Taking Back the Spirit of Halloween

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Tonight is, for the majority of ‘of-age’ America, the night where the Halloween celebrations go down.  Parties, bar crawls, shenanigans, pranks, all performed with the extra spice of some creative, hilarious, and/or slutty costume.

From the outside, Halloween is simply another excuse for adults to get drunk and for kids to get hyper.  Let’s be honest, pretty much every American holiday looks that way from the outside.  But for me as an adult, growing up in a family that didn’t celebrate Halloween, it has always been about getting to show off my creative side both in ideas and in manifestation.

While most of my friends are quite content to be sexy cops, sexy maids, or the infamous sexy cat, I refuse to touch such cliches with a ten-foot pole.  Not that there is anything wrong with sexy cat, I just have thus far fiercely clung to my ideals of originality and home-made ensembles, and I don’t see myself changing that anytime soon.

Last year, I was quite proud of my American Beauty idea, and made a costume that was simple yet pretty awesome in my humble opinion (pictured above).

This year, I sit with 12 hours between me and the time when I step out into the world to display my creation, and I have nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

Considering that I was always ready for Halloween pretty early in the past, I find myself wondering what the change is.  Why am I not ready for this?

Part of it is the fact that I don’t feel like my body is something to show off right now, and sexy female costumes are the bread and butter of this holiday, which certainly puts a damper on things.  But mostly, as I look back on the past weeks and months, I have simply not been putting a priority on creativity.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on work, working out, sloooowwwwly reading my real estate books along with other self-improvement literature, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off to this appointment or that scheduled event.  Creating a Halloween costume has not been on the top list of my priorities.

All of this focus on productivity has been good, but it also has taken a toll.  My face has decided to sprout some ‘friends’, my extra lbs are stubbornly clinging to the areas I most certainly do not want them to cling, and to top everything off I caught a cold last week (getting sick is a rare, sad occasion for me).

What would happen, I wonder, if I simply embraced the spirit of Halloween more in everyday life?  What if, instead of worrying about spending ALL of my time in productive mode, I allowed myself a bit of creative time, just because?

Maybe taking some time to stop and paint the roses wouldn’t actually be holding me back.  Maybe, just maybe, it might actually spur more of the productivity that I want to see.

Let me give you some examples.

I have been wanting to make a vision board for quite a while, but because it’s not immediately productive, I keep putting it off.  Yet, whenever I hear successful people talk, they always refer to their vision board and how it keeps them on track.

What if I allowed myself an afternoon of unfettered cutting and gluing, of humming along to some Lana Del Rey or Angels and Airwaves, and really thinking about what I want to put on my vision board and how I want the final product to look.  How powerful would it be to have my dreams be on display in color every single day?

When you look at it that way, it seems incredibly silly to have waited this long.

Or how about the fact that I want to write several different books and perhaps even some screenplays, yet I never allow myself to indulge in a good fiction book binge-sesh, opting instead for more non-fiction reading that encourages self-reflection and hopefully spurs mental growth.  All great reads, by the way.

Yet, what if I picked up a book at the bookstore, gave myself an evening to dig in, and discovered that the way that author writes is amazing, and it turbo-charges my desire to create my own kick-ass protagonist?  AKA, actually push my ideas into fruition. Why the hell haven’t I been doing this on a regular basis?

Creativity is literally the fountain of life.  We as humans are created out of two people’s love for one another (or should be in an ideal world).  We are born of creation, and therefore we are born to create.

Why, then, do I and so many others inadvertently spurn the soft fields of creativity and hail the cold concrete of production?  We are in essence cutting off our nose to spite our face.

When it comes to Christmas time, everyone agrees that we should have more of the spirit of Christmas in our hearts year round—giving, loving, caring about our fellow man.  And I agree.  But I also vote that we should have the spirit of Halloween year-round, too—fun and creativity.

If we embraced those traits in our daily lives, all of us would be happier.  And just think of everything cool that would come from those hours embodying fun and creativity!  All things amazing and awe-inspiring and and epic originally came from an idea-an idea that was given the space and light to germinate, unfurl, and finally blossom.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I now have 11 hours left to put together the perfect blend of innovation and sex appeal…and I now know just what I’m going to do.

I’m putting creativity back on the priority list.  I suggest you do the same.

Happy innovating!

