I see you.

If the greatest human need is to be acknowledged, it's no wonder the greatest human fear is public speaking.

Asking for what you need or to be seen and vulnerable and face rejection? Yeah, right. No thanks! It can feel terrifying to put yourself out there, even if it's what we most crave and need.

And that's where most of us spend our whole lives--in that balance. Waiting or wondering for how to make things different. How to put ourselves out there and be seen so we feel acknowledged.

It may be even harder for those of us who were born lucky enough to face significant adversity, like I was. I say lucky because it's my opinion that facing adversity is a gift. It's a blessing. It's how we nurture resilience and become gritty to overcome the challenges of life. If we have enough tools and resources, adversity is great. Without enough of what we need, adversity is...not so great.

Ironically, more resources doesn't always make it better. Sometimes, the more privilege we have or are given in our family unit or in society, the harder life's challenges actually can feel. When things come easy to us, anything HARD feels HARDER. But when hard is what you know by default...you get what I'm saying. What are your particular circumstances? Have you ever stopped to consider this?


Being seen and acknowledged and valued is essential to our survival. Lots of people want to pretend they are beyond or above it but there's probably something else going on with those folks. This primal human need to feel connected and be acknowledged is why social media is a hot damn mess and also why the news can be so hard to stomach right now because we see so much invalidation of human lives in so many different ways. It can trigger this feeling in us like, "whoa. Look at the lives lost. Am I even valuable?"

When we see this all day, every day, we can feel overwhelmed. Human beings treating other human beings unkindly is nothing new but the news and social media makes it seem bigger and worse right now. I try to keep perspective on it based on what I know from my days teaching Social Studies.

In those moments when we feel overwhelmed, when the compassion fatigue sets in, it may help to just start with seeing yourself. My inner child cries out to be seen especially since my relationships with my family have changed and I don't have their presence or support. To be honest, this isn't anything new and based on our differences, it's something I've come to accept. I'm learning to be ok with things as they are because I trust it's for the best. But the primal need to be seen and acknowledged is always there, in all of us. And one thing we can do in each moment is say, "I SEE YOU."

I did this on my morning walk and was surprised how quickly it worked to calm my anxiety. To hear my own voice acknowledge my own presence, it was like a magic spell! I thought how long I've walked around with this solution and didn't use it!

I encourage you to use it.

And you know what else? I see you. I see your attempts to improve your health. I see how you're trying to make the world better. I see how you're working hard to get by. I see how much you do for your family. I see how you're seeking to understand people who are different than you.

I see you.

I SEE YOU.

Being seen helps us relax and feel connected. It inspires and encourages empathy, which is the cure and antidote to what's affecting human beings right now. We're working this out and it's messy and complicated and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

If you want to help in a way that really works for you and others, you can start being seeing yourself and acknowledging what you're doing to make things better or worse.

Focus on the positive.

Choose one thing to improve.

Go from there.

Actually hating people is part of the point.

The point of what, you may ask?

The point of being human. And the point of working through our feelings and reactions to be better versions of ourselves.

Hating people or being annoyed or frustrated is part of the human experience, which is pretty obvious, right? I mean, it's everywhere these days! Even the most trained mindfulness practitioners talk about this being a daily challenge. Don't feel too bad if you struggle with it.

Why am I writing about this? Well, for one, people seem really annoyed with other people lately and you can see it all over social media. We're pretty polarized as a country and world, but that's really nothing new. People have been having conflicts since figuring out how to make fire. I don't know that for a fact but I'm pretty sure it happened.

And the second reason I'm writing about this is because a lot of people seem to beat themselves up a bit for sometimes hating people. Or maybe they don't hate them but they really struggle with conflict. Some people try being so positive that they really aren't even allowing themselves to feel healthy amounts of anger. OK, I CONFESS! I have a hard time being mad and feeling anger even when people really, truly suck. Are you with me? Do you struggle with this, too?! Or maybe you struggle with being angry allllll the time. That's a whole other thing, so keep reading.

Anger is a thing many people struggle with. They aren't quite sure how to handle difficult people or situations (which usually involve people).

What do we do?

What do we say (or don't)?

What are good boundaries?

How much do we get involved?

When do we step up or step back or step AWAY as far and fast as we can run?

