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

2015-07-08

How Getting Neutral About Food Helped Dara Drop Sugar

When I posted my thoughts about being a good ally to fat folks by getting neutral about food, Dara and I have had a lot of conversations about it, including a pretty startling revelation that I wasn’t aware of. It turns out that Dara, working to get neutral about her food self-talk in order to be a better ally to me as a fat person, was able to transition to a low-sugar anti-cancer lifestyle a lot easier with food neutrality than if she had kept up agonizing about food being “bad” or “good.” Her words on this are below.

bevindarapridePhoto by Tinker Coalescing.

What Dara says is in alignment with what Health Coach Isabel Foxen Duke says about the diet-binge cycle. Hating your body creates the desire to emotionally eat which is a feedback loop that causes more body hatred. When you get neutral about your food it helps you detach from emotional eating as well.

Some background of Dara’s choice to go for a low-sugar anti-cancer diet. We believe pretty strongly that her breast cancer was the result of high stress. Prior to doing the Anti-Candida Murder plan I read the book The Candida Cure, which talks about how when your body is stressed out, your blood sugar spikes–just as though you ate a donut. Lots of studies show lots of things about preventing cancer reoccurrence but for sure creating a less stressful lifestyle comes up a lot. Lots of studies talk about how cancer feeds off sugar. So, we believe stress becomes sugar and sugar feeds cancer. (Dara did a video blog about this theory when she announced she was stepping back from the global initiative she started and self-funded.)

The eating plan she follows is based on Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer diet, if you’re interested in reading more. Lots of green veggies, plant-based whole foods, a little bit of meat (that’s not in the Kris Carr plan, but you do what you do), whole grains, yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, here are Dara’s words about getting to food neutrality.

IMG957531Dara doing paddleboard yoga during our trip to Key West.

When Bevin first asked me to stop talking outloud about my uphill battle with cutting sugar from my diet (a step that research suggests prevents cancer recurrence), I had mixed reactions. I mean, cancer is a whole different thing than body positivity, right? Surely, the same rules of food neutrality don’t apply to me?

Because I love my partner deeply, and so respect the work she does in the world to help everyone love and value their bodies, I decided to give it a try. (I mean, I could always use the Cancer Card to say, “Baby, this just isn’t working for me” and know I would get a free pass.) Instead, I decided to give it a shot… and in doing so, I had a surprising and powerful realization: IT ACTUALLY GOT EASIER TO SAY NO TO SUGAR!

I don’t know how it happened to be honest, but I think it got easier to say no to sweets because instead of badgering myself (outloud often) about whether or not I should eat something, and what it would mean about me, and my lack of discipline, or my willingness to commit to staying alive… instead of having this agonizing back and forth, I instead just said a simple ‘no thank you.’ And that was that.

What would normally take up at least 10 minutes of space in my brain, and cause unknown quantities of anxiety and self-flagellation pretty much just went POOF! Gone. Buh-Bye!

It made me realize just how much my anxiety about what I was eating was wrapped up in my head. How much of a victim I was to my own insecurities and doubts. Making the decision to be neutral about food put me back in control, and enabled my rational brain to take the lead, while my negative internal chatter was forced to sit quietly in the back of the room.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to turn down cookie-cake or a jelly-filled donut when offered – and I’m not even saying that I do turn it down all the time. But I will say that it no longer consumes my thinking like it once did. And I no longer feel guilt or shame about my decisions. I feel stronger, more in control… and (as a result of the fact that I now eat less sugar) can say that I have a better chance of living the rest of my life cancer-free.

IMG_7020At the Dyke March in 2014, just about a month after her last chemo treatment.

I am grateful to Bevin for helping me better understand the idea of body currency and food neutrality. As a fat ally, I have for sure sought to prioritize ways of being that enable all bodies to been loved exactly as they are. But this side benefit of being able to apply the concepts to my own health, to be able to live a longer, happier life? That one I didn’t see coming.

It’s true what Dara said, if she needed to keep externally processing about food to support her anti-cancer goals we would have come up with another solution, another way to talk about food that isn’t laden with shame and guilt. We work together to mutually support our goals. I’m really grateful that I had a way in which I needed her to work as a thin ally to me and it ended up enhancing her goals!

You can read more about Dara’s cancer journey on her cancer Tumblr page as well as read my posts about going through chemo and her diagnosis process.

2015-02-13

Half the Self Hate: Kate Bornstein Wriggling Towards Fun

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Monday with my interview with Be Beautiful Project founder and poet, Denise Jolly.

kateauthorphotoKate with her pug, Mollyanna.

