Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-09-18

I’m Moving to LA and Here’s My Process

I’m really getting right to business in the title of this post. Yup, I’m moving. From Brooklyn to LA. I’m a queer, let’s process about how I got to that decision!

Two years ago, if you had told me I would be moving to LA at 36 years old I would laugh in your face. I grew up in Northern California. I have lots of complex feelings about my hometown and the East Bay surrounding it. I love to visit SF and Oakland and especially the Northern California coastal lands (e.g. Marin and Half Moon Bay). But I wouldn’t want to live there. Dot com stuff really changed how expensive it is there and most of the Bay feels pretty suburban and not appealing to me.

bevininbigbearMe visiting Big Bear, CA, which I LOVED and is only 2 hours from LA.

When you grow up in Northern CA you are taught a kind of regional disdain for Southern CA. I think Northern Californians buy into stereotypes that LA is all airy fairy and image-obsessed. Whenever I’d flip through LA Weekly and see nothing but ads for plastic surgeons I would allow that to be my perception of the entire region. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve become pretty airy fairy as I’ve become spiritual in my 30s.)

Much of my extended family is in Southern California and I thought that because I’d visited it twice a year most of my life that I had an understanding of the area. But mostly I know their suburbs (Ventura County, which is actually phenomenal and beautiful, and Palm Springs, which I adore) but not LA proper. I literally only stepped foot in LA for family events or the airport.

I moved to Camden, NJ for law school in August, 2000, from my cozy college town in Davis, CA. I didn’t expect to stay on the East Coast. I thought that I’d go to school and come back to settle in the Bay Area because that’s what I knew and my friends from college were mostly concentrated there. But things changed. One of my favorite people from college moved to Jersey City and I spent a lot of time visiting John in Jersey City. John’s couch generosity for those two years really changed my life. I got to experience NYC the best way you can as a broke law student, with close friends and a lot of alcohol.

MeJohnGroveStPath2002Me and John at the Grove Street PATH station.

I was drawn to NYC by magic—I genuinely felt a creative life force energy in me whenever I would come up to NYC and frolic in the East and West Village. It was a different place back then, Meow Mix was still open, and The Cock was somewhere by 9th Street and the Lower East Side was really queer whereas now it’s covered with hoardes of drunk straight folks on weekend nights.

JohnNicoleTheCock2002John and Nicole in front of the Cock in about 2001 or 2002.

That creative life force energy when you visit NYC and it is calling to you is pretty different once you get here and have to hustle hard to make rent. Midtown during the day has a really different energy than nightlife in the Village. But still, NYC kept her promises and I got really creative here. It’s always been a struggle for me managing the practicalities of feeling “safe” with the call to produce and create cultural events, community organizing, performing and writing. Surrounded by the artists and activists I know here I was given so many great examples of creating art while holding down a hustle.

I always knew that I wasn’t a lifer in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but if I do I would love to do it somewhere with a driveway. I really enjoy parking in a parking lot that is attached to Target. I love going out into nature, I find it really soothing and centering. One of my favorite most spiritual things I can do is be somewhere where I can look in one direction and only see what the Goddess has made. (The beach is great for that.) I guess I always thought that I’d eventually move to Atlanta or Austin or another medium sized city.

Enter Dara, my wonderful and supportive partner. The first time we dated, she brought up that she was thinking about moving to LA. Having lived there just after college for two years she loved it and always wanted to go back. She pulled the trigger, deciding to become a “single nomad” and broke up with me. (OMG if this was the Mindy Project I could make a funny joke right now but mostly I’m just happy for the messy beginning so we can have a stronger now.) She traveled the country, ending up in LA and just after she landed was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wanted to be treated in NYC, so back she came, her attempt to move thwarted. When she got back here and I reunited we talked about her desire to move to LA and I laughed because I didn’t want to go, but that we would figure out our departure from NYC when the time came.

grillinginbigbearWhen we move to LA my intention is to get one of those adorable 2 bedroom bungalows with a backyard and a detached garage. You can rent them for about what each of us pay in NYC for apartments. Macy is going to love a backyard.

