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Blog

Filtering by Tag: self-care

Grief Anniversaries

Amber Adrian

As much as I congratulate myself on understanding grief - hey, take the wins where they come - there are still so many pieces that elude me.

Someone posted on Twitter about how today would have been her three-year-old's birthday if she hadn't miscarried, and that struck a rather resounding chord so I did the math and realized HEY ME TOO.

Perhaps that's the cause of all the emotions today. I don't remember what happened this time last year or the year before - I'm so emotional most of the time that this stuff honestly doesn't register until I'm sobbing wildly and it somehow clicks in that "Oh, it's my dad's birthday" or "Oh, the baby I miscarried would be three today" or "This was the day I finished reading the final Harry Potter book."

But I do remember the first year, and the first year was bad.

On my actual due date, I went to a dance class to make myself feel better. It was with a teacher I didn't know, and she was one of those who walks around the room, yelling at people to smile. (Which is super obnoxious, no matter what your gender.)

When she got to me and I couldn't smile - like, literally, couldn't, even if I had wanted to or was willing to, which I 100% was not - she stopped the whole class and started yelling at me about how I was what was wrong with Mill Valley and just because you all have money you think you can do whatever you want.

First off: Sister, have you seen my bank account? I had to use a credit card just to get into this $15 class.

Second: That all sounds like a personal problem that has no place in a dance class you're supposed to be teaching.

So I walked out of class and the tears that are always pretty close to the surface on a normal good day rushed up, post-miscarriage and random admonishments from a short she-demon in yoga pants.

As I was sitting outside sobbing, an older woman came up to me and crouched down next to me and just kept saying "Jesus te ama, Jesus te ama."

I didn't retain enough high school Spanish to read the Taco Bell menu, but that translated.

For every she-demon, there is someone who will send you love and sit with you as you cry.

Best Defense in a Cheeto Battle

Amber Adrian

Tomorrow, the day a human-size Cheeto takes to the Oval Office, I will be doing none of the things a concerned/enraged/pick-your-modifier citizen should be doing.

I will not be writing a letter to my senator. I will not be marching for anything. I will not be gnashing my teeth over the state of the world.

Instead, I will drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and down the coast to Half Moon Bay, where I will get a haircut, a massage, and gaze at the ocean. The way we do in California. I will have dinner with magical friends. I will take care of myself.

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To do my work for this country and for this planet, I have to take care of myself. I can’t show up in the world from a place of fear or anger or pain because if I do, that’s what I'll spread. 

Enough fear, anger and pain has already been spackled on until we’ve built ourselves a robust cement cage - and wonder why we feel trapped.

We’re not trapped. We have voices and intelligent curiosity and our own gifts to share, gifts that will shift the world in the direction we long to see.

But we have to take care of ourselves so that we can unleash those gifts, that light and that love, in the world. 

So rather than steep myself in outrage (not that I ever object to a little well-placed anger and I fully accept that it may crash my little Self Nurture Party tomorrow) I'll be nourishing myself, and hopefully losing some of these goddamn persistent knots in my shoulders. 

There are no shoulds here. Yes, you want to show up for the world in the way you most believe in. But there’s no one right way to do it. 

For those of you who are marchers and impassioned letter writers, I salute you. For those of you who build movements and change the world for the better with your whirling energy, I bow in your direction.

For those of you who are easily overwhelmed, who know that marching would drain your reserves and somehow never get to the “write letter to congressman” box on your to-do list, fist bump. I'm with you.

Here's something we can do instead: Participate in www.First100Ways.com. 100 small actions that can be done in 100 seconds over the first 100 days the President is in office. After saying for months that I wish someone with my values who understands political action would just tell me what to do already in a way that wouldn't fry my cortex, I was over-joyed when this landed in my inbox. 

(Meaning, I'm pretty sure I invented this. The same way I invented the iPod and iTunes. By grumbling about how I had to wait until morning for Tower Records to open up so I could buy a whole CD to get the one song I wanted. By saying, "I really should be able to magically get this one song right now." LO AND BEHOLD.) 

