Remember to Play

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Play QuoteLast week, the topic of my group coaching work was self-expression and communication. I’ve always considered myself a pretty expressive and creative person, but when I actually stopped to take inventory of how I’ve honored these traits recently, I realized that I haven’t. It was a sad development for me, because in addition to being expressive and creative, I’ve always considered myself fun. Further reflection on all of this–as well as experimentation over the following days–solidified the fact that I (and everyone, in my opinion) need to remember to play, and play often.

Really, think about that.

All of us are so focused on and committed to various responsibilities – working to make ends meet, having and caring for a family, climbing the professional ladder, being disciplined to achieve our goals and dreams. The laundry list of to dos is endless. I know that’s how I live my life. I took the thing I love and consider my passion, the thing that brings me the most joy – writing, and turned it into a chore that just wasn’t paying off in my eyes. So what happened? I avoided it and completely zapped all of the fun out of something I used to love unequivocally.

No wonder why I was so depressed!

I may often have my head in the clouds, so to speak, but I’m also a realist when it comes to paying the bills and having a good work ethic, so I get that we can’t just shun all of our responsibilities and replace them with video games and wild parties (although I do miss the Metal Gear summers of my teenage years). But we can invoke more play and fun in our daily lives. How? Allow me to *~list~* some suggestions:

  • Write for fun! Sure, it’s awesome to have a project to focus on with an end goal of pitching, getting an agent, getting published (or movie-fied) and raking in the big bucks and glory, but remember to take time out to just play with your craft. Find a prompt and just go for it, with no goal in sight. Just write for the sake of writing. To create. To weave together words. To play. You know I am taking this advice, right?! I may even post some of my prompted drabbles in this blog. (And if writing isn’t your thing, do the thing that is your thing for fun.)
  • Get out in nature. Personally, I’m more of a homebody, but when I do actually go out in nature, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Plants, flowers, water, all those naturey things are high vibing sources of energy and that’s why they make us feel so good. Plus, if you’re walking or running (from zombies?!) or hiking etc., extra yay for getting in your steps and getting your blood pumping.
  • Color! Adult coloring books are awesome. So are high quality markers and colored pencils, and–dare I say it–crayons. I have an entire stack of coloring books that I pull out every once in awhile. I plant myself on my couch, fill my ears with awesome instrumental music (The Dark Knight! Game of Thrones!), and color until my heart’s content. Talk about a great way to unwind after a stressful work day.
  • Cook. As long as you’re not me. ‘Cause cooking ain’t my thang, but I know that’s not the case for a lot of people. So, if cooking is your thang – then werk that kitchen. Also, invite me over so that I can indulge in a home cooked meal or two. I’ll bring alcohol (or store bought dessert). And tupperware.
  • Board games! Get a group of friendly peeps together and bust out those board games. Or Cards Against Humanity. Actually, that would probably be number one on my list. And if you haven’t played CAH yet, do yourself a favor and buy a deck. It’s hilarious. It’s become a family tradition in my neck of the woods – our preferred way to end the holidays. But, ya know, my assholeness is hereditary sooo 😉  
  • Take breaks at work. Yes, being an adult and responsible and able to pay off your student loans is important, but so is taking breathers throughout the day to rest your brain and refuel your energy levels. Get away from your desk. Go chat with a work BFF. Take a walk outside. Hide in the bathroom and take a break from human interaction (or is that just me?). Whatever helps you take a moment to realign with your zen and happiness – do that. 

Of course there are tons of other ways that you can play and have fun. Whatever they are, whatever it is that makes you smile and feel good – do it. Do it often. It doesn’t matter how old you may be, or what line of work you’re in. Play is important for all of us. Smiling, feeling good, vibing high, and being happy – all of it is so important. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Fangirl Fav: Big Little Lies

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BLLBig Little Lies is so good that I finished watching it a few weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I tend to enjoy HBO programming in general (Game of Thrones is my jam!), and when I saw the top billed cast for this (::heart eyes at Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon::), I knew I needed to give it a try. Holy hell, am I glad that I did!

