The If Only Girl
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Spirituality vs. My Mechanic

A few days ago I posted about how lucky I am. The "Check Transmission" light came on in my car 7 miles before my maintenance package expired. What incredibly good fortune, to know that whatever was wrong with my car would be taken care of. So why then, yesterday, did I find myself at the dealership in the service manager's office crying? Not loud uncontrollable crying, but soft little tears as I tried to tell him how I didn't feel like I had been taken care of by his staff.

I'm working on practicing gratitude this year and part of this process is being grateful for the big fantastic things and being grateful for the small difficult lessons that come into my life as well. I could have walked out of the service manager's office embarrassed and immediately forced the entire incident out of my mind but I know that this is an opportunity for me to get beneath the surface and figure out why I had so much sadness surrounding the way I was handled.

My usual contact at the dealership was out of the office when I brought my car into the shop the other night so I ended up working with someone else. The next day there were several phone calls back and forth and it seemed to me that he wasn't really trying to address any underlying problems with the car. He was flippant and kept telling me that the car was fine and that I should come pick it up. I confronted him in a calm manner. I used full sentences. I asked what I thought were reasonable and insightful questions.

Finally he said, "I can't find anything wrong with your car and I can't be responsible for what happens to the transmission when you drive it off our lot. Look, you have a good car. "

I was dumbfounded. This man was patting me on the head telling me that I shouldn’t be so difficult; I should just blindly accept his opinion that my car is a good car. How could I have the audacity to question his judgment?

All my life I've had men patronize me in this way- especially around "man" things they think I don't know a lot about- Cars, the Army, Mathematics. Well, I don't know anything about cars but I spent 6 years in the Army National Guard and I have a college degree in Mathematics.

I was irritated but not sad. There were no tears. I was frustrated that I would have to prepare myself to play hardball, that I would have to get forceful, that I shouldn't have to be put in a position where I have to be bitchy to get not just what I want, but what is fair. I told him to check it again.

The next day I called the service contact I usually deal with to talk with him about the situation. I've been working with him for 4 years. He's earned my trust. After researching my situation he assured me that they would do everything they could to take care of me and explained exactly what was going on with my car. It was then that the tears came. I was able to let my guard down and accept help from someone I trusted. He didn't condescend to me. He was fair and honest and graceful.

I made sure that the manager would be available to talk to me when I picked up the car. I knew that I had two choices when I talked to him. I could work myself up and use my anger to get him to admit that I wasn't treated well. Or I could go in and just let him know that I was disappointed in their service. I knew that if I picked the second option that it was highly likely that I would cry.

I decided to be honest and show up as myself. I also promised myself that if I did cry that I wouldn't fall all over myself apologizing for showing emotion. Being treated with such condescension was emotional for me. I decided that he would just have to deal with it. And he did. He calmly sat there and listened to me with his hands clasped in his lap. He didn't cover up what I was saying. He didn't tell me to calm down. He didn't diminish my feelings. He just listened. He acknowledged everything I said, apologized for the way I was spoken to and explained in detail every issue surrounding my car. He assured me that the dealership would do everything within their power to make sure I was taken care of if there are any further issues.

The fact that he just sat and held the space, that he had the elegance to let me have my feelings in a way that was necessary for me allowed me to calm down and hear everything he had to say.

This is really all I wanted, to be apprised of the actual details of what went wrong with my car and to be assured that they will do everything they can in the future to take care of me.

So, I cried at the Acura dealer. So what.

At least it was honest. I'm learning to not automatically see tears as a sign of weakness. Tears really are just a sign of being human. Sometimes being human is hard and messy and uncomfortable. In really listening to me yesterday that service manager gave me a tremendous gift. For that I am grateful.

Lucky Girl

IMG_4472The Check Transmission light came on in my car yesterday in the middle of Hollywood. My odometer reading was 99,993. My extended maintenance package expires at 100,000 miles. If this had happened to me 5 years ago I would probably have started hyperventilating and crying. I may or may not have called my father hysterically, hoping that he would be able to tell me over the phone that everything would be OK. I would have thought over and over again in my mind, "How could this happen to ME?"

Instead I pulled over and thought a few minutes about my situation. First I had to let go of the fact that I wasn't going to make it to my favorite weekly spin class. I didn't have enough miles left to do that. I called my dealer and explained the situation. The service manager just kept saying, "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy." Which I think indicated that he was impressed with my unique and rare situation.

I checked the mileage to the dealer- 4.7 miles. I had just enough time to make it there in traffic before they closed. I drove to the dealer, suspiciously eyeing the odometer the entire time. I pulled in just as the odometer passed 99,997.

Those 3 remaining miles could literally save me thousands of dollars. Lucky.

I live in the sleepy little town of South Pasadena, CA. They do everything possible to keep any and all cars from parking on their wide beautiful streets. Overnight parking requires a permit. Since my permit is in my car and they aren't hip or progressive enough to issue guest permits (which has instigated quite a few jokes among people who visit about putting permit machines in the one and only bar we have in South Pasadena) I had to stop at the police station to get a permit for my rental car. I took a photo of the license plate in case I needed it to buy a permit and left my phone sitting on top of the permit machine.

I realized a couple of hours later that I didn't have my phone. Thankfully someone had turned it in at the police station and it was a simple matter to go pick it up the moment I realized it was gone. Someone was honorable enough to turn in a total stranger's phone. Lucky.

Last night there was a blood moon- a total eclipse of the full moon that caused it to appear red. A friend texted me as it was happening or I would have totally forgotten about it. My youngest sister is staying with me so we ran outside and stood in the middle of the street peering through palm trees to see a rare and unique moon. It was nice to share such a beautiful moment with someone I love. Lucky.

So, 3 lucky things happened on the same day.

As a student of the University of Santa Monica I had to write an affirmation for myself for the year. Mine is this-

I am GRATEFUL for the gifts of ABUNDANCE that come into my life with grace and ease; I wholeheartedly share these gifts with others.

I've added this affirmation to the end of my (slightly inconsistent) morning meditation.

So yesterday I really thought about these three lucky things that happened to me on the same day. Was this karma- did the universe reward me for being a good person? Or was this totally random- these lucky things coming all at once?

OR is this the way life works? By consciously focusing on the relationship between abundance and gratitude have I pulled luck into my life? Is it possible that by changing my attitude with my words and my intention that I am altering my own destiny? Are we all capable of "making our own luck"? I certainly plan on finding out.

Stage Fright

Stage Fright Last weekend I got up in front of 200 people and led a guided meditation that I created as part of my final exam for the graduate program I'm in at the University of Santa Monica.

