Dillan DiGiovanni

coach | writer | speaker

Hearty Harvest Breakfast

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Happy Halloween!

Today's the actual day but folks have been posting pics of costumes and parties and other scary things all weekend.

But for many people, feeding yourself well is *truly* frightening!!

(like that? It took me about two minutes to come up with it)

Here's a tasty recipe for you that combines lots of harvest-like foods that will warm you up and keep you full for hours. And make sure you add lots of extra things to boost fiber, get extra vitamins and full fat for healthy hair, skin and nails. 

 

hearty harvest breakfast

HEARTY HARVEST BREAKFAST

Ingredients:

1/2 cup 7 or 12-grain hot cereal (oatmeal also works)

1 1/4 cup water or milk of choice (cow, almond, soy)

1/4 cup canned organic pumpkin

1/4 cup chopped almond, walnuts or pecans

large handful dried cranberries 

1 large pat butter 

maple syrup to taste

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

*optional additions are hemp seeds, ground flax or chia seeds

 

To prepare:

1. bring water to a boil in a small pot on the stove

2. add hot cereal. If you're using 7 or 12-grain cereal, prepare to be there a while and stir a lot. Quick or rolled oats take less time to cook

3. once cereal thickens, add pumpkin and spices and stir together

4. add nuts and simmer 2 minutes

5. transfer to bowl and add butter, cranberries and maple syrup

6. serve, chew slowly and enjoy!

Baking (and living) from intuition.

RecipesDillan DiGiovanniComment

I'll say this: I don't follow rules well. I never have. I've written about this before.

My poor mother had to bail me out for getting in trouble several times in school. It was a theme for me growing up. I never did it to be intentionally bad or unruly, I just always had a disposition that bucked rules if they seemed unfair or unnecessary.

I still live my life this way, for better or for worse. I think it's better, honestly. It's served me quite well to not follow the herd. 

And it especially happens when I cook, which is often now that I've moved to such a peaceful setting. Something about my new retreat-like home makes me want to cook and cook around the clock. My pots and pans are working overtime!

In all that cooking, I don't follow recipes well and hardly take notes of what I'm doing. It's why I stopped posting recipes a few years into my coaching business because I began to dread the experience of measuring and monitoring and translating so other people could do what I did. 

Know why? Because it doesn't work. Copying other people is probably the least effective to truly be yourself, even when it comes to copying a recipe. Something simple like that can be an opportunity for you to throw caution to the wind and just do YOU.

I did that this weekend when I made some pumpkin bread from scratch and WITHOUT A WORKING OVEN KNOB. I successfully baked something using hardly any rules and no certainty about the temperature of the oven. 

And the whole process felt incredibly good and freeing and I thought I'd pass it onto you and encourage you try something like this for yourself. I will add the loose recipe I used and the process only to convey the story of what happened. Do with it what you want and will. :)

So, I recently moved into a renovated barn with a good-sized kitchen and a stove that is tiny and perfect. After a year of using an electric stove in my brownstone apartment in Boston, I was THRILLED to have a gas stove again. Thrilled. With a capital T. Did I say thrilled

While giving the new place a deep clean, I realized the numbers and settings on the stove knobs had all been worn away from (many) years of use. Who needs to know simmer from low to high? I could tell by the flame size. Totally no biggie. But the oven? Hmm. Yeah, you need to know temperature to bake things.

Or so I thought!

My landlord is on the case. The knob is coming. But impatient, slightly petulant me is stubborn enough to move forward anyway. It's this quality that makes me a successful entrepreneur. I don't get stopped. 

I was already mixing up my pumpkin bread recipe when I remembered, whoops, no numbers on the oven dial. I shrugged and took it on as a practice of surrendering perfectionism. I realized it bordered on slightly ridiculous and perhaps wasteful to put all those ingredients together with no certainty they would come together to yield something but hey, welcome to LIFE, amiright??

After scanning some recipes, I realized there is no ONE way to make pumpkin bread and started combining ideas from different places. I had one loaf pan. The main recipe I was using called for two pans of a different size. I shrugged again and best-guessed my way through the amounts listed. Halving each one made pretty good sense to me. I was doing ok until I forgot to halve the salt. So, my bread is a little salty, like me. 

I used whole wheat flour when it called for fine white. I used Sucanat when it called for white sugar. I added cranberries and chocolate chips and walnuts because, #fall

I was making it up like a work of art and when it came time to put it in the oven, I wished it luck like the pieces of clay sculpture we fired in the kiln when I was in high school. Crossed fingers and no attachment to the outcome. 

I called my mom to chat and told her what I was doing, including the way I used oven matches to test it because I had no toothpicks. My mother laughs at me. She knows I always find a way. We best-guessed where the knob was and the temperature it was likely at and talked about Hillary and movies and books. When I thought it was done, I pulled my creation out of the oven and let it sit on a bamboo cutting board to cool. Do I need one of those wire cooling racks? Nah. 

