Friday, October 20, 2017

3 Things I learned in my thirties

I'm officially grown. I'm 33 and 3/4 years old. I have a toddler, a mortgage and a Volkswagen. I'm sure you know that with age comes wisdom (that I will probably laugh at 5 years from now) and I must admit that I feel significantly more wise than I did at 29. Maybe I'm finally old enough to have perspective or maybe becoming a mother forced me to be less neurotic, but I'm comfortable in my own skin for the first time and it feels GOOD. I'm a little more grounded and much less reactive. I know how to set boundaries and I experience profound joy every single day (thanks Baby Drew). As I inch ever closer to 40, I've learned a thing or two or three: 

1) It's not that big of a deal. Three years from now this problem or decision or phase that you are agonizing over will show up in your TimeHop and just be a cute memory. Three years goes by in the blink of an eye so even if you ARE dating the wrong guy, living in the wrong city, or attending the wrong college, I gotta break it to you... It's not that big of a deal. Right now you can't comprehend that but give it some time. With the exception of a VERY few life-altering moments, nothing is as crucial as we imagine it to be, or permanent or even that big of a deal. 

2) No one is making you do anything. Unless you've been kidnapped and imprisoned a la Kimmy Schmidt, no one is forcing you to do anything. No one is "making you" feel some type of way. Not your boss. Not your girlfriends from high school. Not the MTA. Not even Donald F'ing Trump. Anything you do - whether it fills you with joy or misery - was your choice. Anything you feel - though slightly harder to control - is the way you choose to react. If your commute is a source of daily bitching, ask to work from home, quit your job, or move. If a group of girls you see once a month for old time's sake bums you the fuck out or annoys you or is just one more thing you "have to do" I have a novel idea for you: Stop hanging out with them. No one is making you. And no one is going to cry. They'll talk shit about you for one happy hour and then forget you ever existed, until you appear in their TimeHop that is... And then they'll G-chat shit about you for that ONE day but you'll be free of them forever. And if someone makes your blood boil and you absolutely cannot avoid this person, you must detach. Do not let them steal your peace. Reframe the experience and understand that you do not need to react to them. This is where the serenity prayer really hits the nail on the head, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." The sooner you realize that only YOU own your choices - all of them - the sooner you'll stop wasting time suffering unnecessarily just by giving up your agency.

3) Being a Woman is hard. I'm sure being a man is hard too. I've never been a man though, so I can only comment on being a woman. I used to believe that my gender didn't matter. That people would always judge me solely by my brains, my work ethic, and my expertise. I didn't really "get" feminism. Surprise, surprise, motherhood changed all that. I'm no longer a genderless over-achiever carving out my corner of the universe. I am very much, a woman. I carried a baby in my belly on a crowded subway train. I delivered said baby and navigated maternity leave. I pumped in a janitor's closet for 13 months. I rush home many days of the week to pick up my son from daycare and I do not feel guilty about it because it is my choice (MY choice) but I would be lying if I didn't say it was hard. And I don't think anything is hard. I'm "driven" to the point of masochism and something being "hard" has never deterred me from doing it. But being a professional woman over the age of 30 and most particularly a mom, is hard. Men and working male parents do not have to make all the hard choices we do. Men do not have the same expectations placed on them when it comes to home life. And men still run shit, almost everywhere. Being a mother is the most beautiful experience and I can't imagine anything in the world comparing to it, but it is just plain hard. I acknowledge how hard it is and congratulate myself on a daily basis. I also congratulate other moms because I don't need to know them personally to know how bad ass they are. And women who are CEO's, startup founders, and homeowners - my hat goes way off to you too. Because it is not easy getting respected and promoted or funded as a woman.  And it is not easy to make and save and invest money as a woman. Women everywhere are STILL fighting for fundamental rights while being violated and legislated against, and it is hard! We are doing it, but it's hard.

And I guess #4 kind to yourself. Give yourself credit because you are doing great. Tell yourself kind things everyday because you deserve it. Take exquisite, loving care of yourself. Make an effort to de-stress daily because that shit will kill you. And for those of you still in your 20's, don't worry. It doesn't really all go down hill after 30. In fact, I feel like I've finally cleared away all the bullshit and am just NOW ready to get started.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why do anything?

Why do anything?

Why do anything, when there's so many things that could be unacceptable about what you do?

It could be lame. In fact, people could form Facebook groups and twitter handles just to talk about how lame it is.

It could be unoriginal. Actually, it almost definitely will be. All the good ideas are taken, didn't you know? Ask your peers. They'll tell you. "Oh nice idea. But that's been done before. I think it actually just got funded. $3.2 million. Venture backed. But good luck with that."

It could be a waste of time. Starting something new always is. Think of how quickly you can do nothing and how much longer it takes to do something. 100% longer. Unquestionably a waste of time.

It could be ballsy.  Which is even worse than being lame. Instead of forming Facebook groups and twitter handles to talk about how lame it is, they'll form them to talk about how ballsy you are. Except for they won't use the word "ballsy". No, they won't be that kind.

