This Post Brought to You By the Crazy Guy at Starbucks

Image

It’s a summer day and it’s hot outside. Earth shattering newsworthy fact, sure, but I never tend to realize how hot it can get in the inland Southern California town where I work. On a typical weekday I don’t leave my office. I normally just bring a sandwich and eat at my desk or stand in the kitchen rabbiting a ranch doused salad.

But today I decided to try something different. I’ve been struggling lately to find time to write, so today I decided to bring my laptop to work, so that at lunch I could escape to a local Starbucks and get some work done.

So there I’m driving, pull neatly into the little parking lot meant for patrons of the Starbucks, sandwich shop, or dry cleaner of the little mini complex. The A/C in my car isn’t superb, so I tend to leave my windows rolled all the way down as often as I can. I surprisingly couldn’t find a spot right in front to the coffee shop, so I switched my clunker into reverse and looked over my shoulder as I began to roll backwards.

“HEY WATCH OUT!” shouted a toothless man as loudly as possible. I slammed my breaks un-dramatically, as even a squirrel could have stopped my 0.5 mph pace. I turned my head even further and saw a truck was pulling out of their spot at the moment that I was backing up. Probably 15 feet away.

“WELL PULL FORWARD AND GIVE HIM SOME ROOM!!” he shouted, this time with a healthy dash of anger. Baffled at the frantic urgency of the stranger, I turned to see the truck had an extraordinary amount of space without my moving. However I was being screamed at in front of the lunch goers chillin’ in front of Starbucks and the sandwich shop, so in my frazzled state I tried to shift gears and move forward ever-so-awkwardly.

I realized the truck was already gone by the time I began to pull forward, and heard the angry man walk by my window muttering under his breath profanities sprinkled with “dumb” and “girl.”

I shook my head, backed up again, and parked in the spot I had planned to before the public humiliation.  I had three bags with me, my purse, lunch bag and laptop case, and climbed out of my car with as much dignity as I could muster. As coolly and confidently as I could, I walked up to the complex and smiled at each stranger staring me down…or up…or whatever.

I know I wasn’t wrong. But damn that was embarrassing! I’m sitting in the coffee shop wondering why the guy had to make such a scene about it. Was he trying to protect me? The truck? Assert authority? Who knows, but I’m admittedly rattled.

SO MUCH SO THAT I’M STILL TALKING ABOUT IT. I came here to write and thanks to the grizzly old alcoholic, I’m rattled and distracted from the task I set out to accomplish.

But such is life isn’t it? Why is it the very moment that we set our eyes on something, almost instantaneously there is a brand new obstacle flung in our face to try and beat us back into mediocrity. Or distract us, humiliate us, cause us to change course.

Well public humiliation or no, I saw something pretty incredible. Here a fitting hackneyed phrase comes to mind, something to the air of “The biggest hill comes right before your biggest success.” Yeah something like that. But I must be on the right track. If the oddities of the earth are trying so hard to distract me, what awesomeness are they afraid I’m close to accomplishing?

Don’t get distracted today. You have a goal and you have a mission. It’s summertime, there’s crazies about, there might be good TV on later. There will always be distractions, but try and make some time today to take one step closer to whatever it is that will make your life amazing and far above the status quo. You never know, your big break might be just right around the corner.

Breaking: You CAN Learn From TV

Screen shot 2013-08-18 at 8.32.55 PM

“Commercial again?!” I shouted at my television. “What did she do!?” I nearly flung my bowl of soup on the ceiling I was so excited. My fiancé, surprised at my out-of-character reaction, laughed and sat aback widening his eyes so as to say, “Daaaaamn girl!” I collected myself, my soup and what was left of my sanity, and returned to my Monday night post-work couch lounging.

What can I say, I love The Biggest Loser. I was pretty late to the game, which is great because now I have season after season of ready to watch reality just waiting for me to hit play on my Hulu Plus. Yes, there are plenty of ways that we can pick it apart, in that weight loss doesn’t happen for normal people in a vacuum like that, perhaps let them call their kids once in a while, whatever. Overall I like the mega-show.

What I like about it is learning about a very serious condition and seeing real results of progress. How these individuals became morbidly obese range from abuse, depression, and eating disorders, but are often combinations of those and more. I like seeing them get better and work through their issues.

