If you are reading this right now, you are probably aware of my stance on body love, on emotional eating awareness, on stripping away negative labels – you know, all the THINGS.
And if you know how strongly I feel about these things, I want you to take that strength and multiply it by 5,000.
If you enter that all into the calculator, it’s going to end up equaling “The Militant Baker“.
Jes Baker, blogger, body love advocate, hilarious human being, beautiful woman, and powerful speaker, has been taking time out of her 40 hour work week for the past umpteen years writing letters to Abercrombie’s CEO Mike Jeffries, photographing stunning women of (literally) every shape and size, and also organizing the world’s first body love conference featuring fellow advocates Sonya Renee Taylor, Jade Beall (yes, the photographer, like yes, HER), Louise Green, and more.
And Jes did this WHILE WORKING A FULL TIME JOB. Like HOW though? HOW? I can barely keep my head on straight with my 30 hours teaching plus writing – and she was a mental health professional while all this was going on?
Can we say superwoman?
Well yes, yes we can. And now the time has come for Jes to step into her true calling and spread the body love full time. As in, leave the security of her full time job and take the brave step of working for the world to spread happiness, acceptance, and empowerment. She’s going to be working for us (quite literally, she’ll be working for you and me) and she’s asking us to support her while she does it.
And she is wondering if you can give her two.
Now, let me ask you something – have you ever heard of tithing?
Giving ten percent of any gifted money, income money, or money you find just laying on the street to something that spiritually feeds you?
Not charity. Not necessarily church. Tithing is giving money to that which spiritually feeds you.
Sometimes it’s a theatre that did a show that moved you. Sometimes it’s to your daughter because she taught you a lesson.
And sometimes it’s to the one woman who dares to do the unthinkable, who writes the unwritable, who is courageous enough to say “what everyone is thinking, but no one will say.”
Tithing is giving a small percent of your income to that.
Jes has spiritually fed me since the day I found that damn letter to Mike Jeffries, and if you believe in body love and awareness, then she has absolutely spiritually fed you whether you realize it or not. She has paved the way for people like me to be able to write about what I write and spread what I want to spread. If you have read my stuff, or heard about Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary, or watched Ragen Chastain dance, it’s because Jes is always so busy making the world know that we are here, we are mighty, and we are not joking around.
She shared Roar. She believes in you. She believes in me (she’s said it, she really does). And she believes that if we change our world, not our bodies, everyone will just be fucking happier and healthier and this whole world will be a better place.
If you want to make this world a more body lovin’ peaceful place, I encourage you to do the same. No amount is too small – literally $2 makes a gigantic difference – and you will be making it possible for more people like me, and Jes, to raise awareness, pave the way for the next generation, and continue to help men and women fall in love with the skin they’re in.
Oh and hey, did I mention that tithing always comes back and rewards you tenfold?
Yes. Oh yes.
It always comes back in ways we least expect.
Quite literally today, as I clicked “confirm” for Jes’s campaign support, two separate women who do not know each other, responded to my joking Facebook post about needing a massage and SENT ME $50 A PIECE TO GO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. I have not seen these women since 2006 and 2010 and they sent me money because they love this blog. THAT’S how tithing comes back y’all. Never in a way you expect it, but it always does.
Again let me restate that “no one has ever become poor from giving”. If anything, it’s quite the opposite.
Join me in supporting Jes Baker so that I can continue to write. So that we can continue to fucking ROAR. So that your children can enter into a more accepting world. So that the beach is full of body loving people who literally could not give a shit what you are wearing.
Join Jes so that you can wake up and know that loving what you see in that mirror is not wrong, or weird, or taboo. Because I can personally you promise that Jes will never, ever let you forget that.
Let her mission be a constant reminder that it is okay to love the skin you’re in right now. And may we all take part in that mission by watching her amazing video below and supporting her in any way we can. Mahalo for your time.
By Olivia Petzy-Binning (Restore Your Roar Co-facilitator and unbelievable human being)
Dear Roar family,
Hi! I’m Olivia and I am so pumped to chat with you today. I can still barely believe that Amanda and I re-connected (you can read about our history here) and that Restore Your Roar is happening in 136 days. Four months and 14 days. 525,600 minutes.
Ok so not really the last one because that’s a full year away but you get it.
There are a few things you should know about me: I love swimming in the cold Atlantic Ocean, I have been a vegetarian for 3+ years but I still eat Haribo gummy bears, and I believe we should all just do it now, whatever “it” is.
“Do it now” is truly what’s behind Restore Your Roar. Amanda and I want you to love your body now. We want you to enjoy moving your body now. We want to talk about fears and worries around eating and appearance now. We want to sit on our private patio in the jungle and look at the Pacific Ocean and connect with other women now.
Now is the only time we’ve got. Sometimes the days can feel endless, especially if we’re stuck at a shitty job, or in a crappy relationship, or just plain feeling worn out by the daily grind, but life itself is short. It’s fleeting.
Today is a perfect day to feel amazing. Today is an ideal day to do something big. Today is a great day to walk away. Today is a wonderful day to say “I love you.” Today is the day.
I want to throw a lei around your neck in Hawaii on January 15th because if not now, when? If not you, who?
I want to share a toolkit I put together for you. In the spirit of doing things and feeling good NOW, it’s 21 prompts to get you feeling fab FAST. Each one has a suggested time limit because I know you’re busy and have things to do, but please, I beg of you, don’t let your things get in the way of your life. Dive in and pick one (my personal faves are 1, 10 and 21).
Say yes. Feel good today. Don’t wait. Don’t die hesitating.
See you in Hawaii!
21 Prompts to Feel Fabulous Fast
1 MINUTE – IN & OUT
Close your eyes. (Do it! we’ve only got one minute!) Take 5 really deep breaths. Silently say “All is well” on every inhalation, and “it is done” on every exhalation. THAT’S IT. The power of the breath, y’all.
2 MINUTES – WIDE EYED
How many beautiful things can you notice in your immediate surroundings in two minutes? On your mark, get set, GO!
3 MINUTES – DANCE BREAK
Get up. Yes, now! Put a great tune on (may I suggest THIS or THIS) and dance it out. If you’re feeling down, this is gonna lift you up and if you’re already feeling groovy, this is only gonna take you higher. Endorphins, here you come!
4 MINUTES – TAKE A VACATION
Did you know you can search “virtual vacation” on Youtube and watch videos of beach scenes with relaxing music? Check out of reality for a few minutes and take a beach break while you take deep breaths (and dream of a poolside smoothie!). May I suggest this tour of Kalani, home to Restore Your Roar?!
5 MINUTES – WHO LOVES YA?
I know you know that you are always being supported by a benevolent and loving Universe. but who else could we add to your list of cheerleaders? Write out a list of every single person who is rooting for you. You’re never alone. Life itself is on your side.
6 MINUTES – EXPERT WITNESS
Write a list of all the things at which you are a straight up expert. NOTHING IS TOO SMALL! If you are the only person who can get your nephew to stop crying when he’s tired, then you are an expert! If you know an absurd amount about cheese from a stint as a server in a Swiss restaurant (ahem), you are an expert! If you can throw a football in a sweet spiral, then you are an expert spiral thrower! Don’t be shy!
7 MINUTES – LUCKY DUCK
Buy a few scratch off lottery tickets (say, five of the $1 ones). Hand them out with a penny to the people behind you in line. You can spread so much excitement and happiness for 5 bucks and 5 cents!
8 MINUTES – MAGIC 8 BALL
What do you want your life to look like in one year? Write it out and here’s the kicker: write it out with CERTAINTY. Write it as if you are POSITIVE IT WILL HAPPEN. You can do this for any amount of time in the future. Visualize, intend, and get ready to magnetize.
9 MINUTES – BLISS LIST
Write down 10 things you are grateful for, ten things you are excited for, and five BRAGS. Yes, that’s right: brag about your bad self.