It could be a flop. A big fat flop. And when that happens, the Facebook groups and Twitter handles will be deserted. And all that's left will be behind-the-back whispers. "Did you hear about so and so's thingamajig? Epic Fail. Hashtag #epicfail."

But maybe, just maybe...

It will help. Not just you, but others.

It will be bold. Ballsy is in the eye of the beholder.

It will be unique. Maybe not the first of its kind, but worthy of its unique existence.

It will succeed. Not right away (see above re: waste of time). And maybe not the first time you try (see above re: flop).

And maybe not everyone will approve (see above re: chat rooms).

But if you allow the "coulds" to have that much power, than why do anything?

Why do anything?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Widening the Circle of "Us"

A few weeks ago I was at a party in New Orleans in what you might call a newly gentrified neighborhood; or to avoid euphemisms, an area of town that used to be all black but now some white folks have moved into. The crowd ranged from Morgan Stanley employees in seersucker to the local homeless man in a wheelchair that gets dragged around by his huge fluffy mutt to a guy with the most elaborate grill I'd seen since the time Lil' Jon hosted a New Year's Eve party that my company ran. There was a crawfish boil on the front lawn, a pig roast in the backyard, Juvenile and "the Wobble" being blasted on the stereo, and a ginormous tupperware full of potent punch sitting on the floor in the kitchen of the host's unlocked home. There were small children and pets, couples and eager singles, faces of every color and age, though the bulk of us were in our late 20's to early 40's. We laughed, drank, ate and drank some more together until the sun went down.

Around sunset I found myself having a loud, light-hearted conversation with two older black men in the front yard. We weren't alone - far from it- but the large group in which we were previously encircled had drifted away to lawn chairs and smoke breaks, leaving the three of us to continue our chat which, in typical of drunken party fashion, had skipped around from one innocuous topic to the next. Then suddenly one of them turned to me, looked me in the eye and said, "I know you're not from 'round here. Where are you from?". "No, I'm not actually...I'm from Maryland but lived in NYC the last 12 years. What gave it away? My Yankee accent?" "No," one of the men said, "the fact that you're standing out here talking to two black men even though your husband and all your white friends went inside."

I felt a hardening inside of me and my legs became heavy. Whoa. At first I protested. Surely my lack of outright racism towards these two men could not be that shocking. These two men with whom I have mutual friends, with whom I had already shared an hour of personal anecdotes, who I knew had wives and children and belly laughs and warm smiles and even a genuine interest in yoga. Could it really be that shocking that I hadn't needed my husband's protection or the shield of a few more white faces to feel comfortable talking to them? They weren't a them...not like strangers walking down a dark alley...they were an us! Weren't they?

But deep down inside of me, I knew that it was actually that shocking. Especially so in the deep south where I was gradually learning that the line between "us" and "them" was far deeper than I had experienced previously in my life. I knew it when a good friend and fellow Columbia graduate who happened to be African-American decided to go back to NYC after grad school at Tulane so he and his white fiancee wouldn't have to deal with the stares and whispers. I knew it when local public school teachers told me about their student populations and when local parents admonished me, "you CANNOT send your kids to public school down here." And I felt it palpably when speaking with these two men.

And yet this is not a problem specific to New Orleans, the deep south, or even the United States. The goings on in Ferguson, in Gaza, and in every city around the world are symptoms of the same disease: Us versus Them. When someone - or worse - an entire population of someones becomes a "them" for you, they immediately lose their humanity. We can gossip about and bully the kids at the other lunch table at school because they're not in our clique. We can kill civilians in other countries because they are the enemy. And white cops can shoot unarmed black men in broad daylight. Why? Because they're not one of Us.

I know this is oversimplifying a broad, complex, deep-seated, historical issue but in order to begin addressing this problem at its origin- our hearts- the solution is actually quite clear. Widen your circle of Us. Don't fool yourself that it's ok to separate and persecute some groups - the immigrants, the Republicans, people who like country music- no matter how minuscule or petty it may seem. You may claim that you're not a racist but if your circle of Us doesn't include all beings everywhere without exception, then you've still got work to do. Maybe you judge the poor. The obese. People who grew up in trailer parks. We all have this judgement inside of us - I know I do. Be honest with yourself and from that place of brutal honesty, begin your work.

There is a form of meditation known as Metta, or Loving Kindness meditation that is needed so intensely and on the largest possible scale in our world today. The premise is simple: you start by cultivating feelings of love and compassion for yourself, then someone you love, then someone you feel neutral about, then to someone you find difficult or have a beef with, then all of these 4 people equally, and then to the entire population of the world without exception. Recently I've been attempting to apply this meditative technique in a more immediate sense: that kid I just saw on the street who made me cross to the other side? May he be safe. May he be happy. May he be healthy. May he leave with ease. The person whose Facebook status made me really pissed off or jealous or judgey? May she be safe. May she be healthy. May she be happy. May she live with ease. The governments that are mongering war and even the cops who are senselessly shooting unarmed youths in the street? Even them. May they be safe, healthy, happy and free and may the powerful, connection-creating, union-promoting power of Us triumph over the evil, divisiveness of Us versus Them. I repeat these things in my head until the thoughts of separatism and hatred and Them-ness start to dissipate. I pray that I can cleanse my mind, my heart and my soul of these feelings of otherness towards my fellow human beings, gradually, and with repeated effort.