I could feel my swan song with NYC beginning last Fall. Coming off the most chaotic and difficult year of my life (but still really great in complex ways) I started doing some heavy reflecting on my values and priorities. I realized that my seasonal depression (which can be as long as six months) was grinding me to a halt creatively. As I work on developing my psychic gifts, I realize how draining it is for me to be around a lot of people all at once. For me, even going to the gym can be draining because there’s at least 100 people on the trip from my house. And self care is one of my top priorities. I realized I was living in a place with an expiration date. Here I hustle hard for the money to live here, as well as hustle hard to maintain the self care that helps me feel good and that doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy to do the work that I am passionate about.

On our post chemo road trip through CA last October we stopped in LA for a day. Dara really wanted to show me what she loved about it. We just went to Echo Park to meet my friend Taylor Black for lunch and a wander, but it surprised me. The energy was different than I thought. It was a mellow city hustle bustle, but with nature right in there, with big, undeveloped hills and regional parks throughout the East LA area. I started opening up to the idea of moving there.

As a spiritual person, I understand the decision making process to be self-correcting. If I’m following my inner guidance from the Goddess, I’m going to be on the path I’m meant to be. So if I were to decide to move to LA and it wasn’t right, I’d get signs. Doing self care is really important for me so that I can be calm enough to notice the signs and feelings directing me.

I think sometimes the Goddess guides me nicely in a whisper, the stern voice is somewhere in the middle and then I get the hollering through pain. A lot of my biggest turning points in life happened after really painful endings before I had the chance to act on that gut instinct about how that day job really didn’t suit me and I wanted more flexibility to work on my art or how my fiance and I really wanted different things in life… Things like that. I was worried that I would stay in NYC until it got painful.

bevinwatchingeclipseWe visited LA last October during a solar eclipse, and this juice bar just gave out glasses to go watch it. So magical.

So, when I’m making a big decision, I start out by just acting as though I’ve decided. What does that look like, how does that feel? I spent about 4 months considering the move to LA, and then a friend of mine passed away. We weren’t close, but I took it as the sign I’d been praying for. (The thing I knew about her most was that she had moved cross country from a comfortable existence and a job she liked and then moved on faith and it was a great choice for her. Laura Mulley’s blog is here, I recommend starting fro the beginning it’s amazing.) I’ve had lots of friends pass under the age of 40. It has really sucked to get this practiced at grief. But I also know there is usually a learning in my grief and it was that week that I decided moving cross country was the right choice. This was March, so I gave myself 9 months, human gestation period, to get my ducks in a row and ready to go.

My Grandmother is another big factor in my move. She lives in Palm Springs, she’s still very independent and we have a lot in common, being Capricorn glamour babes who love woo. I have always hoped that my money situation would pop off and I would get to go visit Grandmother every couple of months from NYC but that hasn’t happened. I would love to get to spend more time with her.

Also, my Aunt and her progeny all live in Southern California and I love them a lot. I don’t know them very well, since I was raised 8 hours away and we saw one another twice a year. But whenever I do get to see them as an adult I enjoy them and I think it would be rad to see them more often.

I genuinely never thought that I would be one of those queers who moves to be closer to family. But I guess I am? I watched a lot of 19 Kids and Counting over the Winter (I have a LOT I can say about the Duggar scandals) and one of the things I loved most about the show is seeing what it is like to be intimate with your family. As the only child of a single mom, I did not have an experience of unconditional love and support and family intimacy growing up. I’d love to know what it’s like to have someplace to go every holiday, even the little ones I don’t super acknowledge in my hustle bustle NYC life.

So, all of this came down to feeling pulled to LA. I visited in May to get to know all the various areas of LA and finalize what neighborhood we’re looking to move to (more on that in another post).

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It was important to me to have my own independent reasons to move rather than just going with a partner. A friend of mine pointed out it’s totally okay to move for and with a partner and she was right. I am really excited to do this with Dara because doing things together is fun as we love an adventure. We haven’t lived together formally (though she stayed in my apartment with me during the last two months of chemo) and we are fatigued with the schlep inherent in not living together.

