5 Ways to Kickstart 2013

Yes, I’m sixteen days late, but I’ll say it anyway: Happy New Year!

Having rung in 2013 with the flu, I needed some time to get my head straight. Now  that I’m back to good health (minus the annoying throat-clearing, anyway), I’m ready to share a bit of wisdom with you. Here are five ways to kick this year off.

1. Get pumped. Just as life can’t survive on this planet without the sun’s energy, neither can you meet your goals without a well-powered body. Feeling sluggish? Analyze your diet, sleep habits, and overall health. Iron deficiency, for example, can thwart even sincerest of plans, and so can five hours of sleep each night. To get the best out of yourself, make sure you’ve got all the energy you need. That reminds me: I need to make a trip to GNC, stat.

2. Try new things. I’ve wanted to learn to play bass guitar for years, and I finally got my wish over the holidays. Sure, I’ve spent a lot more money than I thought I would on my hobby, but I’m loving that I have a new outlet through which to express myself. I’m challenging my brain and my body. Now if I can just get my fingers coordinated, I’ll really be making beautiful music.

3. Connect. What is life without relationships? Not much, I’d say. We need other people. This year, strengthen connections with the people around you. Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in years. Make small talk with an elderly person at the bus stop–you’d be surprised at how happy he or she will be to talk to you. And know when you need to break connections, too. People who abuse, denigrate, or drain you aren’t worth keeping around.

4. Get real. Few people like to admit when they’re wrong or when they need to change something about themselves. Imagine how confident you’ll feel, though, when you learn to be honest about your shortcomings, to be real about your not-so-good points. Spending too much money? Have a bad habit of  committing to something before you’ve thought it through? Admit it. When you do so, you gain the power to change yourself. You want that kind of power.

5. Express yourself. You’re unique. No one can express you other than, well, you. So raise your voice. Express the complex, intriguing person you are through your style, your words, your art, your music, your rhythm. You can never be anyone else, so why not let who you are shine through?

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Your Intuition Speaks. Are You Listening?

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To be direct with yourself, to stare into your own eyes and admit that you want more, need more is to break ground on the path to inner peace. It is better to be honest with yourself than to waste time rationalizing what you know isn’t right for you. It is better to say no–knowing you will be hurt, restless, and sad but ultimately happy–than to say yes only to avoid the pain of letting go. You cannot be at peace with yourself if you ignore your inner yearning, the often soft but persistent that voice that begs for your attention.

It’s too easy, though, to disregard your desire for change. The status quo is much more comfortable. Even as you long to explore the unpredictable yet intriguing world around you, you relish familiar turf, for you know what to expect, what to say, what to do there. It seems too costly to fix what for sure is broken, so broken it remains, much like your heart. Much like your spirit.

But that’s not fair. If you settle for what feels easy when you want more, you’re cheating yourself out of a chance to be fulfilled. You’re bequeathing your right to contentment to someone or something that may not be worth your time, energy, money, or affection. All the while, that inner voice cries out in darkness. You deserve more, and you won’t get it until you listen.

If you’re struggling to remove yourself from a undesirable situation, ask yourself this: How long will I do absolutely nothing about my unhappiness? How long will I make someone else’s feelings more important than my own? How much will I have to lose before I realize I can’t take it anymore? Hopefully, you make the change you so deeply desire before it’s too late. Hopefully, you allow your intuition to have its rightful say in your happiness. Though the initial pain may be great, the rewards of brazen honesty with yourself–clarity, confidence, dignity–are far greater.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 23: Declare Your Independence

 

Today, it’s time to free yourself from people, things, and habits that have trapped you. It’s time to take back your strength, your dignity, your passion for life. Decide to no longer let these vices control you:

  • Toxic friendships
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Complaints and ungratefulness
  • Procrastination and boredom
  • Envy
  • Poor money management
  • People-pleasing
  • Deceitfulness
  • Unnecessary anger
  • Irrational fear
  • Self-hatred
  • Victimhood

Decide to be happy and at peace with yourself and with others. Decide to be free.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 9: Give Up the Drama

Relax. Give up the drama.

Drama can be exciting, especially when it’s not ours to deal with. But while we all have to face it at some point, we don’t have to embrace it. Today’s wisdom comes from Baggage Reclaim, British writer Natalie’s Lue’s insightful, funny blog on relationships. Enjoy!