Well, friends. It came out just fine. Maybe a little sunken. Not perfectly shaped. But moist and spiced nicely and FULL of tasty additions and perfectly suitable for my needs. I sliced half and froze it right away and will consume the rest one slice at a time. 

Yep. I made it up and cooked it from intuition and I'll be damned it the whole process didn't open me up a bit more to write this blog post after taking a substantial hiatus.

And with that, here's the recipe. Please play and post your own results in the comment below!

PUMPKIN8 BREAD with chocolate chips, walnuts and cranberries

* use organic ingredients whenever possible

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 15-oz can  pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix--and you're only using HALF the can)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I used Sucanat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • large handful dark chocolate chips
  • large handful juice-sweetened cranberries (soak in warm water for best results)
  • large handful walnuts, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat over to 350F

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl combine butter and sugar and mix well. I used a fork, you can use a hand-beater. Add one egg at a time and beat well. Add pumpkin and water and stir. Combine wet mixture with dry ingredients and fold in well but don't over stir. Add chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts, stir until they are blended in.

Pour mixture into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. I didn't line my paper with butter and it turned out fine. The only thing I would have done differently is spread the batter out a bit more so it settled into the pan.

Bake for 65-75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in loaf pan for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside on a rack or board to cool for at least an hour before cutting. 

 

And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively. 

And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively. 

 

 

Camping solo is so cool! (and it's in tents--get it?)

Dillan DiGiovanni1 Comment

I've spent a lot of time alone. It's more familiar and comfortable to me than the company of other people, to be honest.

I was a latch-key kid. And when my older sister decided, like many older siblings, that she was done with me and that left me, alone, to learn how to be in my own company.

And I think I've done an okay job of it. But from my coaching (and my life) I notice how many people struggle with being alone and the ways they avoid it. Or even when they choose alone time, they suffer through it or numb out with a Netflix and ice cream binge.

*DISCLAIMER: sitting and watching Netflix and eating ice cream isn't the problem--it's the escapism used to avoid life that is the problem. There's a distinction.*

I think being alone is tough because being human is not an easy feat. When we're alone we have to be present to how shitty and hard life is. When we are with people, we can distract ourselves!

"Wow! Look at that thing you bought!

BOO! Listen to me complaining about my life!

YAY! The SOX WIN!!!" 

So much distraction...

And while it's true that we got with some instructions (be nice, don't kill, don't steal, etc.), hardly anyone is really following them and it's a hot mess all around. Finding a way to achieve some inner peace amidst the chaos takes super-human skill.

But I've been studying and working hard for many years and I think I've done an okay job of figuring life out a bit so I'd like to share some superhumanness with you, in case you need it. Specifically this post is about getting some alone time in case you either haven't learned how important it is to be alone on purpose and actually like it OR because you're flat out avoiding it. But I think you should prioritize it because it's important to your development as a human being. It's crucial to your health and happiness. And you don't need to run off and be a hermit or recluse but you may want to consider how much alone time you get and if it's really enough. And if you're getting none, why? 

So, to walk my talk in addition to spending *most* of my life alone, I went camping alone with hardly any plan on purpose this past weekend. And I learned a lot and want to share what I learned with you. Maybe you're not an outdoors kinda gal (name that movie!) or guy but maybe you'll find something in here and connect it to what feels comfortable for you.

Because I've learned that we can never truly find comfort until we become comfortable with discomfort. And being alone can be uncomfortable for people.

Or some people end up being alone because they prefer it over the discomfort of interacting with other humans. Learning how to sit in that discomfort and not run away is a beautiful thing and will make you stronger on the inside.

Check in with yourself. Are you constantly surrounding yourself with other people or the company of one other person and hardly ever, ever, alone by yourself in ways that nourish and replenish you? (commuting to and from work doesn't count, sorry)

Or are you constantly alone mostly because you cannot handle the discomfort of other people?

Either one isn't really balance.

Whatever your answer, or if you're not even sure, get yourself some serious alone time to learn more about yourself.

Here's what happened when I did:

I left Boston headed for Vermont with two plans: see an old friend to say hi and camp. I got a tent recently after many years of wanting one and using ones belonging to other people. The staff member at REI asked me if I was getting into backpacking/camping and I said, "getting BACK into it" because it's been an identity of mine for almost 20 years. God, have I been alive that long?! Yikes.

SET-UP:

(Camping is in tents! ---- get it?)

I made barebones plans shooting from the hip. I booked a site without knowing who or what I'd find there. It was pretty exhilarating! When I arrived at my pal's place, we fell into authentic conversation like no time had passed when in fact it had been five years. So nice when that happens, eh? We grabbed lunch and I headed out to my campsite. I felt like a pioneer! Adventure, here I come!

The campsite was decent. More than decent actually. I know some folks who are hardcore backpacking types. In fact, being at this site brought up two memories with two different people who both frowned on group car-camping sites. You know what? I felt the same this time as I did back then, "it's good enough for me."

