August 29, 2013

Thirsty Thursday Thoughts

  1. After listening to Ambrosia’s “Biggest Part of Me” on XM’s ‘70s channel yesterday I realized how I own nary a single album of theirs.  (And that is odd because I am a serious smooth '70s fan.)  Needless to say, I’ve since remedied that situation.  If you're also a forgot-you-are fan, Rhino High Five has an EP containing all the heavy hitters: “Biggest Part of Me”, “How Much I Feel,” “You’re The Only Woman."  
  2. As you may be aware, I’m into TED talks these days.  I just watched Meg Jay’s “30 Is Not the New 20” and got major goose bumps.  (And, it actually made me feel pretty good about some of my life choices, which was a nice little bonus.)  She doesn't have quite the finesse that Brene Brown has, but she has some great things to say, as well as some wonderful advice.  A must-see for sure.
  3. I know I’m only contributing to the broken record that is the commentary on Miley Cyrus this week, but I can’t help myself.  Yes, I happen to be a fan (on one hand because the rebel in me admires a girl who doesn't give a f****, and then on the other hand, in the face of everyone criticizing her, it makes me want to stick up for her more.)  And let's be reals here: "We Can't Stop" is great pop music.  Today, my friend sent me this interesting commentary on how everybody’s missing the point that the song is actually a depressing homage to the highs and lows of drug use.  And while the interpretation is a startlingly accurate and sobering analysis of which I can't disagree with, I choose to respond to it in perhaps a more innocent way.  The lyrics that “It’s our party we can do what we want/It’s our party we can say what we want/It’s our party we can love who want” is also about living your own life, your own way, regardless of societal and peer pressures.  Though I agree that the song’s primary theme is probably about getting high on the party drug “Molly”, I think that its dual meaning is also about being true and real and honest to yourself and others, which for me is an even more universally felt and positive message.  (Although I will say, I’m quite glad to have become educated on Molly.)
  4. On a semi-related note, if you aren’t reading Zen Habits then you might want to consider it.  This week, Leo Babuta had the following quote, which was about eating healthy, but which also pertains to life in general: “Be curious. . . . Let go of expectations and prejudgments.  You might find out some interesting things.”
  5. Summer is ending, which is always a little bittersweet, but I ain’t gonna lie: fall fashion is the freaking best.  Bring on the sweaters, boots, and denim!
That's all for this Thirsty Thursday.  Have a lovely and relaxing Labor Day weekend!

August 21, 2013

The Vulnerability Party

Several months ago, I scribbled BrenĂ© Brown’s name on a Post-It when a friend recommended watching her Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) talk on vulnerability, but then set it aside.  About a month afterward, an interview of her appeared in O Magazine, and didn’t think much of it.  Just the other day, I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed the other day I stumbled upon a Pin of “15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life”, clicked on it, and saw BrenĂ© Brown listed, which triggered my memory of the now crumpled-up Post-It note that is probably lost somewhere in the inner depths of my purse.

One of my new favorite evening rituals is doing the Viparita Karaniyoga pose, which is really just an exotic-sounding Indian name for lying down and elevating your legs up against the wall for 5-10 minutes.  So, the other night while I "hung out" with my legs against the wall I played Brown’s 2010 TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability from my iPad, fighting every urge to take notes as I listened and practiced my pose.  Tonight, I just finished her follow-up 2012 TED talk on Listening to Shame.  In addition to trying this yoga pose, you should listen do two more things and listen to these great talks.

Brown’s 2010 talk on vulnerability was particularly illuminating because for many of us vulnerability is such a pervasively felt yet feared and suppressed emotion.  Though we all have our different personalities and perspectives, we are all afraid to be vulnerable, which by many of our accounts is to appear weak, to be rejected, to be forgotten.  Brown argues that vulnerability is just the opposite, that it actually is our most accurate measurement of courage” and that it is “the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”  Food for thought, right?

When I think about it, I find people most endearing when they let their guard down, when they stop putting on heirs, when they reveal the side of themselves that perhaps they don’t feel brave enough to share with everyone.  When I am privy to this side of someone who is struggling with exposing this vulnerability, particularly if it’s someone I really like and admire, a part of me just wants to hug them and to tell them it’s okay, that this is a good thing.  Vulnerability is such an endearing thing on so many levels.