Well, those are good questions. But the underlying truth is that hating people is OK. ANGER is really ok. It's a response to feeling betrayed or frustrated or scared. It's part of the point of being human. It's totally natural to have feelings that include frustration and contempt and seething jealousy...and other feelings that we struggle to allow ourselves to feel.

I know I can say I struggle with this because I really, truly TRY to be a good person. In fact, people have said to me more than once that I'm actually *too nice* and I didn't think so before but I can totally see it now.

Many people really suck. They are self-absorbed and selfish and unaware and inconsiderate. And those people are hard to take but when we have the right tools at our disposal, we can actually deal with people like this (and other difficult situations) more easily.

Take my experience at the laundromat recently. I was there, doing mountains of laundry that had piled up from weeks of traveling.

I was tired. I was worn out. I desperately needed a day off and to myself spent lying flat on my back. I knew this but there were chores and errands to do before I could actually relax.

Then, a group of little league baseball players and their dads enter the laundromat. They were caught in the rain and had to dry off their gear. As more kids and parents arrived, they stood in one group right in the way of customers who needed to access the wall of floor-to-ceiling dryers.

When people tried to move around or go through them (people like me) they stood still and hardly moved. They just stood there.

I felt my anger rise from my throat to my head in about 2 seconds. In that short amount of time, all the meditation training and mindfulness practice I've been nurturing since 2002 went RIGHT out the window and I reverted back the impatient, annoyed person I was raised to be. I mean, I wasn't taught kindness and patience and calm. I was raised in a family of negativity and reactivity and unsavory behaviors. It's taken me a long time to undo and unlearn all that programming.

But there it was in one instant, right back like it never left.

I angrily steered my cart around the group and mumbled under my breath and felt REALLY ANNOYED. I actually hated them and their obliviousness to the needs of others around them. All they cared about was themselves. I wondered how human beings could live on the same planet and be that asleep.

And then the training kicked in. I remembered how much I knew about scenarios like this. I remembered that it wasn't their behavior that was the problem, it was my reaction to it. I was letting their behavior bother me, and no one else could change that but me.

I practiced some deep breaths. I went over to the window to chat with the person monitoring the laundromat. I said, "wow, those people are really jamming up the works."

She nodded, closed her eyes and said, "yep. Some people are just inconsiderate."

And like that, the spell was broken. She was right. People are so many different ways, despite our expectations and assumptions otherwise. And hating them for being that way is part of the process of overcoming our fear and expectations and assumptions that keep us stuck, waiting for them to change or be different. Hating people is part of the point of why we are here--to see ourselves and to change whatever is within our reach to change.

We can hold onto anger and hate people forever or we can let it go. We get to choose.

So next time this happens to you, about any person you can name or identify, think to yourself what choice you're making about the hate you feel and what would be possible for you if learned to choose differently.

Know who you are.

Kanye West is making news from what he sees as his powerful self-expression.

It's confronting people and challenging them in many different ways.

I feel compassion for him. I wonder if he's actually doing ok. I wonder how much of what he's sharing comes from intentional choices to get media attention or because he's actually ignorant.

At a basic level, I do support his self-expression. I support him saying what he thinks is true and real. We all deserve that. But he's speaking from a position of power in our society, and incredible wealth and privilege at the moment. And with that platform comes responsibility.

People have strong feelings about what he's saying and doing.

It comes down to knowing who we are, not only for ourselves with our own opinions and perspectives but who we are in relation to all human beings. We don't exist as islands. We have impact. We all have relative privilege and disadvantage. Each and every one of us, some of us more than others.

I shared this sentiment on the two panels I sat on this month, once in Pittsburgh to an audience of tech/startup-minded individuals and last week in NYC to an audience of activists, social media marketers and all sorts of other people.

I am consciously positioning myself on those panels and outing myself as a #transgender person to share insights about privilege and power and identity development. I'm working to help the current social awareness of trans* people and what we can do or are capable of being and where we belong. I am also just sharing from the deep reservoir of information and knowledge I've acquired throughout my career.

Most people don't know who they are outside of what society has shaped them to be. Most people aren't given the tools to explore identity and know themselves as complex, dynamic beings capable of changing and evolving with each moment.

It's the work I've been doing for my entire career. It's the message I've been sharing since becoming a coach. It's starting to gain traction. The time is now for me to keep expressing myself and sharing this knowledge to help others. I know everyone won't agree with me and the ways I'm doing it and how and why.