I discovered Kate Bornstein when I was 17 years old and taking my first Women’s Studies class (this was 1996, before it was renamed Women and Gender Studies). How lucky I feel to have known Kate’s work for almost half my life! Her book Gender Outlaw radically shifted how I saw gender, people and identity and I have continued to learn so much from her work ever since. Kate works to make the world a better place, whether that’s through her engaging keynote speeches on achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity, her numerous books, social media work preventing suicide with #stayalive, or just one on one over fried chicken and good conversation.

I knew I wanted to include Kate in this blog series about battling self hate because her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, is an incredible book that delves deep into how Kate’s mind works. She writes very candidly about working through feelings of strong self-hate and how she wiggles through that to become both profoundly accomplished and self-actualized. On top of all of that, Kate is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m so thrilled to bring her words to you as part of Half the Self Hate.

How do you identify?

Currently, that’s in flux. It’s something like genderqueer BDSM asexual transsexual diesel femme dyke crone.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

It means I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can.

Do you identify as someone who loves themselves or something else? Maybe just working on not hating yourself?

Love myself? Oh goodness, no. Well, rarely. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to a place of having compassion for myself.

kate_bornstein santiago felipePhoto by Santiago Felipe.

Do you remember when it became obvious to you that you had a self-hating internal monologue? Was there ever a time before that you loved yourself?

Ummmm. Since the moment I was self-aware, I’ve always felt that I’m less-than. Less than a real boy was the start of it all. My life from that point on has been all about how I don’t measure up, how I get it all wrong, how I never get enough done. And that’s been the state of me until quite recently—say a couple of years ago—when, in one of the very early crowdsourcing campaigns, thousands of people raised over $100,000 so that I could pay for two years of wriggling through lung cancer to the point where I’ve now been in remission for over nine months.. That many people helping me stay alive, well, that marked the end of my low self-esteem and self hatred.

Can you create work as an artist when you are having a bad self esteem day? If so, what is your process of working through it? If not are you able to let yourself off the hook about it?

Oh yes! Art got me through a LOT of suicidal periods of my life. A lot of art gets made that way. There’s a wonderful collection of essays by me and others who do exactly that: “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” edited by Sabrina Chap. Now, doing art hasn’t always made me love myself, but it almost always has gotten me through periods of my life when I just might have acted on that self-loathing.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

Over the past four years, I’ve been doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. When I’m lost or losing my way, that’s a huge help to returning to a place of compassion. DBT is a therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan. As I understand it, it’s part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and part Zen Buddhism. I love Zen. Along with Sufism, Zen is one of the world’s last remaining slapstick spiritual paths.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

Cuddling with Maui, the Siberian cat I live with.

IMG_20150212_183722Kate and Maui. Photo from Kate’s Instagram.

You do so much work helping others Stay Alive. Your #stayalive hashtag on social media, your book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and virtually all of your other work helping people feel at home in their gender(s). How has doing that work influenced your self love journey?

In addition to Zen, I’m also a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Love him. Studying his take on Buddhism, I’ve become familiar with the spiritual path of bodhisattva. Google it. It gives me a lifetime to lifetime goal and focus of ending suffering for all sentient beings, by means of becoming as wise as I can possibly be. During the moments that I’m aware of that goal and life focus, yeah… I love myself.

Kate-infront-of-books1byDavidHarrisonPhoto by David Harrison.

You can find Kate Bornstein touring on the lecture/workshop/performance circuit (her schedule is here and you can also book her for your college/conference/retreat/etc…) as well as touring with Sam Feder and the film he made about her, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. I was so surprised, thrilled and honored to have my femmeceeing included from Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012 in the film about Kate. I’m wearing a cute dress.

I also want to second Kate’s book recommendation for the anthology “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,”, it has helped me come to a lot of understanding of how my depression (I get seasonal as well as just regular depression) affects me as an artist, and helped me not feel so alone in my struggle.

You can follow Kate on social media, her Instagram and Twitter are fantastic, and sometimes she tucks you in bed with a sweet benevolent message. If you haven’t read her books, start with her riveting memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, then explore My New Gender Workbook, Gender Outlaw, and Hello Cruel World.

If you or a friend are in need of alternatives to suicide, there’s the free Hello Cruel World lite and if cost is an issue, you or your friend can reach out to Kate directly to get a full copy of Hello Cruel World.

