened.

Actually, if you ask him about the evening we met, he'll tell you that his first impression of me was that I looked very young and very scared. (He's right. I was 17, and we were out with a bunch of people at a crowded movie opening. See: introvert.)

And if you ask me about the night we met? I'll feel like a big jerk as I'll be compelled to admit that I don't remember meeting him.

But we must have met because suddenly we were friends.  And for years we hung out, we went to Rock 'n Bowl and Disneyland. He let my boyfriend borrow a nice shirt for a premiere. I passed his girlfriend toilet paper under the bathroom stall at The Cheesecake Factory. There were break-ups and get-back-togethers and more break-ups. I complained to him about all the alcoholic pretty boys with private planes, mommy issues and little concern with ditching me at a bar.

And then one day, after being friends for four years, something changed with me and J - and it was more.

I kind of wish it had been love at first sight, but the vast majority of the time, the fairy tale doesn't look the way you thought it would. Mostly, the fairy tale is bullshit.

The most fairy tale thing about us is that we are happy. Someone just told me it made her happy to be around us because it's clear that J and I really like each other. She assumed we were newlyweds.

We are kind of like that. I automatically grin when his car pulls into the driveway. He still opens doors for me and watches my ass walk up the stairs. But it's also a real relationship. He re-washes the dishes because I am lazy about it and leave crusty stuff in the corners of the pan and we disagree about appropriate thermostat temperature and how much MSNBC is reasonable. Marriage is a partnership. If both people have personalities and opinions and an affinity for honesty, that partnership is going to have challenges.

We work at it. We don't fall for these rom-com ideas of what marriage should be. And even in the moments when we disagree about something fundamental or when it seems like it might be fun to go get all fluttery-heart, weak-kneed with someone else - we have this foundation of respect for our relationship and the life we have created together.

Sometimes people ask me for advice and while I have a history of spectacular failures in my past, the last sixteen years of partnership with J have taught me a thing or two. The first step is ditching these romanticized ideas about relationships, then we can get to the real stuff.

Go to bed mad Life is not a sitcom; not everything can be neatly wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. Everyone needs space to think things out and gain some perspective. Rarely is one o'clock in the morning the best time to find a resolution for real-life problems.

Start seeing other people It's never good to have your partner be your only outlet for social interaction. Don't isolate. Don't get lost. Going out with my friends is not frivolous; it's essential to my mental wellness.

Don’t talk about it  I have to write things out. My mouth moves faster than my brain and writing helps me be clear, complete and less whipped into an emotional frenzy. Sometimes I give him the letter, sometimes that's not necessary because writing it down is actually all I needed.

Make sure neither one of you gets what you want Compromise is key. I try to not get stuck with this idea about being right and winning. The real win is a peaceful and fulfilling relationship, even if it means bending a bit and watching yet another Jason Statham movie.

Talk behind his back Venting can be really helpful and an honest reaction to the situation is invaluable. I have specific, time-tested friends for this; people who will shoot straight and won’t go blabbing my business. I also make sure I am not talking to my friend instead of talking to my guy.

Be evasive Sometimes, I need to change the subject. For in-depth issues, sometimes a break from the discussion is in order. Doing something fun together that we both enjoy is entirely invigorating and offers important bigger-picture perspective. For us, that often means yoga. When we go to class together, we feel more connected.

Talk about yourself a lot Sadly, he's not a mind reader. If I need something that I am not getting from the relationship, I have to actually verbalize that. Assuming that he “should” know never works well. Then I need to reciprocate by asking him what he needs. And I need to actually listen.

Treat your partner like they are a cop Being polite goes a long way. I say please when I ask for something. I say thank you when he is helpful. I suck it up and apologize when I’ve done something wrong. These daily decencies tend to go out the window when you’ve been together awhile. Loving kindness and gratitude are wonderful spiritual practices.

Pretend it didn’t happen At a certain point, some issues just need to be released. I mean seriously released, not to be dug up again two years later. In all relationships, if I can forgive, I do my best to forgive completely. It's more healing for me than for the person I'm forgiving - it's really for my own benefit. Acceptance is incredibly powerful. It's not the same as condoning someone's actions, it's simply the act of not allowing it to have power over your life anymore.

