Free Bird: Lessons in Learning and Letting Go

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” -Langston Hughes

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I remember that humid day in late July. As I frantically sorted everything I owned in my micro-sized Astoria bedroom, I gathered boxes, made piles of things to sort and purge on the street, took a sip of vodka and wiped the sweat from my forehead. Moving was a daunting task. I felt disgusting- from both the summer heat and the way I was living my life. It was the summer of 2016 on 34th Street and Broadway, and despite being steps from the subway, nightlife, friends and entertainment, my existence was miserable.

2016 was an interesting year to say the least. It began on a very positive note- high hopes for my freelance fashion marketing business, potential partnerships in place, optimistic about love and beginning to live a life focused on mindfulness. Life is funny sometimes; right when you think you have it under control, it all comes crashing down.

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Sometimes I wonder, “how did it all go so wrong?” With each setback or failure I began to self-destruct, only to pick myself back up again and repeat the cycle relentlessly. My career, my relationships and my values were not the same as they were when I moved to Gotham in 2014, and I realized the universe may have been telling me something all along. It took me just over two years to realize everything I thought I had wanted and wished for may not be what I wanted after all. After several failures, the final straw was finding out I had to find a new place to live and a new job within the same week. I was back to the drawing board, and my head- and heart- couldn’t take it any more. I loved the old dreams more than I was loving and caring for myself.

That July day was the last I saw of New York… until Friday.

It took me seven months to return to the city that held so many of my dreams. While I may have cursed New York when I left, I look back and realize it wasn’t New York’s fault at all. My perspective on life changed during my time in New York City, and today I hold the experiences (both good and bad) near and dear to my heart. Returning to New York was like getting a warm hug from an old friend- familiar sights and streets, the same bodega cats and subway performers, memories of old haunts and even the not-so-pleasant smells of the city made me smile.

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Words could never express how grateful I am to have experienced such a full two years of ups, downs, laughter and heartbreak. Sometimes I joke that I got my Master’s Degree in NYC- it was two very expensive and educational years, indeed. Each experience taught me how to be a better person, friend and not to take life so seriously. Some other important lessons were…

Focus on hard work, not just walk on a dream.

Dreams are great- never let them go. Just watch out for yourself and be realistic.

Honor and value myself as much as those I love.

Why did I put so much energy into someone else while I was struggling?

Look inside for happiness, not outside.

People, places and things are a temporary fix- you must find happiness within yourself.

If things don’t go according to plan, it’s okay to change your mind.

I did it, and you can to.

Once you can accept the past and heal from your mistakes, you’re ready to move forward.

Just like Gabby Bernstein shared in her New Year’s Webinar, you can’t fully move on and make positive changes if you haven’t healed from the past. Facing the city and people in my life was an extremely positive way for me to end the first month of the year, so now I am feeling especially strong and ready to accept the love and success that 2017 will bring me.

My trip was closure on the life that I left last July, and I was able to say goodbye once again in a very different tone- with a  joyful “see you later!” After realizing that my mistakes do not define me, I was able to accept myself and my past- and I will accept (and know I deserve) the wonderful things that come my way. Today I am ready to spread my wings and fly toward my new goals- this time, with a brand new box of tools from the city that never sleeps.

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Relief for Political Stress

Just the other day I was thinking about my anxiety level. “Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve felt nervous,” I thought to myself. I shared with my mom how great I had been feeling.

“That’s wonderful! Are you taking any medication?” she asked.

“No!” I replied, feeling accomplished with my healthy habits and natural stress-relieving skills.

Then, Inauguration Day came. Trump smiling on TV, angry social media posts flowing and dismal news reports speculating the fate of our nation made me think, “where is the Xanax when I need it?”

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Although I’ve been able to maintain a relatively even keel for some time now, the ignorant political messaging, bigotry and utter hatred triggered my mood.

I’ve worked too hard at serenity to let politics interfere with my zen.

Instead of starting a Twitter war or self medicating, I stayed calm and indulged in two days of self-care this past weekend. My roommate and I ordered pizza, enjoyed girl talk and focused on happy things. I wore pajamas all day, snuggled with the cat and started Brené Brown’s book, I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t). In addition to self-care, a few other things helped me get out of my political agitation and back into a place of positivity.

