Claiming My Name

When I was born, my mother gave me a common name.  She did this intentionally, as she had grown up with an unusual name and it garnered her more attention than she’d wanted.  My mother has always strived to blend into the background, to not call attention to herself when in public, to not stand out.  She gifted me with a name that she hoped would provide such a life for me: Jessica. The second most popular name for girls born in 1984 (second only to “Jennifer”, the name people most often mistakenly call me when they forget and just remember the “J”).

Unfortunately, my mother had given birth to a little girl who feared blending in, who desired attention, who wanted to stand out and be noticed.  She gave birth to a little girl who loved being a freak, a weirdo.  Of all the unique snowflakes out there, I wanted to be the most interesting, the one that everyone stopped and stared at.

Things were fine until I started high school.  In elementary school, I’d been the only Jessica in my class.  But in high school, there were at least seven other Jessicas in my grade.  I shared most of my classes with at least one of them, if not more.  And I started to learn to wait.  If a teacher asked a question, I would raise my hand.  But if they called on “Jessica”, I waited.  It might not be me.  It might be one of the other Jessicas.  I would wait.  They might not mean me.

As an adult, I’ve worked in several different places, or joined different groups.  I grew accustomed to hearing the following at job interviews, and on my first day at work: “Uh oh, we already have a Jessica.  We’ll have to call you something else.”  At which point, they would come up with my new “work name” so that they could easily identify me from the Jessica that had already established her dominance just by being there and having the same name.  I was a second-rate Jessica.  They already had one of me, and now I was extraneous.

It’s funny, I never realized the toll that had taken on my life until the last day of Hoop Path Retreat.  In Hoop Path, we start each session with blindfolded movement.  This particular day, Baxter had opened the space by reminding us that we are not our jobs, we are not our clothes, we are not our children, we are not our bodies, we are not our emotions, etc.  But under that blindfold, I made one more connection.

We are not our names.

I realized that all of that learned behavior…feeling like no one really wanted to talk to me, feeling extraneous, feeling like anyone acknowledging me probably meant to acknowledge someone else…I realized it had worked its way into my subconscious and had manifested as my reality.  You must not mean me.  I’m in the way.  I’m unnecessary.  If any one of us were dead weight, could be easily abandoned, it would be me.  I let myself land in second place, despite a longing to be in first.  I let myself take second place in communities, in relationships, in work environments.

I made those connections and they hit such a powerful nerve that I sobbed heavily under my blindfold for an entire song.

Last year after Hoop Path, I started creating my own Maidan* story.  I knew how old my Maidan was, how she felt, what she wanted, but I didn’t know her name.  I figured when the right name came to me, I would know it.

Under that blindfold, making those connections, I knew exactly what her name is.

Her name is Jess.

I am not my name, but I still love my name, and I have the right to own it.  I have the right to relish hearing it called by others.  I have the right to stand out.  I have the right to be unique.

Over the years, I’ve taken on nicknames from time to time, usually given to me by others.  Nicknames stick to me very well, and I embrace them, usually because I embrace the people who gave them to me.  Even my own mother hasn’t actually called me “Jessica” since I was four.  In recent years, I’ve joined the burner community, a group of people fond of renaming themselves to better fit the self the identity they’ve developed for themselves.  I have more friends that go by nicknames than their real names, to the point that I don’t even know some of their real names.

I do not need a “burner name” because Jess IS my burner name.  I am Jess.  That is the me that I identify with.

The next time someone dares to tell me, “Oh no, we already have a Jessica,” I will say, “The hell you do.  Bitch, you ain’t seen a Jess like me.  I guarantee you I’m the only one you have.  And that’s what you’ll call me.”

Because I deserve it.

*In Hoop Path “mythos”, the Maidan are an order of holy women who used hoops and hoop dance to connect with and understand the world around them.

Cycles of Self-Respect and Self-Neglect

I haven’t been posting too much recently because I haven’t been in the best of moods, but I’ve felt that if I’m trying to post stuff that makes other people feel good, I should probably feel good myself.


