A Rant and a Book Review

I’m back at it again, and because life is, well, life, I’m going to flip the script and rant a little bit. Everyone loves good old fashioned rant, right? It’s just, there’s something I’m so over.  I’m sick of it hanging around or trying to burst my perfectly normal life bubble. And here’s the deal, it’s something everyone struggles with at one point or another.

Nope, it’s not a Netflix obsession, though many strong men and women have fallen at the feet of this powerful entity.

It’s fear.

Let me set the stage a little. As part of my job I am required to stay up to date with current events.  I’m also heavily involved with social media.  Although this helps me tremendously in the doldrums of small talk or at fancy parties (Can you believe what *fill in the blank of a politician’s name* said? The Kardashians are truly taking over. Why yes, the stock market does suck right now.), I also find myself inundated with some truly horrible and heartbreaking news on an hour by hour (or with social media, on a minute by minute) basis. This is tough even for the most stable and formidable person, though, I’ve never really described myself as stable or formidable, so occasionally I find myself feeling a teensy bit overwhelmed.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Recently, a news anchor who was fed up with violence and bad news said he was going to only post positive things for an entire day.

 It’s odd that something like this is odd, but it is.

Fear is just the worst. I think one truly horrendous aspect of it, is its ability to morph into anything.  Fear of failure, fear of death (ironic, because it’s the only unavoidable aspect of life), fear of looking like an idiot, fear of dealing with idiots, fear that you’ll never see Gwen Stefani on tour, fear your children will grow up and hate you, fear your children will never grow up, and on and on.

I think in today’s society the inundation of information is sometimes good, but sometimes it’s very, very dangerous.

We’re expected to absorb so much information from so many different avenues in so many different forms (long form rants on Facebook, airbrushed photographs on Instagram, flashing red news headlines on Huff Post, 140 characters of horrifying but weirdly tantalizing stories on Twitter), it’s no wonder our levels of anxiety occasionally topple the scales.

I have found really fantastic ways to combat anxiety and fear–there is nothing a big bowl of carbs and/or mug of the blackest of coffee with a best lady friend can’t heal.  Meditation, my faith, exercise, and trashy celebrity magazines help tremendously, as well–but sometimes I feel like the kid from Matilda who had to eat all the chocolate cake even though it was an impossibly large cake (too much freaking cake)–overstuffed and nauseated.

But yesterday I bought one of my favorite author’s book so that’s something to smile about.

Rising-Strong

I’ve talked about Brene Brown before because, homegirl is a boss lady. She speaks truth like this without a thought:

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.

*drops the mic and walks away*
She so eloquently speaks to the fear of vulnerability everyone carries. She also talks about shame, an ugly little demon that loves hanging around in our psyches. In her most recent book, Rising Strong, Brown delves head first into the crap of life. She unabashedly goes there. She talks about how we, as a society, love a story of triumph.  We love a good underdog tale where the hero overcomes an obstacle and ends up on top. We just don’t want to know all the muck she had to wade through to get there.
Ouch. 
We love hearing about the CEO that started at the bottom, but fought her way up the ladder, achieving all of her dreams to the soundtrack of “Go the Distance” from Hercules.  But we as a society aren’t exactly ready to hear about the 6 months she was unemployed and how her depression got so bad she couldn’t leave her house for 3 of those months.

Talking about the dark stuff is uncomfortable and shabby and weird. Why is that?

Just because we avoid discussing the dark times, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In fact, I think when we don’t talk about them they grow larger, stretch out their legs, and decide to stay a while. Our emotions are amazing, but if we let them rule us, they will oblige most enthusiastically.

I think speaking the darkness is the only real way to combat it. It’s the only real way we can show up. In her book, Brown gives great advice on finding ways to communicate struggle and show empathy to others.

Fear can also hinder us from taking chances. It whispers that we should live small, shut our beaks, and hope no one notices us.  This comes from a place of people pleasing and worry, but it’s no way to live. When we speak our stories, we’re leaning into fear (fun times, right?).  The leaning in is big, it can even be life changing, but you have to pull your head out of the sand and face whatever it is that’s waiting for you.