It's why I support Kanye sharing his truths, even if I disagree with him.

Ultimately, we all deserve to say what we need to say.

When we can do it with integrity and from a place of deep introspection and awareness, we can be even more powerful. When we can do it from a place of love and wisdom and compassion, like I did several weeks ago, we have the opportunity to change lives for the better. We can empower ourselves to inspire others toward their own self-empowerment.

This happened for me several weeks ago at my talk in NYC and my schedule has been so packed I haven't even been able to share about that. Here's a small video that's a bite-sized recounting of that experience. And know I'm working hard to make it happen again and more often as much as possible.

When we know who we are, we are unlimited.

The biggest barrier to happiness.

When we think about happiness, we think of things.

Cars.
Gadgets.
Clothes.

Or people, like romantic partners or friends.
Or situations, like winning the lottery or getting the job we want.

But over time, we come to see that even when we have those things, something still feels like it's missing. Why are we happy when we have what we want?

Well, it's a trick question. Because if what we want keeps changing, we could never find true happiness. We could keep thinking that it's over THERE! or over HERE! down the tunnel where we find the cheese we've associated with true inner peace.

But without gratitude and self-love, nothing ever feels quite like enough. In fact, the biggest barrier to happiness isn't a lack of the people, places or things we think will bring us joy. It's actually self-denigration. The biggest barrier to happiness is how we treat ourselves, including how we talk to ourselves and let others talk to and treat us. When we disrespect ourselves and allow others to do it, it is what limits our happiness.

The quickest way to be happy is to catch ourselves doing this and STOP IT (with love, of course) and point it out when others are doing it. We could say, "I'll be happy when so-and-so starts respecting me," but YIKES! Because what if that person never wakes up and changes in time to do that? (Most people won't.)

What do we do instead?

I think you know the answer now. ;)

 

Accountability helps us actualize our ideal lives.

Sleeping in a hotel this summer wasn't my rock bottom. I think most people would think it would be but it wasn't.

I stayed in a hotel for a week this past summer as I bridged the time between crashing on couches and moving into my short-term rental at the Jersey Shore. It was something I chose intentionally. After a summer spent moving around looking for where I would land and call Home, the hotel was my last stop before landing back Home in New Jersey where I'm from and where I left in 2006.

My actual rock bottom hit months later, the week after Christmas, in a fancy carriage house. It was supposed to be Home but it ended up being another stop on my path and would serve to teach me invaluable lessons about myself and my resiliency and tenacity.

I possess seemingly unshakeable resiliency. It enables me to overcome things that would stop most people in their tracks. I often think to myself how many assumptions people make about me and my life based on what they see in social media because I selectively choose what to share and when and why, not because I'm trying to hide anything but because I try to be intentional about what will actually help and inspire people. If I'm going through challenges in my own life, I've become more mindful of what to share to bring more positivity or clarity or inspiration to peoples' lives. I try not to add more doom and gloom because there's plenty out there. If I'm going through something hard and I feel discouraged or afraid, I'd rather share less of the details and more of what I did AFTER THE FACT to help people through the same thing. Just complaining into the ether doesn't really add anything to anyone's life.

And I know when my book is published, it will have plenty of room for all the stories and details that I don't share on social media because it's all designed for very short attention spans. The wisdom I have to share deserves peoples' time and attention and they make more of that when they decide to buy a book.

It's the same way with accountability. People make time for what really matters to them OR what their habits have carved into their cerebral cortexes. Habits aren't always intentional or conscious choices and the way we start to become more aware of this is by taking action to unpack what we do and think and feel and say and WHY we do it all. That's when accountability serves us to help make different decisions to get different results.

If we want to lose weight, accountability helps us stick to the choices that will help us do that.

If we want to move to a new city, accountability helps us line up phone calls and make lists of action steps to get us closer to that goal.

If we want to start a business or find a new job, accountability helps us polish our resume to send out or call former or new clients for new business.

Accountability is the thing that takes us from where we ARE to where we WANT to be.

When I sat in the fancy carriage house this past December, I realized it wasn't the right place for me. I had made decisions that got me to that place and even though I was exhausted from a long string of months spent wandering around with no home, I knew I couldn't stay in a place that didn't feel right. I knew I had to keep going and summon more courage and strength to get to where HOME felt right and good in the ways I needed. I didn't know how I'd do it but I knew staying just wasn't an option.

