7 Soft Ways to Push Hard

Eye of the tiger, y'all!

Eye of the tiger, y’all!

Are you in it to win it?

Nowadays, the rats are rattier, and the damn race is on. There quite literally is no rest for the weary — our daily lives move at light speed, and we as a society are dedicated to harder, better, faster, stronger. (Thank you Daft Punk and Kanye for your anthems of a generation!) With mile-long to-do lists, dreams and desires for our families and ourselves, not to mention the added pressure of today’s high standards and low-levels of support, it’s a wonder any of us are still standing at the end of each day.

There is only one way to get to whatever goals you have, and that’s to push through to the other side.

But there are plenty of times when your drive is driven off by any number of distractions, disappointments, and disasters.

The other day in spin class, I had one of those moments where I got to the core of how to push, and it came from a surprisingly soft place that I landed upon after taking seven distinct steps to clear the decks for the final push to a triumphant ball of sweat and clarity. Here’s how to go from good grief to sweet relief:

Shift it: This was the easiest stage to identify, as I’d mounted my stationary bike thinking about the long string of people, places, and things I had to show up for later that day, only to realize pretty much immediately that I was tired. Exhausted even. This was definitely no way to get ye olde motor running — and so, I immediately began to shift those thoughts right out of my head, choosing to focus instead on the easy thump of the warm-up beats.

Stuff it: Although it’s really easy to say you’re going to move your focus from one thing to the other, the reality is that it’s hard to keep your sights set on getting through to the other side without stumbling over obstacles that are set by others or, more often, by your own silly self. Imagine that you grab those blocks and stuff them one by one, deep into your socks (or spin shoes, depending on where you are). Give it all satisfying stomp just to keep that shit from popping back up.

Rest it: This is something that trips most of us up. In the flow of a spin class, for example, there is no point where the instructor says, “Aww, sweetie, you look like you could use a break. Let’s all grind to a halt, take a big swig of water, and relax.” If anything, it’s the opposite — s/he spends the entire time egging you on, making sure that you don’t ever let up. It’s up to you to regroup when you need to. And that doesn’t mean stopping dead in your tracks; it just means taking a few deep breaths and giving your fight or flight impulse a little respite before continuing on. (A note on cortisol and the “fight or flight mode” we so rely on to push through — get conscious of that, because that is a state of stress, and it’s really not healthy. A short rest to reset is key, as once that cortisol drains, you’ll feel much more energetic.)

Love it: The fastest way to fill up your fuel tank is to remind yourself that you love what you are doing. And if you don’t, pull the hell over and get out. Now.

Rock it: Of course spin class has the decided upper hand when it comes to rocking out — there’s always a bumpin’ tune to carry you through. But you can be your own DJ– tune into what turns you on, and everything flows from there. This was very literal in my spin class analogy — all it took was mash-up that included the catchy chorus from And She Was by the Talking Heads:

“The world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was)
The world was moving she was floating above it (and she was) and she was”

And you know what? When I rocked it, letting it all pour out and with no time to think about anything, and I just… was. Give it a whirl, and while you’re at it, crank up the volume.

Will It: Your will has a power all its own, and it lies somewhere right outside of that proverbial comfort zone. At any given time, little voices pipe up, urging you to drop the quest, still the journey, and turn away from the task at hand. Will is what drowns those voices out in a sea of confidence that springs from being clear on the bigger mission. Take, for example, what got me through the spin class in question…

Jeggings.

That’s right, my will to spin on and burn 500 or so calories came from a purchase the day before of soft, comfy, slimming black jeggings. Those jeggings could take on a platter of deep-fried Twinkies and never look back. Paired with the fetching, flowing blouse I also bought, I could easily hide at least one spare tire. (Might even conceal a whole truckload of spare tires, actually.)

It takes a lot of will to ignore the siren song of jeggings.

Goddamn you, jeggings! You are the anti-push, and the bane of modern womanhood.

And so that soft excuse for not working hard is exactly where I kicked out the jams and got through the toughest part of the class.