Here’s a hint: It’s probably not as bad as your mind’s making you believe. If it is as bad, or worse, then that’s when you turn to your core support group to hold space for you.

And because Tina Fey is a genius,

LOS ANGELES - JAN 27: Tina Fey arrives to the SAG Awards 2013 on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

Follow your fear, which in improv usually leads to someone making you sing an improvised song or rap, which is the worst thing that can happen. But the larger thing is the notion that if something scares you a bit, it means that you should follow it a little bit.

Let’s get our improv rap on and face fear with defiance.

How do you deal with fear? Have you read any Brene Brown? What books inspire you? 

Advertisements

Lady Love: 3 Life Lessons Leslie Knope Taught Me

What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.– Leslie Knope

Hello flossy readers, this post is going to be one of many dedicated to life lessons learned from some of my favorite TV ladies.

I don’t know about you but growing up some of my best memories happened right in front of the “boob tube” as my mom (awkwardly, painfully) called it. Yes, I was raised in the country and learned to make mud pies with the best of them—don’t ask—but I would be lying if I said while growing up I didn’t get into more than a couple (hundred) arguments with my parents about more “TV Time.”

There was just something so wonderful about coming home from school, making a mixing bowl full of cereal, and lying on the couch to the lullaby of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or All That, my lips mouthing the theme songs like a drugged drone.

I love the idea of using some of the wonderful women of TV as my spirit animals, guiding me through the throes of life.  So naturally, the first “Lady Love” post is dedicated to the unflappable, irreplaceable Leslie Knope.

Life Lesson 1: Never, ever, ever give up.

parks18

Anyone who watches Parks and Rec, knows what makes Leslie Knope so unique is her unstoppable approach to life. Homegirl doesn’t give up. Ever. Even when people laugh at her, slander her, ignore her, make fun of her, or try to end her career (maybe all in a single day), she just sprays a bit more whipped cream on her waffles and keeps chugging along. How many of us can say we approach life like that? I mean, if my internet connection goes bad for five minutes I almost have a bag sucking panic attack and vow to give up on life forever.

Yes, she gets called a bulldozer and says outlandish things like “I took your idea and made it better” in normal conversation, but her intentions are always pure. She refuses to give up on her career goals no matter how many times she fails. She never gives up on her town of Pawnee even though at one point they created a We Hate Leslie Knope float for a town parade.

She keeps going, doggedly looking for a way to spin her situation positively. Back home we call that grit.

Yes it’s fiction. Yes it’s hilarious. But it’s also totally relevant. There are times in life that require us to get effing tough. I bet you can think of at least one time in the past year where you were forced outside of your comfort zone and into a situation that made you want to hide under your desk or bed or covers (basically any entity that fake hides us). Looking to Leslie Knope really helps me during times that require I buck up and keep going. I see that small, smiling face that refuses to crack and feel myself growing a little taller and a little more sturdy.  If that doesn’t work, I take a different note from her book and pump up the Sarah McLachlan and do some air punches.

Life Lesson 2: Support others…hard.

leslieknope-list-ox

Leslie Knope knows her way around a complement. Her best friend, Ann, is often overwhelmed at the intense love Leslie shows her on a daily basis. I think we sometimes get a little (understandably) nervous when people come right out and say they think we’re great or beautiful or possess a lithe, elfin body (yep, Leslie) but it’s so endearing watching Leslie Knope love everyone so hard. I mean the woman invented Galentines day, a day dedicated to showering women with love and respect.

This Life Lesson is one at which I both have succeeded greatly and failed miserably.  I’m pretty open with my affection (thanks mom and dad) and have been known to hug strangers at inappropriate times. But I’m also extremely competitive. Playing basketball my entire life caused be the best, be the best, be the best or the even healthier WIN, WIN, WIN to become my unintentional mantras. Even to this day I’ll find myself on the elliptical at the gym (real intense, ya’ll) and the person next to me will be clipping right along, minding their own business, when, before I know it I’m dedicating my mind, body, and soul to beating them, ending them. Pray tell, how does one win at ellipticalling?!?