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Unfortunately, the truth is, I’ve been in something of a slump. I haven’t been going to yoga, I’ve been eating lots of ice cream, and I’ve been spending hour after hour locked in front of my computer watching Project Runway on Hulu. (By the way, I’m officially out of Project Runway episodes to watch, does anyone happen to have seasons 1-6 on DVD that I could borrow and watch obsessively?)

I’m getting dizzy spells when I stand up and I’ve broken out in my yearly summer rash. I’m a non-stop itch machine. Green and I are trying to move out of our apartment and all I want to do is lie on the floor and play Animal Crossing. (That’s not true, all I want to do is lie on the floor and watch Project Runway. But I’m out.)

In addition, I’ve noticed my waking temperatures (which I’ve been tracking every morning since going off the pill) are extremely low, in the 95 – 97 degree range. This could be a sign of thyroid issues, which might explain my dizzy spells, my rash, and why I’m lethargy-prone. I really don’t want to get it checked out, though, because I’m terrified of a positive diagnosis, and I do not want to be on thyroid medication.

The tipping point came yesterday, when I broke down in a fit of tears for no discernible reason.

And all this time, I’m thinking, “I should really blog about something,” but I’ve been avoiding blogging about my miserable mood because Jessica Mullen recommends only blogging about what you want more of, and I certainly don’t want more of my miserable mood. The “post-what-you-want” method works in theory, except for the fact that avoiding posting because I’m not in a great mood is just making me feel worse, and less authentic.

The truth is, I am a cyclical being. Ever since I started to be more health conscious, I’ve gone through cycles of being super on top of things and feeling great, to lying in slumps of absolute misery. It happens. I think it’s almost worse to get my hopes up thinking THIS TIME it will be permanent, because then when I fall off the wagon, I spend extra time beating myself up about the fact that I’m not being healthy like I know I should (and can) be. Which sets me back even further.

So my new motto, which I’ll repeat once more, is: IT HAPPENS. There are times when I let my health slack and I pull inward, staying home more than I go out. It happens, and I know I’m not the only one it happens to, either. So perhaps reading about my current temporary setbacks might make someone else feel less guilty about their own, because I think it is natural to be cyclical. It can’t be summer all the time, there has to be winter to balance things out.

Learning this stuff is a lifetime journey. Living healthfully, especially in a society that promotes dis-ease and quick fixes, is tough.

The good news, however, is that the more years I spend learning about health, the shorter my slumps get, and the longer my good stretches last. If nothing else, I can look forward to the fact that it can only get better from here. Not only that, but because of how much I’ve learned in the past, I know exactly how to fix it.


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My constant search for curing the problem and not the symptoms will never end. When I get to the point where I feel so bad that I know it’s time to get back on track, I ultimately find articles or books that point me in the right direction. This time, I’m giving cutting out sugar another shot. Five years ago, I did it for a month, but I ate lots of fruit and honey and felt miserable the entire time. It turns out that honey and fruits are just as bad for your system as refined sugar.

The stars seem to be aligning on this one: I know it’s sugar that’s slugging me down, and I’ve been reading Sarah Wilson‘s “I Quit Sugar” series on her blog for tips and support. Incidentally, Sarah Wilson also blogs about naturally healing and living with auto-immune disease (which includes thyroid issues).

The icing on the cake: A friend of mine on Facebook announced that she’s about to start her own 60 Days Without Sugar Challenge, and would anyone care to join her? Well, I love me a good challenge (and this one comes with a prize for the winner! A $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com, heck yes!), so I’ve signed up. The challenge starts July 6th, but I’ve already started, because I’m sick of feeling terrible. If anyone else wants to try this with me, check out Sarah Wilson’s blog and we’ll rock this out.

During slumps, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary, and that you have the power to get yourself back on track. At the same time, it’s just as important not to beat yourself up. We are human beings after all, and if the worst thing we’re doing to ourselves is having a few pints of ice cream and sleeping late for a month or two in between long stretches of honoring our bodies, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

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Breakdown of an Emotional Breakthrough (and a hoop!)

