Vanity or…?

Today I looked in the mirror for the gazillionth time and asked myself if I was pretty. Not out loud in the obvious way, but subtle in the way I checked my legs, my stomach, and the broadness of my shoulders. In my mind I wondered if my upper body was getting too masculine and if my weakness for food was going to overwhelm my figure.

Reality says I’m 5’3″ with long legs, a shorter torso, and a weight that puts me in a BMI range that almost counts as underweight. But I’m human. I drink, I fight (and get defeated by) cravings, I battle the bloat, and then compare myself to celebrities on their best days.

There’s a part of me watching myself criticize myself. It’s like watching a train coming, but just sitting on the tracks thinking how great it would be if you just stepped on the gas. I want to stop, but years of conditioning has made self-criticism a reflex and self-esteem hard work. In some ways, it’s paid off – I make sacrifices to stay in shape so I don’t have to look in the mirror and really hate myself. In many ways, it’s been totally destructive.

Sometimes my mom catches me looking in the mirror and feeds my insecurities. “You could tighten that up.” “You need to work on that area.” Or simply, “Get out of the mirror.” I’m sure she doesn’t realize that what appears to be vanity is practice. I’m practicing affirming my self-worth by facing the mirror and taking pride in what I’ve accomplished instead of criticizing what I can do better.

When I look in the mirror I’m noticing the dark circles under my eyes, the split ends haloing my head, and the lack of curves from my hips to my waist, but I’m telling myself I look stunning when I smile. Or that my legs are beasty. Or that my abs are really coming through. Maybe people think those are the things I think about naturally. I wish that was my actual soundtrack.

I’m trying to figure out where the line is between self-love and self-hate. Two things that seem so very different actually work together like pedals of a bicycle. The things I hate in myself motivate me to becomes slimmer, healthier so that I can feel more confident and in love with myself. But what if I was motivated by my confidence? How much more could I accomplish?

 

Plain old bullshit.

You know what’s annoying and overused? The expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Just stop it.

Along the same lines, fuck the expression, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” I will eat my cake and still save all the parts that have my name written on it if I damn well please.

But this is a post about lemons. Let’s take a moment to dive into what’s really being said here.

For one, it implies that lemons suck. First of all, lemons are fucking awesome. I love lemons. Lemons in my water, lemons in my tea, lemons on my chicken. What’s so bad about lemons? If you need a food that accurately embodies all the shit that life throws your way, you’ll have to try harder. What about mushrooms, artichokes, or olives? Or something that we can all agree on: liver? *Shudder.*

The reality is lemons are easy to dress up. If my life’s problems were as easy to make awesome as lemons are, we wouldn’t need a bullshit expression to feel better about them.

The phrase also suggests that there’s an upside to every situation. Now, I have heard many inspirational stories of people using their personal trauma to testify and uplift others in similar situations, but let’s be honest for a moment. Ideally, the shitty shit never would’ve happened. If a shark eats my arm and I survive, I’m still gonna think, “Damn, it would’ve been nice if I got to live with both of my arms.”

Okay, let’s dive even deeper. What does it take to make lemonade? First, you have to juice your lemons which requires a lot of manual labor or an electric juicer. That’s already a red flag. If you have an electric juicer, life’s already easier for you, you lucky motherfucker, you. Then, you have to get a lot of sugar. Where is the sugar coming from? What if I have diabetes?

You know what’s better than making lemons into lemonade? Wine. Wine is better. If you’ve got lemons, just throw them away.

 

Be big.

In one of the last books I read, the author recommended a quote that I had to google. It’s by Marianne Williamson, and as soon as I read it I decided I needed to write it down and post it somewhere I can see it everyday. Not just print it, but write it so I could fix it in my mind. The quote is as follows:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Ever since I read this, the same idea has beencropping up. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill questions himself, “Who are you, anyway, to aim so high?” Then, he chooses to flip this self-doubt on its head. While I was doing yoga on demand, Elisa Joan told me to take up space in my poses and in life.
I don’t know about you all, but I love these reminders. Sometimes, I subconsciously fear shining too bright – doing too well at work, being too optimistic in conversations, or sharing my gifts. But as a close friend once told me, I could be “blocking someone else’s blessing.” So, I’ve got to remember to shine, aim high, and hope it’s contagious.