Know that whatever you do, it’s enough. Know that showing up for yourself and your family and your community is enough. The last thing we need to do right now is beat ourselves up for any perceived failing or lack. Because that’s the energy that helped get us into this tangle. If all you do is help yourself feel better, raise your own energy, you will raise the energy of the world. I promise. From that place, you can take action that will have massive impact, whatever it is.

I love you, fellow Americans, fellow humans on this planet. You are enough and you do enough.

And if you are marching, make sure you bring mittens and a snack.

Daily Dance

Amber

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If you've been working too hard and vehemently not practicing what you preach - "take care of yourself! take naps!" she croons blithely while waking up at o'dark thirty, reaching for her laptop, and going under for ten hours -  a face swollen with poison oak and an optometrist who says "how did your eyes get that much worse in a month?" is a bitch slap to wake up. We teach what we most need to learn. It's why I'm always on about self-care and self-love and connecting with yourself. Because I will actively and insistently not take care of myself - I don't have time! I need to attack my to-do list! I need to make money!* - until my body is required to battle with a vicious plant and basically blind me to make me stop.

* fear, fear, fear - something I remember when I'm taking care of myself

I can't do the work I do - write and create and channel - without taking care of myself. First. Not as an after-thought. Not after my body wrestles me to the floor and makes me beg for mercy.

Every morning is for me, not for work. I need to run or dance daily. Every breakfast is to be eaten on the deck in the sun, with no devices and no distractions. Every meditation is to find out if my heart has something to say or if it's just my head hosting a gremlin party, cackling and poking my fear-centers with their pitchforks. I need to plop down in front of my altar and re-find the peace. If the day goes south at any point, I need to haul my butt right back there and remind myself of what is true. Pull my thoughts into the center of my head and drop them into the calm well of my heart. Peace, not noise.

Because writing from my head doesn't do anything for anyone. Thoughts, old voices, static. But when I'm taking care of myself, I get pulled. Pulled into something that needs to be said, something that comes from a place of love and occasional near-tears.  That's when it connects and resonates and the magic happens.

Bonus: More naps and less worrying.

Drink water. Dream bigger.

Amber Adrian

What is needed today? 

Rest, care, whole foods that grew from the ground, water with lemon. What is not needed today is recrimination, self-doubt or amorphous worries about things that are beyond your control. Just for today, assume that everything is beyond your control - except your own self-care.

How do you best care for yourself? Do you meditate, do you get slammed into the jiujitsu mat, do you write, do you make a big salad with an expensive ingredient that makes your taste buds mambo? Whatever it is you do that is truly loving for your mind, body, emotions, and spirit - do it today. Allow time to be made. Allow whatever it is you truly need to be your first priority.

Because when we deeply love and care for ourselves - as a verb not a noun - we are coming into alignment with the fullness of the universe. When we are in synch with the powers that are both greater and completely integrated with ourselves, unimagined opportunities appear. Money knocks on the door. People flock to us in wonderful and astounding ways. New truths and clarity about ourselves and our lives float in on a quiet breeze.

And sometimes none of these things happen. Sometimes we must continue to care for ourselves - deeply, tenderly, and with loving intention - as we keep putting one foot in front of the other. As we keep trusting that what looks dark now will brighten and that what we would like to experience will show up. While keeping our minds and hearts and bodies open to the idea that there might be something greater out there than our current information allows us to imagine.

What is needed today is full and loving care of ours minds and bodies and emotions, while expanding our imaginations and allowing ourselves to dream bigger than feels possible.

You Are Worth All The Soup

Amber

A teacher gave me an assignment a few months ago and I would tattoo it on my forehead if needles didn’t make me squawk like an indignant chicken:

“Your only job now is to raise your vibration.”

For those who don’t speak hippie, raising your vibration basically means turning up the dial on your joy and happiness. Even turning it up one notch above awful fulfills the assignment. Feeling whatever you’re suppressing because you’re scared or don’t have time or just don’t wanna fulfills the assignment. Stepping away from something frustrating to refill the tank fulfills the assignment.

This metaphor also works with apples. 

