It’s not about you: how to stop taking it personally.

What other people do to you is their karma. How you react is yours.

Much to my own chagrin, I take things personally. When someone says something hurtful or acts aggressively, I take it to heart. I mull it over. I internalize it. I put my own value into question based on their sideways behavior.

This is not who I want to be.

Let me tell you a little story. My uncle shaves his head and, to my knowledge, always has. Years ago, we were standing in line at the supermarket and I asked him, with teenage curiosity, if he shaved his head because he liked the style or because he couldn’t grow hair. Overhearing the conversation, my aunt quickly shot me dagger eyes and scolded me on how inappropriate it was to question a man on the balding state of his scalp. She informed my 17-year-old self that this was a highly sensitive subject for men. Suddenly, at the realization that I might’ve hurt my uncles feelings, and in the middle of the grocery store no less, I burst into tears. Sobbing, I apologized profusely for having maybe, possibly hurt his feelings. Snot running down my face, vision compromised by the waterfall of tears, I hyperventilated “I….am…soooooo….sorrrrr…yyyy.” I didn’t want to be the insensitive person that made him feel bad. He burst into laughter. He didn’t give a shit about his balding head. But he thought it was funny that I cared so much.

I’d like to be more like him.

The fact is, unless you’re my uncle, we often rely on the opinions of others to create our opinions of ourselves. We define our beauty, our intelligence and our happiness based on what someone thinks about us. When someone compliments you, your mood goes up. When you feel judged, your mood goes down. But here’s the deal:

People speak out of turn, they are clumsy with their words, and sometimes they hurt your feelings without even realizing it. There are also people that do it on purpose. They feed on making others feel small, building their own securities on the insecurities of others. Those people exist, too. Regardless of which camp your wrong-doer falls into, there’s a really important thing to keep in mind: It’s. Not. About. You.

Everyone has their own shit and their shit is not your shit. You have enough of your own already. Don’t mix up the two. These are a few steps I am practicing to stop taking things so personally:

1. Take a deep breathe. The natural reaction to an attack is to, well, react. But don’t. You will find yourself on a path of most resistance. Take a moment to pause, breathe and prepare yourself to react…differently.

2. Listen between the lines. Sometimes you’re on fire for a reason. Maybe you did actually do something wrong and that’s why the heat is on you. Try to understand what is being communicated to you, not necessarily the words being said. Not sure? Ask.

3. Remember who you want to be. We are not always what we aspire to be. This is a moment to practice being our future self. How would the best version of you act in this moment?

4. Be kind. To them. To yourself. Everyone has their own shit, remember? Maybe you were the recipient of someone’s spazz attack because they’re going through something. Be kind. They needed to dump the energy somewhere…but also be kind to yourself. Understand why you might be feeling triggered, why you’re taking their words to heart. Understand why you’re inclined to take it personally without actually taking it personally. You have your own shit, too, remember?

You can’t control the shade that other people throw your way, but you can control how you react…and how you react is what defines you

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On food: you can learn to like anything.

American Pie told us that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about food at about the same frequency. It’s not only a need, but a genuine pleasure. I. Love. Food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love cooking it, I love talking about it.

So what if I told you that I used to like…next to nothing? Okay, that’s not true. I just didn’t like anything that was good for me. I come from a family of amazing cooks who managed to hide nutrition under a veil of deliciousness. “Don’t let her know that those are mushrooms, not beef” they would whisper in the kitchenHere’s the thing: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be healthy or that I preferred junk food, I just simply didn’t like the way things tasted. Walking through a farmers market, my mouth drooled at the juicy, ripe heirloom tomatoes, the colorful cauliflower, the deep, dark bunches of kale…but when I tasted them, I (literally) spat them out. What con artists these veggies were! Using their beauty to distract from their absolutely disgusting taste!

At 21, being the only one of my friends eating a plain hamburger at Barney’s – hold the tomato, lettuce, onion and bun – I realized that maybe it was time for a change. I wanted to play for the other team. I wanted to know why on earth people paid extra for avocado. So, I gave up meat. For 40 days.

In my still developing little brain, I assumed that if you don’t eat meat, the only thing left on the planet to eat is vegetables, and I would therefore be forced to like them or I would in fact starve.

Let’s just take a moment to pause here and be very grateful for no longer being 21. Amen.  

And for three days, that’s basically what happened. I was living on rice and fruit. So much fruit. But then my senses kicked in and I walked my hungry ass to the market. I piled up on all the things I thought looked good and was determined to make them taste good. I grabbed a couple of cookbooks, tied my apron and put my game face on. It was time to cook.