Think and Grow Rich.

Apparently I’ve got money on my mind. After finishing Rich Dad, Poor Dad I jumped into Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and the first thing I need to say is whoa. There’s a whole lotta shit going on here.

Let’s dissect.

Hill starts the book with a very compelling story. Twenty years before the book’s publication, Andrew Carnegie tasked Napoleon Hill, a reporter, with analyzing hundreds of successful people to find out what made them successful. What resulted was this book.
Now, if you’re like me, you might be thinking, “Oh, that’s interesting. Maybe we’ll get some great secondhand stories about how Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Schwab, Roosevelt, and Edison became awesome.” Well, yes and no.
He spends about as much time discussing the lives of great men as he does discussing the imaginary council meetings he has with them before he goes to bed. Yes, he imagined Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, and others sitting at a table with him giving him advice. What is funny to me is that googling Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill a slew of articles debating whether not the two men actually met. Apparently, Hill’s imagination is as vivid as he says.

 

At this point it probably sounds like I’m totally discrediting the book, but the book has a lot of practical advice. The book can be summed up by the quote, “Riches do not respond to wishes. They respond only to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through constant persistence.” You can also get the gist of this by reading the table of contents. Desire. Faith. Imagination. Organized Planning. Decision. Persistence. And some other weird things.
I found it funny that Hill was all into making lists. Naturally, he has a method for manifesting riches, but there’s also a method for building your faith, a summary of the method of building your faith, a list of dependable sources of knowledge, a review of the qualities of a leader, a questionnaire for self-analysis, symptoms of a weakness of persistence, and I can go on and on.
Perhaps this is what frustrated me most out of the book. Instead of providing a single formula for getting riches, he just dumps a bunch of information in your lap and says, “figure it out.”
Maybe the book would’ve been better as a pamphlet or a reference guide. Like, skip to chapter 5 to learn how to get any job you want. Skip to chapter 8 for a great summary of how America became a free nation. Oh, and skip to chapter 11 to learn how to have less sex and get more shit done.
I shit you not, the last part of the book was wild. He starts off all like, go after what you want, look at what these people did, and ends with, I talk to dead people and sex stifles creativity. You should probably read these chapters for yourself to get the full effect.
For me, though, the last chapter was the best chapter. I’m not entirely convinced it told me anything about how to grow rich, but it was very relatable and inspiring. He talks about six fears: the fear of poverty, the fear of criticism, the fear of ill health, the fear of losing love, the fear of old age, and the fear of death. It’s funny how some things are still the same a century later. He gets two thumbs up for talking about some real shit and providing some real advice on how to deal with it. He gets another imaginary thumb up for ending the book reflecting on the importance of conquering self. Self-reflection is my jam.
I ended the book with one major impression: the Depression sucked balls, but a few lucky motherfuckers with memorable names made millions because they wanted it bad enough, knew enough, and did enough. I’ll have to read up more on the big men of the 20th century to feel like I can relate, though.

A tale of two applesauces.

I’ve been on this apple kick where I slice an apple first thing in the morning. Every day, at 5:15 am, I slice and eat an apple. When the apples ran out I decided to try some of the apple sauce in the fridge. Super win.

It was this Mott’s Natural Applesauce that was just everything to me. Problem is, there were only two left.

So, I made quick work of demolishing the last applesauces and it finally came time for me to figure out the next move. My mom was like, “I’ve got a whole bunch of apple sauce.” Oh word?

No. It was totally wrong. It was unsweetened apple sauce. No go, buddy. I don’t want it.

Luckily, I was ordering something off of Amazon that required I spend a few extra dollars to reach the $25 free shipping threshold. Mission: Natural Applesauce in the Mail was a go.

Now, some of you, by now, may know where the problem lies. For those who don’t, I’ll continue.

