This Little Light Of Mine

First Days in LA

It’s always comforting to look back and see what you’ve been able to endure. But while you’re going through it – whatever it is in the present moment, it really does feel unbearable.

There are gut wrenching moments like the break-up of a “true” love or when someone close to you dies unexpectedly like a parent or a friend. Those moments are deeply painful and seem impossible to get through while you’re in it.  Of course, once we muddle our way through and a little time passes, we realize it was “bearable” after-all.

I moved out to Los Angeles right after college. I came to the City of Angels not knowing a soul, having no place to live and exactly $800 dollars in my pocket. I remember counting the crisp 100 dollar bills over and over again right when I got off the plane – somehow hoping there’d be more if I kept counting. The fear I had in my belly that crept up to my chest was intense, but there was also a tinge of excitement. The move from Boston wasn’t just an adventure, it was a much-needed life change. In my head, I was reclaiming a life that had been ripped away from me for so many reasons. The most important reason: I was supposed to be a dancer but instead went to college. Moving to Los Angeles was compensation to finding my way to where I was supposed to be anyways. Righting a wrong sort of speak. That scary time in my life was about leaping into a new world to make myself whole. Mission accomplished by the way…  

Graduation Day

Another vivid time in my life where I remember being scared was years ago before online dating was the mainstream thing it is now. I started talking to a guy on yahoo personals. Yaaaas, it was THAT long ago. The site no longer exists. This was before everyone had webcams – instant messaging was the “cool” thing – and yeah, back then, online dating was an embarrassment. No one admitted to using it.  Honestly, I’m still amazed I was on the site myself back then. I’m a lot of things, being a “trailblazer” is NOT one of them. But online dating was new and I remember deciding to take the leap and agreeing to meet this man I’d been talking to for months. The thing is, I had to fly to another state to do it. Even as I write that I realize how fearless I was. Or stupid. Stupid is probably the right word there.  I’d taken every precaution necessary and controlled the situation as much as I could – and yet, I remember that fear too. It was the fear of putting myself in a dangerous situation with a stranger who could have been a serial killer mixed with the possibility of meeting “the one”. In my head it was that stark:  He’d either be a bad person or the one.  Ha!  Well, fast forward to him clearly not being a serial killer. But I remember that gnawing pit in my stomach – that incredible fear in my belly as I made my way to the airport to see him. Luckily for me, he turned out to be a decent guy, a good man. We’ve worked together over the years – but the dread of thinking I’d made a mistake getting on that plane years ago to meet a stranger…I still remember that gut-wrenching knot of uncertainty like it was yesterday.    

Dread mixed with uncertainty. Moving to Los Angeles on my own and yeah, meeting a stranger in another state. In a lot of ways, it’s the same feeling I’m having nowadays during this Covid time. And yet, it’s something deeper – more painful…

Even with things that were out of my control or bigger than my personal decision making, like 9/11 or the Challenger Disaster, straight up fear and dread is crippling. Not being in control of what’s next is hard for most human beings.  9/11 touched me personally in that I lost a college friend – Cesar Murrillo – in the twin towers who I’d just spoken to on the phone a week before.  And although I didn’t know anyone personally on the Space Shuttle Challenger – I was a teenager and remember exactly where I was when it happened. I’d just gotten off a bus in downtown Boston and everyone was talking about it. I’ll never forget the panic faces. The tone of sadness in everyone’s voices. Collective despair.  Again, that familiar fear of dread. Unknowing. No control.   

We’ve all been in challenging and scary situations at one point or another. And each time although it may be a different circumstance, that belly fear is the same.  While we’re IN IT and no matter how many times we experience it, it’s uncomfortable and confusing. You’d think that being scared on a semi regular basis would make us less prone to reacting to it the way we do, but no. Fear, unlike confidence, is not a welcomed feeling to the human spirit. We never get used to it no matter how many times we experience it.  And that’s a good thing actually. Fear helps us know when something is wrong, gives us an ability to reassess and re-consider things.  And yet, fear still sucks. Straight up. I don’t care how important and unavoidable a feeling it is to the human psyche – I hate feeling like this!     