Lie down. The oxytocin and endorphins that are activated during sexual activity are great for the mental state. It lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Sex clearly isn’t just physical, it’s about maintaining and strengthening the emotional connections with a partner. Oh yeah, and it's fun.

We lucked out, J and me.  Two decades into this relationship, I've noticed that he turned into an even better guy than the one I married. We have both changed a lot, but we changed for the better - we changed together.

I used to think that the most romantic thing in the world was falling in love. But I've learned that there is something even more romantic than that fluttery heart, weak-kneed stuff: choosing to stay in love.

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What do you say?

"You have great hair." I was putting down my yoga mat at the studio. I turned to the woman who had spoken to me, she was sitting on the floor, stretching. I had never met her before.

"Pardon me?" I asked.

"You have great hair."

My hair had been up in a ponytail all morning because I had been writing - fighting, really - a troublesome section of my new book and so now that my hair was out long, it had that weird kink in the middle where I had secured the elastic too tight. As I was writing, I had thought maybe the words would come more easily if I could feel some air on the back of my neck. It hadn't really worked.

My last haircut was seven months ago. I've recently started using this special shampoo in an attempt to combat my eternally oily scalp and it leaves the ends of my hair feeling dry. But I hadn't even washed my hair in two days.

I considered telling her all that. I wanted to explain why she was wrong and list all the ways in which my hair was not at all "great." I thought I'd tell her how I always wanted to have straight, blonde, angel-hair thin strands that hung passively to my shoulders, not the wild curls that make their own decisions about where they are going. I was about to tell her that my dark hair is increasingly streaked with grey and, while I don't take issue with the color, I do not understand why those hairs are a different texture and they stand straight up in the air - as if they are waving in the landing of middle age, directly upon my head.

But then I looked at her, staring up at me, offering me a smile and this kindness.

What do you say?  We ask little kids when they are given a gift.

Thank you. They recite.

When did we forget what to say? When did we get so full of self-doubt and self-hatred and whatever else this is that masquerades as humility? It's not humility when we reject someone else's gift of kindness. It's not modesty when we shut down someone's attempt at connection because we are unable to get over ourselves and our insecurities. It's just rude.

Maybe it was something about being in a yoga studio that reminded me to be grateful. Yoga has a funny way of doing that. So instead of taking her compliment and bashing it into the ground with all these bullshit issues about beauty and femininity, I said:

"Thank you. You made my day."

As I was walking out of class, I said to the woman in front of me:

"I love your leggings."

She shook her head, "Oh, no, they're cheap. I just got them from that consignment place downtown."

"I really don't care - you look super cute."

She grinned at me and laughed.

"Well, thank you."

Maybe someday, we'll all remember what to say.

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Mostly I write but sometimes I say the words out loud

Hey all, I wanted to share this clip from a talk I did in June - all about anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Even though I don't entirely love living with these things - I love talking about this stuff. It makes me feel less alone, it reduces the social stigma around mental health and above all, it reminds me that healing is possible when we can connect and laugh and say to each other oh my God, I totally know what you mean.

Hope you enjoy this short clip. (I have been doing more talks lately, so I should have more clips to share soon.) And if you're interested in having me come talk at your school, organization or conference - you can see my speaking kit here!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilcjT2Sbbnc&amp]

"To be completely honest..."

"I hate that phrase --  'to be completely honest.' Why do people say that? As if I want you to lie to me."

My friend was saying this as he and I were sitting at an outdoor bar that has swings instead of seats. We were trying to solve the problems of the world over beer and french fries. So why do people start off this way when they are about to admit something difficult about their lives?

It does seem like a silly caveat, but of course there is a reason we feel the need to ramp up like that. We live in a culture where someone says how are you and the other person says I'm fine. It's an automatic exchange. We live in a world of the thoroughly filtered selfie, the cherry-picked Facebook photo, the emotions boiled down to emojis.

It feels safe and easy to wade in these tepid, shallow relationship waters in which we risk nothing. We learn nothing. We are never vulnerable and we miss the opportunity to create a more meaningful relationship.

My dog, Grace, passed away two weeks ago. She was my best friend, my writing partner and my muse - and I am struggling to put words to my heartbreak.

I'm sad.

But I want to put a better spin on it. I don't want to make other people uncomfortable. I don't want them to think they need to do anything for me. I don't want them to worry.

But to be completely honest, my anxiety is acting up.

To be completely honest, I find it hard to focus.