A week later I get my package in the mail and I’m hype as fuck. It’s time for some natural applesauce! I open it up, look at the package, and in the green space where the words ‘natural’ should be, it reads, ‘unsweetened.’

Before I could settle down to lodge a formal complaint on the matter, I noticed this red box in the corner that says “new look, same great taste.” A realization started to dawn on me.

Natural applesauce is unsweetened. You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. I don’t know if I’m a sucker, a fool, or an idiot, but, uh, I feel super silly.

Be still.

Today was a rough day. The usual stuff, you know. Not enough sleep. Not enough sun. Constant rain. Bullshit problems at work. By 10am I was frazzled, by 2pm I was pissed, and by 4pm I was ranting and leaving work early.

When my mom gets like that I tell her she should meditate. Today I had to laugh, because I realized how wild the idea of meditating is when all your nerves are jumping.

The hardest thing about meditating is convincing yourself to be still.

I wanted to rant. I want to rave. I wanted to punch. I wanted to do anything and everything to release energy rather than sit on my floor, close my eyes, and listen to a soothing stranger’s voice. But you know what? I did it anyways.

I think about this one book I read, The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein, and think that’s what motivates me. There’s one part of the book where she describes feeling anxious and snappy and all types of out of sorts. But then she tells her husband, “I’ll be back in a bit,” and she goes somewhere out of the way, meditates, and comes back feeling easy breezy. Some might read this and be like, “Oh, that sounds like some bullshit, but I felt nothing but curiosity. Could it really be that easy?

I had to try it. The very next time I felt aggravated beyond recognition, I decided to sit down, turn on the Simple Habit app, and do nothing else.

That. Shit. Worked.

So today when I thought about skipping the meditation, I said, “Nah, let’s do this.” I sat down in the middle of my living room floor – my pup Cleo sat next to me – and I turned on the app. There was a convenient meditation for that “after work” feeling. I hit it, and the breathing began.

Mind you, this meditation was only five minutes, but two minutes into breathing in and breathing out, I started to feel real distant from the day’s earlier bullshit. Midway came the part where the teacher acknowledges that you’re probably still thinking about what happened earlier in the day (and some of what you have to do later). That part always irritates me because it’s true, but I try really hard to pretend it’s not happening. But then I actively remind myself to focus on breathing instead of reflecting.

If you get really, really serious about the breathing part, it’s a bit difficult to focus on anything else and you’re left with just this “present” feeling. Like, “I am me and you are he and you are we and we are all together.” That feeling.

The last couple minutes are my favorite. That’s when I get good at imagining myself floating on a beach with the sunlight warming my skin. Sometimes, at the end, I picture myself getting filled with light – that’s supposed to drive out all the dark feelings – and I just start cheesing. I think that what they mean where they use the word exalted.

So, yeah, I’m doing pretty good right now. Tomorrow’s another day, yesterday is gone, but I don’t have to deal with either right now, so I don’t. Maybe you’ll give it a try. 🙂

You better move.

My job is into wellness, which is pretty cool because so am I. They reward employees for meeting physical and mental health goals, and even host workshops on random well-ness related topics. I’ve attended just two workshops, but I shit you not, both have quite literally changed my life.

The first one taught me the merits of quinoa, kale, and bean salad. Still, life-changing. I don’t remember the workshop topic, I just remember a little styrofoam cup full of ingredients I never eat. Quinoa – the embodiment of bourgeoisie. Kale – the worst type of salad ever. And beans, beans, the wonderful fruit…

For some reason, I loved it (maybe it was the olive oil). I went home and made it three weeks in a row.

The latest workshop was about staying active beyond exercise and the speaker told everyone that sitting for work is the new smoking. I suspected it was a cliche, but I honestly hadn’t heard that before. First he was like, “Your ass gets flat,” and I was like, “Nah, I’m actually doing pretty good.” But when he said it figuratively makes your lungs look like a rusted drain pipe, I was prepared to never sit again. Like, my boss needs to give me a standing desk or I’m out. I want to liiiiive!

I amused myself at the thought that no one got up out of their seats while he lectured about this.

