Naked Perfect

So I did something REALLY LA stupid. I signed up for Equinox for a three day trial. If you live in Kansas, this means nothing to you. It just sounds like I signed up for a new app or a place that sells foreign objects. So if you are living in Kansas and reading this, (why are you reading this?) then I will explain what this outter space sounding planet is.

Equinox is the gym of all gyms in the coveted land of celebrity vanity here in Los Angeles. It is literally the gym athletes flock to in their perfectly coiffed blown out hair extensions wearing nothing but LU LU Lemons ( you know who you are). It is the place all Gods and Goddesses work out, tone and oh ya, relax in. Personally I only did it for the soft towels and the Eucalyptus Steam room. Ya, I said it. And of course for the free parking, I mean who can resist that combo? They offered me a “great deal” at $205 a month to use their soft towels everyday, but I Amazon Primed a $5 bottle of eucalyptus oil instead and said thanks but I’ll only be here for 3 days- no Equinox membership for me. No one was very happy with me except for Arturo the parking attendant who seemed to be the only friendly face I experienced the entire time I was there- Oh well there was “Francis” the personal trainer who wore all black except for his tortoise shell aviators. That friendly convo almost cost me $9,000 in personal training sessions- but I was wise, I dashed to the yoga room before he had a chance to give me the Pilates room tour- F that. I know I am sounding cynical, but to be honest, I am sort of sick of the Semi friendly agenda driven faces I see daily in LA- and I guess I just want someone to invite me to their gym because I’m nice and not “in need of a total body makeover” “Shut up blonde girl who kept staring at me while I hit the treadmill and thought I might need her “Friendly hints” on getting that “perfect physique.” Have you seen my gene pool? It literally has heart disease no matter how well I eat written all over it!

So am I happy I went? Yes- because I learned a huge lesson on the ability to age gracefully while not caving to the depravities of vanity this city clearly holds so dear. AND I REALLY REALLY LIKED those cold minty towels. (no i did not steal one.)  (I thought about it though, OHHHH I thought about it.)

I’m at the gym changing in the locker room  when in comes two 20-year-olds chatting and encouraging each other on their minuscule diet plan that consisted of caffeinated coffee, green tea, a bunch of vitamins I’ve never heard before, CLA, IRS, BM’s (probably breath mints) and of course a ton of bubbly water (to keep their hunger pangs away). On the outside they appeared to be “the perfect LA female specimens”. Perfect as in untouched from human life experience, lacking any scars,  disfiguration or trauma from the escapades of worldliness. They were the perfect combo to off set an ” I’m not good enough nor will never be like them” rant most women in the locker room clearly had running in their unspoken bubbles hanging above their heads like a terrible comic. In this case I was clearly the big orange Garfield standing between the Victoria Secret Angels.

They spent a good twenty minutes comparing their perfect non-abs quipping about how they plan on having “these flat bellies forever-” bc i guess they are “just that freakin DNA blessed” or delusional possessed. In between my eye rolling, eavesdropping, note taking and letting my flab hang out on purpose so they would know what to expect should a baby ever invade their “perfect concave tummies” (cue LMFAO’s-“Girl look at my body, I work out” soundtrack) I spotted another woman blowdrying her hair.

There in all her glory peered a woman a few years ahead of me. She was desperately trying to hold onto her youth with a fresh face of botox – but her warm eyes and familiar nod had me realizing we were on the “same team.” This female specimen had the body of a warrior female who flaunted with grace and dignity her share of battles- her naked left breast had been clearly maimed from what I assumed was cancer and radiation treatment. And I could tell she was listening very intently – hanging onto every word of the other girl team’s convo. When the youngins were finished- after I tucked my own cellulite into my underpants- the woman with the scar turned to me and said “what did those girls say- I tried to listen but I didn’t hear everything – sounded like they really knew something-” Hoping I would be the messenger to reveal the secret of youth- I spouted-  “Really?- after their first baby, Mammogram, and uterus exam will any of it really matter?“

The irony of reality hitting our adult selves could be cut with a scalpel. No amount of time, age or plastic can change the one thing we all inevitably become victims to- nope, its called adult-ing (notice I don’t use the term aging- that my friends is a BS term 20 year olds made up to convince us that our human scars of life are odious embarrassments vs the Medallion of Honor and Grace that they ARE.

