Get Real: Rudolph and the Land of Misfit Toys

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is more than a story about a reindeer born with a deformity (a glowing red nose) that ends up saving Christmas. It’s a metaphor for misfits everywhere. Along with Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz, Rudolph has spiritual meaning we can apply to our journey.
Hermey: [musically] Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. You can’t fire me, I quit. Seems I don’t fit in.

Rudolph: [musically] Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. Just because my nose glows… why don’t I fit in?

Hermey, in the 1964 cartoon, was the elf who really wanted to be a dentist. Rudolph desperately wanted to be like the other reindeer and get the chance to fly Santa’s sleigh but he was made fun of because of his nose. When he visited the Island of Misfits, he discovered he was in good company. Misfits are everywhere.

First, we need to recognize we are all misfits somewhere and that’s part of the fun and challenge in our journey is to figure out where we best fit in: personally and professionally. The more we know who we are and stop pretending to be who others need for us to be, the more that happens authentically. Sure, once in awhile we are still called upon to put on the fake nose and fit in, but if we do that too long, we can get depressed and even repress our feelings and shrink instead of grow. It was only when Rudolph took off the mask and let himself be who he is that his unique gifts were seen and offered to the universe.

The holidays are a huge trigger for our Misfit beacon. Maybe it’s being around family that reminds us of failures or past hurts or labels thrust upon us or feeling “forced” to go to holiday parties because we are supposed to versus genuinely wanting to with an open heart. It’s also about being Alone and Lonely when it feels like everyone else is so damn merry and have it all together! Of course that’s our own lens we’re looking through. The very folks we think are having the time of their lives could be wearing fake noses to fit in, too! And underneath their smiles could be a lot of pain. As someone who felt like an outcast most of my life (but found a way to fit in where I could offer my gifts) and as someone who is struggling to find my emotional footing right now, I wanted to offer up this cool Holiday Intention pic I snatched that can help us sail right into the new year. I can’t quite read the attribution, but thanks to whomever came up with it.

Image 2   Be present, give with intention, wrap others with joy, send good vibes, make friends, be the light.  I’ve always been independent and have gone to a lot of functions alone, but it feels different going alone because you are single. I’ve found it’s tested and stretched me in new ways. One of the reasons I love this holiday list so much is we should do this when we go about our merry way (even when we are feeling Grinchy) this season and always. Just as we check the mirror for the way our hair and outfit looks before we go, we should check our attitude and energy. If we are FEELING like a misfit, that’s the energy we are going to send to others and yes, they can feel it, even if it’s subconsciously. If you go out saying, I’m going to be the light (code word for radiating your best), then others will be drawn to you quite literally like a warm fire on a cold day. Even though I love nothing more than a night in with my journal and a glass of red wine, I *know* it’s good for me to get out and be around people to re-energize me and make me feel a little less alone. You’ll know what that right balance is for you. As an ambivert, I recharge pretty evenly between ideas and alone time and being around people I admire and meeting new people.

What are you grateful for this week? Who lifted your spirits? Whose spirit did you lift? Where do you feel like a misfit and how could you correct than in 2015 to live more authentically?  This week I’m grateful for Patty, Tracy, Hilarie, Ann and Carrie for being my party pals and my old friend Matt and his dad for inviting me to the Bedlam game (even though we lost. Ugh.) Our evening was full of spirited conversation and I’m never shy about sharing a good story and inviting others to do the same.

Get Out: Reverie vineyard from Napa Valley at Carrie Palmer's holiday party.

Get Out: Reverie vineyard from Napa Valley at Carrie Palmer’s holiday party. Carry “gave with intention.”

Girlfriends Tracy and Patty always "wrap me in joy."

Girlfriends Tracy and Patty always “wrap me in joy.”

Taking time out for dominoes at Cuppies and Joe with my youngest. "be present"

Taking time out for dominoes at Cuppies and Joe with my youngest. “be present”

"Make friends" - with Ann (an AXO sister, too) and new friend Jen.

“Make friends” – with Ann (an AXO sister, too) and new friend Jen.

Happy holidays, dear readers. Sending you loads of good vibes.

xo, Malena

Thanks + Top Advice from Team Get Real

Happy Thanksgiving! In counting my blessings this year, in addition to family and friends and servant hearts, I’m so thankful for the great advice and quotes I got all year from Team Get Real (counselors, friends, wise famous people). If you are in a place where you are seeking clarity or simply trying to expand your peace and happiness, perhaps these might help you, too. xo

1. 600153_488335651213960_1166027072_n

2. When you don’t know what to do, my best advice is to do nothing until clarity comes. Getting still, being able to hear your own voice and not the voices of the world, quickens clarity. Once you decide what you want, you make a commitment to that decision. -Oprah

3. If you are pretending or performing, you aren’t living from your authentic self.

4. I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises. – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray Love

5. You’ve spent so much emotional energy defending yourself. Clear the layer of guilt away. Your feelings aren’t all of you.

6. And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Anais Nin

7. You need to give yourself permission to be human. I want you to want what you want.

8. What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting of of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am? – Brene Brown, author

9. Stay neutral. Use your shield.

10. Love stretches us, but time often snaps us back to our original shape. Love takes us further than we thought we could go, but it does not take us past the limits of our nature. And that is a hard thing to know. – Amy Bloom, author

11. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.  ~ Lao Tzu

12. You can’t save others from their process. It’s important to you to choose everything with precision. Get out of prettying up words.

