Confession: I Am A Procrastinator

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results.  Thus, by very definition, I am insane.

I procrastinate.  A lot.  In almost every area of my life.  I am constantly hitting snooze, one more time, and then rushing to get ready for work.  Watching tv for “just 5 more minutes” before frantically dashing around my apartment, cleaning up for friends already on their way over.  I wait until the last possible second to leave for appointments, scrolling lazily through my Facebook newsfeed, and then scrambling against LA traffic to make it in time.
Even in this moment, I am procrastinating.  I have to finish a few reports for work and yet here I am, writing a blog about procrastinating…while I procrastinate.  And then hopping over to to do a little shopping before finishing this blog…about procrastination.  The irony is not lost on me.  Everything always gets done, and I am almost always on time…but I still repeat this process again and again.
I don’t know why I am this way, and have been as long as I can remember.  I think about the scene from He’s Just Not That Into You, which I watched for probably the 10th time on a recent flight (while procrastinating watching a documentary that I had downloaded for the trip).  Where one of the characters explains that women actually feed off the drama in relationships, just like they wait to pay a phone bill until the last possible second, getting a rush from not knowing if they will make it on time.  Am I looking for a “rush”?  Am I really into the drama?  I wouldn’t have thought so, but maybe evidence is pointing to the contrary.  Because there is a rush that comes with finishing something with just moments to spare, submitting a report one minute before the deadline.
I have been told a few (ok, many) times that I am Type-A.  I think most people say it meaning I’m high strung, or tightly wound; Wikipedia references people obsessed with time management who push themselves with deadlines.  They also discuss the controversy and possible links to coronary heart disease in Type A-ers.  Stress + Possible life-threatening condition = not good.
So how do I change this behavior, learned and practiced over 30+ years?  How do I stop putting off things and causing unnecessary stress, and give myself the time to do things without rushing?  I turned to some experts for help.  WebMD lists the following 3 steps that help break bad habits:  
1.  Make it Conscious: Done.
2.  Put it in Writing So It Really Sinks In: Also Done, as of today.  This is so easy!
3.  Bait and Switch: Oh, here’s where the work comes in.  Replacing bad habit (procrastinating) with a new, healthier one (um, not procrastinating).  They mention the old rubber-band trick, which you snap when you feel the bad habit urge coming on, but I don’t think that works with procrastinating (that might actually be yet another method of procrastinating).  But the Bait and Switch thinking is correct: find an alternative behavior and commit to this new behavior whenever the old one rears its ugly head.
Instead of just transferring over the items on today’s To-Do list to tomorrow’s To-Do list, never making it all the way through in any given day, I am committing to tackling each one, with the hardest one first.  To getting ready first, relaxing second.  To not going on Facebook when I really want to finish a blog post.
I’m putting it out there so that I can be held accountable for making this change.  Starting Monday morning (jk!).

Confession: I’m Ready To See Beauty

After nearly 22 hours of flying and layovers, I landed at LAX on Monday morning after the trip of a lifetime in Bali.  I was tired, I was a little cranky, and I felt the Bali joy start to seep out of me with every step through the airport.  The length of time it took for my suitcase to appear on the conveyor belt caused many drawn out sighs of annoyance.  The line blocking the exit to customs provoked an exaggerated eye roll and some foot tapping.  When I started arguing with my cab driver about directions, while on the phone with my mom, I knew it was slippery slope downhill from there.

So I stopped.  Took a deep breath.  Told my mom I loved her.  Accepted the cab driver’s apology, and thanked him offering it and getting me home safely.  Focused on recalling how happy I had been just one short day earlier. 
And then I remembered: The 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.  Earlier this month, my friend and mentor, Jen Pastiloff, started the 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.  The idea, born while she was sitting in LA traffic, was that you can find 5 beautiful things in every day, in every moment.  In her exquisite words:

What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by?  What if we became beauty hunters?  What if we told more beautiful stories?  What if it was all we saw, even in the dirt?  What if we trained our eyes and our hearts to tune into that which makes us cock our head to one side and close our eyes gently in an effort to memorize what we were looking at.  What if it is all we got?