I consider myself a seasoned presenter. I'm a fashion designer and in my job I have to present to literally hundreds of people every couple of months. However, I only present to 20 or so at a time. I realized that it's a whole different experience to present to 200 people at once.

At first I was only scheduled to present to 20 of my fellow classmates. Even this seemed a little daunting for me. I can talk for hours about handbags and fashion, where I consider myself an expert, but leading a guided meditation that I wrote myself was outside my comfort zone. I did well enough in my small group that they nominated me to represent them to the whole class.

I've wanted for some time to challenge myself and speak to a large crowd. I offered to speak at the World Domination Summit last year about my experiences in Africa with my non-profit but they politely declined. I knew that even though this really scared me that I needed to do it for myself. I needed to challenge myself, to step outside my comfort zone, and to take a chance.

13 of us were chosen to present to the whole class, I was scheduled to be 12th. Second to last. So I watched 11 other people get up in front of the class and give everything they had to entertain and delight their fellow students. As my time got closer and closer I realized that I was really nervous. I adjusted my scarf over and over again. Surely if my scarf was perfectly arranged I would be fine on stage.

Finally I was handed a microphone and gently pushed on stage. My name was announced and the class started uproariously clapping for me. I hesitated before stepping towards my chair. I had a small moment of clarity. I had asked for this, for this moment, for this opportunity to present itself to me. It had arrived. It was my time.

I took my seat, made a small joke, and had them all close their eyes to begin the meditation. I wasn't reading from a script, I was reading from my heart, I had rehearsed this multiple times but every time was a little bit different. The words flowed easily from me. I felt the support and love of everyone in the room. I saw tears in the audience as I led them through my material. I saw a few of my friends in the room open their eyes at different times and look at me. I realized that they were sending me their support but I also saw that they were seeing me in a different light, in a different way.

I ended quietly in a space of grace and peace. Then, just as they had done for all the other presenters, the entire room leaped to their feet to enthusiastically applaud. When faced with his situation in the past, I have bowed my head and dismissed applause; I've never been comfortable associating myself with this kind of appreciation. But I had the intention when I went on stage that I would stand there as myself and accept with grace that applause, that appreciation, that gratitude. So I stood there for a couple of seconds and looked out at the crowd and really received the applause. It shook me to the core in that moment, to be seen and appreciated by so many as my true self.

On my way out of the room after all the presentations were over a classmate grabbed my arm to talk to me. She told me that I probably didn't realize that I have an incredible gift. I stammered something about how I talked too fast and that it was really next to impossible to do a guided meditation in such a limited amount of time. She agreed that I had gone too fast but looked me dead in the eye and again reiterated that I have a gift. She could see it, she knew.

Throughout the rest of the day I had so many people come up to me to touch my arm and tell me how much they enjoyed the meditation. People told me how they had cried, how deeply they were touched. 3 or 4 people emphasized how they thought I have a gift. I had people wanting to know where I teach, offering to be my first followers.

I realize now that the reason the day felt so foreign to me, the reason that all the praise was uncomfortable and surreal was because this may have been the first time in my life that I received such outrageous praise for really truly being myself. Just me. Just Laura. I didn't pretend to be anyone else on that stage. I went up on that stage and opened up the most vulnerable part of myself and shared it with everyone in the room. And instead of the ridicule or the embarrassment I'd always assumed I would receive if I dared to do something so reckless as show my true self to hundreds of people, I received nothing but praise and appreciation.

Is it really this easy? Do I really just have to be myself to be truly seen and accepted by other people? Right now, today, I'm going to believe that it is.

My Precarious Hipster Status

Chemex A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco for less than 24 hours. In that time I ordered coffee from two of the hippest coffee houses in the entire bay area, Blue Bottle Coffee and Sightglass coffee. Neither had drip coffee served from a large carafe as the mainstream coffee shops like Starbucks. Ordering a drip coffee meant that they handcrafted your coffee to order with a glass vial and a filter painstakingly pouring hot water from a gooseneck teapot. Both places had a line of hipsters out the door and carefully curated open industrial décor.

Of course, we have plenty of fancy coffee shops in LA that do the same thing but going to one of them would require finding parking and having time to wait behind a long line of agents and actors and app developers who have 45 minutes to invest in a great cup of coffee. It was much less of a commitment just to wander in on foot to both trendy coffee shops in San Francisco.

When I got home I sadly noticed my limited coffee brewing options. The first time I used a French press I made freshly ground Kona macadamia nut coffee in a fine dining restaurant in Hawaii. I thought the French press must be the ultimate in luxury. In a busy restaurant anything that takes more than 60 seconds to execute for a server can seem like an extreme indulgence. I'm no longer a big fan of macadamia nut coffee and I realize that I really hate my French press. I don't like silt in my coffee and it makes such a mess. I also own a drip coffee maker but I never use it because I am a bit of a clean freak and after I've seen the water reservoir stained brown I just don't believe that it can ever be sanitary again.

I've been understandably reticent to buy into a pod system because I like fresh beans and I don't like the idea of being chained to any coffee company and their individual expensive tiny canisters of coffee. Plus the whole pod system, which once was exotic and cool now seems really mainstream and generic. I find that when I see anything at Target that isn't a collaboration with a hot young designer it immediately seems overdone and dated.

So I diligently researched and purchased a Chemex coffee maker for myself. It is beautiful and I find that it makes an incredible cup of coffee. I've posted before about my fascination with being a member of the Cool Club, about being seen as having a modicum of hipster status. Did acquiring the latest greatest coffee brewing system buy me a little hipster currency? It may have but sadly it didn't last long. I'm pretty sure the powers that be in the Cool Club revoked my hipster status yesterday based on the fact that I spent last night in the desert at an all night gong concert. It was good while it lasted.

To CrossFit or Not to CrossFit?

I have been reticent to try this whole CrossFit phenomenon. I am a self-confessed cardio junkie. I've been spinning for almost 20 years. Before spinning it was step aerobics and before step aerobics it was something called high impact aerobics. Before that I was content to laze around on weekends eating chips and drinking full calorie sodas. Clearly the chips and soda option is no longer on the table. A year ago I stopped making time to lift weights at the gym. I reasoned that the yoga pushups I do in class a couple of times a week would make up for any and all bicep curls. Sadly this has not been the case. I moved a few months ago and haven't been able to drag myself down to the local YMCA to become a member so that I have a new place to meander from machine to machine to make myself feel like I'm doing everything I possibly can to take charge of my fitness level.