Energy is Everything

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Today I woke up with a full-blown cold.  Stuffy nose, throat slightly scratchy, coughing-the whole nine.  Ironically, today is also the day that I determined that I would revamp my entire life and mindset and become extremely productive,  stop fucking around with my diet, and basically become Hannah 2.0: Awesome Edition.

While I still fully intend to get all of my things on my Win the Day list done, it is proving to be substantially more difficult because I. Am. Drained.  I have thus far completed one task (meal prep) and all I want to do is take a nap.

This got me thinking about how energy is KEY to living our lives as our best selves.  I have no idea how people who are chronically sick, always tired, or perpetually mowing down fast food every day of the week do it.

Your energy is the pilot light of your life.  And as such it needs to be your top priority.  So, how do you ensure that you are always running on a full tank of gas?  How do you avoid the gas light coming on when you’re still 40 miles away from your next destination?

Be Proactive.  I could feel the inklings of this cold on Friday night.  Yet I still chose to go out drinking and stay up late.  Granted, it was a friend’s birthday party so I would have been a bit of a rat if I had skipped out last minute, but I could have chosen not to drink, headed back to the hotel early, or made sure that I was consuming good, healthy food before heading out.  Instead, I chose to ignore the signs and carry on as if all was well.  And now, here we are, 12 kleenexes deep before noon.

Being proactive about your health is the best way to ensure that your energy reserves are always replenished and you are constantly running on all cylinders.  Our mind may be the tool that is responsible for getting most things done, but it is housed in our bodies; it can only do so much if its living space is constantly drained.

Even before the hint of a cold, I could feel myself getting run down by all of the things going on in my life.  School, sports leagues, working out, diet, birthdays, friend hangouts…everything seemed to happen at once and without a break, constantly keeping me moving, and I went along on the rapids, not realizing how much all of the perpetual motion was really affecting me.

You need to be able to recognize when you are on the verge of cracking, and somehow ease off the pressure for a little bit.  Giving yourself a night off from your responsibilities, taking a slow walk with no heart rate goal in mind, indulging in a mid-week glass of wine.  All of the things that we may not allow ourselves to do because we have too many other responsibilities to handle; those are the things that become the most critical tasks when we approach the breaking point.

Practice Prevention.  Taking the time to slow down can be difficult, because I am a firm believer in the fact that productivity and accomplishments are what give us our sense of self-worth.  No one should feel good about wasting their days away just doing things they feel like doing in that moment on a consistent basis.

But there is the other side of the coin where if you don’t take the time to indulge your inner whims, you will lose sight of what you enjoy about life and wind yourself tighter and tighter until you eventually have no choice but to explode.

In order to live your best life, you have to be productive, accomplish things, grow from one week to the next.  Yet to achieve this constant growth, you must have an abundance of energy, which comes from your ability to take a step back from the grindstone and admire your progress, drink some water, wipe off the sweat, and then get back to it.

Use the energy you have.  In my experience, the more you use your energy, the more energy you will have available to you.  If I go to the gym after work and spend a good hour on strength expenditure, I will have exponentially more energy for the rest of the evening than if I skip the gym altogether.  This logically should not make sense.  Yet I have experienced it time and time again.

Likewise, when I get quite a few things done on my list for that day, I am a lot more motivated to get even more things done.  Contrarily, when I wake up, plant my ass in front of the TV, and don’t move for an hour or so, I want nothing more than to not move for the rest of the day.

Know yourself.  Sometimes, when you’re feeling like you can’t get anything done and you are dead tired, all you need to do is push past the mental barrier and you will be whipping through your stuff in record time.  Other times, you can try as hard as you want to push through, but you simply cannot because you are running on empty.

You need to be able to tell those times apart.  If you know in the back of your mind that you tend to feel overwhelmed and shut down at a certain point yet you still have some reserve left, push yourself past that mental block.  If you know, however, that you are seriously approaching your breaking point, ease off the gas and allow yourself to have a break for a day.

Overall, balancing your energy is one of the most effective tools for owning your life.  No one wants to gather their grandchildren about them and regal them with tales of the time you sat and watched TV every weekend for 20 years straight and how you always felt sick and run-down.  Taking control of how you feel and really taking the time to know your body and safely push your limits is the best way to get the most out of this gift we have been given.

Take the time to give yourself a break, but only enough to gather your force for the next breakthrough.  Everything, much like the tides of the ocean, is a cycle, and you can either have it work for you or against you.  Learn to read the waves, and you will find yourself surfing with ease rather than tumbling along the break-line gasping for air.

