community

Why I stay on social media

(In case you needed another person's opinion about this...)

I'm relieved that more and more people I respect and admire are calling out the BULLSHIT that is social media. 

But I'm not quitting and here's why. Because I have a business that depends on people being able to see and access me for coaching support, I don't have the privilege to just put my head in the sand and pretend I don't approve of or like what I see happening out in the world. I mean, I DO have that privilege but I'm not exercising it. People need me (or at least I like to think or hope they do) and they can't find me to get help if I'm hiding in my transman cave with a sign hanging outside that says, "I just couldn't. Even."

It doesn't mean that I don't feel that way but if I can't even then why am I in the business of helping move society along another notch on the evolution spectrum? That's why I'm here and that's the work I've chosen (do we really choose it if it's a calling?) so I can't stand in integrity and simultaneously bury my head in the sand.

Social media is just our reality reflected back to us and if we can't face it that's the real problem to address. Acknowledging what we like or dislike about what we see is the real work of life. It's called adulting. It's called maturity.

What's even better? Acknowledging we don't like something while also realizing and respecting that the world doesn't revolve around our likes and dislikes. And even better than that?? Realizing that our likes and dislikes are all just our attempt to feel more control so we can avoid feeling like crap so we don't have to be responsible for doing anything to change.

Still with me?

I'm also here because I don't see many people like me around. There are a lot of heterosexual, cisgender, white, upper-middleclass, able-bodied people sharing their opinions and perspectives right now. They have done the hard work of writing books or getting themselves and their work out there and they are doing a lot of good.

After spending more time than I'd like to admit being jealous of their privilege compared to the hand I've been dealt, I've chosen to overcome that way of being and just do me. There is a lot to say about that and I don't wax (too) philosophic here, but suffice it to say that there are many ways to inspire people and off of us deserve a place and we are all invited to the table to share our gifts with the world. But we need to accept the invitation and overcome whatever is blocking us. And that will be different for each of us. And that's called l-i-f-e. OK, more on that later.

Listen, there are plenty of reasons why I tried (more than once) to turn and run from social media. I wasn't raised with this shit and struggle to manage the adjustment to the tsunami of information. Most of what I see makes me question the lease I signed to belong to the human race. But not wanting to face or deal with it doesn't change it from existing. It also doesn't change the reality that it's all been going on for centuries. 

It sucks to realize that we won't fix it in this generation or the next. There's no app for that.

But what if we used social media and all it offers us to focus on how we feel about what we see and what we want to do about it. What if we courageously faced the black mirror and chose to deal with it in better ways? What if we decided to be the change we want to see in the world and didn't post a goddamn meme about it but actually LIVED OUR LIVES from that place? I stay on social media for that reason. It reminds me how far I've come and how far I still have to go. It reminds me to stay humble. It reminds me that my bubble is small and the world is wide and my pinprick of significance matters to mostly no one but it does matter.

Yes, like my pal Paul Jarvis, the positivity/inspiration memes drive me a little nuts. I still post them, despite, because my clients and followers "like" them and I try to think that a few nice words help them through a challenging moment. But I worry that they too often live vicariously through my inspiration and don't take action to change anything in their lives. 

And action, my friends, is what creates change. But sometimes feeling positive and inspired is what precedes action, and so I keep posting those memes. I post and hope that more people will take action so we can stop wanting the world to change and start seeing and experiencing it ourselves.

And, I mean, come on. Some of the shit people make is funny. 

 

I feel a sense of obligation to stay on social because I like to think my presence matters especially because I stand for two things that society continues to struggle with: health and self-acceptance. If my visibility helps one person make a move in one of those two areas, then it's worth it. Best-case scenario is we all use our presence to make each others' lives better but we can all see from comment threads and trolls just how far we are from that goal. One day at a time. 

For better or worse, society has evolved in this way and it's teaching us a lot about ourselves--more than we were learning before the Pony Express and then telegraphy and then chat rooms and so on.

Like I said, I have the privilege to delete my apps and accounts in a fit of "I quit this place" but it would really mean I'm trying to quit the reality of life as it is. And that's not an option for me, despite the thoughts that tempt me from time to time. And it's the smiling faces of my friends and those goddamn inspiring memes that positively override the negative thoughts and I try to pass that inspiration along as best I can.