13. Stay the course. Give yourself a break. Give people time.

14. Yoo-hoo, Life, pick me! – Mandy Steward, author (makes me smile every time!)

15. There’s a weird combo of relief and doubt that comes from fear. It takes a while to find your footing.

16. Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge. ~ Eckhart Tolle

17. The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~ Albert Einstein

A Note on Perspective:

While I was nervous about my first Thanksgiving on my own, it turned out to be one of the most special 10686739_10205622387785961_7263301546956882154_nholidays. My daughter (14) ended up not going to Colorado with the rest of the family so she volunteered with me at City of Thanksgiving. We spent the morning making (a lot of) stuffing and then delivered meals to three families in S. OKC which gave us a lot of time for conversation and music. In hearing about some of my friends’ divorces, mine is pretty easy in comparison. My ex didn’t lock me out of the house or refuse to give me my things, I’m at least not being called horrible names to my face and there won’t be a long drawn out battle. Obviously if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know my belief is to choose peace over drama in all situations. While you can’t control the other person, you can at least control how it impacts you. Believe me, I’ve cried more this year than I have maybe all other years of my life combined, but clarity and action doesn’t come easy nor without an emotional toll. I read an article that equated going through a divorce as the emotional equivalent of having a second full-time job. That makes sense. No wonder I’ve felt so zapped. If you are going through a tough time, give yourself time to relax and recuperate. It may feel like staying busy is the answer, but often the opposite is much better: take a long bath, read, go to bed early, drink lots of water, exercise every day and smile at everyone you see. (But do go out and have fun, too. My girlfriends get an A+ in the fun department.)

Perspective doesn’t mean you should repress your feelings or talk yourself out of them. Feel them, acknowledge and accept they are there and then try to let them go or find a way to change them. I let myself be sad, but made a plan (volunteering) and a friend reached out and invited us to Thanksgiving at her house after (thanks, Anita!). The Universe has a way of working things out but we must ACT, too.

We are wise to remember that there is AN UPSIDE TO EVERYTHING. I know in our darkest hours that’s hard to grasp, but it’s true, even if that upside is learning how to deal with pain, survive (and thrive) through transformation and GROW.

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Out: Girls Gone Wild (Hike, Camp, Fire, Good!)

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir

Have you camped yet this year? Gone for a hike? Made eye contact with a deer? No? Then my work here isn’t done!

I heard a ton of feedback after I posted my Solo Camping story back in June. Sure, some of the feedback was negative (that girls don’t go into the wild alone and it was too dangerous- what?!) or disbelieving I was really alone but the majority of the feedback was POSITIVE – whether that was women who really DO want to try a solo adventure to others who just needed the reminder to reconnect with nature with other people in tow. Just remember if it’s PEACE and ALONE time you want, then, well, alone is the way to go.

One of those girlfriends I heard from was Kelley, who was with me on my first Get Out Adventure in May when we hiked Wichita Mountains together near Lawton. As busy working women and mamas we only had one Saturday that worked in our fall schedule for our Girls Gone Wild weekend and we grabbed another girlfriend, Lori, to go with us. So this post it to encourage you to grab your gal pals and head for the hills. While a spa vacay may get you pretty nails for a week, I promise a trip in the wild is way more rewarding for your soul. Trust me on this.

To make the most of our day for hiking, we picked a close locale, Red Rock Canyon State Park , located in Hinton, OK about an hour outside

The little state park worth the drive!

The little state park worth the drive!

of the OKC metro. We ended up having a perfect weather day and it was my only Get Out adventure this year when it didn’t rain! We did two hikes and because my girlfriends are smartie pants, I joked that I was on a trip with Lora and Kora the Explorers. Ha! I’ll admit to hiking ahead when they were fawning over a new discovery on the trail, but we got along really well, including sleeping in a VERY cold tent that night. Yes, when you are away, things can go awry (Lori’s charger, my air mattress deflated, our neighbor with a TON of wood offered us NONE so we went into town to buy more.) The owls (which I LOVE) were quite noisy that night – remember earplugs – nature is loud, y’all.

This post isn’t tips HOW to camp because honestly I’m not that “together” yet but I get better about planning for each adventure and I can’t wait to explore more. If you’re reading this and it’s cold out, obviously I don’t think that’s an excuse for not planning adventures in the wild. A hike on a snowy day is gorgeous and you’ll get beautiful photos to remember it by. Plan other Get Out adventures that take you outside of your norm. One personal tip I will offer is perhaps to NOT tell people your plans way ahead of time as you WILL likely get some negative feedback if you are venturing out into a new place and especially if you are a chick. There is still a stigma and fear mongering about women going alone so DO be careful and take all precautions but don’t let unhealthy fear/paranoia keep you from trying new things.

Thanks to Lori and Kelley for going wild with me. :) For more Get Out posts, click back through old posts to see adventures in paddle boarding, Aloha and more hiking treks. I’ll be back next week with a Get Real post and book review on the psychology book, Me, Myself and Us. Such good stuff.

xoxo and namaste,

Malena

Satiated my tree craving for the month.

Satiated my tree craving for the month.

 

When's the last time you climbed a tree? WE DID!

When’s the last time you climbed a tree? WE DID!

 

And took a selfie with red rock as your backdrop? WE DID.

And took a selfie with red rock as your backdrop? WE DID.

Perfect spot for feeling like a warrior princess.

Perfect spot for feeling like a warrior princess.

A pop up tent is the way to go!

A pop up tent is the way to go!

Literal rock star.

Literal rock star.

Reflection pool for a bit of reflection.

Reflection pool for a bit of reflection.

 

We hiked. We got lost. We found our way back.

We hiked. We got lost. We found our way back.

S'mores, country and rap music and lots of laughs.

S’mores, country and rap music and lots of laughs.

My girlfriends make a killer campfire breakfast.

My girlfriends make a killer campfire breakfast.

Get Real: The Four Agreements

What if you had four simple ways to live in peace and increase your happiness? Don Miguel Ruiz gives us a guide in his international bestseller, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.” 

I recall how helpful the book was back in my early days of co-owning an ad agency ten years ago. This past week I revisited the book to as a way to ground myself in the midst of my divorce and the news of our separation reaches our friends, family and community.fouragreements

While I do want to keep my private life private, I’m also aware that I am called to share some of that publicly as I have all year in what it means to be true to yourself and “get real” and try to live with unconditional happiness. I also write about women’s journeys in my novels and my most important woman’s journey has to be my own. Making tough choices and surviving rough times is part of our story.

