So. What does it take to put oneself out there in the world?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a handful, nay a fuck ton of advice out there on just about anything and everything you can think of. When we’re being cynical we point out that Google can show us how to make pipe bombs and when we’re desperate we’ll click on just about anything to show us how to attract the right mate. Or if you’re in my industry and you’ll have to check a few different boxes depending on the day to figure out which of “my industries” I’m talking about here; there are a lot of resources out there that promise a formula to success.
But I’ve gotta point out, as far as I can tell, I’m the only one living my life and I’m pretty much the only one that’s ever going to live my life. The good news and the bad news is no matter the advice out there by anyone who’s ever done anything worthy of mention, no person alive or dead will be a better me than me, ever. And for that matter no one will ever get to live your life or be a better you than you can be, ever.
Drop the mic, hang up entire career.
Oh. But there is this one thing. Or maybe, many several "one" things. One of the things is the fun monkey experiment that taught a bunch of sciency people about the power or usefulness of empathy in our brains. Sciency people are quite fond of and do a lot of experiments with monkeys. Anyway, there was this one time with sciency people and monkeys where they discovered that when a monkey is watching another monkey do an activity that its brain lights up in all of the same monkey brain areas as if it was doing the action. Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re having a hard time keeping track of the monkeys, I get it. But we’re the monkeys. Does that help? Sure, sure, some people don’t want to be monkeys. But, um for this instance, just go with we're the monkeys, it will be easier.
We learned to walk and we learned to talk and we didn’t know that we were able to do that, we just thought that we might be able to and we figured it out by watching and listening to all the other monkeys around us. It’s how we work. So the deal is, even though no one else will have our resources, our experiences, or our lives, when we share our experience it allows the other monkeys to find the resources and experiences with in themselves to figure out their own way to walk and their own way to tell their story.
So again, what does it take to put oneself out there in the world? I’m not sure what it’s going to take for you, but watch what other people are doing. Perhaps you will get a few ideas that will feel just YOU enough that you’ll be willing to try them yourself.
For a few moments today, I was feeling grumpy and worrisome. My brain was focused away from thinking about and putting energy into the things that I actually want to feel and experience. Yeah, it happens. Specific things happened, like plumbing things, and money things, and my world is busy and how will I manage all of the things things happened.
My thoughts started to spin in directions that in the past would put me into an unpleasant state. I recognized that unpleasant wasn't something that I was ready or willing to feel, because my life in general is pretty astonishing right now. Actually, between you and me and the person peeking over your shoulder, my life is fucking amazing right now. Unpleasant was just not an option.
So, I decided instead that I would take a walk and visualize what I really want for my life and reward myself with a tasty beverage. While I was out there, I met the neighbor that's driving my vision board car, the Range Rover Evoque, the exact color and everything. We got to chatting about how delightful that car is to drive and how it gets surprisingly good mileage for a crossover. Then I turned the corner of the block and I bumped into a neighborhood friend that I've been wanting to catch up with for months now and during our conversation I discovered that she has an opportunity for me. This whole 20 minute excursions was a fun reminder of the ways I'm rewarded when I decide to change my mindset and focus and decide to follow it up with action.
If you’re curious what I did to change my mindset while I was walking to get a pumpkin spiced chai, I used a simple process. I asked myself 3 questions and I visualized and embodied the answers. I've been asking myself these three questions for the past few years and I've been getting amazing results. Sometimes I use more powerful sledgehammer techniques, but these three questions although they are simple, are quite profound. Feel free to ask these things of yourself and visualize and embody your answers.
What do I want?
How will I feel when I get it?
How can I feel that now?
Ask yourself these three questions and notice the way your life begins to feel better focusing your energy on what you want.
~ Live in Full Voice. Light Up the World.
If I had a nipple ring for every idea I had...wait, people don’t generally measure things in nipple rings... Hmm… Well thank goodness I don’t have a nipple ring for every idea I have, because frankly, “Ouch” and also, “holy crap.”
I do have a lot of ideas though.
I have all kinds of ideas. They aren’t all great.
In fact, some of the best ones are terrible.
Maybe I should explain. I’ve noticed that some of the ideas that I think are silly or stupid or I’m just saying out loud as a joke happen to accidently be really good ideas. Ideas, inspiration, jokes and what not, frequently come from the same part of our brain. As a person that values creativity I do my best to keep very few filters on my creative source. Which means that sometimes the only way for me to know when something is a good idea or a terrible idea is to just wait. Or, to just do it and see what happens.