I quickly took stock and identified my 5 Most Beautiful Things in that moment:
-Global Entry Kiosk
-My suitcase arriving
-2 episodes of my favorite Homeland
-My comfy bed
-A million Facebook interactions with my fellow Bali tribe members
And I felt better.  Immediately.  Actually, truly, really better.  I smiled, I felt lighter, and being back at home felt good, instead of a letdown.  Because my real life, here, in Santa Monica, is GOOD.  Great even.  I need to believe in that and not lose sight of it because I have to wait a little longer for my luggage.
How quick was I to believe in the magic in Bali that I assigned significance to every gesture, every beautiful thing I saw.  An elegant green door, a dirty child placing a flower on a tree, a man washing his chicken in the river.  Each was beautiful in its own special way.  Each meant something MORE, because it was in this magical place.
I had my laundry done halfway through the trip, and it was returned to me with a delicate green thread sewn into the back of every item.  I knew it must have been a special blessing bestowed upon me by the Balinese, some offering that would protect me, the wearer of these clothes.  I asked my new friend Wayan to explain what specifically this beautiful green thread meant, what glorious custom this was.
 “Oh, that’s how they keep the laundry organized.  All of your clothes have a green thread, all of Jen’s have a red thread, all of Mel’s have a blue thread….”.
How lovely will my life be if I can find the green thread in every moment, real or imagined?  It sure takes the edge off returning to reality.
**Join The 5 Most Beautiful Things project on Twitter or at now!

Confession: I Suffer From FOMO

36 hours in Bangkok.

I had so many (albeit last minute) plans for this quick stopover in Bangkok.  I planned to visit temples, see the palace, take a river cruise, go to the weekend market, eat street food, get cheap massages, check out a yoga class, try out all of the bars in my super luxe hotel, walk the streets of this fast-paced city.  It was going to be a whirlwind of a trip, so much to see and do in so little time.
The only thing I accomplished on that list was visiting the weekend market.

I took the train, by myself, to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market as soon as the rain subsided Sunday morning.  It was the most frequent suggestion that people recommended in Bangkok.  I weaved my way through the crowded train and clogged streets to arrive at the market.  After a week surrounded by the magic of Bali, I can only liken it to….well, magic is not the first word that comes to mind.  Stifling.  Rank.  Oppressive.  Blisteringly hot.  Overwhelming.  I don’t like flea markets at home; I can even get anxious in the melee of Target sometimes. I’m not sure this was the right venue to end my peaceful vacation…after the beauty and serenity of Bali, it was all too much.  I just wanted to get back to the luxury of my hotel and relax.
I initially started to panic as I was leaving the market: “OMG I am wasting my short time here in Bangkok!  I haven’t seen everything/done anything/been anywhere.  How can I be going back to my (admittedly gorgeous) hotel room when I could be out exploring this city?”.  
My FOMO (fear of missing out) was going into overdrive.  
But, in a rare moment of insight, and instead of just following the FOMO blindly as I have done in the past, I paused.  I decided to address it instead with a direct question: “Do I really want to go to the palace, ride a ferry or eat street food?”.  The answer was immediate and resounding: “NO”.
I didn’t want to go to the palace, or get on a boat, or even get a massage.  I wanted to rest.  To re-group after an intense week.  
To just…be.  

So I did.  And as soon as I gave myself the space to do what I really wanted, all of the FOMO, all of the guilt, all of the “should haves” just melted away.  It was freeing–doing what I truly wanted instead of what I thought I was supposed to be doing.  I didn’t take advantage of everything that Bangkok had to offer.  I took care of myself instead.
Walking back to my hotel with this space I had allowed myself provided me with a different perspective.  I was able to let go of the annoyances and impatience and discomfort that being in a big city can trigger for me.  I had no schedule to keep, no place I “needed” to be.  I was able to breathe, and to find things to add to my awe and wonder list, tucked away in my bag.
The man in the train station who helped me purchase the correct ticket and walked me to the right platform to wait for my train.  My taxi driver who asked me if I voted for Barack Obama, and told me how much he likes him and his “beautiful wife Michelle”.  The little boy kissing his baby sister as they waited with their parents to cross the street.  The beautiful and bold colors of the dresses worn during a traditional dance at the Erawan Temple, with people making offerings all around.


In the midst of the traffic and smog, the cacophony and frenzied movement, there was beauty all around me.

The rest of my planned list did not happen.  Instead I did this: Ordered room service.  Wrote.  Slept.  Unpacked and re-packed.  Ordered room service again.  Wrote some more.  Uploaded pictures of my Bali trip.  Ordered room service one more time.  Slept.  Left for the airport, in the dark, at 4am.  I did not see much of Bangkok.

It’s ok.  I will be back in Bangkok at some point.  Or maybe I won’t.  It’s still ok.
I am excited to head home and stay in this space, listening to my heart instead of that crazy FOMO.  Being present and “loving in time”.  I want to find the magic of Bali, and the hidden beauty of Bangkok on Wilshire Blvd, or on the 10 at rush hour, or in line at Whole Foods.  I am ready to go home.
Until the next trip….