I’m really looking forward to the changes from this move. God is change and I want to be open to the next big things happening in my life by opening up all this energy!

I’m also kind of scared. I don’t know what my day job is going to look like. I promised myself when I took the Bar exam that I would never do it again, and I am going to keep that promise. (When I looked into the CA requirements the yearly bar fees are double the ones I pay in the two states I’m licensed in and I got that feeling in my stomach I had when looking into a law career 12 years ago when I graduated law school.) Also, as a real estate closing attorney out here, my skills translate to either a real estate agent or a title company attorney and I’d 100% rather be a Realtor. My Grandmother was a big deal real estate agent in Beverly Hills in the 80s & 90s so it’s kind of a family thing. And, with any luck, my line of Reiki infused teas will pop off and I won’t need a day job and can just focus on stuff I’m passionate about! (I enjoy real estate but it’s not like my life blood energy the way doing work in the world to help people feel at home in their bodies is.)

I’m also presently planning the logistics of the move (just to get a quote from PODS I was on the phone for 40 minutes… $5,000) and starting a project management plan for getting everything done. I have no idea how and when to get rid of stuff, so I’m going to do some interviews of folks I know who did a cross country move before.

Me, Macy and Dara leave NYC on December 20th, and arrive in LA around March 1st. We’re taking a month for a DIY artist residency so I can finish my book finally, and then taking a lingering trip through the Southern route to see lots of friends/family and for me to do readings and parties. Currently we’re planning stops at Dollywood, Atlanta, Key West, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson and Las Vegas.

2015-03-10

Florida Keys: Paddleboard Yoga as a Paddleboard Novice Fatty

To escape the brutalities of New York City Winter and Seasonal Depression, I asked my mom to give me cash instead of a present for Christmas and my birthday this year. I parlayed that into a pretty cheap vacation to the Florida Keys (her gift was enough to cover my $180 round trip flight, share of our $130 car rental and 3 nights at our cabin). Part of the way this gift helped me combat seasonal depression was putting a lot of time into researching our vacation. I went down the internet and you tube rabbit holes about things to do in the Florida Keys many Winter nights. (The FloridaKeysTV you tube channel is a treasure trove, btw.)

IMG957561All photos in this post are by Tara McCabe, who lets the class send themselves the photos she takes during the class from her phone when you return to the marina!

It was a you tube video that brought me to Paddleboard Yoga! As soon as we saw it, Dara and I decided this was a top priority vacation activity.

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for six years but I’ve never been on a paddleboard. If I want to scoot around on water I prefer a kayak, where I can sit and enjoy the water while paddling. The idea of doing yoga on a paddleboard seemed scary in a fun way–I have a hard enough time with balance in the studio! Dara had never been paddleboarding, either, and she is not a huge fan of yoga but was totally sold on the adventure.

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We made a reservation with Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga (the studio? paddleboard rental place? featured in the video) and drove down to Key West from our cabin on Big Pine Key. The marina is not in the main tourist part of Key West and is right off the only highway through the Keys, the Overseas Highway, a 2 lane affair with breathtaking views.

We arrived 10 minutes before the class just in time for our instructor Tara McCabe, who founded the Paddleboard Yoga classes with Lazy Dog owner Sue Cooper, to give a paddleboarding basics class to those of us who are new to paddleboarding. A lot of the paddle mechanics were similar to kayaking but the positioning of the arms was different and I felt like I needed to have a lot more control over the paddle given that I was going to be standing up for travel. Tara mentioned we could kneel on the paddleboard while we were first getting used to how the paddle worked to navigate, which was really helpful.

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Since we were traveling from the marina to a little inlet off the canal nearby, where the yoga class would be held, we launched in groups of 3 or so from the boat ramp. As the rest of the class was getting outfitted with their boards and paddles Dara and I signed extensive waivers and paid the $30 each for the 9:30-11AM class. We could bring a towel and a water bottle with us strapped by a bungee to our board. I did some last-minute additional sunscreen application and left the rest of our bags inside the Lazy Dog shack.