I had practiced setting up my tent (wise decision, Dillan) so I knew it only took me about 30 seconds. Here's the tent I have:

And here's me sitting in it within seconds. 

And here's me sitting in it within seconds. 

Yes. Instant relaxation. Or something like it.

I read for a while and struggled to sit still. Like STRUGGLED. I'm so habituated to running around and shuffling from thing to thing, even at home, that sitting on the ground and feeling "grounded" took some effort. Intentional effort.  But a book is good to calm me usually so I settled in and read. It was very humid and hot and people were being quite noisy as people are no matter where you live or are. I don't remember eating dinner. In fact, I think I was so tired I just fell asleep.

And tossed and turned most of that night because my bag is filled with goose down and it was HAF and I had no pillow. 

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, Dillan that doesn't sound very relaxing or good at all. But it was, actually, because I struggled through it as an exercise in finding peace. 

Because that's the way it works according to what I've been told, taught and experienced. Comfort doesn't often equal happiness, in fact most people SETTLE for comfort INSTEAD of happiness. Try that one on for size. ;)

So, I made it through the night. Woke up early (like I usually do) and headed for the showers with my new headlamp and handy little fast-drying towel that I got from REI before I left Boston. 

I needed soap and bug spray so I headed to the local CO-OP. Remember this trip was to camp, not endure a pilgrimage in the wilderness. I was fine with creature comforts like Dr. Bronner's soap and bug spray. I recommend this one, having worked in natural food stores for much of my life (and it worked well on this trip, too!)

 

ADVENTURE-TIME:

(Food, a hike, Wal-Mart, more food and a fire)

It was time to eat. I asked the nice woman who helped me find bug spray where I should eat if I wanted eggs, bacon and pancakes (in that order). She gave it some thought and then got really lit up at the end of sending me out where she lived to get the best breakfast. Her smile was adorable. Her name was Peggy and she was everything you'd think a Peggy would be. 

She lived about 30 minutes away. 

Fine, I said. Tell me where to go. 

I drove there and had a pretty tasty breakfast and then a weird thing happened, which has been happening more lately. I go from feeling like a total stranger in places like that to suddenly feeling like I know the people better than I should. There's a shift that happens and I can't explain it better than that. It's like, "hey, I know you" even though I don't. It's weird. I asked the server where I should hike and maybe she thought I was hitting on her (which I wasn't) because she blushed and seemed a little uncomfortable but told me most people go to Monadnock and said, "are you not from here?" and I said, "nope" and she said, "yeah, most people go there."

And I considered it. She walked away and talked to some guy sitting at a table and I felt like I was in middle school again--were they laughing at me because I asked? Was it something else? I can be paranoid sometimes.

I paid and left. Definitely noticed the shift in my internal state from earlier that morning. The feeling of joy and walking on air and total confidence was replaced with feeling small and I felt so silly. Here I am, a grown adult, feeling the same feelings I felt as a kid. Some of that never leaves us, I guess. I shook it off pretty quickly, though, as the noticing and acknowledging helps us do, and got in my car and headed South again. 

Took a detour on the way home to explore a bit and ended up back near Brattleboro. My friend from the day before had strongly advised me to hike a certain trail and I found it coming in the back entrance. The humidity of the day before had broken and the shaded path was totally serene and perfect. 

I hiked to the top and took some shots there and back...

The hike didn't take long and part of me wanted to stay forever. Hanging out with the trees and just being there felt totally relaxing. In Boston, it's hard to find a trail or setting where you can't hear the traffic at least a little. This was not that and I didn't want to leave the peaceful quiet. But I had to pee, so that won over staying.

I stopped at the CO-OP again on my way back through town and had some lunch. It involved waiting on line for a while for a sandwich. I use time like that to practice meditation. I practice noticing other people and the things they do when they are unhappy or entitled or anxious. I notice my own impatience. I breathe. I wait. I breathe some more. The young person behind the counter finally called my name and as she handed me my sandwich she said, "have a great day. Thanks for being so patient." And her quiet, impeccable customer service made a profound impact! It was definitely COOL. Just a few simple words, "thank you for your patience" made such a difference. It's so simple and takes such little effort--why don't we do or say these things to people all the time? How cool would that be?

I ate and then stopped by Wal-Mart on the way back the campsite to see if I could find a small pillow. More wandering. Some interesting folks meandering around the store. 

As I was about to buy a very small and uncomfortable-looking (and smelling) pillow fashioned after the latest emojis (the angry face, naturally, because it could be my spirit animal) I found, to my delight, things called Travel Pillows in the pillow department. They are about 20"x12" and look absolutely perfect when you're down a night's sleep. And of the two available choices, this was the pillow cover I picked:

because, duh.

because, duh.

Returning to my campsite, I set up camp again because I had taken my stuff with me, not trusting folks to leave it alone.