It’s a problem.

However, seeing Leslie Knope shower her friends, coworkers, and even enemies with compliments, love, and some pretty insane gifts (handmade scrapbooks anyone?) sets a great example for me. I want to be like that. I want people to know that I really appreciate them and admire their work. I want to open my mouth, and before I can think, a heartfelt compliment just kind of falls out. Even if it makes the other person uncomfortable. Even if it makes me uncomfortable. It’s a work in progress, but I’m willing to take the leap if it means I won’t be banned from (another) gym.

Life Lesson 3: Be yourself. Your weird, weird self.

Sounds cheesy, but y’all, sometimes the simplest sounding lessons are the hardest to execute. It’s straight up hard to avoid diving right in with the status quo splashed across our phones and computers. It’s hard being comfortable with yourself especially if yourself is kind of lame.

…or confused or boring or bad at math or awkward or a lover of needle point or someone who just doesn’t get green smoothies, avocados on toast, and HIIT workouts. Authenticity is Leslie Knope’s bag, and watching her barrel through life with a smile on her face and a little crazy in her eyes is totally refreshing.

She loves Madeleine Albright and waffles and her best friend and whipped cream and Pawnee, Indianna and she doesn’t falter or apologize one iota.  I think we need a little more of that authenticity. I think I need a little more of that authenticity. The times in my life when I’ve shown up, really shown up without an ounce of armor, are the times I look back on with the most pride.

Leslie Knope is so stinking unique and she’s fabulous for it. There isn’t another person like her, and you know what, there isn’t another person like you! So what if you can’t really do long division or home decor, you do you, and the world will be better for it.

What are life lessons your favorite TV peeps have taught you? Are you a crazy Leslie Knope fan like I am? 

Citing Dem Sources:

Image 01:www.glamour.com

Image 02: http://www.balancingjane.com/2015/02/the-plight-of-abd-illustrated-with.html

Image 03: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/05/leslie-knope.html

4 Self-Help Books that Don’t Suck or 4 Self-Help Books You Won’t Be Embarrassed to Rate on Goodreads

The deep readers out there might be ready to disown me for making my first book post about something other than Lit-Rich-AH. Though I love a good, dense book that I can analyze the shiz out of (bye bye credibility), I feel like this post might be one that attracts a wider variety of people (yep talking to you “nonreaders”) because, let’s face it, we all need help.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t have it all together, folks. I just don’t. I maintain that no one really does. If someone tells you they do, well, they’re lying with a capital L. Things get crazy and people get crazy, and that’s A-OK. Sometimes we find ourselves crying for absolutely no reason or diving head first into a package of Double Stuff Oreos or online shopping for Disney Channel original movies so we can just go back. Sometimes we do this because it’s a Tuesday, and sometimes we do it to numb, numb, numb.

All of these are hypothetical and relate to me in no way, of course.

So for those who could use some good ol’ fashion self improvement but feel the impulse to gag or roll their eyes at the thought of being seen on the subway or plane with a You’ve Got This! 30 Ways to Make Everything in your life THE BEST!!!!! (not a real book…?), this post is for you.

1.) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

So Brene Brown is my spirit animal, my guru, my fairy godmother, my sister from another mister.daringgreatly_final525-resized-600 She beautifully captures what every single person experiences in their lives and tries so very hard to hide–shame.

Shame, the little gremlin inside of us that tells us we aren’t good enough. Shame, the voice that tells us to just hide inside ourselves and pretend that everything is peaches and cream. Shame, the thing that separates us, makes us judge others, and basically screws everything up in a royal fashion.

