On Mastering The Art of Having A Bad Week

santabarbara

Last week was extremely challenging for me. Every day felt like some sort of test that my soul had to pass…ever had one of those? It was painful. It was hard. It made me feel like everything I’ve worked for has been useless. It felt like the world’s biggest speed bump, seeing as I’ve generally been feeling so happy and fulfilled.

But, this morning, while I pounded away on the treadmill, I came to a realization – despite my challenging week – I’m actually okay! I’d even say I’m feeling great. There have been times in the past when bad days piled into bad weeks and bad weeks piled into bad months, and…well, you get the picture – whereas, this week, that simply wasn’t the case!

“What’s different this time?” I asked myself. “What’s changed?” I feel full, not empty and defeated.

As I ran, I mentally ticked off the reasons I believe this bad week has turned out to be not so bad at all.

It’s this:  I’ve spiritually stockpiled things that can serve as a reserve of strength when life hands me challenging circumstances.

May I share them with you?

To Conquer a Bad Week, Make Sure You Have:

Soul Mates: I’ve long believed that my friends are my soul mates. Whereas romantic love comes and goes, my friendships see me through every situation that life throws my way. They are the people who stand behind me and say,

“Yes, you can.”

“One more time.”

“You’re not alone.”

No one tells you that when you move to a new city, you’re going to flounder for a while as you try to build a solid group of people who you can call at three o’clock in the morning – and this is marked by some  very lonely days and nights. I am so grateful that I’ve managed to find such an incredible circle of friends here in L.A. And no two are alike: I have one I can cry in front of that gives me the sweetest safety to be weak in his presence. I have one that attributes everything to the stars and mercury being in retrograde. One that keeps me laughing. One that suggests a seyonce and is my spiritual sister from another lifetime. One that is my reflection – his growth is mirroring back to me my own. They all come together in my life to form the most amazing and strong support system amid this strange city we all call home. They have saved me.

And they didn’t come my way by accident. We were always meant to be together. And with them behind me, this soul-crushing week wasn’t so soul-crushing after all – because they’re here with me, reminding me that I’m not alone. Find true friends, and hang on to them. They’re absolutely everything in this life. And I mean EVERYTHING.

 

An Art: Quite simply – Art Heals. Art is a balm we can rub onto our souls’ wounds. Often, we overlook and underestimate how powerful it can be to express how we feel through a medium. In the midst of this painful week, I woke up one day deciding I absolutely must pick up a brush and paint. I’ve been yearning to for a while (gone are my high school and college days when I was able to paint everyday) and suddenly I knew this was the perfect time to do it. There’s something so incredibly soothing about smoothing paint over a blank canvas – manipulating colors and forming shapes. Whatever your preferred art is – painting, dancing, pottery, photography, writing, drawing, singing – do yourself a favor and pick it up the next time you’re feeling like you’re flat on your back run over by life. Don’t judge what comes out…just do your art.

 

Love: Love, love, love. Love for yourself, love for other people, love for this world. Let yourself receive it wholeheartedly from those who give it to you. Give it to people who need it. Love is the gift we give others, and it comes back to us like a boomerang. The more I found myself giving love this week, the more I felt it. Love is everywhere. Open your heart to it. I lived my life for a long time closed off from receiving love and I now realize I was slowly asphyxiating my soul. It may not come from the place you want it to, but it will come from the places you need it to, if you allow it. The reassuring hug of a friend. The smile of a stranger. Simple gestures of kindness. The touch of a soul mate. Love is everywhere. You don’t have to be afraid of it because real love doesn’t hurt. It feels wonderful.

Let it in.

Let it in.

Let it in.

 

Hope: I’m not sure what lay beyond this life. I don’t know if everything we do is part of a cosmic plan. I don’t know if God exists. I don’t know if we’re all just impulses and chemical reactions.

But I do know, if we don’t indulge our souls and believe in a little bit of magic, this life can feel hopeless. I do know that if I don’t allow my soul to run free with the possibility of miracles, this winding road seems like it will never end.

Let yourself hope. Hold onto it when times get tough. It is the tiny bell that rings in your brain telling you, even when you’re back is up against the wall, that the possibility of magic exists. Believe in magic. Believe that you can and will be living a life you feel good about.

Close your eyes. Picture a pitch black night sky. Now, picture a firefly flickering in the distance. That’s hope. That tiny and flittering light. Do you feel me?

 

A Go-To Release: Working out has gotten me through my toughest patches. I remember in the aftermath of my father’s sudden death, there was absolutely nothing that soothed my aching and inflamed soul like working out. I lifted the most weight I could for the most reps. I ran as fast as I possibly could for as long as my legs would hold out. The aftermath of each session was always different: Sometimes I’d burst into tears. Sometimes I’d laugh. Sometimes I’d be so physically exhausted that I couldn’t cry or laugh – all I could do was collapse. But there was always a release.