To be completely honest, I cry a lot.

And this is the part where I'm supposed to pretty up my sadness and say things about how lucky we were to have Grace and how much she taught me and how someday I'll learn how to work and walk and breathe without her. I'll be okay.

It's all true.

But to be completely honest, I just miss my best friend.

When we are finally open about how we really feel, it's tempting to follow up with an apology because it feels too vulnerable, too honest. We feel guilty about having those not-so positive emotions - but that is just part of the human experience. Sadness, disappointment and loss are inevitable. I look around at the things that are going on in the world and every morning it seems there is news of more brokenness. There are real, massive, deeply troubling problems.  Many of us are struggling and many of us are not talking about it. But talking about it is what we need most.

When another friend asked me how I was doing - she really asked, looking deeply into my eyes -  I fell into her arms and sobbed in a yoga change room. Afterwards, I was tempted to apologize for my public melt-down, the open display of my true emotions.

But  I wasn't sorry.

So I sent her this. And with that show of gratitude and a heart emoji, I healed my own heart a little bit.

All while being completely honest.

 

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*****

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I would rather fail than quit

13585209_1038201572930693_1705154612489819496_o I found myself saying this last night during an online book club for my memoir You Look Like That Girl. I truly believe that when we stop fearing failure - incredible things can happen.

Failure is not the end of the story.

Failure is necessary.

So, if there is something you've been waiting to do - that book you want to write, that business you want to start, that person you want to talk to - do it.

Let go of that voice that says you don't have a story to tell and you don't have the right and you might look stupid. I don't know who that annoying voice is, but it's not you. If you've been waiting for someone to come give you permission to live with courage: here it is.

Permission granted.

Look around. The world can be a scary, uncertain  place. Who knows how much time we have?

So get out there.

Fall on your face.

And then pick your brave ass up and do it again.

(Want to do your own book club with me? LisaJakub108@gmail.com)

*****

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Burn it up: impermanence and playing with fire

I was talking to a friend about how much I like to burn my writing. I don't burn it all the time, but when it's something I feel like I need to release, it's incredibly powerful cathartic ritual. That got me thinking about a wedding I attended two years ago.

I didn't want to go to the wedding because I had nothing to wear.

It's humiliating to admit that. It's such a frivolous, stereotypical girl excuse. I'd been to a million weddings, but nothing quite like this. There were going to be a lot of people there and my social anxiety was running pretty high.

It was silly to think that I was worried looking out-of-place...with a bunch of people who take looking out-of-place very seriously. The wedding was done "burner-style" (think Burning Man) and grounded in the spirit of community, art and self-expression.

When we arrived at the farm in rural Virginia, there were tutus and masks and glow in the dark hula-hoops. There were hot pants and frilly bras -- and the women's outfits were even more eccentric. There were also 60-year-old women in lawn chairs wearing Laura Ashley dresses that would have been right for a church picnic. There was literally nothing that I could have worn that would have been inappropriate. And if I had worn literally nothing, I suspect that would have even been okay, too.

People had set up camp for a week and there was swimming in the river and fire dancing and a tent full of dress-up clothes. There was home-brew and dune buggies and of course, there was a wedding ceremony, in front of a two-story temple that our friends spent months building from scrap wood and fallen trees. We placed paintings, poems and wishes for the couple inside the temple, hanging them from branches.

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And after the ceremony, after the "I do" and the kiss - we burned it all to the ground.

There was such joy in watching it burn. It was a profound sense of release.

Of letting go. Of surrendering to life and the inevitable destruction.

Because eventually, everything deteriorates and falls apart and there is no sense clinging to it. Permanence seems comforting but it's an illusion, and that makes this moment now even more precious. You have to love it with all your heart while it's here. Because one day, it won't be. And neither will you.

Letting go means opening up more space for joy. Not even love can survive if you cling too tightly. Love works when you let the other person be who they need to be and love them through it. As my friend said in his vows "I love you and I will love who you become." Nothing is static. People change.

What a profound statement at the beginning of a marriage.

This wedding was full of joy. The bride wore a purple top. They danced down the aisle and basked in their weirdness. I have always been ashamed of my weirdness, and it did me good to see people so comfortable with theirs. I cried happy tears from beginning to end of the ceremony.

It was just so very them.

We let it all go, and we burned it all up.