1. Practice mindfulness in your relationships, especially in the early days, weeks, and months.

 This means not trying to anticipate what’s next or worrying about what isn’t happening yet. What you should be practicing is being right here in the present, in reality. If your mind drifts, pull it back – you don’t have to chase every thought, especially ones that take you out of reality.

2. Don’t run with an immediate response of blaming yourself.

Hold that thought and park it. I know you might want it to be you, because it may convince you that you’re “not good enough”, or give you what you think is a legitimate reason to go back for round 2 or even round 50, but unless you’re 100% in control of something, you can’t blame you. Own your part – owning someone else’s is like deleting them out of the picture. If you’re itching to blame yourself, brain dump and put it all on paper – don’t let it rattle around. Putting it on paper makes it real, especially if you challenge and prove the truth of what you write. Unless what you’ve put down is absolutely true, you’re lying to yourself.

3. Hold that ‘bankruptcy’ thought.

 If you write yourself off every time something doesn’t go as you’d like, then yeah, you’re going to have a lot of drama in your life. You can’t keep making it the end of the world, simply because it’s not.

4. Know and stick to your deal breakers.

Much of the drama in unhealthy relationships comes from hanging around long past the sell-by-date. The most successful and creative people know how to fail fast – recognising when something isn’t working, addressing and moving forward, which in the end is anything but failure and actually paves the way to success. Recognising crucial signs that your relationship is critically unwell, can help you differentiate between teething problems and needing to practically transplant another person into the relationship for it to work.

5. Don’t try to convince, convert and bargain.

You’re not supposed to be liked by everyone, not every person can be ‘The One’ and not every relationship is meant to last. Drama will be a constant companion if you fritter away your life trying to convince someone to value you or want you in the way that you want them, or you try to change them, or you keep haggling like a used car salesperson that’s desperate to do a deal at all costs.

6. Listen with your ears, not with your ego or your overactive imagination.

One of the most drama riddled people I know told me a story recently where most of what they said happened, didn’t actually happen in the way she said. It’s not necessarily because she was telling porkies – it’s because from the moment she sensed conflict, it reminded her of some previous experiences and she wasn’t really ‘there’ anymore. Make sure you can distinguish clearly between what was said and done, and what you think they think of you or even previous experiences. Make sure you’re actually relating to the person in front of you, not people from your past.

7. Learn some more emotional descriptors that extend beyond the word ‘hurt’.

Of course sometimes you are hurt, but if your default emotion when things don’t go your way is hurt, you’re actually causing yourself unnecessary grief by misleading yourself about what you truly feel and may be shutting off opportunities. Hurt is about mental pain and distress – if you frequently claim hurt, it’s time to ask yourself “Am I truly experiencing mental pain and distress and if I am, is it proportionate to what I’ve actually experienced?” Speaking from personal experience and observation, having hurt as a default emotion is what you do when you don’t express anger and struggle with conflict and criticism. Truth is, sometimes you’re seriously pissed off. Or disappointed, irritated, confused, infuriated, vulnerable, tired, frustrated, unheard, excluded, or whatever – be descriptive because it will help you to explore what and why you feel it.

8. Get angry.

Acting like you don’t ‘do’ anger, will just repress what you truly feel and work itself out in other ways, not least because you end up trying to influence people to do what you want, often to rectify previous slights either done by them or others that you’ve kept it zipped about, only to then end up compromising yourself further, coming up against more drama and of course feeling pissed off but not saying so. Exhausting. You’re human and this means you’re entitled to get angry because it’s a healthy emotion. If you stop trying to censor your anger, you will find that it passes far quicker.

9. Only seek to control you, not others.

 Trying to control the uncontrollable is a major route to drama. What can you do about you? If you’re thinking about changing someone, what can you do? If the success of a situation rests on them spontaneously combusting into being someone different to who they are now, you’re rendering yourself powerless and leaving yourself at the mercy of external factors. If you’re with someone or participating in a situation where you have little or no power, you shouldn’t be in it.

10. Choose to let it go.

If you think you’re just going to let something go of your own accord, think again. Letting go takes conscious, repeated effort. It’s the choice between grabbing back onto something, or reminding yourself that you’re done. A lot of drama comes from us tricking ourselves into believing that if it comes into our head, that weobviously are not ready to let go yet. It’s you that has to decide and keep deciding to let go.

You also don’t have to make the other person think that you’re ‘right’ or keep going back to let them know “just one more thing”. Work it out with yourself – you need to be on your own side and get your own head straight.

