How an aerials class made me a better writer

If you’ve never taken an aerials class, I highly recommend it. Not because it’s fun (although it can be) and not because it’s easy (it’s absolutely not), but because it requires a certain mindset. You’re probably thinking, “But aerials is so physical! What crappy metaphor is this lady pushing?” Just hear me out, and I promise, NO METAPHORS!

My introduction to aerials started in 2013 when I met a woman who ran an aerials and Pilates studio. She was offering a summer camp for kids, and my little ones were perfect candidates. At the end of the camp, my daughter was hooked. She’d found her jam! And I was excited that she’d discovered a hobby that combined movement and was a performance art.

We began attending shows in our area, and every time, I was entranced. The aerialists moved so effortlessly, bending and contorting, doing drops, and spinning through the air. I was simultaneously excited for my daughter, but also jealous. I wanted to do aerials! I wanted to choreograph a routine, I wanted to experience the rush that I was certain those aerialists felt when they were flying. I needed aerials in my life!

Eventually, I convinced myself I could do it. In 2016 I started with a few private lessons, splitting the hour with my daughter, but had to quit when I became pregnant. Fast forward to 2017, after a miscarriage then the birth of my third child (a medically necessary C-section), and I was back at it.

This time I enrolled in an introductory class that promised to be for beginners. Ha! Hahahahahahaha!!! It was awful. It was the absolute worst. Most of my peers appeared to be either cross-fit fanatics or warlocks who had enchanted the equipment to do their bidding. They hopped onto the hoop with no apparent effort. They climbed with silks without breaking a sweat. Meanwhile, I was flailing. All of the confidence I has mustered from my earlier achievements dissipated into thin air.

After two classes, I quit the series, but not before nearly breaking down crying during my last session. I felt ashamed, and I felt it viscerally. Logically, I knew that the only barrier between me and an aerials career was a lot of hard work and probably some serious strength training, but what kept me from staying in that class had little to do with my physical limitations.

My head told me I was a fraud, that I couldn’t do it, and I listened. I listened to all the reasons why I should quit. “Shouldn’t you spend more time on your freelance business?” “You can’t afford these classes anyway.” “You have a gym membership you never use – what are you doing here?” I felt like someone had punched me in the gut, only it was me and I’d done it with a few synaptic fires from my brain.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I decided to hop back on some equipment during open gym with my daughter. It took a few attempts, but I was able to engage some muscle memory (and some actual muscles made stronger thanks to some dedicated  training) and made a few advances up the silks. Three to be exact. And with each advance, I ignored the voice in my head telling me I would fail, and instead pushed through the doubt and climbed towards victory! Ok, it was really NBD, but to me it sparked a revelation.

Anything I do can be sabotaged by, well…me. When I sit down to write an article or work on a chapter of my book, I can either let the flow take over me, knowing that I have the ability to make progress, or I can let impostor syndrome kick into high gear and knock me down a few pegs. It’s really that simple.

I’m a damn good writer, if I do say so myself, and I could probably be an equally skilled aerialist. Like aerials, writing is about engaging muscle memory, taking each moment at face value and fully engaging, not worrying about the next and the next and the next. Because the words do come, like each part of a choreographed aerials performance. And the process is really where the excitement happens anyway.

(P.S. I lied – this whole thing has been a metaphor #sorrynotsorry)

Until next time…

XOXO

M

French Fries are a Lie (a beautiful, beautiful lie)

Hey y’all…how goes it? Good? Great, let’s get to it.

I recently learned something I can’t “un-know” and it’s causing more than a small amount of internal conflict. As you may be aware, I’m a mostly vegan, environmentally minded, documentary obsessed human. A few years ago, I challenged myself to go 60 days on a vegan diet, and guess what?! I liked it so much I decided to go full on vegan (I thought that might have a double meaning, but I Googled it and there’s nothing interesting there, sorry).

As you can imagine, I got a lot of unsolicited advice about how to sustain myself on such a restrictive diet and also make sure I wasn’t shunned from society at social events.

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One piece of advice for finding something on just about any restaurant menu went something like this: French fries are always vegan. It sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Like the middle part of an almost utopian novel when you just know that things are about to come crumbling to a depressing and final end. Or maybe not, maybe I’m hungry and not thinking clearly.