The show is based on the book by Liane Moriarty. I didn’t know about the book before the show, but you better believe that I’ve since added it to my reading list. As an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, I enjoy comparing adaptations of the same story, so I’m really looking forward to reading the book.

So, because I’m feeling in a list-making mood…

Reasons Why I Love Big Little Lies (TV Series)

  • Nicole Kidman is fierce, beautiful, and believable as Celeste Wright. I’ve always thought of Kidman as a good actress, but in BLL, she is brilliant. I won’t get too spoilery here, but Kidman’s character is in an abusive relationship, and there are so many layers to the relationship and the characters involved that it’s mesmerizing.
  • The ocean should get a screen credit in this show. I’m not even joking. BLL is beautifully shot. It’s set in Monterey, CA, and the creators and producers absolutely took advantage of that in the best way possible. Most of the main characters live right on the ocean and spend many a scene contemplating life as they stare out at the crashing waves of divine awesomeness.
  • Alexander Skarsgard. He’s so tall. And lithe. And yummy. Objectification aside, I really enjoy his acting and was so pumped to see him team up with HBO again, as I was a big fan of True Blood. As Perry Wright, Skarsgard was opposite of Nicole Kidman in many of his scenes, and again with being mesmerized. In my opinion, the Wright plotline stole the show. What I love about Skarsgard as a talent, and what he really played up in BLL, is that he can go from terrifying and towering one moment to apologetic and petulant the next.
  • Awesome tunes like woah. BLL has a great soundtrack! The opening theme, “Cold Little Heart,” by Michael Kiwanuka is something of a religious experience. Although only a moment of the song is played during the opening credits, the actual song clocks it at just under 10 minutes long and is the best kind of ear candy. 
  • One of the aspects that I really loved and appreciated about Big Little Lies is that it gave viewers a satisfying ending. The last episode, and in particular the last few minutes of the finale, wrapped up everything so well. There was one big mystery throughout the series, and it was not only answered, but the discovery and resulting resolution united all of the characters in an unexpected way, which was awesome.

I didn’t have many expectations going into Big Little Lies. That’s not to say that I had low expectations, but I didn’t know much about it one way or the other. I was just curious to try it out because it’s an HBO show with some actors that I enjoy. Needless to say, my non-existent expectations were blown out of the water. I plan to re-watch BLL again over the summer, just because, and it’s now become my top recommendation to anyone and everyone who shows even the slightest interest in TV. Seriously, go forth and binge watch!

I Lost Faith in My Writing

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Be You BeachConfession time: I’ve been super depressed lately. As in considering medication because I’ve been vibing so low, feeling terrible, and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I put a lot of the blame on my job, because it’s been a really tough year at my workplace, and although I’m great at what I do, I don’t love it. It doesn’t light me up. It’s unfulfilling. And that’s a hard pill to swallow every day. I’ve even blamed some of my depression on the amazing group coaching program that I’ve been in since November (which sadly ends in a few weeks). Although I love it, have made amazing friends, and had some transformational breakthroughs, much of the work has been really deep, painful, and hard to face (Sidenote: Still, this program and work has still been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Period.). Naturally, with all of this going on in my life, I blamed my depression and never-ending misery on those things. But–and here’s the kicker of a realization that I just had a few minutes ago–it’s not work or personal growth that have fueled my depression.

It’s me.

Over the last few months, somewhere along the line, I completely lost faith in the one thing that I hold most dear.

I lost faith in my writing.

At first, I made excuse after excuse on why I couldn’t write: I’m too tired after working all day. I’ll write on the weekend. And then the weekend would come, and I’d fill my days in other non-writing ways. The work week would start all over again, and while I’d hide away on a lunch break here and there to write a scene in my current novel-in-progress, anything I produced just seemed lackluster and like utter shit. Not exactly how you want to feel about your own work. So I blamed perfectionism, and although there is some truth to that, I knew that it wasn’t the entire story. 