As children, we are taught that we are different- that we are special. We're this race, that nationality. We live in this neighborhood and have that much money. We are taught this outwardly and silently by our parents, our school systems, and by society at large. Us versus Them is not something any of us can avoid. Even though I was raised in an open-minded family in the North and attended only public school, I was not immune to it. The only way to combat this ingrained mentality is through constant reinforcement of loving kindness. Breaking down the dividing walls around our hearts and inviting in those we love, those we feel neutral about, those we hate, judge, or fear, and then all beings everywhere in- without exception. By unlearning and relearning how we classify others. By attempting, no, by DARING not to classify other individuals at all.

If the world is weighing heavy on your heart as of late, don't despair. Don't become complacent or lose your faith in humanity. Sometimes bad things have to happen to wake us up out of our fogs of blissful ignorance. Sometimes these things are small, like a candid comment at a crawfish boil and sometimes they are huge, seismic, societal shifts. They involve violence, and rioting, and the loss of innocent lives.  These events are only horrific and senseless if they don't encourage us to change. Start with yourself, which is truly, the only place you can start.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Easy ways to eat for two, while there's still just one

First off, NO, I'm not pregnant. I'm not even really "trying" (nor do I have a complete understanding of what "trying" means), I'm just not not-trying...if you know what I mean...

Second off, I am not a health professional. Yes, I am studying to be a Health Coach  but for now, this is just friendly, safe, and easy to implement advice from one baby-seeking lady to another, cool? This advice is especially helpful for those of you who don't eat animal products and though I DO recommend a bit of dairy, the other recs are 100% vegan friendly. 

Like many women, I have been very cautious about food my entire life. To put it more bluntly, I've had disordered eating - acutely so or vaguely so- since I was about 5 years old. Yes, I vividly recall watching everyone else eat donuts at swim team  while I stood there looking down at my beefy little thighs in my one piece bathing suit. I did not eat them. Claimed I didn't like them. It was already starting...but I digress. For years, what I put into my mouth was all about ME. How much thinner I felt I needed to be. What size dress I needed my body to fit into. How much I deserved to take in, based on how much I had exercised that week. As a teenager I tried starvation and purging. As a young adult the "all protein" plan followed by 7 years of Veganism (which of course, has as much to do with my own karma as it did my physical body).

Then I got a bit older, got married, and started to get the baby itch. Alright female parts, let's do the damn thing. It's that simple right? Well as many of you know- probably far better than I - is that it actually AIN'T just that simple. After years of dieting and restrictive eating and taking birth control pills and maybe even just plain old getting older, we find ourselves unable to procreate with the ease that we hoped we might be able to. 

Recently I've been sweeping the dust out from under the rug of my life and preparing to prepare to have a baby has become a big part of that process. I've learned a lot, primarily from two Ayurvedic doctors - Dr. Pratima Raichur who is based in NYC and Bart Staub, who practices at Kripalu, The Jiva Institute in Vrindavan and privately from his home in PA. I also read Ayurveda for Women, a great book by Dr. Robert Svoboda and a host of other articles that these resources referred me to.

The most striking thing I learned from Bart, with whom I consulted during my retreat to India, is a little twist on the common adage, "you are what you eat." Actually lady friends, we are what we ATE about 3-6 months ago. Yes, what you are eating today will be the food-stuffs that make up the you and potentially the little you that exists 3-6 months from now. So you wanna get pregnant and you're serious about changing your lifestyle to hopefully do so naturally? Well don't wait til you're knocked up to kick the caffeine and the pot smoking. Do it now. Change your eating habits now. Let yourself maybe even get a little fatter (if that's the weight where your body wants to be) NOW so that you are turning your body into an optimally hospitable environment for a baby to grow and thrive. 

I've had great convos lately - even one with an absolute stranger in Whole Foods - about what I've learned and am applying into my own life, and was encouraged to share that info here. I hope that adding these very simple, vegetarian-friendly foods into our diets will allow us to not only procreate successfully and without medical intervention, but to also view our bodies in a new light. Not as masses of flesh that must be whittled and tanned and toned with an almost constant vigilance, but as living breathing organisms that not only support our only life, but potentially that of another. Here's what I'm eatin' - and not eatin' - to tune up my baby-making machine!

1) Brazil Nuts - just one big ole nut has 100% of the daily recommended value (DRV) of selenium which is primarily found in fatty fishes and liver. If you're a veg, you're probably missing out on this micronutrient which can help prevent miscarriage (and increases sperm count!). 