Tonight I found myself in my first of 6 intro classes to CrossFit. I have different sets of friends who LOVE CrossFit. They get very animated when they talk about their "Box" and their "Olympic Lifts" and their "Pull-up Clinics". So a couple of weeks ago when I caught a glimpse of my now non-existent biceps in the mirror in yoga I decided it might be worth just trying it to see if I might like it enough to avoid joining the YMCA 6 blocks from my house.

Last week I went to a free session to see what it's all about. I showed up at 8 am on a Saturday apprehensive but optimistic. There ended up being a dozen 20-somethings, a couple of kids still in high school, and me. I felt a little out of my element, but I know that I'm in pretty good shape so I jumped right in with everyone else

Now, I assume that I'm in fantastic shape. I do 5 spin classes a week. I am really, really close to perfecting a yoga pushup. Half a block into a warm-up jog I realized that I was in trouble. I don't do well running and this was pretty difficult for me. All the spinning in the world didn't prepare me for a simple 15-minute jog. Half a block in I started wheezing. I was floundering. It wasn't pretty. I did finish and I did sort-of run the whole way thanks to an incredibly kind trainer who jogged along beside me the entire time so I wasn't bringing up the rear all by myself. I am especially grateful because he pretended that he was still running even though I know he could have started walking and kept pace with me at any time.

After that they took us through a workout routine that included jumping rope, deep squats, sit-ups, and pushups. That's it. It really is just basic high school P.E. I did OK with the squats and the sit-ups, and they let us do the push-ups on our knees, but the jumping rope threw me over the edge. I haven’t held a jump rope in my hands since grade school. It wasn't just that I had to figure out how to use a jump rope all over again, the really horrifying thing is that when I was using said jump rope I discovered that my stomach seemed to move independently of the rest of my body. I have no idea when or how that happened but that alone was a big bold sign that I need to switch up my fitness routine.

The good news is that I was a rock-star tonight in my newbie Cross-fit training class. There is a timed section where everyone does 3 sets of the same exercises and I came in second. In fact, I was only 10 seconds behind a pretty fit 20-something boy. To be fair, though, the 20-something girls tonight didn't look like they'd EVER exercised, and the 20-something boy took a break to get water from his car.

The bad news is that I'm not sure I'll be able to walk tomorrow. I also had to cancel the spin class I thought I could go to after CrossFit as I was sure there wouldn't be enough cardio tonight for me.

I AM open to the fact that when it comes to exercise I still have a lot to learn.

Lessons from Santa

Santa I've been critical of this whole Santa business for a long time. In fact, I've been critical of gift giving in general for a long time. A few years ago I went to Africa and saw how happy people can be without any of the trappings we've been told are required for contentment. I came back and vowed to give up my life as a stuffologist and learn how to live with less. As far as becoming a minimalist is concerned, I am a work in progress. As far as the stuffology is concerned, I really think carefully before acquiring anything new.

When I got back from Africa I did talk to my friends and family and declare a cease-fire on gift exchanges. I explained that if I really want something I'll buy it for myself, that anything we might buy each other might just end up being more stuff. Stuff one of us would have to be responsible for, stuff that may or may not satisfy either of us, and stuff that would, certainly, one day end up in a landfill. I didn't make any new friends with this new no-gift philosophy but most of the people in my life have begrudgingly abided by my request.

I was told, however, that children have to be exempt from my no-gift rule. My sisters want their children to grow up learning how to give and receive gifts. So I have dutifully purchased gifts for them every birthday and every Christmas. This year I was able to spend a few days before Christmas with my nieces and nephew and saw first hand the excitement and anticipation of not only the gifts under the tree with their names on them, but also the yearning and uncertainty of the impossible gifts they had asked Santa for.

My youngest niece had asked for "A pink princess castle with no doors for little people." Evidently she'd seen this in a catalog somewhere and set her heart on having Santa bring it to her from the North Pole. The way she talked about this castle was so cute that everyone kept asking her what she wanted from Santa so that she would repeat the same description of this pink princess castle over and over. She never wavered. Every single time it was the same.

So, on Christmas morning she was overjoyed to find a pink princess castle with no doors for little people in front of the fireplace. Then it struck me. She wanted a pink princess castle. She asked for a pink princess castle. She received a pink princess castle.

She received exactly what she asked for.

So, do we as a society promote the idea of Santa Claus to help children use their imagination? Is it so that they learn how to believe in magic? Or is it to show them the only way to get what they want is to ask for it?

This Christmas my lesson from Santa is this- You get what you ask for. Ask for what you want.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Christmas on a Fire Truck

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For the last five years or so my department at work has come together at Christmas to support families in a small trailer park by our office. We found out about these families through our local fire chief so every year he arranges a fire truck and a Santa to deliver the gifts we collect to the children in this park.

We can usually coerce six or seven people to leave our busy office to ride on the truck and help Santa pass out the gifts to the children. Let me tell you, riding on top of a fire truck is pretty fun. Seeing the faces of the children when a fire truck drives up their driveway with Santa on top is fantastically fun.

This year we decided to try to help this small community beyond supplying gifts to the children. Everyone brought in little luxuries to make gift bags for the families. Luxuries like chocolates and Christmas cookies and handmade fleece blankets. In addition to providing gift bags for the families with children we decided to make gift bags for the trailers without children as well. Year after year the people in those trailers have come out to watch us take care of the families with children and been happy that they were getting support. Everyone in our department came together to put the gift bags together. We were all excited to know that this would be a complete surprise for absolutely everyone in the trailer park.

We also took up a collection to provide gift cards for a local grocery store so that the families could buy supplies for a nice holiday meal. We've done this in the past but we wanted to make a bigger impact this year so we set a pretty high monetary goal for the department.

I was particularly struck by the generosity of a woman I work with. She didn't bring me money for the collection until the very last day. She apologized and explained that she thought she was going to have to tell me that she just wasn't in a position to contribute this year but at the very last second miraculously the money appeared. She gave me more than we requested so I offered her change. She insisted that we use it all for the gift cards. She was honored to give more than her share.

A few of us rode on the fire truck today with Santa to deliver everything to the trailer park. It is always incredible to see the children accept their gifts from Santa. For many of them, the gift we give them will be their only gift for Christmas so we all know that it is very special to them. The parents always hang back, taking photos and letting their children have their moment in the sun. Today, however, the parents were all called forward and presented with a gift bag and a gift card for food. They were surprised and grateful.

After all the families with children had received their gifts we started calling forward the homes without children. The first house number we called was that of an elderly couple standing in the background. They couldn't believe that their names were being called. They slowly came to the fire truck to receive their own gift bag and gift card. At first they were shy and trepidatious, but when Santa handed them the gift bag I saw in their eyes that in that moment they too, felt that they were special. They understood that other people in the world took the time to make sure that they were cared for. It was stunningly beautiful.