We were handed one paddle each, sized to our height, and got on our knees to be shoved off into the marina. Dara went much faster than I did and I slogged along, getting used to the way the board moved. I followed Tara’s advice and waited until we were out in the canal and had made our hard right turn before I stood up on the paddleboard and began using the paddle in the correct holding from the top form.

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Being among last to arrive in the group, and the slowest paddleboarder, I felt okay about it. One of the lessons I learned early on in my yoga practice is that there is no way to “suck” at yoga, you just got at your own pace, paying attention to your own body and where your limit is. Running my own race instead of worrying about where my skills, physical ability and flexibility fits into the rubric of the class helps me just enjoy and settle in. I am often the least bendy yogi in a class but it doesn’t make me any less capable of getting all the benefits of the class and the practice. So when I was solidly holding up the rear of the paddleboard group coming into the alcove I was already fine with it.

Once in the alcove everyone dropped their anchors (these little heavy circles of some kind of metal that were clipped to the bungees on our boards) where Tara told us. She had a good sense of where the boards would drift and where folks would be best placed so as not to bump into one another. A couple of people chose to hug the mangroves for more access to shade. Mangroves are trees that line virtually every shore in the keys, with spindly roots that poke out of the water like stilts holding up the trees–mangroves are essential to the Florida Keys as they help secure land and prevent erosion. Dara was next to them during the class and said that sometimes the mangroves tickled her as she drifted into them on her board but it felt really nice.

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I intentionally wore a fatkini to the class. I sometimes am fat in public in a political way and sometimes I think showing skin is important to be like, I’m fat, I love my body and this is how I feel comfortable. But lots of people in the class, including some guys, were wearing clothes over their suits or wearing water clothing or something that you would buy in a surf shop.

Tara (pronounced with a long A) was an incredible instructor from start to finish. I loved learning paddleboarding from her, as she delivered the lesson with the patience and sweetness of a good yoga instructor. She made sure at the beginning of the class, when we all settled into our spots, that folks were reminded that yoga is not a competition and to run their own race. I know this already, but it is always nice to have a new-to-me instructor reinforce it as a class culture.

She provided great modifications to all of the poses and reminded everyone it was an all levels class. I tried to put myself into harder poses and would sense my limit and settle into wherever that was. Being in the middle of the board by the handle was the most helpful spot for balance. When preparing for this class Dara and I anticipated that one of us would fall into the water, and it turned out to be me while getting into modified Warrior 2. I don’t even know what happened or how but suddenly I was in the water. I was the first in the class to fall. (The only other person who fell toppled during a handstand and I think that was pretty badass.) Since where we were was very shallow it was really easy for me to hop back onto my board. And it did cool me off!

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I loved the sway of being on the board during poses. I loved the moments where she had us do a pose and stick a foot or a hand or arm into the water. I actually really enjoyed doing it on the board versus a mat, because I felt like there was more cushion on my board than a traditional mat (I think this was because of the type of board I happened to be on). I also found downward facing dog much easier on the board for that reason–I was most worried about falling

Tara’s meditations were great, too! At the beginning of the class she called out the full moon we were experiencing, letting go of the junk from the Winter and opening up to the coming Spring. What she was saying was definitely right-on for me. During our shavasana/end of class corpse pose, she suggested we put a towel over our head if we wanted to (which I did, it helped with shade) and put our hands out into the water. While floating there she said, “Bevin, I need you to pull your hand up,” so I did, very used to surrender during yoga to an instructor. I kind of thought she was paddling by me as she floated among the class a bit while teaching.

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It turned out there was a tiny snake that was slithering by and heading for my hand. The raise gave him enough startle that he headed in a different direction, into the mangroves. Tara said she was glad I didn’t ask why so that she didn’t startle the class with news of the snake during the shavasana.

And then before we opened our eyes she serenaded us with a ukelele version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was so profound, being in that beautiful, warm place with no clouds in the sky and melting away the agita of a long, cold Winter.