Thank you so much Kate for your insights!! I love you!!

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Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2015-01-30

Lung Leavin’ Day: A Really Powerful Fear Releasing Ritual

When Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with mesothelioma, as a new mom, she was full of fear. In her own words:

I was only given 15 months to live, and had to undergo a life changing procedure. On February 2nd I had my lung removed, which my sister declared LungLeavin’ Day. We celebrate it every year by writing our biggest fears on a plate, and smashing them into a fire. LungLeavin’ Day grows bigger every year.

An interactive page has been created to tell Heather’s story. You can smash a virtual plate and do a little ritual right at your computer! It’s a very cute site.

LLD_plateHeather, doing the Lung Leavin’ ritual. Photo courtesy Heather Von St. James.

I know first hand how powerful it is to have a project to pour your fears and intention into in the wake of life altering change… When my ex fiance left me seven years ago I started my podcast, which gave me a positive thing to focus on rather than my resting thoughts which were all about fear and not knowing how to live a life different than the one I had planned out. That podcast lead to starting this blog and reorienting my career towards helping shift people’s feelings about their bodies and loving themselves. It transformed me.

When my partner Dara was going through chemo for breast cancer, her chemo karaoke video production and her cancer vlog were incredible for her to orient herself towards looking for the positive. It also gave her something to focus on in the meanwhile to get to the next moment.

20140508_183224Dara, behind the scenes of Chemo Karaoke. She bought that cape at the Brooklyn Superhero Store.

One of the most powerful things you can do with your fears is to name them and let them go. Tapping is helpful, as are rituals. Most of the time our fear and pain just want to be acknowledged. I’m fond of the idea that emotions are energy in motion–no emotions are “bad” or “good” they just are. Letting them flow through rather than stay bottled up is the path of lease resistance to getting towards other emotions that are better. Like hope. And empowerment.

Heather’s Lung Leavin’ Day movement is really wonderful. I love the idea of using this ritual, even if you’re not dealing with cancer.

LLDPhoto courtesy Heather Von St. James.

Living in our culture is a petri dish of fear and worry. It takes a lot of work to focus on the positive and let go of the anxieties that hold us back. Lung Leavin’ Day is a great way to do just that. If you have access to a firepit, go to the thrift store, get some plates and smash those fears away with yourself or your pals! Even if you can’t do it now, maybe set a date in the future for this ritual. Fire is great spiritual energy for leaving things behind!

One of the things you can to do be supportive of folks with cancer is let them take the lead. I wouldn’t push a positive spin on cancer on anyone, people need to have their own process. But if someone you know is doing that positive spin, do whatever you can to show up for them. It was so moving to Dara to have thirty of her friends in a room chanting “Dara” and lifting her up during her fourteenth week of chemo.

20140508_185422Dara’s friends patiently waiting in the event room at the chemo infusion center for the big last scene of the video.

Heather is now a 9 year cancer survivor. Her Lung Leavin’ Day concept and website are wonderful ways to share an important movement.

Cam_Lil_HVSJ FamilyHeather and her family. Photo courtesy Heather Von St. James.

Here’s more info on mesothelioma and the treatment.

2014-10-01

Are you Single and Ready to Manifest Your Dream Date?

Earlier this year I did a few sessions of relationship coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, better known as the Lesbian Love Guru. She’s so kind, sensitive and smart. Christine had some incredibly valuable advice for me and Dara about how to communicate better and to have a more fulfilling relationship. What surprised me about the process of her coaching was that we both met separately with her via phone, working on our own stuff so that we could get together and create more harmony.

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This approach makes me confident Christine is a great singles’ coach. I think a lot of times we get in our own way to finding the kind of love and sex relationships we’re looking for. As queers, women, people of size, people of different abilities and all sorts of marginalized identities, we’re not taught that we’re worthy of love. We’re not taught how to be open to love from a self-confident and self-aware place.

I kept picking the wrong folks who were emotionally unavailable and didn’t have what I wanted. When I realized I was repeating the same pattern again and again I buckled down and did some hard work on myself. I know it was doing that work on myself that opened me up to love with folks who were a better fit for me.

For a limited time, Christine is offering an exciting package deal for folks who are ready to do the work to open themselves up to the right love relationship.

Her new online workshop, “Manifest Your Dream Woman*: How to Attract the Love of Your Life” is for single women who are ready to find lasting love. She’s created a simple, proven 4 step process for attracting the woman of your dreams. It’s a powerful, exciting process guaranteed to get you moving forward in your love life!