For the next 37 days all I did was cook…and eat. At first, I still hated most things. I’ve never been much into salt, so the veggies had to stand all on their own. I learned to mix spices, the difference between eating a carrot raw, steamed, roasted and fried…what I preferred and what I didn’t. (Raw and roasted. Never steamed. That’s why I hated grandma’s carrots…) I slowly learned that I could in fact learn to like anything…I just had to find out how. 

Fast forward to the end of my forty days and I was a bonafide vegetable eater. My family couldn’t even believe that I was the one to prep a spinach salad and green beans for Easter brunch. Me! Gina! Girl transformed!

Fast forward nine years later and I am now mostly a plant-based eater. I say mostly because I simply don’t  want to give up steak tartare or crispy slices bacon. That is not to say that I now love everything, it’s just that I have had a shift in perspective. As with so many other things in life, we build a box and then we sit in it, sometimes wondering what life could be like on the outside (but not often ready to admit it). Stepping out of the box can be scary – like ordering something you’ve never heard of from the menu – and maybe when you do, you won’t like what you find. Or maybe you will. You just have to keep trying. Over and over and over again.

My current battle is with beets. Round, colorful, beautiful looking beets. I hate them. The smell. The texture. The aftertaste. But I will like them, damnit. So I order them every chance I get. One of these days, I’ll stumble on something outside of the box that makes me so glad I took the first step. 

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Funkbusters: 5 ways to get out of a bad mood

This morning I woke up with a huge cloud over my head. One of those bright-white, reflective, migraine-inducing clouds. I was in a funk. A real funky funk. The kind that like to stick around as if they have no one else to go and bother. You know the kind of mood I’m talking about?

I took to Instagram to get some new ideas on how to break free from this prison of blah and these are a few takeaways.

5 funkbusters to get you out of a bad mood:

1. Dig in. I do not mean dig into a bag of TJs sweet potato chips. Food hangovers suck. I mean dig into what you’re feeling. Grab a pen and paper and write down all the thoughts that come to mind. Don’t think before you write. Just write. Let the word vomit flow. When you’re all out of thoughts, read what you’ve jotted down and connect the dots. Get to the bottom of what is actually bothering you.

2. Sweat it out. On the other hand, give yourself the gift of not thinking. That’s what happens when I exercise. There simply isn’t time to think about anything else other than what I’m doing…or I’ll get hurt. Seriously. I mean, have you ever tried reformer pilates and dared thinking about anything else? Hell no. You’ll fly right off that carriage. Besides avoiding injury, having some time to not think gives your big bad brain a moment to chill out and take in the endorphins that are pumping through your system. In the wise words of Elle Woods, “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands.”

3. Give a hug, get a hug. In a time where we spend more time in front of screens than real people, we lose out on the big wins of physical touch. Physical touch (and that doesn’t mean getting frisky) reduces cortisol (stress hormones) levels in the body. Real talk. Fight the funk with a hug. Don’t be afraid to ask for one if you need it. Everyone likes a good hug 🙂

4. Clean up. A cluttered life is a cluttered mind. I find serious stress relief in organizing, decluttering and a good old fashion clean up. In my house, I call them Power 20’s. Pick a spot in your room or home that you’re going to dedicate 20 minutes to and get after it. Pull out a few things you don’t need, rearrange the spices, dust under the TV. Whatever it might be, give your physical environment a visual boost. By the time you’re done, you’ll not only have cleaned house, you’ll have given your mood a boost, too.

5. Let it be. Sometimes the best way to funkbust is to just let it be. We don’t always need to fight the funk and there’s nothing wrong with sitting with whatever it is we’re feeling. Just remember that everything is temporary and even the worst of moods won’t stick around forever.

Do you have any funkbusting tips to add to the list? I’d love to know! Comment below!

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Tiny space, big moves: resistance bands workout.

Being active is essential in living a feel good life. Movement, in and of itself, is proof that we are indeed alive. But far beyond six packs and bikinis, there is great reward in testing the limits of our own bodies. We learn where our comfort zone is… and we build the confidence to break out of it. 

As a barre instructor, I am fueled by the dedication to self my students showed day after day. Despite bitchy bosses, projects gone wrong and inboxes that never seem to hit zero, these women come in the studio with a fierce attitude, ready to show themselves who really is boss. They push, pull and fight against the urge to make excuses. I thought of them this morning as I was ready to say “I can’t workout today because it’s really too windy outside.” Um, what?