Accountability that I've learned from so many years being a coach helped me push through the fear and doubt and shame and fatigue and get to the end goal I wanted. And it's better than I ever could have planned and I think to myself what my life would be like right now if I had given up or hadn't applied the level of accountability I did when it felt like I had absolutely nothing left.

I wouldn't feel this blissed out and grateful. I would have settled and would be sitting in something sub-optimal.

We aren't meant to live sub-optimal lives. We are meant to live IDEAL lives and with a little elbow grease and some help in our corner, we can make that reality. I'm here to prove it, against incredible odds.

And if I can do it, I know you can, too.

No matter what, this you can control.

Life feels a bit weird lately, eh? More and more folks are feeling the shift.

I know it can feel unsettling when change like this occurs. Whatever else was happening in your own life is mixed into the cultural transformation soup. It's good and hard in equal amounts as folks are finding their voices but with a lot of anger and pain behind their self-expression.

I can relate, personally. Can you?

The greatest spiritual teachers of all the major world religions will tell you that this is nothing new. For as much as we might think that things are worse than ever, they aren't. I mean, we have it better than what happened to the dinosaurs!

I'm kidding not also not. Yes, it's tough to stay aware of all that's happening and try to keep your head above it all and remain positive. It's hard to find that place in ourselves when there's so much fear and negativity swirling around us.

But no matter what's happening around us, today or any day, we have control over a few key things. We can control what food we eat and how much. What we eat from want versus need. How we think about what we're eating and the games or tricks we play with ourselves that says a lot about how we feel about ourselves. Like this person I know this past weekend who said, "I had a good week. I'm allowed to have this." And when I tried to invite her to see that we're always allowed to have good food that feeds us, she batted away what I said. She was pretty fixated on thinking of food and GOOD or BAD and this was a BAD thing she was having to "reward" herself. Hey, I know how it is. I've been there myself. And not everyone is up for deep thoughts about their relationship to food let alone transforming it. I let it go.

We can also control how many glasses of water we drink to hydrate our minds and bodies. Best guess is 8 glasses. Watch your urine and when it's almost clear, stop drinking. Front-load it early in the day so the need to pee doesn't keep you up at night.

We can control how much sleep we get, even if it's interrupted like mine has been lately. I know my sleep is suffering from all the change I've experienced, my lack of arduous exercise, the temperature in the room and maybe I just didn't eat enough dinner and I'm hungry. So many different factors affect our health so it's important to know how to troubleshoot. Do you feel like you have a good handle on how to do that?

We can also control how much we isolate or put ourselves out there for connection with other loving, supportive and safe human beings. This is really poignant for me right now, as I have to have a real come-to-Jesus moment with myself about the kinds of relationships I've nurtured and won or lost over the past two decades. With all my moving around, and just because of the nature of how we change over time, many people have come and gone from my life.

Right now, I'm focusing on filling my life with people who bring as much good into my life as they take. The ratio was off for too long and I'm determined to rectify that. And my needs have changed so that means making tough decisions in this department. This is something I've been writing about and exploring and working on since I became a coach in 2009. I bet if you search the Archives of this blog, you'll find how long I've been on this path. It's a process. Not something that changes overnight.

We can also control how much negative self-talk we heap onto our weary minds. We can turn the volume down on the inner critic and manager that constantly wants us doing more, better and faster. My new therapist reminds me that's all trickle down from the bullshit patriarchy that is projected for us day and night via social media. Watch for it. Words like "hustle" "grind" and "muscle through the pain."

Yeah, no. Those words don't go well with self-compassion and the gentle hand that actually helps us thrive and sustain ourselves. As a social experiment, I dropped myself into a community like this, several of them actually, and I quickly retreated. I am not giving up my assertion that the tech and innovation communities can embrace wellness and well-being and radical inclusion. In fact, I'm sure I'll find the right communities that will benefit from my work. I have a few dear people here who are trying to help me and I'm so grateful.

So, for now, focus on one of these. Maybe two. Think about all that's going on and what you can and can't control and remember there are a few things you have 100% control over. I hope that thought makes you feel a little bit better. Do you know the Serenity Prayer? Here it is as a reminder.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.
— Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

We're all needed right now.

Last week I went to NYC to speak on a panel at the Moving Forward Conference.