And it always left me feeling strong. Physically and mentally.

I workout every day as it is, but I workout even harder when I have rough days. There’s something addictive in that release for me.

Find your release. Batting cages, running, lifting weights, swimming – the possibilities are endless. Strengthen your body and your soul will follow suit.

 

Gratitude: Practicing gratitude is the key to happiness, if you ask me. All of the happiest people I know are also the most grateful for everything – even the challenges. Recently, I was reading a post on Humans of New York (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you’re going to want to Google it like, now.) and the particular photo I’m referring to was of an aging mother and daughter. The quote beneath the photo is as follows:

“What’s your favorite thing about your mother?”

“She loves life more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but recently she’s had some health problems. And her health got so bad at one point, she called me and said: ‘I was starting to wonder if there was any reason to go on [living]. ….But then I had the most delicious pear!”

I kept reading this quote throughout the week. Find joy and gratitude in every little thing. Even when you’re in the midst of a heartbreakingly bad day, there are STILL things to be grateful for. Next time you find yourself caught up in a spiral of defeat and negativity, take a moment and look around you and find gratitude. It’s a buoy. It’ll help you float.

I don’t hold a degree in Psychology. I can’t say that all of these things will work for you, all of the time. There is no magical formula to revive your spirit when you’re “in it.” But, these are easy things that each and every one of us has access to. You can (and should)  do them all in one day! No one is unable to access them unless they are unwilling.

 

With Love,

 

A.

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Muse

Santa Barbara, my own personal heaven.

Santa Barbara, my own personal heaven.

I was having a conversation with two men this past week.

One American, one British.

Both successful.

One was talking about a successful female athlete he represents (he’s a manager) and he kept mentioning again and again how difficult she was. She’s a “real pain in the ass,” he kept warning me as we discussed ways I could work with her (I should note, he adores her and wasn’t say this to be cruel or insulting…it was more admiration than anything).

I laughed saying that this made me want to work with her even more…that I don’t want to associate with women who aren’t a little bit of a pain in the ass.

I said that I myself, am a pain in the ass, and that any woman truly worth their time would be a pain in the ass, too.

The British man laughed and said he didn’t believe that I could be a pain in the ass.

I told him not to let my innocent face and seemingly sweet disposition fool him.

He asked me what I thought made me one. I replied “Because I push. I push, and push, and pick, and push, until the man I love is the best possible version of himself that he can be, and I refuse to accept anything less than from him.”

He laughed and said:

“Darling, that doesn’t make you a pain in the ass, that makes you a muse.”

I just about died right there and told him that this was the was best thing I’d ever heard come out of his mouth.

 

What a poetic and amazing way of seeing a woman…don’t you agree?

Pray

image

I’ve been thinking about God a lot lately. We have a complicated relationship. I’m not very religious. More spiritual. And lately –  I’ve been preoccupied with Him. I need direction. I need something sure. The other day at the gym I actually had tears running down my face as I drifted off thinking about sitting in an empty church and just praying. It literally brought tears to my eyes.  I don’t even know how to pray, really.

Today, I made up my mind to go somewhere deliberately to pray. To put aside my thoughts of what prayer should look and sound like,  and just do it. I really thought very hard of the things I’d pray for.

Well, I never got to go to that place to pray. I never went because, before I could, my prayers were answered. They were answered in the form of a conversation with someone that gave me exactly what I needed. Essentially, God spoke through this person.

When I thought of praying again, tears no longer came to my eyes. I didn’t need to go to an open field. I didn’t need to pray and cry before the alter in church. I simply sat with my thoughts asking God for guidance….and it was given. Today was a good day.

Fear.

dentist

We all have fears.

Some we’re born with.

Some have to do with the mystery of the unknown.

Some we develop as a result of trauma.

Today, I’ll be talking about the last kind I mentioned: fears we develop as a result of trauma.

When I was a bit younger, my dad had gotten new insurance (ahhh, the days of being on my parents insurance….) and signed us up for a new dentist. My mother made my brothers and I appointments, loaded us into the car, and drove us into the city to meet the new dentist and have exams.
One of my brothers went in first and I anxiously tapped my foot waiting for my turn. When my brother emerged, he was visibly shaken and upset, and I swear there were tears in his eyes – but “boys don’t cry.” He took a seat and put his head down, not saying much to anyone. The dentist called me in next, and I remember having that feeling in my stomach when you know that something may wrong, but you go along anyway.

