Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

Focused

To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

spark
I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

balloon

I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

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My Mind is a Mess: Passion Planner Review

One night I was visiting my best friend Kate at her apartment and in between sips of wine and bites of cheese (or gulps and hunks) she turned my attention to her brand new Passion Planner. Wow, I thought, I need one of these.

My whole life I’ve wanted to design a planner that functions how my brain functions– which is million different things all happening at once. Passion Planner is almost perfect. (I still want to design the ultimate planner one day. It’s one of my super nerdy life goals.) My only challenge is that it’s broken down by time slots which is incredibly hard for me to stick too but otherwise, I love the layout.

I’ve been using my Compact version for about 4 weeks now. And each week I get better at utilizing it. I let it help me form my week instead of jamming my week into it. I’ve surrendered to the planner a little bit and it seems to be going well. I stole the below image direct from the Passion Planner website because it’s going to do a MUCH better job of explaining how it works:

PP Breakdown

And all of those things get incorporated into your weekly pages. I know what you’re thinking: HOW?! HOW DO THEY GET INCORPORATED? It seems like a lot. Here are some sample pages from mine. Note: I don’t color in for the time I spend at work. I probably should but it scares me to see how much time I actually spend there. Maybe this week I’ll give it a whirl.

Example Week
I’m trying to teach myself to color code so certain things jump out to me. Yellow is my “Personal Life” color… it makes me happy!
example week 2
This was taken on Sunday of this week. I still had more to fill in and you can see my notes page is pretty open. That changes pretty quick.

I’m sure some people are a little tidier with theirs but I do my best… I’m only human. I enjoy seeing everything that I have to do on one open page instead of having to flip around and see what my week looks like. It’s also nice that there are sections on top of each day that say “Today’s Focus”, I use this to keep the “OMG A NEW PROJECT” part of myself toned down.

One of my favorite features of the planner is all of the Goal Setting material in the front of it. Before you even get to any specific months or days, you are guided through a series of exercises to get some awesome goals lined up for the next 3 months, next year and rest of your life! It’s a great way to keep your goals and passions (hehe) up front while you are toiling away on other things.

As for a mistake I made with it, I wish I had ordered the 8 1/2 x 11 sized version. When I ordered, it seemed like a huge pain in the ass to lug around but now that I am using the smaller size, I realize that I could have used the extra space. Especially because I have goofy handwriting. I think next year I’ll try the larger version and see how that goes.

So far so good with this planner and I am a pretty scattered person. This keeps everything I am constantly thinking about in one place. I’m not the most focused, but this has been helping. I strongly suggest checking them out! And, oh yeah, if you can’t afford the bound version, Passion Planner has PDF versions of the planner pages that you can print out and use. Amazing!

When Trust Issues Are All Your Issues…

I finished my fourth week of Improv 101 last Friday. It gets better every time I go. The more I get to know my fellow classmates, the safer I feel to be myself, to take a couple risks, and to make a complete fool of myself. I have never generated so many scenes, so many jokes, and so many characters in a single sitting than I do at UCB. Every moment is an opportunity to try something new and to make lots of mistakes.

I am halfway in the process and can say that the most important thing I have learned is to trust my scene partner. When we go into it as a team and only want the best for the scene, our characters, and each other, the moments are gold. The moment we try to take control or draw attention to ourselves, is the moment the scene falls apart. Trusting them and listening to them has given me a world of opportunity.

I don’t warm up to people very fast. It takes me months to feel comfortable enough to let people in to see who I am. That sounds strange since I regularly post about my life on a blog, but the words are easier to find than the courage to be myself in the real world. In four weeks I’ve given a lot of myself to relative strangers and nothing horrible has happened. I never knew that trust could be built up so quickly, but it can when done in the right environment with the right spirit.

I’d like to take that spirit to other facets of my life. I understand that outside of our little Improv classroom is a world full of losers, nutcases, jerks, and bad people, but by hiding who I am most of the time, I’m missing out on all the great genuine people out there. I’m going to have to deal with the bad ones to find the good ones. It seems basic enough but, for someone closed off, it is a revelation.

Today I feel like widening my circle a little bit and trusting in some new partners in crime. No trust falls required. Promise.

When You Crash and then Burn Real Hard

I had a bit of a breakdown last week and by a “bit” I mean “total”. I almost thought I shouldn’t share that here, since I am all about motivation and aspiration, but having total breakdowns is part of the program. You don’t get anywhere by being stagnant and sometimes a good cry is all you need to snap yourself out of a slump.

We moved all the clocks forward last Sunday (ok, so Jeff and I moved the microwave clock on Tuesday) and that was all it took for me to realize I had been in a funk all winter. The weather was horrible and I’ve been a little stagnant in my writing. Remember that post where I said I had to give up on a piece? I didn’t, I drove it further into the ground. But I’ve really broken up with it this time and I’ve been focusing on a piece I actually enjoy writing.