Confession: I Believe In Magic

“And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?”
I will always recall these lines from Mary Oliver’s “The Swan” when I think about my time in Bali.  This journey towards a more open heart that started in May, when I met Jennifer Pastiloff, was introduced to her stunning writing and booked this trip.  That continued through the summer as I deepened my yoga practice.  That expanded into the Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, where I began to build my tribe of support.  That culminated in Bali, where I discovered magic.
I tried to withhold expectations about Bali before I left for Ubud.  I did very little research about this special island so that everything could wash freshly over me once I arrived (ok, and out of laziness too if I’m being honest.  I don’t enjoy reading travel guidebooks).  But I did have a few ideas about what might occur during this weeklong retreat, like riding elephants, finally kicking up into a handstand, or coming back tan and skinny.
Here’s what did not happen in Bali this week:
  • I did not see any elephants
  • I did not get a tan
  • I did not lose weight
  • I did not get into a proper headstand
  • I did not fall in love a la “Eat Pray Love” (though I did do quite a bit of eating and praying)
I could be a little disappointed if I just looked at that list.  I did want to see the elephants, and I REALLY wanted to jump up into handstand (rather than jump down to it).  But what I did get out of this journey far surpassed any expectations, beyond what I could have ever imagined.
Here’s what did happen in Bali this week:

  • I found BEAUTY
  • I found joy
  • I found forgiveness
  • I found comfort
  • I found laughter
  • I found support
  • I found kindness
  • I found courage
  • I found grace
  • I found inspiration
  • I found sisterhood
  • I found awe
  • I found peace
  • I found wonder
  • I found myself
For what, other than magic, could explain the omnipresent smiles of the Balinese people?
The loveliness of 11 year old twins dancing to welcome us into their home, and their beautiful country?
The spiritual devotion that causes these wonderful people to make thrice daily offerings to their Gods and spirits?
What, if not magic, could create such a stunning sunrise amongst the lush greenery and rice paddies?
I brought along a bunch of temporary tattoos (thanks Conscious Ink!), which echoed so many of the mantras that we focused on in our practice. “Forgive”.  “Courage”.  “Trust”.  Through all of the sweat and swimming, I was able to change them everyday, except for the one that fittingly has lasted–“Gratitude”.  I am looking down at my wrist, sitting here in Bangkok on my way back to California, and I am grateful.  For ALL that I found in Bali.
Thank you Jen Pastiloff, thank you The Travel Yogi, thank you Soulshine, thank you Bali, thank you my new family.  I will return home with a heart filled with love, a mind calmed, and a soul at peace.

Confession: I Am Grateful

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in the most beautiful, magical place I ever could have imagined.

I am grateful for a lovingly cooked  Western-style Thanksgiving dinner, eaten with the Bali tribe at a table set for 20.

I am grateful for new, lifelong friends.

I am grateful for the one who brought me here.

I am grateful for a mindful, heart-lifted practice amongst the greenery.

I am grateful for sunsets on the beach.

I am grateful for spontaneous skinny-dipping in the rain and dance parties in white in the kitchen.


Happy Thanksgiving from Bali.



Confession: I Am Healing

One of the spots I was most looking forward to visiting in Bali this week were the famous healing waters at Tampak Siring Temple.  It’s a Hindu Temple located in a valley between two hills in central Bali, and is sacred to the Balinese people as a place to “melt all the bad influences in the body and purify the soul and mind”.  You go there with an intention of being healed of something that has been troubling you.