The one thing I do know for sure about all of these fearful moments is We Do Get Through It. We endure. We get to the other side. This damn little light of mine keeps searching through the darkness always looking for the light. That has always been my super-power. No matter what comes our way, no matter how tragic, no matter how disappointing or dreadful, we persevere. The human spirit survives anyways. 

One of my favorite quotes that I’ve written way too many times is by Winston Churchill. It’s simple, but so tangible especially in this particular moment:

If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Don’t stay in one place, keep moving forward, find the light – it’s the only way to get out – keep walking through to the other side…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to see the light or positivity especially when we’re lacking leadership, people are losing jobs, there’s no income, no end in sight, and the death toll is an everyday occurrence in mind-numbing numbers. Being isolated doesn’t help either… and yet, we can do this! We can get through this. Together.

Finding Old Friends Again – Robert

I find joy in the littlest of things.  The kindness of early morning walkers waving to say good morning because masks cover their smiles. The act of people clapping on their balconies at 7pm at night to honor those on the frontlines or people being kind to cashiers and delivery people – it’s good to finally see, all of us finding our way to being nice to one another. 

I take joy and much needed comfort in reconnecting with old friends on zoom, by phone and the like – and yes, even that “man” I  flew to meet long ago named Robert on Yahoo personals who is still a friend today. Finding happiness in little moments daily against the large dark clouds feels insignificant as I write it, but all you need is a little tiny light in a dark room to brighten the entire space. I’ll continue to take the little moments and shine anyways…

We’re going through a difficult time. Yes, it’s scary. I’m not pretending it’s an easy trek. I’ve never been down this road before either. Personally, it’s a combination of dread, loss of control and an adventure I don’t want to be on. To be honest, I fall twice a day and cry every other – but when the tears let up, I get back up on my feet, wipe my eyes and look for hope. That’s the light. Choose to hold onto that. We will endure.

This little light of mine…

It’s always about the Joy.

Choices and A Thank You

Listen to the Podcast on “Choices” or read the light transcription below.  

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I have never had a problem making a choice and it’s because making a choice isn’t actually the difficult part.  I know it that sounds a little weird but when I explain it, it will make a little bit more sense.

There’s an incident in the book where I’m a little girl and I’m in the grocery store with my mom.  She gets a little ahead of me and she tells me that I can’t have any candy.  I steal a gumball anyway and plop it in my mouth. And as luck would have it, I start choking on that gumball and end up on the floor choking really hard.  People are starting to gather — I can still see my mother’s face even today.   It’s seared in my head – there is this moment where she turns around and realizes that I’m choking and she doesn’t come running over,  she doesn’t rush or whatever,  but she looks at me with that face of disappointment.  In what may have been a few seconds, I can tell by the way she’s looking at me that this was a consequence of a choice I made.

It was probably the first time I understood what consequences were.  And over time I started to realize that making a choice was never really the problem.   You know if you had a choice “A” versus choice “B” and you’re really conflicted as to which one to choose, you will make whatever choice you need to make depending on how you’re feeling that day, what’s going on in your life – things can change the reasons why we make certain choices. Right?  But the one thing that doesn’t change is your ability to understand what the consequences are for either one of those choices.

And so, that’s what I do on a regular basis.  I did that as a kid —  I did that when I was young —  I would see that there would be choice “A” and choice “B” and I would write down in my head or on paper – I would break down what the consequences were for each.  And even if the consequences were more wrong or cons or bad –  but I wanted to make that choice anyway for whatever reason —  I was never surprised by what happened after I made that choice.

So the thing about understanding consequences is it does a few things:  1) it prepares you for the possibility that whatever choice you make, it may become a huge failure.  But in knowing what the possible outcomes may be, you are also not surprised.  Here’s another kind of a side benefit to being able to understand what your consequences are for whatever choices you make:  it takes out a lot of fear.  People always ask me, “Carmen how did you move to California not knowing anybody and on your own and not having any connection…”.  People always ask these questions and I really don’t do anything haphazardly. I’m pretty much a control freak.   Part of having that control is understanding what the consequences are to any choices I make.  And when I have those consequences, and I understand what the possibilities may be on the downside, I can fly!  I can leap with both feet because I will land — I will land regardless and I will pick up the pieces if it fails.  Nine times out of ten it doesn’t fail and it doesn’t fail because I have taken control of the situation by understanding consequences.