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*****

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Embrace Your Weird event tonight in Virginia

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.02.31 AM Hi all,

I'm thrilled to be giving a talk tonight in Charlottesville, Virginia. The event is called Embrace Your Weird: from Anxiety to Authenticity and it's based on the new book that I am writing. There is even a whole fancy Power Point thingy.

Many of us are afraid to talk about anxiety, depression and panic attacks – it’s about time we change that. This talk is a deeply personal exploration of mental health, told with compassion and humor. It’s a hopeful, entertaining and enlightening look at the root causes of anxiety, the results of the latest research and ideas for how to manage stress in your own life.

The event is free and open to the public, as part of Retreat Week at Ix Art Park. For more information and to RSVP, please click here. 

And in case you were wondering, yes, I'm feeling very anxious about giving an anxiety talk. But I'm gonna to do it anyway.

with love,

~Lisa

 

How to live in the world: tips for the anxious, the introverts, and other sensitive souls

 I’m going to have to make small talk, I just know it.

I’m going to have to make small talk, I just know it.

I am a person who gets easily overwhelmed by the world.

The snap of the shampoo bottle lid is too loud and startles me every time so I have to unscrew the lid which takes forever and spills shampoo everywhere.  Last Thanksgiving I read a book about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and my dismay almost ruined our entire holiday. We have dimmers in every room of our house because anything over 40 watts causes my heart to race. I was recently invited to a pretty cool event - I had to turn it down, mostly because there would be too many people there.

I'm what is known as a highly-sensitive person (HSP) which means that my nervous system processes sensory data more deeply than most other people. I'm also an introvert with an anxiety disorder.  It's the ultimate awkward trifecta.

And I always thought it was just me who had six fewer layers of skin than everyone else.

But there are actually a bunch of us. We're just not talking about it.

Being this way in the world has its challenges on the best of days, but in this age of constant exposure to the horrors of wars, terrorism and social injustice - it can be downright brutal. And to be completely honest, I've been struggling with this a lot lately. It's hard to know how to operate in a world with so much suffering.

But I've learned a few things that help:

Protect yourself from the media

I'm not saying put your head in a hole and ignore the planet. I'm not even sure how one would do that these days. But you can limit your exposure. You can read articles and watch programs only when you are feeling prepared to deal with it all. And don't fall down the rabbit hole and get hooked on marinating in the misery. Learn enough to be informed - then stop. The Skimm has revolutionized my life in this way. It lets me know what's going on in the world in one email every morning. It's framed in a fun but informative way, and reading it doesn't make me want to crawl under my couch.

If you're sad, feel sad

Really shitty things happen in the world. It's super hard out there. So, feel sad. Don't pile on extra angst that you shouldn't be so sensitive and don't worry that you'll fall into a doom spiral and you'll be sad forever. Just feel sad about the sad thing. Actually feel it. Don't distract yourself and drink/shop/numb it away. Give the sadness your full attention in whatever way feels right.  You can just sit there and cry, or you can write, draw, yell, beat the hell out of a couch cushion. The funny thing about feelings is that if you don't really deal with them - feel them all the way down to your bones - they never leave. They linger on your shoulders, ready to jump up and get in your face at any moment. We tend to be terrified of our less positive emotions - anger, sadness, loneliness, fear. But they are inevitable and just as much a part of the human experience as joy. They are all part of the package of being a person. Emotions come and go like waves, so we just need to learn how to surf so we don't drown in them.

Then, bring your focus to the light

After you've really acknowledged the pain that comes with life, it tends to dissipate. So, feel the suffering and if you want to engage or donate or go to a rally - do it.  And then resist the urge to dwell endlessly in the tragedy.  Look for the the things that are still lovely. Because we want to be realistic here: life can absolutely be hard, but we also need to cultivate gratitude for the wonderful things. Enjoy the simple moments. Go for a walk with a friend. Volunteer for a cause you love. Cuddle on the couch.

"Think of all the beauty still around you and be happy."- Anne Frank

This Living in the World thing is not for wimps, I'm still trying to figure it all out. But sometimes it's just nice to know that this sensitive soul of mine is not alone. There are many of us who feel lost and gutted by the suffering in the world.

And we'll cry together. But we'll also get up the next day and bravely show up to love wholeheartedly, stand up for what's right, and dance in the kitchen.