A more reasonable excuse would have been: I don’t have enough space. I live on a boat, after all, and there really is not a lot of space. I mean, talk about tiny living. AND the ground under me is constantly moving. Do you workout in an earthquake?! Yet, even I know that space isn’t much of an excuse….and people do entire workouts on Bosu balls…sooooo as my mother always says: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And when I have it my way, I always opt for a lower body workout. Today’s tiny space workout went something like this:

1 resistance band, 5 moves, 30 reps, 3 rounds through…and a lot of booty burn.

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Do something you love…everyday.

It’s Tuesday.
I woke up in my bed with a steady flow of droplets of water landing on my forehead.
At 6am.
After 4 hours of sleep.
Because my whole home was literally clanking and shaking.
And this is supposed to be paradise?

As you know, I live on a sailboat. What you might not know is that mornings like this are (unfortunately) not so uncommon. Leaky windows, ocean swell, sleepless nights…some mornings work to put you in a foul mood. But boat or no boat, you know what I’m talking about. Those days that just don’t start off on the right foot. The thing that gets me through those mornings? Knowing that I am going to do something that I love before the day is over.

We spent the majority of our waking hours doing things we’d rather not be doing. Working, studying, running errands, sitting in traffic. Yeah, life has to-do lists and those things aren’t always fun. But life also has love-to-do lists…and those are maybe more important.

Make time, even a teeny tiny little bit of time, to do something, just one thing, you love every single day. Maybe it’s knitting, reading in bed, practicing photography or, in my case, going to the market (yes, I love, love, love shopping for food!). When most of your day is dedicated to getting s**t done for someone/something else, don’t you think you deserve a bit of time to enjoy the day for YOURSELF?

Today’s action item for a feel good life: next to your to-do list, make a love-to-do list with 7 things you love to do.

Note: This does not mean scrolling through Instagram or finding a dress online for that party. Think bigger and smaller. Think about what big, and little, things you love to do. And do them!

 

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Loving what you’ve got.

In the not so distant past, I wouldn’t have ever posted this picture. Instead, my head would’ve gone here: I haven’t worked out, I just ate lunch and my baguette is making an appearance just below my belly button. I would’ve thought a million thoughts that would have deterred me from showing my body in a way I thought was less than perfect.

But then something magic happened. I learned to love. I learned to love what I’ve got because it’s all I’ve got. It’s mine and always will be. I started learning to love what I’ve been given and began truly appreciating all the things this body has done for me, does for me and, if I’m lucky, will keep doing for me.

In the past 30 years, I have climbed mountains, danced for hours on my tip toes, swam to the bottom of the sea and fallen more times than is probably normal. This body has been there for me. In the past 30 years, I have eaten more than my fair share of ice cream (if there is such thing as too much ice cream) and I’ve certainly enjoyed bottomless mimosa brunches. This body has been there for me. She’s got my back and I owe it to her to give her a little more credit.

At the end of last year I decided I wanted to start teaching barre fitness classes. I had been a dancer for ten years and used barre as part of my 3 year rehabilitation after a bad injury. Barre made moving my body fun again. It made it laugh again. It made it okay for me to laugh at myself again. Teaching meant giving that gift to other women just like myself. After getting my certification, I started teaching and got hooked.

The motivation, the drive and the full on #girlbossness my students gave in each class made me take a second look at how I viewed myself. There I was encouraging them to treat their bodies with respect and motivating them to love themselves for their strength, but was I doing the same thing? I left each class feeling empowered not by the words coming out of my own mouth but at seeing the reactions to what I had to say. My lady bosses squatted deeper and pushed harder than they thought they could. I would ask them to look in the mirror, give me their all…and then give 20% more. They left an hour later exhausted, with sweat dripping down their face and smiles that spanned ear to ear. They gave me a deeper squat but they gave themselves a big dose of love.

Writing this now, I am on my boat far from the magic of those studio walls. I don’t have my lady bosses around me and I don’t have a room full of women to motivate. What I do have, however, is me. Me and the little body I call my own. So I am going to start practicing a bit more of what I preach. I’m going to love what I’ve got, be thankful for how hard I push her and be thankful she’s there for me even when I don’t give her the attention she needs.

 

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What would you do if you could do anything?

This question often solicits more eye rolls than answers. It sucks, really. It’s got that huge two letter word that seems to be the barrier between day dreams and reality. IF.