But perhaps why I find vulnerability so captivating in others is because though I am pretty in tune with my emotions, my sometimes reserved and shy nature can hold me back in certain situations, making it difficult for me to express my own vulnerable side too, even if I really want to reveal it.  Typically, and I think this is true of many of us, I am only capable of exposing that part of me once I’ve developed trust with a person or situation, which sometimes takes a little while (typical of the INFJ personality type). 

Looking at vulnerability as a “measurement of courage”, as Brown refers to it, shattered my preconceived notion that vulnerability is perhaps the less tender flower of the emotion family and ironically more of the iron-fisted one.  Vulnerability is actually quite strong and sexy; confident and powerful.  And, as I think about it more, Brown's argument is actually quite consistent with how I perceive the emotion expressed by other people.  For example, a man who exposes vulnerability by saying to a woman, “I really like you,” is actually a symbol of great, modern alpha strength rather than beta-male weakness, in my opinion.  Brown’s way of putting it is direct: “Vulnerability is not weakness.  And that myth is profoundly dangerous.” 

Needless to say, the Power of Vulnerability talk was powerful, especially when paired with a little bit of light yoga.  My homework going forward is to work more on accepting and becoming more comfortable with my vulnerability, and I urge you to do the same.  After all, “that’s what life is about: about daring greatly, about being in the arena.” 

August 18, 2013

Five Things

  • I came home late last night to a mailbox full of  thick, glossy "September issues" and it was as if someone had given me a thick wad of 20s and said, "Here.  Go have fun."  Needless to say, September is a great month if you're a magazine whore like me.  (By the by, did you see Oprah's hair on the cover of O?)
  • Beyond staying in my PJs as long as I feel like today, I'm planning on catching up on some music videos.  And while I know both the songs quite well, I've been informed that the videos to Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" and Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" are current essentials.
  • It's been a couple weeks since I've been using the Clarisonic Plus, and I have to say: it really is all they say it is.  After having the system on my wish list for a couple years, I finally went for it after reading repeated interviews in one week about how the Clarisonic was the one face product they couldn't live without.  I've been using the sensitive brush head so far and it provides the perfect amount of exfoliation for daily or every other day use.  My skin has never felt so smooth.
  • I am one of the few females in the world who dislikes weddings and all the hoopla associated with them.  (And I realize this makes me a curmudgeon of sorts.)  A bachelorette party, on the other hand, when suited to the bride's personality rather than the generic mainstream standard of our time, is a festive and important prelude to the bride's big day.  But why must they be only a one-time event? 
  • Though I consider myself a reflective person, when it comes to making decisions I typically let instinct and intuition be my guide and just do it.  In some cases, I wind up making decisions very quickly, in other cases, sometimes rashly.  On the whole, though, my decision-making hasn't failed me, yet anyway.  This wonderful post on how decision-making should be viewed as an experiment, rather than something that needs to be overthought (when there is never a predetermined outcome to a decision anyway), was illuminating and insightful, and well, made me feel a little more justified in my approach to decisions.

August 8, 2013

Thirsty Thursday Thoughts

  • Miley Cyrus’s new single “We Can’t Stop” is carefree, sassy, and fun.  When paired with the accompanying video, however, the song becomes a compelling, thematically progressive, and thought-provoking timepiece; visually, it both entertains and cuts.  I have many thoughts, but you should form your own.  Here's the video. 

  • I am continually in search of The Perfect Nighttime Snack, which by my standards is healthy, a little sweet, satisfying, and fun.  I recently stumbled upon the "two-ingredient cookie," and yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds, that is, if you like bananas and oats.  All you do is take a ripe banana, mash it up, add ½ instant oats (not old-fashioned since you want a finer consistency), and bake on a greased pan at 350 degrees for 12-15 mins.  I violate the two-ingredient rule (big surprise there, I know) by adding in sea salt, vanilla, and cinnamon, and viola – The Perfect Nighttime Snack.