I hope that makes some sense.

I wanted to share that because it’s come up a lot and it’s going to be part of my talk and conversation I’m having at a speaking event in 2019.  But I hope that helps.  I hope it gives people something to think about.  Again, if you have any questions or you want to leave comments, thank you so much…

I wanted to say something else now that I’m back podcasting. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has bought my book, CANELA.  I have not done any publicity whatsoever except to share it with my friends on facebook and a couple of posts I’ve put here on my blog.  I am shocked by how many people have read the book and how many people have sent me emails and questions and praise… I’m so grateful for that.  It really kind of touches me, everyone’s perspective and everyone’s ideas.  It’s been a little bit overwhelming.  I was surprised by how much people are understanding this book and are connecting to it. And as much as I write down all my consequences, I wasn’t prepared for, well, all the love. That’s what I’ll say. It’s been a beautiful thing.

If you have an idea for a book, or you always wanted to write a book or you’re thinking of writing a book, I really encourage you to do it.  It really has been life changing for me. Now that it’s done and it’s out there, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Please, keep writing, keep creating.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it always.

I’ll be back again soon. Have a sweet day.

Carmen

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Music – “Prelude No. 23” by Chris Zabriskie

 

I’m Not Done

It’s not over yet, is it?

I’m not done.  Mostly because I haven’t really started yet.  The journey till now has been all that I had to do.  The path forward is all about what I want to do. I get that now.

I’ve had little fear in my life, mostly when I was a child.  I learned the best way to deal with fear is to walk right up to it, scream at it and move on through anyways.  “Fear ain’t nothing but a thang.” I still say that to myself all the time.

So, I’m not afraid. I’m excited, bewildered maybe, but going forward nonetheless.  There’s no other choice for me really.  Reminiscing about my accomplishments or contemplating my failures has proven to be futile.

I know it’s time to move forward – continue on the path. Enjoy the rest of the journey.

I think I’m gonna love this part. 

Jealousy Is A Thing

Jealousy.

Everyone denies they’re jealous.  Ever notice that?  “I’m not jealous. Me? No. I Frustrated 1could care less about her…”.  Or maybe it’s the shrugging of the shoulders in contempt or finding a way to belittle someone like, “…yeah, but I bet she can’t add 2 + 2…”.

When that feeling of jealously strikes us we tend to deny it’s even there.  Ever wonder why?

Somewhere along the line we learned that it was a bad thing to be jealous. That to be jealous, envious of another person’s advantages – whatever they may be – was a terrible thing.  It makes us look bad to ever be seen as being jealous.  So we deny it.

Here’s the thing: Being jealous is a natural part of who we are.  Like fear, it’s not something that we ever see coming, until we encounter it. When fear arrives, it’s because our inner selves detect something scary, something that we perceive might hurt us.  Our first reaction is to be afraid.  But denying we’re afraid, denying fear, doesn’t make the fear any less real or any less there.

Jealously works the same way.

When jealousy shows up, it’s never because we’re looking  for it, it just presents itself. And our first reaction is to try and deny it.  We try to push it away. Again, it doesn’t make the jealousy any less real or any less there, but it does throw most people into a strange place where their inability to deal with jealousy makes them lash out in ways that are counter-productive and most times, says more about who they are, than the people they’re hating on.

