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Let’s Start Talking About It

Sometimes everything is just not ok. You’re going through something tough, have been recently hurt or disappointed, or just feel angry or alone. However, you don’t want to seem ungrateful for the good things in your life, it’s not all doom and gloom. Maybe you’ve got a stellar best friend, a steady paycheck or a pint of your favorite ice cream in the freezer.  Maybe you had enough cash for a new shirt and you were complimented by a stranger. You may have so many things, big and small, to be utterly grateful for that you can’t count them all on your fingers and toes, but still have just as many reasons to feel down. To worry. To be upset. To find yourself depressed.

Up’s and down’s. That’s life, right? Or, is it? The life that I often see around me tends to be wildly exaggerated one way or the other. Folks are either spewing sunshine like they’ve never seen a grey cloud or crying out for help to heal the pain. Everything in the middle seems to get lost or kept quiet. It’s hard to be subtle with our feelings, so when you’re in between the good and the bad, maybe you just don’t know what to say or who to say it to. You might not want to worry your family, trouble your friends or spend that extra hour with your therapist. Maybe you’re just like me.

So, here’s what I’m doing about it.

I’m telling you, yes you, right now: I am not always ok. I’m not abundantly happy right at this exact moment. My list of things to be grateful for is growing by the minute – and you’d never guess anything was wrong by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. But at the same time, I’ve got my reasons to be sad. No reason is too big or too small here. I’m telling you like this because this is the iamnotyourguru blog, where imperfection is celebrated and honesty is everything.

I am now inviting you to tell me. You can be anonymous, or not, and say anything you want about what is bringing you down or what you’d like to change. It can be anything, and I’ll respond. Why? Because you’re going to be helping me too. You’ll be showing me that I am not alone, and that it’s courageous, not crazy, to set up a blog dedicated to complaining and airing your worries. A blog entry where it’s ok to vent, to not be strong, to not share your light. A blog that is not about how wonderful life can be if we allow love in or find gratitude. I, for one, am full of love and gratitude enough already, but I still cry sometimes.

There it is. I hope you’re with me. 

Photo Credit Unknown

The Year is Ending, Let’s (Not) Panic!

2011 is coming to an end and the holiday season is in full swing. I have a very “get with it, get into it or get over it” mentality this time of year and I’ve put together a list of things where I plan to do just that…little by little, one day at a time. Pick and choose your favorites and let’s do this. We’re all in this together…

Get With It: 

  • Getting older. I’m in my 30’s, and I’m actually quite relieved about it. People have started to expect me to be smart and thoughtful, rather than snarky and dramatic. This is good for me, because I am smart and thoughtful and I’m glad I’ve reached an age where this is in vogue. Dependable is the new black. I’ve also grown into my fierce eyebrows, finally.
  • Exercise. Don’t groan or sigh at me on this one. I love shaking my ass and I sleep like a baby after sweating in zumba class like underpaid Santa’s sweat in crowded shopping malls. I have to make this a higher priority, or at least place it above “catch up on the DVR” on my to-do list.
  • Sleep. Yep, in my 30’s. My bed is now my baby daddy and I’ll only cheat on him with pillow-top king beds in Mexican resorts. My under-eye dark circles were never a good look, anyway.
  • Eating healthier. This basically means I will try my hardest not to poison myself with fast food or other things that I know actually make me sick, despite what they also do to my waist line.

Get Into It:

  • Organization. I can barely find a pair of matching socks in the morning, let alone the check book once a month for rent. I’m lucky my husband is a moving-talking-live-person, or I’d lose him in this apartment. Oddly, my office space is pristine. I guess that means I like to keep my crazy private, but it’s time for a change.
  • Hobbies. I need more things to do with my free time (when I’m not running around town being famous) other than eating or happy hours. It’s going to be cold for another few months, so I am thinking: reading, more zumba, and possibly baking or some sort of craft that does not involve yarn. Suggestions welcome.
  • Happiness. My smile is way prettier than my frown. Period. End of sentence.

Get Over It: 

  • Holiday pressure. The pressure to: entertain, attend a million parties, bake, clean, visit every family member ever and shop, shop, shop. Just stop. If any of those things make you unhappy or you can’t afford them/don’t have the time this year, choose another option. I am choosing: a few thoughtful gifts that I can afford for my family, donating gifts to toy drives for lil’ ones, paying off debt and paving a less stressful 2012 when it comes to money with my husband and I’m not going to set foot in anyone’s house or any store that I’m not excited about.
  • Attention seeking. I will not make everything about me. I will not create drama. I will gossip less. You can all stop looking at me now. Repeat.
  • #1 Daughter, Wife, Sister & Friend syndrome. My family and friendships are so important to me that I let them stress me out. I want to be there for everyone in every moment and that’s just not possible. I’m a better daughter/wife/sister/friend if I take care of myself first and therefore, require less from the people that love me. I have a big ol’ open heart and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I will also not be ashamed to admit when I need some time to myself.