Kill It: The seventh and final stage kicks in once you’ve pushed your way through all the others. With nothing left to lose as you careen to the finish line, it’s the perfect time to let every last shred of whatever you’ve got go. When you go in for the kill that in that final push, the end is swift and fueled by a jolt of adrenalin that accompanies the knowledge that the end is near… real… and finally, here.

So if you see me lacing up (well, velcro-ing up) my spin shoes and giving my jeggings a swift kick aside, just know that pushing hard doesn’t need to be a strain. There’s no pain. Just unfettered satisfaction thanks to all of the gain.  

Photo use & copious inspiration courtesy of Blazing Saddles.

Bruce Jenner’s Hair, Ebola, Breast Cancer

Ahhhh, "news"

Ahhhh, “news”

Q: What does Bruce Jenner’s hair, breast cancer, and Ebola all have in common?

A: They’re all terrifying, trending, and there’s seemingly nothing we can do about any of them.

Let’s break this down, one by one, for shits, giggles, and possibly the initiation of a full-blow existential crisis.

1) Bruce Jenner’s hair: I’ll give you that the former Olympian’s attempts at clinging to his former Adonis(ish) self is heart-breaking. Sure, he looks like a bad replica of Michael Jackson circa “This is It,” (OUCH!) but what is truly horrifying is that HIS HAIR IS HEADLINE NEWS. Not kidding — over the past weekend, Bruce Jenner was trending because he wore it long and loose at an Elton John contest. (Once you’re a Buzzfeed list, replete with faux-gif, you are THE TREND.) Just Google “Bruce Jenner’s Hair” and you’ll get 2,430,000 results.

Bruce’s mane is just the tip of the troubling iceberg; we fixate on superficial stories (i.e., Kim and North’s matching sheer-black ensembles, Kendall’s modeling career, Khloe’s bad boyfriend but good car choices) as our world literally falls apart.

Meanwhile, in other news, despite our bombing attempts to curtail their horrible advance, Isis is still bringing in $1,000,000 a day, and the barbarians have taken over Northern Iraq, Northern Syria, and now are moving into Turkey, some Nobel Prizes have been awarded, and ….

2) Ebola has arrived on our shores: The worst outbreak in history was brought to Dallas by a man infected in Liberia, earning him the distinction of being the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in America. (Sadly, he just passed away.) While Ebola is believed to be transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, it is not fully proved that “aerosol transmission” (coughing, sneezing) is off the table. We know some, but not all, of what makes this disease tick. The CDC assures us that this disease is unlikely to become a major threat in the developed world, but that doesn’t stop our hearts from breaking over the devastating statistics — in West Africa alone, nearly 50% of those infected have died so far, and of those, 75% are women, since females are generally the caretakers and in closest proximity to the diseased. (Shout out to BUST magazine for getting the facts straight on Ebola.)  Which brings me to…

3) Breast Cancer: It’s that time of the year again! Breast Cancer Awareness is all the rage — particularly for those brands that are into oxymoronic (emphasis on MORONIC) exercises. Take for example, the NFL. It’s recent blind-eye turning when it came to one predominately female issue (domestic violence) has been left behind in nasty old September (they wish) and now it’s onward to putting big, butch men in pink to help raise money to “Crucial Catch” Breast Cancer. (That’s a really bad name for a program to raise funds for early detection, as it implies somehow that one can catch breast cancer, but the NFL’s marketing has a tendency to miss the goal post by about a mile anyways. On a side note, props to P&G Crest for bailing on the NFL’s Pink Initiative before their association back-fired by pissing off moms everywhere.)

The NFL isn’t the only brand desperate to have the pink glow effect support their sales and reputation: while brands like KFC and Progresso are legendary for pink-washing their not-so-healthy (putting that mildly) products, this year, JC Penney rolled out a particularly awful breast cancer awareness ad campaign that included “inadvertent sexism and cultural tone deafness.

Look, I’m all for raising money to cure cancer, but is it just me that feels like there’s so much more sexy in racing to find a cure than in actually curing the disease itself?