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My sunscreen game was NOT on point for this adventure. Next time I am going to load up on sport sunblock SPF 80+ and reapply right before shavasana. (I was using Neutrogena dry touch waterproof SPF 55.) I got a really odd burn in parts of my body (especially my knees, which from being on the board rubbed off the sunblock and then got burnt during shavasana).

After we all grabbed our anchors and delivered them to Tara’s board before we headed back to the marina, we stood up and paddled back. I was in the back of the pack, again this time on purpose to visit with Tara. She would warn us when boats passed about what kind of wake we were in for. Unfortunately, in a deep part of the channel one of the wake waves really got me and I kind of toppled to the side and fell from my standing position. It took a lot of work for me to get back on my board. Being a fatty, it can be hard to pull yourself back up onto a board or into a floating vessel, depending on your upper body strength. (I have some but not a lot.) Tara was ready with another modification for me, this time having me try to get back on the board not from the side but from the back. That part worked, with some patience and some wiggling like a seal on a surfboard. I made it back to the marina by staying mostly sitting on my board. It was faster when I was standing but I wasn’t ready to chance it again. Also, standing required a lot of tension in my thighs to hold myself balanced and they were kind of exhausted by the end of all of that paddleboarding and yoga.

Paddleboard yoga was a total trip highlight! Dara and I had so much fun and felt so peaceful afterwards. I was super achy later, mostly my arms because I hadn’t done any serious paddling like that in a long time. I would highly recommend Lazy Dog for all of your paddleboard and paddleboard yoga needs, and Tara for yoga! She teaches at Shakti in Key West, leads guided paddleboard meditations through Lazy Dog, runs Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga training and founded the Paddleboard Yoga at Lazy Dog!

Next time we go to the Florida Keys, Dara and I intend to try doing it twice during our trip as well as a meditation!

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2015-01-23

Movies I’ve Seen: Selma, Spare Parts, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice, Wild

When planning to go to the movies recently I literally said to myself, “If I can’t live somewhere warm at least I can go see a movie about a warm place.” Ugh Winter. I’m never quiet about my attempts to pull myself out of Seasonal Depression. In the past two weeks movies have been a big part of it. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve seen and what I thought.

Selma Movie (2)

SELMA: Go see this movie! It’s so important! The story of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leading the march from Selma to Montgomery. I was glad I read the January issue of Oprah Magazine first so I was refreshed on the history and could watch the story and the actors a little closer. You can probably get a good refresher from the Selma website.

I thought Selma was brilliant in so many ways. Foremost for me is not thinking of people who are heroes as having to be perfect in order to be heroes. For me, it doesn’t diminish MLK Jr.’s work in the world because he wasn’t a perfect husband. They tell a real story about a marriage of a civil rights leader that was flawed. MLK Jr. had infidelities and that was a struggle. I think a lot of biographers and filmmakers about legends shy away from talking about ways in which they weren’t perfect and I think it loses humanity.

There is a lot of depth to stories that you don’t hear from dry history lessons and I really appreciated how much we got to know several of the activists involved and the politics of civil rights movements that we are still struggling with today. There was also a lot to cry about in the movie, again and again, especially the amount of police brutality that juxtaposed with today is heartbreaking. But still uplifting in a way because at least while you’re watching it you know that the Voting Rights Act passed and they got what they were working towards.

It’s impeccably acted and I also loved all of the attention to vintage detail. I also noticed a way of personifying the women who were feeding and tending to the needs of the activists while they were strategizing. I thought it was nice to not just have that be a mystery but to show that there were people working behind the scenes to make it possible for the activists on the forefront to do the work they were doing. Also also, there are a lot of activists’ stories told, including many women, which is often overlooked in historical films where there is a main male hero.

Listen to the new song Glory by John Legend and Common, which plays over the credits in the movie and rightfully brings Ferguson into the room. You can hear the song on the website, iTunes or Spotify.