What are YOU getting with, getting into, or getting over? Please share your thoughts below and share this post with other folks who may be panicking right up until the ball drops. Happiest of Holidays to you!

The Meta Picture

photo credit: themetapicture.com

This Idea Changed My Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Now that I’ve acknowledged that, let’s move forward. I’ve had this blog post in my brain for months and was waiting for the right time to assemble the words into a post.

We all go through…a lot. Recently, my home of NYC has seen tremors from an earthquake, faced the threat of a hurricane, 9/11 anniversary terror threats, and (of course) more. Not to mention, personally, some of my family and friends are experiencing difficult, painful, life events. I am sure that some of your friends and family are too. Maybe you know someone who is currently in a lot of physical or emotional pain. It’s possible that even you are, while reading this right now.

Years ago, in my training to become a certified rape crisis counselor in NYC hospital emergency rooms, I learned something that changed my life. It seems almost simple to me now, but at the time, I had never before even considered it. Here it is:

No one person’s pain is any larger or smaller than anyone else’s. You cannot compare your pain to someone else’s. If someone hurts, they hurt. It is not your job to tell them how much they should hurt, or for how long. 

In counseling we were taught this so that we would never compare. To tell a scared, confused, recently assaulted patient something along the lines of, “Oh yea? Well, you should have seen my case last week. She was in much worse shape than you are” to make them “feel better” is really one of the worst things anyone can do. That might seem completely obvious, but you’d be surprised how very common it is to have that reaction, especially if you feel like you can relate to what someone is going through. We were taught not to minimize anyone else’s experience or try to make them see that other people have gone through “worse.” That information isn’t always true, first of all, because you don’t always know someone’s complete history. Something you might find trivial because of your life experience might seem like the literal “end of the world” to someone else. Secondly, we all experience and process things differently. I can’t measure or predict how badly you might feel when you believe your world is falling apart. I can, however, sympathize.

This idea really changed my life. I stopped my very human reaction to convince someone they would be ok, or that things aren’t nearly as bad as they feel they are. I stopped telling stories about how things could be much worse. I’m not always perfect in this, but I think it has strengthened a lot of my relationships and it certainly was a vital thing to remember in the ER in the middle of the night.

Personally, I find the level of tolerance my family and friends have for pain and emergencies to be remarkably high. But that is just my opinion. I feel like I know a lot of strong individuals, whether they realize it or not. You might feel this way about the people in your life, or not. We’ve all thought once or twice that someone needed to “buck up” or “pull it together.” That’s ok, too. It’s so easy to want everyone to see that things will eventually be ok, when you really believe they will. Everybody hurts, right? Right. Just sometimes, in very different ways.

Thoughts? Leave ’em below.

“I am really, really scared right now!”

That is what my smart, beautiful, and down-right wonderful niece said to me this past weekend as we stood in line for her first adult roller coaster. She is 10 years old. She just barely made the height requirement for the larger coasters and the ones with loops and corkscrews. That is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it, but I knew she would be safe with me as I flashed a pleading look toward the obviously bored ride attendants as they measured her. She was terrified, rightfully so, but she still got on.

I told her that if she felt like crying, just to scream instead because screaming on rides was 100% OK and that way she could let it all out faster. I promised that (even though would stand in line forever) before we knew it the ride would be over. Who can turn down permission to scream your head off? Turns out, she was a pro. She even worked up to keeping her eyes open and loved hanging upside down for the brief loops while going somewhere around 85mph. Having been a lover of roller coasters and frequent Six Flags Great Adventure ticket-holder in my youth, I was ridiculously proud.

In line for an even scarier ride there was a young girl pleading with her older sisters in front of us, “I don’t feel well! Don’t make me do this! I don’t want to go on this ride!” and they were mocking her in return, “Too late, you’re already this far in line, you’re just SCARED! Don’t be SCARED! Why are you so SCARED?!”  We were both watching this, and I leaned down to my niece and whispered in her ear:

“Ya know what I think? I think that it’s OK to be scared. Some things in life are scary. But if you’re scared now, it means you are about to do something really brave…and there is nothing better than being brave!”