Christine will take you by the hand and personally lead you through the entire process step-by-step. Over the course of 30 days she’ll empower you to manifest your dream woman – someone who is just right for you!

Get Started Here!

In the workshop series, get ready to:
*Create a crystal clear picture of the kind of relationship you really want…and discover the secret to getting it!

*Identify emotional blockages that keep you from getting the love you want and learn how to easily move past them!

*Experience a massive perspective shift that will allow you to effortlessly attract the love of your life and keep her!

*Enjoy the unstoppable self-confidence you need to be yourself and attract a woman who loves you exactly the way you are!

*Find loving support every step of the way – motivating, encouraging, and sharing experiences with each other to create the ultimate support system along the journey

*Get re-energized and excited about your love life again, certain that your dream woman is on her way to you!

Christine is a dating expert and coach and she’s helped women all over the country find love and create deeply connected, passionate relationships.

Along with the program you’ll get great bonus content including a private 30 minute one-on-one “Love Life Transformation” coaching call ($297 Value), “Perfecting Your Online Profile” Program ($47 Value), and…

Special guest coaching call with ME, Bevin Branlandingham, sharing my secrets for loving yourself and enjoying unstoppable self-confidence! (Because in the words of icon RuPaul, if you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you going to love somebody else…)

IMG_6671My beloved friend Jess got this RuPaul shirt air brushed in Pigeon Forge, TN when we went to Dollywood!

So if you’re struggling in your dating life – if you keep dating the wrong women, feel frustrated by the dating process, or even lost hope that you’re special someone is out there – join Christine in her “Manifest Your Dream Woman” workshop and get ready to completely transform you love life!

Click here to reserve your spot (space is limited!)

Karen C.’s feedback to Christine:

“After attending your [Manifest Your Dream Woman] workshop last Aug, I came home and found her. Yay!! Without a doubt, I attribute finding her to your workshop.  Finally, I really knew what I was looking for in a partner, where to look and tada!, I found her. Thanks!!!!”
Eteranally Grateful, Karen C.

If you’re ready to find your special someone, click here.

*Christine’s work is for all self-identified women. She’s worked with singles, couples, poly situations, and folks of all genders and sexualities. Also, during my coaching call I’m going to use the term “Womanifest your dream woman.”

2014-07-07

July Self Development Astrology Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

Filed under: Self Development,Spirituality — Tags: , , , — Bevin @ 11:20 am

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In this month’s astrology self development worksheet in partnership with Katie from Empowering Astrology, we’re tackling play as stress relief, checking in on lessons and themes from the last couple of major astrological events in October of last year and April of this year, taking stock of how far we’ve come in big projects and practicing living life with authenticity.

Download the worksheet here!

2014-06-02

June Astrology Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology Now Available

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I’m running around doing last minute trip planning for a family emergency–we leave tomorrow. Everything was just me feeling like a capable caretaker/organizer taking care of business and then I couldn’t find a bill I need to get in the mail before I leave and I lost it a little bit. Realizing that Mercury is turning retrograde on Saturday, the planet of travel and communication, I know things could be a lot worse and that perspective has helped remind me to stop, eat something and breathe.

This month’s worksheet with Empowering Astrology has some great journaling prompts to use the power of the upcoming Sagittarius full moon to alchemize transition in gentle ways. A reminder about embracing shitty, inconsistent meditation using the Neptune Retrograde on June 9th to get more bang for our meditation buck. And there’s more, including Katie’s thoughts on the month’s astrological highlights.

You can download the worksheet free right here!

2014-05-07

May Astrology Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

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I was just thinking to myself that since it’s May 7th and Mercury moved into Gemini that I needed to schedule an informational interview to take advantage of this astrological energy as per my worksheet with Katie from Empowering Astrology… And then I remembered I finished it as I was off to Dollywood and haven’t posted it to the blog yet! Sorry about that folks! I got distracted by the celestial magic that happened when I was among Dolly super fans… and oh yeah, Dolly Parton herself not one but four times this weekend! WHAT!?! Such a great weekend, more to come.

14107969796_4fdc1ff0cc_bMe and my amazing friend Jess at the Dollywood sign.

13919217139_192e24c75d_bDolly Parton atop her float in her Homecoming Parade through Downtown Pigeon Forge.

In the meantime, May is a great month to move ahead and make some inroads into all the things your curiosity is leading you to! This month’s exercises are all about paying attention to those secret things your heart is longing for and taking some steps to make them happen.