Self-Improvement

Reading always gets me out of my own head. I’ve found a variety of grounding books that have helped me put life into perspective; from Eckhart Tolle to Gabrielle Bernstein. When I look at life from a higher, spiritual place, my mind is put at ease and my thoughts become much more peaceful. I have to remember that I am not in control of the universe, but I am in control of my thoughts.

I also began watching Matt Kahn videos on YouTube, who has a wonderful website called True Divine Nature. My favorite video discusses soul contracts, soul mates, twin flames and the most important- being your own best friend before you can truly connect with another soul. It’s definitely worth a watch!

Know Yourself

As much as I wanted to march in Boston on Saturday, I knew it would trigger my anxiety. I’ve never done well in crowds, so instead I showed my support by sending my friends messages of encouragement. It’s been a little over two months since my last anxiety attack (yes, they’re real, and yes- they’re scary).

I always recommend stepping out of your comfort zone, but don’t put yourself into a situation that will make you feel worse, not better.

Limit the Social Media

My anxiety level went from zero to one hundred when I read a status calling Saturday’s marchers “oppressed, spoiled, and entitled.” I wanted to reach through the computer screen and shake some sense into this person (to put it nicely). Instead, it came out in a moderately condescending Facebook comment. Did I need to comment? Of course not. Did I do so peacefully? Yes, I believe I did.

The takeaway from my social media experience? Use it sparingly. Instead of filling my extra time with social media (an open invitation for an anxiety attack), I try to pick up a book, write down my thoughts in a journal or take action, bringing me to my final stress-relieving suggestion.

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Get Involved

The Women’s March on Washington was only the beginning! I highly suggest joining the 10 Actions for the First 100 Days campaign to speak up for causes you care about to take a stand toward equality.

Whether it’s speaking up about violence, reproductive rights, women’s health, LGBT rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom, environmental justice or anything else that matters to you, now is your chance! You can print your own postcard to send to your senator and check out ideas for your message here.

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Representing Nasty Women on Inauguration Day in Boston

Radical Acceptance: You Don’t Have to Agree to Accept

 

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Last year I was living in New York City, which was an interesting time to be in Manhattan. I worked on 56th Street and Fifth Avenue, just across from Trump Tower. Police and passerbys filled the street every day, taking photos of the tower, the anti-Trump signs and the protesters.

Although I tried to keep a neutral stance, I was a Bernie Sanders supporter from the very start. I was able to go to his rally in the Bronx with 18,500 others, and needless to say, was quite disappointed with the overall outcome. However, I was left with no other choice: to accept.

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Before the rally. St. Ann’s Park, South Bronx

While I miss New York from time to time, I don’t miss the crowds and the aggression. There is the constant rat race to achieve more and better, to get somewhere faster and to trample over people to get what you want (both figuratively and literally). Our new President displays this to a tee.

After leaving NYC I had the opportunity to take some time to reflect and re-assess my purpose. I knew that I wasn’t living the life I was destined for and that the rat race wasn’t where I belonged. Everything in my life became so unmanageable that I had to spend some time to hit reset and focus on my own self-care.

Hoping for an answer, I learned about a woman last fall named Marsha Linehan, a psychologist who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioral science with concepts like acceptance and mindfulness. Dr. Linehan came up with a set of distress tolerance skills to help with mental disorders, addiction, business and everyday life. My very favorite skill is Radical Acceptance– accepting reality for what it is. While you can’t change everything, there is an amazing feeling of peace when you simply accept.

Although I wasn’t convinced that DBT could work for me, it changed my life. I believe it is what gave me my spiritual awakening, and for that I am beyond grateful. Re-learning a way to think and to consistently be conscious of the present moment has been key to my overall well-being and happiness. My stress has diminished and my anxiety attacks have stopped. Each time I begin to worry or have an unsettling feeling, I stop and bring myself back to the moment. 

Everything else is in my imagination- all I have is here and now.

We can’t determine what the next four years will look like, so living in fear today is pointless. All we can do is stay in the moment, have gratitude and love one another. We’re all in this together, but it’s a conscious choice whether you want to be a part of the positivity. When we all do better, we all do better.

Please be safe this weekend- especially to my friends who are marching in Washington DC tomorrow. Everything will be okay- and remember:

Today, right now, I am safe. My needs are met. For this I am grateful.

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Nothing but peace at the Bernie Sanders rally