10 MINUTES – FILE A COMPLIMENT
Wanna feel like a Queen? Lavish praise on someone! Receive fabulous service in a store? Grab a manager on the way out and compliment the employee. Are your garbage collectors unfailingly polite and smiling, even while they do their dirty job? Call your town and praise them. Fill out that survey listed on your receipt and leave positive feedback. Write a glowing Yelp review. Please trust me when I say this feels amazing and you will be hooked!
11 MINUTES – IDEAL DAY
What does your PERFECT DAY look like? How does it start? Where do you wake up? Who’s there? What do you do? Where do you go? How does the day wind down? Write out your perfect day and spare NO details — the more specific, the better. We’re visualizing here, people!
12 MINUTES – DREAM DOZEN
What is your dream way of spending your time? What do you never, ever, ever get tired of talking about? Listening to? Thinking about? Reading about? Learning about?
DO IT for twelve minutes.
13 MINUTES – MAIL CALL
I still get excited when I see something that isn’t junk in my mailbox, and that feeling keeps getting rarer thanks to email. Send someone a beautiful note card to let them know you’re thinking of them.
14 MINUTES – HISTORY LESSON
Where were you ten years ago? Five years ago? One year ago? How have you grown? How have you changed? Does your life look different than you thought it would? What miracles have you experienced? What lessons have you learned?
15 MINUTES – INSTRUCTION MANUAL
Often, the silver lining to mistakes we make is the lesson we learn. In the spirit of generosity (and to remind yourself what a smart genius you are), fill in the blanks:
So you screwed up and did _________. Here’s how to fix it: __________________.
16 MINUTES – TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY
You know how we all love hearing the backstories behind the successes of our favorite stars? Like how Jon Hamm was a teacher and Kristen Wiig sold peaches before hitting it big? Write out YOUR True Hollywood Story, and frame everything you’ve thought of a setback or challenge as a PLOT TWIST leading up to your overwhelming success.
17 MINUTES – SECRET ADMIRER
Write a note/email to someone you really respect and admire. Perhaps it’s your mom, maybe it’s Ryan Gosling, or your boss at your day job. Let him/her know that their skills and gifts are recognized and admired. Be specific and prepare for a contact high.
18 MINUTES – ADVICE COLUMN
If you need advice on something that’s holding you back or causing confusion, write it out like you’re writing to Dear Abby. Then, write the answer back to yourself! YOU are the expert on YOU.
19 MINUTES – PICK UP THE PHONE
Remember when we used to use our phones to TALK to people instead of scrolling through your various feeds? Call someone that you know doesn’t use social media etc to stay connected. Savor the thrill of filling him/her in your delicious life, and enjoy the feeling of hearing how your friend is doing/feeling straight from his/her mouth instead of a status update.
20 MINUTES – FLIP IT (this is Amanda’s absolute favorite)
One of my specialties is doing a story flip: when I feel like things are falling apart/crappy, I flip that shit around and write a new story. Here’s an example of one of mine from a particularly disastrous morning:
My old story is that I booked a perfect plane ticket to visit Rich today…except for the fact that I had to leave at 6:30 am for Newark, and I got home from work at midnight. Well, I got up so early that I was ready to go and decided to set my alarm for an extra ten minute snooze. Obviously, that was a terrible idea. The next flight to Savannah is majorly inconvenient for so many reasons, but that’s the flight I’m on, so here is my new story:
I am an amazing independent woman who figured out the best way to deal with a mess at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I made the best decision I could. I am going to fly into Savannah like the hot New York woman I am, wearing a hot outfit for the show and cast party I am attending tonight. My hair and makeup is perfect, I am a brilliant packer so I have one tiny suitcase, and my dress is hot. I will arrive in Savannah, pick up the car I rented at 7:30 this morning, and drive myself to Hilton Head Island because I am smart, savvy and independent, and I am fearless. I will arrive at the theater with ample time, and take my seat in the front row. The first time I see my husband will be when he opens the show wearing a tux and we will share a look of love and apology and humor. The show will be amazing, i will have a cocktail at intermission, and we will reunite in the lobby when it’s over. Then we have two and a half days to enjoy each other’s company. This is actually a romantic and sexy story and I am lucky to be alive and in it.
What current story of yours do you need to FLIP? Any old beliefs you need to turn on their heads? This is a fun one, and it’s addictive! Write out the junk and then get your flip on!
21 MINUTES – LEAP OF FAITH
Write a letter to the Universe. You can state your intention(s), write what you want to release, questions you have, anything goes. Put it in an envelope. Decorate the envelope so it is super gorgeous. Address the envelope to “The Universe.” Put it in the mail.
See what happens.
Want to meet Olivia in person? We can’t wait to lei you when you step off your plane in Hilo, Hawai’i this January. To reserve your spot, contact Catherine May at Kalani before September 15th to use our extended Roar Rate of $985 (after that, the rate goes up $100). Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and put down a $200 deposit to hold your spot – we don’t need anything else til the day you check in girlfriend! Feel free to check out our itinerary and FAQ’s, but act fast – there are only six spots left! Roar!
So here’s the thing about eating disorder recovery.
It is so freaking hard to write about.
I’ve started out posts multiple times with some tips or some techniques I’ve learned but then I realize that it’s impossible to describe how I’ve implemented them into my life because some of them have only worked once and some of them work always but I ignore them on purpose because I’m kind of messed up in the head like that and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
But now I’m just kind of like, fuck it.
As long as you know that the information below is only my personal experience, and I’m certainly no doctah, and what you read could also trigger you into a binge or a relapse, then I’ll write it. Read at your discretion and know that I’m not here with any concrete answers, only the things that have worked for moi.
So here goes.
First of all – let me just fill you in on what I’m actually recovering from. I started secretly bingeing at age fifteen. I hit puberty at age fourteen on a family cruise to Alaska where I was too afraid to try tampons and thus spent the entire week staying out of the hot tub. It was fantastic.
At fifteen, I was no longer wearing cute little size three flares and tube tops from Wal-mart. I ballooned to a size nine within minutes it seemed. My dance teacher was less than thrilled with my “pooch pouch” that was forming below my belly button because it meant that two piece costumes at competition were out of the question. While the older girls in class were still able to wear low-cut jazz pants and sports bras to class, I was stuffing myself into leotards and covering them up with jazz pants and then another shirt on top of that. I guess “thick” would be a good word to describe my fifteen-year-old self. Dancing twenty hours a week in front of mirrors made it impossible for me to deny that that my body was changing rapidly.
I was just so sad that this was all happening. I didn’t know what to do about my expanding hips and my soft back fat and my stretch marked thighs, so I ate to forget. My parents would leave me home alone because I was old enough and I would eat all the Ritz crackers with jelly. All the chocolate peanut butter chips – straight from the bag. All the cheese, all the ice cream, all the pickles. Oh my God and the Better Cheddars. We were ALWAYS out of Better Cheddars. Sorry.
Take this story all over the east coast – from Pennsylvania to Virginia (college) to New York City (auditioning) to New Jersey (boyfriend) to Hilton Head (performing job) to Albany to Fort Lauderdale and all the way back to Washington Heights, NYC where everything came crashing down around me, finally, a decade after I first learned how to eat myself into a coma.
I came to find that I was an emotional eater. A compulsive eater. A secret eater. A food addict. And an extremely disordered eating female with depression and anxiety and no way to get help through my measly health insurance.
And through reading and my own tweaks and my own journaling, this is what I’ve learned.
