Feeling Torn?

Are you living a life to please others or yourself?

Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? That poor girl daydreamed about going on adventures “somewhere over the rainbow,” only to discover a world where scarecrows and tinmen could talk beside flying monkeys and—oh yeah, that she’d inadvertently murdered a witch!

Dorothy comes to adore her unusual friends. Their common quest to meet “The Great Oz” brings them closer, further bonding them as they sing arm in arm down that famous yellow brick road.

And yet, Dorothy is torn. She wants nothing more than to go home to her Auntie Em. Yet she doesn’t want to leave her friends. She wants to go home, but home is her friends AND Kansas. So where IS home? Where will Dorothy go??

What to do? We can feel Dorothy’s angst because we can relate. It is part of our human journey to experience confusion, a sense of longing for two things at once, a feeling of not knowing what step to take next.

Fortunately (you may recall), the ethereal Glinda the Good Witch shows up at this rife-with-tension juncture. She speaks the famous words to our young protagonist that hits me in the solar plexus each time:

“Home is a place we must all find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.”

While our modern-day world is not filled with singing Lollipop Guilds or cackling green witches who melt from water, we are regularly bombarded by flashing social media posts depicting every opinion under the figurative rainbow. And as social creatures, we tend to shape ourselves based on our culture, not our nature. 

Author and life coach, Martha Beck highlights our proclivity for adhering to cultural desires over our natural ones:

“For women in traditional China, climbing the social ladder required having teeny-tiny feet. Generations of girls and women had their feet bound and crushed, crippling them to make them better. In Victorian England, women wore fabrics dyed with arsenic that caused skin ulcers…a small price to pay for looking better than their fashion rivals! In our society, people will virtually kills themselves trying to better by decorating the fanciest cake, or breeding the most standard of all poodles, or clubbing a tiny little ball into a tiny little hole.” (The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self).

There is nothing wrong with a desire to socialize or even embrace one’s culture. The caveat arrives when we tend to measure our well-being externally, relegating our inner needs and knowing to the equivalent of a second-class citizen. When we get caught up in how many Instagram followers someone has, or how much bigger or more expensive someone else’s house is, we are measuring our lives with the invisible yardstick, not tuning into how we feel. Like Dorothy, we can easily forget that we are always home, able to “close our eyes” and find the answers and guidance we need.

We may not have a manifested Glinda at our beck and call. Yet we do have an inner voice, guiding us home whenever we are willing to listen. 

So, the next time you are feeling torn, ask yourself the following: 

Is there another way to look at this?

What does my culture (i.e. friends, family, religion) want/like for me?

What do I (my nature) want/like for me?

There’s a good chance your answers to the 2nd and 3rd questions are different. Only you know which one to follow.

Calling All (Student) Writers!

Grab that pencil: Students in grades 3-12 from all over the world have a chance to be published in the biggest book in the world!

Imagine having the chance to carve out a story or create a poem that is published in the biggest book in the world! 

Since July 15th 2021, students from all over the world in grades 3-12 have the chance to be published. For the past 12 years, the literacy organization, iWRITE, has given students the opportunity to experience the magic of seeing their work published. Founder Melissa Williams (author of Turtle Town and Little Miss Molly) marveled when she held her first published book and wanted to share the empowering experience with students.

In its 13th year, iWRITE  (https://iwrite.org) is partnering with the Bryan Museum (https://thebryanmuseum.org)t with this year’s contest theme: “I Am Texas.” Students can create stories—either fiction or non-fiction, poetry, or artwork that represents what Texas means to them. 

New York Times best-selling author, Brad Meltzer (https://bradmeltzer.com/Discover.html) will select the Editor’s Choice winners. (Ordinary People Change the World). All winners will be invited to a red-carpet event in Houston, where they will autograph books for guests.

While the theme is “I Am Texas,” no worries if you aren’t from the Lone Star State. A little research can stir up one’s imagination, and when it comes to Texas, there’s plenty of historical treasures to dig through and inspire.

The maxim, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” applies to this year’s publishing contest:

“The iWRITE Organization and The Bryan Museum are partnering with New York Times bestselling author and illustrator team, Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos, to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest published book in the World called I Am Texas!” 

Winners will be invited to attend a gala in Houston; the over seven foot tall book will be displayed at The Bryan Museum in Galveston.