And I noticed that about myself and thought it interesting. Was it wise to bring all my gear with me or maybe I could have just left it there?

I got to work washing out my towel and pillow cover with my new soap. A simple thing like noticing a pre-existing clothesline from a prior camper at my site made my heart jump.

Then, I set up my hammock and tried to read. I set it up well but too high so I invented a way to get up into it using my cooler.

Sounds so silly but the trial and error situations I encountered all weekend really fed my curious Gemini mind and lifted my spirits. I like solving puzzles and the feeling of self-confidence was fulfilling. It was fun to figure it out, alone.

Then I tried to read more. And then write. And then nap. There was a lot of restlessness. Lots of thinking about thinking. Lots of wondering what I'd do about dinner. 

More problem-solving.

And since I hadn't planned too far out ahead it felt very unstructured and inefficient but that ended up being exactly what I needed! I realized how much of my life IS structured and efficient and while it's wonderful and all that, it was throwing me wildly out of balance. It was stronger than my ability to be carefree and joyful and in the moment. I notice this with many clients and friends. In the search for "hacking" their way through life to save time or a dollar, they have become so careful and not very joyful. There is joy in spontaneity!! And these folks have little of that but instead vast amounts of complaint and stuckness. Routine and planning is indeed efficient but can also be our undoing if we aren't careful. 

I got back in the car (again) and drove back to the co-op. Upon arriving I realized I had no knife to cut anything and they didn't have heavy-duty foil to grill anything. I noticed on the way out of camp that I could get firewood but I didn't even have matches! The co-op had three huge boxes of matches which I passed on. Didn't need that many. After some intense, hunger-filled wandering and frustration and picking up random food items and putting them back down, I had a breakthrough. 

Back in my old days of working at my local health food store in Flemington, NJ, my friend and I would make guac with avocados and salsa. That memory prompted me to keep thinking about healthy foods that didn't need any cooking or prep. I was using my past experience and it opened up a whole new access to a solution! Instantly, I felt the huge shift in my mood and my internal state. I went from frustrated and annoyed and confused and anxious to completely confident and HAPPY! This is the joy what happens when you have no plan and have to find a way by yourself!

I grabbed a small thing of cheese from their "mistake" basket, a jar of organic salsa, some chips I loved, some prepared greens (which I didn't end up loving), hummus and some raw carrots. Completely decent food that would tide me over until the next day. 

Oh. And cookies, of course.

Upon arriving back to camp, I asked the site supervisor if I could buy some wood. I spent $6 on six pieces. He had no matches. After passing up the ones in the co-op, I had considered buying some at the gas stations on the way back in but assumed he'd have something. You know what they say about assuming...

He suggested I ask my site neighbors, many of whom were doing this waving thing. We don't really do that where I live. I was like, "do they know me?" but no. It's a thing I guess. Waving. What is that? It was weird at first and then it was cool. For one thing, I was passing 100% and that was super weird but fun to experience. So asking these waving, friendly folks for matches wasn't ideal but I was willing to do it. But I didn't have to. A voice came from somewhere and said, "check your bag."

And friends, there was a matchbook in there. With three matches left. I had never been MORE GLAD to have been a SMOKER than in that moment. PS, I recently quit completely cold-turkey after smoking one cigarette a day pretty regularly for the past two years--it's pretty great.

 I spent the rest of that night completely content. Me, my fire and my book. 

I read until there was no more light left.

It began to rain and I hoped for the best. My new pillow delivered and I slept through the night. Once again, I did the calling out thing that I think I've shared before--there's something about tents that makes me have WILD dreams and I shout in my sleep! It's embarrassing. The last time it happened I was convinced a bear or raccoon was coming in the tent and I shouted at the top of my lungs and woke up everyone in camp. This time it was just me and I thought a small child or baby was coming in the tent. W.T. actual F. 

Morning came and it was still raining and starting to weep through my tent fly so I packed it in, showered again (I am not good at being dirty for long periods of time, especially now with testosterone in my body--makes me much more stinky than estrogen) and headed for home. Camp breakdown was super efficient because I'd packed everything up the night before. All that tidying of my living space on the regular came in REAL handy.

I had no qualms about bailing. I had gotten everything I needed from the experience.  

And then some.

 

So my question to you is this: what will YOUR solo adventure be and when will it happen?

Share in the comments below so I can hold you to it! :)

Leadership means cleaning up.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image source.

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.

 

In defense of not quitting.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Not gonna lie. 

Sometimes, despite all the good things I do for myself, I feel like quitting. Giving up. Throwing in the towel. I don't want to write, think or even feed myself. Sleep becomes a respite that ends too quickly if I'm lucky enough to sleep through the night.

I just want to run away. 

Far, far away.

I want to quit because human beings just can't seem to get along with each other. They can't seem to overcome their fear and egos to the point that they can actually love and respect other. And I can't seem to say or do anything to make it stop.

Ignorant people who are in pain hurt people with acts of discrimination and aggression.