Lately I’ve been having tons of video ideas. These days it seems that video is the thing. Every artist and every business needs to be doing video, they say. I’m charismatic enough, but I’m not really skilled at this being in front of the camera stuff yet. I didn’t grow up in a time where everyone had photo and video cameras at the ready. My family wasn’t really into documenting events with cameras. Well, … no...my mother liked us to take photos of the food she’d prepared, what she calls a “spread.” My dad was fond of taking pictures of things that are rusted, breaking down, or in some state of decay. I remember taking a lot of pictures of my feet or inadvertently taking pictures of my fingers while trying to take shots of something scenic. So if we remembered to have a camera with us for events we’d end up developing an expensive roll of rusted things, food, feet and a giant pink monster next to a blurry….mountain…?? We didn’t have a video camera, most people didn’t back then. Maybe if we had, I would have taken videos of my feet. They would have either been terrible or brilliant. It’s hard to say.
I don’t know if you have a bunch of ideas, but there are a lot of ideas that I haven’t done. Yet. Even the good ones. It’s not an entirely comfortable thing to have a bunch of potentially really great things just swirling around in my head taunting me waiting to be done. It’s best to let them swirl their way onto a Post-it or into a file on Google Drive. There’s less taunting that way and more space in my head for, god forbid, more ideas.
So with this video thing, I finally did something about it. I’d told a few people my ideas and they at least thought the ideas were good. I reached out to a friend that actually knows how to do video and she was interested in helping me. But there were no dates set on the calendar, just a “Yeah, that’s great, let’s do it.”
So one day I was sitting at my laptop and I realized that a bunch of videos I’ve watched were created just by people turning on the camera on their laptops. And wouldn’t you know it, my laptop has a camera on it. So I typed “how to record a video with my laptop” into Google, I followed the instructions, I pressed record,
And this is what happened.
There are plenty of possible first steps to making your ideas a reality.
With video, sometimes the first step is deciding to press record.
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the blogs I’ve written. My last piece about the dog park especially made more than a few people really happy. I’m so delighted to bring smiles to the hearts of others and I'm thrilled that people liked my work. This also kind of stopped me in my tracks a little. Like many of my creative endeavors, I don’t really know how that blog happened, it just kind of appeared on my computer. I was beginning to flesh out an idea and suddenly there it was. Dog park, butt sniffing, leg humping….it just wrote itself.
And people liked it, which is great and yet, well….okay, I didn’t panic exactly, but I was reminded of the “Sophomore Album Syndrome.” I wondered “Do I have anything else interesting to say?” I mean how do you follow up success? I thought that blog was funny, I think a lot of things I say are funny, but I also thought that I was a little crazy for posting it. Sure we all are encouraged to be authentically ourselves, but often we’re swatted on the nose for our impulses. I’ve certainly had my nose swatted more than a few times.
And when I think of it, failure is something I have a good deal of experience managing. What to do with actually being appreciated for who I am and how I think…. I don’t know that I have a lot of practice with that. I mean, sure I do, kinda….except, not really. Recently I’ve been feeling incredibly appreciated. It’s pretty amazing actually. I’ve felt like I’m exactly where I need to be. I’ve been meeting amazing people and doing the things I’ve wanted to do for so long. I’m feeling how I've wanted to feel in life and it’s absolutely amazing and joy filled and completely terrifying. Just, …. yeah, terrifying.
Have you felt this before?
Have you gotten exactly what you’ve asked for and then not known what the heck to do with it?
I’ve been rereading Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly and she talks about Joy as one of the most vulnerable things a person can experience. She shares the concept "foreboding joy" which is when people experience joy and then feel an immediate sense of doom, the other shoe falling, ‘too good to be true,’ and 'when are the hidden camera actors going to jump out and reveal themselves...?'
And it turns out, yes I’ll go ahead and ruin the punchline, that gratitude is the way to deal with that simultaneous sense of impending doom while experiencing joy. But for me, the joy itself is frightening enough without even getting to the thoughts of “how long will this last?”
I have a high tolerance for pain. I find it fascinating. It’s really easy to endure things that I find fascinating. I kind of understand pain as feeling so many sensations all at once and your brain can't quite distinguish one from the other so it generalizes all of it into pain. One of my old strategies for overwhelming pain, was to just leap right the heck out of my body. My yoga practice has helped me get more present with life in general and pain specifically, breathing through and saying yes. Sometimes, I get just as overwhelmed by good feelings and I can feel myself beginning to drift away. And those are the times when I'm pretty sure it would be really great to stay the heck in my body. I don’t want an auto release on my awesome. I want to stay the bleep in my awesome and experience it fully.