- I have to keep all the food in the house. Fuck this Weight Watchers “keep your environment safe” bullshit. I need to have the Nutella and the ice cream and the cheese and the pesto and the cookies and the pizza and the beer in the house. For ten years I kept it all OUT of the house and spent nearly $40,000 on binges where I’d go and get it anyway, bring it in, eat it all up, and throw the containers in the garbage outside so that in my mind I could say “it was never inside”. For me to feel safe, I need all of it IN my environment. Now when I started doing this, yea, the ice cream disappeared within hours. But a month into it, I kept a carton of cookies ‘n’ cream in the house for an entire two weeks. Six months later, and I kept it in the freezer so long I forgot about it (community housing – it got hidden behind everyone else’s stuff and I totally forgot it was there). A year later, and I can bring multiple flavors into the house and they can be in there anywhere between one day and one month. It depends on my PMS and how hot it is outside, but it no longer scares me to have it in there. I need to know it’s there for my convenience at any time, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t consume my thoughts anymore. Hence why we’ve had two monstrous containers of Nutella from Costco in our pantry for over a month and I’ve only eaten an eighth of one jar. (I was going to show a picture but HELLO triggers – not appropriate today.)
- When I’m hungry, I need to eat NOW. I spent ten years ignoring hunger signals and only eating carbs for breakfast but never dinner and always before 7pm and every three hours and not at all and counting points and when I finally hit that rock bottom, I learned to listen to my body. My beautiful intuitive body that I never gave any credit to. My body tells me when I’m hungry and I listen now. It took me a year to figure out exactly what those signals are – the hunger signals and the full signals and the “i need protein” signals – but it was worth all the listening because I’m not one of those people that wakes up every day at the same time and can eat oatmeal for breakfast for the rest of my life. I need change and I need options and I need to eat when my body is ready – not before or after. Diets never taught me any of these things, and it was only after I stopped dieting that I could really spend time with my own body and learn the way it speaks. And it took me A YEAR y’all. As in, TWELVE MONTHS. As in, A WHILE. It did not, I repeat, IT DID NOT happen overnight.
- Oh my God the triggers. None of this “Healthy is the new skinny” shit on Facebook and no recipes. Nooooo recipes. No Women’s Health, no Glamour, no Cosmo. Twitter is a constant trigger no matter who I unfollow so I just stay off it altogether unless I post. Facebook has a mind of it’s own so I choose to follow Astrology writers and Ram Dass and “I Fucking Love Science” instead of all this Mind Body Green shit. I can’t see lists of things to eat and things not to eat and not be triggered. Know your triggers. Does seeing a list of things to do with chia seeds trigger you? Unfollow. Do ads for beer or weight loss or life coaching trigger you? Unfollow. Unfriend. Unlike. Immediately. Like it or not, social media is a humungous part of our lives. It’s how I’ve reached all of you. Thank God. I fucking love you and would not trade this for the world. But know your triggers – even if it’s me and my page – and cut them out.
- Friendship/Significant Others/Family: Be straight up. Don’t tiptoe. This might not be your style, so perhaps emailing them one of these articles could be helpful as well.*
Table for Three: You, Me and My Eating Disorder (a straight up guide for friends and loved ones)
Tips for Family (from the Renfrew site)
*There are many many many like TOO MANY articles on how to stage an intervention and how to try to get help for a person with an eating disorder but not nearly enough articles on what to do once they are in recovery and are seeking help. Especially for significant others. This is something I am determined to work on and will post as soon as it comes. If you know of one, please post it in the comments below so we can spread it far and wide. Mahalo.
With friends, family, and loved ones, do not be afraid to tell them exactly what you need. My family, well, those who understand anyway (grandparents don’t count – they forget and they don’t understand and they really just want to “fatten” us all up with cookies and how can you get mad at that?), knows to not say a word about my eating choices. When I eat, what I eat, and how I eat it (yes, mom, sometimes I wrap cheese around a pickle like a pregnant woman and put sriracha on it and I don’t even have an answer for why) is off the table for comments. It took them a few years to fully commit to this but this summer with my seven weeks home really helped them understand. Not eating at dinner because I’m not hungry? Sorry mom, that pasta looks delicous, but I might not be ready to eat it til 9pm tonight when you’ve already cleaned up. And I say, that’s okay because of where I’m at on my journey.
When it comes to loved ones, ask and you shall receive, for the most part. My mom was amazing and understanding and never once pushed me this summer when I ate at weird times with weird condiments. My dad is still learning, but he’ll get there and he’s aware and that’s what matters. Talk to your friends and your cousins and your girlfriend and your hubby and be as straight up as possible.
“I need to keep this nine dollar jar of organic pecan butter in the house and I need you to not comment on it’s price, it’s size, or it’s taste. It is my choice right now and it’s part of my recovery and I need you to support me.”
“I need you to pick the place for dinner tonight, and if you say it and I wrinkle up my nose because it doesn’t sound good to me, I need you to not get frustrated. I realize that I am frustrating you but I am not in a place to make decisions because I don’t know what I want and I would really appreciate your patience in this decision making process tonight.”
Okay, whatever it is, there is no harm in asking. And if your friend/boy/mom can’t understand why this is, I ask you to also be patient with them. They may accidentally make a judgemental face that they have no control over when they see you pouring animal crackers on top of a bowl of ice cream and they may accidentally ask you why you need to order pizza AND pasta AND salad AND dessert and the more patient you are with them, the more patient they will get with you. It’s a give give situation here. No one is perfect and this is a touchy subject that needs care and compassion from all sides – including yours.
5. Know your other “vices”. Cigarettes and TV are mine. When I am emotional and want to binge, I don’t reach for the beer so much as I crave a smoke and an SVU marathon. And you know what, I fully accept that laying on the couch on a beautiful beach day and choosing Olivia and Elliot over the sunshine is absolutely part of my healing process and a choice that I make when I don’t have the energy to go live life in the sand today. It’s a distraction, it’s a simple comfort, but you know what? It’s not a jar of Nutella and as long as I’m aware of it, I carry on with my marathon and do my best to forgive myself. The cigarettes – not so much, because I’m a role model for my students and I had such a hard time quitting that buying a pack would just send me into hardcore reverse. But occasionally I’ll bum one and feel satisfied and I do my best not to feel shitty about that too. I’m in recovery from an addictive habit – and most disordered eating is addictive if you really think about it – so knowing what you are using instead of eating/refraining from eating as your new vice is super crucial to your recovery and a healthy life. Forgive yourself for the replacements and give yourself a little credit for being aware and just do your best today. That’s all you, or anyone else, can ask for.
6. Therapy. Finding a therapist isn’t easy. Depending on where you live, you might be lucky enough to have an eating disorder clinic in your area that offers outpatient therapy. If you’re not so lucky, and you live in Hawaii like me and there is absolutely NOTHING pertaining to eating disorders at all (on the Big Island anyway), ask your health care provider for a list of counselors in your community and buck up and give them a call. I called around today, yes literally today before typing this up, and talked to some “therapists” that didn’t even ask my full name or what I was looking to get out of counseling. NEXT PLEASE. Then, when I was about to give up, I called a woman that has a PhD and asked appropriate questions and has already sent me forms to fill out so I can show up and just have a relaxing appointment. Shopping around is clutch – it’s like finding an agent as an actress – they are working for you, not the other way around. Trying them on for size takes time and is a real pain in the ass, but at the end, the payoff is something healthy for YOU. You get to take away the benefits of therapy and apply it towards a happier healthier life.
Holy shit, my arm hurts from typing this so fast. But you know, it’s been calling to be written for months now and I can’t keep putting it off until I find the right pictures or the right title or the right statistics to offer you. Please, for the love of all things healthy, pick up a copy of When Food is Love by Geneen Roth and allow yourself to become aware of your patterns. Or start from the very beginning and find solace in others like you in Feeding The Hungry Heart. I don’t love Geneen so much anymore because she charges you for everything and doesn’t really like to communicate with her fans but you know what the bitch can write and she writes it all and she helped me and I can’t deny that for a second.
Body love is a whole nother topic in this whole recovery thing and I’ll be on it very soon. It’s actually a huge gigantic amazing fabulous component that deserves a post all of its own.