This metaphor also works with apples. 

As I focus on my new project for writers, I'm realizing just how crucial this kind of self-care is. How crucial every kind of self-care is. I'm getting really noisy about it, actually.

I'm even getting mad. Mad at myself for being so resistant to the idea for so long. Mad at the world for telling us we aren't worth this kind of care, that everyone else deserves it before we do, that taking deep and loving care of ourselves means we're being selfish and self-indulgent. I'm not quite sure how this crossed over from "good idea" to "thing that makes me want to yell and hit things because so few people believe this is true," but here we are. (I haven't hit anything yet, but I reserve the right.)

It just makes me want to curl up and cry. When did we collectively decide we weren't worth taking care of ourselves? When did we decide that our worth was contingent on what we put out, rather than who we are and how we feel? When did we forget that everything we send out into the world is rooted deep within us and if we send things into the world from a place of need and lack and disconnection, our world will absorb that message until it's passed on unconsciously to our friends and our children and everyone else who comes after us?

NOPE. STOP. NO MORE. Because you are worth all the gentleness, all the love, all the hikes, all the naps, all the massages, all the yoga, all the emotional tending, all the however-you-choose-to-define-it self-care you can muster up. You are worth all the soup.

Soup?

Yes, soup. It's one of my favorite parables explaining the idea of growth and self-care. There's a table. You and all your friends and family are sitting around this table. You're all starving. From the ceiling descends a bowl of soup. It lands right in front of you. You are the only one who's allowed to dip your spoon into the soup. No one else can have any soup.

Here's the big question: Do you eat the soup?

Yes. You eat the soup.

Many of us fight this concept, especially if we're accustomed to believing that others are more important than we are or that belonging is more important than our own wellbeing. In some ways, it stems from a good place. We care for others. We want to be with them, we want to understand them, we want to feel connected to them. We all have a deep-seated desire to belong. Historically, we know we need to be part of the herd to survive. Stragglers get eaten by peckish mountain lions, after it chases you around for awhile to get you nice and salty.

You starving to death doesn't help your friends and family. Not even a little bit. Your pain doesn't remove their pain. You being in pain only adds to the pain of the room.

Yes, there's some guilt associated with taking deep and tender care of yourself. Because suddenly you're feeling better than people around you. But the guilt isn't because you aren't taking care of those people - you can't take care of them. They can only take care of themselves. The guilt stems from taking care of yourself when those around you aren't.

Just as your pain would only add to the pain of the room, your happiness also adds to the room. If you're in a happy space, that lightness will lift those around you, even if they don't recognize it. If you're taking care of your body and your emotions, it will show others that they're allowed to do the same. Your joy will show others that joy is possible.

Eat the damn soup. Feel better. Because feeling better is the magic bullet and I will never shut up about it.

Self-Care for Humans

Amber Adrian

Self-care is not optional. It is necessary. You do not move forward without self-care. You do not establish yourself in your true worth and your true potential without self-care. There is nothing that is more important than caring for yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Anything you do that raises your vibration is self-care. Anything you do that makes you feel joyful is self-care. But be careful here. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that the joy of a donut is self-care. Sometimes it is. Sometimes that perfectly frosted confection is precisely what you need. But sometimes it's also a way to pretend to comfort yourself when you don't understand what true comfort looks like, or don't feel you deserve to have it. Sometimes it's a way to numb yourself. Sometimes it's a way to fit in with those around you.

As you learn what true self-care looks like, you will discover full awareness around what is true self-care and what is false comfort. When you notice the patterns and behaviors of false self-comfort, don't berate yourself for them. You were doing the best you could with the information you had at the time. Instead, gently reassure yourself that you have better tools now and it's time to play with using them.

Self-care should feel like play. It should feel fun. Sure, sometimes heaving yourself out of bed to go for a run doesn't match your precise definition of "fun", but if that's the case, look at where you could adjust your routines so that the activity you know raises your endorphins and smoothes out the wrinkles and puts the gremlins to sleep becomes a joy, rather than a burden.

