Welcome to Bringing Back Awesome, where we hope to enrich your life every single day with a dash of excitement and a punch of awesomeness!

Dare to take off your mask

take off your maskWe all wear masks in certain settings of our lives. Perhaps at work you wear a more professional mask. With your friends you might don your more lively social mask. And with a spouse or a lover, in a private moment you may wear a secret, sexy mask. All parts of the whole of you. It wouldn’t be appropriate to wear those masks in the wrong settings, so we tend to follow the rules that society sets about the whys and wherefores of the masks we wear.

But sometimes the masks we wear become too fixed. A mask we wear has somehow become a part of our persona. Who we are.

We somehow feel pressured in certain settings to wear a mask that may no longer be comfortable. Akin to a role we play in certain relationships in our lives. Maybe you’re the caregiver. Or the strong one. Or the emotional one.

Maybe you’ve turned the mask into your identity. Wife. Mother. Boyfriend. Sister. Husband. Friend.

And sometimes the mask that has become your identity can cover up parts of you that you used to know and love. Parts that are now hidden behind the mask.

Sometimes others push us to wear the mask and we acquiesce. Just to keep the peace. Or to make someone else happy.

Other times wear willingly submit to wearing the mask because it’s just easier. The path of least resistance.

Or maybe we just didn’t realize that we had a choice and that we were good enough to go without the mask. That we could be naked and live in our own truth.

It was only recently that I recognized one mask that I’ve been wearing for a very long time. Years. One that I’d forgotten I’d even put on.

I used to be a much more physically affectionate person. Touchy-feely. The brush of a hand on the arm of someone I was talking to. Leaning in to touch someone when we were laughing and having a good time. A spontaneous hug just to let someone know I adored them and was enjoying my time with them.

But it bothered some people. And rather than questioning the warmth and openness of the people who were uncomfortable, I questioned myself. I changed myself. I molded myself to fit their needs and I created a strong and powerful mask of an invulnerable person who no longer expressed herself in the manner that was inherent to her nature. I became someone else. Someone who I wasn’t.

I donned a mask and wore it for a very, very long time. Years, in fact. Until just recently, when something made me realize that a part of me was missing. In fact, it was not something, but someone, mirroring this affectionate behavior to me, who awakened this part of me. Seeing and feeling someone touch me with that warmth and caring of a friend made me remember this part of myself. It reminded me that this more authentic version of myself needed to emerge and discard that mask, even if it made others uncomfortable. Even if the people whom I’ve chosen to be around weren’t used to this version of me. I needed to honor that part of me that spontaneously wanted to reach out and touch others and stop holding myself back from being kind and affectionate.

I decided to discard this old and useless mask. And it feels good and new and warm and authentic.

So what about you? What mask have you been wearing just because it’s what you’ve been doing, maybe even for years? Dare to take it off.

It may make people in your life a bit uncomfortable. Maybe even a lot uncomfortable. But it’s your life, damn it, and there’s no sense in hiding behind a mask and being half of who you were meant to be.

So go ahead. Take off your mask.

Who are we?

we-have-changed

Denise and I were talking on the phone recently, discussing something bloggy, or maybe something personal – I can’t quite recall – but I do remember how the discussion unfolded.

We were discussing a particular situation and both of our responses were so very different than they would have been a couple of years ago. As in better different. Calmer, more reasonable, less reactive.

Denise asked jokingly, “Who are we?”

And I responded, quite seriously, “We are people who have come a long way.”

We have come a long way. We have grown. We have changed. We are better versions of ourselves. We are more open, more honest, more authentic, while at the same time being calmer, stronger, and more able to take on the troubles we may face and embrace the joys that life brings.

Why is that?

Because we want to change and grow. We want to become better, stronger, more authentic people. We want to be true to ourselves, and in turn, we will become more true to others. We are willing to be uncomfortable and shed our skin and grow into our new-found selves.

We are growing into awesome, more and more every day.

How about you? Are you willing to dispense with the old and change and grow into a more authentic you? Maybe you’ve already changed a bunch and come a long way? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Travel in the direction of our fear

we must travel in the direction of our fearThis isn’t the first time we’ve talked about fear here. It’s a very real thing that comes up from time to time in our lives. And I’m not talking about fear of spiders or being afraid of heights. I’m talking about the fear of pursuing certain things in our lives. Bigger things. Better things. Or merely things that stretch our understanding of who we are as individuals and where we find ourselves in the world.

