The crisp morning air fills my lungs. It is fresh. And cool. And the people in my neighbourhood are just starting to wake up.
This pandemic has rocked us all, leaving no stone unturned.
The sense of unease is palpable.
And even the sun seems to hesitate in peaking out from behind the clouds.
And then….off in the distance…..I see it.
The perfect ice puddle.
I quicken my pace, as if someone else may just get there before me.
My heavy rain boots crack the ice with a satisfying crunch. I sink through, right to the sidewalk. Water, breaking free. Feet, dancing in the shattered ice-cubes.
It reveals so much. And when applied to something fragile…..a thin layer of ice…..it exposes the fractures that exist within.
I think about the stress I’m under…..the stress we’re all under….and I see the incredible test of courage that we are all being asked to face.
I see my own weaknesses, threatening to cause my entire being to buckle under the pressure.
And in those moments…..when it feels like I am about to crack…..I remind myself that I have struggled and endured before. I am strong. I am resilient. I am rock solid.
Now, I am definitely not a gardener. And if you’re ever looking for someone to kill a cactus, I’m your girl.
But if there’s one thing I know about plants, it’s that they are incredible organisms (pause….re-read that correctly) at adapting to stress.
Plants will actually acclimate to stress by changing their leaf size, developing antifreeze, or even outright adapting their cells to compensate for dry soil.
Not only that….many gardeners actually swear by deliberately stressing out their plants! Want a hotter pepper? Try letting it wilt before watering.
In the plant world, stress isn’t necessarily harmful. Drought….flood….pests….cold snaps….these events that disrupt homeostasis, are actually a catalyst for change. And in the right doses, plants can turn discomfort into growth…..and long-term stability.
The next generation? Even hardier. And a much greater likelihood of survival.
Does that not totally apply to what we are facing, right in this very moment?
This stress. This discomfort. It can be a catalyst for change.
I truly believe that we will all be able to look back at this time, this experience, this season….and say, wow. Look at how we adapted. How we responded. How we came together as human beings, despite the physical distance.
This will absolutely act as a point of reference for all of us, going forward. Something we can point to. Proof of our resiliency, and our ability to endure something hard.
And not only that….we are setting the example for our children. We are showing them how to weather the storm. And guess what? They will be stronger because of it. They will learn how to get creative in the face of impossible circumstances. They will learn how to stay positive in the midst of chaos. They will learn how to stay connected despite distance. They will learn how to experience gratitude for the smallest of things….things that were once, perhaps, taken for granted.
But only if we are willing to be courageous. Only if we are willing to see this stress as an opportunity. And only if we are willing be the example.
Our children are watching, and learning how to adapt….because we are adapting.
And so I ask you. How are you reacting to this disruption in homeostasis? And how are you using it as a catalyst for change?
For me, it is about grounding myself in the present moment. Working hard to stay focused on the blessings of today….because, well…..tomorrow is not a given.
It is about witnessing my own mind, and learning how to take a step back from my anxiety in a healthy way. It’s about avoiding the temptation to numb the pain. And rather, learning about what truly calms my heart (laughter, human connection, writing).
It is about learning how to be someone who celebrates change, and does not shy away from new and different.
And most of all, it is changing my mindset around "running the hard mile."
You know what I mean.
Every time you get out there, and go for a run, there’s a hard mile. The mile when you start to question how long this thing is gonna be. The mile when you start making excuses. And telling yourself stories. And blaming Ariana Grande for killing your vibe (just kidding….Arianna would never do that).
It is that mile that defines who you are, and how you do life. It is that mile that tells you whether you are someone who stops at the first sign of discomfort…..or whether you are are someone who can push past the negative chatter in your head, and run the shit out of that mile anyways!
I have made lemonade out of lemons before. And this is no different.
With every sunrise that we are blessed enough to experience, we are being given SUCH a gift. The gift to run this hard mile….hell, sprint this hard mile…..and to give it everything we've got. So that....with any luck…..we come out of this on the other side, with newfound resiliency.
Yes, what we are all being forced to do is the equivalent of stripping naked, and strutting down Main Street. It’s highly uncomfortable. It is.
But if I may quote Shakira circa 2001, “underneath your clothes, there’s an endless story.”
We all have latent potential. Endless stories that are dying to unfold. And this….THIS…..is the opportunity of a lifetime to change, to adapt, and to become stronger than ever.
“How many more weeks until we can be human beings again?!” says my mom.