Let’s do the hoop first, because everyone loves to look at the pretties:

This was a custom order, delivered last night. Very well received. 🙂 Many thanks to my friend Lissa for helping me out to make sure the hoop got delivered on time!

ONTO THE BUSINESS PART OF THIS POST: I haven’t been blogging much the past week or so, and I wanted to explain why. It’s not for a lack of ideas, I’ve got ideas for posts scribbled on random scraps of paper, saved for when I would sit down at the keyboard again. But I felt I needed to make this particular post first, before making any of the others.

You see, I had an enormous emotional breakthrough this week. I mean, with giant, sopping globs of tears and snot and bawling at myself in the mirror while I mentally told myself (and believed) how wonderful I really am.

It happens.

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw some of this breakthrough occurring in real time.

It started with a blog post by Sarah Wilson. The title was “Possibly the most reassuring life advice I’ve been given”, and I clicked on it, figuring some good advice couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t realize I was clicking on a post that would lay out my greatest insecurity, the one I keep under the table and very rarely even admit to myself, in mind-numbing clarity. Nor did I expect it to tell me that the very personality traits that cause this insecurity are to be celebrated, not admonished. And I certainly didn’t expect the post to hand me the title of a guidebook for finally making peace with said insecurity.

The Personality Traits: I find something interesting, I get very excited about it, I commit to it and dive into it headfirst. I do everything I can to try to form a career, a living, off of this new thing I love. But the thrill always wears off and it always become something I do and enjoy, while the sparks of passion grow fewer and far between. And I leave a cloud of frustrated friends and family in my wake, who thought I was really going to do something this time, wondering why I stopped when I was doing so well.

The Insecurity: I’m then left wondering why I’m never happy with the idea of just getting a regular job like everyone else. Why I have to keep searching for something that truly fills me up, rather than just something to pay the bills. Wondering if my failure to be motivated by the paycheck is going to get me in serious trouble one of these days. Wondering if I really am lazy, a flake, a letdown. Thinking that there must be something wrong with me, because I can’t seem to find that one thing that makes me want to get up in the morning. Instead, I jump from thing to thing to thing.

I’ve grown to accept that might just be how I am, that I may never be interested in just one thing, that my passions will change and I’m just along for the ride. But then where does that leave me, as far as making a living goes? How do I do what I love, when what I love is never consistent?

Let’s get back to that blog post. It turns out that I am not the only person with this “problem”. And it turns out that it is not a problem at all. An amazing woman named Barbara Sher has labelled us “Scanners”, and she wrote a book about what it’s like to be a Scanner and how to deal with it, embrace it, and find work that won’t kill you. It’s called Refuse to Choose, and I was able to wait exactly one day before I caved and ran to the closest Barnes & Noble to get my own copy.

I devoured it. And I cried more than once reading it.

Here’s what’s up: Scanners love learning, and they learn very quickly. They tend to get what they want out of something simply by learning as much as they can, then moving on. Bosses tend to be impressed with how quickly these people pick up on their jobs, and want them to stay. But once a Scanner has learned the job, the “fun” part is essentially over, so the job becomes boring. And boredom is like death to a Scanner.

In addition, Scanners are hesitant to commit to any long term career, because they fear that they might be missing out on something else they’d really want to do or learn.

This explains, clearly and succinctly, my entire work history thus far. I find a simple, non-committal job because I want the flexibility of free time and a malleable schedule. I go through the training process quickly, learn the ins and outs of the job entirely, and have a blast doing it. Then the boredom sets in.

Or I’ll get a job because I love the idea of having a job like it: I wanted to work in an office with my own cubicle because I’d never done it before. I wanted to work at a yarn store. I wanted to work for an independent business owner. I don’t really want the job for the sake of having it forever and ever. What I want is the experience of having a job like it. And the pattern is the same: I love the job at first, I soak up every new thing like a sponge, I learn it quickly and make myself almost invaluable. But by then, I’ve had the experience. I now know what it’s like to work at X place doing X job, and I’m done. But I’m still there.