One sunny day last week at a park near my new job at a PR firm, I shared what those Four Agreements can do for us.

I hope the book helps you the way it’s helping me through this difficult time. That being said, even for a person who does live with the “glass half full” and a positive attitude, I still feel pain and still get hurt feelings. Our brains WANT us to jump to conclusions and make assumptions and our egos feel attacked and want to defend. Hey, it’s hard being human. I’m trying to be kinder and gentler.

I had to block a family member who sent me about thirty Bible verses and said I’m no longer welcome in her home. People feel like they have to take sides, which is unfortunate, and it hurts to be immediately cut off from half the family that have been a part of your life for so long. Others friends may stay away because it’s awkward. I get it! Many people don’t know what to say, or as I said in the video, it’s going through the lens of their own situation. So you can see why The Four Agreements is pretty helpful if I (we) keep trying to live them.

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take things personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

I want to emphasize how important the support and love of friends and family have been. I do believe we are a magnet for what we are sending out so I’m concentrating on love and joy and peace. I have so much to be grateful for.

Not sure what to say or NOT SAY to someone going through a divorce? One blogger shares 5 tips here.  Or know someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer? Six things not to say here. And here are 9 things not to say to a grieving friend. 

Other News:

NaNoWriMo. My goal is to finish the first draft of my brotherhood novel in November. That happens to be National Novel Writing Month so I’m in. Not only do I need the distraction that my fictional world provides, but it will feel great to get this project done because it’s the one I’ve been more excited about writing than any other.

Decorating. I recently finished a project for Sweet Law Firm to give their stale work room some personality. Check out the post and video here. 

FUN NEWS! A new Stork Reality baby! My book club visit in September included a pregnant reader who had just finished reading The Stork Reality, my first novel. I asked her to send me baby pics when her bundle of joy arrived. Welcome to the world, Gigi! Congrats, Megan!

Stork Reality baby, Gigi Franklin.

Stork Reality baby, Gigi Franklin.

Get Happy Week 6: Dark to Light

Getting Happy isn’t focusing on the good stuff or “seeing the bright side.” While that helps, it’s important to get to the deepest part of our core, which means embracing pain and darkness as a foundation for true inner happiness. In my Solo Camping post, I talked about the book Learning to Walk in the Dark in which Barbara Brown Taylor not only describes our fear of physical darkness, but of the “dark nights of our soul.” She discusses how we might get the most out of embracing our dark paths, not repressing them or simply “praying them away.” We have to Get Real about our darkness to deal with it.

Obviously one way I deal with my own demons is by writing stories, which feels like “letting the pressure out of the tire” but it has also slowly removed many thorns in my life. As I write about love and loss and grief as a recurring theme in all of my stories, I’ve been able to deal with my own Dark Passenger, Grief, which I also wrote about in Hope Floats, short stories on loss and living on. hopefloatscovernook

While I’ve dealt with letting go of worry and anxiety that stemmed from a childhood thorn of a fear of abandonment, I hadn’t really dealt with the big thorn of Grief. As I’ve been excavating mySelf this year, I realized it was time to let that go, too. In my 2008 novel, Dating da Vinci, my young widow Ramona, describes life from the viewpoint of either a Normal or a Griever. When you’re a Griever, everything looks different – it’s tinged with a sadness of what was and what could have been and the very painful reality of what is. Her journey is to find la dolce vita, the sweet life. Not the same life she had with her husband, but a new kind of normal. While I had accepted that I do look at life as a Griever and it’s made me appreciate each day I’m given, I do think I had an attachment to that aspect of my life story and I’m ready to REMOVE THE THORN instead of protecting it.url

The thorn theory is in the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Untethered Soul, in which Michael A. Singer writes that, “They let the fear of their inner thorns affect their behavior. They end up limiting their lives just like someone living with an external thorn. Ultimately if there is something disturbing inside of you, you have to make a choice. You can compensate for the disturbing by going outside in an attempt to avoid feeling it, or you can simply remove the thorn and not focus your life around it.”

“You have to decide if you want to continue to walk around with stored pain blocking your heart and limiting your life. The alternative is to be willing to let it go when it gets stimulated. It only hurts for a minute and then it’s over.”

Like pulling a BandAid, but way harder. He writes, “You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life.”

Wow. I know I don’t want that. Do you? I want joy and freedom and utilizing my energy for moving forward, not protecting my pain.

In dealing with our darkness, Singer says, “Just sit in the seat of awareness and never leave. No matter what goes on below you, open your heart and let it go.” He speaks of a world of pure energy that will open up to you as a result and who doesn’t want that?

One of my new favorite mantras came from his book and that’s, “Relax and Release.” When I feel the pang of worry, anxiety, fear or grief begin to stir, I stop the thought short and take in a deep breath and release it. No, that doesn’t guarantee “insta-happiness” but that’s what this series is all about. Happiness WHILE dealing with what is even when that what is is totally crappy.

Yeah, this whole year of Transformation has been about Awareness that can lead to Action and Singer says, “Awareness does not fight; awareness releases.”

Another find that helped me deal with Darkness this summer was a program by Frederick Buechner, who had experienced a great deal of pain early in his life and discovered that he was a Steward of Pain. I encourage you to read or listen to it.

Like Taylor, Buechner tells us NOT to forget it, cover it up, or not talk about things that cause pain OR use it as a sob story or an excuse for your life. We can take the pain and learn from it and release it but keep in touch with it. You’ll never forget it because it changed you but it doesn’t have to keep you down. He says it reminds us of our own powerlessness and that’s a good thing to know. Coupled with Singer’s advice to release your mind of a job to “fix yourself” then we won’t make ourselves crazy trying to control what is OUT of our control. One way to do this is to be an observer of your life. You see that these things are happening to you – but they aren’t you. It can help to grasp that concept with a meditation program where you do sit and see thoughts and feelings pop up but you don’t get distracted by them. To rise above.