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized that I also needed to hear them. I have big dreams. I don’t dream small. If I want to make my own dreams come true I am certainly going to have to be brave. The thing is, I think sometimes we’re hard on ourselves for feeling fear. Note: If fear is causing you to stay in bed all day watching DVR’d HGTV shows and eating Tostitos with lime until your tongue goes raw, you should re-visit the idea of anti-anxiety meds before proceeding. However, if you have the kind of fear I do, the kind that exists simply to show you just how much you really want something, than you’re likely about to do something fabulously brave. And really, what’s better than being brave?

You may wait forever, but before you know it...the ride is over. So, buckle up and let's go.

Don’t Be a Raging Bitch & Other Advice I Give Myself

Since I am not a Guru, I don’t have all the answers. I live mostly by trial-and-error and benefit from a city full of examples of how I do, and don’t, want to live. Here is some of the advice I’ve given myself along the way. Let me know if it helps you too.

“Don’t be a raging bitch” is advice I sometimes have to give myself. PMS is the real cause at times (not a great excuse, but it’s a reality nonetheless) but at other times I am just cranky, hungry, tired, stressed out or nervous and need to remind myself not to scream and whine at my husband just because he said hello in the morning before I’ve stumbled out of bed. True story. I’m not proud. The thing is, I do tell myself these things, and I listen. I make a real effort to be a sane and useful human every single day. Some people don’t even do that. If you’re one of those people, stop being a raging bitch. Just stop. You don’t have “haters.” It’s not “you against the world.” The world is busy. Get busy too or go be a raging bitch in private. Note: If you do have “haters” than consider how this advice could remedy that. Also, stop saying “haters.”

“Don’t mask dislike or jealousy with “LOL.” Oooooh…social networking. You think you’re so clever with your “pages” and your “likes” and your massive amounts of “friends.” Well, you are. The problem with you being so popular is how we sometimes communicate on sites like Facebook & Twitter. The thing I’ve caught myself doing recently is kind of embarrassing if I were the sort of person to feel embarrassed. I’ve done it, and maybe you’ve done it too. Ever read (or write) something like this in response to a status message?

“OMG, you’re on vacation AGAIN! Morocco this time? That must be really nice for you! Isn’t it just so great that you’re rich and can afford all that time off? Guess your boss isn’t pissed you’ll be gone for 3 weeks this time either. LOL!”

Does the “LOL” at the end really mask the obvious jealousy and disdain in that comment? Does it make it OK just because the “LOL” implies it was all said in jest? Maybe Lucy Travelpants works hard for her money, saved 6 months for this trip, regularly volunteers and has an evil boss she deserves a major break from. Or maybe she doesn’t. Either way, it’s not fair to assume anything based on a status message. We never know what’s really going on in anyone’s life unless they post every little thing at all times. (That’s a whole other issue.) If you’re not truly happy for someone you otherwise care about, just don’t type anything. I’ve slapped my own hands quite a few times on this issue. Don’t tell me I’m alone on this one!

“Stop reading and start doing.” This advice is not at all for everyone. In fact, I’m not sure how many of you will be able to relate to me on this one. (I’m excited to find out!) I don’t read self-help books. The reason why is not because I don’t think they are absolutely incredible. There are millions many enlightening, intelligent and inspirational books out there with oodles of information and techniques inside that we could all use to change our lives for the better. I’ve bought some of them. The reason I don’t read them is this: when I read a self-help book I feel accomplished. My thoughts go something like this: 

“I have a problem/quirk/decision and I’ve taken the necessary step to seek help from this awesome book. I’m so proud of myself! This book was a stroke of genius! I don’t feel alone about this anymore either! Go ME!”

The problem is, I am so damn proud of myself for being self-aware and seeking out help that I usually don’t ever fix my real problem. I just bask in the glory of having acknowledged it. The words don’t really sink in until I actually take some sort of action beyond soaking up the knowledge the book has given me. (Side note: I am the same way with inspirational quotes. I read one and think, “Wow, that is so perfect and smart and speaking directly to me right this moment!” and then I just move on. I’ve never read “Carpe Diem” and found myself jumping off the couch to seize the day, if ya know what I mean.) This is not to say I won’t ever read a self-help book, it’s just that for a long while now my approach has been to make an intelligent guess and just try something and fail if it doesn’t work…then try again. I trust my intuition whenever possible. I also surround myself with smart and caring friends & family who make good suggestions. I have to have quite a bit of courage for this to work, and that part is not often easy. I can’t lie to myself either, and pretend I’m getting better/learning/growing when I’m not. Again, not easy. This may not be a good idea if you’re looking to do something dangerous that you haven’t spent any time researching or your problem needs medical attention. For me, however, this approach is actually working out so far. When it stops working I’ll be looking for the kind of book that says, “Now put the book down and go do  __________ before you self destruct” at the end of each chapter. If that doesn’t exist you’re going to have to help me write it.