Self-care looks like being gentle with yourself. It looks like accepting yourself fully. It looks like investigating where you don't accept yourself and bringing the old voices and the old patterns and the old decisions into the light. Often, when we shine a light on our darkest places, what we feared simply evaporates. Sometimes what we fear comes out to waltz with us for awhile. This is when the deepest self-care is necessary. It's when we need to trust that we are dancing with our demons so that our demons will leave us in peace.

When you're tired, sleep. When you're hungry, sit down for tasty nutrition. When your brain has stopped functioning, allow it to rest. When you sense that your life or habits or routines need an upgrade, ask yourself how you can create something that serves you better. When your emotions are calling for attention, give them some love. When your back hurts, take yourself to someone who knows how to handle painful lumbar regions.

Allow others to support you in your self-care. Many dedicate their life's work to helping others feel better, helping others heal, helping others find what they need to do their own life's work. As you step into nourishing yourself and releasing the self-judgment around this kind of work - for self-care is work - you will find the perfect people to help you find your way.

You are valuable. You are worthy of being cared for. You are allowed and encouraged to care for yourself. Caring for yourself is one of the most necessary and defiant acts of service. Defy the voices that whisper otherwise, defy cultural assumptions that tell you how to be in the world, defy what informs you that you aren't worth this kind of space and care and love. Those voices are only speaking from their own pain, from their own sense of lack. 

Fill yourself to the brim, so that you do not feel that lack. If you begin to feel lack again, know that it's time to refill the well. Fill it as best you can. As with anything else, the more you practice caring for yourself, the better you'll get and the easier it will be. Self-care is the easiest and happiest road to the life you desire, and the one you were meant to live.

What To Do When You're Cranky

Amber Adrian

Be cranky. Don't desperately try to snatch at some feeling you think you should have instead. Allow yourself to be cranky. Maybe you need an hour of being cranky. Maybe you need to kvetch to a friend for twenty minutes. Maybe you need a whole day. Whatever you need, take it. Don't try to wrench yourself into some state of being that you think is better or more appropriate or not so inconvenient. Be inconvenient. This is not to say that you should wallow. You know if you're prone to wallowing or if you're more inclined to soldier through. If you're a soldier, ready for action at a moment's notice and never offbeat: give yourself some space. Take an hour off from your life to feel, to take care of yourself, to do something that brings you joy. If you're a wallower, take some action: write an angry letter and rip it up, stomp around for awhile, take a walk. Search for the feeling below the cranky. Your crankiness is probably hiding something deeper. Maybe anger, maybe jealousy, maybe sadness. Allow that emotion to float to the surface and just feel it for awhile. If your emotions take you to a real place, take care of yourself once they're done whipping you around. Take a bath, take a walk, go see a movie. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Feelings can be hard work, but they're some of the best work you can ever do.

What to do when you're cranky? Be cranky. Until you aren't cranky any more. But recognize that crankiness is no greater or lesser state of being than any other. It simply is. When you can simply be with the cranky, you may find that it dissipates that much faster.

Confessions of a Sugar Beast

Amber

I'm a hormonal, sugar-fueled mess this week. I find these labels empowering. Because they give me reasons and solutions for the way I feel. You're cranky, hungry, tired, and head-achey because being a female is terrible sometimes. To feel better, wait.

You're cranky, hungry, tired and head-achey because you've been eating a lot of things that you know are bad for you. To feel better, stop eating sugar.

Unfortunately, the blithe "stop eating sugar" mandate is tough sell right now.

Sugar is my achilles heel. My mouth loves it, my body hates it. If I eat sugar, I feel tired and cranky and my brain goes foggy and my skin breaks out and I have cravings for a week.

In the past, simply acknowledging the cycle and recognizing how much worse my life is when I'm eating sugar has been enough to pop me out of the dreaded cycle.

Making good food choices is an experiential process. Quitting certain foods to lose weight or because it's healthier isn't enough of an incentive for me, because the concepts are too vague. Vague does not hold up well when confronted with butterscotch pudding on a sunny patio. But experimenting with alterations - over the past five years, I've experimented with raw, vegan, and no sugar - for long enough to learn how I feel and how my life shifts without those things provides amazing incentives. Like, stop eating that thing and life gets 100% better and you know this to be a fact. Now, that's an incentive.