To learn more about this free contest, head over to www.iamtx.org

“Who’s the Storyteller?”

We are always narrating the story of our lives. But so is everyone else.

One of the aspects of writing I adore is the gift of perspective. The facts of a story can drastically be altered by mere observer. Take for example the following:

Scene: a restaurant, a couple in their 30’s sits across from each other

POV of observer:

The woman slides a gold band across the table. The man holds his head down and sighs. He takes the ring and puts it in his back pocket. 

“I’m sorry,” he says. 

“Me, too,” she says, her eyes shiny with unshed tears.

POV of woman:

I’m pregnant and the almost stranger sitting across from me is the father. It’s why he proposed last night, offering up a lifetime together the way someone decides to put extra toppings on their pizza—spontaneous and without much thought. 

Yeah, I accepted. Not because I loved the guy or even liked him. I said yes simply because fear eclipsed judgement, because the idea of motherhood solo or an abortion both felt impossible.

When I slide the flimsy band (like something out of a Cracker Jack box) across the table at him, the relief on his face is palpable.

“I’m sorry,” he says—a white lie—one that renders him unable to make eye contact.

“Me, too.” I’m sorry I didn’t insist we use condoms. Sorry I didn’t know you for more than one night. Sorry that I have lived three decades on earth and still can’t behave like an adult.

POV Man:

I feel like a trapped dog. What was I thinking?? How is It I can run legal cases with finesse but can’t think straight when it comes to a hot woman?!

She asked to meet, so here we are, her puppy eyes haunted looking. (Was this an early sign of pregnancy?) She plays with the tin band I gave her as a quasi-promise ring.

When she slides the ring off and across the table at me, I feel like the cage to my kennel is lifting. I’m getting out of here! I’m getting another chance!!!

“I’m sorry,” I say. Guilt and relief flood through my veins in equal measure.

“Me, too” she says.

Only she doesn’t seem sorry. Her eyes look shiny with a relief that, just moments before, mirrored mine. And yet, the idea of the life inside of her not happening makes the invisible hairs on the back of my neck stand up in cold fear. 

—–

There you have it, three different perspectives on one moment in time. And they are all accurate! 

My dear friend, Steve Bernstein (author of STORIES FROM THE STOOP) recently reminded me of the storytelling layers or perspectives in fiction as well as life. Whether we are crafting a tale on the page or forming one in our real lives, we need to be cognizant of the story we and others are potentially perceiving.

So, the next time you find yourself angry or emotional about something someone did, consider the potential alternate narrative they might be telling. They might be the woman, man, or observer in the “restaurant” of your life story. When we give the gift of an alternate perspective for ourselves as well as others, we are more likely to find compassion and a greater sense of inner peace.

Dating Red Flag: The Smooth Operator

The old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is exists for a reason.

FaceTime first dates are a popular experience in the world of online dating—particularly for those finding potential in someone who is geographically less desirable. A few short months ago, when there was still a wait list to get a vaccine, my cousin *Jeani called to share the exciting news: “I have a date!”

The “date” was suggested by a fellow (albeit former) Bostonian who, like Jeani, now lived in California. The divorce father of three girls lived in Silicon Valley—a good five hours drive from my cousin (Los Angeles).

Jeani is a single mom of four in her late forties. She is a full-time veterinarian and works long hours. When most men find out that she A) has more than 2 kids and/or B) is committed to her job they C) run away.

“But this one is different. He thinks it’s cool that I’m a vet and didn’t think twice about me having 4 kiddos. He asked if I wanted to Facetime tonight! And he’s CUTE!”

The next morning, Jeani filled me in on the juicy details: Eric found Jeani gorgeous (He even used the word “mesmerizing” to describe her eyes) and told her he was already “falling in like” with her. He said he’d drive down the coast to spend the coming weekend with her.They talked for almost 3 hours. He went so far as to suggest that their next trip home to Boston be together “to meet each other’s parents.”) 

“He said he’d call me this morning.” Her voice was dancing.

Unfortunately, the morning came and went without a word from Eric. Then the afternoon arrived along with the evening without so much as a text from the flattering Bostonian.

Jeani called me that night, the pain in her voice palpable: “He said he’d call. Why hasn’t he called?”