After the initial excitement died down and I had to actually get back to work, I decided that major lifestyle changes take time and sat back down for a few more hours, but my thoughts keep creeping back to how could I do more. My Apple Watch already bitches at me every hour that I sit too long, but what else could I do to counteract the evils of sitting?

First, I adopted a skeptical mind and googled sitting v standing. This in an important first step. It’s kind of like checking with your doctor before undergoing an exercise program, except your sources aren’t necessarily legit. The good thing, though, is that you’re not just going off of the advice of just one guy. (If I told you could fly, would you jump off a bridge?)

Then, I worked with the information I had to design a solution that fit my needs. Apparently, many agree that sitting has its negative effects, but there’s an important clarification that needs to be made about the benefits of standing. Standing erect for eight hours isn’t necessarily preventing stroke, in fact, it’s got its own problems. What you need to focus on is movement. The inclination to stay in motion: to have walking meetings, to stretch real quick, or visit your coworker instead of IMing.

What did I do? I downloaded this nifty app called Move. (They are not paying me for this plug. Unfortunately.) What it does is remind you to do a brief exercise in regular intervals. You set the intervals, and for less than $3 you can set the types of exercises, too. I was being cheap, so I used the free version and it kicked…my…ass…

Every 20 minutes, squats, jumping jackets, crunches. You don’t realize how fast 20 minutes goes until you have to get on the floor and plank mid-email.

The moral of the story is: I don’t care if you have a sitting desk or standing desk; I don’t care if you workout for two hours or ten minutes; I don’t care if you decide to run down the steps every hour or just stretch your arms more often than usual. However, if you sit for eight hours a day and you have kids, you should be a pal, do them a favor, and get off your ass every once in a while.

Garden on fleek.

Happy Tuesday! In case anyone was wondering, I finally got some plants in the ground. Yes – a row of spinach and a row of cabbage! I am geeked beyond explanation and I just want to take this moment to thank my ninjas, without whom this wouldn’t be possible.

For those used to disappointment (myself), asking for help can be like scheduling a dentist appointment (something I’m getting better at); often we’d rather suffer and exacerbate things instead of taking steps to make things easier. Why? Mostly because we’re afraid of what will happen when we ask for help. Will I have to hear how terrible I am at life? Will it cost money? Will it require splitting my gums open with a sharp instrument while my jaw is clamped open? Maybe, but in the end it’s for the best. In the case of my gardening project, absolutely for the best.

First, I’d like to thank the lady from the productivity workshop who made me write down all the tasks in my little gardening project and set deadlines. Because I wrote it down, I had until the end of the weekend to buy my gardening supplies. Do or die. At 5pm Sunday, the pressure was on. Unfortunately, I reaaaaallly didn’t want to drive to the store…

Which brings me to the second person I need to thank: my mother. Instead of driving to the store, I spent 15 minutes whining to my mother about how I didn’t feel like going to the store. Surprisingly, my mom was sympathetic (yes, this is a surprise) and told me to get dressed so we could go. She drove me to Home Depot, walked me to the soil section, found the organic stuff, and then – here’s the really good part – walked to checkout. For me this is huge. I totally expected to spend an extra hour looking at dishwashers, refrigerators, cleaning supply or some other shit we didn’t need, but that my mom suddenly found really interesting. For not doing that, she’s the real MVP.

The next person I need to thank is my work friend, Mike, who totally took one for the team. Monday after the shopping was done, I went into work like, “Anyone wanna help me garden later?”. My one friend (now a former friend) started looking at his feet, but for some reason Mike was like, “Sure,” and I was like, “OMG. You’re amazing.” Later that day, this sucker– I mean– great guy helped me carry tools to my raised bed, got his fingers dirty digging holes, and taught me how to spread potting soil. I had asked the right guy too, because he’d actually done it before; he wasn’t just bullshitting.

Fifteen minutes later, it was done. I couldn’t fucking believe it.

Well, it’s not actually done. Now I need someone to help make sure my plants don’t die. One step at a time…

Treat yo self.