Every single person that we gave gift bags and gifts to in that little trailer park on the side of a major city street accepted their gifts with grace and honor. I've seen children tear through a dozen gifts on Christmas morning and barely realize what they've received. Today I know that every gift was special. Every gift was appreciated. And every recipient felt valued.

This, for me, is the true nature of the holiday spirit. It's not in what we get this holiday season. The real joy is in what we give.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Born to Run

In the words of the incomparable Bruce Springsteen, "Baby, We Were Born to Run." I've found myself humming this song in my head the last few weeks because I realize my incredibly strong urge to run from each and every uncomfortable situation. Recently this urge to run has come from my battle with an insect invasion at the apartment I moved into last month. I seriously considered the possibility of re-packing everything I had just unpacked and hiring movers all over again to move into another mystery situation. Surely, I thought, bad insect karma couldn't possibly follow me if I were to go further into suburbia.

I realized that this is the way I've handled a lot of situations in my life. If it seems too hard to fix something or if there is any possibility that I won't be successful at something I instantly want to run away and start fresh somewhere else.

I know this started when I was a child. My father worked for the government and we moved a lot. This followed me into adulthood, when I wanted a change or things weren't going the way I hoped they would I packed up my Ford Escort and moved somewhere new.

I've moved so many times in my life that I've lost count. I've been so used to moving that it's only in the last decade that I've started making an effort to make the places I live in a home, including unpacking every box and putting pictures on the wall.

For most of my life I've thought that this urge to run away was somehow instinctive in me, that my true nature thrives on constant change. I'm questioning that now. Right now the thought of packing up my whole life again and moving somewhere new, although still tempting given my latest insect problem, seems like too much work. This is partly because I have a lot more stuff than I did in my twenties and thirties when I could move everything I owned in a Ford Escort.

I'm also not in my twenties or thirties anymore. I am craving stability. I am craving a sense of community that only comes with staying on one place for more that a few years. I've been in LA for over 11 years. Before this the longest I was anywhere was 5 years. I'm realizing that there are major benefits to staying in one place and dealing with problems one by one rather than running from them. Stability. Comfort. Community support. Peace.

I won't be running this time. I've unpacked every single box. I've put art on the walls. I've asked my landlord to work with me and weather-strip all my windows. I'm standing my ground. My insect invasion, precarious as it may be, seems to be over. I see now that I was not really instinctively born to run. Running was the easy way out. I'm in this for the long haul. I'm staying.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Red Lipstick and Halloween

Halloween is a big deal at my company. For most of my tenure there I've begrudgingly played along with whatever theme our department conjures up to try to win a pizza lunch or movie tickets for the elusive "Best Department" or "Scariest Costumes" awards.

This year we decided on a Great Gatsby theme. I agreed simply because I have dress in my closet that I knew would work perfectly. It's black lace with a blush underslip and it definitely looks twenties. When I arrived at work I was accosted by my co-workers who felt it necessary to exclaim over and over again that I looked beautiful.

In fairness, I only wear dresses and red lipstick on Halloween. Last year our theme was 70's and I went as Mary Tyler Moore. I also wore a red dress, which is forbidden because, as I was told as a teenager, I am a SUMMER and SUMMERS never ever wear red. I realize that I was also accosted last year. The comments were about the red dress, of course, but also about the red lipstick and the fact that I had used hot rollers in my hair.

I used to wear red lipstick all the time. My sister regularly warned potential suitors that I could take up to half an hour applying said red lipstick. The ones who made it, of course, were the ones who understood that that's how long it takes. Applying red lipstick today is a little more challenging. I realized this morning that the lip landscape has changed.

This year the comments were all about this black lace dress and how it made me look more feminine. I admit, I usually wear a black t-shirt and one of the six pairs of technical black pants I bought to take to Africa- the classic designer uniform.

What stunned me, however, was how adamant the comments were. One person suggested I change the way I dress altogether- not that the way I usually dress is bad, but the way I dressed today could attract a husband. A male co-worker made a comment that if I approached his desk in that dress that he would have no choice but to ask me out to dinner.

I have to say that all the attention and the comments made me really uncomfortable. It's been a long time since I've been so aware that people are looking at ME- that people are thinking about the way I look or what I am wearing or how I walk in a dress. I think I've been under the impression that I am sort of invisible. That when I don my uniform every morning that other people can't really see me, that I am invisible.

But of course, I am not invisible. People see me everyday, whether I'm wearing a lace dress or my standard Africa-ready black technical pants. Isn't the real issue how I see myself? Have I buried myself in a uniform because it's easy or have I buried myself in a uniform because I'm hiding from something? I just moved 8 hanging garment boxes full of clothes. Regardless of the fact that I realize I need to simplify and edit the fact remains that I don't wear the majority of the clothes in my closet.

I don't know what this all means for me, but I do now this- I think I'm going to wear red lipstick on a random Tuesday and see what happens. I also think that I can take a risk and wear a dress on a day totally unassociated with sugar overconsumption and ghoulish behavior. I think I'm ready for a change.

Spirituality and Pest Control

I moved into a new apartment 2 weeks ago today. The entire affair from conception to packing to moving truck took just under two weeks. This gave me little time to process one of the most stressful events in anyone's life. I have a lot of stuff. I moved a lot as a child. I tend to overanalyze everything. There has been a series of small things that have made me uncomfortable with the new place. First there was the issue of plastic melted inside the dryer that ruined a load of laundry. The very next day I saw a creepy crawly bug which prompted me to look under the washer and dryer to find that the rock star cleaning crew hired to clean the place didn't touch under the appliances.

Then I saw the grease on every wall in the kitchen.

Then I killed 7 of the same type of bug over the course of this last weekend.

The landlord has been relatively sympathetic to my causes, each time he's immediately sent someone out with the promise of "rolling up their sleeves" to address my problems.

Today, however, I learned that my current pest infestation is not treatable by the exterminator. I have stink bugs, a bug so new to this country that they don't have chemicals to kill them. Seriously? This is 2013, the age of instant information, the age of pharmaceutical dominance, the age where you can pay for a coffee at Starbucks with your phone.

This has rendered me an emotional mess. When I lived in Hawaii we had a cockroach problem. I kept a can of Raid by the door. Every day I walked into the apartment and crept around with my can of Raid killing anywhere between 2 and 6 cockroaches. Big flying nasty Hawaiian cockroaches. Then I'd leap into bed and wait for the boyfriend to come home and vacuum them up. When I tell people this story they always cock their heads to one side and say,

Awww. What a sweetheart.