Well-educated people who are in pain hurt people with their reactive judgment, arrogance, and impatience.

And neither side thinks they are in the wrong. And the cycle continues over and over.

Through years of reading, practice, and training, many many years, I think I understand the solution but then I can't seem to figure out a way to share ways to do that to inspire people on a regular basis. I see people who've been through far less than me in their lives writing and publishing best-selling books spouting the most BASIC advice.

I feel like I'm shouting all these ideas of self-acceptance to promote peace and compassion into the wind. People claim to want relief from fundamental suffering but they don't actually seem to want to listen and then do it. They want to complain and blame and find the magic pill (which often looks and sounds like changing other people).

I should just write about Pokemon, I think to myself.

And it makes me want to quit. 

And I realize that's the underlying problem for so many people. That desire to quit. That restlessness, that urge to escape. That urge that sounds like, "I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE! GET ME OUTTA HERE!" 

As humans, we crave this, ongoingly. It's fundamental to who we are and how we're built. We crave the feeling of permanent relief. We want our lives to feel comfortable and good for more than a microsecond. And we get very particular about how that would happen.

The outside or inside room temperature would be just so.

We'd have certain foods in plentiful amounts at all times.

Certain colors would be on the wall.

Furniture that looked a certain way would fill our ideal dwellings.

We'd have a good hair day. Every day. 

People wouldn't hurt or kill people. 

Our bodies would magically be toned and free of extra fat in all the right places. 

People wouldn't starve. Or at the very least, everyone would be vegan. Or Paleo. 

Everyone would do yoga. Or Crossfit. Or barre. Or sit and do nothing.

All people would speak and dress and think and act certain ways, as we see to be ideal, all the time.

 

And when you zoom out, you realize how utterly ridiculous this is. Because I'm sure you have certain answers to those things I just wrote, right? Yeah, I do too. And what are the chances that ours would line up? OK, maybe we have some things in common. Now consider the chances of my ideal scenarios and someone living in...oh, a remote village in Tibet. My friend is from Tibet and his parents would likely NOT share my ideal choices. Or even my friends here in Boston. Their daily choices and my daily choices are rarely similar.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

So much of wanting to quit comes from thinking this fundamental thought: "if everyone would just DO what I see as the solution here, we'd be fine."

We think this thought, in whatever way we think it, and then people do not conform to our wishes or seem to not even be LISTENING TO US and we want to quit. We want to give up. We want to run away. Or maybe we want to SMASH something! 

What's the something you want to run away from? What's the thing you want to smash?

Your expectations. Your attachments. 

Our fixed view of what permanent relief would look and feel like for everyone, including us.

And the reality is, there is no permament relief for any of us. And it certainly wouldn't come about from our one way of thinking it would happen. 

And that's a terrifying thought. It actually means we have no control. Over anything or anyone.

And for many of us, it's too terrifying to think that we actually have no control over anything or anyone. So we gather people around us who think like us to comfort us. We hang out with people who have pretty similiar opinions about how things would work better for everyone and we talk about those ways and we shout those ways really loud and we line them up and say, "HEY! If you all did it like THIS, we would be fine. Stop thinking YOUR way is right and listen to us!"

And everyone's doing that. And it's really loud. And no one can hear each other, if they even tried.

But no one's trying because everyone's attached to their way and annoyed at everyone else and on the verge of quitting. 

And I know the feeling. Mostly because I know the opposite of quitting. In fact, I OVERENDURE so much, quitting has become something I'm learning how to do. It's funny or sad or both, but it's afforded me the opportunity to learn how it feels to sit and stay. 

So, in defense of not quitting, I stop and listen. I've learned how to listen to that fundamental urge inside me that wants to quit and I pay attention to why it's there. And what it says. It's often heard to hear because everyone else and their opinions are so loud. And my inner critic is USUALLY ON LOUDSPEAKER SHOUTING IN CAPS. So I try harder. And when I can hear what that urge to quit says, I pay attention to how it feels. It isn't pleasant to tune in that deeply, but I've gotten better at it from years of being a Buddhist. I've learned to sit through numb legs during meditation so I can sit through total abandonment and terror in my real life. Like when my mother didn't speak to me for years. Like when my former partner said, "I don't love you and I never did." Like when I look in the mirror and see scars that remind me of a body I dwelled in for 34 years. Like when I think about being a speck on a tiny planet in a galaxy with a huge black hole in its center.

Sitting there in that space feels like powerlessness and fear. It feels like frustration and sadness. It feels like loneliness and regret and concern and panic and isolation. It feels like a caving in, and then a grasping and a gasp for air and a drowning and then I realize I haven't even moved. I'm still sitting where I was sitting in my chair.

And I want to quit that feeling--all those horrible feelings that are the opposite of good, pleasant, permanent relief. I want to quit sitting there and feeling it. But quitting now only puts it off for later because it comes back.

It always comes back.