It’s those kinds of fears that are giving us a message in life. Telling us that it’s time to erase some of the harsh lines we’ve drawn in our lives. Time to evolve a little. Time to recognize that life is lived more in the grey area than in the comfort of the black and white. Time to push ourselves a bit and stretch our boundaries to experience something greater in our lives.

In other words, it’s time to grow.

When we feel that cool feeling of fear in the pit of our stomachs, it is indeed a message. A statement. It is our soul saying it’s time. Time to morph into a stronger, braver version of ourselves.

So come on now…let’s travel in the direction of our fear.

Crossfit & The Bigger Picture

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Yesterday, I was told by my on-ramp coach and fellow crossfitter that he has never seen someone mentally challenge themselves as much as I do when I walk into the gym. He said compared to a lot of people he knows, athletes included, my mental game is far more intense than any other he has ever seen, adding when he looks at my face he can see my mind change and that he can even watch me psych myself out.

Well, I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or not. And looking back on it, I don’t think he meant anything by it (in fact, he said that crossfit would help my mental game), but I do think I may have been slightly offended, but I played it off like, “that’s just my nature, blah blah blah.” And to be clear, it is a little bit my nature. However, I’ve been told a lot of things about how I look (so intense, stand offish, stuck up), and I put up a guard when someone comments on my character. And the old me would have gone off on him. But I’m a different person these days, and his comments made me think a little. And by a little I mean the 5 mile drive home.

However, it wasn’t until later that day when I saw a Facebook post by my crossfit gym, Crossfit Infernal, that things really started to sink in for me. They asked their followers to comment on the following statement, “However Infernal has helped changed your life lets us know!!”

And right there, it all came together like a wall ball hitting me dead center in the chest, knocking me to the floor. The mental comments and this question! It all just melded together for me at that moment. But instead of writing my comment on their page, I wanted to share it here.

Crossfit for me is more than wanting to look good in the jeans I’ve been hanging on to for 3+ years (yes, I’ve been saving them). And while fitting into my old jeans and looking good in my clothes is a part of why I do crossfit, it’s become much more. It goes deeper than what is on the outside and has really become part of who I am these days.

From the moment my alarm goes off at 4:45AM, my mental game begins. First, it is convincing myself to get up to get to the gym. Of course I’d rather stay at home in my bed for another hour and a half. But I convince myself that I need to get to the gym, although I’m not sure why.

Once I’m at the crossfit gym, the mental game continues, and YES, IT…GETS..INTENSE. And YES, wall walks psych me out. They make me cry. I get emotional at the gym sometimes. And for a while, I was embarrassed by it. But I’m not anymore. Really, sometimes I just can’t hold in the tears. I’m on my own journey there, and it’s very different from everyone else’s journey. And if they see me cry there, it’s because I’ve made a breakthrough, and that I’m comfortable enough with them to share how I really do feel.

Every day I step foot into that gym, I face my fears. Fear I won’t be able to do the workout, fear I’m going to quit, fear of others judging me, and the fear of doing it all on my own. And that is a scary place to be. While I wait for them to yell at my 6 o’clock class to take a lap for our warm-up, I’m really trying to psych myself into doing it. I’m digging deep, and finding the will within myself to just do it, without regrets, never looking back.

The mental game continues throughout the day, especially with me trying to start a new business, being a wife, a mother, sometimes a chauffeur, a cook; you name it, I’m playing the role. There is always doubt and fear. But crossfit has taught me that I CAN conquer my fears. I CAN absolutely get through it all if I take a step back, dig deep, and mentally talk myself through everything.

Crossfit has taught me to love myself and all the layers that make up the person I am. It’s taught me to be strong, both physically and mentally. It has helped me figure out who and what I want in my life. And some of those people are right there in that gym – total strangers who want to see you succeed.

So yes, my on-ramp coach/fellow crosffitter was right when he said he sees a mental challenge going on when I walk through the doors at the gym. It’s me, playing through how I want to see that hour go down. I’m picturing myself completing the workout, not matter how long it takes me. It’s me prepping for how I want to see myself get through the day. And when you take away the intense look, and sometimes the foul language that gets me through it, the mental game is all positive.

I am a lucky person to have found an outlet like crossfit, and grateful to have them in my life.

 

 

Something is going on here

coming out of my cocoon

Something is going on here. Something is happening. Something is afoot.

An ownership of my life that I have never taken before.

Owning my heart and my mind and my soul and my spirit and making decisions for who that person is and who that person is becoming.