  • Having a Me Night is an underrated indulgence that restores in all the right ways and places.  I was tempted to plan something with a friend because it was my first open night all week, but I opted not to.  While I think maintaining friendships is incredibly important for a variety of reasons, what's perhaps more important is maintaining one's relationship with yourself first.  Some may say that sounds a little selfish, but my position is that if we don't first take care of ourselves, how can we be there for or give to others?  For these reasons, and because I honestly enjoy being a bit of a loner, I am a big proponent of the me-time concept.

  • Today marks my six-month juicing anniversary and I can honestly say that I can’t imagine life without my morning juices.   While I definitely feel healthier and more energetic, I know there are a multitude of benefits to my body that I can’t even see or feel, which is exciting.  This post on Food Babe provided a good overview of common juicing mistakes and reiterated the multitude of benefits juicing provides.  Who knew that swishing juice actually made you absorb nutrients better?  I didn’t. 

  • Food for thought from my guru Eckhart Tolle: “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” 

August 2, 2013

Never Stop Growing Up.

A couple weeks ago, journalist Connie Schultz had this piece in Parade entitled “Life in the Middle Ages.”  While I have not yet approached middle age, the article resonated with me because it discussed the exciting side effect that with growing old, “[y]ou get to keep growing.”  In the article, Schultz included a passage from Gail Godwin’s The Finishing School, which was particularly moving:

          There are two kinds of people . . . One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what  
          point they congealed into their final selves.  It might be a very nice self, but you know you
          can expect no more surprises from it.  Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing. 
         With these people, you can never say, “X stops here,” or “Now I know all there is to know
         about Y.”  That doesn’t mean they’re unstable.  Ah, no, far from it.  They are fluid.  
        They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them
         young.  In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive. 

The second type of person is who I hope to always strive to be.  Never resisting change, never being stunted by some internal block, never shrugging my shoulders and saying "I am who I am" in the face of challenge with myself and others.

On some level, however, I agree with the common notion that as people get older they get stuck in their ways and become complacent.  After all, if it works and if it ain’t broke, why  fix it?  But on the other hand, just ‘cuz it "ain’t broke" doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better, and you could actually be a happier, more content person in the end. 

One of the requisites of an assistantship I got for grad school included teaching English 101 to college freshmen.  At the time, public speaking was perhaps my biggest fear in the world, which was even bigger than my fear of snakes; it was that big.  I knew that I wanted this assistantship because my M.A. would be paid for, but I also realized how good the opportunity would be for me because it would force me to overcome my fear of public speaking. 
In the spring and summer preceding the fall when I was slated to begin the program, I did some personal work, the first step reflecting on what the root of this fear was.  It occurred to me that a big part of it was lack of confidence, of someone making fun of me, of being rejected on some level -- all emotional things.  But the other part of it was simply not knowing how to do it.  After doing some soul-searching, I decided that counseling would be a good way to work through the issues, so I talked to someone about it (i.e., a counselor).  (For any of you on the fence about counseling, I am a big fan; just make sure to find the right one, for you.)

During the initial sessions, we talked about all the kinds of things you would imagine: my upbringing, siblings, family dynamics, my fear of public speaking and why it was so scary to me.  I only met with her a few times before our sessions turned to conversations about astrology (she saw strong Virgo tendencies in me, which was interesting) when I knew that her work with me (for the time anyway) was done.   
The big takeaway of my counseling sessions was not playing the victim, of not pigeon-holing myself into a static version of Sarah for years to come.  It was after the counseling that I realized how capable I was of overcoming this public speaking thing (as well as other things).  I may not like it, and it may always be stressful for me (oh, it is!), but I can learn to do it without crippling fear and I can even learn how to do it well.  Needless to say, despite the horrific nightmares the evening before, I didn’t faint the first day of teaching English 101 and actually did a decent job.  And guess what?  I’ve since touched, even held, my share of snakes too. 

It’s true that we are not completely malleable – I will always prefer to be the wallflower than the attention whore – but we all have a rather vast sliding scale of self-improvement, and oftentimes we can even surprise ourselves with the things we’re capable of.  Sometimes we set limits without even realizing it, and perhaps it’s because we’re satisfied with where we are (which is totally okay!).  But when those limits become limitations that prevent us from living the best life possible, or in some cases, even hurt the people we love, it’s worth pushing ourselves a little harder and a little faster. 

After all, we’re all capable, and more important, worthy, of change, growth, and becoming better versions of ourselves.