Taking care of our inner emotional landscape is our responsibility and ain’t no one going to save us otherwise. That realization and the decision to commit to turning inward with care is intimidating.
I’m discovering it’s also SO FREEING and EXCITING.
I’ve been in somatic therapy for a year now and it’s a game-changer. Basically, it’s a form of therapy that focuses on what our body is telling us. Listening and moving through stored emotion so that we can release ourselves from the fight, freeze, fight cycle. Then we can think more clearly in all situations, even stressful ones, and more fully engage with our lives.
I’ve also been learning about my inner child: the angry child, the vulnerable child, then there’s the punitive adult – there’s a whole family of versions of our emotional lives, living inside of us.
Not literally, of course. But everything we as children have experienced, all the insecurities and hurts and joys still impact how we relate to the world today. And it’s now the responsibility of our fully capable healthy adult self to parent those younger versions of ourselves. Paving the way for us to relate to our lives in a more clear-headed way.
Why is something so clearly beneficial also kind of scary? Why is the prospect of caring for our emotional, physical, psychological, and mental health intimidating sometimes?
So many reasons…
It’s ‘easier’ to just react from where we are at the moment
Therapy can be expensive – This factor is a systemic crisis in my opinion. Some therapists have a sliding scale rate for people with lower incomes, and it’s worth asking to see if they do.
It’s ‘easier’ to just have someone else take care of our emotional needs (friends, partners, family)
We have so many available avenues to numb out instead (tv, drugs, alcohol)
Mental health is still stigmatized in many communities and choosing to focus on it can make you feel judged
In spite of these many valid demotivators, if you haven’t already, I urge you to find the bravery and resourcefulness to embark on your mental health journey. It just might be the single greatest gift you could ever give yourself and those around you.
My relationship with the world and how I relate to other people has been shifting since starting this work. Because my relationship with myself is shifting.
I’m listening to Lillian, asking her what she wants to say, how she feels, and what’s going on inside. She is my most important, longest-lasting, and dedicated relationship – and I owe her all the love in the world.
On February 7th, 2022 an email arrived in my inbox from the NY Times titled, “I Admit It, I’m In Love with Fear” – it excited me and freaked me out. The NY Times was writing about FEAR! Ahhh! I wanted to read it and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I’m here writing, 1.5 months later, and I still haven’t read it. Not only did I not read it, but I also avoided writing a blog entry on my Facing Fear blog for exactly the same amount of time. What the fuck happened?
Allow me to explore, and as you are my witness I will have also read that NY Times article by the end of writing this. I believe the trajectory of my thoughts went something like this…
Oh shit! I LOVE that the NY Times is writing about fear.
I’ve gotta read this!
Did I miss the boat on becoming part of a larger conversation?
Why am I not writing about fear for the NY Times?
Who did write about fear for the NY Times?
Am I a failure for not being published in the NY Times?
Yeah, something like that. I had a lot of FEAR come up around not being exactly where I thought I should be and then I froze and avoided tapping into the conversation from exactly where I am. Thing is, I’m still wildly curious about what the article had to say… gimme a metaphorical five minutes while I go check out that article real quick. Thoughts to follow…
Well, what do you know? It was actually a series of articles based on three dozen interviews the NY Times did with Olympians competing in the Beijing Olympics this winter. I read a few of them and watched some of the excerpted interviews – and I HIGHLY recommend checking them out when you get a moment if you haven’t already. It was incredibly interesting to learn how these extreme athletes engage with fear. Freeskier Eileen Gu for example says,
“Fear” is really an umbrella term for three distinct sensations: excitement, uncertainty, and pressure… Instead of ignoring fear, we build unique relationships with it by developing a profound sense of self-awareness and making deliberate risk assessments.”
Then there’s Millie Knight a Paralympic skier who has lost 95% of her sight – read: she’s skiing at 70 miles per hour with only 5% of her sight! Holy shit. It was incredible to read her story. Funny thing is, last weekend I went skiing for the very first time in my life. And only reading about Millie’s experience today, I was able to more fully appreciate how scary it is that she skis with only 5% of her sight, knowing how terrified I was doing it with most of my sight fully intact! The NY Times article has an interactive visual to show you what it’s like for Millie visually when she’s skiing for reference – and GULP she is VERY VERY BRAVE.