I hope this list helps and I hope you find something here that sheds some light. Share it with someone who needs it. Print it out and put it in an inspiring place. YOU CAN DO THIS. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE. YOUR LIFE IS YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. I AM YELLING AND I AM SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I BELIEVE ALL THESE THINGS TO BE TRUE. YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING AND YOU DESERVE RECOVERY AND THERAPY AND LIGHT AND BREATH AND SANITY AND FEELINGS OF SAFETY AND CONTENT.
AND, last but not least, you know you can always email me at email@example.com with questions and concerns.
All my love and support and congratulations for being open to help and doing what you can to recover –
I know, that in this day and age, guilt takes over when we let the Kardashians take over our Sunday afternoon instead of spending time donating to breast cancer research or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I know that scrolling Perez Hilton instead of reading about Gaza is enough to make me feel like I don’t even deserve another day on this earth. It’s come to the point that anything celebrity related is deemed “pointless” and “trivial” compared to the rest of the world’s problems.
I’m not here to argue that point.
I’m here to say that Robin Williams doesn’t fit into that category.
Robin Williams made art that changed my generation. His humor, his storytelling, and his thousand and one different impressions is what I watched growing up.
He was no celebrity. He was an artist.
He was no Kardashian JWoww Honeybooboo nonsense. The man taught the world lessons.
In Aladdin, we learned to believe in things that seem impossible.
In Jumanji, we learned to finish what we started with dignity, even when it sucks, even if we get dirty, even if it’s been haunting us since childhood.
In Mrs. Doubtfire, we learned that a father’s love is fierce, and humility is of the essence when trying to keep a family together.
The list goes on with Hook, and Patch Adams, and The Birdcage – all movies where we learn that humor heals. All proof that laughter really is the best medicine.
See, Robin Williams was not just a “celebrity”. He was a representation of dozens of different characters in humanity, and more. Besides being a creepy photo developer, and a doctor, and the bicentennial man, he was there to be the lost boy, and the genie, and the scientist that made green Flubber.
FLUBBER YOU GUYS. DID YOU FORGET ABOUT FLUBBER TIL I JUST SAID IT?
See, exactly. Childhood memories, eh? A little chuckle over the flubbski? I bet.
Not just any celebrity can bring about epic feelings of childhood. Robin Williams is one of the few artists in our time that has that gift.
Robin Williams is to be celebrated, as his wife has asked, as his talents demand.
But it’s also okay to mourn our loss.
We, as a people, have lost something really huge. We lost the man who wasn’t afraid of letting us in. We lost the man who brought us along on his journey even though we couldn’t possibly believe someone would be crazy enough to take it in the first place.
And most devastating, we lost another battle with depression.
Robin Williams signifies the real struggles that are taking our friends, our family, our artists away from us. We can no longer ignore the mental health issues that torture even the happiest “seeming” of souls.
So this loss is a wakeup call and perhaps, one final lesson that we can take away from Robin Williams’ brilliant and colorful life.
No matter how inspired or creative one may be, we never know the dark forces that haunt an individual behind closed doors. And it’s not for us to judge – or detect – or prescribe.
There’s only one thing we can learn from this.
We have to love one another.
Compassion is key in the survival of the human race, quite literally. Your difficult boss, your horrible sister, your emotionally unavailable boyfriend – you might not know what’s happening inside their troubled minds. Even on the most horrific day, compassion is key. Compassion is key.
You never know what someone else is going through. So compassion is key.
If we learned anything from the movie Jack, where Robin Williams was treated as an outcast for his aging condition that made him look like an adult even at age 10, we learned that compassion is key. He showed so much love for his fellow classmates that eventually, someone saw past what he looked like, and saw that he was a beautiful loving soul despite his outward appearance.
Compassion is key. Art is essential. Laughter is medicine.
That’s what I learned in my twenty-seven years on this planet with Robin Williams movies. As an actress, I admire his ability to think on his feet, and to step into any character, and to blow my mind with creativity. But as a human – from age five and up – he taught me that compassion is key. Art is essential. And laughter is medicine.
Robin Williams made me laugh so hard that I know he was put on this planet for a reason. He entertained us and moved us and made us feel things we needed to feel. He inspired me, and I’m sure countless others, to want to perform and share myself with the world as he did – authentically and unapologetically.
And so it’s okay to mourn someone who could do all of those things. It’s okay – necessary even – to grieve for the loss of a talented artist who represented so many things you and I might never get to experience. It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad.
And then, as hard as we grieve, we must equally celebrate what Mr. Williams did leave behind. Start the films rolling. Celebrate what we do have on film – those thousand and one impressions he did so fearlessly and consistently.
After all, we can never take films for granted. There is always something new to see. I’m sure we have plenty of new lessons to learn that we’ve forgotten about since Aladdin first graced our living rooms as kids. I think Robin Williams had a lot to say, and I’m willing to bet, that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out all the things he had to share and still not discover everything he had to offer.
And I don’t even know if that’s what he would have wanted, but I do know that artists take great pleasure in having their art outlive them. To have their art influence future generations. To make this world a more beautiful, more compassionate, more alive place. That’s why most of us get caught up in the arts to begin with – because we’ve seen it outlast centuries and we know that it’s timeless.
And you and I both know, that Robin Williams’ art is more than timeless – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So I loudly declare, that there’s no need to feel guilty for realizing and mourning our loss.
Because as Mr. Williams said in his unforgettable portrayal of Hunter “Patch” Adams:
You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
I think that Mr. Williams treated us – as a whole, as a people – and we are all better off because of it.
And I ask you, how can anyone feel guilty for mourning the loss of someone that could do that?
May this world continue to be blessed with fearless artists who are inspired by Robin Williams’ comedy, courage, and creativity. May we pour out compassion. May we be aware of mental health and the sickness that comes with it. May we cherish each day and the moments that make life worth living. And may we always be thankful for the one thing the genie, voiced by the late, great, Robin Williams, cherished most.
Freedom. From freedom comes art. And I’d like to think that Robin Williams is now free from whatever demons have been haunting him these past couple years.
But oh, to be free… Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.
Rest In Peace Mr. Robin Williams
and thank you for giving the world the gift of YOU.
I totally get it. It’s a weird thing to bring up. Addiction. Eating disorders. Depression.
But enough with the tiptoes.
It takes balls to open up about such personal and damaging issues. Those of us who have been diagnosed or have been to rehab or who are in therapy are struggling to keep our head above water sometimes. But that doesn’t mean the whole process is a sad, tragic, terrible thing. Out of disaster can come beauty. Out of heartbreak can come freedom. And if we are lucky to have friends that stick by us in every step of the transformation, then there will come times to laugh and to reminisce and to celebrate.
Friendship is about sticking out the bad and rejoicing over the good and being there for each other even when nothing makes sense and the tissue box is empty. I know that my friends know and believe this as strongly as I do, but I have experienced a lot of tiptoeing around the topic of my binge-eating disorder since I’ve been home this summer. Naturally, New York City is where the majority of my friends are based, and where many of my bad habits formed, but my compulsive and unhealthy eating habits started long before I boarded the Bieber Bus to Port Authority. My issues started at my dance studio in Pennsylvania, and in high school, and although there are many factors that caused my issues to accelerate when I was young, my eating disorder is not anyone’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault and it’s society’s fault and it’s my fault and it’s nobody’s fault all at the same time. But it’s not YOUR fault. And that’s why I want to raise awareness on how to keep friendship as strong and mighty as it was before the eating disorder, before the addiction, before the “coming out”, before it was all real and gross and honest and nitty and gritty and on the table for all to see.
I hate preaching, and I hate speaking for a group of people. These thoughts I offer you are based on my personal experience and my personal journey. But I can bet on my pantry of Reese’s Oreos that some of your friends are experiencing the same things that I am on their journey to recovery and self-discovery. I speak for myself, but as always, I speak for all of us. So please take a deep breath in and let out an audible sigh of relief. We can move forward and frolick and eat and laugh and hail cabs at 4am just like we used to – just with a little more awareness.