If someone gets on my wick, my brain can go into overdrive having conversations or thinking about what to do next time. I’ve actually found that drawing a conclusion, getting behind my decision, and refocusing every time I try to choose not to let it go, actually helps to let it go. The more I say “Let it go” and even physically push my arms out from me, is the more it dissipates. Sometimes I ask “What’s changed?” because really, what’s the point in grabbing onto it again if all that’s changed is that your ego is having an off day and you’re scared of change? 9 times out of 10, nothing material has changed, it’s just that I felt like revisiting it and busting my proverbial balls.

Drama is very much governed by choice. When you curb your own drama tendencies, you will find that drama in your life will reduce dramatically, because you are calm and rational enough to have the perspective not to make yourself responsible for other people’s behaviour and won’t invest energy in changing others.

Be Faithful…to Yourself

Be faithful to yourself. You need you.

Over the past several years, I’ve been cheating on myself.

With wistful eyes glazed by the sugary lure of Kate Hudson rom-coms, I’ve lingered in halfhearted relationships. I’ve listened to men tell me they want me to keep my hair and nails done. I’ve lain on my back when I wanted to go to sleep or go home. I’ve tried to make it work, knowing I didn’t have anything more to offer a man who gambled with my love for too long. I’ve spent money, time, and energy on men I knew from the beginning were leeches ready to drain the lifeblood from my veins.

I won’t get any of it back. But while I’m still here, I have a chance to recommit to myself the way I would commit to a man.

If I were in a serious relationship, I would be faithful. I would listen to my man, try to meet his needs, encourage him, and spend time with him. As I learned to trust him, I would give him the benefit of the doubt before I listened to others. I would treat him respectfully and fairly. I would criticize him constructively and compliment him frequently.

But if I’m willing to do all of that for someone else, I must do that for myself, because I deserve my devotion first. I need me. Before I can have a meaningful relationship with anyone else, I need to make sure I’ve met my own needs. I must love and care for myself primarily, then spread that love to deserving others. Take it from flight attendants: You can’t be any good to someone else if you’re barely breathing.

In a world full of people who think they know you better than you do, who think it’s your job to spoil them, who try to confine and condemn and control and confuse you, it’s up to you to be faithful to yourself, to the person you know you truly are.

This Valentine’s Day–and every day–commit to you. Don’t cheat on yourself with the Mr. (and Ms.) Wrongs. Love you, respect you, listen to you, and make you a priority. Buy yourself flowers, candy, cards, moscato rose, whatever makes you smile. Write yourself a love note and mean every word. And when someone tries to jeopardize your relationship with yourself, give that person a stiff boot in the rear. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re bitter or cynical–it just means you know how valuable you are and you aren’t willing to settle.

5 Habits of Highly Un-dateable Dudes

Save some jokes for your buddies.

I have my share of bad habits. I lose things. I zone out when people give me directions. I forget to pay my phone bill (thank you, Verizon, for your generosity). All in all, though, I think I’m a pretty good catch. So, if a guy is interested in more than friendship with me, he should avoid the following mishaps:

1. Laughing/joking too much. 

I laugh ’til my head hurts. I’ve had laughing fits for upwards of twenty minutes. I find the humor the mundane. If something crashes to the floor in a silent room, I have to tuck my lips to contain my giggles. That doesn’t mean, however, that I want to laugh nonstop with you. Take this phone conversation, for example:

Me: “What did you think about the Time article on female genital mutilation?”

Him: “Hahahahahahaha!”

Me: [Side eye. Quizzical chuckle]

Him: “Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!”

Me: [End call]

Laughter is not a substitute for intelligent discourse. If we’re talking about child endangerment or adult illiteracy, a giggle fit is especially inappropriate. Even if we’re talking about something more mundane, I’d prefer that you just chill out sometimes. Instead of being one of those I-don’t-have-anything-to-say-so-I’ll-just-laugh-like-a-hyena people, why not ask a simple, relevant question to move the conversation along?

Sure, a sense of humor diffuses negative energy and makes you feel good. But a guy who doesn’t know how or when to cut the comedy and be serious will most likely end up in the “just friends” category.

2. Lying.

I met Joe online. Joe told me he was 25 and 5’11”. When I met him in person, his name was actually John and he was four years older and four inches shorter, with no premolars and a receding hairline.  Don’t ask why I kept talking to him. The lies continued: The company he claimed he worked for had been closed for months, he lived with his sisters and her children (not roommates, as he called them), and he kept photos of girls he was supposedly just friends with on his phone.