I've had a lot of awesome lately. Which is exactly what I'd wanted because I'd been feeling horrible for 8 months. Just the worst. I've had so much joy lately I've actually had to remind myself and coax myself into staying right in my body. “Stick around Adrianne you don't want to miss this. You're going to want to be here and experience this, because you'll want to remember this later, I promise.“
I just found out a dear friend and mentor of mine, someone who is great a feeling things deeply and appreciating the world around her, moved out of her charming country cottage where she’d lived 23 years surrounded by giant trees and coyotes. I’d had the pleasure of house sitting for her in years past and I assure you that this land is amazing. When I’ve thought of her out there I'd think of a tiller, a chainsaw, a bunch of love, memories and decades of songs sung in the cathedral of pines. She has one of those big voices that carries for miles. Although she's leaving, I know her voice will continue to echo there in the trees as she moves forward, holding the land in her heart.
She sent me poems that she’d written during her last night on her land. She wanted to stay awake and capture it all one last time. These are the moments you want to remember. To keep with you for always. So often there are moments that are too full, too powerful, you can’t capture them with a camera you have to just take them in and keep them with you. As I read her poems, I was reminded that as an artist there often isn’t a line between our lives are our work.
I remember back when I hosted Karaoke maybe 10 years ago I was blessed to meet and old cat named Iceman. He was one of those guys that had been around. He had one of those voices that would lubricate the women and keep the fellas drinking. Everyone knew Iceman. He was one of those guys. He gave me some really great advice that I’m still working on today. He was complimenting me on my voice and performance, giving me a real work over and then he grabbed my hand and looked me straight in the eye and he said “You’ve got it. You know what I’m talking about, that IT people are looking for, but you remember this; never mind people throwing roses.”
Never mind people throwing roses.
Today I remind myself that as artist, when I put myself and my work into the world it’s important to keep in mind why I’m doing it, even if most days I have no idea why I’m doing it. It’s just how I breathe into life. It’s how I breathe into the joy. How I breathe into the pain. And if gratitude is the way to experience it fully, then I want you to know that I am grateful. I know I’m not alone. I know there are others of you out there. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by brave and creative people willing to open themselves to life, willing to live it fully. I promise that I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep singing, and I’ll keep finding ways to make art of this life whether people like it or not. Oh, but if you do enjoy what I’m putting out there and you want to let me know, feel free to do so.
And I like dahlias. Dahlias make me happy.
So it turns out I’m open to suggestions for new blogs posts.
Today someone suggested that I could go to a dog park because I might be inspired to write a blog about dog park etiquette. This got me wondering how life would be different if we all introduced ourselves by spinning in circles smelling each other's butts.
Imagine how this would change networking.
Just yesterday I was at an event and I joked that if I were to encounter one of those germ phobic non hand shakers it would be funny to just grab them and kiss them on the mouth. Just like that.
What would they do then? Huh? Huh?
I probably wouldn't actually do that.
But I am fairly certain that I’ll bring up the dog butt sniffing thing the next time I’m meeting someone new….
Meeting new people can be challenging.
They say it's best to just be yourself....
You know, I might have the guts when encountering a germ phobic person to just say “oh, you know, that’s cool, that’s alright” and then just hump their leg a little bit instead.
Just a little bit.
Because that’s less intimate...
So, yeah, I’m open to suggestions about new blog posts.
Somedays I feel like the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…” Guy can go ahead and kiss my ass. Okay, technically I haven’t even read this book. I’m just getting grumpy at the title and pretending I know what the book is about. I’m like the first person ever to do that. Heck I’ll probably get my share of this from people that get grumpy at the title of the book I'm writing, without even reading it. I probably even agree with stuff that’s in the book that I haven’t read called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Oh, “it’s all small stuff” he says. I get it. I completely get it, but here’s the thing - Sometimes the small stuff is freaking aggravating and totally sweat-able.
And I know that it’s all just in my head. But sometimes, it’s wrapped around my feet. Sometimes it’s bed sheets and it’s wrapped around and it’s trapping my feet and how the fuck, and oh my god, and are you fucking kidding me right now?! Because, I thought somehow that bedsheets would get easier the older I got. And I’m getting older, as sure as I wake up in the morning with trapped feet, I’m getting older. But the sheets aren’t necessarily getting easier. I bet there’s even something special about sheets. I don’t really even move when I sleep, but the sheets move, I swear. I bet there’s a physics-y explanation for the movement of sheets, something about friction or sheet inertia or the earth’s rotation that could explain this stuff. I bet Christine McKinley would know. I mean I do things, but she’s just knows stuff about things.