Swipe to check out the video below for footage of me on the slopes for the first time ever.
I’m going to break down my fear experience in relation to this NY Times article using freeskier Eileen Gu’s description of fear in the article…
First I got excited reading the article headline in my inbox, “I Admit It, I’m In Love With Fear”.
Then I felt uncertain how I’d feel after reading the article and whether or not I was in the place I should be in life.
Finally, I felt pressure to be someplace I’m not – creating an invisible external competitor when I was actually probably just visualizing where I want to go in the future.
As a result of avoiding reading the article and writing in my blog, then reflecting on it, I’ve developed a greater sense of self-awareness that I can apply to future such situations.
Next time, I can do a risk assessment and remember that by the end of this fear cycle I felt inspired and motivated to continue on my journey with facing fear.
In conclusion, it’s cool that I experienced fear, how I reacted to it is completely fine, and now that I’ve moved through the experience I feel more confident in myself. Let’s gooooo!
It’s March 2022 – and officially Spring now – have you pushed through fear recently this year? Pop a comment down below and let me know.
I exercised at the gym today and also took a couple long walks outside and it feels so good. I feel so damn good. I haven’t exercised in a while, I felt stuck in a kind of physical stasis and had some anxiety about exercising. Everyone knows exercise is good for you but it’s easy to forget how good it feels. Embodying that goodness oh man. Tonight my cheeks are flushed, my blood is flowing, my eyes and mind are relaxed. I’m turned on all the way up and lit from within.
Yes, it’s definitely a goal of my January 2019 to get physically in shape again. I’ve been using this incredible (free) app Pacer to track my daily steps and exercise goals and in the week I’ve been doing it, it’s markedly increased the level of my physical activity. It has a little tracker that tells you how many steps you’ve walked so far. 1-2999 is sedentary. Sedentary! I hate the idea of being sedentary (not to mention all the health risks that go along with it) so that alone has made me intentionally get out and walk at least 3000 steps on a daily basis.
A lot of the work I do is remote from home so it’s easy for me to have a sedentary day if I’m not mindful about it. The levels on the app are sedentary, lightly active, active, and highly active. I’m happy to say today was my first highly active day in the past week and I feel fucking amazing. The screenshot below is my actual day today. Woot.
While I was leaving the gym I held the door open for a man behind me, and he said you’re from Latin America! And I said I’m half Cuban. And he said I could tell you had sunshine in you. Maybe he was just hitting on me but he was polite and respectful and didn’t ask for my number so I prefer to think he was just appreciating my inner light thank you very much.
On my walk to the train, I passed by a light store. Scores of chandeliers lit up and shining in this warm thin little slice of a store. I walked passed it smiling, then walked back over to it and decided I wanted to walk inside and soak up all the lights. I entered the store and the only two people in there, both of whom worked there, snapped their heads up as soon as they heard the door open. Likely not something that happens too much in chandelier store… although you never know it was by Fifth Ave. I said,
“I just want to walk and look at all the lights!”
The woman who works there (and maybe owns the store) said,
‘oh, yes! The energy. Go soak up the energy!’
So I did. I wandered through the store in a kind of reverie and soaked up the brilliant lights. My heart was so open and happy and… bright. As I walked back out the store and to the train I felt like I was exploding with some kind of ecstatic bliss, likely due to my (finally) exercising – hormones are real. And I remembered something my acting teacher said to us last weekend during an intensive workshop, ‘On the other side of anxiety is an ecstatic experience’.
I can definitely say that today, pushing through my anxiety and getting some exercise led to an ecstatic experience. It’s exciting to think that those of us with anxiety are blessed with bundles of energy primed for ecstasy.
I’ve been reading this book ‘Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha’ by Tara Brach. She is a clinical psychologist and a western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening. She shares simple meditations throughout the book that can be done in a few minutes. Last month I started doing one of them. In short, you sit in stillness and ask yourself ‘What does my heart truly long for?’. At first, you might come up with answers like ‘money’, ‘a partner’, ‘a house’. You keep at it though, asking yourself what does my heart truly long for? Eventually you hit on something, the true something of what you long for – hint: it isn’t usually material.
I realized what my heart truly longed for at that time was to open up to love, and feel love and connection with other people. Knowing that was powerful because it helped me understand my self more. I began to look at my day through the lens of wanting love and connection and figuring out how I could give it. Cause what I want more than anything is to open up to love and that means giving, giving, giving. Not just to others but to myself too. How can I give myself love?