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Bonus: Oprah, playing her third film role where she punches a man.
Bonus: Woman of color directed

Spare Parts: I had planned to go see another movie but it was sold out. We did a quick scan of what was playing and saw the trailer on my smartphone. I hadn’t even heard of it! I’m so glad we saw it, though, because it was heartwarming, funny and inspirational.

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George Lopez stars as a default because of no work as an engineer with a PHD substitute teacher and reluctant advisor to the robotics club. The club is assembled of a group of high school kids, all of whom are undocumented immigrants. I think it’s rare to see a strong plotline of undocumented folks in mainstream movies at all, let alone funny movies.

It’s a true story of a high school underwater robotics team that built a robot with not a lot of money to compete against MIT, Cornell and other fancy universities. The storytelling is a bit formulaic, like I could kind of see how they were writing the story, creating conflict and moving the plot along, but I also really liked it for the content. The acting was phenomenal. George Lopez was more understated clever funny, which worked great for the character. Esai Morales as the father of two sons, one of whom is documented and one who isn’t, was a total stand-out.

I’m not sure how much longer it will be in theaters (it opened last weekend) and I always think it’s important to see movies in the theater to tell the movie industry people want to see movies with strong characters of color.

Bonus: Dara cried real tears because it was so heartwarming.
Bonus: Jamie Lee Curtis as the hilarious principal of a school with no money. Many of the other characters are very dramatic. She’s just goofy.

Into the Woods: I’m a little dubious about movie musicals but this one was actually really well done. It’s based on a musical that weaves Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and a few other fairytales into one story. It was magical, mesmerizing, well-acted and fun to watch. A great escape from reality movie. I also enjoyed the way the typical fairytale endings were upended and revised. Dara said that the actual musical was much darker than the movie version, so if you’ve seen the musical expect that. Also, Meryl Streep’s hair is epic and I found myself wondering how they made blue hair look so great.

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I did go on a rant after seeing the movie about why they didn’t cast at least a few of the main characters as people of color. I thought it was sorely lacking in racial diversity that could have fit in with the plot pretty seamlessly.

I saw it in a theater that had no heat, so even though it was a cute movie I was cranky afterwards.

Bonus: Johnny Depp as the wolf is a total babe, and so is the endearing chubby baker.

Inherent Vice: I saw this last night–after the movie I wanted my two and a half hours back. Here’s the thing, I love Joaquin Phoenix (aka River Phoenix’s brother, may he rest in peace) and I love Reese Witherspoon so I thought an adventurous mystery movie set in LA would be a great way to forget about how cold it is right now. I was sold by the trailer!

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Joaquin Phoenix stars as a private detective searching for something. I could never really figure out what he was after. Was he after the real estate tycoon his ex girlfriend was boning who disappeared? Was he just being given mysteries to solve by seemingly random potential clients? If I had read the book maybe I would have followed the movie better. Maybe if I knew more about drug culture in 1970 I would have understood more of it.

The most noteworthy part of Joaquin’s character is that he is a hippie who smokes a lot of pot and does whatever other drugs come his way and he gets into mischief as a result. And then maybe I thought, if I were stoned would this make more sense? Would I follow the plot more? And the answer is probably not at all.

If I was at home I probably would have given up on it about a third through the movie but because I paid money for it I stuck it out. Dara didn’t like it either and this movie has prompted us to create a code word for, “I’m okay to leave if you want to.”

There was this one scene with the ex-girlfriend that might be hot or kinky if it wasn’t in the middle of such a terrible movie. But by then I was annoyed enough that I was just like, this movie is some kind of white guy film school fantasy sequence. But, it’s a mainstream movie that’s pretty sex positive so maybe that’s a plus? I don’t know. The hair was awesome. And the vintage sets and cars were really great. And a lot of people liked the movie on Rotten Tomatoes so maybe there’s some sort of redemption in this flick I’m not seeing.

Wild: I saw this a long time ago but it’s still playing and it’s worth a high five. As stated, I love Reese Witherspoon. You should also enjoy her if you go see this movie as she is basically the main thing you’ll see in every scene. I read the memoir Wild that the movie is based on and was super worried that it was going to not do the book justice. It’s not as good as the book. But it is a really beautiful adaptation of the book.

