Dillan DiGiovanni

How to cultivate cozy and content.

Health and Wellness, Inspiration, GeneralDillan DiGiovanniComment

Last weekend I passed up a date for a cozy afternoon alone. 

This isn't rare. It's my life as I've built it over the past two or three years. Weekends are no longer spent running around feverishly trying to make up for what I wasn't able to tackle during the week. I'm not booked solid with commitments, personal or professional. I don't run errands in a panic. I'm not keeping up with the Jones' social calendar. I don't even know anyone named Jones.

After years of filling my calendar in a misguided attempt to fill some void, I stopped.

I get it. Life is busy. There is a lot to do. I know this because it's been only me doing all the things for as long as I can remember, including the years I spent living with people. Having roommates helped a bit with sharing chores but we often had different priorities. I remember when one roommate wanted me to mop the floors from the muddy mess her two large dogs made. For me, that was a "no". And even being partnered for a time didn't mean we were a happy couple seamlessly moving from thing to thing. We sometimes handled the basics ok but often bickered about dinner or cleaning the bathroom right. From what I hear, this happens more than not.

After years of roommates of all kinds, living alone again meant adjusting to solitude which I managed by booking myself solid with commitments, some fun, some obligatory, some unconscious attempts to escape the loneliness. I see this in a lot of people who run from thing to thing and book themselves on the regular. Sometimes it's pure motivation in action. Completing grad school while running a business required me to be fiercely motivated around the clock. Sometimes people want busy lives because they want to see and do a lot with the time they have.

And sometimes, perhaps more often than people care to admit, it's also an attempt to outrun something. Maybe it's a fear of failure. Or maybe moving around can help them avoid the lack of love or connection to something that feels right and good. Or a mistake they made that they regret. They drink another thing or eat another thing or do something or go somewhere, anywhere but here--because here is something to fear. I don't think many people stop to think about this. I sure didn't, until I chose to.

I chose to think about it because living alone means I need to do everything: do the laundry, earn the money to pay the bills, do the shopping and the cooking and the dishes and the cleaning, and of late the wood stacking and ash bucket dumping. I can't say I'm really bummed about that last one, haha. Or any of them, really. And because I value living my life like this, I need to make time to make it all happen, otherwise, it doesn't.

But living alone also means I've been able to cultivate cozy and content on a regular basis. It means I'm able to carve out time, wherever and however I need to, for rest and relaxation. Living alone means I intentionally sit with what and why and how I spend every moment of my time and, by extension, my life.

Mindfulness like this helps create a life of intention and meaning. When life is so busy, it's even more important for us to nurture the Skill of Stopping. All of the doing with none of the down time does get us to a point of burnout which serves no one, not us or anyone around us. We end up fatigued, not fantastic. We can end up resentment and miserable and it's no way to live. We can also end up running from thing to thing and not really seeing what we're in fact running from and why we're doing it and how it's not really serving us.

On the flip side, sloth doesn't serve us, either. Avoiding responsibility because you just can't, even, is another way to hide out from life. Being so busy that you literally don't have the time or energy for adulting.

Finding the middle way to make it all work is the goal.

Last weekend was an especially wonderful weekend of comfort for me. I live in a renovated barn and my woodstove has become a near and dear friend. I packed it full of wood and sat beside it looking out the big picture window at the two feet of new snow. I'd already been snowshoeing that morning and I could see my tracks. Winter fitness, check.

I had just received a small shipment from Amazon Prime containing three items: a book on spirituality that I started to read in the library before I moved out of Boston last year, a brand-new journal to write in and the novel, The Revenant, which was made into a movie starring one of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. I bought those three things with a gift card that I've kept close for over six years of different dwellings. Turns out that shit really doesn't expire.

I laid myself down on the couch, opened the book and turned on the soundtrack which I bought last year on iTunes after I saw the film (twice). I played it over my Bose mini speaker which I recently got on sale with another gift card.

PS all the frugality is foreshadowing for something to come, stay tuned.

I said to myself, "this is a slice of heaven right here."

After a few hours, I worked on my taxes. Then I went right back to the couch. I read that book cover to cover in 48 hours, something I haven't done for over ten years. The required reading I did for graduate school doesn't count, of course.

There were a few moments where I felt that familiar pull to be cleaning something or doing something for my business. My brain and body, both so habituated to momentum, struggled to settle. But I sat with the urge and let it pass. I intentionally cultivated cozy and content on my terms in my own way.

Cultivating cozy takes work. After childhood passes, we have to be more vigilant to make it happen in meaningful ways. But it's worth the effort. I entered the week feeling vibrant and fulfilled despite the bleak winter and shared the story of my cozy weekend with my clients who ooohed and ahhhed and started thinking of ways they'd create a similar experience for themselves.

For the first few retellings, I said, "listen to what a dork I am, this is what I did," and then I stopped giving that disclaimer. I changed my story to, "listen to the incredible experience I created for myself this weekend."

Unlike the protagonist in the story and my former self who strived and struggled for days on end to run from something or fill my time to look busy or cool or God knows what other reason, cozy and content is the new me.

revenant cozy

A little thing called listening.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

I had to learn to become a better listener. Before I did that, I was a really excellent fixer. And then a sub-par fixer. And then an arrogant know-it-all. And then a dysfunctional, overcompensating helper. 

Yikes. 

It took me a while to see this in myself and it was only when I was doing the work of teaching others to be better listeners in my work as a coach and consultant that the truth really hit me right between the eyes. 

When I was demonstrating effective and ineffective listening skills/tools for my clients, individuals and crowds alike, I was struck with now many of the "poor" listening skills I had been using in my own life. I got to work practicing more of the "good" skills and now I can't stop noticing this little thing called listening all around me.