That led to me creating a challenge for myself (of course) to celebrate the holidays in some way each day in December. What better time to connect with others than the holidays?! Originally it was to go to a holiday-themed event, get-together, or party each day, but in the vein of loving myself and enjoying myself, I realized that wasn’t exactly going to be practical. It’s day 21, the winter solstice, and so far I have indeed celebrated the holidays each day. A list of how I’m doing that below.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I have already seen some changes. I’m about to share just how weird I can be so if you’re still reading this, get ready. In the past, I’ve not wanted to hang out with my sister when she’s with her boyfriend or friends. I get too self-conscious and feeling like I need to take care of and balance everyone else’s emotional energies. It’s actually a little hard to explain and it’s definitely not rational, but my sister is super understanding about it. It’s also not exclusive to being with her. I generally find group dynamics a little stressful.
Then on December 7th, I went with my sister to the Frick museum. As I was getting ready to go I thought to myself, I wonder if her boyfriend will come that would be cool all three of us checking out the museum together. Then I had a holy shit moment. I had literally never EVER had that thought before. I believe that I was able to feel that way because in the six days prior to that I’d been going out and celebrating the holidays each day and opening the space around my heart more and more. He didn’t wind up joining us, but I was open to it.
As I open up more to love and loving myself, it’s a little painful to recognize how I haven’t done that in the past. To see how I rejected my own heart, and myself. It’s also extremely exciting and enlivening to see how powerful my love can be, now that I’ve decided to practice opening up to it.
DAY 2: Gathered with hundreds at the Annual Park Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony. They light trees all along Park Ave between 54th and 97th street as a symbol of peace and the people who fought and died in WWII to attain it. It was a night filled with caroling and families celebrating + praying.
DAY 3: Visited the Union Square holiday market, and worked a holiday party.
DAY 4: Went to the SAG-AFTRA holiday party and saw a bunch of friends there.
DAY 5: Visited my friend and a renowned figurative painter who has painted a couple of portraits of me. Drank wine and sat around her fireplace talking about the holidays.
DAY 6: Worked another holiday party, and sniffed some evergreen Christmas trees.
DAY 7: Went to First Friday at the Frick with my sister, we drew together and listened to a performance of live Christmas music.
DAY 8: Worked another holiday party.
DAY 9: Lunch with mom + she got me a Christmas wreath. Spent the evening with my friend Mara, we walked around lit trees in Thompkins square park, drank tea, and talked about the holidays (and other stuff ;-).
DAY 10: Bought a Christmas present for a family member.
DAY 11: My friend Benny invited me to his work Christmas party, he won a prize and we posed for photos with a polar bear.
DAY 12: Helped decorate a Christmas tree at a church with the Actors Episcopal Guild.
DAY 13: Worked my last holiday party.
DAY 14: Went to a holiday poetry reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe.
DAY 15: Checked out the gingerbread house at Madison Square Park.
DAY 16: Deep cleaned my apartment while listening to Christmas music on blast.
DAY 17: Went to a local cafe and drank hot apple cider, sitting by a decorated Christmas tree, reading a book about love.
DAY 18: Went to hear the New York City Opera perform live Christmas carols, and classical music at Bryant Park.
DAY 19: Watched a movie about Charles Dickens called ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’. At the end of the film they share that Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’ on Dec 19th many years ago. I didn’t realize that ahead of time, but I love synchronicity. I also had a session with a social media client in her apartment and got to see her beautiful Christmas tree.
DAY 20: Went to a cast + crew screening of EVENING NEWS, a film I acted in earlier this year. It was so beautiful to be among the people who helped make that film happen and listen to their reactions as they watched the film. 💛 It’s my holiday event for the day because it’s in the spirit of love, celebration, and creation.
I’m looking forward to continuing my December journey, and curious to see where opening my heart will lead me to next.
This week I drank my first cup of fancy Starbucks coffee ever. I have the metabolic disorder #Phenylketonuria (PKU), which makes it so that I can’t break down the amino acid Phenylalanine found in food high in protein, more on that here. This includes cow’s milk and is why I hadn’t tried any of those macchiato confections – because let’s be real they’re straight up sugar.
