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Category: My Life Rules

My Life Rules #4: Be Vulnerable, Again and Again

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About six months ago I watched a TED Talk on shame and vulnerability by Brené Brown. It really hit home. So much so that a few days later I went in search of her book on the same topic. I devoured it.

Up until this point I hadn’t put a name to the yucky feeling I so often felt. But after watching that video, I knew it was called shame.

I’ve harboured a lot of shame over the years: over my family situation, my relationships with men, my level of life success. It was like having a wet blanket over me all the time. And it made me afraid. Afraid to put myself out there and open myself up to disappointment and embarrassment and failure. Afraid to be vulnerable.

So I stopped. I stopped being vulnerable, because I thought that if I protected myself from disappointment and embarrassment and failure that I would be happy. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. And this finally clicked while watching Brown’s video.

In fact, the only true way to be happy, as she discovered in her research, is to live wholeheartedly. What does that mean to me? It means telling someone that I miss them if I miss them, even if I might not get the desired result. It means leaving that comfortable and glamorous job that I just couldn’t find meaning in anymore. It means going on awkward first dates. And it means taking pride in doing all of these things with an open mind and an open heart, because being vulnerable is a hard thing to do, and it should be celebrated rather than looked down upon.

See, it’s important to not confuse vulnerability with weakness. Vulnerability is actually a great strength, because it allows us to live a life without regrets. And exercising our vulnerability builds other positive qualities within us, such as resilience.

Every time I put myself out there, no matter what the outcome, I build a little more resilience. See, when the result is positive it’s like “Ya, I did that!” And when it’s, err let’s say not so positive, I’m like “Ya, I’m not dead!” What I mean to say, is that I know I will survive. And I know that the payoff of putting myself out there is far greater than the life debt I incur from playing it safe.

My Life Rules #3: When You Don’t Know What to Do, Do Nothing

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Now, I’m sure you’ve all figured it out, but if not, I’m going to make this whole My Life Rules thing a bit clearer: this series is not about me preaching to you about how to live your life. Sure, I’ve come up with some simple rules that, in my experience, have made my life more tolerable and actually quite enjoyable, but also I’m sharing these rules with you as I work through my own challenges.

Of which I have a lot.

But like Watsky says (sorry, for the obscure white paper reference), “Nothin’ gory means no glory.” I take it to heart.

And because I’m human and I don’t have all the answers (or even, like, half of them), I’ve even created a rule that allows me to be okay with not knowing.

Rule #3: When You Don’t Know What to Do, Do Nothing!

Hey, so remember when I told you guys to listen to your gut? Well, I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes my brain is so goddamn bombarded with thoughts that for the life of me, no matter how hard I try and listen, my gut is not getting a word in edgewise.

Like right now, for example, I feel like I have the entire cast of Glee in my head. Wait, more angsty than Glee … Hells Kitchen? Yeah, that’s about right. Gordon Ramsay is in my head, telling me the bloody scallops are cold. Yes, chef!

I really wish it was the cast of Community though–they’re so kooky!

I’m getting sidetracked (oh come on, you like it).

Okay, so when I feel like this, you can probably guess that my sole desire is to stop the anxiety. And often I think that if I do something, meaning take some sort of action, that will help.

No, no, Amy, that will likely just make things worse. And why is that? Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that when a person is “on edge” they tend to not be as, err, sane.

So, what am I trying to do now when I can’t hear my gut is absolutely nothing. No rash decisions, no jumping to conclusions–just living through the discomfort and reminding myself that “this too shall pass.”

Eventually, my mind does settle down, allowing me some much needed quiet time with my intuition. And often, when my mind has been on overdrive like that, what my gut eventually tells me is something I really don’t want to hear. That is, I’ve got to do something I really don’t want to do but know is the right thing.

It sucks.

But all I can do is trust in the process, and that one day the shitty things will all make sense.

Are you guilty of acting when your emotions are out of control? Is the outcome ever positive? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, because sometimes I think acting in a high emotional state is a good thing … It’s just hard to know when that might be.