Earlier today, I felt like I needed to journal. And not just normal journaling, but soul journaling (or channeling), because yes that’s a thing that I do. It may be too woo woo for some folks, but I consider myself a pretty intuitive person, and I’ve done a lot of work and experimentation over the past five years to really build a bond with my intuition and soul. Lately, however, as my depression has seeped in, I was beginning to get resentful toward spirit. All the time and prayer I put into begging for some sort of light at the end of the tunnel or clear-cut steps to take to improve my situation resulted in nothing. I just kept getting the same generic wisdom: my purpose revolves around writing and connecting with others through my words, but how I decided to actually execute that was my choice. Divine guidance, yet completely useless.

Or so I thought.

After today’s soul journaling session, I had yet another page of the aforementioned type of guidance. At first I was annoyed and disappointed, but then I set my notebook aside and really began to think about it and everything really. Me. Life. Purpose. Depression. Direction. My dreams and aspirations. All of those big questions that are at once empowering and absolutely terrifying.

What do I really want to do? If I could wake up tomorrow and my life and my career revolved around my work–work that made me happy and comfortably self-sufficient–what would that work be?

“Creative writing,” flooded my mind. It gave me chills and made all my hair stand on end. Because duh, I’ve wanted that since I was a kid. And when I started to think back on all of the things and moments and habits and stuff that people noticed about me or commented on or led me to experience really awesome soul-shaking moments throughout my life, all of it–literally all of it–related to some form of creative writing. 

  • When I was in first grade, the kids in my class called me “the dictionary” because I always knew what the hard words meant and could easily help others with spelling and writing assignments.
  • In middle school, I became notorious for having a new book to read every few days. Literally. I’d be excused at the beginning of Sustained Silent Reading a few days a week to go to the library to pick out a new book. In fact, the school librarian was one of my favorite people all throughout elementary and middle school.
  • My favorite book, to this day, remains the only book that I remember my parents reading and talking about and then later recommending to me. When I tweeted to the author last year to rave about said book, he responded, and I died (in a good way). 
  • When I was younger, think single digits, I used to write to my gram, because I dubbed us pen pals. And once I hit about 11-years-old, I began to keep daily journals. I still keep daily journals, and I still have all of the journals and notebooks from over the years.
  • My favorite college class was a Lord of the Rings independent study that I took with the head of the English department. I needed to keep asking for an extension on the detailed journal of analysis I was assigned to keep, because I didn’t realize that reading one of my favorite series would go so much slower when I was reading critically instead of for fun. I got an A in that class, by the way 🙂
  • It was around my college years that I started to write fanfiction. And I know that fanfiction gets a bad rap and elicits a lot of eye rolls, but speaking from experience – fanfiction was the thing that first gave me the confidence to share my stories with other people.
  • I’ve been a “nerd” slash “fangirl” my entire life. But what this really translates to is that I’ve been obsessed with stories–in the form of movies, TV shows, and books–since I was a kid. And when I say obsessed, I mean it, because these stories touched me, impacted me, left an impression, and inspired me to try my own hand at storytelling so that I could make others feel the way that I felt when I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and read the Harry Potter series. (Sidenote: I’m not just a pop culture addict, I also love the classics, like Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe. I have layers.)
  • Teaming up with my friend Jess five years ago to try this writing thing as a duo remains one of the best experiences of my life. We wrote a book! We eventually realized that our true niche lies in screenwriting and have since completed two screenplays. The ideas just keep coming, and working together feels like literal magic.

Still, for some reason, I lost my faith in my writing. And it’s sucked. It completely zapped me of all happiness and energy over the past few months. Which makes total sense, because I was hiding from the one thing that truly lights me up and makes me feel vibrant. And you know why? Fear. The hiding and the suppression and the faithlessness – it’s all fear-based.

What if I’m not good enough? But what if I am?

What if nothing ever comes of this? I’ll never know until I actually, genuinely 100% try.

If it was meant to be, wouldn’t it have happened by now? I haven’t actually completed enough projects to pull the trigger on legit pitching to make anything happen.

It’s too hard. All of the best journeys are – that’s what makes a good story.

So, in this moment, I now dub my faith all sorts of restored. No more hiding. I’m going to temper my fear. I’m going to stop running from the unknown and my potential. I’m going to stop making excuses. I’m going to really, truly pour all of my heart and soul into my writing and stop phoning it in just so I can just check “writing” off of my to do list.