I have several BBFs who have survived this horrible disease. Thanks to social media, even friends I haven’t seen in a while allow me to offer support when they share pics of themselves going through the horrors of the disease, or rocking a bald head on #TBT, or asking whomever is willing to share a prayer during the darkest hours.

We are aware… and sometimes that awareness, especially when used as a marketing ploy –as my BBF who recently completed chemo said, “My personal favorites are the plastic water bottles” — just serves to make everything a whole lot worse.

Plus the only real awareness that matters are these stats as of September 2014 from cancer.org:

• About 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer
• About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the breast will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
• About 40,000 deaths from breast cancer
• Cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

As much as I’m intrigued by a “custom motorcycle raising breast cancer awareness,” or the Redskins hosting their annual breast cancer awareness game, or Timberland boots wanting to stomp out breast cancer, or the WWE’s new partnership with Komen (“rise above cancer,” featuring more butch men in pink tops), I surrender to the race to find the cure, and once again set my sights on someday finding it.

So if you see me hoarding rabbit’s feet, 4-leaf clovers, and evil eyes, just know that October can be one scary month, and we all could use a little luck to make it through. Because when Bruce Jenner’s hair, Ebola, and breast cancer share banner headlines, we have to wonder what our world is coming to… choose positive thoughts (i.e., at least Bruce’s flowing mane is better than a bad perm!), offer prayers, and carry on doing our best to keep the world a healthy and safe place.

How to Find What You Didn’t Know You Lost

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for?

There are some of us that feel like we’re on a perpetual journey, desperately seeking…

A certain career….

Fame…

Fortune…

A mate…

Parenthood…

That may be you, or that may just be ancient images ingrained in the I want my MTV generation’s skulls featuring Madonna as our patron saint.

If you’re like me, the quest was never so obvious. There wasn’t a deep pit of longing to pull from, nor did I ever feel like I was particularly missing something. The older I get, the more grateful I feel for pretty simple things, like health and enough of a nut to keep a roof over my family’s head, pay for the occasional sushi dinner, and never think twice about shelling out $7.99 a month for Netflix and the joy that is binge watching TV shows.

But then again, another aspect of getting older is coming to the realization that some of what you thought you’d do or be by now just hasn’t happened. It’s easy enough to shrug your shoulders and chalk it all up to a pipe dream.

Most people don’t get what they want out of this life anyway.

(Cue: record scratch and a giant collective “AWWWWWW,” from the studio audience.)

The truth is that there is longing in all of us. From the time we were small, we knew the things we want to do and be in this lifetime. Some of my clearest childhood memories involved making up stories. I played for hours in a fantastical stew brewed from my imagination, conjuring up worlds that looked like mine — or not — keeping myself (and an occasional friend) amused and entertained.

That creative itch was scratched often in my early years, and not so much over time. Middle school and high school were where the path began to be lost, as teaching to the test and the elimination of art, music, and creative writing became commonplace. By the time the late ’80s into the ’90s rolled around, it was all about competing and getting ahead.

And while there are some that survived the onslaught and stayed true to their authentic selves, I followed the status quo and turned my storytelling into a long slew of jobs that paid bills but ultimately did a good job of sucking the creative juices clean out of me in exchange for a decent paycheck and steady employment as a “marketing professional.”

Then came parenthood, and the accompanying brain-fog that floats over young families and wipes out long and short-term memory simultaneously. In a sleep-deprived haze, any personal aspirations or ambitions pale in comparison to the quest for the holy grail of one solid night’s sleep.

And with kids in the mix, it’s been my experience and probably yours, too, that priorities shift as time is short and goals become much more modest — things like changing out of sweats, washing your hair a couple times a week, and making one whole meal without a microwave become the biggest challenges. Later, as the children get older, it becomes all about managing the clash of titanic schedules that demand your presence from one end of the galaxy to the next.

A few years ago, as I was emerging from the fog and not quite ready to stretch in a thousand directions, I had a moment of clarity where I became painfully aware that I was missing something. I had just had a horrible falling out with a close mommy friend, and ostracized from my little group, I decided it was high time I got back to work in my field.