My Life Rules #2: Trust That the Universe Will Take Care of You

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Okay, change of plans. I know in my last post I said I’d talk about My Life Rules: If You Don’t Know What to Do, Do Nothing, but I’m feeling like I need to touch on a different one first. If you’re wondering why, it’s because this particular rule has been presenting quite a challenge for me lately. (Read: I totally effed the dog on this one.)

Rule #2: Trust That the Universe Will Take Care of You
I’ve never been a religious person. I’ve dabbled in different faiths, I guess you could say, but nothing really resonated with me.

That said, I always thought there might be something going on behind the scenes–something bigger than me, bigger than all of us. Some of you might call that God. Or Gaia. Or the Divine Goddess. Different people have different names for this force, but I prefer to simply refer to it as the all-encompassing Universe.

Now, it’s only quite recently that I transitioned from thinking this force might exist to believing that it does. As a relatively rational, logical person, I was pretty skeptical about a grandiose idea such as this. But here I was, out on my ass with my world flipped upside down, and I thought, ‘Oh, hell, why not?’

Do you know what it feels like to carry all this responsibility and need for control over situations you have no control over, and then give it away? It feels like weightlessness. It feels like sweet, sweet relief. It feels like when you have $700 worth of clothes from a two hour trip across the border and the border guard is a) sexy, and b) does not give two shits about the three layers of clothing you’re wearing.

Now I’m not suggesting that you absolve yourself of all responsibility completely. I’m simply suggesting that if you do your best, you do your due diligence, and you trust that the Universe will figure your shit out for you, it probably will. Hell, even if you don’t trust that the Universe will take care of you, with a good, open attitude it usually will.

Now, I have to say, I really suck at following this rule most of the time. I’m a control freak, what can I say? I like to know exactly what’s going on, for how long, and when it might change, so that I can be mentally prepared for that to happen. I don’t particularly like surprises, especially when they involve getting my car towed. And I especially don’t like that I can’t control other people’s feelings or actions.

Umm I’m trying? Yah, let’s go with that.

To clarify, I don’t mean controlling others in the Imperius Curse kind of way (Shout out to my fellow Harry Potter fans!). More so, I refer to the fact that despite our hopes and best efforts, our ability to predict and control an outcome between two people is limited to the fact that each person is navigating through life in his or her own way. In other words, we all have our shit.

When you realize that the only true control you have is over your own thoughts, behaviors, and actions, well, let’s just say you stop acting like a total lunatic. And for everything else, I’ma let the Universe figure that out for me.

How about y’all? Have you ever had the Universe figure your shit out for you?

My Life Rules #1: Listen to Your Gut

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If you read my previous My Life Rules post, this post will probably make sense. If not, you’re probably wondering, “Where’s the damn food?!” I know, right? I ask myself the same thing every day …

But to answer your question, the damn food is here, here, and even here. It’s just not here-here. See over the next couple of months, I’m going to be sporadically posting My Life Rules, a blog series sharing with you, my lovely readers, about the rules I’ve been attempting to follow in order to live (and love) more consciously.

The Rules are all mine, and they’ve helped me immensely over the past few months. Maybe they’ll help you, too. Maybe not. At the very least you’ll get a glimpse into my life and my journey.

Rule #1: Follow Your Gut
Intuition, animal instinct, gut feeling–whatever you want to call it–it’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you when something is just not working, or is working really well.

For years I thought I was missing it. Really, though, I just didn’t trust it, nor did I value it. See, it’s a scary thing to make life decisions–big and small–based on something so abstract that often defies logic and rationale.

On paper, the last relationship I was in made sense. He had a good job, a great family, and was handsome and generally a good person.

But for the greater part of the four-and-a-half years we spent together, I knew it wasn’t right. I knew it in my gut.

You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a long time to stick with something that didn’t feel right.” And you’d be right. But as an often logic-driven person, I found many good reasons why I should keep going. Essentially, I rationalized away four years of my life. And I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one who’s done this.