Buechner says, “if life and pain is buried, you shrink instead of grow, you become less. Ones who traded with their lives made to be life traders. I have what you need which is me and you have which I need, which is you.” Treasure the pain you’ve gone through helps us feel compassion for other people and can drive us to help others.

I know just thinking about the thorn(s) can be painful and opens us up to that uncomfortable vulnerability to look at love and loss square in the eye, raw and aching. But no one else is going to do it for us. It’s work but it’s worth it. Loving ourselves and loving others is what life is all about.

Grace is ours if we take it.

Questions to ponder: what are the thorns in your life? How have you been protecting the thorns instead of dealing with them? What steps do you need to do to remove them? 

Thanks for being a part of my “Get” year with Get Real, Get Out, Get Fit and Get Happy. I’m taking a blog hiatus so I can work on my novel in progress as well as some short stories in a collection I’m excited about. All of that on top of decorating and branding work and a personal life with a very busy fall.

If you miss me, send me a note or seek me out on social media, where I’ll try not to hang out too much but I do try to respond to messages.

Best of luck on your journey, friends.

xo,

Malena

Get Happy Week 5: Forget Normal

“You’re so weird, Mom!” My 14-year-old daughter said before taking the jar of moon water and trying it.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I like it because it’s cold, not because it’s moon water.” I love her directness except when I don’t.

My 17-year-old son, who would not partake of the moon water and thought it was also strange. I’ve raised my kids to be independent thinkers so this is what I get. They may agree with me or think something is bullsh*t. (They just can’t use that word – yet.) So he doesn’t share my interest in the mysteries of the universe. That’s okay. I’m still glad I exposed them both to something mystical that you don’t find within the walls of a church.

Moon water is soaking up the energy of the Super moon by leaving a covered jar of clean water out all night in the moonlight. Why not? We know about the moon’s effects on tides and moods. The Universe is made up of energy as are each of us so why not moon water? The novelty of it – and the fact I look at the moon each night – made me curious enough to try it as an assignment in an ecourse I’m taking. I don’t think I would’ve thought to try it on my own. I used to be Catholic so it’s not that much of a stretch for me from “holy water” blessed by a priest, ordained by another human being. Besides, the moon is cool.

Image 3

Look, the kids know they have an odd mom, and that’s okay. I don’t want to be normal. In fact, like the shirt says, “Normal is boring.” Thing is, none of us are normal. Everyone has quirks. Some of us just express it a little more. I don’t dress oddly, but my brain is wired differently. I create entire worlds from my mind and those characters are a big part of my days. And my personality type thrives on new experiences and adventure. So, yeah, I’ll take a six-week sensuality ecourse and I’ll moon bathe (it was fantastic!) and I’m OPEN to life’s experiences. Living in the present moment means making the MOST of that moment so when an opportunity arises, I’ll likely take it if I find it interesting or challenging or something I can learn from. I flirt with life and it flirts back. Whatcha got? I ask each Day and the Day never lets me down. 

As a creative entrepreneur, I not only write fiction, but I get paid to be a strategic thinker and problem solver, both as a brand and marketing strategist and this year as a decorator, too. I do them all, sometimes all in one day, which I know is not “normal”. I keep a lot of balls in the air, but it makes my squirrel circus brain happy and it works for me. Do you have more than one job or a job that lets you do different things that keeps you challenged?

Yes, I do this, too.

Yes, I do this, too.

Just as we talked about a couple of week’s ago, FORGET THE LABELS. You are more than your title or a singular hobby. You are a marvelous, multi-dimensional creature and that means you don’t have to be normal. Pave your own way. Zig when they zag. I promise it’s more fun.

Yesterday, I even got paid to watch paint dry. Fantastic, right?

Special note of thanks to A Perfect Touch in OKC for an exquisite job.

Special note of thanks to A Perfect Touch in OKC for an exquisite job.

And while perusing the bookshelf of one of the law firm partners, I found ON KILLING, which I borrowed to help with research for my novel. By staying aware in the present moment, all sorts of gifts seem to pop up out of nowhere, making my normal day a lot more interesting.

While the painters painted, I read about the psychology of killing in combat. My days are never boring.

While the painters painted, I read about the psychology of killing in combat. My days are never boring.

 

Our lives are one big sociology experiment. Let’s not waste it. It comes down to: how comfortable are you to LIVE YOUR TRUTH?  Easy used to be putting the mask on and pretending but now that’s actually harder for me. It feels like a rock in my gut. Yet I know which friends to talk to about which topics. Same goes for strangers. It’s comfort and chemistry.

Bottom line: DON’T WORRY IF PEOPLE DON’T THINK YOU FIT IN WITH THIS OR THAT.

DON’T LET PEOPLE’S LOOKS DECEIVE YOU IN EITHER DIRECTION. While it’s natural to “dress the part” when it comes to our jobs, we can still embrace all those “me”s that live inside of us.

DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU AREN’T IF THAT ROLE DOESN’T SUIT YOU IN THE MOMENT.

One of my new adventures last week was the first time to speak to a book club in a bike store in downtown Oklahoma City. The Girly Book Club is a national club and they read FAMILY CHARMS, my novel loosely based on the twenty-year estrangement with my mother, though very fictionalized for added drama. Huge thanks to these ladies for hosting me!

Image 4One of the women said she was surprised I don’t have tattoos (like Taryn, the middle sister in the book.) I told her I’d love one but the way my brain works, I’d either become obsessed with them but only AFTER I made the tough decision on exactly which tattoo to get. I also told them that while I look like a fashionable suburban mom, a part of my psyche is more like a soft, dreadlock, tattoo-wearing, barefooted gypsy. (Only I like my curly hair and shoes too much.) How I decide to adorn my exterior isn’t always reflective of my inner mood or interests. The more self-aware and layered we become, the more interesting life becomes. I told the book club, life is art and art is life. I view relationships as art, too – mysterious and beautiful. 