The experience reminded me of this wisdom to pass along to you as we find ourselves in a time of cultural transformation, where people are rethinking identity and the many layers of power, privilege and potential in ourselves and others. And my message is that we are all needed right now, exactly as we are, to help shape the world we want to live in.

Dillan DiGiovanni Moving Forward Conference

As I rode the train to NY, I reflected on all the events and experiences that got me to this point in my personal life and my career. I was showing up to this event in my identity as an integrative health coach, something I've maintained since I began in 2009 despite many challenges. Many other entrepreneurs can relate to me in that way. One of the major challenges I experienced was also going to be present at the event, and that is my identity as a transgender person. Since choosing to transition publicly in 2012, I've learned to navigate the world as a completely different person. Most people immediately think of my outward physical appearance but my inner transformation is more powerful, at least for me, because my current outward appearance as male has revealed "truths" about human nature and the culture we create collectively and my digestion of what I now see has transformed me from the inside-out. Having lived in one form for 34 years, I now move through the United States (and across the world, really, thanks to my coaching work and social media) viewed through a whole new lens. When I out myself as trans*, the lens changes again.

And I've spent six years learning to adjust to this constantly shifting landscape. It's treacherous more often than not and fun or fulfilling here and there. Learning to let go of it being easier sooner has been a profound shift. There's a part of me that likes to drift into fantasizing about what my life would be like now if I had never made the decision to transition. I imagine what my body would look like without testosterone. I think about what doors would have opened for me. I think about what I might never have known or done if I hadn't chosen this path.

Some of us choose change like this, many do not. Some of us are awake to who we are and how we're perceived, which is our true self, but most are not. And this lack of self-awareness and intentional choice to transcend it is leading to what looks and feels like chaos.

The answer to resolving the chaos is easy, but not simple. And it's certainly not possible with so many people asleep at the wheel of their lives. What do I mean? Well, most people choose to zone out in front of a television instead of cook dinner of real food. Most people choose to point a finger of blame instead of seek ways to make the world a better place with the simplest acts of kindness. Most people aren't working to see what's possible for themselves or others.

One of the biggest ways we get in our own way of waking up is by seeing ourselves as static, fixed beings instead of complex human creatures. We slap labels on ourselves and each other and sort and categorize people in boxes for convenience so we don't have to think too much.

 

Thinking is hard. That’s why most people judge.
— Carl Jung

 

And I judged myself harshly at this conference. I'm really good at that. I judged myself for being afraid and self-conscious and asking my friend what I should wear too many times. I asked her not because I didn't know the appropriate attire but because I was seeking a sort of permission to show up in my transgender body in a room of cisgender bodies. I was asking, myself mostly, what I could wear to make sure I passed as male in that environment to avoid the risk and vulnerability of being targeted and possibly hurt. It doesn't matter that I haven't experienced physical harm in this new form, the threat lives in my cortex every moment. It's something that happened gradually as I went from being seen as safely androgynous to somewhat male and I became hyper-vigilant to make sure I was seen as I wanted to be seen. It was important, no essential, that strangers perceived me as male so I wouldn't stand out as weird or wrong. It matters when I enter a restroom or a professional environment so I can meet my basic needs for survival.

So I put a lot of pressure on myself to be seen as an integrative health coach, first and not talk too much about being trans*. I moved through the rooms in this way, meeting people and making introductions and feeling a sense of relief, however fleeting.

Once our panel took the stage, I felt the fear creep up not because I fear speaking publicly but because I knew the moment would come: the time when the comfort of passing as male would be replaced with the discomfort of disclosure. When people in attendance would look at my body as I passed, searching for evidence of my transness. When individuals would come up to me, as they do, focusing on that one identity and not the wisdom I shared about my profession of choice.

I felt deep envy for the white, heterocisgender man who spoke earlier in the day but immediately chose to feel connection instead. I'd thanked him for his honesty when he used his platform and privilege to beseech his colleagues to embrace diversity and change in their workplaces. "We're male, pale and stale," he said. "And everyone in my work looks like me and it limits us."

He was so brave to say that, even if he didn't think so. He was needed to share that message so someone like me could sit on that stage and share what I shared. He made the moment of my disclosure matter differently to every person in that room.