You can download the free guide here!

2014-03-28

Healing Emotional Wounds: April Astrology Self Development with Empowering Astrology

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I don’t know about you but this Winter I’ve felt like I’m running through mollasses about 80% of the time. Everything feels really hard and even the smallest things have been setting me off. It’s hard to tell what’s the circumstances of my life and what’s something bigger. Have you been noticing that folks are really grumpy, angry, frustrated at each other? Even driving to a coffee shop one day I noticed there was significantly more honking and aggression (though NYC is never free of annoyed drivers). It was bad enough that I just turned around and went home!

I feel grateful sometimes, when things are hard for me, to know that things are hard astrologically. If you have even a glimmer of faith in the universe positioning us to have specific challenges as part of our life journeys, it can feel like a relief to realize “It’s not just me.”

So, with grand triumph that we got through the past week/month/season, I present April’s astrological forecast from Katie at Empowering Astrology, with self-development exercises from me. I include some journaling exercises to take note of what’s going on with you to help heal your deep emotional wounds. I also talked about how I learned to have compassion, which Katie says is the trait that will help us the most during these rough times. There’s also a ritual to acknowledge a significant material loss you’ve had.

I hope these exercises help, I hope the astrological forecast of “Shit’s hard for everyone right now,” helps, and I hope you’re able to lean into your struggles from a place of hope instead of fear. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Click here for the PDF for this month!

2014-03-10

March Astrology Self Care Road Map with Empowering Astrology

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When shit feels like it’s hitting the fan, I like to know if things are going on astrologically that are informing it. Sometimes it feels like such a relief to know I’m not alone and that there are others being hit in their deepest places. I’m certainly not the only person in my life who is having to deal with some super deep, core stuff right now.

My partnership with Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology continues this month. We’ve put together a road map of this month’s doozy of astrological wallops… Katie says this month is all about self care and she’s right. We need to get centered and focused on ourselves in order to get through all of the things the stars have in store for us, leading up to the Cardinal Grand Cross in April.

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We both wrote some great self empowerment and self care based activities for this month, which you can check out in this free download.

I’m also very inspired lately by Katie’s words on her Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. That in this time we can be guided by fear, or we can instead choose hope. I remember that as a very centering thought these days as folks are honking impatiently, scowling on the street and otherwise not being particularly kind. I work to remember that everyone is dealing with something that is hitting them deep, and that we all react in our own ways. The only thing I have influence to change right now is my own thinking, so I do my best to set my thoughts on positive things. To be kind wherever possible, even if I’m not getting credit for it. And to be kind to myself, first and foremost. I’m big into turning rage into productivity and sometimes that’s about working on compassion even when it’s hard and feels super unfair.

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Katie is prepping for an amazing Astrology Retreat to a private estate in Ocho Rios, Jamaica April 3-8, 2014. Workshops include strengthening your intuition and after dinner rituals! I was thinking how if I had the cash it would be a no-brainer for me, I would hop that flight and escape the last dregs of Winter here in NYC (and this one has been a doozy of cold, bad weather and bad vibes). In prepping this post I went through the photos from the one and only beach vacation I’ve taken during the Winter, to Vieques, Puerto Rico. It was a lovely trip and it’s been far too long since I’ve had the resources to do that. If it’s in your power to (wo)manifest a trip with some astrology powerhouses, take Katie up on the offer to escape and learn more about astrology!

Check out the January and February self development exercises!

2207972782_d5d91960c8_zYou can tell it was a long time ago because my hair is super short! I started growing it out when I got laid off from my day job in late 2008 and started paring down expenses… I get my hair cut like twice a year now, back then I had to keep it up every eight weeks or so.

2014-03-05

Self Care Stretches Time and Creates Resilience

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

Self care is like driving a stick shift car in the city. Once you think you’ve got your gear set and you’re really rolling something comes up and you have to downshift or brake. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate and things don’t go as expected. Self care is this constant balancing act. I want to make myself happy but I also don’t want to make myself suffer as a result of that happiness.

This morning, for example, I deeply craved a flavored black tea. I’m tea obsessed, and lately my jam has been complex, delicious, sweet black teas. Love Tea #7 from David’s Tea is perfect for this. But as I walked to the kitchen to start up the electric tea kettle I checked in with my body. My body is tense. I’ve been dealing with some mounting anxiety issues and I knew my body was going through it today especially. I sighed as I realized the better choice for me, in the moment, was to go for my “Feelings Tea,” a blend I create myself that is high on herbs that help calm down my anxiety (chamomile, lavender, catnip, along with oatstraw and hawthorne berries for emotional TLC).

