Wearing My Moxie on My Sleeve

For the past few months, I’ve been battling depression and anxiety. While I typically struggle with pre-birthday depression, this year also started off with an abrupt end to a new romantic relationship. I had big hopes, as we’d been flirting with each other for several years, and had much in common, but ultimately the big hopes couldn’t overcome the big hurdles.

As part of my self-prescribed therapy to help me move through the worst of my heartache, I wore my moxie bracelet (seen in the site header) on a daily basis. I’ve long been a fan of jewelry with a message, whether it’s symbolic or text. Wearing the bracelet was a daily reminder to be courageous and fearless in all things. Last autumn I had taken a big chance in telling this man I wanted to see if there was something more to our flirtation, and just because it didn’t work out was no reason to let fear take over again. But vulnerability is still something I struggle with – whether I’m being vulnerable or giving someone else the space to be vulnerable with me – as it bumps up against my profound insecurity, the voice in my head that tells me I will never be good enough. I let insecurity run the show all too often, and the result is I don’t take many risks.

Last week I watched researcher/storyteller Brené Brown’s 2010 TED talk on vulnerability. I don’t think I’d seen it before, or if I had, it didn’t resonate with me in that moment. What she said about her findings made so much sense to me in light of everything I’d been thinking about related to insecurity, vulnerability – and moxie.

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating…They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

In my professional life, I’m getting much better at risk taking. I’ve learned that the worst thing that can happen when you ask for a favor, a contract, an opportunity, is that you’re told no. You just go ask someone else. What I have found is that the more I ask, the more chances I get to hear a yes. It’s quite basic math.

In my personal life, though, I flounder. I don’t set my boundaries and fortify them. I don’t always ask for the love I want and need from friends or partners. I hear no and I hang around, waiting for the yes that I’m sure will come if they only see how compassionate or patient or kind I am. And it’s all because I am scared to say – to myself – that I am enough. That my boundaries are solid and firm, and anyone who attempts to diminish or vaporize them – even me – will be stopped. That I will let go and move forward without fear. That even if that annoying voice inside my head wants to keep me small, I will take the risk of being vulnerable, over and over again.

Brown talks about this self-acceptance as well.

This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee…instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

…when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

In late February, I found a new piece of jewelry, a silver bangle inscribed with the phrase “Live Your Life.” These days, as my heart is still healing, I’m wearing that bangle a lot, sometimes with the Moxie bracelet. That’s because I am finally accepting that part of living my life is being unafraid to tell the stories of my heart, believing that I am enough, taking the risks to get to the yes, and remembering that I contain an infinite amount of inner moxie that’s there when I need it most.

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Whoze Bettah Than You?

Several years ago I met this guy who I’ll call Billy Moretti. He was a dark-haired, muscular Irish-Italian guy originally from Queens and he was smoking hot. The first time we met, I got this jolt in my stomach – the kind of jolt that’s only happened to me twice so far – and we ended up having a very intense, secret-ish fling.

Billy and I had a few conversations about serious topics, such as spirituality and self-esteem. One thing he said to me was a phrase from his old neighborhood: “Whoze bettah than you?” His New York accent made the words even more affirming to me, and I would always say in response, “Nobody.” Sometimes I attempted a New Yorker accent, sometimes I whispered my answer. But I never changed it. I knew what the answer was.

When the Hollaback street harassment video went viral recently, I thought about my experiences in New York and other big cities of walking down the street and having random men make comments or try to engage me. I learned pretty quickly that my tendency to be engaging and kind with people is not a good idea when hoofing it in Times Square, DC or downtown L.A. There are a lot of freaky folks out there. However, I have to admit that the attention was always a little bit flattering. It meant I wasn’t as invisible as I often felt. It suggested that maybe I was doing something right with the way I was dressing or carrying myself if some stranger catcalled me.

I’m not the only woman who’s felt this way. “Sidewalk” is a fantastic animated short by Celia Bullwinkel that chronicles a woman’s life as she walks down the street.