The big man in the white jacket sat me down without greeting, tipped me back in the chair, and proceeded to open my mouth and without even telling me, shoved a needle full of novacaine into my gums and started drilling away at my mouth without waiting for the the novacaine to take effect. I felt everything. I tried to speak up, but he wouldn’t listen, and all while he drilled, he muttered things like, “Must have taken ALOT of candy and soda to get your teeth like this,” and “This is bad. Very, very bad.” It was like a horror movie – I kid you not. I wish I was exaggerating.

At this point, I’d like to point out that, previous to this, I’d never even had a cavity filled. This was my first experience. When “The Butcher,” (as I referred to him as for years) took a break, I begged him to stop with tears coming down my face, and he complied. I ran into the lobby to my mother, shaking and crying hysterically. It didn’t take more than a split second for my mother to promptly drag all three of us kids out of that torture chamber of a dentist’s office. When we got to the car, my poor brother confessed that the dentist had done the same exact thing to him. Horrible.

Flash forward – I literally would not step foot into a dentists office for YEARS. YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS. The experience scarred me terribly. Finally, I had a horrible toothache that ended up needing a root canal, so I was forced to see a family dentist in the town over from us. He was a SAINT, and after I’d told him why I had avoided the dentist for the better part of a decade, treated me like a child when I was in the chair. He was my security blanket – until I moved 3,000 miles away.

Gulp.

What now?

He got me. He knew to tell me every single step of what he was doing.

He knew to distract me with stories about his time in Vietnam, and what his daughters latest adventure in college.

After I moved to LA, I bought myself dental insurance since I can’t get it through work, and signed up for a new dentist. I was horribly scared. But, I figured since the dentist I chose was in Beverly Hills, he must be great.

Not even close.

I won’t get into the details of this experience, but it was AWFUL. I left my first visit crying my eyes out, wondering what the hell had just happened. I wondered if others had had bad experiences, so I “Yelped” him and read review after review of the same experience I’d had. There were so many bad reviews, that they’d actually listed the business as “Closed” on Yelp so that no one else could give him a poor review.

What is it with me and terrible dentists?!?!?!

So, I started my search again, because I’m a grown-up and grown-ups need a good dentist, and with fear, chose a new dentist in Beverly Hills. I had to wait a month before my appointment, so obviously for the entire month I was filled with anxiety and fear every time I thought of going. I read her Yelp reviews to calm my fears. All good.

At my first appointment yesterday, as I sit in the chair waiting to meet my new dentist, I became dizzy, nauseous, and tears popped into my eyes.

She came in.

I asked her if I could speak with her for a moment before we began.

I started crying instantly and told her my experiences and said that I really just needed her help and her patience and that, even thought I am thirty years old, I was really, really scared.

She smoothed my hair back.

She spoke softly and said, “Let’s just pretend like none of that ever happened. I’m going to take care of you, okay?”

She laid me back in the chair.

She grabbed a tissue from the counter, walked over, sat down in her chair, and wiped the tears off of my face.

She. Wiped. The. Tears. From. My. Face.

I’ve finally found The One.

 

It’s okay to be scared.

It’s human.

It’s what makes us vulnerable and beautiful.

We may get hurt.

We may become fearful and weary.

BUT –

There is hope.

There will always be things that make us scared.

And there will always be the kind souls who smooth back our hair, dry our eyes, and get us to trust again

 

 

 

– A

Bring Yourself Back to Life

Discarded flower.

Discarded flower.


I’ve come to an important realization recently, after a period of feeling so lost and without purpose that I truly would’ve done just about anything to feel alive again. I sat quietly with myself for a time, and reflected on why I felt so…lifeless. I rifled through the manilla “happiness” folders in my brain, sprinkling mental checkmarks next to all of the things I had that should leave me quite happy. As I got to the folder marked “goals,” I realized, mouth agape, that I’d stumbled upon the very root of the problem. I literally could not remember the last time I’d set a goal for myself. I racked my brain and came up with “move to California.” In a month and a half, it’ll be TWO YEARS since I’ve arrived here in California. That meant that it had been almost TWO YEARS since I’d pushed myself to do anything for ME. A goal.
Without goals, without personal hurdles to move toward, and jump over, we dry up. Immediately, as if I’d pushed a button, the clouds parted and I came up with a professional goal for myself (more on what that goal is soon). I am making that goal a reality as quickly as possible. Though this one is pretty big and life changing, don’t think that all goals have to be huge and life changing. A wall is built one brick at a time. If you’ve been feeling similarly lost, set tiny personal goals for yourself instead of tackling a huge one right off.
I’ve been feeling so much more alive and with more direction since I came up with a plan, and feel like I’ve got a new passion for life. I can’t wait to get the ball rolling! In the mean time, I’ve been using the knowledge I gained about goals to set smaller ones to keep propelling me forward until I can achieve the big one.

So, what are your goals?
Do you think goals are the key to happiness?

– A