I came to a place this past week that made me question every choice I’ve made up until this point. All of it. And it was really tough to face some of them. It was especially tough to face the fact that a lot of what I do doesn’t make me happy, it just fills my time. This isn’t the first time that I’ve done this to my precious minutes. I genuinely enjoy being busy. Being busy makes me feel productive and important but most of the time I am neither of those things and I really am just BUSY.

So right now. And I mean, RIGHT NOW. I am trying reassess what’s important to me and what makes me happy, not what I think is good for me or what I think I “should” be doing. It’s hard for me to put some things aside, especially because I have a million and one “good ideas” and “projects”, but by focusing on what makes me happy, I should in turn become happier.

Imagine that.

I had the greatest weekend. I spent time with Jeff and my dog. I worked out. I ate good food. I saw friends I haven’t seen in awhile. I had a business meeting. I studied French. I worked on some stuff and I even cleaned the apartment! I was actually more productive this weekend because I just did what I wanted to do and told myself it would be ok if I didn’t get to it all.

I am definitely not saying I’ve solved the problem. I am probably 1% of the way there but I am glad that I’ve snapped out of it realized that I got a little crazy there for a bit. My heart still gets heavy and I have to fight back the “I am not enough, I am not doing enough” mentality I often feel.

Tell me, do you feel this way? How do you fight it? Asking for a friend…

The One Thing I’m Too Afraid to Try…

I found an entry in my 5 Year Journal (I keep one because I am painfully introspective) from this time last year and in it I ask myself not only what I wanted to be when I grew up but if I could even ask that anymore. Can I, at 27, ask people what they want to be when they grow up? The optimist in me says YES OF COURSE and the pessimist, well, we don’t need to hear from him right now. He had too much play last week and made me crabby. So we’re going with YES OF COURSE.

Facing this question again, one year later, comes at a proper time because I did something crazy last week! I’ll get to it in a second, but first, I NEED to know what you wanted to be when YOU grew up. If you’re like me, it changed a couple of times, but pick the profession that made it to your diaries and drawings consecutively for years. The thing you used to boast about. The job or activity that was always on the list whether at the top or bottom.

Got it? Good. Now tell me. Why aren’t you that thing? Do you not want it anymore? Did you find something better? Did you try, fail, and then quit? If you found something better, if you took a textbook profession (“I want to be a doctor”) and flipped them into something unreal (“I am researching a cure for cancer”) then good for you! I think we can let you off the hook.

If you been too afraid to even get close to little kid dream, well then, we need to talk. About fear.

Fear rules my life. It would be so cool if I could say it didn’t. That I was some bad motherf***er with like James-Franco-in-Spring-Breakers teeth but I’m not. I am afraid of screwing up most of the time. Granted, I was never afraid to cause trouble when I was younger and caused quite a bit. But the thing with causing trouble is that you’re kind of planning to screw your life up on purpose. Now, taking risks with your dreams and goals? That’s something to be afraid of. Those are real messes I have always avoided. But not this week…
When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer. More specifically, I wanted to be on and write for SNL. I wanted to be funny for a living. I even signed autographs in middle school because kids believed I would make it. But in college I couldn’t work up the courage to audition for improv groups, I refused to go to open mic nights, let alone perform at them and worst of all, I didn’t practice. I hid.

So this week, finally, after about a decade of SAYING I was doing something, I DID it and signed up for Improv 101 at Upright Citizens Brigade.

I still feel like throwing up and it’s been about a week since I did it. I think I finally did it because of a freaking magnet I gave my mom when she went back to school to get her BA. I had been thinking about it all month. It said: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot”. Solid advice right? Even if I think I’m too old to try something new, to do what I’ve always wanted to, George Eliot says I’m not. Man’s got his own magnet quote and everything! Who else am I going to believe?
What I’m saying is this, even if you have a job you gotta keep to pay bills, feed your kids, your fish, yourself. Even if you love the new path you made for yourself, the little tiny child that still lives inside of you (Stephen King I want rights for that if you use it) is sad he never got to try out the dream. And you don’t need to quit your job to do that. Find a school, find a club, find a volunteer opportunity. If there are none of those things go for the DIY (unless you wanted to be a doctor… please no backstreet surgeries and then citing this blog in court).

And if you try and find that little you was totally delusional and you HATE whatever it is. Then I promise you, you never have to do it again. And yes, I’m kind of just looking for people to also go crazy on life with.

Big shout outs to Kate, Roberta, Kelly, Caroline, and Jonathan for letting me text them in the post-class-sign-up panic I had last week.