The point is, I hung onto that advice like a misinformed teenage boys clings to his Axe body spray. It sprayed that shit everywhere. Kids hungry and we have to make a fast food pit stop? FRENCH FRIES! Going out to dinner with friends and not sure what to order besides lame salad? FRENCH FRIES! Someone I know literally just walked past me with a basket of FRENCH FRIES and I’m not even joking. They’re everywhere, and they are a lie.

Let me splain. I had dinner with my family last night at a restaurant which we frequent exactly every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how much I don’t want to go to the grocery store during the week. I ordered the same thing I always order: veggie burger (which I know is vegan), no mayo, no cheese, and a side of fries. The thoughtful and intuitive waitress asked me if I wanted my bun “un-buttered”. Well of course I did, cause you know, VEGAN! She then shattered my world and shared with me that the oil used to fry their, well, fries, was the SAME OIL THEY FRY FISH IN!!!!

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So here I am, left with the choice of knowingly consuming tainted french fries, or giving it a hard pass and sticking to my vegan convictions.

I ate the french fries, y’all.

There’s always tomorrow. Happy Friday!

I’m a Rottweiler of Determination and I’m F*cking Fabulous

During my tenure as a self-proclaimed “non-profit junkie” I had the privilege of meeting inspiring and accomplished folks from all walks of life who were doing the hard work of creating a better and more equitable community. I rubbed elbows with people who ran amazing charities and were seen as thought leaders in the sector, who were sought-after speakers at leadership trainings and conventions. And whenever I met and mingled with these super-humans, my initial inspiration at their accomplishment was swiftly replaced with self-doubt and a strong dose of imposter syndrome. I was #JealousAF.

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My head began to swim with questioning: “Who was *I* to try and be a leader in this community? What did *I* bring to the table?” I told myself I didn’t have enough experience, all while continuing to climb the ladder from coordinator, to officer, and finally to director. And you know what I realized? It wasn’t the titles or leadership positions that made me feel like I had arrived. It was only after I left the traditional work place and created my own space (this website and my writing) that I began to feel authentic.

Over the past few years I’ve gone through a lot of introspection. I put my ish “out there” to close friends and spent time reading inspiring books, like Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life  and Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I was doing “the work” y’all. And something that became clear to me in a visceral way was that every time I felt that tell-tale pang of jealousy and self-doubt, it was because I hadn’t been working on my “Dream Biggie” life plan (that’s mine, you can’t use it #sorrynotsorry, and also it’s in no way connected to the late American rapper, Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls). But I digress…

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My Dream Biggie life plan meant taking the risk of forging my own path, defining what successful meant for myself, and only saying “yes, please!” to opportunities that checked off the right boxes. So far, I think I’m doing a bang-up job. And one of the side-effects of my plan is that instead of being all jelly over someone else’s accomplishments, I am able to say “Wow! You are super awesome!” and I mean it. Aaaaaand, it inspires me to go back to my work as a successful (read: compensated) freelance writer and take on projects that former, self-doubting me would have been afraid of.

I love my life. I love that I’m surrounded by people who care so deeply that they can’t NOT go out into the world and make it a better place, even just a teen tiny bit. I love that every day I have endless opportunities to write, to meet like-minded humans and connect with them in ways I probably couldn’t just a few short months ago. And I hope I’m inspiring to even a few people who are kind enough to tolerate my often over-caffeinated brainstorms and enthusiastic ramblings. Because despite any bravado I might inadvertently exude, I’m just a rottweiler puppy chewing through a door at the end of the day, trying to tell you, “I’m here!”

XOXO,

M

This Blog Post Survived A Torpedo of Cat Puke

I don’t really believe in click-baity titles. And honestly, I’m no good at them. So you can rest assured that the title of this blog post is nothing but accurate.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve sat down to write for you. I know, I promised weekly content and I haven’t been able to hold up my end of the deal. There you are, waiting patiently and eagerly for that notification email telling you I’ve posted new content, growing increasingly sad and lonely, and I’m over here like “It’s back to school week! The sky is falling! I don’t know what to do with two of the three kids out of the house!” But I digress…

 

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During the previous school year, I made a promise. I told myself (and my friends, and my family, and my yoga app) that I wasn’t going to take on any leadership roles or unneccessary responsibilities and I would whole-heartedly work on myself. You see, part of the reason I quit a full-time development director position was so that I could focus more of my time on the kids, my health, and so that I could start a freelance writing business and really make a go of it.