The next morning, still no word from the man who was “mesmerized” by my cousin’s eyes. By evening, Jeani decided to text him.

“How’s the Smooth Operator doing? Still planning to spend the weekend in LA?”

Within minutes, Jeani’s iPhone starting ringing for Facetime. It was Eric.

Only Jeani was about to see her next patient, so she couldn’t take the call. She Facetimed him about an hour later. Eric didn’t pick up. 

“Try me again.” Jeani texted Eric.

Silence. 

Since then, Jeani can see Eric on the dating site they first met on.

“It hurts. I don’t know why it hurts, but it does. I didn’t even know the guy. So why does it hurt?”

“It hurts because someone played with your heart. It hurts because it’s painful to know that there are people out there who treat dating like a game, who prefer to find pleasure in cruelly leading someone on instead of engaging in an authentic conversation. It hurts because we don’t want to think that he is a part of what makes up our world, our human race.”

I get Jeani’s pain because I’ve been there. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced the disappointment of someone not being who they represented themselves to be. The high of expectation and the low of reality creates a semi-crash that wounds (temporarily).

It’s always a red flag when someone comes on too strong or says all the “right” things—an auditory confection a vulnerable heart yearns to hear. Be wary of the “Smooth Operator.”  They got that way after lots of practice.

*Name has been altered for privacy purposes.

The Roula and Ryan Show: The Gift of Belly Laughs

Thank you to The Roula and Ryan Show for having me on!

Last week, I had the pleasure of plugging my book among the auditory company of Roula Christie,  Ryan Chase and Eric Rowe on their Houston-based morning show, Roula and Ryan.

It was surreal hearing the familiar icons of morning radio, the very voices that accompanied me on many a pre-pandemic commute, INTERACT with me on air for all the world to well…hear.

My newly released book, The Friendship Diet: Clean Out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last is self-help meets stand-up comedy. I have a background in comedy/theatre as a performer, so knowing I was heading onto the often funny, always honest Roula and Ryan Show, I knew I had found a temporary auditory home. I’m also a school teacher and therefore know that the best classroom management involves a dash of comedy. Roula’s taunts can be heard in the link below, egging me on to reveal the dare-we-say-it “v” word (class clowning at it’s comedic genius pinnacle:-)

Humor, when honed with compassion, has the ability to lower our defenses and make self-reflection less scary, more palatable. We are more likely to digest emotional nutrition when it’s served with a spoon of belly laughs—hence, the audio clip I’m closing this post with (AND a big reason behind The Friendship itself—the connection between edible and emotional nutrition runs deep).

So thank you, Roula, Ryan and Eric for giving me a comedic audio space to promote a much-needed dose of humor and insight in our current crazy world.

Here’s the audio file. The belly laughs commence at 8am on July 21st, 9:36

https://www.krbe.com/thebestofroularyan/

“Satisfying Soul Food”

 
We are all on a journey in this life. Regardless of our circumstances, I believe the core of that journey is one of self-love. 

Last week, I had the true pleasure of sitting down to talk with two beautiful people on the Law of Attraction Today podcast (LOA Today): Walt Thiessen and Cindie Chavez. Walt is the founder of the inspiring podcast and Cindie is his insightful co-host.

In our pandemic world where we are encouraged to social distance, a sense of isolation and hopelessness can easily manifest in us. The LOA Today podcast can provide a spiritual antidote when we find ourselves chewing on worry.

There’s a famous quote by the late author and speaker, Leo Buscaglia: “Love is always bestowed as a gift-freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” Walt and Cindie, LOA Today’s co-hosts are beautiful examples of this quote in action. They exude warmth and compassion, both for others and themselves. To be in their presence is a gift.

We are all on a journey in this life. Regardless of our circumstances, I believe the core of that journey is one of self-love. When we embrace the gift of who we are, we become a gift to others.

The LOA Today podcast focuses on the principle of like attracting like. We attract what we are, what we think about, what we believe. Our hunger in this external world of uncertainty is greatly based upon our tendency to resist going inward for answers. The LOA Today podcast is a benevolent, inquisitive space to tune into and by extension, fill our spiritual bellies. Listeners are encouraged to question, gain perspectives not considered before and explore their inner terrain, sans expectation or fear.