Forget normal. Try moon water someday. Ask the day, “whatcha got?” and give it your all.

xo,

Malena

Get Happy Week 4: Fire in the Belly

I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, but in writing from a male perspective in my current work-in-progress, I’ve thought a lot about it, interviewed a lot of vets and have tried to immerse myself in the world of Jake, my twenty-two-year-old Iraq war vet amputee who is back home in a small town in Texas trying to start his life anew. For weeks I was bothered not knowing who the antagonist of the book was until one day it clicked that it was Misery – basically the black cloud of bad shit that had happened to him all of his life and seemed to continue to be happening. I bring up Jake and Misery in this week’s Get Happy post because it’s important for us to remember to use our pain and sit with the discomfort in figuring out how we can resolve issues (buried and new) and also the importance of having a tribe. Your peeps.Image

So this week’s potpourri of happiness includes: a) the importance of feeling loved and secure to get through the tough times b) having a tribe of people who understand and let you be your authentic YOU and where you feel you BELONG and c) having the will to take the journey to authentic living for a passionate life.

I stumbled upon Sam Keen’s work and because I’m a jump in kind of girl, I ordered and am simultaneously reading three of his books: Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, To Love and Be Loved, and The Passionate Life. While each one is different, they share the foundation of the importance of knowing and loving yourself and sorting through the bullshit our culture and advertising and conditioning dole out. The central theme in his work is really understanding LOVE in all of its forms so that we can be better people and better lovers. From To Love… Elements of love: attention, desire, knowledge, sensuality, empathy, compassion, enjoyment, care, storytelling, repenting, self-love, commitment, co-creation, adoration, sexuality and enchantment. 

In The Passionate Life, Keen gives us the history of sexuality along with the psychology and philosophy of love, desire and passion and encourages us to wake up to the trivialization of the erotic and only thinking it’s for “certain people” such as celebrities or people who look or dress a certain way. He also give us a roadmap for defining and overcoming the barriers to progress to higher levels of love. He describes our journey (which is circular, not linear) as Child, Rebel, Adult, Outlaw and Lover.

Probably my favorite thing about diving in to a subject is how all the parts begin coming together to seek my own clarity and I hope you’ll do that, too. When you open your eyes to really “see” then it seems as if what you are looking for is everywhere. The timing in reading these books and taking the Blushing Wild ecourse with a group of fascinating women online with our own personal wounds from the battle of living and loving and thrashing WHILE working on my novel and WHILE working on my own awakening has truly been powerful. Thing is, we can only make those choices ourselves. No one is standing over you saying, “Hey, you. Time to make a little progress in this whole life thing. Time to love a little more. Time to forgive yourself. Time to forgive others. Time to let go of what isn’t working. Time to get rid of the shame and guilt. Time to love a little more. Wait, I said already, right? So what are you still doing sitting there?” 

Well, okay. I’ll be that person to tap you on the shoulder but it’s up to us to commit and go for it. While a lot of my work is cerebral and spiritual, I can see how it manifests in the real world with my interactions with others – whether that’s personal or professional. And people do notice our energy. Recently a retailer came up to me and told me I had a beautiful aura, that I was glowing, and that whatever I’m doing in life to keep doing it. Wow. I was stunned.

I don’t tell you that as a humble brag but that it served as a reminder for us to be aware of what energy we’re putting out there in the world. It was even more special because she talked about my aura and not my clothes or looks (though they are a reflection of mySelf, too.) Obviously she felt compelled to share that and I think it was important for me to receive it because as much as I seem confident, I am also full of doubt and questioning and unsure a lot of the time.

Question on our energy: Am I being negative? Am I bringing the past with me to the present? Am I being a good listener when others are talking?  Am I being an active participant in the outcomes of my life or simply reactionary? Am I making assumptions or projections instead of accepting what is and feeling it? (All can be hard!) But her words gave me a gentle affirmation that I MUST be doing something right. That I’m on the right track. I’m living my passions. I’m figuring out what’s next and letting myself be vulnerable and open and receiving. I can be confident and scared at the same time. I can feel joy and pain at the same time. Life can be ambiguous and a mystery and yet still full of joy and opportunity.

Questions to ponder this week:

Who are my tribes? Do I need to remove myself from some and find new ones where I might feel more authentic?

What elements of love do I need to work on? How can I focus on them?

Am I good at empathizing with others – understanding or at least appreciating others’ differences whether that’s gender or lifestyle or opinions? How can I get better at “taking a walk in their shoes?”

Is Misery a part of your life? Where and how can you deal with her? (In my book she’s a Her. And trying to bury her won’t work, because she’ll still haunt you. Creepy, huh?)

What’s the fire in your belly? 

As always, I’d like to close with encouraging you to Get Out and explore nature and include more adventure in your life for discovery and connection to something greater than ourselves. I’m thrilled that fall is here for football season and camping and the gorgeous fall landscape.  Will share pictures and stories along the way. Here’s to happy, through the pain.

xo,

Malena

 

 

Get Happy Week 3: The Authentic You

In that same lobby where I met the old couple who embodied unconditional joy in my first Get Happy post, the receptionist asked me if I own a boutique in town. I shook my head and told her, “No. I’m a writer.”

“Oh,” she replied. “You look like you’d own one of those really cute shops.”

Who are you?

Who are you?

I knew she was basing this on my looks, which is fine, and that she likely meant it as a compliment. After all, “looking like a writer” would have a totally different connotation. Believe me, I have writer mode look down to a T.

Upon meeting the dermatologist, he asked if I was an aesthetician. Again, I repeat “what I am” – a writer and brand strategist. I didn’t ask him why he assumed that. (My questions? My obvious love of lipstick? Again, looks?)

In another meeting this week, an owner asked how I describe myself since I’m a novelist, a marketer and even a paid decorator. I told him, “I’m a creative spirit.” Not only did he “get it” but he wanted to work together. I felt free enough to NOT have to define myself in any limited way.