Me Too

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I have been overwhelmed and saddened by the amount of “me too” posts that I have seen in my social media feed over the past couple of days.

Not that I didn’t know that girls all over the place experienced the catcalls, unwanted brushes of the hand (or other parts), and suggestive looks and comments, but because these things are so commonplace that I have simply looked at them as a integral part of life.

I almost didn’t post a ‘me too’ status because I thought “I haven’t actually been brutally raped…I’ve never experienced violent sexual harassment…I’ve never felt like I was in imminent danger of sexual violation.”

But then I stopped myself.  I have experienced whistles and comments from men on the streets on a regular basis.  I have been asked multiple times by random men at bars if they could “just” see or squeeze my ass.  I have ignored whistles and “damnnnnn” comments from STUDENTS at my school because I wasn’t sure how to handle such disrespectful behavior and I thought if I ignored it it would just go away.  I felt a man rub his genitals on me in a crowded subway and try to take a picture of my face.

I have experienced all of these things and more, yet I still hesitated when posting a status to join the ranks of women who have been sexually harassed because I wasn’t sure if I had been hassled “enough” to stand with them.

How absolutely sad is that?

Women have become so used to feeling judged by their bodies that a certain level of discomfort has become normal.

That needs to stop.

Right the fuck now.

Women are not commodities.  Women are not eye candy.  Women are not tits and ass and a pretty face.

So why we are branded as such?

Simply put, humans are a creature of habit and learn almost everything by example.  If I were a man and grew up seeing the men around me talk about women in a disrespectful manner, calling out dirty remarks for a laugh, and generally basing their value of a woman off of how good she looks in a pair of skinny jeans, I would quite honestly do the same.  It would be normal.  And heartrendingly, that’s how most of the men in America are raised.

However, this is not the norm across the entire range of male humanity.  I have never once seen my dad make a disrespectful comment about a woman.  I can’t even remember him commenting on a woman’s body in a complimentary and non-sexual way.  It simply was never a part of the rhetoric that he used.

Not surprisingly, my brother is the exact. same. way.

Never once have I heard my brother comment about any girls in a sexual way.  There have been zero instances where I saw him oogle a woman.  No dirty jokes.  No inappropriate comments.  Not even with his wife, where it would be more acceptable.  It has been nothing but consideration and respect.

How much more amazing would every female’s experience be if every male had an example like my dad or brother to emulate?  I can’t even imagine how it would feel to step out into the world and not wonder who is checking out my ass or tossing a glance at my silhouette.

BUT WAIT, you say.  Sexuality is part of human nature!  Surely you cannot be suggesting that we move to a mindset where sex is not somewhere in the forefront?  That’s impossible.

I agree.  Sex IS part of our nature.  Sex, in fact, is freaking awesome.  And it’s doubly awesome when you feel sexy and confident and you know you look good and the person you are having sex with makes sure you know how attractive you are to them.

But a large part of that feeling is immediately doused in ice-cold water when you feel disrespected.  I have gone from feeling awesome and self-assured to feeling insecure and small in a matter of seconds all because of a moment of unwanted attention that crossed the line.

And no, this doesn’t only happen when I’m wearing a sexy dress or short shorts.  I have dealt with this feeling in every different type of clothing imaginable.

The bottom line is, I want to take my body back.  I want to be able to feel comfortable in anything.  I want to be able to wear something that makes me feel like a million dollars without worrying that someone is going to assume that I want to hear their two cents.

Comments on my body make me feel amazing when they come from people that I give a shit about.  Nothing makes me smile wider than a well-placed “damnnn” from the person that I’m dating.  But when it comes to words pouring from the mouths of strangers, it gets old really fucking fast.

So men, please, please listen:

Woman love to feel sexy.  We love to feel special.  We love to feel like we are on top of the world.  But that outcome is not achieved by catcalls, “flattering” compliments, or forcing yourself upon us.  That result is not realized by staring at us from the corner and raking your eyes constantly across our frames so hard we can feel it even when we uneasily turn away.  That effect is not attained by focusing solely on our physical attributes that you find pleasing.

We want to be seen.  Really, truly seen.  Move past the old rhetoric that has been passed down from generation to generation and be the man that takes a step forward to take a hand, not grope a curve.