Decisions growing out of the bottom of my soul, not rooted in what society thinks is good or bad, right or wrong.

Decisions based on love for myself and love for my body and love for my soul and love for this beautiful and brief life, this amazing but short time we’re gifted on this earth.

Something is happening.

I’ve left the comfort of my cocoon and taken flight.

Are you ready to fly too?

Celebrate the successes of others

high five

Many times we get so caught up in our own journeys – our own struggles and triumphs and tribulations – that we forget how joyous it can feel to celebrate the successes of others.

Just this morning I had a phone conversation with someone close to me who shared a success of hers and the success of a friend of hers and it made me feels so very happy. Made my day, in fact.

This was especially enlightening because recently I’ve been in my own head a lot about things that are going on in my life and have been wondering how to get out of that overthinking rut. Well, one way is to celebrate the successes of someone else. Share with them how happy you are for them.

So today, share someone else’s joy and see how wonderful it makes you feel. It might just make their day and your day!

 

Treading Water

treading waterNo animals were harmed in the making of this blog post

What do you do when you wake up one morning and realize that despite all of your efforts, you still aren’t where you want to be in your life?

It’s not even like anything major is wrong. Nope. More that nothing is great. Things are kind of “meh.” Just moving along. Mediocre. Not exactly awesome.

First, recognize it for what it is. Temporary.

This, too, shall pass. This sense of ennui is just a place you are passing through on your journey to something greater.

Then tread water.

Just get through your day or week or even month.

Many times when we find ourselves in this place it’s because certain things or people have been demanding our attention. Perhaps work has been crazy. Or maybe you’ve been nursing a family member with the flu. Or whatever.

Something other than pursuing your wildest dreams has been sucking up your time. And that’s OK. It happens. That’s the point when we should give ourselves a break and tread water.

In fact, this is the place where I’ve been over the last couple of weeks. A very busy phase at work seems to have consumed my life. At times it left me asking myself if maybe I shouldn’t just give up and forget about my dreams. Just focus on the work I’m paid to do and forget about all of the other stuff. But then I realized that was the busyness and the exhaustion speaking. Not the real me. That I just needed to tread water for a bit and all of my inspiration would eventually come flooding back when my world evened out a bit again. It seems I’m seeing a glimmer of that hope again today.

I’ve talked about treading water before. How it’s better than crumbling and falling into a ball on the floor. And how sometimes it’s the thing that gets you from point A to point B.

So when you wake up on that one very not special day and feel like your life in all areas has come to a screeching halt, give yourself permission to just tread water for a bit.

Nobody said it would be easy

not so easy buttonIf there’s anything that I’ve learned over the last year or two, it’s that life is not always easy. In fact, frequently it’s not easy. But I’ve also learned that I’m strong enough to get through just about anything. At least anything I’ve experienced to date.

I don’t exactly know where I got the idea that life should be easy. Where did any of us come up with this concept? But no matter where it came from, it’s an idea that I had in my head. That somehow this should be an easy path. Free of struggles and problems. Smooth sailing.

That, however, it a fairy tale.

The best that we can hope for is problems we can solve and good people to spend our time with who will help us through the hard times. And the strength of will and courage of character to pursue changes in our life when things aren’t going the way we wanted them to go.

Now you may think that this a rather grim view of things, given that we’re always preaching self-empowerment here. I like to think of it more as managing expectations.

If we accept that life will throw a certain number of curve balls our way, we will understand that our job is to problem-solve to the best of our ability while still enjoying what’s good in our lives and living life to the fullest, despite our hardships.

If we believe in the idea that life should always be smooth sailing, then we’re going to be prone to anger and bitterness and resentment when things don’t go our way. It’s not to say that it’s wrong to feel these feelings. We’re human. We all experience them from time to time.

But if we can look at our hardships as just another bump in the road – terrain that can be navigated and conquered – then we will build an inner strength that will help us get through not only that hardship, but the next ones as well. Because let’s face it…problems keep on coming.

This is also not to meant to diminish the importance or the depth of pain that some life circumstances can bring. Because there are some life events that will knock you down so hard, you won’t know what hit you. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

This is where perspective becomes important. It’s critical to recognize which problems are not super critical or life threatening. Because those shouldn’t be given the same weight just because you don’t like the direction that life has taken. Yes, it may be a bitter pill to swallow, but remind yourself of all that’s good in your life and see if it doesn’t take away some of the sting. And even if it doesn’t, nobody said it would be easy.

But the good news is that this, too, shall pass.