Tampak Siring
Holy Spring Water Temple

The theme for our morning practice the day of the trip was “I FORGIVE”.  This was probably the 4th time this year that I have done this exercise with Jen, so I actually thought, I got this, this will be easy.  I have worked really hard to forgive those I had been carrying around in a negative way, whether they asked for it or not.  I feel I have truly made peace with these people in my heart.  And then it turned inward and became “I Forgive Myself”.  Ok, that part was a little more tricky.  I struggle everyday with beating myself up, and tearing myself down…so forgiving myself always feels like a challenge.
I went into the healing waters with that in mind, and with a very clear intention–to rinse off that nasty old crone who lives in my head.  The one who constantly says things like “You’re fat”.  “You look terrible”.  “YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH”.  It’s absurd–I would NEVER let someone talk to people I love like that, yet I allow this voice to penetrate my thoughts and my heart regularly.  I wanted to go to the healing waters and literally “Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” (I’ve been singing South Pacific songs in my head for 3 days; Bali Hai anyone? It felt fitting).  I dunked my head, in and out of flowing water, 12 times, trying to wash this demon out.
Walking out of the waters, I expected to feel cleansed.  Elated.  Renewed.  Or at least content.  Instead I felt decidedly…bad.  Sad.  Unsettled.  Like I wanted to go cry without knowing why, and close myself up in a room with no one around.  How different this felt from what I had imagined it would.  And since I had an hour long trip back to Soulshine in a car with 6 other people, I couldn’t shut everyone out.  I know, I tried.
Someone brought up a complicated situation in my life, and asked me the question “Do you feel guilty?”.  I was so overcome with the entire experience that I couldn’t articulate any feelings, so I just cried.  We returned and I went right into a massage, where I had an hour to process the feelings and figure out what what was going on in my head (and my heart).
And it became really clear, really quickly:
For the first time in ages.  I am finished punishing myself for sins committed 15, 20, 25 years ago.  I have repented, I have done my time, and I’m finished.  I HAVE forgiven myself.  I don’t know if it was the intention set during class, or the healing waters, or just…me.  But today, right now, I’m there.  I forgive me.
Our Balinese tour guide/driver/guru, Agung, shared a story with our group about why the Balinese make offerings 3 times a day.

Temple offerings

They make offerings to the Gods to say thank you, to get protection from them.  But they also make offerings to the evil spirits.  They need to appeal to the evil spirits as well as the Gods, so that everything in their lives is in harmony.  They understand that there is good and there is evil, and instead of fighting against the evil, they try to balance it out with good.  They make offerings to the evil spirits to create this balance, to make peace with it, to make friends with it.
Maybe rather than trying to force an exorcism of this evil spirit in my head, this self-critic, I need to become friends with it.  Make offerings to it.  Everyday.  So that I can change the dialogue that it has with me.  So that I can give it a different, more helpful role.
I didn’t get what I expected from the healing waters, but perhaps I got exactly what I needed.

Confession: I Am Humbled

By the vast enormity of what this trip is in my life.

By the circumstances which led me to this tiny piece of heaven.

By the understanding of how small our piece of the world is when we travel to foreign lands.
By the kindness of strangers who make us feel safe in the unknown.
But mostly, by the beauty.  The hanging vines and the immense trees that enshroud this magnificent house.  The orchestra of cicadas that serenade every moment, along with the running water that is the background of every song.  The fragrance of my favorite Tuberose, plentiful throughout this place, scenting everything so naturally, so sweetly.  The cool feel of the iconic statues, both wood and stone carved, that show the spiritual devotion of this country.  The explosion of flavor in every bite of the food lovingly prepared by the wonderful people of Soulshine.  The easy smiles of the Balinese people, so eager to tell us more about their magical homeland.
How do I describe this beauty?  How do pictures even capture what is really hidden here, nestled among the temples and the rice paddies?
I am blessed.  I am grateful.  I am humbled.

Confession: I’m Ready to be Moved

On a flight to NY this past weekend, I did something I don’t do very often these days: I cried.  On the plane, in front of my seatmates, a handful of big, fat tears spilled out of my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks.  Slightly embarrassed, I pulled out my eye drops and quickly squeezed in a few, until they became indistinguishable from my real tears.  I could blame the eye drops then.  It wasn’t me.  I shook my head, thinking, “this is why you don’t watch dramatic movies, especially in public”.

When I was 14, I was VERY in touch with my emotions.  And my friends’ emotions.  And the emotions of everyone I came in contact with (or didn’t for that matter, I could feel them too).  I loved going to overly dramatic, heartbreaking movies, where I would cry my eyes out for two hours with no shame or apologies.  Sometimes gulping back sobs silently, but often gasping for air as I tried to catch my breath.  I’m not exaggerating.  You can ask my friend Brooke, who bravely went with me to see the movie Somersby, knowing that I would likely be bawling immediately following the opening credits. (She’s a REALLY good friend)

But at some point, something changed.  I stopped going to movies that might cause me to burst into tears, and opted for silly romantic comedies instead.  I phased out great literature in favor of cheesy young adults novels about boarding schools and blind dates.  I retired the Sarah McLachlan, and put top 40 or rap on in my car.  I stopped talking about how I felt, and eventually…I stopped feeling so much.  It didn’t happen immediately, but gradually I was able to dim the switch on my emotions.

I stopped allowing myself to be moved.

I don’t really know what precipitated this change.  Maybe someone’s reaction to me crying made me feel ashamed for being so emotional.  Maybe going through a loss at 17 caused my heart to harden in protection.  Maybe I was just so overwhelmed with feeling that I had to shut it off.  Take a breather from emotion.  For 15 years.