You will still have your animal needs sated, don’t worry about that.  But maybe, just maybe, you will realized that treating women as civilized creatures rather than prey to be hunted will yield a far richer feast than the outdated methods of pursuit with bow and poisoned arrow.

Be the change.

Please.

Thoughts on Vegas

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Last Sunday night I went to bed thinking about all the random things that had happened over the weekend, mostly consisting of “ughhh why did I eat that” and “I’ll just grade that really fast at school”.  Monday morning, at 5am, I was sleepily glancing through my daily Skimm e-mail, and stopped cold when I saw the headline “Shooter at Vegas Music Festival”.  Every time there is a tragedy that happens, I always feel shock and empathy, but this time was different–this time, my best friends were at the festival.

After some frantic phone calls and panicked-but-trying-to-sound-calm voicemails, I saw that my friend had posted on Facebook that they were ok.  Relief immediately flooded my body, and I got ready for work in a haze of thankfulness.

The reality of things truly didn’t hit me, however, until I got to work and I started watching footage of the horror.  The staccato bursts of the gunfire sounded like a video game or an action movie, and the panicked people mere actors on a set.

But it was real life.  Live, horrific, indescribable.  I started bawling as the reality of the situation hit me.  I tried to imagine what my friends must have felt like, the amount of adrenaline pumping through their bodies, the terror coursing through every minor vein.

Yet as much as I want to enter in to their pain, I can’t.  I wasn’t there.  I have no idea what it TRULY felt like.  All I know is that I need to be there for them in whatever capacity I can be.

Which is all we can ever do in a situation like this.  Be there.  And by ‘be there’ I mean actually BE THERE.  Be available to meet up at 9pm if they need to get out of the house.  Be there to hear their stories, 20 times if need be.  Be there to sit in silence when the stories are too painful to utter out loud.  Be there when they attempt to be strong and be there when that attempt crumbles.

Humans are the largest paradox on earth because there is nothing so incredibly strong yet so softly fragile as the human spirit.  If there is any glimpse of light in this situation, its that it caused so many people to hold their loved ones a little tighter, hug a little longer, and love a little deeper than before.

It sucks that sometimes it takes a situation like this to make us realize how fragile life is and what the important things are; we have little reminders surrounding us constantly, and the reality of our impending death is always acknowledged when the topic is brought up.  However, being slammed in the face is a lot different than a gentle nudge, and that harshness, however unpleasant, can grudgingly be appreciated for the fruit that it bears.

The thing about tragedy is that it cannot be truly understood unless it directly effects you.  I have experienced way more empathy and love for the victims of Las Vegas than I have for any other horrible event, simply because I had a direct connection.  I can never enter into that experience fully, but I have definitely been opened up more than ever before.

The biggest thing that has come out of this experience for me is the importance of loving fiercely.  We cannot burn with the brightness of a 1000 suns every second, but we are infinitely capable of bursts of ardent flame, way more than what is self-allotted.

Love, no matter what kind, deserves to be fueled boldly and purposefully.  Make it a habit to show your love.  So many times we assume that those in our life know that we love them.  However, knowing and feeling are two very different things, and the latter is what everyone deserves to experience.

Simply saying “I love you” is powerful.  Hugging someone even when you just saw them yesterday, or when you know you’ll be hanging out tomorrow.  Squeezing a hand.  Keeping plans.  Sitting in silence in each other’s company.  Being honest.  Doing stuff you don’t care for because it makes them so happy.  Going the extra mile.  Loving so loudly and proudly it’s embarrassing.

People are imperfect and flawed.  But more than that, people are worth it.  No matter what kind of relationship you have, whether it’s a sibling, parent, friend, partner, that spark of love is precious and worth all the time in the world.

When it comes down to it, relationships are what we are left with when all of the bullshit of life goes away.  Relationships, not money or fame or luck, are what get us through life unscathed.  Relationships are the only currency of any true, consistent value.

Tragedy on both a major and minor scale helps us to refocus on the things that matter.  How lucky are we that we possess things so valuable that their loss would devastate our existence?  How thankful can we be that we actually have something to lose?

As the shock and the pain of this calamity eventually fades, keep the reminders of fierce passion burning bright.  There is so much devotion in the world, which is a force more powerful than a bullet and a strength more enduring than the deepest pain.  Nothing can stand in the way of pure selfless emotion.

When we are filled with the deepest and truest love, we are unstoppable.