When I left the stage, I felt the shame hangover and found a new friend to process the feelings of vulnerability I felt. I realized the inner conflict of wanting to be both "normal" like everyone else and just sit up there spouting my wise takeaways about workplace wellness and integrative health. But I'm more than that and to sit on the stage and not use it as a way to help people wake up a bit about the boxes we put people into and the limits we impose, would have been a missed opportunity for me and them.

I needed the friend who invited me onto the stage and be present in that room.

It gave me access to validate my accomplishments and help transform others.

I needed the man of color who outed me without my permission and another gay one who thanked me for helping him reveal his personal trans bias.

It gave me an opportunity to practice compassion and forgiveness.

I needed the white man who bravely asked for new inroads for diversity in tech and innovation.

It gave me an appreciation for the role heterocis white men play in our collective progress.

I needed the white women who shared about her white colleague who transitioned and didn't listen the three times I told her that I didn't need to hear her colleague's former name.

It gave me the chance to practice patience and hopefully plant a seed in her subconscious.

I needed the Asian-American woman who thanked me for sharing because it helped her feel ok about her sibling with autism.

It gave me the opportunity to make the world a bit safer for someone who needed it.

I needed the Senegalese intuition coach who shared her prophetic wisdom of energy and the emotional scale she uses in her work.

It gave me the opportunity to be a student as I strive to be a better teacher.

I needed them all to show me that I did the right thing by showing up fully, exactly as I am.

We're all needed right now, for the same reason. We're needed to be visible and present and brave and awake to make the world better just by being ourselves.

If we can be brave enough, we truly can make things better. Starting now.

 

Moving Forward Conference NYC

Love is like that.

Happy Valentine' Day!

Here's a gift I made for you.

It's an ebook of most of my writing about love over the past eight years or so.

 
love is like that.png
 
 

here's my author's note:

This book is a collection of blog posts and articles and random thoughts I’ve had about love over the past eight years or so.

It is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive and is often quite redundant.

It’s self-indulgent and generous. It’s imperfectly edited. It’s arrogant.

It’s vulnerable and honest.

It may bring you some solace or a new perspective or perhaps it may even piss you off.

Love is like that.

Love, Dillan

 

Be true to you.

This is my Valentine's Day love note to you. As you scroll past post after post of articles encouraging you to change yourself to find the love of your life, this is all about finding the greatest love of all, like Whitney Houston said, inside of yourself. I'll share how I've learned to do it and how you can learn to be true to you, too.

 

betrue-dillan-digiovanni.PNG

Last week I sent out my newsletter about the temporary discouragement I was feeling. I intentionally wrote and sent that post after a long sabbatical from writing to create space for people who were struggling similarly and also to normalize the ebb and flow of life as a human being. With so many coaches posting from perfectly manicured and manufactured profiles, I wanted to send something real out into the ether for people who crave authenticity--and I don't mean the kind of "Authenticity" that's being sold by heterocisgender, upper-middleclass, able-bodied white coaches and "thought leaders." I know those folks know their own versions of suffering but they don't speak to me and my experience in this life at all. I just can't relate to them. I think that's why more and more people of all identities are following me on social media. I hope so, anyway.

Newer readers and followers don't know that I started my coaching business in 2009 and wrote long and often, day after day, sharing pretty much everything about my life on Facebook and in my blog which was sent to my newsletter subscribers. I also wrote for GoodMenProject and on Medium. You can read the archives of that writing online at any time.

And then, when I started my gender transition in 2012, my life took a turn I didn't expect. I lost a lot of the support I had before (or thought I had). During this incredibly challenging life change, I kept trying to share and give support and inspiration like I'd always done but over time I came to see that without enough resources for myself, I wasn't really able to provide what I had been giving before.

That whole "put your oxygen mask on first thing" is real. There's no avoiding it. We can't pour from an empty cup and my cup was not only empty, people in my life kept asking for more and more and I, in my desire to help, ran myself into the ground trying to give what I didn't have for myself. This eventually led to burnout and then resentment. I came up to the edge of that and knew it and saw the need to take a break.

So these past two years or so, I've taken time away to restore and renew myself to give to the world what I want to provide. If I wasn't able to get it from others, I knew I had to learn to give it to myself.

And that's what I want to share with you today: how to move toward being true to yourself as the best friend you want and need so you always have all the love support and resources you need 24/7.