Dealing with life, becoming more patient and tolerant and trying to make a difference are some reasons why I stay on social. What about you?

The Wizard of Pos(itivity)

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What is to give light must endure burning.

-Viktor E. Frankl Man's Search for Meaning

Very recently, I was invited to share a story of my life in a public setting. When I solicited suggestions from my Facebook followers and friends, one person said this:

"You're just such a positive person. I admire that about you. Was there ever a time in which you struggled with loving and accepting yourself? I just feel like someone else who may be struggling with that would be inspired by you."

It's really beautiful and very important to me that people experience me as a positive person now, especially if it inspires them to transform their own perspective on life. But I realized there is an important story to tell about my path to positivity. My journey reminded me of a similar story, so I'll call this The Wizard of Pos(itivity).

When I was in college, I had the Midas touch. Do you know that story of King Midas? Everything he touched turned to gold. That's how I felt in college and into my early young adulthood. I'd say I wanted to have or do something and it would literally materialize before my eyes. On the first day of college, I squinted at the people moving us into our dorms and said, "that will be me, someday." Indeed, two years later, I became a hall/resident advisor. It was also that year that I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I needed to raise a lot of money, but I applied myself that summer and raised $3500 to fly myself across the Atlantic and made my 10-year dream to go to South Africa come true.

Things like that kept happening for me well into and throughout my young adulthood.

And then, a few years ago, something happened. I fell into some kind of rut where things worked decently but not the way they had for many years. It got worse with each month and then things sort of bottomed out for me. It didn't look like that to a lot of people, but it FELT that way to me. My business was suffering and my mental and emotional health had plummeted. I grew increasingly discouraged and disheartened with each passing month until last year, I heard myself say, "I lost my Midas touch. I can't make things happen like I used to."

My light had almost gone completely out. I was growing increasingly negative and fearful. I had become spiteful and often complained and compared myself to other people and their perceived success. Despite achieving so much, other success or accomplishments seemed elusive. The infamous Gemini tendency toward duplicity sort of ran the joint on a daily basis.

I hardly recognized myself. Despite my awareness of my behavior, I felt unable to turn things around.

I was desperate to understand what was happening and what I could do to change it.

I started digging deep, really deep. I came to fully embrace that was raised in a family that tolerated my existence but rarely celebrated it.  To overcome that neglect, as a child, teen and younger adult, I sought out a lot of loving and wonderful people once I realized what love could feel like. From the time I was young, I was always gregarious and loving so I always seemed to find these people, even if they were sometimes hidden among the weeds of a toxic or dysfunctional environment or community.

But the part of me that knew neglect, abandonment and the feeling of not being cherished or adored, still sought out people and places that would reinforce that experience for me. It was familiar, after all, if not all that comfortable.

Despite making some really great decisions to remove myself from situations or relationships like that during the past few years, I was still subconsciously doing it in other areas or with other people. Since I had made great progress and so much WAS working, I couldn't see these blind spots. But they were there, and eroding the confidence and strength I strived to build in other areas. They were counteracting the progress I'd make and set me back for days or weeks.

But I began to see it. Ever so slowly. I started experiencing the same patterns in every aspect of my life--a person here or there would be a clone of another. I heard these people complain about others, compare themselves or speak in ways that revealed a lack of self-awareness of their actions. They all seemed, in varying degrees, unwilling or unable to see or be responsible for the impact of their choices and behavior. They were resistant to the actual hard work of personal growth and appreciation of themselves and their own gifts, despite evidence to the contrary. From the outside, they presented the image of being "put-together" or "the pinnacle of positivity" but were actually very different if triggered or shaken or confronted in some way. These were very different relationships from my old friends, those people I had found earlier in my life, who had lit my path with the light of self-awareness and a passion for growth and healing. These people in my life now seemed to be showing me one face and the world another, and it confused me so much--particularly when I confronted them and suddenly became the focus or target of their projections. I went from trusted confidante to Enemy #1 sometimes overnight.

And then I realized why: I was acting as a mirror for them and vice versa. As I spent more and more time around people who were resisting their own vulnerability, authenticity and inner demons, I took on their secret negativity and insecurity. As I surrounded myself with people who focused their energy more on putting up appearances and avoiding the painful complexity of life than confronting it, I did too. I complained. I gossiped. I hid. In this environment, my gender transition, an already delicate and vulnerable process, became increasingly less of a celebration and more of a prison as I rejected and resented people more each day. I saw threats at every turn and doubted myself and my abilities. It wasn't who I had ever been, but I absorbed it and sent it back out into the world.  And, just like these people, I managed to develop two versions of myself: the one I was "behind the curtain" and the one I showed the world.