She’s putting on her coat, getting ready to go to the grocery store.
My mom is a “worrier” at the best of times. And this pandemic has hit her hard, in the gut.
She knows the ins-and-outs of every angle to this thing. And she watches the News religiously.
She is bracing. Hard. And she is doing what most people instinctively do when they are knee-deep in fear. Trying to turn the “unknown” into the “known.” “Uncertainty” into “certainty.”
She is trying to outrun this thing.
And I mean, I don’t blame her.
But the crazy part is, you can never outrun fear. It’s like a hopping on a fucking treadmill. The faster you go, the more exhausted you get. And really? You don’t get anywhere at all.
My mom. She is weighed down by the heaviness of her worries. Carrying the burden of “poor Africa,” and “that horrible Trump” on her own shoulders.
She looks over at my kiddos, and sighs. “Oh to be a child right now. And not have to worry as much as us adults."
Listen. I get the stress.
But if we are going to make it though this thing, we are going to need to stay grounded in the right kind of mindset.
Perspective is everything.
And it is my solid belief that positivity is a choice.
We can choose to be “human beings.”
We can choose to have the beautiful mindset of a child, who is so grounded in presence.
Even in the midst of chaos.
Especially in the midst of chaos.
And guys, for me, a rock solid mindset is rooted in the soil of gratitude.
Because there are so many things that I could be depressed about right now. My gym closing. The difficult feat of cobbling together childcare. The stress of paying my bills. The fact that the dating scene has become significantly more difficult to navigate (my car or yours? I’ll bring the take-out. And don’t forget your mask.)
But strangely, my heart is unbelievably full right now. Because of this experience. Not despite it.
And I am convinced that it is because my lens on life is one of gratitude. I choose gratitude. And I choose to see the positive.
The price of gas. It’s never been cheaper! Do you not whistle a merry tune as you’re filling up your car these days, watching the $$$ creep up at a snail’s pace?!
Sports broadcasts. They’re all best-of repeats! Or better yet, bloopers! You’re guaranteed a knock-out show.
Gridlock traffic. It’s no longer a thing! We could get a walloping 10 feet of snow right now, and you’d sail through downtown, right in the middle of the storm, no problem.
The abundance of people getting outside to walk, or run. Ironically, I haven’t bumped into my neighbours this much in years! And do I even need to mention how many opportunities there are to make fun of people using those Nordic walking sticks?! They’re everywhere.
For me personally, it’s the little things.
Like going for a run outside, with my bestie. Something that never even occurred to me to do before!
Cooking at home. A passion that has absolutely been reignited with newfound enthusiasm.
More time with my kiddos. Teaching them how to play Go Fish. Reading Harry Potter together.
But it’s also the big things.
It is the opportunity to become a leader. Never have I been more proud to have the skills of a personal trainer. Someone who can help people in this time of need, by getting people moving. Active. And sweaty.
It is the chance to live my life’s passion, no matter the circumstances, and witnessing my own incredible ability to pivot and adapt.
It is the experience of slowing down. There is no go-go-go of getting to swimming lessons. And ballet. And birthday parties. And haircuts (you better believe I’m gonna cut my own son’s hair….and give him a mullet). It is a deep breath that life rarely affords.
And while many begrudge the closing down of their favourite restaurants, coffee shops, and hangouts…..I am strangely filled with a renewed sense of gratitude for their existence at all. I have a deep trust and belief in the mantra, “this too shall pass,” and when I do get the opportunity to step into my gym, or drop my kids off at school…..I will have a renewed (and deeper!) sense of gratitude for it all.
So let’s redefine what it means to “be a human being,” and live our everyday lives. Let’s choose to embrace the shit show. And see the good.
Because none of us knows how this thing is truly going to evolve. And no matter how many experts we interview, how many stats we drum up, and how many predictions we make…..everyday life will only unfold one day at a time.
Yes, this is uncomfortable. This awkward. This is different. This is scary.
But this is also beautiful.
If you allow yourself to see it.
“Coffee please. With a double shot of tequila,” I say.
“Oh! Ok. One of those days?” says the waitress.
“You fucking bet,” I say.
I just met with the divorce lawyer. A rendezvous I’ve been putting off for a very long time.
The draft separation agreement I wrote up, was torn to shreds. And as I sat there, taking my first sip of delicious boozy coffee, I felt the reverberations of what felt like a boxing match.