Let me share a recent example:

I was at a restaurant a couple of months ago at around lunch time. It was pretty empty patron-wise and the waitress was chit chatting with me about a movie she had just seen. About 10 minutes into my lunch, a couple walked in, early 30s maybe and absolutely stunning.  There was no doubt in my mind they were professional models  — and if they weren’t, they should have been! Now, to put this in perspective,  I live in a town where everyone is “beautiful” – that town being Hollywood – and these two stood out.  So  “drop-dead gorgeous”  is not a term I’m using loosely…  

The waitress, upon seeing them, said to me under her breath, “Great. Jerks.” I assumed she knew them and had some history with them. So I proceeded to eat my lunch but couldn’t help listening and watching what was happening… 

The waitress’s demeanor had completely changed. She wasn’t being kind to them. She was harsh and cold.  She seemed to throw down the water and plates of food in-front of them. She made no eye contact whatsoever  – she seemed annoyed to deal with them. I kept thinking, ‘wow, these people must have really pissed her off’ – and so, when she returned to the counter where I had been sitting I asked her, “How do you know them?” and she replied, “I don’t know them. I would never know people like that. Those are not my kind of people.”  She must have seen my confused expression because she proceeded and said, “You know the type:  they’re probably actors on some fucking show, or dumb models —  they don’t ever have to work for a living because mommy and daddy pay for everything. I mean, look at them, you can just tell they’re spoiled assholes.”  

Clearly, that experience told me more about the waitress than it did about the lovely people who had just come in for a bite to eat.  After that, I was no longer interested in talking to the waitress.  My impression of her had changed and the point is: when we don’t deal with jealousy, most times it makes US look ugly. It brings out the worst in who we are.  And without even knowing it, you turn people off.

So how do you learn not to be jealous?  You can’t.  And anyone who tells you they never get jealous is lying.  It’s just like fear.  You can’t stop being afraid, but you can learn to deal with fear when it shows itself.  And like anything else you work on, feeling afraid or being jealous becomes less of an obstacle over time.

Here’s how I overcame one aspect of fear:

I used to be afraid of heights and flying.  So much so, that it would take a lot for me to get on a plane. Even when I’d go hiking, I would stay away from looking at the scenery if we were too high up, because the knowledge that I had hiked that far away from “solid” ground would make me feel nauseous.  It became a problem – because, I do love to hike. So, although I had decided to deal with my fear of flying by avoiding planes all altogether, it was now keeping me from experiencing another part of life.  Now I wasn’t enjoying hiking as much – something had to change.  I decided that the way I was dealing with my fear – by denying it and avoiding it, was not working.  It was keeping me from being the best person I could be.  So, I talked to a few people and someone suggested I go skydiving.  I was completely fearful of the thought, but after some time passed, I knew in my gut I had to do it.  I decided to confront fear head on.  Here’s a quick clip of that fun life-changing event:

Going skydiving changed me.  I’m not saying all of my fear has completely gone away, but it doesn’t stop me from being my best self.   I handle all fear in my life differently now.  It’s the same with Jealousy.

How do you become your best self when you are confronted with Jealousy? Well, I don’t have a cool movie clip to show you that, but here’s how I deal with it on a regular basis and it works brilliantly for me.  Maybe, it can help you too.

First, you have to admit you get jealous.  It seems so simple, but if you don’t admit it, then you avoid tackling it and instead do things to avoid it.

Secondly, when confronted with a moment of jealousy, admit it out-loud.  I like to say, if you see something that makes you jealous, say something!  So, more often than not, when I see a beautiful woman working her magic in some fabulous dress, I’ll let her know, “Wow, that’s a great dress!” And I say it authentically and with sincerity  and EVERY time that person reacts with joy and appreciation.  And jealousy evaporates and becomes something else. I’ve made it into a compliment, instead of holding it inside.

Three, think about why you got jealous in that moment and use it as a tool to improve yourself.  More times than not, we’re jealous because we don’t have something the other person’s got.  Rarely, is it a dress I’m jealous of, generally it’s the woman’s self-confidence and the way she holds herself – and usually I’m thinking, I didn’t work out the past day or so.  Or, maybe know subconsciously that my eating habits had faltered that week and I wasn’t really working my own magic… see what I’m saying?

Here’s the thing:  there are enough moments in life when we get all frustrated and tied up in knots about things. Letting jealousy of another person’s advantages take up too much time in your head.  It makes you defensive when there is no need to be.  And it’s just a wasteful use of energy. The way I see it, jealousy can actually be a good thing,  if you use the moment to understand why you feel the way you do and then use that information to  improve upon who you are and who you can be!

Well, that’s how I do it anyways…

Happy sweet day!

xxoo.

Carm.