2) Black Strap Molasses - contains MAD amounts of Iron. Many women have Iron deficiencies, especially those of us who don't eat meat. It's better absorbed via food than via pill and this one is so easy! Swap the honey in your smoothie out for some molasses or use it to make a vinaigrette.

3) Raw sprouted pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds - As opposed to nuts, these little power houses (RAW, specifically) contain Zinc, which regulates the production of estrogen and progesterone. Zinc is also found in yummy things like venison and liver, so unless you're a gamey-organ-meat some seeds, sprinkle em on your salad or into your yogurt (yes, dairy yogurt) and do your body good.

4) Full Fat Dairy... Yes, I said it. And yes, I was vegan for a full 7 years. But now, let's take a little trip into TMI cycle has always been VERY, highly, erratically irregular. Or should I say always, since I went vegan. Both of my Ayurvedic doctors as well as my gynecologist told me this may be due to a lack of saturated fat. Bart informed me that babies are pretty much made of saturated fat and our bodies know the difference between plant and animal fat, and thus process them differently. Babies unfortunately are not made on avocado alone... So you know what? I'm serious about getting pregnant. Serious enough to start eating dairy again. If you can get raw dairy great. If not - organic, local, mindfully collected dairy. If you still don't feel comfortable eating dairy for moral reasons, I 100% understand and support that. Or if you're a vegan with fully regular periods (the most reliable marker of reproductive health) then you can probably disregard this. However, I've spoken to DOZENS of women lately - mostly those who are fit, thin and either vegan or on some form of restrictive low-fat diet- who have very irregular periods. That is not a good place to be starting from if you want to make a baby. And keep in mind that by incorporating dairy into your diet, you are supporting not only the health of your own reproductive organs but the development of another life. If you aren't getting your period regularly, something is off. If eating dairy might fix that, I am willing to give it a try and you might be too, so I'm just putting it out there. On a similar note...

5) Eggs. If you truly believe that you are what you eat, and you're trying to grow a fertilized egg inside you...this one is a no-brainer. Organic, cage-free ideally locally farmed eggs have EVERYTHING (almost) you need to produce a baby: Iron, Vitamin D, Omega 3 Fats, and B12. It was weird eating eggs at first, but I get them from my local Farmer's Market and I actually feel really good about it now. 

6) Dark Leafy Greens - duh. Everyone needs these, specifically for Vitamins E, C and B6. Also to keep the body alkaline. Next!

7) Lentils, Black Beans & Navy Beans - If you're vegan/vegetarian, you probably already eat mad beans but specifically hone in on all 3 of these which have Folic Acid. This is of the most important pregnancy micronutrients and is usually taken in supplement form. Make sure to buy your beans organic and dry, soak them for at least 8 hours and then cook them. Canned beans just aren't the same. It sounds complicated but it's really not. I have little "science experiments" of soaking beans & grains and sprouting things in my fridge at all times. Keeps life exciting. 

8) Cooked Grains. Enough with the carb watching! Ayurveda recommends "building" foods when you're trying to get pregnant. Soaked, cooked grains such as quinoa, amaranth, kasha and brown rice are excellent for helping you absorb all the nutrients you're consuming from all the above food. Straight up raw diets work for some people but for me - and many others - it causes your food to pass right on through you- nutrients and all.  Read up on if you need to soak, or not, and how long to soak & cook for. Get the organic, non-GMO kinds and good-carb it up ladies. For your babies sake if not your own!

9) Pero - a non-acidic coffee substitute (if you're a coffee drinker that is)- The good news is it looks, smells, and kinda tastes like coffee. The bad (and good news) is, it contains no caffeine. I love my caffeine as much as the next (former) New Yorker, but drinking caffeine during pregnancy is considered a no-no. And unfortunately, quitting the day you get that little plus sign from Clear, Blue, Easy may not be enough. Wean yourself off now with a non-acidic substitute like Pero, Teecino or herbal tea so you're not going through withdrawal along with your morning sickness. Not only is caffeine a diuretic, it's also HIGHLY acidic. Acidity during pregnancy, and life in general, just ain't good. I'm still only 2 weeks into the no coffee thing and am weaning myself slowly off of caffeinated tea. It hurts so good. 

10) Raw, Soaked nuts. If they're cooked, many of the nutrients have been destroyed. If they're not soaked, you may have difficulty digesting and thus absorbing the nutrients. So even though I love me a crunchy roasted wasabi coated almond, the best thing to do is buy organic raw nuts (I do it in bulk from Amazon Prime), soak the nuts overnight, drain and rinse them before consuming them. Walnuts are the best for Omega 3s and Almonds are the best for Vitamin E (not forgetting about your raw seeds, which don't need to be soaked). 

11) More fat in general. Good fats of course, but most of us women are way too restrictive when it comes to the amount of fat we eat. Low-fat diets and low body fat in general is linked to not only missed periods, but the complete stopping of ovulation. No ovulation = no baby. I for one, would rather have an extra inch of jiggle in my lululemons then never have a baby of my own to jiggle in my arms. Blasphemous, I know! 