And so I quit. And I feel great relief while friends and family lament. And hearing their laments causes me to second guess myself, am I a failure? A commitment-phobe? Doomed to be a bum stuck in crummy high-school summer jobs for the rest of my life? And my self-esteem plummets, without me even realizing it.

But what Barbara Sher’s book made me realize, what brought me to tears in a fit of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love, is this: I am NOT a failure, a commitment-phobe, or a loser.

My brain is too hungry to specialize, to curious to settle down.

My gorgeous, beautiful, astonishing brain will never want to stop learning, and why should it? Why should I force it? Why not celebrate it, let it play with its own ideas, let it relish life and all it has to offer?

As for what I should do job-wise, the book was very helpful. I don’t feel like I need to find something and settle on it forever anymore. I have some ideas, but the most powerful came when I read the section on a particular breed of Scanner, the “Serial Master”.

These Scanners love the challenge of learning and mastering a new skill from the ground up. Once they’ve grown competent, however, they’ve gotten their reward out of the process and begin to scan the horizon for something new.

This is me to the letter. I love a good challenge. The reason I’ve got so many finished rough drafts lying around came from the challenge of NaNoWriMo, to write a novel in 30 days (and then, friends who saw how fast I could write and challenged me to complete even greater word counts in even shorter lengths of time). The reason I ran a 5K came from the challenge of interval training myself up to it with Couch to 5K.

I realized reading this section that the same drive for mastery is what pushed my manic, addictive practice sessions with hoop dance, knitting, even Dance Dance Revolution (oh yes, I’m AWESOME at DDR, you should play me one day). With these skills, I saw what mastery looked like, decided I wanted it, and set out to get it.

What happens, though, is that eventually, I reach a point of diminishing return. Once I get good enough, improvements are smaller and more gradual. While some people are content to spend the rest of their lives honing their skills increment by increment, I reach this point and crave the process of learning something new all over again. I realized that I subconsciously set a goal for myself when I start out, an “I want to be good enough to do blah” sort of thing. Typically what happens when I reach this goal is my enthusiasm for practice begins to wane, because I’ve gotten to where I wanted to go. I’ve gotten what Barbara Sher refers to as my “reward”.

When I read the book and realized that all of this is not only okay, but the way I am supposed to operate by my very nature, it unleashed a torrent of emotions and self-doubt that I knew I’d been supressing somewhere but could never identify clearly enough to work on fixing them. It’s amazing how just giving a name to your fears and insecurities can help the process of healing.

Oh, and Barbara had a very specific career suggestion for the Serial Master breed of Scanner: Motivational Speaker. My jaw literally dropped reading that, because it seemed so obvious while being something I might have never given myself permission to think about seriously. But given the amount of people that have come up to me telling me how much they love my blog, and how inspired they’ve been by the posts, and the amazing and unexpected way the How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping article has taken off, I think she might be on to something. It’s given me renewed joy to work on this blog, and to look into what small, first steps I might take to trying out some public speaking.

Maybe on the Open Stage?

You’re Allowed To Change

This weekend was Hoop Path Dallas, a hooping workshop with Johnathan Baxter, my favorite hoop instructor, right in my neck of the woods. This is a dream that I’ve been pushing toward for a year now, and it was worth each second of effort.


Photo courtesy of Sassy Hoops

In every single class or workshops of Baxter’s I take, I have what I call a Moment (with a capital “M”). A Moment is when something Bax says or some concept he presents to us moves me so deeply that it pulls up an emotional release in the form of tears. I have Moments even when I go into his workshops thinking I feel great and I’ve heard it all before and I’m just here for a refresher course to rejuvenate my spirit. I always end up powerfully resonating with something. Sometimes it’s at the end after two hours of intense hooping, sometimes it’s in the middle of a blindfolded exercise, sometimes it’s just when Baxter is talking about life.

