Free meditations for you -- from my closet

 Insight Timer Meditation

Insight Timer Meditation

Hey lovely people, 

I am beyond thrilled about this. I have teamed up with the Insight Timer app to offer you guided meditations - all for free! Just download the app, and search for my name, or listen online.

There is one beginner-friendly mediation on there now, with more to come. I really do record these in my closet, and I am so grateful that I now have a platform that is free and widely available. 

I am so passionate about meditation as a tool for anxiety and depression. It has been such a game-changer for me. I know there are many misconceptions about what meditation is, and everyone tends to think that their brain is just too busy to meditate. But everyone's brain is busy. That's the job of the brain. Learning to use your breath and awareness of your thoughts can be the key to finding a little bit of stillness in the middle of the chaos.

It is absolutely hard work. And it's absolutely worth it. 

wishing you peace,

~Lisa 

PS. Want to kick your meditation up a notch? Join me on a retreat!


Can you make art during a crisis?

     Art by susanmcculley.com

 

Art by susanmcculley.com

One of my favorite moments of television happened on a 2006 episode of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations. It was supposed to be a travel show about the food and culture of Beirut, but Tony and his crew found themselves in the middle of a violent conflict. They watched the airport get blown up from their hotel room, and saw whole neighborhoods get blasted.

They were trapped there for a week before being transported out. And there is this scene, where in the middle of the tension and chaos and fear - Tony walks into the kitchen of the hotel, and he cooks. For a moment, he loses himself in the chopping and stirring, the creation of something to share with others.

That moment brought me to tears.

Tony cooked because cooking was his art.*

That's how he shared his love and passion.

That's the creative lens through which he translated the world.

We are in crisis right now. In a million different ways, this country is in crisis. I feel it in the pit of my stomach, and it's breaking my heart. I wonder, why make art? Why write? Why create anything when things feel this uncertain, when so many people are suffering? What is the point of creating in crisis? I stare at the walls and leave my projects untouched as I sit with my fear and pain and anger in my own little internal Beirut.

But as I think back to that episode, Tony Bourdain answered my question for me. We create  - we cook or write poetry or cross-stitch - because we are human. Because we've been doing this since the beginning of time. Because we made cave paintings before we bothered to figure out farming techniques because art was more important than eating regularly.  Because art connects the discordant, makes sense of the senseless, and gives voice to the unspeakable.

Creating something - anything - that makes you feel alive is imperative, especially in times that feel stressful or uncertain. Whether that stress is on a national level, or a personal one. So, if you paint, please, I beg of you, paint. If you sing or quilt or take photographs of the insects in your backyard, please go do it. Please make all the things, and then - here's the important part - share them with the world. Don't keep your creations to yourself because your ego is saying that's not really art, or that someone else already did it better. Get brave and get it out there, so we can experience beauty and stay in touch with our humanity.

We really need that.

In later interviews, Tony said that the experience in Beirut "changed everything." When he and his crew came home, they kept thinking, What's important? They made changes, both to the show, and to their lives. Tony's Instagram from less than two weeks before his death reads - "An eventful week. On the battlefield and off. Making art . Every motherfucking day."

So that's what I'll do. Life may feel like a battlefield. But I'll be here.

Making art.

Every motherfucking day.

——–

*I originally wrote about Tony in present tense, and it really sucks to change that. 

——–

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We'll never be royals: Princess Diana tried to set me up on my first date

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In case you are still in the midst of Royal Fever from Harry and Meghan's wedding - here's the story of when Princess Diana tried to set me up with her son. (This is an excerpt from my memoir You Look Like That Girl: A child actor stops pretending and finally grows up)

Some people must enjoy attending fancy movie premieres, maybe the same kind of people who get excited about getting an invitation to parties at roller rinks or backyard barbeques or anniversary celebrations. Because premieres are much like those regular parties, except add another 700 people, paparazzi, forced ass-kissing motivated by a deep-seated fear that you will never work again, and small, low-carb food served on toothpicks, as required by scrawny Hollywood actresses to keep them that way.