When I'm off sugar, I don't have food cravings, I sleep well, my energy is high, creative work feels easy, my moods are cheerful, my skin is clear and my jeans fit.

But sugar is in everything. It’s in your curry chicken when you go out for Indian food, it’s in bread you buy at the grocery store, it’s in basically any food that comes in a box or from a restaurant. It also craftily hides under innocuously healthy sounding names, like honey and brown rice syrup. Alcohol reacts in your body the same way sugar does. So do potatoes.

Sugar is also in pancakes and oh my stars, how I love pancakes. Green juice is so terribly uninspiring when what you really want is a stack of buttery blueberry pancakes.

But pancakes make me feel terrible and green juice makes me feel like I’m flying through the sky on a friendly dragon.

I’ve been dabbling in sugar again, because I've been going out to eat a lot more often than in past years and I'm in a relationship now so my exercise routine is all thrown off and also the demon of over-confidence started to whisper in my ear about how "sugar doesn't affect you that much!" and "you're fine!" and "mmm, buttercream-frosted cupcakes!" 

I’ve given up sugar four or five times now. Sometimes it lasts for a year, sometimes it lasts for six months, last week it lasted for about three days. Usually, I have to hit some point of pain - like watching the sugar cycle of crankiness and depression roller coaster me up and down for awhile until I decide it’s absolutely 100% not worth it. Then everything clicks in and abandoning sugar feels easy for green juice feels easy. But I just haven't hit that point yet. And I'm a little mad at myself because I need that point.

Willpower isn't really a thing for me. I have no interest in torturing myself, even for the sake of health or feeling better. Self-control and discipline have never made me jump for joy. So I wait until eating sugar is actually a more painful prospect than not eating sugar and everything gets easy.

Why Crying Is The Best Thing Ever and We Should All Do More of It

Amber

One of the very best things to do when there are feelings. 

One of the very best things to do when there are feelings. 

Who's been crying a lot lately? ME TOO.

After years of desperately wishing I had been born with an instruction manual because I really don't understand how I operate and am prone to pulling the wrong levers, I'm finally noticing how deeply my emotions can help or inhibit me.

If I observe and express them - usually by sobbing like my heart's about to shatter like glass on concrete - they help me.

If I ignore them or decide I don't have time for them right now because I have to watch TV or because whatever's on my to-do list is infinitely more pressing, they inhibit me.

When I let myself carry around unexpressed emotion, it totally blocks me up. To the point where I can't function. Getting client work done is like pushing a two-story house up a cliff using only my thumbs and writing anything creative is impossible. My brain spends all its energy coughing up all the reasons my relationships don't work and why everything is terrible and why that won't ever change.

But when I let myself cry - sob, really, in the most dramatic fashion possible - in an hour or so, everything feels better.

My therapist told me I needed to cry more and I thought that was silly. "I cry the perfect amount," I thought. But then I'd go for a week or two without giving much attention to my emotional state and everything would begin to pile on top of me like layers of fog and dust and rubbish until my entire life felt like a toxic waste site. Crying is like washing away the acres of sludge with a convenient tsunami that leaves everything clear and ready for whatever's next.

I feel like someone just handed me that instruction manual. 437 pages on How Amber Works, complete with diagrams. Now every time I feel incapable of getting anything done, it's not because I'm lazy or unmotivated or undisciplined or in the wrong career or a complete waste of space. It just means that I need to go outside and stick my bare feet in the grass and cry for awhile. Or go make a list of everything I'm feeling sad and angry about. The signs have been pointing me in this direction for a long time, I was just too caught up in telling myself I was a bad human to see what was really going on.

Crying is incredibly freeing. It releases whatever has piled up on top of you and wipes your outlook on life clean. Crying makes you happier, smarter, more productive, and less prone to guilt trips. Crying takes the mess your three-year-old inner self has made on the etch-a-sketch of your life and shakes it clear.