Because that's how things get better.

*this post was inspired by a question from a reader. If you have something you would like me to write about, send me an email - LisaJakub108@gmail.com

————–

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So...you don't have kids?

I was shamed by a nine-year-old the other day. She stood there, hands on hips, glaring up at me. She'd just asked me if I had kids. I told her that I did not.

"Why?"

"I never felt that was the right choice for me."

She told me that my life was boring and sad.

It was actually pretty cute.

What took the sting out of her statement was the fact that grownups have been shaming me over this for quite some time. Sometimes they attempt to lessen the blow by saying something along the lines of - "you do what is right for you, but you should know that becoming a mother makes your soul expand and you become capable of love bigger than you've never imagined and it's the most valuable thing you could ever do with your life."

I always wonder how they know how big my love is.

People who decide not to be parents hear this a lot. (And actually, there are increasing numbers of us Childfree folks.) I've been questioned and cajoled and told that I'll change my mind. There seems to be this assumption that I've not quite thought this through, but the questions posed are always ones that I've asked myself a hundred times. I've never met a Childfree person who has come to the decision haphazardly.

Sometimes when people decide to say what they really think, they call me selfish and say I'm not really a woman. I'm still confused about why anyone cares if my husband and I have kids or not, but it sure seems like a bunch of them do.

I like kids. Even the ones who stand with hands on hips and call me boring and sad.

But in my 37 years of life, and 10 years of marriage, I've never once felt the ticking-clock twinge of wanting my own children. (And believe me, I've held babies and smelled their powdery heads, trying desperately to kickstart it, because I felt like I was defective.) But there isn't anything wrong with me. It's just not my thing. I'm also not interested in having a boat. I like boats. I'm sure it's super fun to have a boat. I'm happy for other people who enjoy their boats. I just don't feel the need to have my own.

And yes, I am aware that children are not boats - they are even better than boats and having a child brings much to one's life. I know it changes everything and brings buckets of joy and does all sorts of other things that I will never understand. I believe all of that. I've seen it in action.

But raising children is an incredibly important job and it just doesn’t make sense to hand it to someone like me who doesn’t want it. If I were half as interested in having a child as I am in volunteering at an animal shelter, I would do it. It’s like choosing a President who is fonder of ceramics than politics. Who is that good for?

If you choose to grow and learn and leave your legacy by having a kid – I think that's awesome. And while you do that, I'll work on improving the world that kid will eventually inherit. That just seems like good tag team long-term planning. It's easy to imagine that childfree folks spend their entire lives thinking only of themselves, sleeping in late and getting drunk at brunch. But I promise that I'm doing my part to contribute to the world, just in a different way than parents. (I'll skip the part where I list all the important, non-selfish things I do - it'll make me sound boastful and more than a little defensive.)

But the real reason I'm writing about this is because it's indicative of an issue I keep seeing everywhere, something that causes a lot of suffering. I know moms who work outside the home and moms who don't. Both have been bashed and abused for that decision. I know homeschoolers and Montessori lovers and public school parents - all of whom feel they have to defend their decisions. And the judgement doesn't stop with parenting issues. I know painters and sales people and jazz singers and almost all of them feel like they need to justify what they do with their lives, because someone is always waiting in the wings to tell them they are doing the wrong thing.

There are so many critics out there and we tend to internalize the disapproval and feel like we are constantly failing. Why does it matter that my husband and I don't have kids? It doesn't. It's not really that interesting, but people keep asking about it so I'm happy to discuss it.

Why does it matter what personal decisions any of us make for ourselves? I wonder what the world would be like if we assumed that everyone was doing their best. What if people made different decisions and we didn't see that as a threat to the validity of our own choices? What if we kept our eyes on our own papers - our own lives and families - and stopped bashing our neighbor for not buying organic? Things would be incredibly dull if we were all the same. What if we celebrated the fact that life is not homogenous and realized that  everyone is doing what they needed to do to wade through this challenging world?

Because when it comes down to it, if you're spending your time criticizing someone else's personal choices, it just makes you seem insecure about your own life.

As for me, I like being able to act as designated driver for the Girl’s Nights when my mommy friends can let loose. It seems that my “alternative lifestyle” has its perks for all, but most importantly, I get to live my life authentically -- even if it's hard to explain that to a deeply offended nine-year-old.

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