After all, awareness is the salt of life. You can live without it, but it makes almost everything better.
1) To start, I know that it’s hard to understand what food addiction even is. Addiction is rarely on purpose, and I look at it as a coping mechanism that gets out of hand. It’s an unfortunate sickness that affects millions of people. Put simply, most people find themselves addicted to things that they started using occasionally to fill a void, or to distract from pain, or to find comfort. These occasional habits escalate and become the only way the addict knows how to deal with stress, depression, or anger. Stress-eating or emotional eating are common terms associated with food addiction because they are habits that escalate beyond the addict’s control. Food addiction and eating disorders are often very intertwined. In my case, they go hand in hand. Other times, it’s the addiction to avoiding food that becomes the issue.
Food addiction becomes a little tricky once the recovery process begins. First of all, it’s food addiction. It’s not meth. Although addiction is addiction is addiction, people can’t just give up food cold turkey – it’s our fuel and life source. Most food addicts have to completely re-learn how to listen to the hunger signals that we’ve ignored for so long. Either we’ve been dieting for so many years that we learned long ago to only eat certain things at certain times, or we eat when we’re emotional and struggling. For me, it was a combo of both. Sometimes, I would end up eating eight meals in one day. Sometimes, I didn’t eat a single one. Regardless, what I was eating and when I was eating it has had nothing to do with actual hunger for over a decade. Overcoming a compulsive eating habit of any sort requires a trust in my body that I somehow lost in the madness long ago.
2) It is completely okay if you do not understand what binge eating disorder is. The Renfrew Center defines it as this:
“People with binge eating disorder suffer from episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing followed by periods of guilt and depression. A binge is marked by the consumption of large amounts of food, sometimes accompanied by a pressured, “frenzied” feeling. Frequently, a compulsive overeater continues to eat even after she becomes uncomfortably full. Those identified as having Binge Eating Disorder generally do not purge. Although many who meet the criteria for this category are larger than average, many are of average size and weight.
Binge eating can lead to serious medical problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.”
This list of symptoms (also from The Renfrew Center) was the story of my life for my entire professional performing career, long before I went off to college for musical theatre.
- Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eat much more rapidly than normal.
- Eat until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
- Often eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.
- Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
- Have a history of marked weight fluctuations
A lot of compulsive eaters go through periods of dieting and extreme eating limitations only to then “fail” at these impossible rules, which is when the real danger of bingeing comes into play. Bingeing alone, stealing food, and stuffing my face with it faster than I could swallow were very common habits in my late teens and early twenties. Binge eating disorder is the reason that I have gained and lost over 700 pounds in my lifetime. I share this with you so that if you share these symptoms, or know someone who does, that anyone who needs it can get help.
Moving on to more social matters…
3) Ignoring the fact that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder last May, was severely depressed, moved to Hawaii, fell in love, haven’t auditioned in a year, started teaching dance, and am forty pounds heavier than when I left, is awkward for everyone. Especially if we are extremely close, you have seen me eat an entire ice cream cake, and/or you’ve seen that beautiful yellow purse that I ruined by carrying around a jar of Nutella with me for all of audition season in 2012. For some people, addiction and eating disorders are extremely private and a very sensitive subject. I on the other hand have been blogging about it for over a year.
If we are friends, and if we have been friends for as long as some of us have been friends, let’s just get it out in the open. Ask me the questions that you want to ask. Ask me how I would like to deal with it in our friendship. Ask me if there’s anything that’s too personal (with me? impossible) and ask me what I need from you in terms of support.
I’m speaking for myself of course, but if you are close friends with someone who is dealing with an eating disorder or an addiction and they’ve filled you in on their struggles, my suggestion is to ask them what they need from you. Maybe all they need is to know that you’re there when they have a funny story about rehab. It’s not all tears all the time, believe it or not. Things come up in therapy that you just have to laugh at, once you’re done crying over them. Friendship is friendship is friendship. Don’t let the eating disorder or the fear of saying the wrong thing come between you.
4) Asking me to lunch is not the same as asking a recovering alcoholic for a drink. Again, once someone quits drinking, they can survive without it for the rest of their life once they overcome their addiction to alcohol through rehab and counseling. Although food is my drug, I gotta eat sometime, or we’re gonna have a new issue to work out. There’s no need to feel weird or uncomfortable when you’re asking me to dinner. You can even suggest a restaurant we used to frequent. It’s okay. You won’t throw me into relapse. None of this ever was, or ever will be, your fault, and I don’t want you to fear saying or suggesting the wrong thing. Ever.
5) Asking me to make the decision where to eat, personally, is sometimes too stressful, mainly because I’ve been away
from NYC for a year and there’s 45 billion restaurants to choose from and I get overwhelmed just picking which 99 cent pizza place to order from. As you can see, I get very overwhelmed when I have too many choices. So suggest away. I appreciate it. No need to tip toe.
6) It’s possible that something about a particular restaurant (or food truck, or bakery, or coffeeshop) will trigger something in me, which is a) very important for me to observe and b) going to happen for the rest of my life and something that I have to continue to deal with on my journey. That trigger is not normally about how they give you two pieces of chicken parm instead of one, or about how rich the chocolate soufflé is. The trigger is not about the actual food. The trigger is the memory associated with the place you may suggest. Maybe it’s the place we ended up after Stallion broke up with me, or the place where we celebrated my first off-Broadway gig. The trigger could be a devastating memory or a happy memory, but it’s important for me to experience the trigger and then feel the emotions that come up instead of eating to make them go away.
7) I’m still deciphering what it’s like to eat for pleasure and what it’s like to eat my feelings. This may seem like an insane concept, but I deal with it every day. Obviously, I’m known for my obsession with Nutella.
I used to eat jars of Nutella when things got really bad, and unfortunately, I still associate Nutella with pain, sadness, and heartbreak. I love the taste of Nutella, but sometimes it’s hard for me to know when I eat it for pleasure or eat it for comfort. The same applies to Numero 28 pizza and Two Little Red Hens Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes and the pistachio tart at Le Pain. I overthink the process at this point.
On one hand, I’m in New York City for a limited amount of time, and leaving the city without spending time at my favorite bakeries and coffeeshops makes no sense to me. Sometimes, I can walk in to Amy’s Bread with a friend and know exactly what I want, and I order exactly what I want because it tastes good, and eating can be pleasurable, and there’s no harm in that if it’s every once and a while. On the other hand, I used to do this multiple times a day when I wasn’t hungry, when I needed copious amounts of sugar to calm me down and keep me company in times of stress, worry, or self-doubt. So even though I know when I walk into Schmackary’s with Bronson that there’s nothing wrong with getting a cookie for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure that comes along with it, I do start to second guess myself since I used to eat that S’mores cookie to deal with a bad day.
This is a really great place to be in my recovery, and things could be a lot worse, but this might help explain why I don’t always know what I want to eat when you ask me, or why I say no to our old haunts. Sometimes, I just don’t really crave that pie right now. Maybe, I never really did, but it was there in times of sorrow and it helped me deal. Maybe I’ll never crave it again. And that wouldn’t be bad or good, it would just be another learning lesson for me to take in.
8) You don’t have to filter yourself around me. It’s more awkward to listen to you talk in circles to avoid sensitive topics than it is if you just fill me in on your life regardless of what it entails. First of all, I’m not going to diagnose you with an eating disorder just because you only ordered coffee on our lunch date. Does it break my heart when you tell me you can’t eat this week because Spamalot auditions are on Friday? Absolutely. Do I understand and empathize with you? More than you will ever, ever, EVER know. It might be a sensitive subject that I left the business (for now) because I couldn’t maintain a small enough body size (without going to extreme measures) to continue on the same career path that I started. But you’re still in the business, and you have to deal with these issues, and maybe they don’t affect you the same way they affected me.