12) A great prenatal whole-food vitamin/supplement. Even with all the above, there are certain key nutrients you may miss out on, specifically CoQ10 which is only found in marrow and other organ meats (sorry, but would not could not Sam I Am). I am taking Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal by Garden of Life but there are plenty others out there. 

13) ORGANIC!!!! I cannot stress this enough. If you aren't willing to shell out the extra cash for yourself, do it for your baby. The food industry is F'ed. Shoot, you might be drinking rat with your Two Buck Chuck for all we know so be mindful. Naturally grown Farmer's Market type fare is great. Referring to the "Dirty Dozen Plus & Clean Fifteen" list for certain non-organic fruits and veggies is acceptable. Factory farmed chemical and pesticide laden hormone riddled foods are not. I didn't mention meat because I don't eat it myself but if you do, do grass fed. And naturally caught fish. Check for the non-GMO certified labels on errything. Don't eat stuff that masquerades as healthy and actually contains poison!

So far I am one month into my pro-fertility diet, and it feels really good. I go the store with one purpose in mind: getting all the micro and macro nutrients I need to support the health of my body and my future baby. I don't think about calories. I don't think about fat. I don't think about my waist line, other than it hopefully getting much bigger very soon.

The female body is an amazing thing. Pregnancy is a miraculous event and a natural, safe, healthy pregnancy is truly a blessing. May we all eat well, live well, and pass on the joy of mindful healthy eating (rather than obsessive restrictive eating) to our future little ones. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Tale of two Signs: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?

This morning while walking my dog on our normal route I couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition of two very prominently hung signs. The first, one of the now ubiquitous New Orleans "LOVE" signs, has been there for quite some time. It popped up anonymously on my street about 2 blocks away from our house not long after we moved in. The other, an oversized double-sided monster of a sign, also posted anonymously, seemed to pop up overnight. Literally, as the sign must have been posted at a late enough hour that traffic was non-existent on a decently busy block. I thought about a person, waiting until the time was just right - when the street was quiet and still - and then going up on a ladder in the dark - perhaps with assistance - to proclaim this message to all passersby. There was forethought, commitment, and passion at play here as it was not an easy task to undertake. 

The sign was purposefully hung from a sturdy chain on the block across from the dog run I visit every morning. On one side in bold, carefully chosen typeface (4 different fonts?!?) - "ISRAEL: BARBARISM In the Name of "Self Defense" (PAID FOR BY THE U.S. TAXPAYERS)." There was no claim to this message such as, "paid for by the ________ Americans against ___________," or the "Citizens United Against ______________." Not that that would have made it any better but it would at least allow me to better understand the "purpose" - and I use that word lightly - of hanging this sign for the whole world to see. 

Curiously, the reverse side of this sign had a message of its own: "Killing Children. Bulldozing Homes." I thought a lot about this double-sided sign...probably a bit TOO much. But it hit me right in the face and could not be ignored. 

Presumably, the producer of this sign had to call up a company and pay for them to print this jumbo-sized sign. Having produced signage before in my old line of work, I know this is not cheap. They hemmed and hawed about the wording, the size and type of font, and where to use punctuation. They paid for it, waited it to be fabricated, and anxiously awaited the call to let them know their masterpiece was ready to be picked up! But wait! They were so impassioned and riled up by their viewpoint that they couldn't leave the printed side stand alone. No, they had to find an enormous red permanent marker (I assume the use of blood red ink was a conscious choice) and include an addendum on the reverse side: "Killing Children. Bulldozing homes." The words hit like a ton of bricks. 

Because of the way the wind was blowing, I saw this handwritten side first. Immediately I was outraged, "WHO is killing children? WHO is bulldozing homes?". I assumed they were talking about the local government until a big breeze turned the sign around and I could synthesize their message in its entirety. Oh. I see.

I am not pro-Palestine. I am not pro-Israel. I do not react to these signs negatively because of any closely held political beliefs or because I have many friends who are currently living in Israel and dealing with real violence - not the verbal kind - every single day. Every message I see on Facebook, every news story I accidentally catch, every conversation I overhear - regardless of what word comes before the IMPORTANT part of the sentence: "___________ people dying," or "Bombs being dropped on ___________ school," creates a nauseating tightness inside my chest. I have no desire to stay informed about these conflicts because presumably there are reasons why on either side of the issue. There are innocent and guilty parties on each side of the border. And no matter what these articles say - or if the articles are even credible- my opinion will not change: NOBODY deserves to die. 

I listened to a dharma talk once and the message was regarding when and when not to voice your opinion. There are three "tests" that your story should pass before you decide to share it on a larger scale: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? I can't, unfortunately, remember what beautiful yoga teacher shared this with me but apparently (thanks Google!) it stems from the Sufi religion (yep! Islam! Hope that doesn't make you stop reading!) and was codified into a 1835 poem called "The Three Gates" by Beth Day. 