And look at me! I sure did. However, I did NOT keep my promise. I did NOT say no to leading a board of volunteers at my daughter’s school when I had every reason to do so (y’all remember, I just had a baby…like I made a tiny human and then brought him home). Then I said yes to chairing a group of parents at my synagogue (which I love with all my heart, but still…leadership role!)

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So here I am, sitting at my computer, lamenting that I don’t have time to write, or give my website attention, or crank out a simple blog post every week, and BAM my cat torpedo vomits all over my work space just seconds after I swiftly maneuvered my laptop away from certain (disgusting) death. And I took it as a sign, y’all. Kind of like that scene in Under the Tuscan Sun when the bird poops on Diane Lane.

When you make a promise to yourself and don’t keep it, your cat will remind you. And when your cat, sitting nearby, making those tell-tale, gutteral enunciations finally spews your broken promise back at you, you’ll vow never to do it again.

So this is me, coming back from the chaos of self-inflicted injury, trying to make amends. I am a writer. I move through life with a constant hum of ideas and “what ifs” swirling through my head. But my headspace needs room for other things. So I must write.

XOXO,

M

Waffle or Spaghetti: How Defining Your Workstyle Doesn’t Really Matter

So…

I planned to write a really thorough blog post for you, and guess what? My week didn’t go as planned, and I am stream-of-consciousness writing this as my husband reviews a grant request I wrote while holding our 7 month old who is wearing only a diaper. Soon, we will take our family of five out for a quick and hopefully healthy dinner before we visit my parents, then attend a free outdoor concert. Life is fun!

So here’s what I had planned to write. I wanted to tell you about the two most common types of work styles I’ve noticed among my friends and family – Waffle and Spaghetti. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yeah, you do. Anyhoo, I always thought of myself as 99% Waffle. You know, I keep my work life and home life separate. I keep specific syrup squares for self-care and exercise. I do not let the syrup for any of my squares seep into strange territory. On the flip side, you have the Spaghetti monster (yes, I said it, monster!) Spaghetti monsters are happy to let all the different aspects of their life overlap, getting work sauce on home sauce on social sauce. And they friggin love it! Or at least they can handle it.

In the past, I’ve been adamantly anti-Spaghetti and very pro-Waffle (there’s an amazing joke in there, btw). When I was working from home, I couldn’t let myself be distracted by a request for cereal, let alone put off completing a task so that I could enjoy a family moment. Nope, lock me in the bedroom and call me Kathy Bates, I needed everything to have a definitive beginning and end. My husband is a different story.

My husband has this magical ability to skip from grading papers (he’s a history professor….a HOT one!) to kicking around the soccer ball with our middle kid, to cleaning up whatever disgusting present one of our fur-babies has left on the floor for us to find by surprise. He doesn’t ever say something like, “I have GOT to get back to writing that piece!” or “I just need some time to wrap up some emails” or other lame commentary.

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The Bobs are definitely Waffles
He just goes with the flow, and gets everything finished, and I’ve never understood it! Is he a warlock? How does he get everything DONE?!

Well, I’m here to tell you that after a few weeks of doing regular writing, and (finally!) creating my website, and networking with other AMAZING work-from-home moms, I’ve become a Spaghetti monster. I just can’t Waffle anymore! Not only is it unrealistic for us right now (it’s summer, everyone is home, and we genuinely want to spend time together), it’s also not as effective as I once thought. Truly, I can get just as much accomplished by going with the flow because THE FLOW has ups and downs that allow for creative time, and mommy time, and cleaning time, and self-care time. You know, all the times.

That being said, once everyone goes back to school and work, and we get the littlest Lejman into some part-time preschool, I might go back to being more Waffly. Who’s to say? And if you find that you’re more Waffle or more Spaghetti, and what you’re doing is working for you, great! But if it’s leaving you feeling uptight and stressed out, you might give some thought to trying a different approach. It’s possible that you’re trying to be all Spaghetti about life, when you have a little Waffle inside of you screaming for blocks of syrup, all lined up in neat little rows. Or, you could a buttoned up, whole wheat, organic blueberry Waffle that really just wants to get loose and squirmy and all covered in tomatoes. I’m not here to judge.

I’m here to tell you there is no secret or magical formula for success. You get to define what success looks like to you, and you get to rock your true, authentic self. And seriously, either way – CARBS!!!  Carbs are delicious and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Until next time…

XOXO,

M

P.S. My only regret is that I couldn’t work in a chicken and waffles joke on this one and that’s a shame. Shoot me an email if you’re up for the task!

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