I also like how they know what their goal is and work their asses off to get to it. They certainly would love to win the “quarterrrr of a miiiiiillion dollars” as Allison Sweeny says so Days-of-Our-Lives dramatically. But the real goal is to get better and lose weight. To get healthy. Many of them have serious life threatening conditions, or one is right around the corner, and in this show Jello, Jenny-O Turkey, and the other pretty crappy sponsors are actually putting their money into a decent cause.

For the contestants, it’s plain and obvious they need help. They need to make a change with regard to their physical wellbeing in order to live healthier lives and avoid a premature death.

What about the rest of us? Shifting from physical wellbeing to psychological or emotional, how can we measure how well we are doing? Almost fortunately, when your body is sick and overweight, you can see it and so can everyone else. It’s clear what you need to do.

But when it comes to our inside-our-brain lives, when do we know that we need help? That we need to make a change to get back on track to live healthier, happier lives? Where is the stress-o-meter that clearly conveys to you and the world, “Woah there, Skip. It’s time to take a vacation and calm the fuck down for a week.”

Unfortunately we are left to our own abilities of discernment. What sucks about that is we are likely the worst judges at figuring out when enough is enough and we need to take a little break and work on ourselves. While I certainly mean this in a professional sense, I mean it in just about every other emotional & psychological sense as well.

It’s very challenging in our current American environment to listen to what your psyche is telling you it needs. It’s a busy world out there. Messages about work hard, play hard swirl around us; put in your 40+ hour week, then you deserve to party your weekend away because you deserve to have fun!  Or, I think my favorite one I read recently is, “Don’t listen to your heart, listen to God.” Really? Don’t listen to the inner cries of your soul? There’s no possible way THAT could be listening to God?

All around us there are reasons, easy escapes, even religious commands to silence your inner voice and run to the distractions that circle us. And it is those very distractions that could perhaps be strangling the passions and loves that we left long ago when we let our dreams die and went to college instead.

I was listening to a radio show yesterday as I was, albeit begrudgingly, driving to work on an early Monday morning. It was all about self-employment, my favorite topic, and the host quoted Jon Acuff. It went something like, “Finding your dream job is less about discovering what you love, but about recovering a love you forgot.”

How nice that it rhymes. But he’s right! In the daily grind, the struggle we all have to toil the earth, it is less about the quest of finding that brand new talent that you never imagined you were great at. Rather, it’s that little thing that you loved to do as a kid, ran to in order to survive high school, or did in your free time when the baby was asleep. And when we ignore those things that truly make us happy in the name of being normal, a working professional, or a social butterfly, we can be hurting ourselves and not even know it.

We don’t really know when our psyche is sick, but we know when we are sick and tired. We don’t know which day we will crack, but we see it on the news all the time as we read stories of people who finally do. Every single day is critical in my opinion, every breath we take is precious. Why do we allow ourselves to ignore our inner selves and the real desires we have to fully live?

I tell you, the people who lose 200+ pounds really seem to understand the value of a full life. They can SEE how their lives have been transformed once they start making decisions to be their best selves. I think we need to have the same urgency to get and stay healthy. Our goal may not be a fat stack of cash sponsored by Extra Sugar Free gum, but living the life you were meant to live seems seems like as good a prize as any.

How To Make Sure Future-You Is Proud Of Today-You

IMG_2703

“Why wasn’t this done on Friday?! This could have been done on Friday!” he said to me in a loud voice filled with frustration and fury.

I purposely allowed a 5 second pause, then calmly responded, “I would be happy to help figure this out and look into it.  As you know I was off on Friday, and we gave this to Kathy and Jake. This wasn’t my project….”

Cutting me off, “Joni, everything is your project!”

I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. Realizing the absurdity of what he just said, he laughed a little too…but then got right back to business explaining how very true that statement is. Everything IS my project at work. So I have to laugh every now and then or I’d flip out and be found somewhere downtown wearing my pants as a hat.

My personal life sometimes looks very similar to this. I don’t know about you, but the person who sat in my office yelling at me has a twin cousin very much alive inside my head. This drill sergeant manages the Joni Command Center, following up with all of my extra-professional projects. She sounds very similar:

“Joni! This was supposed to be finished a week ago! What happened?!” her voice shrill and panicked, often in the wee hours of the morning.

“Look, I needed a break. It was a grueling week and I just needed the mornings to sleep in last week.”

“That’s no excuse! There are never any excuses to give up on anything!”