Looking at the LOVE sign first, you'll notice that the message was also - even more so - carefully worded. Presumably the author, who we now believe to be John. H., also thought long and hard about what his signs would say. It's hard to find words - even a single word- that ring true universally. John H. wrote a letter to a Times Picayune writer that explained his motive ("hopes for improving life in NOLA for everyone") and his method - placing the signs strategically in places where violent crimes and homicides took place in 2013. He goes on to say, "Would a Jew, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist or Muslim get the word equally? It is a lot shorter than GOD SAID THOU SHALL NOT KILL."

And there you have it. Rather than use his signs to make a personal, political, or religious statement, he shaved away all the unnecessary connotations and streamlined his message to one single word. LOVE. A word that is kind, necessary, and unequivocally true. In fact, the only and the highest truth that any of us will ever know. 

In sharp...painfully sharp contrast, this other sign has exactly the opposite intent and effect. This is not a mundane political sign that says, "vote for So and SO," or "No Tall Buildings in the Historic District!". No, those signs are at least rally cries. People who oppose them see them and are pissed off but people who agree with them at least get a sense of community and pride! They also may be necessary, say if an election is coming up or the community board is voting on a proposed development project and attendees are needed to voice their opinion. They also aren't inherently unkind. "Vote for my guy" is a much different message than, "don't vote for THAT asshole." 

The anti-Israel sign however, produces no such good feelings. For anyone. If you hate Israel you see this sign and it revs you up. Reignites the fire of hatred within you. You can almost taste blood in your mouth when reading the words. If you are Israeli, or pro-Israel, you read these words and not only do you feel a similar anger and call to violence, but also profoundly sad. One of your neighbors has brashly posted a message of hatred intended to attack and slander you and your people. Even someone who cares more about the war on the Real Housewives of NY reunion than the war in the Middle East can't help but feel negative emotions when confronted with the words, "Killing Children, Bulldozing Homes." The words are not kind. And if they are "true" they are equally true on both sides of the battle.

These words are also anonymous. They do not invite rebuttal or conversation. They do not point the readers to an action-focused group they can join should they agree, or disagree. They are not directly tied to an election. In effect, these words serve absolutely no purpose other than to provoke feelings of hatred and/or sadness in all those who come into contact with them. In short, they are completely UNNECESSARY. 

On a smaller scale, we are all guilty of being hasty with our words. We gossip, we name-call, we judge and dismiss. Thinking about these signs has reminded me of what Don Miguel Ruiz advises us all in the first of the Four Agreements: "Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love."

My husband asked me, "so you wanna go take the sign down?" I thought about it, but realized that would not only not change the situation, but would only make us more intimately involved with this sign than I ever wanted to be in the first place. But John H., if you're reading this. I know a place that could use another LOVE sign: Right on the corner of Clouet and Dauphine in the Bywater. Where hopefully a message of LOVE could cancel out this message of hate, perhaps even, encouraging whomever posted it to consider taking it down. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to "grow a pair."

You're probably expecting a nice long list of helpful tips right? Sorry y'all. In order to as they so eloquently say, "grow a pair," there is only one step. Well, maybe two.

1) Take a deep breath in.

2) F'in do it.

That's it. What is it you most desperately afraid to do but just thinking about said thing gives you this little pit in the bottom of your stomach that is actually pent up self-expression or perhaps even your entire soul spinning in circles and loop de loops? Like the feeling you got in middle school right before you called a boy (or girl, whatever the case may be) to ask them to go to the ice skating rink or the mall or wherever it is you were allowed to hang out unsupervised. The feeling you got right before you asked someone to prom. The feeling you got just before you opened your college acceptance (or denial) letter. That feeling when the phone rings two days after the interview you had for your dream job. That feeling as you dropped down on one knee with a diamond-filled box in your sweaty palm.

And yah, maybe it's not always AS momentous as the ice skating rink in middle school (or asking someone to marry you...a close second on the "growing a pair" scale), but it still feels big. Scary. Risky. You might soar like a German soccer player sprinting to the center of the field to jump in a big celebratory Gatorade-drenched mosh pit or you might slink off into the dimly lit Argentinian locker room feeling like someone scooped your soul out with a plastic spoon.

I could go on to repeat that analogy about "stepping onto the field" but we've all heard that one before.

How about stepping into your LIFE. For real. We all have a life sentence. We're here, living, until we die. There is no question about that. The only question is if you will really be present. Will you really present yourself. Your whole self. I'm not talking about checking off a mundane bucket list of trips you want to take and monuments you want to see or getting to meet Oprah (although meeting Oprah might allow me to die just a smidge happier).

I'm talking about doing the scariest shit you can think of because you're serving life with no possibility of parole and you know what? Just like those really bad ass bitches on Orange is the New Black, you ain't got nothing to lose. Other than maybe a little "face". Your pride. Your comfortability level.
Patron saint of bad-ass life sentence serving BI's everywhere

And when you really truly think about it, you don't want those things that much anyway. You cling to them because stasis is always easier than change, but if someone was like hey, you can either have, 1) one of your dreams come true or, 2) stay really safe and have no one look at you or judge you or write nasty things about you in the comments at the bottom of your blog (while you're off not giving an F because your dream just came true) I'm gonna guess you'll go with what's behind door number one.