These interactions made me think about the LABELS WE WEAR and how we are perceived by others. In self-identifying with Parent, Occupation, Hobby, Religion, Political Affiliation, Wife and so on, we can become so attached to those labels that we lose ourselves in them. What We Do is NOT Who We Are. Even are ROLES cannot do justice to the magic of our true selves, which is much deeper than the sum of all of those labels added together. We know we are more than our personality types, too, though they help point us in the right direction of understanding. (I’m ENTJ who really wishes she wanted to sit in the back of the room and doodle instead of wanting to be the person on the stage giving the presentation, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve worked on going from Type A to Zen with some success.)

We are so many multi-faceted things which is what makes humans and our soul journeys such a glorious mystery. Our culture likes to pigeon-hole us, to know which shelf to stack us on. We try to make sense of others by using these labels, but that can be confining, not only in how we relate to others :: oh you’re ONLY this :: but also that we begin to believe :: I AM ONLY :: and may stop trying to BE something else or what we truly FEEL we are inside. DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR WHO YOU ARE.

In trying to “return to wild” we are trying to honor not only our true purpose for being here in this life so beyond truly knowing ourselves and awakening.  We discussed vulnerability and shame and passion last week with some tips from Brene Brown on Daring Greatly. This week I’d like to share some insight from Dr. Susan Campbell in her book, Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. The book was synchronicity. I was in Hawaii on vacation with my family when I discovered the book in a used bookstore in Maui. I read it almost to entirety on my trip and highlighted the hell out of it.

Here are some of those highlights which can help us to “unmask” and start living and interacting authentically from the book.

  • You engage with others in what I call a social meditation practice in which you support one another in unhooking from your self-image and your ideas about being “better” and risk being seen just as you are. The result in self-realization – making real the parts of you that you thought you had to hide to survive.
  • Shoulds prevent us from seeing how our life really is – and from taking appropriate action. Shoulds are pretenses.
  • Shoulds keep you from owning your power to create the life you want. They keep you in denial about your actual feelings and situation.
  • Asserting what you want affirms your right to want what you want – even if you imagine it’s an unreasonable demand or that there’s little chance of getting it.
  • On sharing mixed emotions – when you are ambivalent, confused or “of two minds”, go ahead and express this fact. You may be pulled equally in two or more directions. The ability to express complex feelings is important. Most self-aware people experience mixed feelings fairly often.
  • Experiencing what is means allowing yourself to feel what you feel without inhibiting yourself shutting down.
  • Allow yourself to feel it and notice whatever shows up next in your awareness. Experiencing what is requires that you be willing to step into the unknown. You cannot control where your experiencing will take you.
  • Notice your intent – is it to relate or to control?
  • Projections are useful because we often need to get our buttons pushed so we can notice what they are.
  • Holding your differences with another person can produce an inner expansion or transformation that enables them to experience a deeper level of what’s real for each of them.
  • As you grow in your capacity to experience what is, you stop trying to manipulate reality to conform to your comfort zone.

 

Questions to ask ourselves:

Do you feel safe enough to express yourself authentically – in conversation, dress, and behavior?

Do you have “shoulds” you need to let go of?

When something isn’t working, are you brave enough to confront it and change it? Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone to live authentically?

Are labels keeping you “boxed in” when you want to “break out?” Which ones?

Final thoughts:

I don’t believe labels have to be self-limiting as long as we don’t self-identify too much with them. As I’ve let go of some of my attachments to these labels and “shoulds” I have found more peace and happiness, but it’s not easy. It’s tough to watch my kids grow up and not need me in the same way, but I remind myself, they still need me. Even if they seem like they are pulling away, I still need to stay present and find ways to interact with them without trying to control them. In my work life, I decided I needed to work with people again, for someone, which was a huge decision and will be a big transition since I’ve worked for myself for eight years. I believe I self-identified with entrepreneur and became too attached to the freedom to perhaps the detriment of my own fulfillment and need to be social and part of something bigger than myself as a solo entrepreneur with so many interests. It’s scary but yet liberating at the same time. Even my novel writing has taken a pleasant departure as I’m working on a novel that completely challenges me in every way, a non-fiction book that delves into spirituality and living our truth, and even a very divergent book that’s titillating and sensual. How’s that for a tease?

Next week I’m devoting my post to the amazing Sam Keen and talking about love and the man’s journey. I’m reading three of his books simultaneously and have a huge crush on his wisdom. I do believe so much in life is kismet :: this summer I found ee cummings poetry and fell in love with it. When I visited Sam’s website, it begins with this ee cummings quote:

“ Always the beautiful answer. Who asks a more beautiful question?“

ee cummings

Here’s to asking beautiful questions.

Much love and xoxo,

Malena

 

Get Happy Week 2: On Daring Greatly and Passion

What makes your heart sing? What sets your body on fire? How much passion do you have for life? do you live with joie de vivre? It’s delight simply in being alive. People who have a passion for life are simply happier and we can all cultivate more of it. 

Today in week 2 on Getting Happy, we’re talking about Passion, #5 on my list of ways we can create more happiness in our life.

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Oprah and Deepak’s theme for today’s happiness meditation was “Living with Passion” and the centering thought, “My happiness energizes and inspires me.” The sanskrit mantra “rabhasa hum” which means, “I am pure delight.”

In Sam Keen’s brilliant book, To Love and Be Loved, he writes, “Human desire is not psychological but ontological, rooted in our being. Therefore, insatiable.” Do you like living in your own skin? Do you appreciate the wonders of your body and all of your senses?

Everything in my life is “research” for my stories, but my stories are also gateways to understanding my own psyche and what makes me tick. I hope you’ll join me these six weeks as we explore what it takes for us to “get happy” and stay there despite loss and hard times and disappointments.