I wondered in that moment if the self loving thing would be to give myself the pleasure I wanted by succumbing to the craving or if it was to take care of my body in the long-run and set my day up for more success than a rush of caffeine could offer?

That answer is sometimes both.
24383_379486228748_5305803_nI wasn’t sure what photos to use in this post so I decided to include photos of awesome people I ran into today on my way to a dentist appointment. This is Becca Blackwell, full of stories from the 90s, and who rules.

“Self care” is a bit of a buzzword nowadays, but the concept is fairly simple. I would define it as anything you do to take care of yourself.

Think of a parent, caring for a child. The kind of care that parent gives the child would vary depending on the child’s age, needs and parent’s inclination. The same goes for taking care of ourselves, the level of care we give ourselves depends on our needs, inclinations and how much attention we are paying.

Once we age out of someone else caring for us (or many of us never had someone providing all of the care we actually needed) suddenly we’re in the business of self care without a real roadmap for what that means.

In my post on how I deal with anxiety I talked about running a diagnostic on your body, mind and spirit to find out what it is that you need in order to take care of yourself. In my experience I do this by journaling to see what is coming up and just trying new self care out to see how it works. It’s imperfect, but generally I can tell when I haven’t been doing enough self care because I get my own warning lights. My chronic digestive disease starts acting up, my anxiety is flaring, I’m snapping at my loved ones. When I’m doing the right amount of self care often I feel in my flow–like I am in synergy with the universe.

We’re in a society that commodifies insecurity and privileges people who are constantly “busy.” When you ask someone “How are you doing?” they often reply, “Oh I’m so busy!” Being busy is a status symbol, and being busy is often the number one excuse folks have for not spending the time needed to take care of themselves.

Being a body liberation activist I believe everyone deserves to love themselves and their bodies. And part of loving your body is knowing what it needs, and what you need, to take exquisite care of yourself. It’s really important to me that I am in touch with my body. How can I teach other people to love themselves if I’m not doing things to love my own self?

Self care is a hassle, but the rewards are infinite. In the words of my friend Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s therapist, “Self care stretches time.” If you really are one of those constantly busy people, self care might be just the ticket for settling yourself down enough to create the time, identify and manage your priorities in order to live the life that you want.

tangerinejonesedbarnasI ran into Tangerine Jones, burlesque legend and incredible person. Check out the article she wrote in 21st Century Burlesque, Backlash Blues. Photo by Ed Barnas.

Self care is allowing yourself the time to digest what is going on in your life. Processing emotions and mental experiences are as important as rest periods when you’re training for a marathon. It’s that time when your muscles start to heal and become bigger–that’s what self care enables you to do with the mental and emotional stimulation going on.

So what constitutes excellent self care? That’s a highly personal question. Something as simple as brushing your teeth every day is self care. I’ve literally known people who were so strung out worrying about other people that they let their own hygiene fall by the wayside.

The more I’ve gotten to know myself and my body, the more I understand about what kind of self care I need. The more I’ve learned about what kind of care I need, the more of a priority I make it. This is a slow-going process of realization and eventual prioritization.

I’m also a recovering perfectionist. If I were to do “perfect” self-care I basically could do nothing else. I could shove my day full of yoga, meditation, soothing time in a bath tub, reiki, writing in my journal, going to meetings, going to the gym, and on and on. Once I started making self care a priority I would turn it into a whole cycle of “never enough” tapes in my head and I had to get myself to come correct and stop punishing myself for not caring for myself enough. How’s that for a difficult cycle to break?

I treat self care as a job, but I also work hard to not get obsessed with not doing it enough. I give myself a threshold of about 5-7 self care tasks every day, not including day to day stuff like hygiene and eating. (Many of these 5-7 daily self care tasks only take about 1-5 minutes and some can happen while I’m doing other things.) This is a lot, but I’ve been focused on my own self care for about three and a half years, adding things slowly to that list. I watched a great video by Cheryl Richardson where she suggests only focusing on one self care activity at a time, and the rest falls into place.

In the Winter I am confronted with some significant issues with seasonal depression, so I know if I want to avoid a February and March downward spiral, I need to start in October working on my Winter Care Regimen, a beefed up version of what I do every day.

8332_157396603748_4263703_nI met Becca during our time vying for the title of Miss LEZ. Photo by Maro Hagopian for the Village Voice.