You know what those two girls said? They said nothing, they said absolutely nothing. They said that they know little of the pains of childbirth, stress and clawing our way to the feminine tower. They said little of how much work it takes to make our female bodies contain life, then rid of it, then react to the changes because of it, then morph, grow and transform in spite of it. They said very little of the tears we shed when we are trying to conceive, the tears we lose after our growing bellies expel all the muscle and leave you with stretch marks. They said very little about the power of our breasts feeding life only to turn on our own lives. They said so little, that I wondered how on God’s Green Earth women knee deep into adulthood with all of the brilliance, understanding, knowledge and redemption they have acquired could possibly even for one moment listen and hope to hold on to even a sentence- yet an entire conversation of such naive words. While Adult-ing is not always fun, it does take bravery, whit and a hell of a sense of humor. I’ll take that over concave non-existent ab talk ANY DAY.

After that the woman with the half boob and I put on our sexy lingerie that reveals and half covers our feminine scars, we high fived each other and headed outta there with only one goal in mind- to eat a cookie while dancing on a rooftop. I bet that other girl team never thinks to do THAT. (Cue Lady Marmalade Soundtrack here)

 

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Your Critics Don’t Count

 

To say that I love Brené Brown, is comparative to me saying I love Chocolate, I love tequila, I love thai massages and I love getting all three of those joys ALL AT ONCE. I literally get a hard on for this woman every time I read her books (yes buy ALL of them and then read each of them 5 times like I did) or watch her talks.

Last year I came out with a very daring and creative music video I was commissioned to make to help raise awareness for the state of Israel. It was everything I wanted to say and put me in front of the camera vs behind it, which is not my favorite place to be. It was daring and vulnerable and caused those creative sweats and nightly “Oh my Gawd, what am I doing??” moments. And then I posted it, and hello Secret Deodorant, there was NOT enough of that shit to make my pits feel normal after it went up on the big wide blazing internet.

Every single- and I mean EVERY single frame of every single film I make is mulled over, thought through and has a reason. I spend hours in post after I create a project, and a lot of the times, especially when I am making music videos, each and every frame has a particular story to tell. I think everything through very cautiously and very deeply. So I was sort of surprised to hear from an old friend with her “constructive criticism” exclaiming her distaste for the project.

Let’s just say the word “Gross” was tossed around, and this friend thought I needed to hear about it. The truth is, I knew that deep down she was coming from a sincerely loving place, but it made me think a thing or two about how we as artists react to destructive- I mean “constructive” commentary we open ourselves up to.

I love to be pushed by my producers and by my colleagues who know what I am capable of and who are willing to give me guidance. I take notes dubiously and am the first to admit when I am off the mark. But in this particular case, the film had already been debuted, I had yet to receive really positive comments and I hadn’t the faintest idea what impact this film had created. The only feedback I had up until that point, was this person’s bold reaction, which caused my fear to run RAMPANT. It felt like My Fear was running up and down Walmart like a 4 year old and waving his arms at me with a banner that said “YOU SUCK YOU SUCK YOU SUCK!” Truth was, I was scared to make this film and in that moment I heard these comments, that little ole’ ball of fear was there standing there pointing at me, laughing hard and saying, “See, I knew this would happen- never create anything EVER, lets just hang out together in your bedroom and suck on bon bons and never play in the world again you hack.”

Yep, my fear was in full swing and really loving every minute of this exchange.  Fear was really getting my goat and it was having a party at my expense. It was LOVING how awful I felt and how it was enjoying EVERY SINGLE self doubt. This whole thing felt dirty. BUT  then I heard this talk by Brene Brown and all became right with the world and little ole’ fear was put in its place.

I love this talk that Brené gives, because she really gets what an artist goes through when we create something. And the best line in this talk that not only changed my life but also kicked my fear to the curb was :

“IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE ARENA ALSO GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED, I’M NOT INTERESTED IN GETTING YOUR FEEDBACK.”