The problem was that the world had evolved into a brave, new, digital environment, and I didn’t think I had any of the tools necessary to carry on.

Stripped bare and back to square one, I was in uncharted territory, with not a goddamn clue as to how to set another course.

Briefly I considered going back to waitressing, as that’s the main skill I felt I had left.

And then, one of my BBF’s — my creative soul mate — died of cancer.

In grief, the only thing I felt like I could do was start writing. My BBF was a writer who never wavered from her creative path and had the most magnificent ability to make any assignment gloriously expressive and artistic.

We were kindred spirits, united in a love of reading and writing. The only possible way I felt I could honor her would be to follow her lead, no matter how blind I felt. As the people say, YOLO.

I began to wake up at dawn, and developed a habit of spewing at least 500 words before breakfast. Thousands of pages, two novels, and later, this here blog.

I still didn’t know how to connect my writing hobby with a real life thing.

And then, something miraculous happened.

I had started telling anyone who would listen that I needed a job. I could write, I could edit, and I could do production. The latter was the one part of ye olde career that I felt I still had a wee bit ‘o chops with.

My elderly aunt was one of the people I told. And lucky for me, she was a good listener, too, because she took in that information and remembered to mention I was available to work when her daughter-in-law told her that she was looking for someone who could help her grow her web design business.

The first time I met my biz partner, Hillary, in her art-filled, vibrant colored home, I felt a quake that went straight to my creative core. That intuition was confirmed as we dove in to work together. All of the constraints of my former “corporate” self were stripped off as she taught me how to see the world through a magical lens of positive intention, unfettered creativity, humor, grace, and gratitude.

Her wife — my cousin Max — wasn’t working with us yet. Truthfully, as we grew up in different parts of the country, we didn’t even really know each other at all. But slowly, over time, we got to know and love each other in what we started calling our creative coven.

This is all leading up to what the last couple of years have been all about. A top-secret project called Find Me I’m Yours.

The fancy pants description is this: it’s a revolutionary CLICK LIT® novel, created, written, and designed by award-winning, bestselling author Hillary Carlip, and co-created, directed, and produced by Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated TV comedy writer/producer/director Maxine Lapiduss. The project was conceived from the get-go as an ever-expanding, multi-platform creation that invites readers to, “Join One Girl’s Hunt for Love in a Transmedia World.” (Preorder your copies now! The whole shebang will be available on Nov. 3, 2014.)

My bitches, you won’t believe your eyes cuz you ain’t seen nuthin’ like this yet!

And in the behind the scenes, we have all these amazing people — predominately young, predominately women, along with some kick ass dudes, too — which takes this whole incredible journey to the next level. To me, giving the young’uns a place to be their freaky, awesome, creative, inspired selves is the best way to pay this fortuitious second act forward.

So if you see me weeping, just know that they’re tears of joy and gratitude for being so blessed as to find myself surrounded by such smart, creative, visionary women. There’s a wealth of possibility in all of us; when you commit to digging for buried treasure like authenticity and creative expression, you might just find that what was missing was inside of you all along.

#FindMeImYours — be sure to be our BBFs on FB! https://www.facebook.com/findmeimyours/

find_me

 

Half-Assed Multitasking for Dummies

Halfassed_multitaskingFunny but true story: The other morning I called my BBF while I was doing a quick tidying of the house.  I had miraculously remembered that we’d discussed going out for dinner, and the idea of not cooking — even at 7:12 a.m. — was enough to motivate me to pick up the phone.

She was driving her son to school, and together I think we put together about one coherent sentence until my BBF pulled up to drop him off and made this shocking confession:

“I’m actually a half-assed multitasker. Do you mind if I call you back in two minutes?”

That made me LOL all the way through unloading the dishwasher as I realized that I had been handed a genius blog title. As I schemed about what I’d say in the post, I unloaded the dishes, finished scrubbing the pots in the sink, and was on to drying them  – a perfect task to complete while yapping on the phone once my BBF called back (less risk of drowning your cell in a sink full of soapy water).