To give my own eyeballs a break, I prefer to reframe the question like this: with the cards in my hands, what can I do that will elicit the most happiness? Happiness, of course, is up for interpretation. Define as you will!

Reframing the question and removing the big IF in the room makes the gap between dreams and reality much, much smaller. You’re working, instead, with what you already have and opening yourself up to achievements within your reach.

After writing my last post, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my own ability to accomplish goals and dreams. Reassessing where I’m at, where I want to be and what it’s going to take me to get there. 2017 has been a year of immense growth and I’m pretty convinced the momentum is stopping anytime soon. With the remaining six months of the year, I’ve got a hodgepodge list of things I want to accomplish that I’m confident will contribute to my feel good life:

  • Be my own boss. More on that soon…
  • Learn to surf well enough that I can catch all my own waves…
  • Cut loose some of the excess baggage of my emotional life (it’s okay to admit it, we’ve all got it!)…
  • Master a headstand!

However big or small, there’s nothing quite like the confidence we build when we accomplish something we’ve set out to do. I’m motivated to play the cards I have in hand, see what works, what doesn’t, and close the gap between my dreams and my realities.

What’s on your list for 2017?

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6 things I learned traveling solo.

After one year and 10,000 nautical miles, I decided to leave the sailboat behind for a solo adventure. Though I had acquired quite a few stamps in my passport, I never created the opportunity to explore a foreign country on my own. I enjoy sharing experiences with someone special and, hey, there is safety in numbers. Yet, as my sailing adventure hit the year mark, a desire arose to strike out on my own and test my limits in a new way. So, after trembling through my nerves and conducting next to no research on my destination, I took off for Indonesia.

Little did I know, I was embarking on the biggest growth spurt of my life. 

The six most important things I learned while traveling solo:

1. I am capable. Don’t get me wrong, I am a tough cookie. Life has thrown me lots of lemons and with them, I have made a shitload of lemonade. But when it came to taking off into a world unknown, alone, I was nervous that maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t do it. Turns out, I can. I can carry my own bag, I can find my way around town, I can barter, I can achieve my goals.

2. My wants are important, too. Traveling with others requires obvious compromises. Usually, it’s a plus. You get to experience things you might not otherwise have sought out on your own. I’ve come to realize, however, that I am a people pleaser and I tend to let my own wants get pushed way down the list. Alone, I was empowered to make my own choices. One month, I spent every single day practicing yoga and meditation, fasting or eating “weird” health foods. The next month, I drove jungle roads to surf at sunrise and drank homemade rice wine with locals at sunset. I finally got to dictate how and where I spent my day…and in the end, I spent them smiling.

3. Alone and lonely aren’t the same thing. I genuinely enjoy the company of others and can talk to just about anyone (or anything), but during this trip, I chose to pass on finding “fillers” for all my extra hours. I needed to learn to enjoy my own company, to sit with my own thoughts and just be in my own skin.

4. The weight of the world is about 50 pounds. I was so proud when I left the boat that I had downsized my life into one 40L backpack and one small daypack. Two days later I was the crazy girl talking to herself, “You really had to bring 5 shirts didn’t you?!” Okay, so really, I didn’t pack all that much, but it was still more than I needed. Every travel list will tell you that you need less than you think, but really, you. need. less. than. you. think.

5. Change is something that happens on the inside. Every single day during this solo adventure I felt myself evolve. I allowed myself to explore thoughts and ideas I hadn’t give time to before. As if I was on the outside looking in, I could see myself grow. That is a radical feeling. However, in coming home, I realized that this “new me” was wearing an invisibility cloak to everyone else around me. No one seemed to notice the profound changes I had experienced. But that’s the thing about change. It’s got to come from you…for you

6. No one can be your everything. When it comes to companionship, I feel like we’re often misguided in believing that there is someone who can be our everything. No single person can check off all of your boxes, and honestly, we can’t expect them to. That’s a huge responsibility. That job is up to you. You have to be enough for yourself and traveling alone taught me that. I needed to learn to be my own shoulder to cry on, my own cheerleader. I needed to learn that I was enough for me.

 

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The big gain in loss.

“C’est un mal pour un bien.”

One of the most optimistic French phrases I’ve learned. It’s a blessing in disguise. When facing loss, any kind of loss, it feels nearly impossible to find the positive. How on earth could losing something or someone you love be a good thing? Your entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down. But the truth is, there is always a blessing in disguise…and once you find it, it’s incredible how quickly your empty glass becomes half full.