Told ya she’s the bomb!

In that moment my fear looked like the Witch’s big green puddle on the floor and all I could hear now was him saying “I’m shrinking, I’m shrinking….I’m shrinking…” Take that you Mother- F’n FEAR. My cape had been reclaimed!  It was at that moment I realized that it didn’t matter what feedback I was getting, the film was already out, there was nothing to be done but celebrate my accomplishment of having an idea, creating it, and then birthing it forward. Sure that would have been enough, BUT then the universe called and made it even better, because that is what happens when you give acceptance to your creative life, it pays you back ten fold.  A few months had gone by after I had deeply accepted my accomplishment without any reaction but my own, when the Executive Director of the non profit that commissioned me to make the film told me the film was so widely well received and it ended up raising close to $80,000 towards the  purchase of one new ambulance for Israel. SO really, you can say this one little music video potentially saved thousands of lives. Suddenly “Gross” started to feel “GOOD”.

As Brené says- if you’re in the “Cheap seats not putting yourself on the line”, than please please don’t think your words matter to me, because they never will. To all creatives out there who are getting naked and putting themselves out there, please never stop daring, never stop risking all of your notions, never listen to your critics, stay in the arena, and keep on CREATING! (I am saying this to myself so I don’t pass out everyday from all the crap I’ve exposed myself with on the big bad blazing web.)

I’ve broken down her talk to a few quotes that I think you should memorize or at least write in lipstick on your bathroom mirror:

“Not caring what people think is its own kind of hustle”

“Reserve seats for the critics you lock out of your arena… take the critics to lunch, and to simply say when I’m trying to innovate, say I see you, I hear you, but I gotta show up and do this anyway…. I’m not interested in your feedback.”

“If you’re going to spend your life showing up…. you need a clarity of values….if courage is your value you have to do this…..you gotta have one person who’s willing to pick you up and dust you off when you fail….if you’re not failing than you’re not really showing up.”

“How important can you be….I’m looking for a stranger in the mall, that’s who I’m trying to win over.”

“The critics are there whether you show up or not.”

“The people who have the most courage and who are willing to show up are willing to look at their critics and say I hear you, but I’m not buying it.”

“One of these seat needs to be reserved for you. When we look up and we are putting an idea, art, design etc, who is the biggest critic? Yourself! Definitely ME- so give herself a seat please.”

“Design is a function of connection.”

Now Get Real Or Go Home!

 

 

 

 

Count On

 

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As the second night of Passover comes to a close, the Jewish people have an odd tradition of counting the day every day from that night forward for 49 days. The idea behind counting everyday, I mean literally saying out loud, “Today is the first day, today is the second day, today is the third day…” (You get the idea) is that as everyday passes, after we’ve mastered the state of freedom that the holiday of Passover has to offer, we then count every day as a way to take note in mastering our own personal achievement in behaving as free people with accountability, morality, transformation of self, and the ability to achieve a state of character refinement. We literally count everyday like it is our first day, like it is the only day that matters. And we do this for 49 days, which marks the actual day the Jewish people received the precious Torah from God on Mount Sinai- the day heaven kissed earth, the day our bodies became containers of a higher purpose, rather than a shell destined for listless materialistic attempts to coax our aching minds.

During these 49 days, we acknowledge our triumph over our ego, over our selves, over our selfishness, over any negative behavior we might face, and we are claiming as we count each day, we are determined to overcome our personal enslavement with dignity.

But lets be real. Is this what really happens? Because if we are honest, I think most of us wake up in the morning and, let’s face it, no matter how much we count the day, the same bitter challenges we faced from the day before will probably be there the day after again to enslave us as is the ritual we have so valiantly manifested, minus a few variables. And they are probably still there the next morning after that (like Groundhog Day). I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just trying to be realistic. In reality our circumstances may vary but they are not going to massively shift into a cataclysmic reversal just because a holiday came and went and now we are counting Monday.

Are we to really believe, because we are counting the days of our lives, our soap opera life has suddenly ended? Just because we celebrated the holiday of Freedom for 8 days and began counting everyday like OCD C3PO’s does not mean we are suddenly free from being – well ourselves. So what’s the game we are playing here? Is there any real relevance to counting everyday for 49 days, or is it some twisted game we use to pretend life is grand when really it is a battlefield?

