New Year, New You: Practical Ways to Master Detachment

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” –Steve Maraboli

To my encouragers, my support system, my allies, my enemies: Thank you for your questions. Questions keep me on my toes. People who unconditionally love who I am and sweetly encourage my progress force me to be mindful of my why. And however unfortunately, people who wish to see me fail (why do we do this to each other?) teach me what grace means. How might I better respond with kindness to people who have proven time and time again that their existence does not help my existence thrive? Maybe, just maybe, every person I encounter doesn’t need to have a forever function in my life. So, when people ask me questions about my wake-up-and-shine attitude and seem kind of perplexed that I’m able to remain bubbly and optimistic despite my recent trainwreck of a past (read: totaling my car, being dumped, losing my job, and having to move back in with my parents on top of it all), it gives me the opportunity to be the beacon of light and walking testimony of hope that I feel so called to be. And, as a lovely side effect, it gives me moments of clarity when it comes to people and their purpose in my life.

I have to say that most of my transformation and personal consciousness cleanse is mindfulness. Almost 100%. It’s being aware of when I’m truly tapped in and knowing myself enough to really be able to identify what’s happening when I’m in that place – and it’s not a 24/7 thing. We want it to be though, right?

We love the high we feel when we’re living purposefully and in tune with what’s going on within us. Wouldn’t it just be oh so nice if we could live in that place indefinitely? Someone cuts you off during rush hour and maybe you respond by inhaling deeply and exhaling with radiating love instead of with profanities, a middle finger, or your best active bitch face (kind of like resting bitch face, except you actually put some added effort into making yourself look extra bitchy). Or maybe you have a specific plan for how a special evening will go, and instead of reacting from a place of disappointment when the time ends up looking colossally opposite of what you had envisioned, you take a moment to feel gratitude for an experience that really wasn’t that bad after all, albeit not exactly as you had wished.

You can put this into practice in your own life, too! That person you can’t forgive? Why? What might it mean about you that it’s so hard to respond out of love? Is there an opportunity here for personal growth? Are you ready? Of course, it’s okay if you’re not. Transitioning from the ego to the soul is hard stuff.

The thing is though, we’re all human. Well, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience, and so it’s impossible to live in and of this world and to be in a true meditative state all the time. What I’ve learned is that recognizing when you’re there is a huge part of healthy, mindful living. When am I centered? What does it feel like? How am I speaking? I’ve trained myself to become hyperaware of when I’m plugged in and how that enlightened state of being plays out in my everyday life and interactions. On the flip: If you’re not always in that state, if you slip up and fall down (as you sometimes will), where are you when you’re not there? How does it feel? What do your behaviors look like? What needs to change? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my common denominators are. Maybe yours are the same, or maybe they’re uniquely your own.

I’m a professional worrier. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve hit professional status. I’ve been practicing and perfecting my biz in the worry world from the time the universe almost ended when I had to choose between whether I wanted glasses or contacts to be my “look” all the way to that one time I gave serious thought into what I’d say to the woman who doesn’t exist that my husband (I’m not even married) would court and seduce in a scandalous love affair that I completely made up in my [professional] worrier mind.

This is why men are right: all women are crazy. And just because I say that doesn’t mean I’m some feminist hater, because I’m all for strong independent women who raise hell and eyebrows all at the same time. But let’s just be real here and embrace the very raw truth that again: we’re all just human, and the mind is a wickedly powerful and mysterious tool, and we have nothing to be ashamed about when that atomic bomb of mind sometimes reacts from a place different and darker than that sanctuary of light and love and mindfulness that we know when we’re tapped in and that we strive for when we aren’t.

It took me many months, a failed relationship, and some really big life changes to come up with an identification system that’s authentic – some practical, honest, working ways to bring me from there to here, in the Now, where we operate more lovingly as the very best version of ourselves:

  1. Know Yourself – Set aside time every day to meditate, and focus on your inside energy and where your thoughts go. There’s no wrong way to meditate, and it looks different for everyone. Become aware of the voice within and the emotions that enter and exit without actually becoming those feelings and reacting out of them. This is the first step to knowing your soul intimately in a way that’ll allow you to make changes where they’re needed.
  1. Embrace the Binaries – If you’re able to recognize when you’re operating from a position of peace in the Now, become equally aware of when your behaviors are counterproductive. When do your fears cause you to dangerously hold on tighter, when does your need to control the things around you hinder your capacity to feel gratitude, and how can you bring yourself back?
  1. Transition from Awareness to Change – Practice detachment by allowing yourself to experience all of your feelings and emotions without permitting them to control you or your behaviors. Who cares if it doesn’t go your way? If you know yourself just well enough to know when you’re either plugged in or completely unbalanced, the awareness alone of your personal state of Universal harmony reveals what needs fixing. Be open to hearing these important self-truths. Make the change.