Have you noticed that most people really don't know how to listen? It's really incredible, actually.

I have many theories as to why and I'm no psychologist so I won't go outside my scope of practice. My job as a coach is to notice the what and the now what? As in, what are you doing and now what do you want to do about it or instead?

But people can't even get clear on what and now what until they can be heard. And it's damn hard to find a good listener to help you sort that out. At least, that's my experience, especially since I became a coach and then again when I transitioned. Most people are either too terrified or more curious to get their own trans* fix and questions answered than actually listen to what I'm experiencing to be supportive. And when people find out I'm a coach, they sort of assume I'll be their coach for free, and they talk and talk. 

I don't take it personally because I listen, carefully, to how people are with each other, too. It's pretty amazing how little people listen to each other. They talk a lot and barely listen--to themselves or others. I read somewhere that most conversation is two people competing to be heard. I agree, 100%.

For these reasons, and others, it's been very important for me to draw clear boundaries for myself which I've had to learn from using good listening skills, the very skills I teach in the work I do. I mean, why else do you think I got into this work if not because I needed it for myself first and foremost?! Any coach who tells you otherwise is a fraud, in my humble opinion. None of us are better or have it together more perfectly than the people we support. Many of us barely know what the hell we are doing sometimes-that goes for most people, in general. But there's a difference between knowing what and how to do and actually doing it perfectly. My favorite clients come to me to find out what to do and then practice doing it imperfectly, just like me. And do I tell them what to do? Nope. I try to listen as much as possible.

I know what and how to practice wellness and balance via self-improvement.

I know a lot about identity development and change theory and health food stores and nature and movie trivia.

I know a lot about a lot of very important things and some very unimportant (but interesting) things. But mostly I practice being a good listener. The more I encounter poor listeners in my own life, the more I feel called to nurture it within myself. And create resources for people who feel called to nurture a little thing called listening in their own lives.

I do this because I don't think people don't need advice, even when they seem to want it. What they need is good listeners. They need people who can hold space as they sort things out for themselves. They need people who can be gentle enough with what's tender and true. They need people who stop long enough to listen to themselves and can create that same experience for another human being.

A little thing called listening, when done right, goes a long way to actually being helpful when someone needs it the most.

 

Other peoples' perspectives.

InspirationDillan DiGiovanniComment

I sent a survey to my newsletter subscribers last week that included three questions about the content I send. And there was a bonus question at the end with pictures of different people. I asked them to vote on who I resembled most.

The people were 4 men and 2 women. The top votes went to one of the men. The second highest votes went to a woman.

I did this as an experiment in how people see us. It's pretty interesting how we have a self-perception but it can be in stark contrast to how others perceive us. And I'm not just talking about how we look, I'm talking about what character traits people assign to us, what roles we fill in their lives, and what needs we fulfill.

And most of this happens without our consent and often regardless of what we do, say or even prefer.

What do you think about that? Does it unnerve you a little to think you have little to no control over what people think of you and what they do with their opinions? Does it feel scary or freeing?

I sent out that survey because I noticed a trend and it was also an exercise in "exorcising" my ego. Over the past five years or so, people kept sending me pictures of people they thought I resembled. I would meet someone and they'd say, "you know who you look like?" and show me a picture of someone who I thought looked *nothing* at all like me. At first, I got really upset and annoyed because I have an ego and it goes really wild like a bucking bronco sometimes. I noticed it acted up most when I was really invested in how people saw me. This was worst during phases of my transition when I needed or wanted to pass as male. It still happens. Someone who knows I'm trans sent me a picture last month of someone who seems to be a lesbian and I got *PISSED*. I wondered why that person would do that. I wondered why I bothered spending thousands of hours and dollars and basically wiping my previous existence/identity off the planet just so someone could still see me the way I was perceived before my transition.

Why did I even bother? 

And then I sat with that horrible feeling of being out of control. Hours of meditation helps me sit with feelings and thoughts in ways I couldn't years ago. I came to realize that my decision to transition my gender identity had everything to do with me and nothing to do with other people. I didn't do it for anyone but me. I didn't do it to educate the world. I did it to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I did underestimate the impact of that decision, however, because we don't exist in a vaccuum. More on that another time. But I saw that I would forever be tossed about in the waves of uncertainty and frustration and annoyance if I kept basing my value, worth or sense of self on other peoples' perspectives. 

And just like that, I felt free. Instead of upset, I felt more curious about how other people saw me. I collected all the pictures of people other people thought I resembled. Then I sent out a survey to see what MORE people thought! I totally released expectation or attachment to what people think or how they see me because it is just a matter of perspective and it's none of my business to solve, fix or change.

If you're curious, these were the top two winners. Notice how they don't look anything alike as people but folks still voted them BOTH as my doppelgangers.

 

winner
nope
me

Gives you something to think about, huh? People see what they want to see based on who they are and what they need and want to see in who we are. And it usually says nothing real about who we actually are for ourselves or other people.

It says nothing real about what we look like.

It says nothing real about what we can accomplish.

It says nothing real about who we've been before.

It says nothing real about what we can provide.

It says nothing real about our purpose or potential.

It says nothing real about anything, really. 

 

It's all subjective reality and it shifts and changes just like a mirage.

 

Other peoples' perspectives are theirs to have. Politicians. Parents. Friends. Partners. Fans. Followers. Strangers. All the people.

Who we are for ourselves, how we see ourselves and how we engage in relationships to see others fully is our business. It's work that requires so much time and energy and intention. I see how much time I've wasted worrying and not working.

Imagine what results you'll get in your life when you're doing this, too.