As time went on–again, don’t ask me why I continued to entertain this person–he just got weirder. He showed up unannounced at my job with a bootleg “Sex and the City 2” DVD. He threatened to take back the gifts he bought me because I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. When I finally cut him off, he stalked me for over a year, no joke. I guess he finally realized I wasn’t playing about calling the police.

While John’s is case extreme, it exemplifies the tomfoolery that lying inevitably spurs. Just tell the truth. If you don’t have a job, say so, but at least put in a few apps every day. If you live with your sister and her six kids in a two-bedroom apartment and have a particularly grotesque case of OCD, that’s alright, too. Just be honest about it. That way, you at least give me a fair chance to say: Next.

3. Calling or texting at o’dark thirty.

I’ve been an insomniac since I was about 10. I’ve tried melatonin, popcorn,  Calms Forte, CVS-brand pills, almost everything to get a good night’s rest. Bedtime is just a pain for me.

Even more annoying is when I’m browsing YouTube for tips on how to clean a dirty pair of Uggs at 2:36 a.m. and some random guy pops up in my notification center. What are you going to say that you couldn’t tell me 12 hours earlier? Do you expect me to respond favorably your booty-call-hour small talk? I hope not.

Most of my friends or associates know that I don’t like late-night calls. Still, some forget there’s an appropriate to time to call a lady. Like before 10 p.m. EST. Maybe a bit later for friends I’ve known longer. If you don’t know my middle name, shoe size, or place of birth, don’t call or text me late if you expect to be anything more a nuisance.

4. Buying me stuff at your own will–and then complaining about being broke.

Some men give compliments. Others give pedicures, Skittles lip balm, Snuggies, tickets to Tyler Perry plays, and steak dinners.

I can’t lie: I like gifts. But they don’t have to be elaborate. A simple bag of Sour Patch Kids will do just fine. It’s the begrudged gift-giving I have a problem with. Don’t buy me stuff like I’m Vanessa Bryant and then gripe about your No-be bank account. You only make yourself look foolish if you pretend you’re balling out of control.

I’m not looking for a sponsor. We don’t have to go to dinner and a movie three times a week. If we do, I’m willing to split the bill or take turns paying, and most of the time I’ll be satisfied cooking a lovely dinner at home and flipping through Fios On Demand. You don’t have to pay my train fare, nor must you pick out a pair of Jessica Simpson peep-toe pumps for me. Be honest about your budget and think about creative, economical things we can do together. Make me a collage instead of plunking down cash on something you can’t afford. That way, you won’t need a moment of silence when you check your account.

5. Name-calling.

Attraction to the dude who calls you a snaggle-toothed, pizza-faced heifer only occurs in the movies, if even there. Nobody likes a name-caller. Well, at least I don’t. I usually don’t get along well with people who use the b-, n-, and f- (referring to gay men) words, just to name a few. Those words make you look like a callous buttwipe.

The world is a much sweeter place when we call each other by our given names, not the racist, sexist, homophobic ones folks tend to chuck at random. So just stop it. Use of those terms only reveals ignorance. And the last thing anyone wants is an ignorant man.

What say ye, ladies and gentlemen?

Breakup Rx

When you break up with someone, you have to deal with the pain. No phone calls, texts, or emails. No calling from blocked numbers just to see if he’ll pick up. You have to face the agony head-on, like giving birth without an epidural. I’ve never had to do that, but I imagine it can’t feel any better than heartbreak.

The days will be long. You’ll spend your free time wishing you could just fall asleep but your body will refuse to. You’ll watch the clock, as if marking time will inspire a miraculous turnaround of events. As if you could take back your decision.

That text is just your sister sending pics from her vacation in Miami. The knock on the door is just your neighbor’s brother trying to sell you studded T-shirts and a so-called Gucci iPhone case. Don’t get that desperate.

Go outside. Walk. Feel the air, watch the people, smile at the squirrels. They’re all doing what you must continue to do—they’re living. When you go back inside, cry if you need to. Eat a brownie and drink a ton of water. Ok, white wine. Watch five minutes of a bad movie, then turn it off and watch something else. Cry some more, drink some more—water this time—and breathe. When all else fails, repeat.

It’ll be over soon.