I think we should all spend some time crying today. Maybe even every day.

Unexpected Things That Make My Life 100% Better

Amber

The more I take care of myself, the more I see that self-care is the golden ticket. On June 11, I declared it Be Nice To Amber month. Because I enjoy making grand pronouncements that don't mean anything to anyone but me. I encourage you to try it - bonus points awarded for grand proclamations made while wearing a paper crown and wielding a scepter made out of a broom and tin foil.

In the past, these types of pronouncements have required massive lists of things I probably wasn't going to do, so that I could feel good and terrible when half of it didn't happen. This time, I just set the intention. I was going to be kind to myself, deeply kind, in a way I've rarely been - whatever that ended up meaning.

Here's What That Ended Up Meaning

Listed here because one of my favorite things on the internet is reading about what other people do and how it works for them - and maybe you like reading about that too. 

Not Dating: Dating stopped making me happy, so I stopped dating. Easy. When I stopped dating the way we date these days - constantly prodding my dating apps and spending my days in a daze of hopeful despair over some random guy or another - I started feeling good again. Like all the pieces of my power and self-worth that went on vacation with Hot Guys #1-27 could come back to me. Like I could go about my life feeling whole and happy and not wondering if Hot Guy #16 - that day's favorite - was going to text me back. The energy that brand of dating sucked away from my work and my life and what truly makes me happy was immeasurable. I'm becoming very aware of the energy leaks in my life, and dating is a leach (and a leech - hi, fellow word nerds!) that's simply not worth it. Besides, the internet isn't the only delivery system for a mate. Certainly not when you're poking at it like a cocaine-addled lab rat in search of its next hit.

Stopping with the List Making: My lists expand into any media on which you can write words. I have lists on my phone, lists on my computer, lists on paper, lists on post-it notes, lists in my head. My lists have lists. This is exhausting. Draining. Lists are the Dementors of my life. So I gave them up - trusting myself to know what I had to do and trusting myself to actually do it. My happiness quotient jumped by a factor of a zillion. I would nap when I needed to nap, write when I had something to write about, work when it was time to work. Easy.

(Note: I started panicking and making lists again a few days ago. The lists are far lighter and more realistic than they used to be, but I can still feel them pulsing in the corner of the room, ready to suck out my soul at the first misstep. I'm thinking about walking over and ripping them up. Obviously, my relationship with lists is still in process.)

13 Minutes a Day Toward a Personal Project: Just enough time to get something done, but not so much time that you stress out about it. I always feel better when I'm working on the thing that's been squatting in the back of my brain for a year, throwing a bottle at my skull every so often to remind me that it exists. Not ignoring projects > ignoring projects.

Real Food: This one isn't so unexpected - I've known for years that if I eat more veggies and fruit and 90% less processed stuff, I feel better. More energy, more mental clarity, no worry about stuffing my thighs into denim tubes. But sometimes life happens and suddenly you're eating pancakes made with chocolate milk three times a week. When I started taking care of myself - looking at what truly makes me feel good and give me energy and what doesn't - the shift back to eating things that grow in the ground was effortless.

Bye, Bye Black Beans: Giving up coffee, yo. In all the dietary changes I've made over the last four years, in all their rises and falls, coffee is the one thing I could never bear to abandon. But suddenly I just didn't want it any more. When I experimented a bit, I realized that it fuzzes me out in a way that stunts my creativity and my connection. Nope.

Yoga with Candles: God, I'm such a girl. But Lanny told me about the Yoga Download app and instead of watching episodes of Frasier until I fall I asleep, I've been doing 20 minutes of yoga before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. My spine sounds less like bubble wrap being stepped on and my rest is better. 

No Glowing Boxes Before Bed: Yeah, yeah. Everyone tells you this and I've always meant to do it. Really, I have. But there's something so comforting about sleeping with your phone right next to your head, isn't there? But then I wake up in the morning and instead of getting up to be a productive, happy human, I start jabbing at my phone with my index finger and then I've been in bed an extra hour for no good reason. Yoga cured me of sleeping with my phone like a teddy bear. After I'm all stretchy and glowing, the last thing I want to do is turn on the blare of a screen.