I will close this blog piece with a hearty thank you to Walt Thiessen and Cindie Chavez for both having me as a guest on their show and for sharing their authentic selves with the world. Here’s a link to the show last Wednesday, July 15th:

“Hungry for Certainty”

We can cultivate a shift in our perception that stimulates appreciation over judgement.

We all know the adage “The only constant in life is change.” But there’s a difference between intellectually understanding a concept and living it. The pandemic is causing most if not all of us to live with uncertainty. From our health to our jobs, our daily lives are a figurative walk on eggshells.

There’s a paradox in nature: the more we try to control things, the more out of control they tend to become. Whether it’s a diet or a habit, the more we challenge something, the worse it seems to become.

So what can we do when we are so hungry for certainty? When there’s so little in our control? When the obstacles seem to only get higher and more challenging when we try to climb them? When the flames of injustice only grow stronger despite peaceful protests attempt to extinguish them? When we hunger for government leadership as we starve in the angry stew of dissention?

We can take a deep breath. We can go inward. We can take comfort in noting that the sun rises each morning and sets each evening. We can grow grateful for even the smallest of things (if you can read this, your eyes are working—a miracle in itself). 

We can surrender to wherever we are and know that good or bad, this too shall pass.

We can be kind to ourselves and pay attention more—catching ourselves whenever our inner thoughts sound like the evil villain of a movie;-)

We can cultivate a shift in our perception that stimulates acceptance and appreciation over judgement.

So that maybe the next time we see the sunrise, our spiritual bellies might just feel a little less hungry.

Know Your Hunger

When we tune into what our bodies need, we are more likely to ensure that those needs are met.

The Friendship Diet launched on July 7th, and with it, all of the emotions that come with giving birth to something you worked so hard to see manifest: excitement and elation, yes—but also anxiety and uncertainty. 

Launching a book is so much like giving birth: there is so much anticipation but also so much out of one’s control. And while surrendering in both cases sounds great in theory, the reality (at least in my case–regarding both experiences) makes the mere idea of surrendering laughable at best.

So, I ignored my racing heart and got on Facebook live to announce the launch during a pandemic. I abandoned the idea of eating as it felt much more important to spread the word about The Friendship Diet; I focused on marketing and marketing and marketing my book, pushing aside the growing tap dance of pain throbbing on the top of my head.

(Don’t think the irony of The Friendship Diet launch wasn’t lost on me. My book is all about growing aware of the connection between our edible and emotional nutrition and there I was, ignoring the very beliefs my book espouses!)

The Universe continues to speak to us; it’s up to us to listen. Once my head felt like a stampede of horses was freely galloping across the top of my head, I finally bid my stubbornness adieu and grew still.

I grabbed my journal, closed my eyes and surrendered.

A question emerged beneath the darkness of my eyelids: 

“What do you need?”

I surrendered deeper.

“What do you need?”

My eyes opened and I wrote an answer in my journal, the pen forming words as if on its own.

“Exercise. More water.”

I closed my journal and went to bed.

For the first time in cyber-eons, I woke up and didn’t look at my phone or check my emails. Instead, I drank several glasses of water. I had a light breakfast. I drank more water. I exercised.

No surprise, my body thanked me with a headache-free morning.

Since this morning, I have needed (as most of do) to return to the double-edged sword of the smartphone. Each time the invisible tap dancers start to emerge on the top of my head, I grab another glass of water and do some stretches. Small actions but they make such a world of difference, keeping the galloping equines in their figurative stable.

Our bodies are always speaking to us, letting us know what they need. When we hit the pause button, we are in a better place to receive our inner knowing.

“Book Launching: Thank You, Elizabeth Gilbert!”

Elizabeth Gilbert’s inspiring words from her book BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear is a major reason my book, THE FRIENDSHIP DIET, launches today.

Dear Reader

Today my book, The Friendship Diet: Clean out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last, launches! And while there were many beautiful miracles along the path to reaching this birth-of-a-book day, none of it would be possible without Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom shared in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

In an earlier blog post, I shared the magic-like impact of the smallest moments (“The Hidden Power of Action”). My friends, while wonderfully supportive of my idea to create a book about personal relationships and its deep connection to food, were only one significant part of the book’s manifestation. They were the fuel, the sustenance I needed to keep my creative tank full.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC book was the reason I found the courage to craft my idea into reality—the trigger to get that creative tank pumping.