Self care is about creating resilience. When you’re living in marginalized identities there is a lot of criticism and oppression to weather, and I do it a lot better when I’m on my self care game. This is especially true as I step more and more into the public eye.

Self care is about the more you have the more you can give.

Self care requires a constant diligence recalibrating. When you get sick or tired you have to stop and rethink, add more or delete other things going on in your life that are taking away from your ability to care for yourself.

I think a lot about fleeting pleasure versus contentment. Sometimes choosing the pleasure of the caffeinated flavor tea is not a sacrifice of my overall serenity, but I’ve learned how to drive my body well enough to know when that choice will have been like hitting a pothole. I can weather that pothole sometimes, and sometimes I can’t. Caring for myself means I need to lighten up a bit. These days emotional care nachos are a big choice during my girlfriend’s chemo treatment, in spite of my tricky digestive reaction to queso.

I’m compiling an epic self care post to go up this week as my mini series on self care continues! Comment with your self care ideas on my Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook Fan Page!

2014-02-13

My Second Session of Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the second entry in a series about my experience Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

My not-yet girlfriend and I had our second session of relationship coaching the week after we began. Christine suggested we continue our coaching separately. It’s counterintuitive to how I pictured this coaching would occur; I imagined we’d both be together on skype with Christine, but instead we each take thirty minute separate calls with her. Since we tend to be together when it happens, the other hangs out in the living room with music playing.

Being out of earshot enables real talk with Christine about what’s happening. Often if you explained a problem in your relationship to a third party, you would use really different language than if you were together. I find it a relief not to think about Dara’s feelings when I’m explaining something. I feel like I can get right to the solution without spending extra time sugar coating an issue.
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Prior to the second session we had each filled out intake forms for coaching and sent them to her as well as one another. The intake form reinforces Christine’s confidentiality agreement.

The issue of confidentiality is paramount to this [coaching] relationship. My understanding is that nothing in this [coaching] relationship is to be discussed outside of our conversations. There are times when references to others may be helpful, however I would not ever mention a name or person that would lead someone to infer the discussion was about you as a client.

The rest of the intake forms were about our future visioning, setting out goals and what we think is limiting us. I liked that we shared them with each other because sometimes it’s good to see what the your sweetie is expressing in terms of goals for an ideal love life and how they see their future. What if your big goals are really incompatible? That’s important to talk about!

In my one-on-one session with Christine we focused on what was going on for me at that moment. This had a little less to do with my relationship and more to do with how I was feeling with my own time management. One of my goals this year is to get more structured about how I use my time. I am also really worried about caregiver fatigue because Dara has breast cancer and I’m her primary caregiver. Time management is important because I need to make sure I prioritize my self-care, which is easy to let fall by the wayside when you’re only dealing with things that are “bleeding.”

20140213_124617At her first chemo appointment, as the awesome nurse Erin at Sloan-Kettering was “pushing” the first dose of chemo poison, Dara sang Alice Cooper’s “Poison.” I would have gone with Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” which might do more to explain our communication issues than anything else.

Even though caregiving isn’t all that taxing (yet), it is a lot of time. After her surgeries was a lot of letting her rest and heal while I took on the lion’s share of the housework. Making sure we’re eating whole, healthy foods is another thing I’ve taken on 90% of the time. Her cancer diet is pretty restrictive, which means most of what I make is from scratch. Add to that we both work to only eat humane meats, which requires special trips to the butcher. I feel extremely grateful for my work from home lifestyle because when I plan well I can be cooking while working. But my time management can really use some improvement so that the planning part of that intention actually happens!

20140212_203059I highly suggest this infinitely customizable pizza casserole recipe, passed along to me by my dear friend JLV.

Christine suggested a Tony Robbins tool called “Rapid Planning,” which helps to ensure what you’re doing is in line with your priorities. I’ve begun implementing it in stages and so far it is helping me be mindful of my priorities. Just because something is urgent (bleeding) doesn’t mean it’s important and I need to remember that.

She also taught me a grounding exercise. When I got on the phone I told her I was feeling really spazzy and she did a meditation with me that was really quick and powerful. She’s offering an MP3 of the grounding meditation on her website for free if you click the link. I love a guided meditation and am totally keeping this on my phone for when I need a 30 second reminder that I’m right here, right now, one with the universe.