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The story is a woman who decides, with little to no experience or training, to backpack 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. I was excited to see the movie just for the scenery, that’s a gorgeous hike. And it was poignant and beautiful and fleshes out Cheryl Strayed’s relationship with her mother in a way that pays homage to the deep relationship in the book. The acting is great, and so is watching someone go camping in a way that has a real plot and conflict. Because it’s hard to make a movie about camping interesting. And yet, it totally is.

Bonus: Cheryl Strayed is in the movie and drops Reese off at the trailhead.
Bonus: A few unexpectedly hot sex scenes. They weren’t that hot in the book.

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2014-02-20

Five Things I do Every Winter to Avoid Seasonal Depression

This post is part of my mini-blog series about self care. Click this self care week tag to read all the posts!

When I was a teenager living in sunny Northern California I completely resented the sunlight for being so cheerful. I was a surly, depressed and unhappy teenager who had been relentlessly bullied in my childhood and middle school years. I think it was to be expected.

11534524226_e726da4816_oThis is the present-day backyard at my mom’s house. My teenage bedroom window is on the right. It’s waaaaaay nicer in the backyard than it was 20 years ago. When I was home for Christmas I spent each morning of my 2 day stay in the hot tub.

What I didn’t realize that upbringing was doing to me was making me unsuited to any other climate. The first few years I was living on the East Coast I wasn’t really in touch with myself and my emotional well-being to understand that what was happening to me in February and March was seasonal depression, but as I’ve learned more about it and developed coping strategies I actually can see when it creeps up and I know how to stave it off.

Seasonal depression is about lack of sunlight. I am a creature who comes alive in the sun, even though I used to resent it so much and I can get wickedly sunburnt. But I sincerely appreciate it and definitely need it for my own well-being.

I was hanging out with someone who was so delighted by the warmish, bright day we had on Monday that she pumped up the heat in her apartment, threw open her window and laid down in the sunbeam. Naked. (The UV rays won’t penetrate glass so you need the exposure to the direct light.) I thought that was the most delicious way I’d heard to combat seasonal affective disorder.

12663409293_09c60c005a_z When I was visiting my mom for Christmas we went on a hike at Point Reyes for my birthday (which is Christmas Eve).

I thought it would be helpful to share my Winter regimen, which has five main components:

1. UV Therapy Light–I use a UV lamp (aka “Happy Lamp”) every single day for at least 15 minutes but usually 30. I flick it on first thing in the morning when I do my journaling and I sit right next to it. If I’m not journaling I’ll read or sit on my computer. It really works. The one I have now was a hand me down from a friend and I’m thinking of getting a travel one because mine is kind of big and hard to move around. I start my UV light work in late November and lasts until it feels like Spring is really happening. Here’s a version from Amazon that looks handy and small.

I also know some folks who go tanning (the bed kind, not the spray kind) and have said it is mood altering, but of course there is the skin cancer risk…

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2. Vitamin D–I start taking a Vitamin D supplement in October. Just one additional pill on top of my multi-vitamin.

3. Walking–I walk for 20 minutes every day and I try for that walk to be around noon when the sun is at it’s highest. Even in the snow. I try to do this all year long but I have a heavy emphasis on this in the Winter months. I have a dog so that really acts as an impetus to walking.

4. Exercise–I exercise year round as a way to assist my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. It’s the best thing I can do to take care of myself and in the Winter ideally I go to the gym three times a week. In October my gym buddy Avory and I were talking about upping our gym regimen because “Winter is coming…”

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5. Keep the blinds open. Part of my morning ritual is opening the curtains up in my room. I’m on the second floor, which is great for birdwatching but not so great for light, but those little bits of sunlight that occasionally peek through are important to me and it reminds me that there is a world turning outside and it’s not perpetual darkness.

I hope these help. It’s not too little too late, when I find myself off the bandwagon within a couple of weeks I can feel the effects of my seasonal depression strategies at work again.

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