One Decadent Thing a Week: Massage. New running clothes to replace the hand-me-downs and ancient t-shirts. Reading Harry Potter on the deck with a peach. Decadent doesn't have to mean expensive - though in the case of the running clothes that's precisely what it means. (Being adorable during exercise does not come cheap, it seems.) It just means something I wouldn't ordinarily do for myself. Something I really, really like.

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With every passing day, I feel better and more whole and like I am worthy of the fundamentals that I believe everyone deserves: work they adore, enough money to live the life they want (it's just lucky that I don't want a tiger on a gold leash*), a home that nurtures them, and to feel and radiate love every damn day. It all rolled out naturally, born of a desire to be good to myself in a real way. Deeply kind, not "I want to do this thing so now I'm going to do it because that's being nice to myself, right?"

* On second thought, A TIGER ON A GOLD LEASH SOUNDS AMAZING. Sign me up for that too.

My Be Nice To Amber month ends on July 11. Which also happens to be my birthday, if you happen to have a baby giraffe to unload. (Please note: Now accepting deliveries of baby giraffes.) All of this has changed the way I feel so significantly that I'm going to keep right on doing it. Especially that part about the massages.

I've taken care of parts of myself in the past. But I've rarely taken care of all of me - mind, body, spirit, emotions - all at the same time. This month, I've been happier, I've gotten more and better work done, the brain hamsters are all asleep in their hammocks, and I feel energized and peaceful. Well, okay then.

The day Be Nice To Amber Month ended. I felt good, I was happy, great experiment, the end. 

The day Be Nice To Amber Month ended. I felt good, I was happy, great experiment, the end. 

Your Turn

What's the nicest, most deeply kind thing you could do for yourself right now?

You don't have to answer here - although I'd love to know what your answer is - but give it a few minutes of thought. It's shifted so much for me in just one month that I want to walk up to people on the street and shake them and yell, "ARE YOU BEING NICE TO YOURSELF? IT HELPS! IT REALLY, REALLY HELPS!" Maybe while wearing a tin foil crown and riding a baby giraffe.

Making Space For All The Feelings

Amber

You only have so much room in your brain and your heart and your body. When your body gets clogged with emotion like fear and anger, it seeps into your heart and your head, leaving less space for things you actually want. I spend a lot of my time clearing space. I cry at least three times a week. I do that free write thing where you sit down for ten or twenty minutes and keep your fingers typing constantly, so that whatever is choking your brain can be laid out on paper for you to delete or burn. If something is pressing on my throat or my chest, I determine what it is and what it's trying to tell me.

In my younger days, the manic pixie dust of the mantra made me scoff, but I'm learning how deeply valuable a good mantra can be for reframing situations and popping my brain out of its habitual negativity. Like when I catch myself worrying about some new relationship possibility and why he hasn't called, I've trained my brain to call up what I want instead, using a phrase that reminds me that he doesn't need to call, that's not where we are now, and all I need to do is hold a light, curious space for both of us to discover what this is. Usually, when I dissolve whatever is knotting up in my chest, he calls. Or I call and he picks right up and says he was just thinking about me.

Using whatever causes pain - often a thought your brain is convinced is the most deeply true thing in the universe but has no real truth in anyone's world but your own - as a trigger for investigation rather than a trigger to shut down can change your life.

Investigation allows you to instill new habits. New habits can shift the Pavlovian response of your brain so it tips toward positive thoughts rather than negative. In the end, your brain just isn't that smart. It's a tape recorder that only knows what has gone before. In order to expand and create and experience new things, you need to move out of your brain and into your body. Because your body registers emotion in a very physical way and that emotion is where change happens. When you dive into an emotion and feel it until it shifts and dissolves, space opens. When you track a negative thought and reprogram your brain to shift toward how you want to think about a situation rather than how you've thought about it in the past, space opens.