This book hit me at the perfect time in my life, which basically means a time when I was in what Anne Shirley calls the “depths of despair.” I was lost, I was confused, and most of all, I was wading in a deep murky pool of slimy shame. Yuck. In Daring Greatly, Brown writes that the only way out of shame is diving head first into vulnerability. Crazy, right? She emphases the importance of vulnerability in a culture obsessed with whitewashing perfection onto everyone and everything. As a research professor who has spent a good chunk of her life studying vulnerability, courage, and shame, Brown provides an in depth look at the psychological pressures and outcomes of living with shame and avoiding vulnerability.

As a recovering perfectionist, you can imagine how deeply I needed this book and how often I revisit it. I love how she emphasizes the importance of being vulnerable and open no matter how scared, broken, jaded, or skeptical we are. It’s a book for anyone who needs to hear “you’re fine and worthy exactly where you are.”

So, yeah, basically all of us.

2.) The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A. Singer

“Billions of things are going on in this world. You can think about it all you want, but life is still going to keep on happenUntetheredSoulMech-#1.indding.”

If this book sounds hippy dippy, it’s because it’s kind of hippy dippy, but in the best way possible. The cover does have a stallion galloping across a sandy beach, presumably “untethered”, but don’t let it fool you. The book is deep. Real deep. So deep that I found myself rubbing my temples whispering “Who am I? Who am I?” again and again.

Singer discusses a thought more enticing than bottomless chips and salsa–the possibility of living free from fear, anxiety, and all those other unnecessary little demons that fill our brains and make us bonkers. He talks about the importance of understanding the “inner you” and how that “you” is divine and capable of transcending anything this life has in store. He talks about meditation and mindfulness (two things I sloppily incorporate into my life) and discusses the importance letting go. Whew, what a thought, right? His book is one I go back to when I start noticing my feelers grip tight around negativity and past mistakes. Every page is filled with wisdom and each time I read it I leave feeling a little lighter, a little more centered, and a little more inclined to don my Urban Outfitters’ flower crown.

3.) The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou

“I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”

Yes, okay I get it. I get it. This is a collection of poems which is not technically in the same genre (or more accurately, the same galaxy) as a self-help book. However, the blog is mine all mine so I’m going to include it. Also, Maya Angelou should be injected into life as much as possible, so you’re welcome. For thos9780679428954_p0_v1_s260x420e who hear the word poetry and buckle, or worse, think I just don’t get it, consider this the kiddy pool of poetry. Not because Angelou’s poems aren’t deep and life-changing (they are), but because they are so damn accessible. Her poetry is like cheap therapy. Cheap, good therapy. This collection is nice and thick with her words of wisdom and deals with everything from loneliness to death to joy. If you doubt this applies to you, humor me and read “Still I Rise,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and “Refusal,” and then come talk to me. The Complete Collected Poems is filled with fabulous poems that speak to ingrained human needs and shows how connected, yet still undeniably unique, we all are.

4.) The Happiness Advantage:The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor

“Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full. It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective, and successful at work and in life.”

Shawn Achor’s book is a great touchstone text for those who want to grow in their careers, and in turn, their lives. Yeah, so everyone.  The writer/positive psychologist (yep that’s a thing) is known best for lecturing at a little place called Harvard. He happiness-advantagetook it a step further and became involved in Harvard’s most famous class called Positive Psychology aka the”Happiness Course.”

Even more impressive to me, though, is the fact Achor was a featured guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (and everybody said Amen).

The book disproves the notion that the harder you work, the more successful you’ll become. Or more popularly, once you’ve “arrived” then you’ll (finally) enjoy true happiness. The Happiness Advantage Cher-slapped me in the face and yelled SNAP OUT OF IT!! Achor and years of psychological studies wholeheartedly disagree with the belief that success births happiness. According to Achor “Happiness fuels success, not the other way around.” Not only does the book explore the importance of maintaining a positive outlook, but it also gives tangible examples of ways we can all experience more happiness on a daily basis (hint: gratitude is a BIG DEAL). And you know what’s fab.com? According to Achor, happiness begets success begets happiness begets success. That’s a trend I don’t mind wearing out.

What’s your favorite self-help book? Have you read any of these recommendations? If so what are your thoughts?