So combining these two “passions”, today I’d like to call attention to #5 on my 7 Keys to Getting Happy list, “feed your passions” and by that I mean connecting with the spiritual passion that is the wellspring of happiness that never stops flowing – the gift(s) you were brought here to do – and as the Wild Mystics said in today’s lesson, “I will not apologize…” for desire, for curiosity, for the body that you are housed in to live a unique story that only you can live. In fact, Keen also writes that “Curiosity is foreplay.” What are you curious about? Explore. What else do you need permission for? Lovingly accepting what turns you on, be it intelligence, entertainment, particular body parts, particular people, and actions. 

Feeding our passions does imply we know what they are and if like me you believe in the law of attraction, you will find that by keeping your passions a priority AND GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO EXPLORE THEM, the Universe conspires to bring you MORE OF IT. It’s kind of like those makeup bonus gifts I love so much. I buy what I need and SURPRISE! I get a whole makeup bag full of more goodies. The universe is awesome like that. Deepak says, “Nature moves to restore balance.” So rest assured that the crappy times won’t last long and with #2 Change your attitude, those crappy times don’t have to feel so crappy because it’s not the situation that causes unhappiness but our mind’s reaction to it. That took me YEARS to grasp and put into practice.

I used to think it was possible to control life and it made me a little crazy trying to live up to the perfection my Type A / Aries / Alpha Female personality seems to thrive on. And don’t even go there with thinking we can control other people or outcomes, either. That’s a recipe for heartache right there. What we can do is choose happiness by not only creating it, but going so deep with it that the wild winds of change and ugly realities cannot touch it. That’s unconditional happiness and that’s what we’re aiming for in this six-week series on Getting Happy.

Our happy guide today is none other than Brene Brown, who boldly discusses shame, vulnerability and courage with us as HER life’s passion. As a researcher, she’s done the work, talked the talk and walks the walk. We should do the same.

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A few of my favorite quotes and ideas from Daring Greatly that can help us on our Get Happy journey and passion-fueled life:

  • Hope is not an emotion; it’s a thought process. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just show up.
  • Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage.
  • Good enough is really ‘effin good. (take that to heart, perfectionists!)
  • Connection is why we’re here. We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.
  • We must be vulnerable and open up to the risk. Wholehearted people take those risks.
  • The vulnerability journey is not the kind of journey we can amke alone. We need support. We need folks who will let us try on new ways of being without judging us.
  • We need to not be afraid to talk about shame. Bring it into the light.
  • Perfectionism is doing things to win approval from others. It is NOT self-improvement or striving for excellence. Those are good ambitions. But if we are doing it only to please others and not our own journey, then it is preventing us from happiness because we feel it will never be “enough” and sets us up for shame.
  • Showing your true self and living your passions means you will be on the receiving end of cynicism and criticism and plain ol’ mean spiritedness. Don’t let it get it to. Remember what I said last week about the “jackass whisperer”.
  • Leadership requires discomfort. – Seth Godin (so does following your passions!)

 

More questions to ponder this week:

What are my passions? What passions am I not giving enough attention to? How can I make those more of a priority in my life? 

What am I ashamed of and why? How can I remove that shame? Do I need to talk to someone about it? 

Have I put my own sensuality on the back burner because of family and work duties? How can I feel pleasure again? What desires do I have and how can I bring those to fruition if they serve to bring wholeness and are not destructive? 

How do I really feel about my body? How can I love it and give it the self-care it needs? How can I feed my mind and spirit for wholehearted living?

Do I have a sacred circle where I can discuss these things? Should I talk to a therapist or trusted friend? (And please don’t be afraid to SEE a counselor or life coach. There is no shame in talking through our challenges with professionals. I’ve seen several and they always provide extraordinary perspective and make me think, validate my feelings, and help gently push me in the direction of my unique life path. Each one of ours is different!)

Each week I’ll close with reposting my 7 Keys with a new example of each. Feel free to add more keys in comments.

Until then, feed your passions!

xo,

Malena

Here’s my list of 7 Keys to Getting Happy  WEEK 2

1) Remove roadblocks to happiness - just say no or limit time with negative people

2) Change your attitude (as the song goes, “take your life from negative to positive” – learn to take deep breaths and not respond immediately to every situation

3) Practice gratitude and self-care – make yourself feel beautiful. You’ll feel more passionate when YOU believe you look good. Treat yourself to a haircut, new lipstick, fall nail polish covers, whatever makes you rock it. 

4) Live with intention (on purpose) – when you make a commitment, stick to it

5) Feed your passions – schedule time this week for our passions and stick to it. If that’s in the bedroom, even better. 

6) Take time for stillness/ be mindful – instead of judging when you see something, just practice being an observer. It just is. 

7) Be an adventurer. Stay curious. Play more. Be silly. – try a new class this week.  Last week I joined Barre 3 and also did a Stand Up Paddle board boot camp class and loved both. Challenging yourself feeds your courage and happiness. 

Get Happy: Summer’s End and The Meaning of Unconditional Happiness

The frail elderly woman picked at her short curly hair with a comb, her back against her husband’s chest. “Did I get it all?” she asked.

“Yes, honey, but don’t make it too big.”

She laughed. “I had to wait until it dried.”

“Remember how wild and crazy it was when we were younger, baby?” He teased.

She laughed at the memory.

This went on for several minutes, cooing affectionately at each other on the aptly named loveseat.

When they were quiet, I couldn’t help but comment from across the small waiting room. “You two are too cute.”

They went on to tell me that they had been married 42 years and despite the wife’s bad health the last few years, they figured they looked better laughing than crying.

What better segway into my new six-week blog series on unconditional joy (Get Happy) than this couple who obviously lived happily together despite all of the obvious health problems and likely much time spent in waiting rooms.

What does it mean to be happy? For most of us, happiness is conditional, the circumstances all leading to or away from a feeling of joy or bliss. As a fiction writer, I get to create those difficult journeys for my characters, putting them through hell and back to a hopeful ending. In real life, I struggle as much as the next person, but I’ve come a long way, baby and want to share because I think that’s why we’re here. Happiness, connection and growth.