I had become the Wizard of Positivity--pulling off the feat of impressing the world with my strength and courage but also feeling like a fraud as I feverishly manipulated controls and switches to keep up the illusion of happiness, confidence and inner peace.

The more I did this, the more I experienced rejection and reprisals. My own behavior was literally creating the alienation I experienced from people and opportunities. All the healthy food and personal development trainings in the world weren't filling the void of not feeling appreciated, valued or cherished for who I was.  It felt like a sinkhole and the more I tried to grasp at a solution or a person, the more I felt them slip through my fingers. The way out was elusive and I knew a despair deeper and darker than any that Anne Shirley could ever imagine.

But I knew why I was experiencing all of it. It was my creation. I had allowed the parts of me that didn't believe I deserved love, recognition, support or success take over and I had put myself into environments or among people who weren't truly thriving themselves, despite their illusion to the contrary. I had fallen for those illusions, just as others were, and now had to reconcile with the truth. A lot of things look and feel a lot like love. But where there is a question, there is no love. And where there is real love, there is no question.

I had chosen to settle for less because it resonated with a part of me that felt it was all I deserved. And conflicts that came up were from a different part that knew I deserved better. Despite the pain and fear of changing, I knew I had to remove myself from anything or anyone that wasn't real love--in work, relationships and anything else.

And that's exactly what I did. Hand over hand, I climbed out and through and away from identities, behaviors, habits, situations and people that kept me from being fully expressed or fully seen and appreciated. The more I did, the better I felt and it gave me confidence to keep going.

The pain of whatever was lost wasn't stronger than my will to overcome that dark, negative place I had been in for so long. I began to see everything come into relief--everything made sense as my life improved over three months and then six and then nine. Positive and encouraging oppportunities seemed to serendipitously find me again, effortlessly. When I found myself chasing something or someone like I had before, I instantly saw the dead-end sign and would turn back.

And that's where I am now. I'm experiencing relationships and business/life opportunities like the ones I knew before and also the ones I dreamed about. I'm rather feeling like I've been raised from the dead. Things are happening in my life that make no logical sense and are mind-boggling for me, but they are the things I used to want so much---so I won't second-guess the Universe and look a gift-horse in the mouth. It seems I've definitely got my Midas touch back!!

The work keeps expanding in front of me, because the old habits are strong and deeply rooted in that part of me that needs to heal fully and completely. It couldn't heal in environments that reinforced it--it is healing in atmospheres of abundant love and reciprocity.

It would be great to say my transition made this all possible, that it inspired the change I needed to make. But the truth is, I've never felt more like the "old me" than I do right now. I just sound a little different and have bigger muscles.

Perhaps it was the courage to transition that allowed me to finally overcome whatever held the "old me" back. It was the genesis of finally exposing what hadn't ever really been given room to breathe.

And being alive feels great--especially since I've known what not living feels like. I've known all that fear, shame, rejection and neglect. I remember how it felt to be around it and who I became as a result and how hard I had to work to keep up the dual identities. I don't want to experience that again so all I can do now is be love and feel love and share it.

And the most important part of all is now when people call me positive, I can agree with them.

What the Fluff?! A Health Coach Serves People WHAT?! at Somerville's Annual Fluff Fest

  Each year for the past nine years, the city of Somerville has hosted the Fluff Fest. It's a celebration of Marshmallow creme Fluff, created in Somerville (the city of my current residence and office location) by Archibald Query in 1917. During WW1, sugar became scarce and he sold the recipe to two guys, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower. There's a really great article with more information here, feel free to read it.

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Instead of capturing the festival like any other reporter may have, commenting on the sights and sounds and various Fluff flavors to be found, I wanted to share my personal experience of three gifts I received from volunteering for Fluff Fest.

WHAT IS IT?

“What the Fluff?”, the brainchild of Mimi Graney, executive director of  Union Square Main Streets, is part of ArtsUnion, an initiative shepherded by the Somerville Arts Council and funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the City of Somerville. The event is made possible thanks to generous sponsors, local business support, talented team leaders and a magnificent group of volunteers.