Thoughts? What advice do you give yourself?

Stuff I’m Diggin’ – 1

I’m taking a break from the usual format to tell you about stuff I’m currently diggin. It’s that simple. I may not be a Guru, but I’ve got decent taste and am exposed to a lot of cool things living in NYC.  If they’re something you think I should try for any of the categories below, please tell me about it and we’ll see if I dig it!

Delicious: I specifically like the pineapple addition. I can pretend it’s a pina colada if I want to. They have this everywhere I’ve looked for coconut water, from bodega’s to pharmacies.

Yum.

Witty: The hilarious @barvonblaq on Twitter. One of my favorite actor/comedians. Check him out!

Essential: Atmospheric sprays and unique essential oil blends from http://www.euphoriaproducts.com. I keep “Rainforest Remedy” spray on my desk and burn “Buddha Belly” oil at home. Can order online and it’s blended-to-order.

Minty heaven.

Gorgeous: Magicalized Portraits by my Artist friend Gene-Manuel. He turns people into art. You have to take a closer look.Visit: http://gene-manuel.com/magicalizedportraits/

Before, meet after. You're welcome.

Helpful: Tried this line of shampoo and conditioners for a month. When I ran out I tried to go back to regular shampoos and conditioners and they literally smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. Couldn’t do it. Now I’m hooked. I buy these at Rite Aid, so they’re easy to find. http://beautypureandsimple.com/

I have a thing for minty scents.

What are YOU diggin’ right now?

She’s Nobody’s Fruitfly

I was coming out of the grocery store in my neighborhood and bumped into a friend of a friend who, when telling her my evening plans, said she “couldn’t wait to meet my gay.”

My…what?

Let me back up a bit. Growing up, I was familiar with homosexuality because of some of my family members. In college, a few of my classmates came out to me. Being involved in the performing arts, my comedy duo partner and I have performed in most of NYC’s gay bars and clubs. I have plenty of gay and lesbian friends and consider myself lucky for living in a city that is literally bursting with diversity. I am a generally liberal and open-minded person.

Now that we’ve gotten my history out of the way, let me say first that I understand the term “faghag” and if you don’t, here is the wikipedia entry. Because my comedy partner in crime, Jason, is both gay and one of my closest friends we’ve run into this stereotype before. Jason and I have been friends since college where we first performed together, and our on stage comedy chemistry translated into both a friendship and a musical duo. Despite hanging out and working together often we don’t fall into a lot of the other gay-male-straight-female stereotypes. I was never hopelessly in unrequited love for him. We didn’t date before he came out. We are not each others only close friends. He doesn’t pick out my clothes, hairstyle or makeup.

We’re friends. We respect each other. Onstage together we find ourselves hilarious. We do tell gay-themed jokes sometimes but he usually writes for me and I usually write for him. He doesn’t introduce me as his faghag. I tried once to say “my gays” recently and it felt both ridiculous and insulting although it did not insult the gay male I said it to.

In short, people are not property. He is not my gay. I am not his hag. If he were straight, would we still require labels for our friendship?

Some of you may be thinking, “Lighten up, it’s just slang and not usually meant to be offensive” and I know what you mean by that. When you’re out drinking and blowing off some steam sometimes it’s fun to just shout out stupid  things. We’ve all been there. However, if we all really believe that equality is a human right, then why do we keep celebrating stereotypes? If I want my gay friends to have all of the rights that my straight friends have, that I have, than why do I have to label them at all? I’m not thrilled when heterosexuals are referred to as “breeders” either, for that matter. If your parents weren’t “breeders” you wouldn’t exist. Boom.

Furthermore, when did anyone else’s sexuality become my business at all? Frankly I could care less if  someone sleeps with men or with women (or both.) If you’re anything like me you might have been introduced to a new group of people like this: “That’s Lisa, she’s an accountant, Maggie just sold her first painting, Jenny is the one from Jersey that I told you about, and that’s Brian and James, they’re gay.”

Oh really? That’s it? Brian and James don’t have jobs, talent, and aren’t from anywhere? The fact that someone is gay can easily be the least interesting thing about a person…and how did you expect me to start that conversation anyway? “Hey, I’m NotYourGuru, I hear you’re gay…how’s that going?” What all of this comes down to is that I love and respect the gay community and hope that members and supporters alike can be a little more open-minded as well. This is just my not-a-guru point of view. Thoughts? Leave me a comment below.

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