All you have to do is....big breath in...hold it...wait for it wait for it wait for wait for it...big breath out...and GO!

Without further ado, here's a link to my singing debut (don't worry- it's Kirtan "light"):                ( must copy and paste, then download the 3MB file).

First time recording myself in over 12 years. And my first live performance (if you don't count karaoke) in over 11...Last time was at "Showtime at the Apollo" in 2003. Why? I got scared. And the longer I waited, the weirder it got to sing again. Until suddenly a decade had passed and I had to muster up all the courage to do it again. It doesn't matter how long you've hesitated. How many times you planned to then didn't. Or how many times you tried and failed. That crap only matters to your ego.

If you're in NOLA you can also see me and my new yet dear friend, and fellow possessor of large-ish kahunas singing our terrified little hearts out tonight at Buffa's. Totally not ice-skating-rink-in-middle-school worthy material but still a helluva lot ballsier than clapping along from a bar stool.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to change EVERYTHING about your life in exactly one year's time.

July 12th, 2013 was the last day of my former life. The life where I was a managing partner and the Director of Events for a big, swanky, successful nightclub. The life where I was glued to my blackberry and kept 3 pairs of high heels under my desk for easy access before meetings. The life where my brain was rife with details like how many mini cupcakes are needed for this celebrity's birthday and what size red carpet is needed for that glitzy premiere. The life I led for the better part of a decade before my current self started poking its fragile little wings out of the cocoon.
The old "me"...the wind beneath Beyonce's wings
(or at least her fragrance launch's wings)

Yes, I was indeed fragile at this time last year. A part-time yoga teacher and full-time nothing, still recovering from a recent heart surgery. Unsure of where to go next but fully present to the fact that it was way past time to go. Go where? Go in the direction of my dreams. Even though I was terrified and doubtful and in my darkest moments, quite sure I was making an incredible, life-altering mistake, I knew unquestionably that it was time. To. Go.

I had a vague inkling that I wanted to move to New Orleans, where I had felt enlivened and yet relaxed on the many trips my husband and I had made to his hometown. I had an unwavering desire to pour all of my energy (instead of just my pre-work hours) into yoga and wellness, even though it might mean scraping pennies together to pay the rent. I had a clear vision of a life that was more easeful, more balanced, and more light-hearted than the one I was currently living. From the depths of my being I believed, and still believe, that my heart damage was caused by ignoring my bliss and silencing the call of my heart (although my cardiologists had a different diagnosis). I was ready. It's almost like I didn't have a choice. I had to leap.

Sitting here one year later I truly do not recognize my former life. In a year's time, quite literally every aspect of my life has changed - for the better. I am finally on my path. MY path. The path that was calling out to me but being drowned out, ignored, suppressed and shushed for so very long.  A path of learning and teaching yoga. A path of joining, building, and leading communities. A path of open-hearted acceptance for myself and others and a leaning away from material concerns. A path on which I feel at ease. Sure of my overall direction, if not every individual twist and turn.
The new "me" with someone even cooler than Beyonce:
Manju Jois (and of course, Mikhayla and Jessica who are
also cooler than Beyonce).

Are you considering making a huge shift? Are you ready to find, follow, or commit to YOUR path? Here are a few pieces of advice to get you started, now that I'm an old pro at leaping sans net as the saying goes:

1) Create a vision for your life 10 years from today. This is actually advice I got from a brief stint working at lululemon...When I wrote out my 10 year vision, I was living in a big old house in NOLA, with a yard, 3 kids, working part time in the yoga/wellness field, wearing yoga clothes everyday and cooking our all-organic meals from scratch. In other words, I sure as hell wasn't living in an apartment in NYC, working 70 hours a week and wearing fancy party dresses whilst rubbing elbows with celebrities. There was nothing "wrong" with either scenario, but my current life and my ideal future were DRAMATICALLY different. If yours are too, it's time to make a big change. If in 10 years you TRULY just want to be your right-now self, but with a bigger paycheck and a better title (and I mean truly - not because that's what society says) than you're on the right track. If not...what are you waiting for? Think of how much can happen in one year if you just take the first step - today. Next...

2) Devise your short-term strategy. All great transitions begin with a baby step. Mine was quitting my super-full-time job and taking a somewhat less demanding job at lululemon while I completed two more intensive yoga teacher trainings and picked up more classes to teach. This job did not end up being a great fit for me. They wanted more from me than I wanted to give to them so we parted ways. However, during the few months I worked there I made decent money, had health insurance long enough for Obamacare to get approved, and secured several private yoga clients. By the time I left lululemon, I was one step closer to being the me I wanted to be. Their surprisingly aggressive insistence on "Vision & Goals" coaching actually gave me the kick in the ass I needed not to linger there too long. It was the perfect baby step for me. Figure out what yours is so that initial leap from one life to the next isn't a free fall into a poverty-canyon of ramen & bus fare.