One of my favorite mantras since 2003 was “I shall not let circumstances dictate my joy.” That mature couple in the waiting room totally get this. People who have cancer or are dying yet are happy know this. Why can’t we know this now?

All year I’ve been blogging about getting real, including getting fit and getting out(side) and for the next six weeks I’m focusing on unconditional happiness, a joy that comes deep within, unfettered by the jerks or bad luck or cranky kids or tough work day.

I’m starting the series at a time of transformation for all of us, summer’s end, when the carefree feelings of sunshine and vacations and sleeping in are replaced by a new school year for kids. The seasonal shift to more responsibility with kids back in school, hectic schedules, and a “buckling down” mentality can add extra stress to our already busy lives.

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The great thing about unconditional happiness is it isn’t based on a beginning or an ending, but a knowing that life is good and worthwhile and precious despite what’s happening around (or to) us.

Like everyone, I struggle with moods and mostly with my “monkey mind” which I refer to as a squirrel circus. Because I have obsessive compulsive thoughts (which works GREAT in my work life for finishing projects and writing books), it can wreak havoc on my personal life, presenting as both worry and anxiety. I’m also extremely empathetic (and a little empathic) so I’m sensitive to energies around me as well as dealing with my own high energy. (My friend Carie’s fiance said she and I share that “hummingbird on crack” personality.) Well, it is what it is.

As Dr. Susan Campbell writes in Getting Real, we can’t be authentic if we aren’t self-aware, so knowing yourself is key.

Being self-aware, I’ve realized what I need to balance my energies, pay attention to ruminating thoughts and assess how I feel and adjust my attitude or actions if necessary. For me, I need a lot of physical and intellectual stimulus in a day so if I don’t work out every day and get some good input and output (usually reading and writing) then my day can feel “off.” I also know my mind is better off giving it a break with daily or twice a day meditation – getting in touch with my “spirit” and making sure the window to my higher self is at least always cracked open to get through. Keep track of your day and how you are feeling and see how you might need to adjust your schedule to help you feel energized and “optimally you.”

What about when shitty things happen?

Last week someone took a cheap shot at me via an email to someone I love. My first thought was, “How dare they?” (Ego) And then I felt hurt. (Ego) And then I felt my loved one’s pain at being on the receiving end of a spiteful remark. (Empathy) As a bit of time passed, my Ego calmed down and I knew THIS TOO SHALL PASS and later that evening, I was even able to smile about it, because really? Try this quote on!

Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.’ -Scott Stratten

In a nutshell, those hard times just don’t bring me down and ruin my days/week/month like they used to. Better coping mechanisms and a more positive attitude + appropriate actions equals CHOOSING HAPPINESS (even while holding an opposite emotion like grief or sadness or dealing with ambiguity). It’s not easy and I wish I could do it as easily as blinking an eye, but it has gotten better with time/practice. More on that when we discuss Getting Real, a book I serendipitously found at a used book store in Maui. Amazing.

We simply can’t live authentically without getting real about our lives and the choices we’re making and what’s holding us back.

Here’s my list of 7 Keys to Getting Happy and I’ll blog about each of them in more detail in upcoming weeks.

1) Remove roadblocks to happiness

2) Change your attitude (as the song goes, “take your life from negative to positive”

3) Practice gratitude and self-care

4) Live with intention (on purpose) – which can begin with saying yes or no when we really mean it and setting intentions and sticking with them

5) Feed your passions

6) Take time for stillness/ be mindful

7) Be an adventurer. Stay curious. Play more. Be silly.

In addition to Getting Real, I’ll be discussing Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. If you’ve read those books, I’d love your feedback in comments.

Week One Get Happy Questions:

If you were honest about your state of “unconditional happiness” how would you rate yourself? Do you depend on other people or things going a certain way to “be happy?” What fed your spirit this summer? As summer ends, what are your intentions for autumn? What would you like to accomplish? Who are the people, places and things that make you happy? Review the list of 7 Keys and answer how you do or don’t do those things. Schedule how to make them happen and then DO IT.

Thanks for reading. Happy End of Summer!

xo,

Malena

Happy pics of the week:

A bee having lunch outside an office visit.

My GetFit challenge for myself was a SUP Bootcamp. I survived! And I loved the gorgeous morning on the lake.

My GetFit challenge for myself was a SUP Bootcamp. I survived! And I loved the gorgeous morning on the lake.

 

Excerpt from my work in progress non-fiction essay book on letting go and living authentically, inspired by nature, Return to Wild.

 

Psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness” talks about our inability to accurately depict our future selves. We believe we’ll be more or less the same as we are right now…forever. We believe our interests won’t change that much and who we like to hang out with is fixed and we think we’re pretty darn good at predicting what will make us happy in the future. We aren’t. In fact, in his research, it showed we’re poor at predicting what we’ll like ten years down the road and that’s because we do change. Knowing this can keep us from feeling like there’s “something wrong” with us, when in fact it’s simple biology and beyond our control. We can’t grow if we stay in the same place and stagnate. Growth is why we’re here. Let’s give ourselves a break.

 

Excerpt from my work in progress, a novel about a war vet amputee struggling with life and love after war. My character Jake is certainly struggling with happiness. 

My gut burned as we turned the corner at the big Oak tree. We were close.

The air turned cooler as the brush thickened. We ditched our bikes and began crawling through, over and under the limbs and fallen trees. I should’ve been more worried about Ben getting cut up, but I felt hypnotized, unaware of his thick little body behind me as I pushed on.

The sun shone through the clearing like a spotlight on the burnt limbs for a good quarter mile radius. The trailer had blown up just seconds after I’d been shoved out the door. The door had fallen on me, which is likely why I only had the slight burns that I did.

Grams said it was a miracle I hadn’t been burned to a crisp.

Said it was an angel who put that door over my frame.

No one wanted to give my meth-coooking mom credit for my survival, but I don’t think that’s fair. Even though she shouldn’t have been doing what she was doing, she did respond the way a mom should when she saw her kid in danger.

Besides, it was me who brought that flame to the fire.