But the more I sit with it, despite the horribleness of those feelings, the less it hurts. And the less it lasts because I'm forming a new muscle around it. The muscle of quitting, of running, of shouting, of reacting, of disappearing by buying new shoes or ice cream or watching tv or playing video games or smoking or judging or gossiping or blaming or avoiding or hiding--it's so strong it almost overtakes me. The muscle of sitting is still underdeveloped. It's so small and so weak it's tempting to just quit and let the stronger muscle that is reinforced by the strong muscle of quitting in so many other people to take over.

I can quit. Many people quit. They have so many exits that look and feel and sound like good solutions---but are just temporary alternatives, carefully disguised as permanent relief.

And as long as I'm attached to those solutions, my version or their version of how things should be to provide permanent relief to 7 billion (very different) people, the pain always comes back. And I'll always want to quit.

So I sit with that underlying need to control. 

I sit with that restlessness.

I sit with those feelings of fear, pain, and isolation.

I sit with those feelings and I feel them as others feel them. I feel their need to quit. I feel their need to run away from these feelings that always come back.

I understand they will always come back.

And I sit with that. And I don't quit.

Your Biggest Commitment

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Commitment. 

How does that word make you feel?

I will admit, as a Gemini the word makes me feel a little anxious. I'm an air sign and I do best when I'm moving around and flowing. I work best like this. I live best like this. I've built a life that makes this actually work for me.

And that's my biggest commitment: myself. Because if I'm not happy and feeling good, nothing I do works. So it's important that I prioritize what I know I need to thrive so that I DO thrive. 

And that means not prioritizing anything or anyone that doesn't feel good. Someone recently chastised me for this. This woman also had a long-standing self-professed weight issue. She talked about it constantly. Or rather, she complained about it. She had given up smoking but gained 20 pounds. I wasn't surprised. She merely replaced the addiction. Whatever drove her to smoke was still there after the cigarettes disappeared. And to her, food was something to fear. Food did not equal feeling good for her. So when she made a comment about me only doing things that felt good, advice I received and share as a health coach, I didn't take it personally.

Maybe she envied my relationship to food and my weight. It's an ongoing thing for me, but I'm pretty satisfied with where I'm at right now. I've come a long way from literally starving myself as a teenager. 

Maybe she envied the way I prioritize my health and happiness above all else. I do that because I've learned that commitments I make outside of these things usually fall apart. 

Do I sound selfish? Well consider this: people who neglect themselves usually neglect others. Even if it doesn't look like it on the surface, in some form or fashion, people will only give to other people what they provide themselves. When I start to stretch outside of what I KNOW to be good for me, I get weird. I become of no use to other people. I become the least and not the best version of myself.

Your biggest commitment should be yourself. When you feel good, you can think good thoughts. You can say good things. You look as good as you feel on the inside and people are attracted to positive people. Well, healthy people are attracted to positive people. There are plenty of people who are attracted to bitter, negative, jealous and deceitful people. Which one are you? Which would you like to be? Who surrounds you now? What would you want to change about that?

I've realized most people don't ask themselves questions like this. I forget sometimes and get myself into trouble before I realize it and have to bring myself back. I forget that most people are thinking about money, achievement, control, competition, television shows, clothes, shoes, craft beer and other "things". I have a blog post about "things" coming soon. 

People focus on things or other people so they don't have to focus on themselves.

Asking ourselves questions about who we are and who we want to become is next-level living. It's not for the faint of heart, and it's why most people don't do it. Or they try but eventually give up. 

They give up because they lack commitment to themselves. When you commit to yourself to being the healthiest, fittest, happiest version of yourself, you will ask yourself each day, "how am I doing?"

And you can tick off your list of what you KNOW makes you happy and healthy and see where your commitment to yourself dropped off.

If you need help knowing what that is, drop me a line. We can discuss over craft beer.

Just kidding.

Tips to make a tough choice.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have a crystal ball or see into the future in some way that predicted 100% success most or all of the time?

It would be nice. I would like that. But, unfortunately...I know I don't need to tell you. 

Life, for me, has continued to reveal itself as one lesson after another. Progress or success is measured by best guesswork that sometimes works and sometimes does not. We make plans and then life happens. Just like John Lennon said. 

This has been incredibly helpful for me, especially during the past few years of incredible transformation and big life changes. Jobs. Relationships. Grad school. Gender identity. Haircuts!

Before I realized or accepted that the only constant is change, I thought life was something to figure out, once and for all. Or I thought it was something to control. I thought I could make X decision and get the outcome that made perfect sense to ME. I thought that all people agreed on what "perfect sense" meant. I thought that the lens I used to view the world was right and real and universally applicable and appropriate for everyone. If all people just did what was in my head or what came out of my mouth, things would work so much better! 

Then I hit 35 and realized how arrogant and naive I was throughout my 20s. And as I creep up toward 40, I see how much more there is to learn.