Now, to be clear, I have no regrets. As I mentioned in my first post, I was merely doing the best I could, as I know he was. But as someone told me after my split, two good people together don’t necessarily make a good couple. This is what my gut had been trying to tell me all along.

Toward the end of our relationship, I began hearing my intuition, and giving it a bit more credit. When my mom suggested I move in with her, I went with my gut and did it. Everything snowballed from there. Within a month my ex and I had split, and, although it was hard at first, I finally felt like myself again.

This was a huge Aha! moment for me. My gut was right. I thought, holy shit, you mean I had this all along, I just refused to exercise it up until now? I felt like I’d struck gold. I felt like Aladdin when he finds that underground palace full of treasure–except the dessert didn’t try to swallow me, and I got to keep all the treasure. Best. Day. Ever.

After this I began looking for other opportunities to exercise my gut decision-making skills. It was especially handy when looking for a roommate, which is a nerve-wracking task when a) you live in the suburbs and b) you resort to Craigslist.

I had a few people look at the place, one of which wanted to take the room I was renting out. But my gut said no. Actually, my gut yelled, “Hell the eff no!” But, like habit, I spent some time rationalizing why I should accept: I was on a time constraint, it was slim pickings in the suburbs, and I couldn’t afford the rent on my own.

Rather than letting my brain decide this time, I let my gut take control once more. I said, “No thanks, and good luck.” I had to trust that something else, something better, something that felt right would come along. Sure enough, just a few days later I was contacted by my now roommate. She was just what I was looking for. And if I hadn’t trusted my gut I would have never found her, or I would have, but I’d have already made other commitments.

So, these are two examples in my life where my gut really came into play. Have you had a similar experience with your gut? When has listening to your gut paid off? I’d love to hear your stories!

And keep posted for Rule #2: If You Don’t Know What to Do, Do Nothing.

On conscious living + an intro to My Life Rules blog series

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As you all know, the past few months of my life have been bursting with change. It’s been an interesting experience, filled with highs, lows, and everything in between. But I’ve got to say: for once in my life I feel like I’m actually living.

Conscious living is something I’d read about, but I really had no clue what it was or what it felt like. For many years I lived as a victim of my situation, in constant discontent: with my job, relationships, and general outlook on life. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, as I was only doing the best I could do. But now I know that I can do better.

Last night I watched a TED Talk that revealed we each make an average of 70 choices a day. And each one of these choices presents a new opportunity to live consciously. In years before, these choices overwhelmed me. So much room for mistakes, I thought. What if I choose wrong? It was paralyzing.

I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to live consciously, and, in fact, it was likely a gradual shift. All I know is that now that I’m here, I can never go back. The simplest of decisions, such as whether to empty the dishwasher or not (yeah, I had inner dialogue over this very dilemma more than once), became not simpler, but presented another opportunity for me to make a choice and stick with it (or not!).

See, the beauty of conscious living is that you are also free to change your mind at any time. I can choose to join a knitting club, for example, and if it’s not my thing, I can choose to quit. What a novelty!

But the greatest benefit I’ve experienced since choosing to live consciously is the huge increase in my level of happiness. I feel more connected to the world, with people and my outside surroundings. And with each choice I consciously make, I get to know myself a little better better–how I react in certain situations, what my true values are, how I want to spend my time, etc. And I don’t always choose right, trust me. But I understand that nothing is set in stone, and I can change directions any time my gut tells me to.

Over the next few months–in between pretty food posts, I promise–I’m going to share with y’all My Life Rules. These are 100 percent all mine, and they kind of just made their way into my life over the past few months. When I feel overwhelmed or anxious I go back to My Life Rules and they always guide me back to my path.

Maybe you’ll think they’re ridiculous–totally fine. I probably would have too a few years ago. And frankly, I’m no expert. I just know what’s worked for me thus far.

Keep posted for the first rule: Listen to Your Gut. And please, share your own wisdom with me, as mine is constantly under construction and pretty damn green.

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