Besides, I’m not a big coffee drinker and wouldn’t want to drink straight black coffee. However a couple years ago Starbucks added Almond Milk and Coconut Milk as substitute options, both are MUCH lower in protein than cows milk and are PKU friendly.
Once I could try one of Starbucks’ fancy coffees I delayed it because on some level I was scared to. I had thought of Starbucks as something I couldn’t enjoy for so long I was in denial that it wasn’t so anymore. Now I understand what all the fuss is about.
I’ve been wanting to take my advocacy for PKU to the next level for a while but the idea of reaching out to a politician was a bit scary. What would I say? Would they even take me seriously?
Last week I emailed one of my Senators to ask if I could speak with her about sponsoring the Medical Nutrition Equity Act. The Act would provide public and private insurance coverage for physician prescribed medical foods – medical formulas (my PKU shake) and low protein modified foods for children and adults with PKU and other inborn errors of metabolism.
This is incredibly important because the medical formulas and foods ensure people with PKU, such as myself, are able to function at their full capacity instead of becoming mentally disabled. Without insurance the cost of these medical formulas and foods runs approximately $12,000- $15,000 per year.
Right now coverage differs state to state and many families with a loved one with PKU find it incredibly challenging to get the help they need.
Yesterday afternoon I got an email from a senior advisor to Senator Gillibrand and I will be speaking with the advisor about the act soon. I’m excited and a little intimidated but I’ll let you know how it goes!
I’ve wanted to try my hand at directing for a couple years, been curious about it, daydreamed about it, and even imagined accepting an Academy Award for doing it, but until two weeks ago I hadn’t made one yet. I came up with all the excuses for why not, but mainly it was because I was scared to get started.
Well, last month I was invited to take part in a film challenge called Film Force Five an independent project led by Jose Rodriguez (Director Documentary Programs at Tribeca Film Institute) and Timothy Noble. It was just the push I needed. Psyched the Universe threw this opportunity my way, I accepted and on May 2nd, 2017 I produced and directed my first short film, Working It Out!
Jose and Timothy sent five filmmakers (including me!) a short skeleton script containing only dialogue and asked us to interpret the genre, setting, character details, action and scene directions, etc. They requested we approach the script with unexpected direction and to feel free to be weird and original. We had one month to interpret the script, go through the pre-production process, and shoot and edit the film. It was intense, exactly what I needed to push through the fear, throw myself into action, and finally make a film.
Since we weren’t able to add any dialogue it forced me to concentrate on telling the story visually – which is what filmmaking is all about! Also, being weird in my interpretation of the script was fun. The script originally only had two characters in it, but I split one of the characters into two without changing the order of the dialogue. I’m grateful to the talented actors Anna Fikhman, Laura Riveros, and Andrew James Gordon who dove into the unusual script and had fun with it.
My DP/ Editor Benny Krown was also a great asset to have on set. Due to the tight pre-production and shooting schedule, we had to think fast and make changes on the fly. Benny knew what he was doing with the camera and that made ALL the difference. I was happily able to focus on rehearsing with the actors when I needed to.
The experienced Sound Mixer Ruben Morales was also invaluable to have on set! We had a spectacularly noisy park location with airplanes flying overhead and a drill going on somewhere nearby. Without Ruben, we would’ve been in trouble. Ryan Pattison was on board to help with sound and Sophia Rodriguez (my sister) wound up with a 1st AD credit because of how much she contributed on the day of. I originally just asked her to be the photographer so I’m grateful for her willingness to help.
I had always found it funny how Academy Award winners seem so shocked to be winning one. Don’t we all imagine winning one at some point and practice speeches in our heads? Yet to actually put our dreams into motion requires a shift of mentality that pushes the award-winning daydreams out of mind.
By the time I had finished shooting the film I was just so grateful it happened. That by some miracle, the actors came to set safely, the equipment worked, it didn’t rain, we finished filming in under eight hours, we got enough shots to make a film, we all got along, we made it happen.
Directing is fun beyond my wildest dreams. On set I literally jumped up and down with excitement when we got a great take. I loved balancing all the different elements of the production – sound, shot list, actors, scheduling, feeding everyone. I was in my element. That’s where the joy of creating lies – in taking action, making it happen, and teamwork. Take that, fear.
I learned a lot, gained experience, and created a fun short film that passes the Bechdel test (of course).