And we learn by making choices. We make plans and then things happen and then we have choices to make about what happens next. I wonder if a percentage or measurement exists somewhere that shows how often what people anticipate or plan for ACTUALLY happens. I stopped counting a long time ago. My life choices now have become more of a crap shoot because I've seen how no matter what I did to prepare or plan, Murphy's Law prevailed a significant amount of the time. I mean, that's basically what Murphy's Law is all about. Nothing will go perfectly, ever. And if it's going perfectly, you just aren't seeing everything. 

Take that in for the second. It basically says we are f*^&ed no matter what.

And you thought you were in control this whole time?! Don't you love life?

I recently made a decision. And then, over time, I realized that decision didn't serve me so I was faced with making another decision. It was harder to make the second one because I spent so much time attached to the first one. We do this. We persevere to prove our tenacity. We blame ourselves for what it isn't working. We try to figure it out. We see what we want to see (and not everything we NEED to see). We get attached to the outcome of something even when all the evidence is showing it just IS NOT WORKING for us.  

It can be hard to figure this out because just knowing what does and does not work for us is also a tricky process. Once we figure it out, though, it can make things easier for the next time. We hope. Yes, it's the long way. Yes, it sucks. Yes, yes, yes. But there's no shortcut so get over it. ;)

Here are some tricks I've picked up so far for figuring WHAT WORKS for you and how to make choices once you know.

1) Make a best guess from your gut. If an opportunity presents itself, choose from a best guess in your gut. Remember that things may or may not work out the way you think you want. There are no absolutes so you might as well try! Use past experience as much as you can but it will only help you so much in a new situation. Jump and see!

2) Give it time. Let things pan out and reveal themselves. People are weird and unreliable. Time and space warp reality. Things happen. Our own filters and lenses color our perception. Give your decision some time to see what unfolds before you.

3) Notice warning signs. Something feels weird. Inefficient. Unreliable. Inconsistent. OFF. You do A which should lead to B but it brings you to L, somehow. Mixed messages. Misdirection. Swirl. Circles. Lack of integrity. Something low and deep in you starts to say, "nope." You make a mental note.

4) Second-guess initial reactions. You're having a reaction but hey! you're just one person. You have one view of a complex person or group or situation. Evaluate and get outside perspectives. Ask around. Be an inquiring mind for other folks in the situation or in your life and get their read. Don't be gossipy and don't jump to conclusions. Be curious. Run your gut check past other experienced people but don't forget: they don't know what YOU know.

5) Trust your instincts. Filter out the noise of other peoples' opinions. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Open up the phone line. What does your gut say? Is this good? Is it right? Does it work for you?

6) Take action and back yourself up. You had a feeling. You gave it some time and thought. You ran it past other people. You weighed the options. You looked at it from all angles. Now it's time to take action based on your best guess from your gut. You won't know unless you try. The result you get will reveal more evidence to support your choice. And no matter what happens, back yourself up because you did your best.

 

I wrote this post after sitting with a weighty decision for several months. It wasn't the first big decision I made---I mean,HELLO!!! Changing my GENDER IDENTITY! You would think after making a big jump like that or going to grad school or leaving jobs or making countless hard calls running my own business for the past 7 years, the decision-making process would be like falling off a log for me.

It's not like that. Because I still worry what people will think. I still worry that I might be wrong. I still worry that I don't know enough and other people know better. I still worry...

And worrying doesn't work because it only perpetuates self-doubt. It doesn't help me act. 

We can only act when we trust ourselves enough to try. I hope this post helps bring you closer to doing for yourself. 

How to see what's been missing.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Human beings have eyes that, for the most part, focus on what's in front of us. Yes, we have peripheral vision but our eyes are directed toward what's happening front and center.

If we don't use our peripheral vision on the regular, it's like using blinders--the kind they put on horses for exactly that reason. To keep the focus forward and avoid startling distractions. 

It's great to be so focused when we are trying to achieve a goal. It works less well when our focus is on the wrong damn thing. And then there's the matter of us not even seeing what's been missing the whole time.

I'm not even speaking just literally. Yes, we have blind spots when we drive, things we literally can't see because of how our eyes are set in our heads and how cars are designed. But we also have blind spots for who and how we are in the world. Ways we act, things we do, how we think and speak--and these blind spots make us miss out in our lives. We miss out on different perspectives. We miss out on opportunities. We miss out, period. 

But we don't even know we're missing out, because we're so focused on what we think is the end goal we want to reach. We are so focused on our interpretation of life. We are so focused on what is "right" or "real" or "truth" based on what we see that we can't imagine another alternative. Or maybe we can imagine it, but we quickly slip back to our fixed opinions and habits.

Revealing our blind spots helps us see a whole other world. You know when you're driving and you check over your shoulder and suddenly there's a car there? You say, "whoa! I almost didn't see you?!"