Sure. I get it. Divorce lawyers exist for a reason. All too often, breakups turn nasty. And people do things you never imagined they could.
But to be bludgeoned over the head with “worst case scenario” after “worst case scenario,” felt like a back alley brawl....and not the jazzy high-kick West Side Story kind, either.
And the funny thing about “worst case scenario” thinking, is that I really don’t think we do enough of it.
Or rather, we do enough of it.....but we only do it half-way. We don’t complete the loop.
Evolutionarily speaking, the very best “worst case scenario” thinkers were the ones who survived! We are absolutely programmed to anticipate the beast.
But in this day and age......for “worst case scenario” thinking to benefit us, we need to pair it with a plan of action.
If the nightmare you imagine were to happen, how would you deal with it? How could you get things back under control?
We have survived 100% of our worst days. We always do. And yet somehow we often fixate on the calamity, rather than our evergreen ability to rebuild.
All too often, we spend time looking side-long at our fears. Seeing them, but giving them all the control. And call me scandalous, but I love to be in control. You know. Tie my fears up to the bed posts every now and then.
This, I feel, is what is happening with the current Coronavirus pandemic.
People are panicking over “worst case scenario” thinking, because they are peaking around the corner at fear, and then letting it drag them into the ring.
Toilet paper. Bottled water. Creamed corn. The stockpile is real. And although a certain amount of preparedness makes sense, there is some extreme anxiety going on.
Changes in policy. The way we socialize. The way we eat, sleep, and breathe.
It’s all under scrutiny.
I can, however get behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle style foot high-five. THAT has absolutely been missing from my life.
Now, I’m not a big Star Wars fan. But yoda? He’s the shit.
In all his wisdom, Yoda once said,
“Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.”
Rather than boxing with fear, we must dance with it. Look it in the eye, offer a hand, and bring it in close for a late night dance floor booty grind. Or at least a waltz.
Dancing with fear is about facing it head on. And then creating a masterpiece that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would be envious of.
So often, we keep fear at an arm’s length. And only when there is impending doom, or a perceived threat, do we look at it.
How often have we been shocked into action, when a co-worker, a friend, a parent.....gets diagnosed with an illness. We feel like we dodged a bullet. It could have been us. And so we start buckling down on our health, once and for all.
Until the sense of urgency wares off, that is.
When it comes to fitness, people tend to conveniently look the other way. Until it’s too late.
And so....if this current climate of fear has reminded me of anything, it is that, we could all die tomorrow. Every single day of our lives.
“Worst case scenario” the shit out of your health, and realize that caring for your body is truly life-or-death.
But rather than linger in panic, realize that daily energy and effort and care is the equivalent of the most elegant pas du deux. It is the show stopping Beyoncé number that will elicit cries for an encore. It is naming your fear. Then co-creating with it.
See, know, and understand the consequences of ignoring your health. Think "worst case scenario." Then create a plan of action to deal with it.
Because when we all run out of toilet paper, you’re gonna want to be able to execute a high-speed highway truck heist to get some. And you don’t want to have to stop to catch your breath while doing it.
Ok ok, hear me out.
“Life hacks” are a dime a dozen these days. Everyone has advice on how to strategically beat the system. But the only one you really need?
Stop intellectually masturbating.
That's right. Stop falling in love with the idea of doing stuff. And start falling in love with actually doing stuff.
All too often, we come up with a great idea, only to mentally jerk off over it.
We fantasize about what it will be like to do it. Then we spend an insane amount of time prepping and organizing and colour-coding the shit out of our calendar, thinking that we are gettin’ ‘er done….when in reality, we are simply tricking our brain into thinking we are moving forward.
Take productivity, for instance.
People are always looking for ways to be more productive. But productivity can quickly turn into productivity porn.
This happens when you start using 39 different productivity apps.
Or when you start “tracking steps” on your fit bit, instead of just moving more.
It’s when the idea of doing the thing is weighted more heavily than actually doing it.
Usually, if you’re trying to “hack” something, you’re avoiding what will actually get you where you want to be.
People hear little tidbits of advice when it comes to success, and all of a sudden, they’re obsessed with trying to emulate “the greats.”
Wear the same clothes everyday. Steve Jobs did it, and supposedly he increased his capacity to make good decisions.
Sure, you could do that too. But then you’ll start to look like a cartoon character.
Work 100 hours a week. Elon Musk does it.
Are you building a rocket ship? No? Well then you probably don’t need to work that much.
You wanna know the real impetus behind success? Consistent hard work. Plain and simple.