However, my first premier (for the film Rambling Rose) set the standard pretty high. It was a royal premiere in London, which meant the guest list included Princess Diana. When you are being introduced to royalty there is serious protocol because Brits are not known for screwing around when it comes to tradition. There were many rules to adhere to; when I met the princess, I could not speak until spoken to and when I did dare to open my mouth, I needed to say, “Your Royal Highness.” This level of formality felt completely awkward; my instinct would have been to give the princess a hug, offer her a piece of gum, and show her a picture of my dog.

I traveled with my entourage, which for me, consisted of my mother, father, and grandmother. For my Canadian grandmother, attending a royal premiere was akin to having brunch with Jesus. There was no way she was going to miss that.

As soon as we arrived in London, I met with a woman whose actual job it was teaching me how to curtsey properly. My curtsey teacher came to our hotel room, and it scared me a little to let her in. She looked like a cartoon someone had drawn of what a British curtsey teacher should look like. Her entire being was lithe and severe and her hair was pulled back so tightly that it made you wince just to look at it. After a brief history lesson about the curtsey, we practiced the move itself. I was something of a disappointment to her, as my curtsey looked more like I was suddenly tripping over something. She smiled a tight British smile and patiently requested I try again. She seemed convinced that I was about to massacre the ritual in front of her princess, which would inevitably cause the crumbling of the British Empire and everything it stood for. When she had done her best, she patted my shoulder a little too hard and said she was sure it would be fine—but please would I mind terribly spending another hour or so practicing in front of the bathroom mirror?

The whole thing was incredibly intimidating. I worried about what to say to Princess Diana. British weather seemed to be a terrible topic of conversation. Would I have enough time for a real heart-to-heart exchange? Should I tell her she looked beautiful or was that like telling Mount Everest it looked big?

Right before the main event, the actors, director, and producers of the film gathered together to watch an instructional video on how to properly meet and greet the princess. We crammed around the television in the producer’s hotel room. I brought a notebook. The air was thick with nerves and everyone else seemed to be hoping that the video would answer some questions for them, as well. We all sat around looking tense, the ladies smoothing hems and straightening pantyhose, the men buttoning and unbuttoning tuxedo jackets.

I poised my pen and paper as the video started; Rowan Atkinson came on screen as Mr. Bean. It was a spoof in which he was spit-polishing his shoes and making a fool out of himself as he waited for his royal introduction. The video ended with him head-butting the Queen of England. I laughed, but it was the kind of laugh where I was simultaneously looking around, hopeful that the real video was about to start because the issue remained that I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. Seriously? This was the “educational video”? The little skit was supposed to help everyone relax, but all it did was encourage me to scribble in my notebook - "No head-butting."

There was no time for questions as my family and I were ushered into a limo that took us to the theater. When we arrived in front of the marquee, my heart froze. The street outside the theater was teeming with hundreds of people. It might have been thousands. When I panic, I hyperventilate, which often leads to blackouts. That had the potential to result in an unintentional royal headbutt, so clearly it needed to stop.

“That’s...that’s a lot of people.”

Mom waved her hands dismissively at the crowd outside the tinted limo window.

“They’re waiting for the bus. Look, there’s the stop right there.”

She was right. There was a stop right outside the theater.

“It’s London. Everyone takes advantage of public transportation here. It’s very smart. Environmentally responsible, too.”

I was about to inquire as to why people would be waiting for the bus by crouching on top of the bus shelter with a long-lens camera, but my dad and Grandma beamed at me from the other side of the limo. “They’re just waiting for the bus,” they agreed. There was a lot of nodding. It seemed best to believe them.

My family took their seats in the theater and left me to join the other people from the film in the reception line. I waited for the princess’s arrival, between Lucas Haas, who played my older brother in the film, and Jane Robinson, the costume director. I was wearing itchy tights and a horrendous black, flowery Laura Ashley dress with a wide, floppy lace collar that seemed quite sophisticated to my pre-teen sensibilities. The tights had been a last-minute purchase from a Marks & Spencer in London. I had forgotten to bring tights and my grandmother gasped at the thought of me meeting a princess with uncovered legs. My itchy British tights crushed my waist and made me even more uncomfortable. The princess took a long time to arrive but she was a princess, so no one said anything.