TLDR: I’m going to write until the day I die, and even then, you’ll need to pry my words from my cold, dead hands.

Perfectionism: Every Writer’s Archenemy

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chalkboardI’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.

This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.

Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:

  • Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
  • Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
  • Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.

Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.

Take that, perfectionism.

Fangirl Fav: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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BTVSThis past week marked the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the tv series). Although I enjoyed a variety of pop culture as a wee one, anything from Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to X-Men and the Superman movies, I didn’t get a true taste of fangirl obsession until Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked into my life (well, not literally, because then I would be dead from awesome overload).

My BtVS obsession goes waaay back to the original movie starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. I was in love with Luke Perry, thanks to Beverly Hills, 90210, which I watched with my mom. (Sidenote: although mom appreciated Luke Perry, her heart belonged to Jason Priestley.) I was only eight when the BtVS movie came out in 1992, but I was instantly hooked. Although I think, even back then, part of me knew this wasn’t cinema at its best lol. Still, Luke Perry was hot, Kristy Swanson was a girl who kicked major ass, and there were vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

When the TV version of BtVS launched in 1997, I was 13 and the perfect age for an instant obsession. And I mean obsession. Some of the first posters I ever hung on my walls were of the BtVS cast, including my treasured poster of Buffy and Angel, my very first OTP. I wrote letters to the cast which prompted a response including a signed cast photo which earned many, many squeal/flail combos. I had action figures, trading cards, clothing, and basically any BtVS memorabilia I could get my grubby little hands on, most of which were proudly displayed in my bedroom.

Of course, as many people know, obsession comes with a price. My adoration for BtVS caused my very first fangirl meltdown, the extent of which still earns reminiscent chuckles from my family. Spoiler Alert: When Angel was killed at the end of season 2, I was literally in mourning all summer. I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion, and when he was resurrected the next season, well, PURE HAPPINESS was suddenly my new jam. End Spoiler Alert. Don’t even get me started on when the show was resurrected for it’s second leg of life on a different network. I mean……I can’t.

In honor of the 20th anniversary, and my fond fangirl memories, I’d like to list some of my favorite things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before wrapping this up while I still have a modicum of self-respect (I hope?).

Random Reasons Why I Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Show)

  • I love the Buffy/Angel relationship as much as they loved each other.
  • Joss Whedon’s writing. His dialogue is amazing. Some of my favorite quotes ever came from BtVS.
  • I love the various friendships portrayed over the duration of the show: Buffy/Willow, Buffy/Xander, Buffy/Willow/Xander, etc.
  • The fight scenes! I’m such a nerd for action sequences.
  • Doppelgangers. Specifically Willow’s doppelganger, who was amazing and hilarious.
  • Anya. (Yes, she deserves her own bullet.)
  • The development of Cordelia over the progression of the show (and later the spinoff). She was the original mean girl and had some of the best lines of the show.
  • The Angel spinoff!
  • Obviously outdated now, but I loooved the styling of that show, fashion and hair wise.
  • I loved that Buffy could be a badass, a badass girl at that, and still be feminine and vulnerable.
  • Spike with a side of Drusilla. They were delightfully, twistedly awesome.

To this day, I still have random BtVS bingewatch fests. Whenever I come across current fandoms or popular series, I think of BtVS and hope that today’s fangirls and fanboys stumble across the 90’s gem that launched a global cult phenomenon. Sure, the show isn’t exactly timeless. The clothing, hair, slang, and way of life has changed, but the core of the show–the relationships, the love stories, the heartbreaks, the trials and tribulations of life–transcends decades and wardrobe. Most of it, maybe even all of it, is relatable. With vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

Kitchen Catastrophes Connoisseur

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kitchen-catastrophesSpeak to anyone close to me, and they will probably tell you that one of my more charming traits (I hope) is that I am a complete and utter failure in the kitchen. Actually, “failure” is putting it lightly. When it comes to my horrible culinary skills (or lack thereof) and frequently disgusting–sometimes dangerous–end results, the word “catastrophe” is much more fitting.