No I fortunately do not battle with multiple personalities nor any other psychological or hallucinogenic disease. But I am pretty strict with myself and set a lot of goals. I wonder why I am this way…

I think part of the reason is that I’ve lived long enough to look back and see what I have and haven’t accomplished. I’ll think things like, “If I had started practicing German every day like I said I would when I got back from Germany 2 summers ago, I could probably be pretty good by now.” Well I haven’t. And thinking about it that way makes me want to call in dead and spend a month playing catch up.

But that also inspires and excites me. If I got started on this project and chipped away at it, little by little, every day? Hot damn I would have SO much accomplished a year from now!

I think it’s kind of like compound interest. The earlier you get things started, the greater your return will be because you invested early. For example, if I had $1,000 when I was 20 and shoved it under my pillow, what would I have today, 9 years later? $1,000, which is actually less than the $1,000 I had 9 years ago because of inflation hovering around 2-3% in that time period.

If I had gotten my head out of my ass and invested that in even a crappy mutual fund of 5%, thank you compound interest I’d have $1,551.33 today. Feel free to check my math, but regardless of if your answer is different, it’s going to be more money than if I hadn’t invested in anything.

And that’s the point. It’s important to invest in yourself, and to invest early. I don’t know, I look around and I see so much wasted talent. Strong, creative, intelligent people who will tell me of their dreams and aspirations, and then nothing will come of it. It has bothered me over the past few years, but there’s nothing I can really do about it but be encouraging when it’s appropriate. Which is why I’m here.

Life is going to happen to all of us, but there has to be some kind of a drill sergeant in all of us to get things done and make sure we understand our responsibility. Sometimes being the only person responsible for living your life in a way worth writing a book about can be scary. But shit, that’s why we can laugh at the whole situation sometimes and realize we are human. Some days we will make great progress, some days you’ll just sit and stare at your computer and not type a single word.

At least we are trying – if you’re not, start! Invest in yourself. Give yourself a little kick in the ass if needed. Do you want to look back in 10 years and realize that your dream of, whatever it is, never happened? Or would you rather look back and laugh with the drill sergeant, admiring the work you two have accomplished. You’ll tease her for being such an ass some days but grateful that she was because now, future you, can enjoy the benefits of all that hard work.

I want to look back that way. Some days feel like just another day, but God what a great day to be alive and able to do whatever we want. Today, just like any day, is the first day to making our crazy childhood dreams come true. Let’s take this day and go GET IT!

Why We Should Eat Elephants

Eat

In moving forward in any large, giant endeavor, I’d say the hardest thing to do is avoid becoming overwhelmed. I mean, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. But sometimes you take a step back and look at that elephant in dismay and realize…that fucker is huge!

I took a step back a week ago and saw 3 elephants in front of me. My dream of becoming a self-employed writer, paying off student loans/saving to buy a house, and planning a wedding/getting married. Those 3 monsters are sitting in front of me, and I’ve decided to eat them all at the same time. Taking a look at all of them, I was left debilitated and overwhelmed. What do you do when you feel like you have taken on too much?

I go online shopping. And that’s the worst, as it effectively makes sure that none of those things make any progress. But it wasn’t my fault! It was the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, who can get work done when that is going on?! And football season is coming, I had to stock up on some gear!

Ok fine, I lose. I’ve wasted a week and didn’t do anything productive because I got scared and overwhelmed, which is frankly embarrassing. But there’s nothing to be scared of, I’m the one that decided to do these things. Plus they are all super awesome, why would I hold myself back? Well no more, I’m hungry and I’m going to eat these elephants. It’s a weird analogy especially because I’m a vegetarian, but it works for me alright?

Dumb analogies aside, I can put a stamp on today and be proud of it. I sat down and wrote something. Which is a practice I, WE, need to do everyday. Just a little progress every single day and we will make our goals happen, and our dreams realities.

I’ll be back to take another bite tomorrow.

Powering Through…Even When You Don’t Wanna

Scott-Cheering

Getting traction going for anything is absolutely impressive. I realize it’s unbecoming to pat oneself on the back, but why don’t you go ahead and do that right now. You got up today. You made it to work. Or you finished school and you get a minute to relax before you join the ranks of real world bosses and bills. Or your kid was crying and you were up at some ungodly hour only sea monsters should be awake for.

But you did it! You’ve accomplished something already today. And I think we need to spend more time celebrating our victories.