I'm not saying you shouldn't seek friends and other support systems. We certainly can't exist in this world alone. But learning to be discerning about relationships is crucial because people have so many different motivations for being in our lives and it isn't always to give us what we need. In fact, because so many people don't know who they are or how to take care of themselves, relationships often take more from us more than they provide. I don't mean to sound pessimistic but rather compassionately candid.

People don't prioritize themselves and their mental and physical health and they end up putting more negativity and dysfunction out into the world. We often confuse this with some statement about us and who we are. And I want to reassure you, it isn't about you at all.

The behavior of others that stems from their own lack of self-awareness, self-love and self-care isn't a reflection of you or your worth or value. When people flake on meetings or dates or long-term commitments or friendships or work partnerships or hell, even political process and (dys)functionality, it's not because you aren't important or worthy. Rather, it's because you and I are in relationships with people who are not attuned to their own needs. People can't give us what they don't give thsemselves.

This is such an easy concept, right? Easy words to read and digest. But it's taken me almost three decades to learn and accept much less practice with any sort of regularity.

And that's what my post last week was all about. It was about me learning this and forgetting it and coming back to it, which is the path of the bodhisattva that I've chosen.

Some readers or followers confused my confessions of temporary discouragement, which is just part of being a normal human being, with being in severe distress or even a cry for help. It wasn't that at all. I shared the honesty of being in that place to normalize it with real words for whomever needed it. And I did that to be true to myself and what I was feeling to inspire that in others. It was interesting to notice how people reacted to that sharing and I'll write about that soon.

The value in sitting with and being true to ourselves, no matter what we're feeling, is immeasurable.

When we can honor the shifting, changing nature of our internal landscape, we can hold that space for others.

When we can celebrate our emotional highs and lows, we can honor when it's happening for others.

When we can walk the tightrope of being human, we can guide others along as they navigate it.

When we can sit with grey and not need to force it to become black or white, we can encourage others to embrace this perspective as well.

When we can eat food for fun and to feed our bodies, we don't have to worry what others do or don't eat. We don't need to convert anyone based on our viewpoints but we can honor what feels right and true for us.

When we can go to bed because we know it serves us, we don't have to worry what people think about us.

When we can go for a walk because we know the human body needs exercise to thrive, we can abandon old habitual thinking that exercise needs to "hurt" to be effective.

When we can be with our own company and not need to be in a relationship or need the company of another person to feel whole or valuable, we can be present to how wonderful solitude can feel.

This is what being true to yourself means. It means knowing yourself and being ok with who you are, even when you don't look or seem perfect to others. It means loving the process of your transformation, even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others. It means honoring what you need and want and seeking it out in places or from people who are ready, wiling and able to provide it.

It means learning to provide it for yourself via healthy habits with food, sleep, exercise and other methods of self-care.

As Valentine's Day approaches, seek out as many ways as possible to nurture this intention to pay better attention to yourself to become the source of love you want and need to give to yourself first and then, if you want, to others.

Be true to you to be the best friend you could ever have.

What's going wrong and right at the moment.

Have you been feeling like I’ve been feeling? Like there's something wrong with you?

I shared my honest truth with a new friend the other day, and she wrote back, “right there with you.” So I knew I wasn’t alone. And for a moment, it helped. Maybe this will help you, too.

I told her I was depressed. Or struggling to find my way toward the light of acceptance if I can only overcome this low-grade anger I feel. Or maybe it’s just winter. I always forget this time of year that S.A.D. is a thing and too little vitamin D makes life rough. Or it could be the fact that I had no real home since Memorial Day and the few false starts on my bumpy landing back in my home state of New Jersey have left me depleted beyond my usual reserves. Or I'm terrified to be back here while also super excited, too. Or I miss my therapist who died suddenly in June the day after I saw him and we had so much more to do together. Or living openly as a transgender person is harder and scarier and more eye-opening than I anticipated. Or things are hard for my family right now, even though they are better than they were. Or it’s probably also the way that sugar and wheat have crept back into my diet in larger ratios than I know serves me, especially at this time of year.

Underestimating the weight of these real, everyday human concerns and struggles, I keep thinking there’s something wrong with me and I forget that life gives us many reasons to give over to cynicism and resignation every day. We all have these reasons, some of us more or differently than others. But we all struggle.