The dark, rainy London night suddenly turned to daylight with all the flashbulbs and the air filled with the excited yelling of paparazzi. Moments later, Princess Diana stepped into the lobby of the theater and looked just as spectacular as you would expect. As she made her way down the line, being introduced to the representatives of the film, I tried to practice the curtsey in my mind. I slipped my foot behind my ankle a few times to make sure I could still move it.

She chatted a bit with each person she met. It very much resembled a wedding reception line, except Princess Diana was both bride and groom and was more stunning than both put together. When she was presented to the person just before me, I started to freak out again. Do I look at her now? Or is that eavesdropping? Do I stare straight ahead? Do I look at my shoes and feign surprise when she gets to me? “Oh! Hello there!” As if there was some other reason I had flown to another continent and was wearing itchy tights?

Before I was able to work out an answer, suddenly, Princess Diana was standing in front of me, reaching out her hand. I took it and curtsied, losing my balance a little and wobbling to the side. She smiled kindly and supported me with her other hand.

Strike one. I was specifically told to not steady myself on the princess, as if she were some sort of bejeweled kickstand. But I was a clumsy twelve-year-old who tripped a lot in normal situations; this fumble was inevitable.

The official presentation was made by some sort of royal aid with a booming voice, “Lisa Jakub, an actress in the film.”

“Hello Lisa, it’s very nice to meet you.” Her words were effortless and felt like sunshine.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Your Royal Highness.”

Okay, I got through that part. That was the line I had planned. Now we were freestyling. It seems an easy thing, to have a conversation and respond like a human being to another human being, but when there are several cameras in your face and you’re holding the hand of a princess, it’s not so simple.

“You look so pretty!” she remarked. I blushed and looked at my feet, then remembered that you are supposed to keep eye contact. I looked back up and stared blankly. Saying, “Thank you,” seemed like I was accepting the premise that I was pretty, which is hard to do under regular circumstances, let alone while standing next to Princess Diana. Saying, “You look pretty, too,” seemed trite, as if I hadn’t thought she looked pretty until she thought I did. I fished around in my brain for something else to say.

Nope. Nothing.

“I hear you did a lovely job in the film.” She kindly made up for my lack of words.

“Thank you, Your Royal Highness.”

“I have a son that is just about your age; his name is William. I’m sure he would love to meet you.”

Was Princess Diana is trying to set me up with her son? Now, this would be a hell of a first date for me.

“Oh. Yes. Okay. That sounds fun.”

“Well, it’s settled then, we will have to do that sometime.” She beamed more sunshine at me.

Again, I was stymied. How was that going to work? I almost said, “Should I just stop by the palace one day, or...?” I went with, “Thank you, your Royal Highness,” because I had already said that successfully and was fairly confident that my mouth could make those same sounds again.

She gave me a final, sweet smile and moved on down the line to greet the rest of the people from the film. I just stood there looking forward. We had all flown to Europe for those twenty seconds and now they were done. Had I done a good job? It was a surprisingly intimate public moment that no one could grade me on. I was surrounded by crowds of people and cameras but I suddenly felt very alone. People to my left and right were worried about their own performances, my mom hadn’t been there, nor my curtsey teacher or anyone else that I could count on for an honest critique of my behavior. If I had another take I could have done it better, been more charming and articulate. I could have done that curtsey better and would have said something funny so that I could have heard her laugh. But, for better or worse, life didn’t just write “Take 2” on the slate, offering another chance to be perfect in that moment. There was no choice but to be content with what had happened, even if I felt the pressure to have made it worthwhile. So, I exhaled and tried to wiggle my toes within my stiff, shiny black shoes and wondered how we were going to work out this whole William thing.

After surviving the receiving line, we all made our way into the theater and watched the film. I was a few seats down from Diana and kept stealing glances to see if she liked it. She laughed and cried in the appropriate places and seemed to enjoy herself. She was indescribably beautiful, lit by the flickering screen. It’s hard to understand the full impact of meeting someone like that at age twelve, but I at least understood that I was in the presence of someone who radiated goodness. It had nothing to do with her status. It had to do with the fact that she was kind and she gave me a loving smile when she had to support my curtsey. She had seen my nervousness and had tried to comfort me, mother me. Her title was meaningless. She was simply a kind person.