On Mother’s Day, I said goodbye to my grandmother, Ligaya. She was more than just a grandmother in the traditional sense. She raised me alongside my mother, drank champagne with me at bars, knew how to dougie and had the biggest heart you’ve ever encountered. In fact, the doctors said her heart was twice the size of the average heart. But if you knew her, you already knew that. Ligaya means joy in Tagalog, and joy is exactly what she gave everyone around her. Compassion was her guiding principle. She taught me that true strength came from the heart and that compassion didn’t make a person weak, it made a community stronger. Given that her heart was twice the size of what it should be, it seems clear to me that she practiced what she preached.

In losing her, I’ve gained a valuable lesson: it is immeasurably important to walk the walk. Or at least to do your damn best. Often times, if we take a second to reflect, we can see that our actions do not always match our principles. I’ve always thought of myself as a compassionate person, but in her passing, I constantly wonder if I am actually walking the walk. If I could do more. Give more. Listen more. The answer is always yes. We can’t go back in time to right past wrongs, but we can right them by moving forward with bigger, more understanding hearts. We can learn from the times we didn’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and the times we could’ve been a little gentler.

Compassion does not mean self-sacrifice and it does not mean putting your own needs on the back burner. Compassion is understanding that everyone is fighting their own fight and that a little empathy goes a long way. My grandmother once invited a homeless man to live in our kitchen while he found work, helped an elderly couple get back on their feet after life had been hard on them, and always took the sides of my boyfriends when I was PMSing. That woman walked the fucking walk.

Losing my grandmother, physically, has made me more conscientious about how I can help her live on. As the sadness of loss fades, the excitement of awareness and opportunity fills my cup. Compassion is the secret ingredient to a happy life. I strive to use it liberally.

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How traveling made me want to become a morning person.

Gina and morning person do not often find each other in the same sentence. Unless that sentence reads: Gina is not a morning person.

There is not a single early riser in my family. Minus my grandmother. She used to get up before the sun came out, silently sipping her black coffee in the dark kitchen. We all thought she was nuts. Like, who actually wants to be awake that early? It turns out she was onto something…

On a boat, the two best parts of the day are directly connected to the sun: when it rises and when it sets. Twice a day, if you’re lucky enough to see both, the sun commands your attention. Hey you, yeah you, pause. Enjoy. (Insert a sort of diva face here).

On the road, I realized that there are a multitude of reasons as to why cultures have always governed themselves around the sun and I, an avowed night owl, have started sipping the Kool-aid. Many of the places I visited in the past year were extremely remote. When there were inhabitants on these islands, many of them did not have electricity. Work needs to get done and life needs to be lived during the hours of daylight. Makes sense. One point for practicality! My grandmother, however, had electricity and I think her allure to the morning hours was more inline with mine…

Allow me to digress.

Unlike other kinds of travel, sailing requires that someone always be awake during the night. We organize our “watches” in three hour shifts starting after sunset, ending after sunrise. Watching the sun come up after 10 hours of blanketed darkness is like seeing the finish line at the end of a marathon. It couldn’t come sooner. Yet, in that transition to the “end” there is a new beginning. A new notch in your belt, another day accomplished, the intrigue of what you can accomplish next. What lies in store for me now? It happens quickly, that transition, but to an active mind, it can also feel really slow. It’s a time to pause, to set the tone for what’s about to come. When you get to the finish line, are you going to complain about your achy muscles? Or are you going to ride a runners high? What tone are you going to set? The rest of the day is indeed governed by the intentions you make at sunrise.

 

 

On and off the boat, I started making new morning routines to get me excited about being Gina the Day Chaser. I began to enjoy the calm silence of the early morning left to me by the other night owls of the world. Alone, I drank my tea, jotted down my intention for the day – who did I want to be, what energy did I want to give off -, had a look at the to-do list I made the night before and usually took off for a bit of exercise. There is really nothing like kayaking around a blue lagoon at sunrise, doing yoga to the sound of chirping tropical birds or running the streets of Paris as the smell of butter seeps from bakeries opening their doors. Cliche? Yes. Seriously f’ing awesome? Double yes.

I am still a work in progress and have yet to permanently cancel my membership to the Night Owl’s Association, but I am making the transition. For a type-A, tornado-like thinker such as myself, there is immeasurable value in having time to stop…pause…and just be. The good news is, sunrises and early mornings aren’t just for when you’re away. They’re for when you’re awake. Learning to love the mornings has given me an edge on finding joy, finding adventure and finding that feel good, travel happy high right here at home. 

 

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