How incredibly sad is that?  Experiencing life through a filter of stoicism.  Going through the motions without allowing myself to feel everything fully.  Choosing distance because it felt easier.

And guess what?  It’s not working anymore.  Maybe it never really did.  I thought by guarding my heart, I could avoid being hurt.  I couldn’t.  I thought people would be more comfortable with this version of me.  Some are.  Most aren’t.  I’ve gone through breakups, and heartbreaks, beginnings and endings, joy and sorrow…never fully taking it ALL in.

Tomorrow I set off for what is often described as one of the most magical places on Earth: Bali.  I am spending a week amongst the rice paddies and the glorious sunsets that make Bali so uniquely beautiful and special.  And I realize—I want to be able to feel EVERYTHING.  I want to wake up before the sunrise and be blown away by the explosion of colors.  I want to taste every morsel of food without worrying about my weight.  I want to laugh and cry and swim and sing and sweat.


This trip feels serendipitous for me right now, as I am figuring out how to be “me” to the fullest.  I get to allow emotion to re-enter my life while surrounded by the wonder and beauty of Bali.  HOW LUCKY AM I?!?

My home for the next week: Soulshine Bali!

I may even bring some tearjerkers along for the flight.



Confession: Sometimes I Forget Where I Live

The other morning someone called me around 6:45am.  She assumed I was in NYC and was startled by my groggy morning voice.  Another new friend just asked me if I was on an upcoming flight with her, leaving out of JFK.  She seemed puzzled when I told her I live in LA and not in the West Village.  What’s worse is that I paused before answering her, like I might actually be flying from NY.
As I pack for my 10th trip to the East Coast this year, it hits me—this is my 10th trip to the East Coast this year!  And I still have a Christmas visit to look forward to.  Of the 120,000 miles I will fly this year (woo hoo, 1k status!), almost 54,000 of them were logged traveling to NY/NJ.
I have embraced so much of the California lifestyle in my first 2.5 years here: I moved to the beach, I started doing yoga, I drive everywhere instead of walking, I got blonder, I eat kale, I even bought a beach cruiser (ok, I hate riding it but it’s super cute and has a little white basket).  My NY friends all say “You’re so LA”.  I think they mean it in a good way.  I hope.  I look the part of a SoCal girl.
But there is a huge part of me that is stuck in NY/NJ.  The part that feels like living in NYC for 10 years was a rite of passage that comes with bragging rights.  The part that remembers the devastation of September 11th not from tv footage, but because I watched one of the towers fall, through the rear windshield of a cab while fleeing up the West Side Highway.  The part that always clarifies “I JUST moved here from Manhattan” in an annoyingly superior tone.  The part that will ALWAYS choose Biggie over Tupac, and the Yankees over the Dodgers.
Part of my heart is stuck 2,450 miles away.
I was supposed to be in NJ last week, during the worst hurricane to hit the area in my lifetime.  For the first time ever, I had canceled my trip–not because of weather, not because of a scheduling conflict, but because I just wasn’t up for it.  I was tired, I had flown home 2 weeks earlier, I had a last minute work trip 2 weeks later….it was just too much.  So I canceled.
And then Sandy arrived.  

My beloved Basking Ridge, NJ and West Village after Sandy hit. (photos from Basking Ridge Patch and Facebook)

I was initially so relieved that I was not there.  It was like the universe threw me a bone and decided to cut me a break, possibly after stranding me during 5 weather-canceled flights in 2011.  But once that relief passed, I felt…left out.  Disconnected.  Guilty.  For the first time since my move west, I felt like I was in the wrong place.  I thought, ‘I’m a New Yorker, a Jersey girl, I should be in the dark with my friends and family, swimming up Hudson St or waiting in line at the gas station with my mom.  I should have been there’. 
Which is ridiculous.  I wouldn’t wish the situation that the area is going through on anyone.  My being there would not have helped anyone–it would have just been one more person fighting for a hot shower and a cell phone charge.  Why couldn’t I remember (and be happy) that my home is now here, in LA?  Did I want the “I Survived Sandy” tv shirt so badly I would have actually wanted to live through it?  Enough.  It’s time to move on.
When I return to California on Monday, I need to bring the rest of my heart back with me.  I will always love my East Coast roots, but it’s time to put down real roots in LA, and embrace my West Coast life.  Stay here on weekends instead of flying cross country every month.  Invest more time and love into my relationships here.  Adopt a sports team so I’m not always rooting against the local teams (Go Lakers?).  BE PRESENT in this wonderful life I have created here.  
I might even include some Tupac on the playlist.

Sunset in Santa Monica: THIS is where I live.