A teeny tiny victory in my humble little life is right around the corner. Hopefully. I have spent the last several months training for my first ever marathon, and this Sunday I’ve surrendered myself to go ahead and make that 26.2-mile trek.  I was never a long distance runner, but I was a sprinter and I played soccer. Cake, right?

NOPE. Long distance running is an entirely different game than sprinting. Getting started is the worst part. You have all of the 15-mile Saturday run ahead of you. Then after about 2 miles you get into a groove.  You’re jamming, feeling great, but then around mile 6…owie! Your body decides this is far enough, aches, it’s thirsty, and starts with the complaining.

“Can we stop pleeeease?” cry the knees. But you take a swig of water, tell your griping body to shush, power through and get into a groove again. And it ebbs and flows like that, in and out of grooves, each more difficult than the last all 10, 15, 20 miles.  It doesn’t matter because you can’t stop – that’s not an option. You paid $120 dollars to run this damn race and you are going to get your money’s worth. You will have that medal, you will hang it in your living room, you will show it every person that walks into your house, and they will like it.

Life is exactly the same way, except we don’t always get medals for our accomplishments. We do however get in and out of grooves. Think about whenever you have set your mind to accomplish something. You’ve submitted yourself to writing regularly in a blog as well as a side manuscript <ahem>, it’s going well, but that’s when the proverbial “knees” decide to kick in. Your car starts acting up, your dog needs to go to the vet, half of your friends are having career or relationship crises and you want to help. You need to stop for “water” and it’s difficult to get the traction going again.

I swear there are angels up above that watch over and guide us. Then next to them are their freckled step-cousins who never grew past 4’ feet tall. They are sneaky little buggers, armed with an arsenal of distractions to throw at us just for their entertainment. You may have had the biggest breakthrough at work and your boss just gave you an accolade in front of everyone, but that’s when your tire goes flat in the middle of the freeway and the officer who shows up to help serves you a ticket for having tinted windows.

Like I said before, when you are training for a marathon, those crazy long runs are a persistent ebb and flow of strength and weakness. It is a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. Now, all of that is just in reference to flat land – when things are going fine and your car is running smoothly and all your friends are getting along.

But then, up ahead, you see Torrey Pines. For San Diegans you know what I mean, but for those who don’t, Torrey Pines is a state park in between Del Mar and La Jolla up on a bluff. And by “up” I mean high enough to reach those angels and slap them for throwing shit at you all the time. Now to get to that bluff there is a hill.

Did I say hill? I meant massive hill. And by massive hill, I mean the gods of the earth combined all of the steepest and longest hills in all of San Diego county and tied them together for this incline. I ran this blasted hill once in my training and am proud to say I did it, but it was a bastard and I am really not sure I ever want to do it again.

But hey. I did it!  Now, there is the second largest hill – in my opinion, don’t quote me on that – right by my house that I am required to run up anytime I go train. It’s called Lomas Santa Fe, which in Spanish means “God Hates You.” (Don’t quote me on that either.) Every time I approach that hill it is a mental and physical feat to work myself up to make that climb. I don’t get up it fast and it always burns with so much lactic acid that I’m certain my sweat turns to acid rain.

But hey. I do it! I always remember something when I see a hill that one of my running buddies told me in the beginning of our training. He knows damn well how much I hate hills (can you tell by now?), and he reminds me when we’re running, “For every uphill, there’s always a downhill.”

Sweet, right? Well, he is also charming enough to also mention on the down hills, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll be paying for this downhill with an uphill soon enough.”

Dammit.

But such is life. Getting traction going to make it the long distance is fucking difficult on it’s own. That’s without the hills. But you know that there are always hills and you don’t have a choice but to climb them if you want to get to where you set out to go.

I struggle with motivation in every capacity of my life, some days more than others. But somewhere along the way I either bully or sweet-talk myself into continuing the climb. Today I have to do that and work a little harder, as it’s been a difficult couple weeks and I just feel like lying down and eating a burrito in bed.

But not today – I got up. I’m going to do this. I’m going to run a marathon on Sunday and it scares the hell out of me. People have died doing that!  Or my writing…what if it’s not interesting or I don’t ever get anywhere with it? People have died from depressive failure!

Welp, I’m going to have to find out if either kills me. I’ve worked too hard to get here. Likewise, you’ve worked too hard to get where you are. We can’t give up now.  It’s time to power to the top of the hill so that we can get to that glorious downhill, knowing we deserve every ounce of success – because we earned it.