The same applies for the opposite end of the spectrum. If it comes up that you got cut from an audition because your body wasn’t right, or if it comes up that your director asked you to lose fifteen pounds before rehearsals, I’m not going to preach at you to leave the business. I know what showgirls have to look like. I know what baseball players have to look like. Drink your protein powder and run your miles and just do you. Please my darling, don’t avoid any topics of conversation because of me. Everyone has a different journey. Mine is mine and yours is yours and although I’m here for you if you are concerned about your lifestyle and want to ask advice or questions, I’m not trying to be your therapist or your doctor or your mom. We can talk story just like we always have. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to filter yourself around me.
What I’m saying, above all, is that it’s okay to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room sitting across the table from us at Veneiro’s. An eating disorder is now present in my day to day life and it’s going to be a part of my journey forever. That’s not a morbid thing, it’s just a thing. It’s forever a part of my medical history and my emotional development and although I refuse to let it define me, it is a part of me. And as a friend, I would rather you acknowledge this and remind me of how far I’ve come when I’m feeling discouraged, than ignore it completely and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.
Friend, I want you to know that my life up until this point has been a twisted path lined with chocolate covered obstacles and hidden speakers blasting showtunes. Yes, I’ve tripped and I’ve scraped my knees on my travels, but I’ve also belted along with the music and learned that 90% cacao is disgusting. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve fallen and I’ve always found my way back onto my feet even if my clothing is forever stained with sweat, tears, and melted ice cream. Your path might be more well-paved than mine, or you might have said “fuck it” to the rocky road ahead of you and just started bulldozing the forest to your left. If we have been friends this long, it doesn’t matter what our paths look like, as long as they intersect when we need them to. You don’t have to walk a mile in my shoes to understand what I’m going through – just tie your own real tight and let’s take a walk together. No filters, no sidestepping, and for goodness sake, no tiptoes.
*If you or someone you know thinks they may be suffering from food addiction or disordered eating, speak to your doctor or family member. Please visit The Renfrew Center’s “Do I Have An Eating Disorder” page if you want to do some private research before seeking help. And as always, I’m always here to answer questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m here. I’m in New York. My thighs are chafed, my backpack straps are saturated in sweat, and I had a $23 salad for lunch yesterday. I’m back. And apparently, I’m on island time.
I stood in tap class on Tuesday watching the eager young college grads, decked in stylish leotards and tap skirts, frantically try to figure out what Randy Skinner (most well known for his 42nd Street choreography on Broadway) was saying in his soft voice while a few of us veterans stood in the back hugging each other and delighting in the random encounters that occur in this city when we least expect them.
My friend Robert came up to me halfway through class and said, “Girl, you’re on Hawaii time.”
“What does that mean?!” I joked.
He smiled. “Honey, I just got back from a month in Puerto Rico. When you return from a laid back place, you carry an easy energy that can affect the whole room. I can see it in you. You’re just here for the party. You ain’t tryin’ to impress nobody anymore.”
What an incredible way of putting it. Robert was 2000% correct. I’d gone to Randy’s class for years in my tap skirt and my magenta halter top leotard, nervous that he could see me struggle or that I wasn’t thin enough to be one of his girls. Years of knowing that the class wasn’t an audition but still treating it that way.
To stand there in my larger-than-it’s-ever-been body and enjoy the class for what it was, in my capri pants and my tank top, was a goshdamn relief. I didn’t “try” once. I just took class. I barely even looked in the mirror – I was too busy playing and laughing with my friend Topher who was also there to enjoy class on his birthday. Neither of us felt like “trying” or “working” or “auditioning”. We were just there because Randy gives a really excellent tap class.
Which brings me to my ultimate point. If you need a break from being a New Yorker, you can take one – while living in New York. Here is how, I think, I’m avoiding being a New Yorker while in New York this summer.
1) Stop trying so damn hard. I mean, it’s the culture. It’s what we do. We try to walk faster, we try to work harder, we try to give up gluten, we try to look better, we try to get it (whatever “it” is) faster than the next person. But like, where’s it gonna get us? I mean, don’t be late for work or anything but stop trying so damn hard. At the end of the day, will your sprint-life moves through the crowd on 34th Street really bring you a richer life? I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t live here right now, I’m just frolicking through Central Park in my tap shoes. I know. I don’t have to try. But I’m telling you because all I used to do was try. I would book it from one end of Manhattan to another with fifteen minutes to spare, not without using many profanities for each and every tourist that got in my way, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere any more special than you, other than almost in the looney bin.
Lululemon has a quote on all of their shopping bags that has always stuck with me. It’s something like, “replace the words ‘wish’, ‘should’, and ‘try’, with ‘I will”. I also say, replace the word “try” with “do”, or “enjoy”, or “live”. Because you know, it was just so interesting to take tap class this week with an acclaimed Broadway choreographer and not try for anything – but just simply watch and learn. You know, like what you’re supposed to do when you take a class. It was amazing last night to take Shrink Session with Olivia and not try – but just simply to move. Which is really what exercise is all about isn’t it? To move your body. All this burning calories and toning up and losing fat came along with magazines and diet books but if we go back to ancient times, people moved their body for joy, and for endorphins, and for celebration. An exercise class can be just those things if we stop reading Women’s Health all the time. Just consider it. Because I’m saying that all this “trying” I’ve done over the past eight years has given me the ability to walk very fast and swear very loudly, but other than that, I don’t have much to show for it.
2) Accept the heat. I swear the more we complain about it, the bigger the pool of sweat in our cleavage becomes. It’s summer. It’s New York. The heat sits on the streets like a protective mother hen sitting on her eggs. And aye aye aye, hens are known to sit for a while. Be thankful for the days the hen gets up and we gain a breezy day with cloud cover. Have a moment where you accept Mother Nature and her moods. Try to wear clothing that does not touch your body whatsoever. Cold showers seventeen times a day. No soup. Seriously why are you eating chili? No underwires. Comfortable flip-flops. Hair up. This is how I’ve dealt with extreme humidity, constant sweating, and curly hair adventures for the past year. At some point, we have to find the gratitude in the situation. After all, didn’t y’all just go through a polar vortex or some shit?
3) Walk everywhere. As Restore Your Roar superstar Olivia would say, “wwwwwhat?” Yes. I walk everywhere whenever possible. I am going to sweat whether I stand underground at West 4th waiting for the F or if I walk those 24 blocks, so why not walk in the open air with the pooping dogs and the screaming old ladies? Much more visual stimulation and for the same amount of sweat, I get to walk by the very air-conditioned GAP and/or Balducci’s and/or how much do we love the shops at Columbus Circle this time of year. It’s not even about saving subway fare as much as it’s about spending as little time underground as possible. It’s the best thing you can do for your well-being this summer, I swear to Buddha.
4) Make coffee at home. Do you know how many messages I’ve received from readers saying that $975 is out of the budget and there’s no way they can come to Restore Your Roar in Hawaii? When Olivia and I came up with the hard costs that we needed to cover to make the retreat happen, I was determined to keep it under a thousand dollars. Because I knew, that in just one week in New York City, I can easily spend $100 on Starbucks and two lunches at Whole Foods. I knew, that if I was living here, and I wanted to go to Hawaii, (which last year at this time, I did), that if I made my coffee at home and packed my own hummus and carrots six days out of seven, that I could save $900 in nine weeks.
Restore Your Roar is six months away. Imagine the money we can all save if we skip the morning latte. I mean this isn’t news, people have been writing about skipping the morning macchiatto for years, but when you have a REASON, a WANT, a NEED, or a GOAL that you’re working towards, making the coffee at home seems more important. It carries more weight because you know that it’s money saved, which equals money spent on a trip that you deserve and have worked hard for. You can literally GIVE yourself money if you really want to. This coming from the woman who has spent over $40,000 (not an exaggeration) in binge-eating and social-eating habits in just the past four years, let me tell you. If you want to make that money stay in your savings for a trip to Hawaii to change your life, you can do it. I am living proof.