Dara and I usually talk about our sessions afterward–highlights and tools. She got a tool to work on for homework about how she responds to my emotions. I have really Big Feelings sometimes* and my face is a billboard–I usually don’t want to express myself right away but I can’t help it! Often what I feel immediately isn’t what I feel ultimately once I’ve had time to digest my reaction. My emotional reactions have historically been very difficult for Dara to handle, as she hates disappointing me or hurting my feelings. This has been difficult for many of my past loves.

20140213_111246I thought it was important to wear something cute to chemo.

Christine suggested a tool she calls “Holding the Bucket” where Dara doesn’t actually have to do anything but witness and recognize my feelings. She doesn’t need to take them on or feel bad for hurting me. I actually love this tool because it gives me a chance to have my Big Feelings and later apply the tools I have to respond instead of react and engage in my process without worrying about her reaction.

“Holding the Bucket” helped Dara prepare for a difficult conversation she wanted to have with me that we did some more work on getting geared up for during our third session. Dara said it helped her see that she didn’t have to take my feelings so personally, since they were about me and my process not necessarily about Dara.

Dara also told me she had been triggered by something that happened between us the night before this session. It was a relief to be able to talk to someone who was such an impartial party and a great listener.

I am really enjoying my experience working on my relationship with Christine’s help. I was pleasantly surprised at how skilled she is at working with folks on an individual level. She works with singles, couples and poly permutations. Experiencing how she is able to guide me one-on-one, though it’s centered on things coming up in my relationship, definitely enforces how awesome she is with singles looking to break down their limitations on finding and experiencing the love relationships they want.

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Christine offers a limited number of free introductory thirty minute calls every month. Twelve of you signed up last month. If you want to try her out, click here and sign-up! You’ll get to know Christine and find out if she’s a good fit for you, as a single, couple or poly permutation! (Even though she’s a “Lesbian” Love Guru she actually works with all gendered folks on all parts of the gender and sexuality continuums.)

*In my natal chart I have a Scorpio Moon.

2014-02-06

How to Gracefully Survive Mercury Retrograde and February Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

Today begins another round of Mercury Retrograde. (February 6th-28th.) If you’re not familiar with the concept, the best metaphor I’ve ever heard of to describe what it does is from my bestie Rachael. Imagine you go to the mall to get a black skirt. In Mercury Direct times, you’ll just get the skirt. In a Retrograde (when Mercury goes backward) you will go to the mall and never find the black skirt. But you will find something else completely amazing you never realized you might find. There are some amazing serendipities. Mercury screws up communication, contracts, technology, etc… and people are constantly stressing out about it.

IMG_5868 Me and Rachael in Atlanta in December.

Even if you’re not of the woo mind, the same “survival strategies” work to lead a balanced life. Learning how to go with the flow and respond with good humor when stuff isn’t working out as planned or communication gets all screwy are fantastic skills!

Katie, my astrologer from Empowering Astrology, has some incredible insights, which I’m posting below. (Also, if you’re ever wondering about other astrological concepts her blog is really great.)

Let’s talk nuts and bolts Mercury Retrograde. When I gave you all the heads up recently, there more than a little anxiety. I got a lot of nervous questions about signing things and starting this or that during the retrograde. So here’s my spiel:

* Life goes on during Mercury Retrograde. You just may have to retrace your steps.

* The retrograde is about review.

* Traditionally Mercury Retrograde is not a time to sign a contract, buy a car, or a computer — all Mercury ruled things. If you can wait to sign or make an important purchase or make an important decision, wait.

* My belief about Mercury Retrograde is that if you cannot afford to have something not work out, wait.

* Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting till after the retrograde. If you must move forward with something, double and triple check the fine print. Be prepared to make adjustments once Mercury turns direct.

* Above all, don’t fear Mercury Retrograde. Fear is the lowest energy to create from and you are an aspect of the Creator made physical. Work with Mercury Retrograde. Go back to something that’s been on the back burner. Revise a manuscript. Try a different path. Meditate and reflect.

* Trust your own intuition. If you’re not sure if now is a good time to do something, ask yourself how it feels. Can you afford to wait?

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This month Katie and I partnered once again to create a worksheet about using the astrological climate to propel self-development. We put it all together for the full month as a pdf download.

It includes journaling work, ritual and play–including a really fun Valentine’s Day date you can do solo, with a friend or with a sweetie. My Valentine’s Day date now completely involves construction paper and modeling clay. It’s also got some really simple activities to help you hone your intuition. Have you ever wondered how to trust your gut more?

Click here to download the worksheet!

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