To which I say, "Hey, you're missing the point. I have insect PTSD."

For the past week every time I walk in my house I walk in on high alert. I scan every surface I can see looking for bugs. This has greatly affected my perception of my own alleged Spiritual Peace. I keep thinking of my trips to Africa. We didn't stay in 5-star hotels. Some of the hotels had a lot of bugs. All kinds of bugs I'd never seen before. When I came back I put all my socks in quarantine in plastic bags, afraid that they were somehow infested with insect eggs. Because some of these socks had touched the floors I knew they were unsafe. Rather than unseal these socks I'm sorry to say that I threw them all away and started over. It just seemed easier.

I realized yesterday that most of these bugs were coming in through my open kitchen windows. Even though all my windows have screens, these bugs are sneaky and dedicated. I haven't seen one of these bugs in a room where the windows haven't been open. So I closed every window in the house. I love open windows. I routinely keep a window open even in the winter. I thrive on the idea of fresh air.

I had plans tonight but I stopped by my house first just to see if my closed window sacrifice had paid off. I didn't see one bug. I checked thoroughly, every corner of every room. I was really ready to begin packing again and start the whole process all over. I've decided that I have a zero bug tolerance policy.

I've been working lately on gratitude. I've started a gratitude journal that I try to remember to write in every night. Tonight I will write about how grateful I am that I can just close my windows to solve this problem. There are so many issues in the world with vastly more complicated solutions.

Again, Spirituality and I have a long way to go.

Spirituality vs. My Closet

Last week I went to a fashion event for work. One of the classes I went to was all about the evolution of black tie dressing and the history of the Little Black Dress. Our presenter detailed how Coco Chanel coined the phrase Little Black Dress in the twenties and admitted that in order to prepare for the class she had looked through her closet at all her black dresses. She said,

I went through my closet with a critical eye, not a negative eye.

She spoke of how her son had helped her inventory her collection of Little Black Dresses and decide that one of them had good bones and should be altered. The rest, she shamefully admitted, she decided to donate.

I moved last week. The entire process from conception to moving truck took less than two weeks so I had very little time to pack. I ended up donating a lot of clothes. Not everything that I need to donate, certainly, but as much as I could without getting severely overwhelmed.

When I heard our presenter speak of her need to donate the black dresses in her closet that didn't fit or were suddenly too short or too dated I thought about how fortunate we both are to be in a position to give clothes away.

The first time I went to Africa we visited tribes in Southern Ethiopia. It takes almost three days on really rough roads to see these tribes so five years ago when we went to see them they were relatively unscathed by the consumerism and greed we are used to in the west.

In one tribe a few women kept pinching at the animal skins covering their shoulders. I had no idea what they were trying to tell me so our guide explained that they were literally asking for the shirt off my back. Now, I was in Africa for the first time. I was not wearing a shirt that could even remotely be considered fashionable. I bought severely practical clothes to take to Africa. One of my sisters is a very accomplished mountaineer and she taught me long ago the value of good gear. The shirt I was wearing is a technical outdoor shirt with SPF and insect repellent built into the fabric. It is NOT flattering. It has pockets in the front, roll up sleeves with tabs to keep them rolled up, absolutely NO waistline, and a rather horrific men's tie print.

I was flabbergasted. I was so taken with the women in that tribe. They wore traditional animal skins. They made their own jewelry from keys and shells they found at the market. In my artistic fashion designer brain they were fabulous. But they wanted what they didn't have. They wanted my ugly high tech button down shirt.

I didn't give them my shirt that day but I know that they would have loved some of the shirts I donated last weekend preparing for my move. I've known that I needed to move for almost a year but I kept putting it off and making excuses as to why I needed more time based solely on the fact that I didn't want to face my closet. I didn't want to come face to face with jackets and pants that were still, as people so often advertise on eBay, New with Tags!

I didn't want to try on the dozen or so pairs of pants that I have in various sizes- for the Just In Case scenario that I gain or lose the same 10 or 15 pounds that I've been gaining and losing my entire life.

I didn't want to admit to myself that I have more clothes than I could ever wear, that I could be a clothes hoarder, that people who have much less than myself might be incredibly grateful for the t-shirt at the bottom of my drawer that they gave me at the one and only mud run I will ever participate in. The shirt that is kind of cute and makes me look really curvy even though I'm not and is a blue that makes everyone comment on how they've never noticed my blue eyes before. The shirt that I've worn exactly twice but I can't convince myself to get rid of because it's a perfectly good shirt.

In hearing another human speak with shame about the black dresses in her closet she needed to donate I realized that my problem is rampant in our society. I'm not the only one embarrassed of my closet. Other women also pore over their closets every day, flipping through items one by one feeling not just like they have nothing to wear but knowing perfectly well that their closets are too full, that they've devoted too many of their resources to buying clothes they neither love nor wear.

I intend to follow the example set by the presenter last week and look at my closet with a critical eye so that I can start to simplify my wardrobe. This may take some time but I know that it's one more step towards gaining control of my life. I do know that the 5 or 6 black cashmere sweaters in my closet don't define me. I'm defined by the way I treat others and the beauty and honesty I put out into the world.

UncategorizedLauraComment
State of Emergency

For those of you not following the news, there is currently a state of emergency in Colorado. The areas around Boulder have been flooding for days. Unlike most disasters that I just casually read about on my AOL home page in the morning, this one is personal to me. My sister lives in one of the communities most affected. I haven't spoken to her as there's been no phone service for the last few days, but she has been able to communicate by e-mail and on Facebook so I know details about what is going on with the people in her area. She is safe but many of her friends have been evacuated and some have lost their homes.

Her community is devastated, but as is true in any tragedy, there are glimmers of true beauty. The beauty of people reaching out to help others who need assistance, of friends opening up their homes to those who are suddenly homeless, and of ordinary citizens setting up ropes across raging rivers to evacuate people they don't even know. There are heroes among us. Heroes who truly are, as they ask every exit row passenger on every airline, ready and willing to help in case of an emergency.

What strikes me the most deeply, however is the fact that my sister is close to several people who've lost their homes. One of them is staying with her. He went to check on his house after the worst of the storm to find his house completely gone. His entire house, with all his worldly possessions, gone. The only thing remaining was his kitchen sink buried in mud.

Another friend was rescued, carried by ropes across the river by volunteers after she lost her house. She salvaged her wedding album and her dogs. Everything else she owned is gone.