Well, I’ve been feeling cynical and resigned and jaded and generally irritable about myself and most of humanity right now. I feel annoyed. I feel frustrated. I feel concerned. I feel so incredibly sad.

With the daily news reports, most of which I only catch in glimpses these days from Instagram or Facebook feeds because I gave away my prized 36” screen tv back in September of 2015, I’ve noticed this persistent feeling of being punished. And I don't like how it feels so anger is a nice defense when sad or frustrated or confused run their course. Anger can rush in to make me feel like I'm in control over things that I really can't and probably truly shouldn't try to control. Does anger do that for you, too?

But it's how I feel. Like I’m being punished. I feel stripped or depleted of something that I once associated with joy and fulfillment. I’ve been looking for meaning and purpose and sometimes find shards but more often than not I'm coming up with more reasons to worry that we’ve lost our collective minds in a frenzy of greed and self-absorption.

We care more about virtual currency than actual reality (to some it's the same thing!).

We can't sit two minutes without reaching for the damn gadgets.

The planet has worse asthma than I did as a kid. The glaciers are melting.

The oceans contain massive islands of floating plastic.

People are talking about sexuality like feminism was never a thing in the 70s (where have y’all been?) and leaving LGBTQ individuals out of the conversation in ways that are startling ironic since we’re the whole reason you’re even liberated from your heteronormative straightjackets of gender roles and performance.

And that’s what’s wrong with me, I think. I feel like all my searches for truth and meaning have revealed the true state of things and it isn't what I thought it would be when I found it. I'm going through some discouragement. Are you?

Because I feel like I voted for something that wasn’t the reflected mirror of our collective consciousness as a nation right now but I got fooled because that is what (not who) is seated in our most prestigious seat of elected government leadership. Now is the time for this life lesson. And when I try to remember that it’s reality and not another reality tv show, I grip whatever is near me, be it a countertop or another person, and feel a little nauseous.

I didn't see this phase coming. When I left Vermont after an extended, much-needed retreat I was feeling pretty optimistic about life. And then my therapist of 10 years died suddenly and his death was one in a long line that included my own, in a manner of speaking, and I just sort of threw up my hands. I surrendered to the path or process that's running its course right now. I am optimistic about where it's headed, actually. I don't feel the way I used to feel and I'm not the person I used to be. And in general, it's a really good thing.

But for right now my real honest truth is that my appetite is MIA pretty much all the time. I don’t want to watch movies about suffering and catharsis like I used to. I can’t listen to music about love and loss. I find it hard to be around people who either seem to be walking around in a zombie-like state of compassion fatigue or privileged delusion or complaining incessantly about what seem to me to be the most mundane concerns, focusing on their own self-absorption expressed in their lack of self-responsibility. Some just complain because a complaint-dominated narrative is all they know and they confuse it with social justice and allyship when all it does is contribute more negativity to the whole kit and kaboodle. Yikes.

We’ve seated ourselves in that House and this is our reckoning. This is what's wrong with us. 

It’s taking a lot to ride it out but it helps me to see it from that perspective, which is what I choose over the alternatives. Just like behavioral change in an individual, regression is essential for more progression. This state of affairs is our collective regression to move forward.

This mindset inspires me again when I worry that I’ve lost my empathy. It frightens me and I worry about who I’ve become from incessant trauma and stigma and stereotyping and cultural chaos and how the hormones have altered my body chemistry so much that cynical retorts fall out of my mouth faster than tears from my eyes.

I miss the catharsis of crying. It helped in ways I’ve forgotten how to feel these five years.

I spend so much time dissociated as a form of self-protection, I long to feel related again. But my self-awareness is at such a depth that what feels like drowning is probably really the submersion of my spirit and soul so I can surface with more treasures than I would have ever known as the person I was before. From what I read and learned from the masters, this feels right and true.

Does that resonate with you, too? Like perhaps we’re being burned down to rise up like a phoenix from the ashes of our former selves, individually and collectively? This is what's wrong with us and this is transformation in action, as lived.

I think the pervasive depressed state is the destruction of our egos for our better selves to emerge. And the seeming collective suffering will yield to the chaos of change eventually and we’ll all feel and fare better for it in ways the wisest masters predict.

Or maybe I just need to eat less sugar.

I’ll try that and also keep striving to be patient and contribute in compassionate and meaningful ways toward this collective consciousness thing and you do you and then let’s compare notes.