 

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GIFs from Celia Bullwinkel’s animated short “Sidewalk.”

In an interview she did with Jessica Goldstein over at ThinkProgress, Bullwinkel talks about what motivated her to make the film. Conversations with her mother about appreciating catcalls “because when you get older, it goes away” and reading Nora Ephron’s essays on aging proved to be a perfect starting place.

I started to really think about how I could make a film that dealt with body acceptance, and how life is more than just how you look or how you feel about yourself being young. Who cares if you get older? Everyone ages at the same rate. We all do it, so why not celebrate it?

 

It’s Bullwinkel’s comment later in the interview that reminded me of Billy’s saying, and how it made me feel back when he was saying it to me.

I wanted to show that, even if it takes you until the end of your life to change your outlook, change your mindset, about who you are, it’s never too late. You can learn to love yourself at any age in your life.

Lately I’ve been on a positive reinforcement and self-improvement kick. I’m wearing mascara and lip gloss most days, even if I don’t go anywhere, because it makes me feel good (thanks to reading an interview with Betty Halbreich, the legendary Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper). I’m talking myself out of negative thoughts about my weight, my looks, all of it. And it’s been working. I feel really good and I feel people are responding to me differently. I’m not getting catcalls, nor do I want them at this point in my life, because I’m finally validating myself in ways I haven’t before.

But I do hear Billy’s voice in my head, and my own voice, too, asking, “Whoze bettah than you?” And my answer is, as always, “Nobody.”

It Is Done

It is done, finito, complete. I’m talking about my book summary that I have been working on since the beginning of July. I am finishing up a celebratory margarita as I type this.

You have no idea how happy I am to be done with this project. It has eaten my brain. I have dreamed about the book, the characters, the setting – and this was a fantasy novel, so you can imagine how freaky those dreams were.

I have learned a lot about myself during this process. Throughout my life I have gotten involved in projects only to manifest some reason as to why I cannot complete it. The reasons range from illness to technological malfunctions. This time around, I managed to do the following:

  • I couldn’t get the book from the library, as they only had one copy and someone else had requested it.
  • I bought the book online 2 days before Independence Day and because of the holiday, I had to wait over a week to receive it.
  • I got a sinus infection, my second one in two months.
  • On Wednesday, I fell hard on my tailbone, making it very painful to sit down.
  • On Thursday (or possibly Friday), the computer crashed while I was in the middle of typing up the summary. It is a brand new computer I bought in May that has never crashed before.

Every time I worked around one of these issues, another one would seem to pop up in its place. During the last couple of weeks I was going crazy with anxiety over getting the project completed.

As tortuous as it was to complete this project, it was a blessing, too, because I finally figured out why I get so stressed about this stuff. I have this belief that I need to be perfect in order to truly be successful. At the same time, I believe that I am completely incapable and unworthy of being successful. These two beliefs turn into this one: “The only way I can be successful is if I am perfect, but since I am too sucky to be successful, I must not be able to be perfect. And if I can’t be perfect, there’s no point in even trying to succeed.” While we all know perfection is impossible, try telling that to your subconscious, especially if it’s heavily invested in you being perfect. Nothing you ever do is good enough. It’s a hell of a way to live.

Right now I’m working on making peace with these beliefs. This means that I just accept them without making the beliefs, or myself, right or wrong. It’s a tough one, mainly because I have carried this around since I was very young. I remember getting sick with laryngitis right before a puppet show in 4th grade. I was voicing one of the key characters and my teacher was coming back from maternity leave just to watch the performance. I pushed myself to try and do the role, only to have my voice give out. I ended up sitting in the audience in tears while my archenemy, a popular girl with a mean reputation, took over my part. It still makes me a little mad to think about it now, but I realize it was my ego making sure those beliefs stayed intact.

T-Wizzle tells me that I must be ready to let go of this pattern if I am so clear on it. I think she is right. I also think that once I do let go, all sorts of incredible opportunities will come to me. And at that point, I will truly be able to say: it is DONE.