When you create that space, you get to decide how to fill it. Love and joy and progress need room. You can't try to paste good stuff on top of bad and hope it all works out okay. Sometimes it does. Sometimes the good stuff dissolves the bad. But keeping it good requires cleaning. Your emotional life needs just as much attention as your career and your relationships and your home. At first, this pissed me off - the last thing anyone needs is one more place to tend. But when you tend your emotions, everything else gets exponentially easier.

The more space I create, the less cynical and more creative I become. When I'm not so bogged down in fear, there's more room for wonder and awe. When I'm not constantly dodging how I feel, I have the space to notice that it truly is an amazing world, full of tilting giraffes and ballet dancers and people who strap wooden boards to their legs and go spinning off cliffs. Humans flying through the air on wings made by hands. Music that can touch the emotion you didn't know you had. Words strung together in just the right way. Actors who reflect feelings you recognize and offer them up from a different place, a place of story, so that maybe you can understand yourself in a new way.

Our favorite things - movies, music, books - often evoke our own emotion. Because they're a safe space where our feelings can be reflected back to us and maybe begin to heal.

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This post came from watching this video. My favorite part is at minute six where everyone starts dancing. My least favorite part is where the dude at 6:41 punches a stuffed giraffe. 

Anger's Pure Burn

Amber

For most of my life, whenever I was confronted with extreme emotion - especially the loud, yelling kind - I would shiver like a chihuahua and search desperately for the nearest exit. Not this time. There were some opinions this weekend about how I live my life and they were vehement. Maybe I shouldn't be proud of standing up, shouting straight in someone's face. But I am proud. I gave as good as I got and I didn't sit there and take what was thrown at me - something I did in different situations for a reasonable portion of my twenties. Taking someone else's story as fact, especially someone else's story about you, can be poisonous and that poison can eat away at your soul. I know, because I had to spend the first half of my thirties collecting pieces of myself from where I'd abandoned them, chewed up and forgotten. Obviously, someone else's opinions and stories won't bother you unless you see a nugget of truth in them. That's when other people's opinions - as infuriating as they can be - are valuable. They can shine a light on a part of you that needs attention and love.

What needs attention and love right now is me.

You can't ignore a child and expect them to flourish, you can't ignore your career and expect it to expand, you can't ignore a houseplant and expect it to be all perky and green. You can't ignore yourself - your real self, whatever that means to you - and expect to thrive.

I need to surrender my habit of allowing my worth to be determined by outside factors. I need to surrender the fear that makes that possible - the fear of not being enough, the fear of not doing enough, the fear of not doing it right. Because when I judge my value by based on what I've written, the zeros in my bank balance, how my family thinks of me, how men think of me, it detracts from me.

When I get caught in a loop like this, it's like I float out of my body. I go about my life. I look before I cross the street, I answer email, I do the dishes. But I'm not conscious of any of it. My brain is so far lost in what has happened or what might happen that I have no idea what is happening.

That's why I'm proud of myself for being angry. It took me a long time to learn how to be that present with my emotions or that willing to share them. I dropped right into what was happening and anger is was what I found. It felt pure, somehow. It was a pure emotion that burned through me and I allowed the fire to the surface, instead of letting it blacken my internal organs. Without even trying, I fought fair. I was mad, but I didn't hurl accusations or character denigrations. I just let how I was feeling in that moment fly.

Now when I think about how to let go of identifying myself through other people's stories, I start to worry. Worry about how I can change that, how I can do it right, how I can be right so I can get what I want. Doing exactly what I'm trying to move away from.

But if I drop into the present moment, things start to feel clear. It's a crisp, sunny day in San Francisco. I'm sitting in a cafe with a latte and a bagel. I can see the sun shine on dark blue and bright green and warm orange. I can take a deep breath, my fingers can type, I have legs that can run, and a brain that can think - and then accept when it's time to stop thinking. I have plenty of money for the moment and ideas on how to extend that moment into the more socially acceptable future. I have a home today, I'll have a different home on Saturday, and I have several good options for homes in the future. I have friends who love me and things to look forward to. I have so much and, when I focus on that, it's hard to remember why I was worried in the first place.