And while we’re at it, aren’t most of us paid for the small stuff? No really. Raise your hand if paying attention to the small stuff is why you get to do whatever it is you do, for a living, for fun, for the sake of other people... for the love of god, it’s all small stuff. Small stuff is important, isn’t it?! I’ve actually trained my brain to pay attention to a fuck ton of all kinds of the small stuff because it makes a difference. (Specifically a fuck ton. Not a shit ton or a crap ton, more than both combined = a fuck ton. I’ll make a chart some day.)
So the small stuff. There’s a good chance that I’m more sensitive than other people, especially the imaginary people I can easily conjure and compare myself to in my head that never have any of the troubles that I have. You know, “those” people. There’s an even better chance that I’ve found ways to utilize my sensitivities and honed them into parts of my vocation. I don’t know, pick a thing I do; music, acting, coaching, athleticing, writing, thing-ing, all of these are improved by my ability to pay attention to small changes or make rapid and small adjustments. Paying attention to the small stuff is totally useful. Yet, some days all of my sensitivities wake up on high alert and I find that even though I’m packing for what should be a relaxing week long trip to the beach I’m suddenly yelling at my luggage. Not my metaphorical luggage/baggage, my actual suitcase on the loveseat. Yup ironic, that - loveseat…
Okay, perhaps there were a bunch of little events that led to that bigger event of yelling at my luggage. And perhaps you’re wondering, “yelling at inanimate objects, don’t you have a technique for that?!” Yup. I do. I actually have several techniques for all kinds of things including all of the things that could lead up to yelling at luggage. And, it turns out, yelling at my luggage is one of my techniques. It’s not one of my most useful techniques. It’s a really really old technique. It’s something I learned a really long time ago before I had language, from people that probably had better techniques but weren’t able to get to them quickly enough either. I remember my mother effectively used the yell and throw something technique to keep me from choking and dying on an orange when I was five. These old techniques can work, kinda.
I will admit there was a moment just before I lost the top of my head and yelled “fucker” at my luggage where I knew I had choices. I had the choice to leave the room and not lose my head. I had the choice to not only lose my entire head, but to pick up the luggage and shake the shit out of it all over the room screaming a bunch of whatever stream-of-conscious cursing wanted to come out and then flop and kick and collapse to the floor. Instead, I stopped whatever I was doing and I crouched down and I clenched my fists and half yelled “fucker.” And then I felt not really all that much better. I felt slightly better, mostly a little ridiculous, and then I joked with myself, “don’t you have techniques for this?!”
It’s true that I have some brilliant ninja tricks and techniques for letting go of decades of anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, frustration, etc. I have techniques for all kinds of triggers and habits. I can totally utilize these sledgehammer Jedi techniques anytime I want to, but there are also smaller easier techniques available to everyone, yes, even non ninja Jedi’s, for instance, and I’m going out on the edge here; pay attention to the small stuff.
Yup, it turns out that one of my techniques for handling stress is to take care of small things when I think of them. To prepare for them and to maintain systems that keep my world mostly manageable. This includes making my bed each day so that there are fewer mornings when I’m beeing foot strangled by sheet monsters. This also includes eating well, drinking water, stretching and maintaining my health. This includes going to the doctor when stuff goes awry so that I’m not anemic and adrenally fatigued and yelling at inanimate objects. Another one of my techniques is to be incredibly nice to myself and forgiving when I’m not behaving or responding to things as beautifully as I’d like. It happens to the best and worst of us. Usually we’re doing what we can with the resources we have at the time. Another of my techniques is to call upon my humor whenever possible. If I’m laughing I’m probably on my way to breathing and relaxing.
Relaxing and breathing is something I actually have to remind myself to do. Can you relate? I remember many years ago I had a therapist ask me what I did to relax. I remember that it took me a while to come up with something and I’m pretty sure my response was,
“Sometimes I find myself zoning out staring at the wall or off in the distance and I don’t know how long I’ve been doing it. That feels kind of nice. Occasionally I get completely done, just...so done with however things are going that I just lie down on the floor and give up for a while until I can feel that something has shifted and I get the sense that I can kind of maybe at least a little bit continue living and pushing against gravity.”
I don’t think that’s what my therapist was looking for, but it was surely an indication at the time that I could use a few more strategies for relaxing. I still zone out and lie on the floor sometimes. But I also have a bunch of other strategies for relaxing. Like going for a walk. Walks are nice. Sometimes I sit and do a relaxing technique that starts with tensing every one of my muscles as tight as I can and then letting go of that tension so that I can tell the difference between tense and relaxed. Because some days, I’m not really sure what relaxed feels like without getting more tense first.