I’m in awe of the way life sends you a message and then adds steel reinforcements. I took a class on productivity and I had to really digest the idea of rewarding myself for completing little tasks. I was listing out everything I’d need to do to complete my gardening project, and then she was like, “Now treat yo self!” Literally, she was more like, “now add reasonable rewards beside each task,” but I hot hype and started thinking about the chocolate bar I could enjoy after I dragged myself to the gardening aisle at Target.

The very next morning, I was listening to day 31 of Cory Muscara’s 31-Day Fresh Start: Podcasts  and he was like, you should celebrate your achievement, because only a few people actually finish this series. And I was like, “Whaa?” and Cory – who’s always right on time – told a story about a time where he hadn’t thought to celebrate his achievements and his friend had to get him out to party. In the moments after the podcast, all I could think was, “I need more of that in my life.”

I think celebrations are like what treats are to dogs; they reinforce good behavior. There’s no wonder most of us can’t get excited about completing big projects. We’re usually motivating ourself on some distant, intangible thing like wealth, career success, or enlightenment. What we need are immediate, tangible rewards like chocolate bars and chipotle. The rewards that make us feel warm and fuzzy today and remind us along the way, it was worth it.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Some people just prefer the abbreviated version. These are the people you write TL;DR at the bottom of lengthy emails for. These are the people who say, “What’s Goodreads?” or who set their reading challenge goals really, really low. These are the people who read The Skimm and then skip to the skimmed down part of the first headline. If you are one of these people, I have good news for you: I am not like you! So, in that spirit, I will do you a service and tell you all the best, most important information about the latest books I’ve read.

Welcome to Saturday Spoilers. Where I share totally biased, spoiler-laden summaries of books I’ve recently finished. It’s like cliff’s notes with extra snark.

Let’s start with Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This book was life-changing. Like, oh-em-gee why didn’t someone tell me why I saw it everywhere my whole life.

The most important thing I got out of it was an all-consuming disdain for the American tax system. Days later I am still fuming from the revelation that I get taxed on money I earn and then taxed again when I spend it.

Along these same lines, my favorite quote was, “You’re taxed when you earn. You’re taxed when you spend. You’re taxed when you save. You’re taxed when you die.” It’s one of those things you know, but still makes your jaw drop when you read it like that. Bet I won’t find a way to pay less in taxes.

I was surprised to learn the history of taxes in America. Taxes were intended for the rich in classic Robin Hood fashion. Make too much money? Gotta feed the government so it can feed the people. Then the government, applying the “use it or lose it” principle of budgeting, said, “ooh I gotta spend all this free money.” Then the government spent the money and was like, “we need more money so now we’ve gotta tax everybody, even the poor people.” Whoops!

I guess I always thought of taxes as something that existed to ruin life for all people. Nope! Taxes were designed for the rich, but the rich ain’t about that bullshit and found loopholes. So now it mostly ruins life for the poor or rich people who don’t understand tax code. If I knew enough on the subject, I’d find loopholes, too. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I can relate to Republicans.

The other thing that blew my mind was the perk of having a corporation. Corporations only have to pay taxes after they pay expenses. Expenses like hotels, “business” dinners, and flights. Normal folk like myself pay taxes and only get to spend what’s left. Fuck that.

You may surprised to know that there was only one chapter on taxes. Maybe you just need to read that one.

At the beginning, Kiyosaki says the only thing you need to know is that to make money, you need to invest in assets, not liabilities. Unfortunately, he never really clarifies how you can avoid liabilities. The few tips I grabbed were: real estate is a money maker, but the house you live in is a liability, and even talented writers have to be booksellers.

What matters, though, is that this book inspired me to learn more: more about accounting, more about investing, more about markets. I might even spend some money to make money, which, by the way, is a totally foreign concept for me.

Was that still too long for you? Okay, here’s the gist. Robert T. Kiyosaki grew up with a capitalist role model who taught him how to make money work for him and now he no longer has to work for money. I recommend this read for anyone who thinks going to work everyday to put make just enough to put a roof over your head is a total snooze.