As we chatted, I finished patting down the pans and popped an English muffin in the toaster. The second we finished making our plans, the toasted went off as if on cue, I grabbed a fresh plate, and then… plopped my morning carb smack into a big smear of cold pasta sauce that decorated the dish.

Upon closer inspection of the items I’d just unloaded from the dishwasher, I realized that everything was caked with food and grime.

This wasn’t the first time I’d forgotten to run the wash before I unloaded it. In fact, I’ve done it twice now in the last few weeks, and that’s not all: I made a beautiful last BBQ dinner of the summer for my family, and then left the grill on all night to ensure it really is our last BBQ for a while, because who can ever remember to refill the propane? I’ve pulled out a load of wet laundry only to discover what I actually have is a handful of dry clothes splattered with blue washing detergent. And I routinely come home to partially made beds, milk that’s been left out on the counter all day, and open cabinets that may or may not have been filled with whatever was going in them. And of course pretty much every time I shop I leave the grocery store with $200 worth of goods… everything except the one thing I actually came in for.

While it’s obvious I could use a mental reboot, I’m not even sure that would even work any more.

And suddenly I realize that there’s nothing I’d like more than to be a half-assed multitasker. Beyond making me laugh, it also makes me feel better about the situation.

Modern life dictates that multitasking, which is supposedly worse than marijuana for your IQ, is a way of life nowadays. There’s literally no human way to get all the shit that needs to be done in a day accomplished UNLESS you attempt to do things simultaneously.

That said, study after study would tell you that if you try to do more than one thing at one time, your performance would undoubtedly suck. (That’s the clinical term, I’m pretty sure…)

And while there are exceptional outliers –David Strayer of the University of Utah’s psychology department calls them “supertaskers” — the bottom line is that even something as simple as talking on a cell phone and driving can make you just as blotto as if you’d downed a few drinks.

(Supertaskers are super rare, btw — if you think you might be one, just try this test from Stayer’s lab: http://psych.newcastle.edu.au/~ae273/GateKeeper/)

So what’s a half-assed multitasker to do, then? I do have a few suggestions I came up with while doing a load or six of laundry and simultaneously making breakfast (pouring bowls of cereal), lunch (PB & J), and dinner (crockpot beef stew):

Embrace your half-assedness: Once upon a time, I was a Type-A overachiever. And where did it get me? Have I won a Pulitzer Prize for writing? Solved climate changed? Cured cancer? Clearly none of the above, although I am blessed with an amazing family, have a nice place to live, a job I totally dig, and a bitch that comes when I call (sort of). We do what we can do, and remembering to be grateful for it is the least half-assed thing you can do.

Listen to the resistance: One of the reasons that some things we attempt to multi-task never truly get done is because there’s no spark on the back burner where we put them. So maybe there’s a task or two you can take off your plate and free your mind up, even just a little bit.

It’s OK to drop some balls: My BBF biz partner is a kick ass juggler. This is actually literal: the woman won the Gong Show — with a first-ever 10 from Rex Reed! — juggling and singing at the same time. Since then, everything the woman has ever done is the product of an incredible juggling act. (More on that in the weeks to come… we’re about to launch the latest, so check out www.facebook.com/findmeimyours) As a klutz with no hand-eye coordination, I’ve got some trepidation around having so many balls in the air. Thanks to my job, I’m learning to be OK with doing the best I can, knowing that I’ll drop a few balls here and there and rather than freak out, I just pick-them up and get back to it.

Half an ass is better than none: We certainly give other people points for trying — I can be pretty damn effusive seeing a sort-of made bed and the clothes picked up off the floor but jammed in drawers in my kids’ rooms, for example.

When in doubt, sit your ass down: When the frenzy that is multi-tasking really gets to you, there’s no shame in sitting one out. Go full-on teenager on everyone else’s ass by slamming your bedroom door, put on some soothing music (or none, depending on what soothes your aching keppie), and tune out the world, just for five minutes.

So if you see me unloading a washer full of dirty dishes or serving up beef stew that has no actual meat in it, just know that I’m indulging in a little half-assed multitasking. I’m no dummy, but sometimes the only way to move through a day is to do your best and leave the rest.

FlyHC

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