3) Find mentors who will inspire AND support you. One of the hardest aspects of making a huge life change is shifting the way others see you AND the way you see yourself. The primary reason it took me so long to become a full time yogi is because I had put the "yoga teacher" archetype up on a pedestal. I was too worldly, too flawed, too anxious, too ME to be one of those goddess-like beings. They inspired me - for sure- but I didn't believe I could actually become one of them. My mentors however, didn't buy it. They saw the teacher in me before I could really own it myself. They saw the passion behind my fear and self-doubt. They cheered on my little victories and critiqued me whenever necessary. They coached, encouraged, and sometimes forcefully coaxed the new me out of the former-me-shell. With them monitoring my progress, I was able to move forward much more confidence and had zero opportunity to throw in the towel. Somehow I was more OK with disappointing myself than disappointing them. I still remember one of my beloved mentors taking my class and telling me that I had "grace." That was the moment I knew I could and would be a full time yogi. Her words were like a coronation. Find someone like that. No matter how long it takes. They will be the wind that helps sail your ship. 

4) Take a realistic look at the risk vs. the reward. I'm going to be real honest here: I had decent savings in the bank and a husband by the time I decided to take my leap. Yes, we moved to a new city where neither of us had jobs and we had to start over basically from scratch, but we also knew we weren't going to be begging on Bourbon Street in a month's time if we weren't able to get clients/jobs/opportunities right away. What I DID have to give up in order to chase my dreams were all those little things I used to buy unconsciously when my paycheck was fat and reliable. No $6 lattes. No $18 cocktails. No nights out on the town where you wake up unsure where all your money went. I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions and took a vow of shop-lessness. Yes ladies, my New Year's Resolution this year was to not buy ANY clothes, shoes, jewelry, or non-essential toiletries for one entire year and so far, seven months in, I've stuck to it. I am making absolutely sure that my current path can provide for all my expenses, without having to lay awake at night worrying about the electricity bill. I am confident that as time goes by, my income will gradually increase and my purse strings can be loosened a bit but for now - I'm living like a college student again and am 100% fine with that.

Quitting your job, becoming an entrepreneur, starting a business, moving to a new city, going back to school, traveling the world for six months, running away and joining the circus - these are all AMAZING leaps to take, but they don't necessarily mean bucks coming into your bank account on the 1st and 15th like working your 9-5 does. Think about your needs, your wants, and what you can live without. I actually know people who would feel acute suffering if they couldn't get weekly blowouts and Pinkberry at least every other day. If you are one of those people, you may want to wait - and save a bit more- before making your leap. It's no fun following your heart if you're spending the whole time crying over your frizz and froyo-less-ness.

5) Ignore the opposition! I don't care if the opposition is wearing a mask that looks like your best friend or your mama and says they're doing it because, "they love you." Ignore them. Only a very few people are going to encourage you to change your status quo. Forego security. Fly the coop. Leave the nest. Make a bold move. Usually, they won't encourage you to do it because they've never done it themselves. And that's totally fine! Some of the opposition will be people who do truly care for you and have your best interest in mind. Accept their concern but keep it moving. If they REALLY care, they'll be there to comfort you on dark days as well as to cheer for you when you begin to gain some momentum on your dream-chasing.

And then there's the haters. Oh yes, can't forget the haters. They might not specifically hate you, but they WILL shit on your dream. They'll do it outwardly or passive aggressively. They'll tell you to your face and/or talk behind your back. I know, because I used to be a hater. I used to think people who started their own companies were crazy or living on mommy & daddy's dime or egomaniacs who couldn't get  good jobs elsewhere. I know now in hindsight that I felt that way because I was jealous of these upstarts. And terrified of leaving the security of my own "good job." Don't hate them back. It's a waste of your energy, and you need ALL your energy to keep moving on your path. I've discovered haters are really just the owners of deferred dreams. Dryin' up like raisins in the sun. Haters are like the scary things that pop out during a haunted house ride. Yes, they'll be all up in your face but they ain't nothin' real to be scared of.

6). Never ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Don't do it. Once you've started, just don't look back. Don't think "what if?". Don't wonder what would happen if you had stayed on the old path. Things won't always go smoothly. There will be failures and mistakes and road blocks oh - and haters- don't forget the haters. It won't be easy. But it will get easier. You'll get the hang of the new you. You'll find your groove. And when you do, then comes the momentum. As if a once-imagined future is pulling you forward to meet it. And when you feel that, you'll begin to know that it's really happening. Everything you always hoped but maybe never fully believed could happen is truly happening. You have the power to do, think, achieve, say, have, and be anything in the world. It's true. It might take you until your last breath to get there but even then...MAN...won't it have been worth it? What else in the world could you possibly do when you know, truly know what it is you would work towards until your last day on earth?

"And I say it again, Never give up. No matter what is happening. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up." - The Dalai Lama