This time, it happened on day one, right at the beginning in opening circle. I was happy and smiling and looking around at this group of people here to take the workshop, more than half of whom I consider dear friends, sneaking surreptitious glances at their faces as they hear Baxter speak for the first time (and there is nothing like hearing Baxter speak for the first time). I felt in it and outside of it simultaneously. Then Bax asked who among us had lost friends since we started hooping. I raised my hand and a few other people did, too. And Bax proceeded to talk about how he used to be a waiter, and he used to be cynical, and he had these friends who had known him for a decade or more that came to visit after he found hooping and dropped some of the cynicism. Those friends were wanting to hang out with Mean Baxter, the one with whom they could sit around and make fun of people.

And that’s where I had my Moment. I had to drop my head and let a quick rivulet of tears come out. And it’s not like I hadn’t heard Baxter tell this story before. He told it two years ago, at the very first Hoop Path Retreat I attended.


That’s me at Hoop Path Retreat 3, hearing Baxter speak for the first time.
Photo by Serena Scaglione

I think this particular story triggered my Moment yesterday because I’ve recently been dealing with the concept that I am a malleable creature, that no part of me is guaranteed to be truth forever, and that it is not a self-betrayal to change my mind about something. Especially ideas that I’ve internalized so much that I feel they define me. And here’s Baxter, talking about how he changed something that he and his friends felt defined him for years.

Everybody has stuff like this. Things you feel so deeply that you know you’ll always feel that way. And then when the time comes and that knowledge is challenged, it’s scary. For me, these intense bits of “knowledge” have ranged from something as seemingly trivial as “I’m never cutting my hair”, to a more emotionally burdensome “I’ll be with him forever“.

It’s anything we internalize so deeply that it becomes a part of us. These things can be tremendously difficult to let go of. And we can go years firmly believing that we’ll never want to let go of them.

But then something might happen. Something that starts to pull back the curtain of your “identity”, that makes you question how you really feel, what you really believe. And then you’re flung into this huge, swirling vat of confusion. Why do I feel this way, when I’ve always been the sort of person who doesn’t feel that way? It can seem as though you’re betraying something core. You worry about what your friends and family will think, these people who have known you for years as the person who does “X”. What would they say if they saw you now denouncing “X”?

Remember, it can be anything. I swore all through high school that N’Sync sucked and I would never enjoy anything that any of the members of that band would ever be involved in. And then Justin Timberlake went and put out “My Love” (the bastard) and I had to face the fact that I actually liked the song.


Look at him. Smug as hell. What a jerk.

This is a simple example. But the emotional confusion caused by having to change my opinion about it still made me question who I was and what I believed. Imagine the internal barriers that had to break down for me to then go out and buy the entire Justin Timberlake album.

The longer we hold onto these internalizations of self, the harder they can be to let go of. But even the most deeply held conviction can get questioned. And nine times out of ten, the scary part isn’t finding out what your friends and family will say if you change. The truly scary part is realizing that you might want to change, that you might not be the person you thought you were. How do you go about making that change? How do you even begin to incorporate this new you into the world you’ve built for yourself up to this point?

Sometimes you don’t need to know how to do it. Sometimes you just need to know it’s okay to do it.

And it is. It’s okay to change. It’s normal to change. You, whoever you are and whatever path you are on, are allowed to change, to make big, sweeping, scary changes to any aspect of yourself you like. You’re allowed to cut that hair, watch that movie, take that trip, move to that town, switch from that political party, try that experience, anything.


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Sometimes, during the blindfolded exercises, Baxter will chant, very simply, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” He may not even know exactly what he’s allowing, but he doesn’t need to. The point is, you may have not actually heard someone tell you it’s okay. Whatever’s coming up under that blindfold that needs forgiveness, he’s giving you permission to forgive yourself.

So make the changes. Forgive yourself. Let go of the pain and open up to the freedom of change and newness.

It’s okay.

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Inspired By Awesome – Rachel Brice

Yesterday when I opened my mailbox, there was a package waiting for me! I’d been waiting somewhat impatiently for this package, so it was more of a relief than a surprise that it FINALLY CAME.