I don't know that I can imagine what either of my sister's friends must be feeling. This has prompted me to look around my own house and wonder what is important to me. What would I try to take with me if a tsunami was headed for LA? I know it wouldn't be the original fashion illustrations I bought in Paris or the incredibly rare Givenchy monograph I proudly display on my bookshelf.

What do other people save in instances like these? What do they grab just before the tornado or the hurricane hits? They save photo albums. They save mementos from their past. They save things that will remind them of the relationships they've cultivated in their lives.

I spoke to my father the other day; he's been in close communication with my sister. He talked about a time when he got stuck camping with my mother and my baby sister in severe weather. They were terrified that they wouldn't make it. When the storm cleared they all came out of the trailer and breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for the sun peeking through the clouds. My father wasn't concerned with the damage to the trailer or the vehicle. He realized in that moment that the only really important things in his life, his wife and his daughter, had been spared.

The relationships we have with other people are what really define us. We are not our circumstances- the house we live in, the job we hold, the clothes we wear every day. We show who we really are by the way we treat other people, the ways in which we share our hearts with others, and the love we bring into the world.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Crème de la Mer

IMG_3510 I've lusted over the ridiculously expensive ($150 an ounce) miracle cream Crème de la Mer for years. No matter how successful I became I still couldn't bring myself to purchase such an extravagant beauty product. As I've aged I've caught myself time and time again eyeing the Crème de la Mer counter at Saks and Neimans from a distance, knowing that I should be skeptical of their promises of smoother younger skin.

I was recently given a gift card to Barneys New York to indulge myself in luxuries that I'd never allow myself. One of the first items I thought of when I saw the card is this miracle elusive face cream. The cream that is, as written on their own packaging,

Coveted by those in the know.

Barneys doesn't carry this product in stores so I had to order through their website. I am so rich in gift cards that I even sprung for overnight shipping. Through a comedy of errors Barneys didn't ship the package to me. It took two weeks for them to admit their mistake and actually ship the cream.

In those two weeks I had time to reflect on the other times in my life I've lusted over something and been disappointed in the actual product or the experience surrounding the product.

8 years ago I was able to fulfill the highest of all fashion dreams- that of buying a Chanel jacket. I'd fantasized about owning a Chanel jacket since I was sixteen. I used to spend my lunch hours in high school devouring Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Even then, Chanel was the ultimate fashion house.

Even though I bought the jacket at the original Chanel store in Paris, the experience itself was underwhelming. I wore the jacket once and lost weight so it didn't fit. I went to Africa and decided that I couldn't be a stuffologist anymore. I tried to sell it to a friend who ended up losing it. The entire Chanel jacket experience was empty and sad.

This became the topic of a lunch conversation the other day with people I work with. One of the other designers has a daughter loves fashion. Six or seven years ago when True Religion Jeans were the hottest denim label in town my friend primed his daughter for her first $200 jeans buying experience. They talked about it for weeks. Finally, they went to a great store, they were treated like royalty and she gleefully chose a pair that fit her perfectly.

A few days later she looked at my friend and said,

I thought these jeans would change something but my life is still exactly the same.

Wow. We all know that most consumer products can't change our lives. I might argue that my recent Vitamix purchase could be an exception to that rule, but in general everyone knows this to be true.

The True Religion Jeans experience changed my friend's daughter's viewpoint forever. Her tastes tend towards vintage now; she no longer buys something new because of hype or the media.

Which brings me back to my disappointing buying experience of the Crème de la Mer. Certainly I know that this new cream will not change my life.Part of me just wants to know what I've been missing. Do the women in the testimonials know something that I don't? I doubt it. Will this experience leave me empty and sad like the Chanel jacket experience? Possibly.

But right now, when I was finally able to open the jar and touch the creamy smooth goodness I've wondered about all my life I feel optimistic. Not optimistic that this cream will change my life but optimistic that in realizing this small dream that other larger dreams are attainable as well.

UncategorizedLauraComment
South Coast Plaza

South Coast Plaza I met a friend for lunch last weekend at the Orange County super luxury Mall-to-the-Stars, South Coast Plaza. I was early so I wandered the stores for an hour or so. As a fashion designer it's my job to shop the stores and know what's going on but I was completely unprepared for the mayhem at South Coast Plaza on a hot August holiday weekend.

First it took me almost half an hour to find a parking spot. The whole mall was crowded. Not with college students enjoying the air conditioning with their slim Forever 21 bags, but with women and men bustling from store to store with multiple shopping bags on their arms.

I was astounded. I usually go out on weekdays to shop for work when I am the only one in the store and numerous employees circle around me catering to my every whim, so to see exactly the opposite was unnerving.

The most disturbing part of my experience for me, however, was the display directly outside the Rolex store. There was a sculpture of cans of food associated with a Cat in the Hat campaign to collect food for the Orange County Food Bank.

Again, this display was directly outside the Rolex store. As I stood in front of the sculpture I turned my head to the left and saw people inside the Rolex store perusing watches worth tens of thousands of dollars. I then turned my head to the right to see evidence of the people of Orange County's generosity to help people who need assistance satisfying one of the primary human needs, putting food on the table.

To the left, opulence, luxury, and greed. To the right, alleged compassion, generosity, and kindness. The ultimate contrast, the classic tale of the Haves and the Have-Nots.

I met my friend at a swanky restaurant and enjoyed lush appetizers and a fabulous glass of wine and contemplated the question-

Hey! What am I? Am I a Have or a Have-Not???

Admittedly I've never needed food from a food bank. I've also never owned or been in a position to buy a Rolex. But I certainly wasn’t out of place in the Mall-to-the-Stars and I was quite comfortable with my happy hour half price glass of sparkling rose' champagne.

For most of my life I've felt like a Have-Not. I spent my entire twenties and thirties watching the Haves and wondering what it must be like.

But really, what does being a "Have" mean for someone on a spiritual pursuit? It's no longer about hoarding material goods or having the most money in your bank account. So what is it about, really? Is it about having the most friends? Is it about having the right kinds of friends? Is it about knowing yourself? Is it about being comfortable with yourself?

I don't have the answers to these questions today. I think it'll be a process, navigating my position as a Have or a Nave-Not in this new landscape- this landscape independent of the financial markers I've used all my life.

I AM certain, however, that whether I am a Have or a Have-Not, I will find ways in my life to be of service to those who truly need my help. Often that has little or nothing to do with money.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Spirituality vs. My College Transcripts

I applied to a graduate school a couple of weeks ago. This required reviewing and requesting copies of all my college transcripts. There is a question on the graduate school application that specifically asks if I'd ever been dismissed from a college program. I had to answer "Yes" because I was. There is definitely shame and anguish associated with this fact from my past. I was a straight "A" student in high school. I did everything correctly. I took home numerous awards for playing the piano perfectly. I won many debate matches. I placed in the state finals of the Academic Decathlon.