I’ve never liked the word detachment. Probably because I take things too personally and I’m notorious for getting my undies all in a bundle when my flaws are exposed. If there are two things about me that you should know and know well, it’s that I don’t like change, and that I’m borderline psychotic about needing to be in control. And, while I’m working on these things with great perseverance, sometimes bits of advice that are intended to be positive and encouraging, like Buddha’s “You only lose what you cling to,” hits an out-of-tune chord with me, and I become irritated. So, I’ll read something like that and then think to myself, “Oh, of course. This is totally referring to me. Because I’m just sooooooo attached to everything.”

Knowing myself and acknowledging the ego-soul binary has helped me to do many hard things, but amongst the most important: my newfound ability to decipher between the two. My ego rolls her eyes. My ego gets defensive. My pissed off ego will actually believe that the Buddha himself coined those seven words specifically to torment me…Carla. My soul asks questions: What is it about detachment that’s so upsetting to me? What’s the lesson to be learned here? How might I read this differently with a perspective that can bloom into something self-serving?

When I work with my flaws honestly and compassionately instead of defensively and with way too much sensitivity, I create room for my own expansion. The irony of it all: that’s exactly what detachment is. Letting go. Opening up. Keeping calm. Carrying on. Smile, sparkle, shine. Every time. No matter the outcome.

Bing, bang, boom! Shine on, lovelies!

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Why You Need to Shut the F*ck Up About Girls & Selfies

Five months ago, I was dumped by my fiancé. Since then, I’ve been the open but unwilling owner to a sometimes-seemingly manic spiral of non-consistent emotions that have taken tight hold of both my arms and have subsequently pushed and pulled me like a zombie ragdoll from hours of therapy → to the bar → to the gym → to the dating scene → to the bar → and back to the gym again. I call this my transformation because I’m kind of active (read: borderline obsessive) on social media, and because I’m certainly going to hop on the #transformationtuesday train while I’m right in the thick of it. Transformation has many definitions:

trans·for·ma·tion  

  • a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance
  • a metamorphosis
  • a process

Usually there’s a start point where you look or feel or think some way and an end point, where you look or feel or think differently than you did at the start point. And only at the latter point can you look back at the magic space between those two points and really see the power of transformation as a verb, which is my absolute favorite way to look at transformation. Almost like a transformation that chose you. You, specifically. To break and build you, to wound and heal you, to challenge and teach you. It’s really special, and it’s very personal.

It’s like getting an eye exam while you’re looking straight ahead at a cluster of letters and your doctor switches back and forth a few times between two different lens powers: “And is it clearer now…or now?” He does this a couple of times, allowing you to see the same reality slightly blurred and then again with perfect clarity. And then the most exciting part: you get to choose. The same thing happens with transformation.

We’re living in a stimulating and loud and busy and kind of sad reality where people often interact by unconsciously formulating their own response to what they’re hearing instead of truly listening to what’s being said in the now. Everyone is or has been guilty of this at some point in time. Transformation is hard because listening is hard. But, if you truly open to listening, you’ll be shown your very own reality through a multitude of lenses. Because the future hasn’t happened yet, you’ll get to see your true and raw reality for what it is right now (and you’re probably not going to like it very much – because often before a significant change or transformation, you’re shown some parts of YOU that are kind of ugly and need some serious fix-‘er-uppin’!) and then you’ll get to process your own reality before choosing what needs to look different, and why.

My transformation isn’t complete yet, because I’m still working on the why part, which is really crucial if you want your transformation to be honest instead of superficial.

Giving myself an invitation to seeing and accepting my reality was tough, mostly because after an honest examination, I didn’t really love myself very much. It’s not that I don’t know what self-love is, or that I’ve struggled with image issues, or that I want to be someone other than me (and let me acknowledge that there are in fact people out there who do war over these things, and my heart sends ripples of love out to you) – It’s just that somewhere along the way over these past two years, the lens that I’m looking at myself through seems to be the blurry one, and I’m sitting here wanting to choose the clearer lens, but I’m afraid to wear glasses or something. Because that’s not my typical look. I’m complicated, and my transformation is complicated.

Five months ago, I was dumped by my fiancé – who told me in more than one conversation throughout our relationship that he wasn’t organically attracted to me. There are also many definitions of organic, but typically if something happens organically, I would define it as happening naturally or without help. So, when the word organic was attached to my then-fiancé’s eyes and his level of attraction to me, a whole flock of insecurities that were never before a part of my life surfaced immediately. The comment probably would have stung any recipient, but for me it was particularly damaging because I take things personally. It’s a flaw of mine, one that I am becoming exponentially honest about as my personal transformation unfolds, and so expectedly, I carried that comment with me from the very first time it was uttered until…well, now. I’m still kind of carrying it around with me. Like, what does that even mean? You weren’t organically attracted to me? As in, it takes a little effort or an extra nudge for you to find me attractive? Uhhhhhhh, what?