What was in the package, you may ask? I shall tell you!

It was Rachel Brice‘s new DVD, “Serpentine“!

I was introduced to Rachel Brice several years ago by a friend who had her first DVD. Before I saw this DVD, particularly the performance on said DVD, I had little interest in learning belly dance. I had watched belly dancers in the past, but I’d never understood why it was called “belly” dance because to me, it just looked like a bunch of swiveling in shiny costumes and I never noticed them actually dancing with their bellies.

And then I saw Rachel.

I was completely blown away by how precise, sharp and clean her movements were. It was like watching belly dancing fused with pop locking. And I FINALLY got to see some incredible, enviable belly work. It was honestly the fact that she actually USES her belly in the dance that turned my opinion of belly dance around. And the control she has over her body is staggering. There are moments when she’s moving different parts of her body in a way that seem almost nonsensical (watch around 3:00 into the above video to see what I mean). Seeing Rachel Brice also introduced me to the fact that there are several styles of belly dance, and that what I’d traditionally seen in the past was a “cabaret” style. What Rachel did was more rooted in the “tribal” style, and her particular brand of belly dance, “tribal fusion”.

Call me an instant tribal fusion fan.

When I took up hooping, belly dance started to look a little more appealing to learn. Besides being fun, belly dance teaches you to be aware of your arms and how you are holding them, and when you’ve got a hoop spinning around your waist, your arms are either up and dancing or stuck in the dreaded “t-rex” position. So I voted for belly dance arms. I practiced with that first DVD of Rachel’s for a while, and took classes from a local teacher.

When this new DVD came in the mail, I put it on immediately (after making sure my roommates would be okay with just sitting and watching an instructional belly dance video; I had hoops to tape so I wasn’t actively following along). Just watching the intro got me jazzed to see what new drills Rachel had to offer. I pointed at the screen and I said, “I want to move like her.”

My roommate looked at the screen, then at me, and said, “I want to move like me!” And the reaction I had to that was rather bizarre, because normally I am all about self-empowerment. But her statement didn’t seem to jive with what I was feeling, so I shook my head and said, “I want to move like HER.”

I realized in that moment that when I said I want to move like Rachel, it was a form of self-empowerment. This statement wasn’t coming from a place of envy, it wasn’t coming from a feeling of lack in myself or wishing that I could magically transform into Rachel Brice. Instead, when I said “I want to move like her,” what I meant was that I know I have it within me to one day have that same control, that same precision. I didn’t exactly know how to word it properly, because I didn’t exactly mean I want to move JUST like her, what I meant was, “I want to be so aware of my body that I can make it move however I desire, like Rachel.”

It doesn’t really matter to me if I ever look just like Rachel, or have a belly as flat as Rachel, or a wardrobe as impressively jaw-dropping, or a fan-base as rabid and loyal. When I look at Rachel Brice, I see complete and total awareness of the body. There is not a move that woman makes that isn’t intentional, and that’s what I admire most about her. That’s what I want to internalize and make my own. I’m not going to do the yoga or the drills on this DVD with the intention of someday being able to dance “just like Rachel”, I’m going to do them with the intention of becoming even more in tune with my own body. (Which, it occurs to me, is why I do a lot of things.) In the end, with diligent practice, I will still be moving like me. I’m always moving like me. I can’t not move like me, because I’m the only me that I am. But I know there’s some serpentine in me, and I can’t wait to bring it to the surface.

Lessons Learned From Rachel Brice:

-Total control comes from consistent practice

-Fluid movements make a beautiful dance

-Don’t be afraid to wear LOTS of shinies 😉

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It’s Okay to be Good

There’s been several times in my life when I’ve held myself back from something, not for fear that I wouldn’t do well, but rather because I feared I might do too well. I used to take voice lessons, and I can remember countless times in practice when I would hit a note perfectly, and then tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to have that perfect note because I’d never hit it before. Which is an insane thing to do to yourself, until you think about the fact that once you’ve done something well, you have no excuse to not do well from that point on. It’s easier, and arguably safer, to hold yourself back and stay in your comfort zone.