I was also utterly and completely unprepared to venture out into the real world my first year of college. I'd never even considered the possibility that I could fail at anything. I thought I was invincible. I was, however, absolutely socially inept. I decided that I had to learn how to connect with others if I was going to survive. Somehow in my eighteen-year-old brain that included going out anytime anyone asked me to do anything rather than staying home and studying. I knew I wasn't performing to my capacity in school but I reasoned that I was smart enough to study like mad just before finals and that as a worst case scenario I might get a few "B"s.

I signed up for an 8 am French class in my first semester. All my life I knew that I would love Paris, that I had some kind of strange affinity for all things French. Manifesting my dream of living in Paris one day would certainly require speaking French so I added it onto an already full course load.

To suddenly be in a position where I was the only one responsible to get myself up out of bed at 7 am to make a class that wasn't required for my Major confounded me. I learned that I really could stay out late the night before and sleep through class. I discovered boys and beer! Halfway through my first semester my midterm grade in this 8 am French class was a "C". I 'd never in my life earned a "C". So I did what any responsible college freshman would do, I dropped the class and continued my pursuit of boys and beer.

That first "C", that entry level "C" eventually led to my first "F" then to the first notice that I was being put on probation then eventually to the letter that informed me that I was no longer welcome at the University of North Dakota.

I was devastated but strong enough to pull myself together and find a way to get back into school. My parents instilled in me the belief that a college education was my ticket to a better life.

I joined the Army National Guard for the educational benefits, reapplied, and was accepted back into school. I worked hard and graduated with a degree in Mathematics. Even though I graduated with a dismal 2.9 GPA I still managed to get interviews when I graduated and I've done well in my career.

I had to write an essay about my dismissal from college on my graduate school application. I know now that failing out of college was preparation for the fact that I would fail over and over again in my life. Everyone who takes chances and goes after the life they want has failed; it's simply part of the equation. The key is to learn from each and every failure and to move forward wiser but still willing to risk failure again.

I know that I will have failures in my future just as I did in my past. I also know that I AM strong enough and resourceful enough to overcome them, to learn from them, and to continue to take risks in my quest for my own truth.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Collateral Damage

My heart was broken again last week. I opened myself up to a new friendship and I've learned that this new friend has been criticizing me behind my back. I'm on a quest for more honest connections with other people so this is particularly painful for me. I immediately went to a place where I want to swear off people forever. I want to take back my heart, and hide it from anyone and everyone to keep it safe. I kept thinking,

Why me?

Then I realized it's a lot like a cancer diagnosis. Instead of "Why me?" The question really is

Why not me?

What makes me so special that nobody would be tempted to talk about me behind my back? I am the first to admit that I am not perfect.

Which brings up the real tragedy. The fact is that I do EXACTLY the same thing. I admit I openly criticize others behind their backs as well. Gossip is so engrained in our culture that I think a lot of us do it without thinking about it. I usually tell myself that it's OK because most of what I say behind anyone's back I have said to them personally. I think that I'm being honorable because the person in question must know how I feel. But really, it's never OK. I learned from my parents early on that you should never say anything about anyone that you wouldn't say to their face.

I am reminded of the importance of that discipline right now. If I am to expect my friends to honor some kind of friendship code then I need to step up and follow the same code.

I spent a lot of time this weekend in cardio-therapy. I've been able to pick my heart back up off of the floor and realize that first and foremost I need to become the kind of friend that I expect others to be.

Maya Angelou has spoken often of the power of words. She said the following to Oprah:

I'm convinced that the negative has power- and if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. Those negative words climb into the woodwork, into the furniture, and the next thing you know they're on your skin. A negative statement is poison.

I AM ready to be the kind of friend I expect others to be to me. I AM willing to be more careful with the words I use, both in front of people and when I speak of them when they're not present.

The change I wish to see begins with me.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Authentic Relationships

A few months ago I took a course called Authentic Relationships. It was a Level 2 course in the Kundalini Yoga training program. At the time I was still in Level 1 training for Kundalini Yoga but I couldn't resist a course that focused on what I believe to be my Achilles heel, real honest relationships. We shared sensitive personal stories in small groups in this course and we did a lot of "flash writing" where they'd ask us questions and we had to quickly write stream-of-consciousness whatever came to mind.

In one of these stream-of-consciousness writing sessions I wrote about a close friend of mine from college. I've been flabbergasted my entire life as to why people adore her so much. She has the ability to not only hold a conversation with absolutely anyone but to seemingly connect with them in ways that I hadn't been able to understand. We became friends because we were forced into close contact. She lived across the hall from me in the dorms and would often seduce me into her room with the promise of popcorn and Little House on the Prairie. (No judgments please- we went to school in North Dakota in the eighties.)

Slowly I fell in love with her because I was forced to interact with her. This has been a theme for most of my life. When I actually have to interact with other people I usually end up liking them no matter how much I try to tell myself that I despise them before I actually know them. (Obviously this is something that I am working to overcome. Pre-judging people doesn’t meld well with my new-found spiritual nature.)

I'd watch other people fall all over themselves to spend time with her and I'd wonder what it was about her that was so compellingly attractive. I have friends in LA who've met her a couple of times and they all talk about her with stars in their eyes.

I used to notice the undeniably human things she'd do in public. She'd fart and burp in front of other people and just excuse herself. She made blatant horrible mistakes. She'd apologize and expect to be forgiven. She was a singer and she often forgot the words to songs she had written on stage. She wasn't perfect.

But she was whole. She was authentic. She was honest. She never tried to be a cartoon caricature of what she thought somebody else expected her to be. She was always unapologetically her true self. That's what it takes to make real connections with other people. Honesty is required. Vulnerability is required. Connecting through your heart rather than your head is required.

I can understand now why almost everyone this friend came into contact with was enamored of her. She still is an island of truth in a false world. I haven't spoken to her in a couple of years but I know that when we do connect again it will be like no time has passed at all. I intend to make sure she knows that she's one of my heroes. I want her to know that I want to be just like her when I grow up- honest, vulnerable, beautifully imperfect and whole.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Emergency Contact Info and the Single Woman

I had to go the hospital-to-the-stars last week for some tests. The great thing about being a cancer survivor is that insurance will pay for almost any test the doctors want to run. The terrible thing about being a cancer survivor is that doctors love to run all kinds of tests and each test is fraught with potential danger. In addition to once again being reduced to a series of numbers-

What's your birthday?