My very first kitchen catastrophe happened when I was a teenager. I’m the oldest of five and frequently babysat my siblings while my parents were out. On one such occasion, I decided I was going to surprise my parents by baking brownies, but not just plain, old, boring brownies, no, I was going to make heart-shaped brownies. I’d been eyeing this hot pink heart-shaped silicon (or so I thought) pan that my mom had purchased a few weeks earlier, and this was my chance to finally get my grubby hands on it. Sadly, the silicon pan was not silicon at all. It was plastic. Extremely, regrettably, meltable plastic. Needless to say, we had neither brownies nor a heart-shaped pan by the time I was done in the kitchen that day.

Since I was a teenager when that first fiasco happened, you’d think that I must have gotten better at this cooking thing by now. No, no I haven’t. As a matter of fact, I’ve only added more outrageous kitchen catastrophes to the list.

A rundown:

  • Finding pantry food that is well past the expiration date. As in three or four years past. Oops.
  • Using my slow cooker for the very first time and completely, and I mean completely, liquefying my southwest shredded chicken. Instead of drinking my dinner that night, I ordered out, because I don’t actually want to poison myself.
  • That time I tried to make my own Italian-esque mozzarella balls. You know, the type in flavored oil that are THE BOMB. I’m half Italian, this should have been a victory. It wasn’t. It was flavorless mozzarella balls coated in dry seasonings that kept getting stuck in my teeth 😦
  • One of my favorites: the time I preheated my oven without checking inside first and almost set fire to a sadly forgotten and stowed away pizza box. This was actually pretty scary and had me shaking for a good hour or two. And the smell…dear sweet baby Jesus, the smell.
  • I’ve had quite a few failtastic milk related kitchen catastrophes. The top two, however: 1) Accidentally eating sour milk because I didn’t check the expiration date before making a bowl of cereal, and 2) Now more vigilant in checking milk before using it, I too enthusiastically did the sniff test and snorted milk bubbles up my nose. Adulthood – nailed it. 
  • Still, I’ve saved the best for last: that time I liquefied a potato. As in the potato was sitting in my veggie bowl for so long that it actually liquefied on the bottom. One night, I came home to a RANK smell in my kitchen, like spoiled fish or weeks-old garbage in a NYC alley. After some investigating, I went to pick up the potato from the veggie bowl, and it dribbled through my fingers.

My parents have often told me that I probably shouldn’t live on my own, and although I greatly resent that–SINCE THEY RAISED ME AND SHOULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB AT TEACHING ME HOW TO COOK SO I COULD SURVIVE ON MY OWN IN THE BIG, BAD WORLD–they aren’t wrong. Alas, I value my independence far too much to get a roommate, and I’m totally not in the soon-to-be-married phase of my life yet. So, for the foreseeable future, fake!adulthood it is! And, you know, thank goodness for GrubHub, and the like, or I’d probably starve to death.

Soul Searching Rec: Mindbodygreen

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mbgYou may have caught on to this by now: I am a personal growth junkie. I love learning and exploring new things, particularly resources that are informative, inspirational, and fun. And if said resources just so happen to improve happiness and well-being, all the better!

So, in the spirit of promoting such resources, I’d like to recommend one of my favorite daily e-newsletters (stemming from a great website): Mindbodygreen. I look forward to this gem in my inbox every single day. Here’s a blurb from the Mindbodygreen website about the mission behind the brand:

mindbodygreen is a lifestyle media brand dedicated to inspiring you to live your best life.

To that end, we want to give you everything that’s great for you: mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and environmentally — because we believe these pillars of wellness are vital and interconnected. Hence mindbodygreen (one word, not three).

Mindbodygreen splits their content into these categories: eat, move, live, breathe, and love. Revitalize is another subcategory that is based off of an annual event hosted by Mindbodygreen that gathers wellness leaders and other inspirational individuals who shape the world.

The content on the website and in the e-newsletters is truly inspirational. Each e-newsletter issue is filled with a number of articles and recommendations that are impactful and thought provoking. Topics range from astrology and clean eating to fitness and relationships. Even the articles I wouldn’t necessarily seek out have often been enjoyable and enlightening.

If you’re looking for a daily dose of inspiration, I highly recommend subscribing to the Mindbodygreen newsletter!