Don’t. You are not doing yourself any favors this way. I have lost out on so many chances because I didn’t want to let myself be as good as I could be. In my yoga practice, I’ve cheated myself out of so much progress and benefit by holding back in a posture that I felt unfit to move forward in. “I feel like I could go further today,” my body might tell me, and then my brain kicks in, “But you suck at this posture. So stay where you are.”

I really started to experience freedom from this fear of being “too good” when I started hooping. There were plenty of times, especially in the beginning, when I would hold back for one reason or another. Typically, because I didn’t want to appear to be better than the friends I’d been learning with. I would cheer their moments and discount mine.

If you catch yourself doing this, especially with something you are passionate about, take steps to break yourself of it. Start in private. Carve out some time and some space where you are completely alone, and go for it. Push your limits, push your comfort zone, try something that you don’t feel like you “should” be able to do because you’re not at “that level” yet. Forget that levels exist. No one is watching, no one is judging, be good. Be amazing. Get comfortable with the feeling.

The next step is tougher, but important: When you’re ready (and maybe even if you’re not), be good in front of someone else. You can start small here, too. I did it by going out to the park to practice my hooping. Other people could see me, but they weren’t my main focus. It usually took about fifteen minutes of warm-up to get to that place where I felt confident enough to be good. But eventually, people started approaching me and telling me they liked watching me. Don’t let this scare you, and don’t humble yourself. If someone approaches you while you are openly being good, say “thank you” and smile. They may ask you questions. Don’t be afraid to share. But don’t ever say, “I’m not that good” or “It’s really nothing”. You’ve been working hard. Let it show.

From here, you can take your goodness anywhere. If you want to, you can share it with your friends and family, you can branch out and find communities of people who support the goodness of their members, or you can just stick to the park. But take steps to strip away that fear. You’ll be surprised how much else unlocks for you when you let yourself be good, and ultimately, that’s what we’re after. A small jumping off point, an opening to let the good things in your life that you are worthy of rush in. Embrace it, enjoy it, and do not be afraid.

A Different Way to Approach Cleaning

I used to think cleaning was a complete waste of time, I mean, there’s so much to do that is so much more FUN than cleaning, and why would I want to waste my time making a space clean that’s only going to get messy again? Useless, I said to myself, content to lie about in my own filth. When I would try to clean, it was usually because I either got so fed up with the mess I couldn’t take it anymore, or I had to because I wanted to have people over and there was just no room for them. In those times, I’d stare blankly at the mess, not knowing where to start with it because it was just so random and vast, and I had a LOT of junk I didn’t need that had no place.

In the past year or so, however, I’ve realized that my brain works a lot better when my space is clean. It’s as if the clean room is like a conduit for clean thought. Now, this probably makes a lot of sense to a lot of you who might be reading this, but it never made sense to me until recently. “A clean house is a sign of a sick mind”, I’d read somewhere once, and thoroughly agreed with it. But I’ve discovered the opposite is actually true. A messy room fosters a sick mind. I’m using “sick” here to define a sort of mental dis-ease. A lack of peace. Keeping a space clean is similar to honoring your body by feeding it healthy food and treating it to exercise.

So now, cleaning has become the first step in getting myself to a comfortable place where I can focus my thoughts. I feel a little ridiculous for taking twenty-six years to get to this point, but it really is something of a revelation for me. It also helps that I’ve spent a lot of time drastically reducing my clutter. I have things I could still do with getting rid of, but now the task of actually cleaning up a space is considerably less daunting.

It’s still something of an effort for me to break out any hardcore cleaning supplies, to scrub any floors or get at those “hard to reach” areas, but regular straightening has turned into almost a necessity. I used to identify myself as a “slob”, and that was something that people who knew me just had to accept and deal with. But I’m finding myself moving away from that identification now, because it doesn’t suit me anymore. Negative identifiers are slowly, one by one, taking a backseat to positive affirmations.