Confirm your address.

Confirm your phone number.

I was asked to confirm my emergency contacts. I'm a 50-year-old woman and my first emergency contact is my 75-year-old father who lives thousands of miles away.

Then they rattled off the contact information for the last boyfriend. I had to tell them to delete his information; he is sadly no longer in a position to be my emergency contact. She deleted him then asked-

Do you have anyone else you would like to add as an emergency contact?

I cringed at her question. I realize that I really don't have anyone to add as an emergency contact. I remember when the last boyfriend made the move to LA so we could be together, and the pleasure I had in telling whichever admissions officer was first in line that I did, indeed, finally have an emergency contact within driving distance.

Now I am back to having one and only one emergency contact. I realize that the admissions officers in these hospitals can't possibly know how painful this emergency contact question can be for patients. For me it makes me realize how isolated I really am. Yes, I have friends in LA, but would I reach out and ask any of them if they would be willing to take on this tremendous responsibility?

This is, of course, partially my fault. If I lived closer to any of my sisters I know that each of them would be happy to be my emergency contact, and I would do the same for them. I have chosen, however, to live in a huge city without the benefit of close family members to support me in this way.

I also realize that I'm not anybody else's emergency contact. Which is worse- the fact that I don't have anyone local to call on as an emergency contact or the fact that nobody in my life has asked me to be their emergency contact? Does this mean that I don't have the honest real connections with other people that I am searching for? Or does this mean that I've spent most of my life pretending that I am totally independent and that I don't need anybody else to help me do anything?

I know in my heart that it's the latter. It's hard for me to admit I need help with anything. I find that when I'm in a relationship that I get to be smug when I'm in the chair answering questions about my emergency contact but as soon as that security is taken away from me I feel lost. I can name numerous times when men I've been involved with have disappointed me in near-emergency contact situations. I can also recall situations where total strangers have stepped up and gloriously handled near-emergency contact situations.

I'm grateful that I still have my father to fill this emergency contact role for me, but I'm on the hunt for a new emergency contact. I'm also open and willing to take on this responsibility for someone else. In our modern society where families are scattered all over the country we need to look to our own communities and step up for each other.

Hello World

A few days ago the song "Hello World" by Lady Antebellum came on in the car while I was driving and it brought back memories from my last trip to Africa.

I've been to Ethiopia twice with friends; I'm involved in a small nonprofit there. The last time we went our guide took us to a hospital that he and his wife help support.

Our guide's wife was born with a clubfoot. Several years ago she had an operation through an organization in Ethiopia that coordinates Italian surgeons to provide operations for children and adults who otherwise could not afford treatment. The hospital we visited is the place where they go for weeks or months after the surgery to be cared for by nurses and start their physical therapy. There were children there scheduled for surgery in the next few days and children who were waiting for second surgeries.

We toured the grounds and met some of the children. Most of them seemed shy, but cautiously happy to meet us. Inside one of the buildings there was a classroom where a few children were watching a small television. The "Hello World" video by Lady Antebellum was playing.

I love Lady Antebellum. A friend of mine took me to their concert a few months before we went to Africa where we had second row seats. We were so close I could read the lead singer's tattoo. I've never been that close to any band and I thought the whole experience was magical.

The first time I heard the song "Hello World" it really struck a chord in me. I was in my car stuck in LA traffic on the freeway. I usually talk to myself or daydream on the freeway, but when this song came on I instantly focused on it. It filled me with a sense of hope and optimism. The default title for the first post of any WordPress blog template is "Hello World". To me it signifies the start of something, a chance for a new beginning. I've always turned up the radio when it comes on, it seems like my own special song.

There I was 12,000 miles away from home in an obscure little classroom that I entered exactly when this particular song was playing on the television. I had a moment where I wasn't at all sure where I was. Down was up. Left was right. How could this happen, this melding of two very different worlds through the language of one song? I looked at the children in that room and understood that they really aren't any different than the children in my neighborhood. They too have hopes and dreams and are grateful for any kindness the world chooses to bestow upon them.

As we drove away we passed the bus of Italian doctors coming up the hill to perform surgeries on these children the next day. Each of them had flown thousands of miles to donate their time and skills to improve the lives of total strangers.

Hello World.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Mediocre Spinning Classes

I've been spinning (going nowhere on a stationary bike in a roomful of exercise fanatics with dance club music and a disco ball) for almost twenty years. I used to drive over an hour to take spin classes after work in West Hollywood at the hip cool gym but lately I've been spinning in my neighborhood at the local mediocre spin studio. A few nights ago in this mediocre spin studio in the most mediocre of spin classes I started thinking about mediocrity in general. (Sadly I had plenty of time to think in this class.) In my twenties I worked in a series of restaurants. I came up with the brilliant idea of writing a book entitled "Mediocre Mexican". I wanted to share stories with the world of what it's really like to serve mediocre food in mediocre surroundings. I planned to regale readers with stories about the one dollar tips, the customers insisting that we give them free chips and salsa because the Mexican restaurant in their small hometown gave them free chips and salsa, and the convoluted inflated food allergies. Time got the best of me and I forgot all about my big plans to write a book about the service industry. Mediocrity, however, did not abandon me.

A few months ago I went to one of my favorite Master Kundlaini Yoga teacher's classes, Guru Singh. He repeated the following phrase half a dozen times-

How much capital do you spend on disappointment?

This really resonated with me. Clearly this is not just about financial capital. How much time, energy, and passion are each of us spending on disappointment? Mediocrity in any instance is one of the most disappointing outcomes I can imagine. Why do we spend these resources over and over again to face the same results? Is it that we are all incredibly optimistic? Do we really think that if we just try one more time that the outcome will be different even if every other component is the same? How much do we really settle for mediocrity and disappointment in our lives? I also love a quote I heard years ago by Dr. Michael Beckwith from Agape-

Mediocrity always attacks excellence.

I know I have settled for almost good enough for most of my life. Mediocrity can be safer than excellence. You don't have to worry about people attacking you because you are the best if you wallow in mediocrity. You can hide out in the shadows; people will leave you alone if you're not horrible enough to be a huge failure but not great enough to be an object of envy.

I don't want to spend any more of my resources on mediocrity. I'm currently seeking excellence. Excellence in my thinking, excellence in my actions, and especially excellence in what I give back to the world.

I'm breaking up with mediocrity. I AM finished devoting the lion's share of my resources to mediocrity. Mediocrity, I now see, is not my friend. It is not safe. It is a pattern I fell into in the past.

Today, and in my future, I can and I will devote myself to excellence. This is the difference in a life just lived and a life worth living.