The best hack of all, is not trying to hack anything.
Because when you’re diligent, patient, and get it right, you reap disproportionate rewards.
I can’t tell you how much I’d love to be at the top of the writing world this instant, but I keep working because I know there are no shortcuts.
Don’t fight the truth. You have to earn it.
You know it. I know it. But only a few are able to embrace it.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve liked my music loud. Extremely loud. In fact, I once went to a concert, and couldn’t resist standing anywhere other than right beside the speaker. I had temporary hearing loss for 24 hours. But still. It was SO worth it.
I love to feel the beat. Music moves my soul.
And if you’ve ever been in a car with me…..or cooked with me…..or had a shower with me (ok, that’s a very short list of people, but still)….you know, I like it cranked the fuck up.
My love of music is deeply ingrained.
And I blame my father.
When I was little, we would have Sunday morning dance parties, and he would turn the volume to the max on our 3 ft. high living room speakers. Robert Palmer. Phil Collins. Elton John. Aerosmith. The soundtrack of my childhood.
Music is the ultimate form of expression for me. I make it. I move to it. And I listen to it to pump myself up, wind myself down……get myself in a hot-and-bothered mood, or to act as the catalyst for my tears.
When I find a song I like, I listen to it 100 times over. Also? If you want to know the ultimate form of torture for me, it would be to force me to listen to a good song….then require me to not move a muscle.
I like my music the way I like many things in my life. Extreme.
But even so. I never start at max volume. You ever sit down in a car, turn it on, and get blasted by the unexpectedly loud tune-age? Ya. Not fun. And likely, it just made you pee in your pants just a little.
Extreme is amazing. But it’s something you build up to.
And sometimes, in life, we are so tempted to go extreme, right out of the gate.
You ever have an epiphany? A sudden jolt? A realization that if you continue down the path you’re walking on….you’re never going to become the person you want to become?
This place of dire-ness. Desperation. And critical clarity. It is the very birthplace of motivation.
But it never lasts.
Because that parched feeling. That need to change. It can be pushed down. And brushed aside. Especially when you’re tired. Or you’ve had a bad day. And Ben and Jerry’s just this once is what you deserve.
You want motivation to last?
Move forward. Then give it a chance.
You know those kind of people who chase shiny objects? Ya. Don’t be one of them.
In order to stay motivated, you’ve got to give yourself a chance. And I mean like…..6 months. Not just a couple of weeks.
Stay the course.
So many people dive in, realize how hard it is to keep going, then give up. Shit is hard. Yes it is.
Pick your destination, then drive. Move. Go forward. No matter what.
Don’t convince yourself that you need to “get your ducks in a row” first. Fuck the ducks.
Take action, and keep moving.
Turn up the volume. Slowly.
Also don’t be one of those people who goes from zero to sixty right away…then burns out.
Focus on building momentum.
With any new endeavour, we all feel like we suck. There’s a huge amount of imposter syndrome. And there’s always a certain level of embarrassment with learning something new.
But all experts started out as beginners. And you have to be willing to go through that learning curve.
Don’t get all “full-costume, lights, camera, action” right away.
Add new skills. One on top of the other. And build your confidence, one brick at a time.
Be willing to “be the amateur.” And don’t expect perfection. Or overnight success.
You want it? Put on your patience hat, missy. You’ll ride that bike down the hill. And guess what? You’ll get faster and faster the further you go.
Have a (snow)ball.
Motivation is a desire to do something. A desire. And if you’re waiting to like the thing that is hard to do….think again.
Instead, allow yourself to fall in love with the results. And let that fuel your fire.
In chasing every dream. Every goal. Every personal best. There comes a critical turning point, when you start experiencing success. You see little victories. And you start winning.
THAT is when the snowball you are building really starts to form. Because then, and only then, will your motivation become self-fulfilling, and sustainable.
But don’t make the mistake in thinking that once you make a snowball, you can stop pushing. That snowball has endless potential. And if you keep moving, it will keep getting bigger. There is no end. There is no finish. There is no done.
So please. Feel free to live an extreme life. I’m in full support of going big, or going home. But ease into it. So that you don’t just do the “going home” part, and forget about the “big” part.
Now, excuse me while I hit “post,” finish my coffee, and hop in the car. I’m in a fabulous mood. And I have some serious steering wheel drumming to get to. Yes I am that person. And I can’t wait to pull up next to you at a stoplight.