-from the Union Square Main Streets website

According to Mimi, "everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood. Whether born in the 1940’s or ’50s, or ’60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it.”

And that includes this health coach, right here. I may come from New Jersey, and not New England, but I grew up eating Fluff on triple-decker sandwiches. Oh yes, I took the fluffernutter one step further by adding grape jelly. No, I'm not kidding.

So, it's safe to say I had a particular interest in this event. I am a newbie, this year was actually my first Fluff Fest even though I moved to this "side of the river" in 2009. I know. Shame, shame. I've either been working, traveling or doing goodness knows what else all these years but this year, THIS YEAR, I decided I wasn't going to miss it. In fact, I wanted to be a part of the whole ordeal. Earlier in the week, I received an emailing looking for last-minute volunteers and I replied. An enthusiastic and grateful reply came right back to me, telling me to show up at 6pm. As with most days in my life, I learned some great lessons too good not to share.

It was a long, humid day but by the time 6pm rolled around, I was really looking forward to going. I had no idea what to expect. Life is really, really fun the more I live from this place!

I strolled around Union Square, carefully walking through and around the thousands of Fluff Fest attendees. There were tables and music and people all over the place. I managed to find the table for volunteers and was given my assignment: Fluff Fear Factor.

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WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Dodging fluff fanatics left and right, I made my way to the Fear Factor table. I saw a few folks behind the table with a myriad of containers around them. My mouth gaped in (slight) horror as I watched them pile the ingredients onto saltines and hand them to people.

I jumped right in when I was asked to cut up a can of Vienna sausages. I had not known Vienna sausages prior to this moment. From that point on, things just got weirder and even better.

Our ingredients on the table included:

Vienna sausages. SPAM. Canned green beans. Hot sauce. PEanut butter. Nutella. Gummy worms. Coco-puffs. Fruit Loops. Canned clams. Marshmallows.

I think that's it.

Oh, yeah. And molasses.

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It was my job to ask people what they wanted, put the assortment together on a cracker and hand it to them to eat. It took me a few minutes to overcome my own judgments and hesitations but what a lesson in non-attachment for this practicing Buddhist! As I greeted one person after another with a huge smile and "what can I get you?", I realized how little my opinion mattered. Did these people care if I was giving them food with ingredients on my gloves from the previous customer's cracker concoction? NO! Did they think about cross-contamination? Nope. Did they worry about the food dyes and ingredient lists of each and every ingredient? No, sir.

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They were just having fun being daring and adventurous and trying something new and scary and thrilling and weird! They were living with reckless abandon! I know there's a theory out there that says our bodies metabolize food we enjoy (no matter what it is) better than that which we don't, so I couldn't help but toss my own opinions aside and get caught up in the sheer joy of the whole thing.

OK, I will admit that after years of focusing on good nutrition and lifestyle habits with my clients (and myself), it took me a few minutes to adjust. And maybe a few mutterings to my colleagues of, "how are they doing this? Won't they get sick?" to which my fellow Fear Factor friends simply replied, "not our problem!"

INDEED! Fluff ON!

It was truly refreshing and transformative for me to stand there piling stuff onto crackers and giving it away with all the joy and love my heart could hold. And more than a few prayers that people wouldn't end up praying to the porcelain gods later that night.

All in all, my Fluff Fest experience was one I'll remember forever.

I met new, fun friends within moments from just jumping in to help and throwing caution to the wind.

I stood behind a table and made horrendous concoctions of ingredients whilst managing a huge smile for the sake of the folks who were actively choosing to ingest said horrendous concoctions. My opinion didn't matter, their happiness DID!

Once the Fear Factor ingredients ran out, I was left with the task of working with several folks to roll up two massive bounce houses. It was hot. We were tired. We had probably consumed one too many Fluffernutters. But, within a very short amount of time, 10 complete and total strangers of varied identities successfully collaborated to roll-up hundreds of pounds of vinyl (? what the heck are those things made of, anyway) and using a tiny hand truck and our own brute strength, managed to transport the houses about five miles (ok, it was probably 200 feet?) to a shed for safe-keeping until next year. For anyone who has ever logged hours of committee-work like I have, I will say this was a case-study in how to "do it right and well". High-fives to my fellow team members for working quickly and efficiently!

Can't wait to go back next year!