5) Quit buying what you’re supposed to. Now maybe I’m absolutely biased, but darling, I have so many sundresses from Urban Outfitters that are gathering dust in my closet in Hawaii that I just HAD TO HAVE because they have a bow on them or because they are “my colors” or because they are “so me”. Funny how every single season, a new slew of dresses comes out at H&M that are just SO ME. These dusty dresses aren’t even going out on the town anytime soon because they were impulse buys and they quite simply just do not cover my ass. A short sundress on you is a long shirt on me. My thighs rub together painfully when I wear a dress in this city and I have to hold it down when I walk over the grates and so unless I hold a dinner party in a breezeless room, these dresses have no opportunity to dance or twirl in public anytime soon.
If I could take all of these dresses back to the stores from which they came, I’m sure I’d have at least $1500 on my hands and that’s just since 2012 when I tried to turn my binge-eating habit into a binge-shopping habit. Not only did that little trade not work the way it was supposed to, but I’ve always had an obsession with buying clothes in the size I WANT to be rather than the size that I ACTUALLY AM and so I am the lucky owner of four billion sundresses in a size four or six. If you’d like to raid my closet, you’re more than welcome to join me in Hawaii this coming year and I’ll send you home with anything you might want to take along but until then, quit buying those dresses if you’re never going to wear them. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to abide by fashion rules. Sorry Carrie Bradshaw’s, but it’s what I believe. I wore Lululemon Groove Shorts and a baggy tee that said “Normal Is Boring” all day long yesterday, even to a fancy lunch at The Smith, (sorry about that KM), and it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a New York summer since 2007.
Wear what you need to. Don’t buy what you won’t wear – even if it is SO TOTALLY YOU. And even though this topic needs a blog post all it’s own, the greatest piece of advice I can ever give you is to buy clothes in your size. Your current size. You know it never works to buy a dress two sizes down. You and I both know it makes you feel like shit eternally. Eternal shit. If you are legit a size 12 right now, there is nothing wrong with buying a damn sexy shirt that is a size 12 and looks perfect on your body. If you’re gonna spend the money, buy something that you can wear RIGHT NOW. You never know where you’re going to end up tomorrow, and it’s not mentally or emotional fair to your well-being to buy something that you can only wear if you drop twenty pounds immediately.
6) Find gratitude for New York. This is the last thing I’m going to say because it’s the most important one. Whether you moved here for a job or you moved here for an adventure, there has got to be something here that you appreciate. For me, my closest friends and family live right here in these five boroughs, or in a neighboring state. But for years I hated everything about the city. The audition buildings and the tourists and the lack of open space and the expensive groceries. Now, living 5,000 miles away, I long for the $23 salads and the hour long commutes to my friend’s Brooklyn loft. Once you move away, those commutes to Brooklyn become a lot longer. There’s no dollar pizza or 24-hour Duane Reade or Billy Porter sightings in Hawaii. There’s no Broadway Bares or Al Blackstone classes or Po-ta-topia. We have luscious jungle and crystal clear water and beautiful men but my goodness do I appreciate even the smallest things in New York now that I’m here soaking as much of it up as I can before I head back west. There’s probably a reason why you are here right now, and if you really can’t remember why that is, then it might be time to move on, but take it from me – cherish everything about the city now, because you have no idea how much you will miss the little things once you have moved on. I know the trek to Astoria sucks if you live in Washington Heights but like, do it anyway. The 45 minute M60 trip has nothing on an 11 hour plane ride.
Now pardon me while enjoy my eighth cup of coffee with perfect New York tap water and the sound of sirens in my dear friend Ruthie’s downtown apartment. It’s good to be home.
One thing I do know is that every word that comes out of our mouths goes straight into the universe. We can never take it back. What’s said has been said and it’s something we can never undo. Kind of fucking scary if you really think about it.
I’ve destroyed more relationships, friendships, and did I mention relationships? with my sharp tongue and word vomit than I probably even realize.
But I never realized, until recently, that I also destroy myself with that same word vomit.
Words are powerful things. Negative words are really powerful. But the good news is, so are positive ones.
So where does that leave us? Well, I’m thinking, if we catch ourselves now and then, before we let our negative mantras out into the universe, we’ll take back some of our own power and turn our course towards the positive. Towards the hopeful. Towards the light. Here are five phrases I’d like to take out of my vocabulary, from here on out.
1.) I should. You should. We should. He should. My mom should. Should.
My friend Melissa told me to cut the word “should” out of my vocabulary on July 2nd, 2012. I remember the exact date because a show I was in had just closed the day before outside the city, and I had those all too familiar post-show blues. Back to the job pool. Back to the grind. Back to unemployment. Back to that comforting, yet ugly voice in the back of my head saying “you might not be good enough to work again.” So I walked to I Melissa’s on July 2nd for a few beers, and we started talking life. We weren’t even that close then, but she offered me the one piece of advice that’s stuck with me ever since – even though I constantly forget to follow it. Cut the word “should” out of your vocabulary.
We should do a lotta things. We should do laundry. We should cut our hair. We should watch the news. We should vote. We should take baths. We should be thankful. We should count our blessings. We should eat organic lettuce. Yea, we should do a lot of things. Do any of those things sound tempting to you when the word “should” is in front of them? Not really. “Should” is like a mixture between a grandmother’s scolding and a personal guilt trip (like the kind you get after lying, or eating your roommate’s Nutella) and the smell of garbage when it needs to be taken out. See? Garbage NEEDS to be taken out. “Should” is not a strong enough word for garbage. NEED is the word for stinky garbage. That shit needs to be taken care of. So why not replace “should” with words like “need”, “want”, “could”, “will”, or “try” in all the other areas of our life?
should could do laundry today, but I need a day of rest. So I’ll try to wash my jeans tomorrow, but until then, I want to rest.”
should could go to that party and network with a bunch of bigwigs, but I will have a better week if I spend some quality time with my best friend tonight and catch up on life.”
“Should” sucks. You shouldn’t do anything. You could do it. You might need to do it. But “shoulding” the task at hand isn’t going to get you anywhere closer to finishing it. Take the garbage, and the word “should”, out to the curb where it belongs.
2.) Well, it can’t get any worse.
Oh but like, it can. It can though. This week alone, I missed a phone hearing that I knew nothing about with NY State, I locked myself out of my apartment for the first time ever in my life LIKE EVER IN NINE YEARS OF LIVING ON MY OWN, my car doesn’t start, I burst into tears in front of my boss over a scheduling conflict, and I had an emotional breakdown on Friday night that lasted so long I blew snot into an entire roll of toilet paper. It rained every day in Hawai’i this week. I kept saying, “hey, it can’t get any worse.” And IT JUST KEPT GETTING WORSE. And my worst, is like not even close to being some of the world’s worst. There’s a lot worse than what my worst was this week. But it still didn’t feel great.
I think by saying “it can’t get any worse”, we are almost challenging the universe to send us more things to make us appreciate how good we really have it. Locking ourselves out of our apartment is not the worst that can happen. Instead of focusing on how terrible life is when we have no way of getting back into the house to pee, we could say to the universe, “it can only get better from here.” This is a constructive, positive affirmation we can use to reassure ourselves – because chances are, no one’s around to hug us (because we just left our apartment) and like, who’s home at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon? We better just take this moment to reassure ourselves (while we try to unlock the door with a credit card for the fourth time) that it can only get better from here. It’s almost a moment of taking back our power. We could surrender to the feeling of failure and loss with the phrase, “well, it can’t get any worse”, or we could find the gratitude in the humbling moment at hand and remember that it can only get better from here. Thinking in this manner will only help us in the end.