Popsugar’s review on Gilbert’s colorful BIG MAGIC book cover says it all: “A must-read for anyone hoping to live a creative life.”

There were two significant areas of Gilbert’s literary therapy that made me feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand attention (in a great wayJ

  1. She articulates the feeling of an idea tapping one on the shoulder, a whisper from the Universe to follow wherever that idea will take you. She also provides our creative souls with a cautionary tale: 

“Sometimes they [ideas] do wait….But others won’t….Would you sit around in a box for two years while your collaborator blew you off? Probably not.”

The idea for The Friendship Diet kept tapping me on the shoulder, a stubborn little fella that wanted me to put aside a Young Adult manuscript that was more than halfway through its plot. When I read Gilbert’s warning words, I could practically hear the Idea for The Friendship Diet clearing his throat, ready to walk out the figurative door.

  1. Gilbert’s second therapeutic moment…well, let’s just say, it felt like a one-on-one session.

“Maybe you fear that you are not original enough.”

Wow. How did she know??Was there a hidden camera in my psyche Elizabeth had access to?? 

And then, the generous-hearted and insightful Ms. Gilbert continued our private literary therapy session:

“If you are older, trust that the world has been educating you all along….We need you to reveal to us what you know, what you have learned, what you have seen and felt.”

Elizabeth Gilbert had triggered me—in a fantastic way—to heed the creative call.

To top it off, she even offers us a metaphorical Permission Slip to create!

Why did it feel like Elizabeth Gilbert was speaking directly to me? Why did it feel like she had a backstage pass, Being-John-Malkovich-style to the parts of me I keep so hidden from the world, even don’t know it??

Because, I believe, Elizabeth Gilbert writes from a place of authenticity, from the soft underbelly that’s at the core of humanity, from a sacred space of vulnerability. You cannot read her candid musings on creativity without transforming yourself. The alchemy of her words possesses the potential to alter the inner landscape of one’s heart and mind.

If you are reading this blog piece, from the essence of my creative soul I thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. Your openhearted sharing of BIG MAGIC provided the impetus to create The Friendship Diet and the courage to keep playing—particularly when an Idea comes to visit.

I encourage every creative soul (and we are ALL creative souls) to grab a copy of BIG MAGIC and listen to what your Ideas are saying.

“What’s Eating You?”

So there’s this pandemic…it’s literally a matter of life and death these days…and the economy is behaving like someone experimenting behind a dark alley with illegal drugs…unemployment rates are so high they make Mt. Everest look like an anthill…

Yes, it’s bad out there—really bad. No two ways about it. But this tragic state we are experiencing out there is going to pass. I don’t profess to have a crystal ball of when or how, but it willpass.

Author Michael Singer (The Untethered Soul) writes, “Eventually you will see that the real cause of problem is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problem.”

We dwell in two realities in this life: the internal and external. Meditation, yoga, long walks, singing, painting, writing—these are some of the conduits to remind us of our inner world.

But too often we dwell and get caught up in the outer world. We get enmeshed and often psychologically stuck on a diet of what is externally present.

Whether we are on the front lines or the food lines, rich or poor, healthy or sick matters little when compared to the internal world we all possess. When we are no longer dependent on the external for sustenance, we will no longer feel the spiritual ache of lack.

Our bodies are miraculous indicators. They are speaking to us all the time—sometimes literally (i.e. a growling stomach) and often figuratively (i.e. We are feeling stressed and we “fall” prey to a cold).

I struggle with TMJ. This past week was a particularly bad bout. When I went inside for answers, I knew the increased pain was from subconscious yet futile attempts to control the external.  My pain is a gift—it reminds me to stay present, savoring each moment and surrendering to circumstances I cannot control. 

By making a concerted effort to surrender, moment-by- moment, my jaw pain has significantly subsided. It is no longer “eating me.”

The pandemic is an external tragedy that is affecting all of us. I encourage you to take a moment to go within and see what surfaces. If something keeps bubbling to the surface, it just might be what’s eating you.

There are people who are soaring during this worldwide crisis—physically, spiritually and economically healthy.  The internal world plays a significant role for these individuals. 

Take this time to know your hunger, to go within, exploring and nurturing your soul.