What you said: I am not organically attracted to you.

What I heard: You are not attractive. You are not my type. Those thighs you hate? Confirmed, thunder. Your comfiest baggy sweatpants that maybe make you look chubby and frumpy? Garbage. Your favorite granny panties? Back of the drawer, immediately.

And, because he just so happened to be the man I was sleeping with, what I ALSO heard: I think of other people while we’re doing it.

Because, right? I’m a woman, and after that comment, I’d have to assume that’s a helluva normal reaction to have.

Needless to say, for some reason, I wasn’t exactly overflowing with confidence and self-love and a healthy sense of how beautiful I am after that one. Because…ouch.

Enter social media. And of course, there can be endless arguments over whether the Internet and social networking and iPhones and scandalous apps are the bane of our existence or the most brilliant form of technological advancement (but those arguments are boring, and they already exist!) Our reality is that social media exists. It’s here. People use it. A lot of people use it. And, since Y2K already serves as a boy who cried wolf, we all know that social media isn’t going anywhere either.

There’s been a lot of talk about selfies. A lot of people take them. A lot of people make fun of people who take them. A lot of experts spend time analyzing people who take them.

What are the reasons for taking selfies?

What kind of esteem does that person have?

Is her self-worth dependent on how many likes or comments she gets on a photo?

Are selfies linked to narcissism?

While all of those are valuable questions to ask (and they have all already been asked – just Google it!) I’m going to go ahead and say that the answers really have nothing to do with you – yes, you – the person who scrolls through your newsfeed judging and remarking about the photos that people (your friends) choose to share.

So, as someone who completely unashamedly takes and posts photos of herself on the regular – since the answers are so important to everyone – I’m going to go ahead and respond to these questions.

What are the reasons for taking selfies? I’m sure this depends on who is taking the picture. My reasons vary. Sometimes it’s because I just bought a saucy new lipstick that transforms my entire face and I want to show it off. Sometimes it’s because I’m just going along with the crowd and want to utilize the trending hashtags. Why is everyone posting a photo with their coffee? Cute. I’m gonna do it too. #coffeedrinkersanonymous. Sometimes it’s because I’m at a place I’ve never been and I wanna recommend said place to others: Look at me drinking this amazing craft beer whilst playing Jenga. You should be here. And yes, sometimes it’s because some person or some event has raised some insecurities in me and I happen to be feeling really pretty on this particular day and I’d like some damn reinforcement. Like my photo, please and thank you.

What kind of esteem does that person have? Also depends. Some people have really high and questionably narcisstic self-esteem and post photos of themselves because they’re the greatest thing in the Universe and a picture of anything other than themselves would just be…silly. Some people are middle-ground kind of people. They’re confident. They might take a selfie or two if the time and place call for it. And some people really do have low self-esteem, and they really are posting photos of themselves because they desperately want a positive reaction, a gazillion likes, a compliment.

Is her self-worth dependent on how many likes or comments she gets on a photo? Does it really matter? Does commenting about that person who you think is posting a photo because they have low self-esteem and then proving that self-photo-sharing and low self-esteem are correlated do any good at all? No one is hesitant to share a positive affirmation or an uplifting quote or a favorite mantra, but we’re all judge-y about the girl with low-self esteem who posts a photo of herself where she feels her best? It just doesn’t make sense. If you can play your part as a friend to increase someone’s self worth, why wouldn’t you slap that positive affirmation on someone’s selfies: You look amazing. You are beautiful. I love your smile. 

Are selfies linked to narcissism? Sure. I post a lot of pictures of myself, and I’m undoubtedly at least a shade of narcissistic. You mean the entire world doesn’t want to see my bright and sunshiny face every single morning? 😉

Please, post your selfies. Go wild on #transformationtuesday. If you wanna show me your boobies, booty, flexed muscles, full-body shot from the department store fitting room where you’re rockin’ an outfit that you feel really sexy in, BY ALL MEANS, do it. I’m your ally. I’m your cheerleader. And I’m going to go ahead and give that photo a big fat thumbs up too. Wanna know why? Because you’re my friend, and if you wanna be raw about yourself and what you look like and when you feel beautiful or happy or motivated or whatever the hell emotion you feel when you choose what photo you’d like to put out into the world and to share with your friends, I’m gonna support that. I’m going to support it because you are complicated and your transformation is complicated. And it has nothing to do with me. You are processing your own reality before choosing what needs to look different, and why. The why does need to be answered. Why do you want to look different? Why does this or that in your life need to be changed? Why that photo? The why is important and it does need reflection, but your why certainly doesn’t need to be answered by me. So please, POST YOUR SELFIES.