And I’ve decided to forgive William for going a different way with his choice of wife. Even though Kate might not have been his mother’s first choice.

Six years later, I was in a limo coming home from the airport when I heard about Princess Diana’s death. I had just finished a shoot and they always send limos for that sort of thing because it’s supposed to be impressive and they want to make you feel like you are more important that you really are. I’m always uncomfortable and usually carsick in limos but this was a different kind of awful. The horrible news came on the radio and the driver turned it up for us. My parents and I were all in the backseat and I started shaking. It took a while for the tears to come; my tear ducts were shocked shut.

I stared out the window of the limo and thought of her staring out the window of her limo. She was gentle and had held my hand longer than necessary. She loved her boys. Now, the paparazzi, who had been stoked and encouraged by what I did for a living, were gaining strength like a well-fed dragon. They had chased her. Hunted her. And now she was dead. This job of mine had put me in this unique position to meet this spectacular person, but, I wondered, at what price? My body had been turned inside out and my lungs were too small. I heard my mother whisper to my dad, “Put your arm around her.” He did.

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

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Last chance to apply for Veteran's retreat in Texas!

For the last several years, I've been working with Expedition Balance - a Veteran's non-profit. (Those who have read my book Not Just Me will recognize them from chapter 8!) There is still some space available in this year's retreat. We'll leave from Houston on April 19th and drive a few hours to a ranch in central Texas.

What will we do there? We'll ride horses, hike, stay in a luxurious lodge for three nights, learn about nutrition & meditation, attend gentle yoga classes, and eat great food. I'll be teaching two classes - one on therapeutic writing and one on yoga. (No experience is necessary!) The transportation will be covered, you just need to get to Houston.

And it doesn't cost a dime for Veterans. It just requires effort and intention.

Time to apply is running out, so if you are interested, get your application in now! Applications available here

Let me know if you have any questions - if you are a Vet, and you're ready to connect with other Vets and have a whole lot of fun, I'd love to see you in Texas!

 

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.

10 Days Later: thoughts on Charlottesville, from Charlottesville

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Many of you know that I live in Charlottesville, VA, and I was there at the recent counter-protest. It's the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night. So I wanted to make this video and tell you a bit about my personal experience there, and what it all means to me.

For those of us who live in Charlottesville and who were part of the resistance, this doesn’t go away when the news cycle moves on.

A girlfriend of mine was punched in the face by a white supremacist. Another friend was right next to the car that drove into the crowd and is now struggling with PTSD. I am fundamentally changed by this, but that’s a good thing. I hope you’ll be fundamentally changed with me.

And PS, I’m pretty proud that I got through this video and only cried once.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovoCvBtEOMk?rel=0]

Links:

Vice News Documentary - Charlottesville: Race and Terror

Donate to the NAACP Charlottesville

Donate to Southern Poverty Law Center

Help the victims of violence by donating to Unity C-ville's GoFundMe page

Common Ground, a pay-what-you-can non-profit organization is raising money via C'ville Wellness GoFundMe page to help cover healing services (yoga, massage, acupuncture) for those who were traumatized.

Resistbot-contact your representatives and send them letters via text (for those of us who despise making phone calls!)

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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Speaking event in Northern Virginia!

Hey Northern Virginia/DC people! I'll be doing a public event tomorrow night and I'd love to see you there!

May 10th, 7 pm to 9 pm in Clifton, VA. And I heard there might even be wine...

The talk will be about the things that most of us are afraid to talk about - anxiety and depression. I'll share my experiences with those issues and the ways that they have impacted my life. I'll talk about my time working as an actor, and the decisions that led to leaving my career to find something that felt more authentic. We'll look at the causes of anxiety, the latest research on what helps those of us who struggle and we'll laugh a lot --because if we can't laugh at our anxiety, we really are screwed.

We'll have plenty of time for Q&A and I'll have my memoir You Look Like That Girl for purchase and signing.

Please purchase tickets through this link - I'll see you there!

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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"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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