What made you see it? Checking over your shoulder. If you kept your eyes ahead, there would be no car there, right? But as soon as you change your perspective, your vision of what's REAL actually changes! The car was there the whole time, but only when you chose to do something different to see it---you actually SAW IT.

Sit and think about this. Where do you see how to apply this in your life? In your relationships? In your thoughts about yourself? In your opinions about others? 

The way to see what's missing in your life is to consider first that something might be missing at all! Consider that you aren't so right about everything. Consider that your point-of-view is just that---YOURS. One of many. And then seek out ways to see life the ways others see it.

You may have to give something up. You may have to allow yourself to be a little wrong or vulnerable. You may have to surrender your attachment to your fixed way of being or acting. 

And you can begin to see what's been missing in your life this whole time. Imagine what else you could do, be or have when you see THAT!

The fear of regret.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

I attended a talk given by Chris Guillebeau this week. He's an author of several best-selling books and he's famous for being in all 193 countries in our wonderful world.

And he had a good message. He was a decent speaker. 

I am also a decent speaker. I'm perhaps better than this world-traveling person with billions more followers on social media and many more (published) books than me. 

And I say this because I know my accomplishments as a speaker. And I've accomplished being a speaker because I first had the idea that I COULD be. I took that idea or concept or dream and I've done whatever it takes for the past 20 years to make it REAL. Because I didn't want to die wondering if my dream could come true.

Chris spoke about this in his talk. He mentioned the fear of regret being a major motivator for change. Most people fall into one of two categories: intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. You either change because you WANT to or because someone or something MAKES you change. People who motivate themselves often see higher success rates over longer periods of time. But not always. Chris said the people who inspired him most were folks who had things pretty good and changed something when they didn't really need to. 

I instantly got chills. And I thought about my transition. It, like many changes I've made, wasn't really necessary. I could have coasted through my life the way I had been. I mean, I had it pretty good. I had my own business. I had a relationship that looked great to onlookers and on social media, the truest of truths. I had a good haircut, good skin, decent mental and physical fitness. 

Why bother messing with that? Why go the extra mile? Why reach beyond what was familiar?

The answer came to me when an internal conflict arose and the discomfort grew unbearable. I chose to change when the possibility emerged from my consciousness and I got present to the fear of regret. If life is this good now, what if it would only get better? What if there is something else possible for me on the other side of this change?

What if?

I couldn't allow myself to die wondering. 

The fear of regret was bigger and louder and stronger than any fears I had to stay the same. 

We all have one shot here, as far as we know. Although, if we get another shot, I want to come back as an elephant because they are magical things. We have a certain amount of time and any moment we spend not happy is a darn shame. We often are the source of our own suffering, which the Buddha taught. We can turn it on and off like a switch, but we need tools to access that switch. Tools like good nutrition, self-awareness, exercise, and nurturing relationships that also challenge us to grow. Sometimes choosing these tools is the biggest source of struggle and fear. We live with a longing to thrive but lean back from the hard work of transformation.

We do this until one day the deep fear of regret surges through us. When we realize the big clock is ticking and the time we have is precious beyond measure. And we powerfully choose to do whatever it takes to go beyond all fear and experience what's waiting for us beyond our comfort zones.

Where there is all possibility and potential and no regrets.

Pretense is like icing on a mudpie.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

I can't take credit for this clever phrase. But I'm passing it along to you.

You. Who feels like you keep trying and trying and you're getting nowhere. No results. No progress. No forward motion. Whatever you want to call it.

Life either feels like Groundhog Day or like you're moving forward at a glacial pace. And it's hard to feel excited, happy or fulfilled when life feels like that. It's hard to keep summoning courage and conviction. It's hard to keep the faith. 

So you try once more. You apply more pressure of the form of pretense. You grin and bear it. You wear a different pair of shoes or get a new haircut. You avoid announcing that you got fired. You don't share about the miscarriage or your divorce. You move the furniture around, "arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" as the saying goes.

But it's just like putting icing on a mudpie, making things look better than they are. Because what's underneath isn't transformed. What's underneath is that which drives us all. And it hides out, watching and waiting as new layers of veneer are applied. It listens for us to say, "no REALLY. This time it's different. I'm making a change."

Doing this actually makes your life work less. You're dodging your blind spots. You're avoiding your habits and patterns. Your fears, your concerns and considerations. Dressing up your justifications and defense mechanisms and reasons doesn't make them go away. 

What's the alternative? I should probably offer that.

The alternative is to actually put down the act and just be yourself. All the covering up is painfully obvious to other people, you're not really fooling anyone. Some of them are secretly hoping you'll stop sooner than later because it's exhausting to watch. It's way more fun and refreshing and SAFE to be around people who are honest, authentic and perfectly imperfect.

You can be this, too. 

And you won't have to worry as much about the top layers because now instead of mudpie underneath, you're top-shelf Red Velvet or Black Forest or whatever other damn cake analogy you want to make. 

Not that mudpies are bad. But you're a person, not a mudpie.

Just sayin'.