And then there’s music. You know the saying about savage beasts and music. I can do that with my own savage beasts. Heck, I write songs. I play the guitar. I sing. That’s totally one of the things that I could do to relax or change my state of mind. Except if I’m already yelling at things I should probably just leave my guitar at a safe distance from my crazy. More frequently I find that it’s best to change my mood by listening to something that always gets me feeling better. It is in this vein that I leave you with Journey’s video for “After the Fall.” It’s just not possible for me to stay grumpy while watching this video. In fact, when I think of all the small choices Journey made to create this delightful masterpiece I realize that sometimes sweating the small stuff isn’t just necessary, it’s just good for the soul.
Sex is like cake. Except when it’s like cobbler.
The other day, a friend asked me via text, Do you think it’s possible to still find someone you really like when you are sleeping with someone else?
I considered a number of snarky potential responses, but I decided to assume that my friend was being earnest and really wanted my opinion on this. It’s actually kind of an honor to have someone ask for my opinion rather than assuming everybody wants to hear my opinion and sending it out into the social ether. E’hem...
So, this was my response:
Me: “It’s funny the way you’re asking, because beliefs are important. You would have to believe that you can in order for it to be true.”
She: mmm. that is very true. thank you. and that is my missing element.
I went on as I’m inclined to do.
Me: “If you are able to expand your beliefs about what is possible you would intuitively know how and who to be.” (This is the part where I’m being all wise and crap as I’m wont to do cuz I’m way totally a personal development professional and such, mmm hmm.)
And then out of nowhere or, you know, out of the place inspiration and metaphor always comes from, this popped out of me.
Me: “You could allow yourself to fully enjoy cake on any particular day and never once decide that you are a cake eater.”
Me: “You can eat cake all you want and still be a cobbler person. Because cobbler is fucking amazing.”
She: OMG. That is an amazing analogy!!!
Me: “But if you are eating cake and choosing not to enjoy it because you’d rather have cobbler, then the cake will probably not sit well in your stomach. And you may find that you’re too ill for cobbler if someone were to offer it to you.”
She: Shit that’s awesome. Yes.
See. You want to text me now. Or maybe you want cake. You’re a cake eater, I can tell. That’s cool. I prefer cobbler.
You may have heard that language doesn't describe your reality, it creates it. One way I know this is true is from my experience with acting. I think most people would be incredibly surprised if they were to read a script or screenplay by how little is actually in a script or screenplay. The first time I read a script I was shocked to find just how little of what I'd seen on stage or film is actually in the script. I'll tell you what is in a script, dialog. And that's pretty much it. Really. Just people saying words.
I found this fact incredibly difficult and frustrating the first time I endeavored to write a script myself almost a decade ago. I couldn't understand how someone could tell an entire story, a riveting story of an event with dialog and only dialog. I had heard plenty in passing and cliche about the power of words, but it was when I began to study acting that I learned just how much information and power is in the words that people choose to use.
As an actor it is our job to pay attention to what language stirs in us as we say it. From words, a feeling, a picture, a walk, a way of being begins to form inside us. Our craft is to nurture those internal things forward into a character that then plays in relationship to the other characters in the scene. All these things driven initially by words on a page, take on a life of their own. It was from looking at this picture backwards that I began to understand just how powerful words can be. I then began to wonder how my own script informs me physically and emotionally. Who have I become because of the words I choose to use? Who have I attracted to me with my language?
I recall reading an academic essay over a decade ago that suggested that an ever narrowing vocabulary has trapped communities in poverty, violence, and depression. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe this concept was called something fancy like linguistic dispossession. I remember thinking that the concept was a little radical and yet I knew intuitively from my own struggles expressing myself through words, that there was some truth there. I think many of us crave a more expansive vocabulary to express who we are and what we’re capable of.
So what then? Maybe you've reached this point and you are beginning to have some ideas about what you’ll do with my words as I've offered them. Maybe you have questions. More likely at this point you’re curious about my particular point of view, my conclusion of this topic I've chosen to briefly explore - this is where that sort of thing would go, would it not?
In the interest of honoring our mutual need for linguistic climax, I offer these three final thoughts without further explanation: If you don’t like the way your life feels, try using new words to describe your life. If you think someone else’s life is better than yours, try on their words and see how they feel for you. Finally and less intuitively, in order for the first two suggestions to actually work, you will need to change the way you express your opinions of others. Certainly some of us have shitty self talk, but I promise that what we say about others has an even greater impact on who we’re able to be than what we say about ourselves. Frankly, and I won’t get into why this is true, our brains will always assume our fingers are pointed inward and the words we use against others only hurt ourselves. Our words really are that powerful.
(Catalyst, Breakthrough Specialist, Baggage Assassin, Quit Smoking Specialist, Idea Consultant, Force of Nature)