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Freak on, selfie-takers! ❤

The Men Who Woo

I’m not going to intentionally toot my own horn here (well I’m kind of going to), but I’m a serious hot commodity in the dating world, particularly on the Internet. And no, before you start asking your spouse, not in the porn star capacity. Though I’ve considered it. 😉

I find myself sometimes-comfortably but almost-always awkwardly sitting in the camp of twenty-somethings:

who dated the perfect man too early and decided in an immature frenzy that he wasn’t beautiful enough to keep around

who then totally slutted it up in college with all sorts of Mr. Wrongs instead of finding a worthy suitor

whose friends are mostly married with child(ren) already and attending baby boot camp on the weekends or shopping at Menard’s

who has already dated or experimented with all of her friends’ friends and therefore can no longer be introduced to or set up on blind dates with that distant third cousin or hot single barista who makes your latte every morning because, well…been there, done that

who serendipitously met, courted, and became engaged to the sex-god-of-a-man at the wrong time in life when self-esteem was low, reactive behaviors were plenty, and all of that combined with caring too much about what everyone thought about it all shattered the relationship abruptly

who are hot enough to now have people wondering why they’re still single and who are on the brink of spilling over into the camp of self-proclaimed-crazy-cat-lady-feminists if they aren’t careful

Or, if you’re like me, you’ve sat or are sitting in all of the above. 😉

Because some of my not-so-great qualities, like being slightly impatient and always wanting MORE, sometimes trump the more desirable attitude of letting go + trusting that you’re exactly who and what and where you need to be, I’ve found myself putting my single lady energy out there in the form of internet / mobile (there are apps for this) dating. It’s 2014 and Internet dating isn’t weird or taboo or something that only people who can’t interact in public use to get attention. Oh my god, there are some SEXY ASS MOTHERFUCKERS on these sites. Professional, motivated, pet-owning, yoga-practicing, do-gooders. Who have no idea that I have such a foul mouth. Single. All for me. TOOT TOOT.

It’s like the best distraction…ever. And also so much more entertaining than most people are aware. I’m not going to write about all of my email chains and first dates and potential future partners, of which there are many. Well, I lie. I’ll probably write about some of the more comical or noteworthy ones at some point. I assume that I’m certainly in the top 5% of women on these sites, not to sound arrogant and self-righteous, but because I have a whopping 250+ messages in my inbox, and a majority of them flat out tell me that I’m a refreshing combination of stunningly beautiful (one of my favorites) and wildly intelligent (though I’ve never understood this one — perhaps because I write in full sentences and actually bother with punctuation of some kind). Of course, because I get to pick and choose what to say about myself in my dating profile, these poor, charming, innocent suitors don’t know that I’m sometimes a Stage-5 clinger with perpetual coffee breath who has super bad habits of leaving every light in the house on and constantly forgetting to take the garbage out on Wednesday nights + who believed until all-too-recently that wind chill was windshield. Because you know, with the windshield, it’s actually going to feel like -15 degrees out there.

So, while I promise to give mostly-full disclosure if anything fun and / or sustainable comes of my Internet dating chronicles, I mostly want to break down some of my current candidates. Take caution. This is going to be humorous, and maybe slightly bitchy, too.

Among my choices:

The man with the freshest pick-up lines: “Are you Google, because you have everything I’m searching for!”

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The 21-year old who is somehow able / offering to be my sugar daddy. For real though. I just got laid off, so how much money are we talking about here, and do I have to do anything sexual?

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The man named Jawuanathon. Really, Juh-Juan-A-Thon?

The man whose default picture looks like he might be a good partner choice for Beer Olympics if we were to choose a Beowulf theme. But really, where did an IT guy like you get those viking horns? So cute…said no woman ever.

The man who started the convo by asking me if I *really* love Chipotle that much. Yes, I mentioned Chipotle 3+ times in the About Me section of my profile, so what? You’re telling me that you don’t also wonder why Chipotle doesn’t make breakfast burritos? Whatever.

The man who started the convo by letting me know that my entire profile was a disappointment but still wanted to be sure that I know just how great my face looks. Uh, thanks for the…compliment?

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The man who I singlehandedly saved from a traffic violation. I’m not sure I can support this one, but nice, solid attempt, buddy. Eyes on the road!

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So, now that you’ve met the contenders, you can appreciate my dilemma. Who to choose, who to choose?