Time is a funny thing, because no matter how hard you try to beat it at its own game, there it is staring at us in the face and sometimes it feels as though we are counting backwards versus upwards. What are we working towards? As soon as we get to that “coveted destination” aren’t we in old age, which eventually leads to our expiration? It seems odd to spend a good portion of our year counting upwards as a reminder of this morbid eventuality.

First we must understand how time works to understand how this incredible count off works. According to the Jewish tradition, time is like a sphere. Like a perfect circle, it has no end. When we celebrate a holiday, it is as if we are tapping into the energy collected in that force field echoed from our past. On Passover, we celebrate how we broke away from slavery. This experience is as real today as it was over 3,000 years ago. The human story is still the same, the pain we suffered, the triumph we accumulated is as tangible today as it was then. The human narrative of reliving our own personal slavery continues to be applicable. Some of us are enslaved by victimhood, others by addiction, some by feeling worthless, others by shame and/or guilt, some by the imprisonment of blaming ourselves,  blaming others, blaming the media, the candidates, Mcdonald’s Whopper that has an un-Godly amount of juicy lard . We all find ways to  subjugate our psyche.

Today marks Yom Hashoah, the day we remember the millions who perished during World War Two. Time is cycling, and today we feel the same feeling of sorrow and loss. Never forget means, no matter how many years have passed, we still have the memory of hurt etched into our minds. Holding on to pain is not something many of us can relinquish, nor should it be. We spend lifetimes trying to react differently as a result of pain, but that is why we carry it, to learn how to hold it without letting it crush us.

Remembering how our humanity has evolved takes tremendous work as we ask ourselves to go back to dark moments we faced, and relive those  tragedies again in the hopes that we never have to- again.

I don’t think there’s any accident to the fact that Yom Hashoah falls out during the weeks we are counting.

When we count something precious like a handful of diamonds, we count them over and over again. We make sure every single stone is accounted for before we create a parcel. If one stone is left unaccounted for, it is a massive financial loss, so we are careful with our counting. When we choose not to count a collection of material possessions it usually means we don’t have the same affinity towards it, it doesn’t hold the same amount of importance, the same amount of weight.  So what are we counting that holds such great importance?

We are counting our desire for confidence, our need for self compassion, our will to overcome. It is the confidence in ourselves, in our ability to defeat obstacles that become the precious parcel we protect through counting.

Everyday that we look into the mirror and we say “Today is the third day, Today is the fourth day, the fifth day, etc” we are essentially saying, we are further away from reacting to pain, and closer to the comeback . We are counting upwards.  We are collecting our parcel of goodness, of hope, of optimism, of courage and we are counting it over and over again. We count up towards a new enlightenment, a new being is emerging with every day we count as we climb that ladder away from the bottom, away from the darkness, away from the negative behaviors that have gripped us like a choke hold. We still have the hurt, we cannot forget it, but we emerge. Like a flower, we bloom out of the seeds of the destructive forces that wounded our tired delicate petals. And we grow more vibrant more fragrant, more redolent of our grief that now glows with gallantry.  We are carrying our hurt selves and then morphing- exploding into a greatness. During these 7 weeks it is as if we are counting our way up towards a shuttle launch, to the galaxy of the unknown and to the road less traveled. Only instead of counting backwards, 10, 9, 8, 7….we are counting upwards, 1, 2, 3, 4.  We count upwards to prove we have the ability to move higher and higher in our personal evolution despite the wreckage we drag, maybe in spite of the demolished crushed spirits that encumber our emerging identity.

On Yom Hashoah, as we count the day, let us count ON the day as well. Let us count on the moment we remember our 6 million, let us count on their fine spirits to carry us through those chagrined days where counting is a struggle, where remembering our character has a choice to morph in spite of the arena, where the tomorrow is not a journey into the desperate, but a voyage into the courageous unknown as we advance upwards, enlightened by the knowledge once we’ve hit the bottom, the only stride left for us to forge towards is up, up and away.