life lessons

Standing My Sacred Ground – On Speaking Up Part II

| On Living Well

I hate introducing myself to strangers, starting conversations, or mingling at parties. Making returns or scheduling appointments over the phone make me nervous. In fact, I dislike most phone calls. I avoid them when I can. It is entirely possible that I have accepted crappy insurance, additional fees, or the wrong colored something or other simply because I didn’t want to talk to anyone on the phone.

All this to say, speaking up isn’t my strong suit.

It’s funny though. When I was in elementary school the teachers often told my parents I was bright and doing well, but I talked too much. I needed to stop talking so much. Middle school was a good antidote for that problem. Not only did I stop talking out of turn, I stopped raising my hand or otherwise volunteering my thoughts and ideas. Just stopped cold turkey.

If this was just an insecure adolescent kind of thing, it would have ended when I entered college. But it didn’t. I distinctly recall sitting in a lecture hall when a professor asked us to share some of the ways Alice Walker weaved purple imagery throughout her novel, The Color Purple. My fellow students offered up a list. And the professor waited. “What else?” she asked. Nipples, I thought. Duh.

She waited. No one said a thing. NIPPLES, I screamed inwardly. But I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. “Come on,” she coaxed. “What else?”

Finally, someone spoke up. “Nipples?”

Yes, gawd. Of course. Nipples! Why couldn’t I say that? When stuff like that happens, it’s like a little piece of my identity gets folded up and shoved in a box. Since then, I’ve made it my business to prevent my soul from becoming origami.

I was a bartender for a spell back during grad school, an experience I am forever grateful for. My first mentor was my godmother, a professional badass. While training me, she motioned to the entire bar and told me, “This is your ship. You are the captain. Don’t take no one’s shit.” I needed to hear this. Like, really. On more than one occasion I had to use my megaphone voice to stop drunken stupidity from taking over my ship. And it wasn’t uncommon for me to smack a customer’s hands. The things people try…

Actually, tending bar was pretty good training for life.

Brené Brown has a slightly sweeter (though, no less badass) way of saying the same thing as my über eloquent godmother. In times of anxiety, uncertainty, or stress, her mantra is, “Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground.”

I think these words are important because being motivated to speak up by a history of remaining silent means there is pressure under the surface, thereby leaving me at risk of shooting off my mouth – being a bit overzealous, rude, or hurtful. It has been a long journey of puffing up and shrinking down to get to a place where I feel okay (if not entirely comfortable) sharing how I feel about stuff that matters. Still, sometimes I over-share. Or use the wrong tone. Or get my facts mixed-up. There are more cases than I’d like to recall that left me wrought with doubt as to whether I said the right thing, or completely undone by something hurtful that came out of my mouth.

Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand your sacred ground.

So, I walk the line knowing that I’ll keep stepping over it. And when I do, I’ll say sorry and do what I can to right what I’ve wronged. In the end, I think speaking my truth is worth the fallout from a few (or more than a few) stupid things I’ll say in my lifetime.

Admittedly, it’s sometimes better to keep my mouth shut. But missing an opportunity to call someone out on racism, sexism, or general shittiness leaves me in a kind of emotional hangover, just physically ill. I think this is why I feel so fired up to speak out about what’s currently happening in this country. My heart still races. My palms still sweat. But I try really hard now to say what needs to be said.

Honestly, I could have used my godmother’s advice when I was 12. And 13. And every year after. It works in all kinds of situations. Your ship is your classroom, your office, your social media page, your home, your body. Don’t take no one’s shit.

____________________

Photo by Keleigh Layton

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2016: The Year of Fireworks, Rainbows, and Steamy Poo

| On Living Well

There has been an awful lot of talk about how bad 2016 was. With the election a mere two months behind us, it’s completely understandable that we, as a whole, feel a bit bruised by the impact of what’s to come. The world is a mess and we’re pretty tired of it. There is a lot to sort out. 

And sure, we lost a few significant celebrities. But they were… um, celebrities. Despite how many days I cried over David Bowie’s death, it’s not enough for me to toss the whole year in the garbage and call it a steamy pile of poo.  (more…)

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Why I Love Chicago Weather

| On Living Well

I was born and raised in Southern California, so I’m spoiled when it comes to weather. I don’t like extremes. I complain about anything higher than 85 degrees and anything lower than 65 degrees. Rain is novel and splendid, but only for two days. Anything, longer than that is a little excessive, don’t you think?

It’s no surprise that summer in Chicago had me in a complete fit for weeks. It was horrid, sticky, and stormy and dear God, how do people function in this heat? I thought, I’ll just wait until the weather is nice and then we can go out. That didn’t work. The sticky and stormy would last for days and days with maybe one day of respite in between.

And now we are headed into the darkest days of winter. Somehow knowing this has sparked a better-get-the-fuck-out-there-and-enjoy-the-sun-while-you-can attitude in me. So, my miniature sidekick and I (more…)

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Saying Goodbye – An Ode to Los Angeles

| On Living Well

Saying Goodbye to LA

 

You know that older woman who wears chunky bracelets and fuchsia lipstick? She seems to wink at you constantly like you share a secret but you have no idea what it is. You want to turn away but you can’t. Something about her draws you in. You know that lady? She’s quick to tell the waiter he has it all wrong and just as quick to call him darling. She’s got the best stories. You want to drift to sleep cradled in her scandal, mystery, and romance. Then, with a swish of the wrist, she tells you none of it matters after all. You know that woman?

That woman is Los Angeles. Bold, brazen, and big-hearted LA. And right there in between her wink and her laugh is where I feel most at home.

In case you haven’t heard, I’m leaving Los Angeles. I’m packing up my small family and (more…)

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My Secret & Not-That-Strange Stress Survival Technique

| On Living Well, On Yoga

My Secret & Not-That-Strange Stress Survival Technique

 

“I can’t cry anymore.”

I confessed this to a friend during a hike one morning. We were somewhere in Griffith Park climbing in rhythm with our breaths. She is also a yogi, so she knew the significance of what I had just said. With concern between her brow, she pressed me for more details.

Generally speaking, I’m not really a big crier. Sometimes everyone around me is crying and I’m just standing there trying to figure out what to do with my face. (more…)

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The Magic of Life Outside of the Box

| On Living Well

Living Outside of the Box

 

When I was a little girl, my mother told me I was ugly.

Before you get the wrong idea, let me say for the record that my mom is amazing; she is compassionate, creative, silly, and I think she did a phenomenal job raising me and my sister. She was in no way abusive.

She saw a little girl who was about to be handed her worth in the form of compliments. She knew the world would tell this little girl they loved her dress, her hair, and her shoes. So she did the only thing she could think to do – she did the opposite in hopes her little girl would learn not to measure her worth in such limited confines.

According to my mom, every time she told me I was ugly, (more…)

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