It might sound cheesy, but choosing to look up and notice the sunshine while we’re locked out of the house waiting for a ride to work, thanking God we didn’t leave the hair straightener on, instead of crying over the snacks we were really looking forward to later even though we don’t know how the hell we’re going to get inside to eat them, is literally a life-saving form of mind over matter. Mind over matter, dude. I’m terrible at it 99% of the time but I KNOW it’s a thing. It’s a thing that can save us all. Positive mind over negative matter will win every time if we just fucking LET it. Say it with me. No matter what has happened this morning, this week, this month, this decade, IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER FROM HERE.
3.) It’s always something.
I think maybe this has been my mantra since I’m 19. It’s a joking statement that flies out of my mouth whenever things don’t go my way. Whether I almost get run over by a car on 44th and 9th because I’m talking shit on my cell phone about my last audition and walking through traffic, or I get another letter from NY State about my unemployment claim from 2009, my mantra has always been, “it’s always something.” Because it is, right? I mean everyone’s getting engaged or pregant and I’m just over here 5,000 miles away like, I love to tap dance and hike volcanoes with my boyfriend, and every time I scroll Facebook I say to him “it’s always something.” I fight with my mom, or I get a guilt trip from a friend I haven’t caught up with in too long and I get off the phone and I mutter, “it’s always something.” My car breaks down, or more likely, I forget to get gas before work, and I’m just like, “it’s always fucking something.” The profanity makes me feel a little more in control of my sarcastic mantra, you know? Really inspiring. Because it’s ALWAYS SOMETHING.
But the more I say that, the more I realize that I’m inviting, well, something more to come along and ALWAYS be there. I’m inviting something to always happen because I’m literally stating, in a sentence, that “it is always something.” I’m stating that, out loud, literally inviting the universe to make sure there is always something. Do I deal with pain and inconvenience and hardship with humor? Absolutely. Always have. But if I can just figure out how to turn my mantra into something like “I am strong enough to handle this situation right now because I have no idea if anything else will happen to me that will require such strength and so for now I will focus on the situation at hand and get through it with my determination that’s gotten me through everything up until this point” and then figure out an appropriate acronym to tattoo it on my wrist for reminding, I think life would seem a lot more handle-able. And fun. And like, uplifting.
It’s a work in progress for me, this one, but I do know that I’ll see change in my life immediately once I stop feeling sorry for myself and calling out “it’s always something” whenever I fall down, trip, or break out in excema on my right eye. There might always be “something”, but focusing on the “somethings” instead of the “right now things” is going to cause all of us to miss out, worry too much, and totally miss the party that the three-year-olds are having in my pre-ballet class whenever I play Frozen. Seriously you guys. Enough with the “always something” pity party. It’s time to let it go. (Get it?)
4.) I don’t know.
Okay, hear me out on this one before you lecture me. “I don’t know”, has become the new “like” and “um”. Every time I have an idea, I say “I don’t know” about forty-six times before I spout out my idea as fast as possible in hopes that the person listening won’t actually be able to understand my English. My “I don’t know’s” come from a place of insecurities more often than I actually do not know something. You know what I’m saying? We do it when friends ask us to hang out. They’re like, “Let’s go to this way too expensive restaurant with mixed Yelp reviews for dinner, ya?” and inside, you’re like, “That sounds terrible”, and yet what comes out is, “I don’t know, maybe”.
Now, when friends ask me what’s next in life, I honestly say “I don’t know.” I don’t know what I want, I don’t know where I am in my journey, and I don’t know what’s next. But that doesn’t mean I have to be shy about it. Saying “I don’t know” and owning it, literally admitting that I do not know, is almost a relief. A beautiful release of admittal and fear.
I’ve learned that this is different, however, than the “I don’t know’s” I use during a brainstorming session with my Restore Your Roar partner, Olivia, or with my boss at the dance studio. Those “I don’t knows” come from a place of “this idea sounded good this morning but coming out of my mouth right now I feel like you’re totally going to think I’m so crazy”. And I think that this kind of shielding and filtering – this “I don’t know” guard we keep putting up – is holding us back from the innovation that this world so desperately needs right now.
Saying “I don’t know” because we are afraid that our idea sucks, or our decision is boring, or our words are not what another person wants to hear, is treading a dangerous track in my opinion. We mask our fear with “I don’t know” instead of just blurting out the honest facts and ideas. In reality, what is brainstorming but a place to present crazy, impossible, ridiculous ideas? Why is the “I don’t know” shield even necessary in such a session? Does that make sense? I just think we should all be aware of it. I just think crazy, impossible, and ridiculous is absolutely beautiful, and that the “I don’t know’s” taints that unique beauty. That’s all I have to say about that.
5.) I wanna do that someday.
“There are seven days in a week. Someday is not one of them.” One of my favorite quotes. Not so easy to live out when there are things like expensive flights to Thailand, work schedules, and noncommital boyfriends in the mix right? Like, Johnny, I’m not specifically talking about you, but like, your work schedule is killing me and I feel like I will never save enough money for us to go to Thailand and so like let’s save our ideas for a rainy day. Like NO. No.
My friend Mandi saved money for six months and her ass is leading elephants around Thailand RIGHT NOW. My friend Carly saved her money for four months and flew her ass to Hawai’i to visit me for nine days and we hiked through a lava tube and chanted and drank so much liquid aloha at Kona Brewing we were hula’ing in the back seat of the car ride home. There are people out there who turn their “someday’s” into “right now’s”. I still don’t know how to be one of them, but I really am interested in learning.
I know it’s not easy people. I couldn’t fly to Thailand right now – I can barely afford to buy a Thai lunch special – but I do believe there’s a difference between daydreaming and doing. I’m not exactly putting money away in a “Thailand Trip” piggy bank. I get distracted by tattoos, and new tap shoes, and tapestries for our new apartment and before I know it, I’m eating carrots and blue cheese for dinner because that’s all that’s left in the house and a trip to the grocery store is just not in the budget today.
I believe there is a WAY to make our “somedays” into plans, I just think we haven’t developed the skills to do so yet. At least I know that I haven’t. In many ways, I’m stubborn and I think I know everything and that applying for a new credit card will fix all the things. But I do know that people like my thrifty boyfriend, my elephant-loving friend Mandi, and my money-genius friend Carly have picked up on some skills over the years that have allowed them to do things I might never get to do if I don’t start asking questions and learning from them. You wanna make your somedays into right nows? Ask questions. Be humble. Be open to feeling dumb. Be open to money lectures. Be open to help. Be open to a second job. Be open to praying, and positive language, and cutting the word “should” out of your diet. Sorry, did I say diet? I meant vocabulary. It’s just engrained in me to have “should” and “diet” in the same sentence. Again, something I’m working on.
Someday, I mean, I don’t know, I just think, things can’t get any worse, we should could all, I don’t know, take control of our words and our thoughts when we can, I don’t know, there’s always gonna be something that keeps us from doing so, because that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? I don’t know, I just think that, I don’t know, all these “mean” and “stressful” and “unfair” obstacles, are teaching us everything we’ve ever needed to know, and if we just started accepting them, and if we start to look at them with some gratitude, things should could get better. I don’t know. I don’t always know what I’m talking about, and I don’t always follow my own advice, and I don’t always feel empowered, or fully alive, or even fully sane, but I feel like it’s time to embrace my flaws and start to bring a new mantra in my life.
Here are two phrases that are making me smile more, and reach for the Nutella less.
Everything is temporary. A mantra that has gotten me through this week in particular.
And in the words of my dear friend Rachel Shane Brannen, I will make better mistakes, tomorrow. A mantra that allows me to laugh at myself a little bit for taking life so damn seriously. It has that lovely twinge of sarcasm that I love so much, but it’s a hell of a lot more comforting than my normal pity party chant, “it’s always something.”
So excuse me, while I take my pessimistic, “should-this-should-that-I-don’t-know-but-it’s-always-something” attitude, and this nasty smelling garbage, out to the dumpster where it belongs.