Creating a nectar list

nectarUntil today, I’d never heard of a nectar list*. In case you haven’t either, it’s the antithesis of a bucket list. While a bucket list details the things we want to do before we kick the bucket, a nectar list tells the story of the things that have been the nectar of our existence so far.

Sounds pretty sweet if you ask me!

So of course I had to start one right away, and will share that with you here, in no particular order…

  • Drove across this fine country not once, but twice
  • Lived in New York City
  • Skinny dipped
  • Sang in front of an audience more times than I can count
  • Traveled alone on a plane many times as a child
  • Had the pleasure and privilege of living with all of my grandparents as a child
  • Spent a summer at music camp at Tanglewood
  • Lived in sunny southern California
  • Experienced the amazing gift of two babies taking their first breaths and have been granted the privilege of being their mother. Held another baby in my arms who never took a single breath. I was her mother too.
  • Fell in love with the desert
  • Got married and didn’t tell a single soul until afterwards
  • Got drunk with a dear friend and cut holes in our jeans with a pocket knife on High Street while I was in college at Ohio State
  • Laughed until I cried with so many people so many times in my life
  • Watched 4th of July fireworks over the East River from Manhattan
  • Stood in an elevator with Sting
  • Stayed for one very creepy overnight visit at the Ryde Hotel (think “The Shining“)
  • At 19 drove my 14-year-old sister and 12-year-old cousin around San Francisco with no directions. Somehow we landed at Fisherman’s Wharf. Got mooned by a carload of boys that same day.
  • Slept under the stars at a rest area when I went on a school trip the summer after 6th grade
  • Heard Rudolf Serkin play at Tanglewood when he was 81 years old. His beautiful playing was brilliant and magical and included some dings, making me realize that even the greats aren’t perfect. Also sat a couple tables away from him one afternoon on the grounds.
  • Got seasick riding the Staten Island ferry
  • Gone for ice cream in my pajamas more than once
  • Got a dog because I thought I would need one when driving to Alaska. Never drove to Alaska. (But it’s on my bucket list!)
  • Got soaked to the bone in a downpour watching opera in Central Park
  • Talked on the phone with Carly Simon
  • Watched 7 seasons of Doctor Who in one summer with my son to get caught up for the start of season 8
  • Heard Itzhak Perlman play the sweetest, most amazing violin at the Hollywood Bowl
  • Gotten out of bed to go for a burger at 4 in the morning
  • Asked the Novogratz for an interview and they did it

That’s all I can think of for now. What’s on your nectar list? Share your list in the comments if you’d like.

*Seems that the brilliant nectar list concept was created by blogger Sierra Vandervort. Let’s run with her beautiful idea and share it across the globe!

Help – Take It

learning-to-accept-helpToday at the gym, I hit a wall. I was completely wiped out by the end of my workout. So much so that I could not do the last 5 exercises I was given to do.

But I did one…and then two. I laid on the floor for a minute, and did three, and laid on the floor again. Everyone at the gym was encouraging, trying to get me to keep going. I got the 4th out, and that’s when it felt like I had nothing left. No way in hell I was going to do another. I couldn’t.

And then…I had a breakthrough.

My trainer said he’d do the last one with me, and he recruited someone else to do it as well. And I said, “No, it’s ok! Don’t!”

He replied, “When you say you don’t need help, you know what that means don’t you?” Of course I didn’t know what it meant. He said, “It means you really do want the help!”

Whoa! He was right. I really did want the help, but I didn’t want to seem like the only person who was asking for help in the class.

So later that day, I started to wonder, “Why do I not ask for help?”  “Why do I think it’s a sign of weakness if I ask for help?” “Why not accept someones help when they offer it?”

I don’t want to seem vulnerable and needy. I don’t want it to seem like I’m not strong.

Well guess what, it’s ok to ask for help and just accept it when someone offers it to you. It doesn’t mean you are any less stronger than you were before. Why should I care if anyone thinks I’m needy, vulnerable, and maybe weak in some areas of my life? I shouldn’t. Accepting help is pretty damned brave!

It’s clear at this gym and in this environment people want me to succeed. Total strangers want me to cross the finish line, and some will wait for me until I have crossed. They want me to reach that goal. But what’s more profound to me, is that these people who I barely know are willing to offer their help to a me, total stranger, totally giving of themselves. And from now on, to show my appreciation of that, I will gladly accept their help. Not just in this situation, but in many life situations.

So next time someone offers you help, go ahead, take it. I dare you.