The first headline I saw this morning: 1 million Americans dead of COVID.

I’ve tried not to think about it all day. It goes along with the other catastrophic headlines that I want to ignore these days: More Casualties in Russia’s War on Ukraine; Roe v Wade to be Overturned; Brush Fires Destroys 20 Homes, Earliest Fire Season Yet.

I have little mental space to hold these doom and gloom headlines; I’m plenty dark without spending time reading the words beneath them.

But the one I’m really not thinking about is that unfathomable number: one million.

When my dad died almost two years ago of COVID, the national death toll was just over 125,000, an appalling number to me way back then. Then we hit 500,00, around the time of the inauguration and the subsequent coup attempt.

People said we’d never hit that number, and those were the rational ones, not the idiots muttering that it was no worse than the flu and the vaccines were products of deep state mind control.

We did hit that number. And we’ll surpass it today.

What I’m not thinking about, what I can’t bring myself to think about, is that a million other families felt the desperation of not being able to stop this terrible virus from taking their loved one.

I can’t bear to think about the children and adults who lost their mothers and fathers, grandparents and friends. I can’t stop and think about the nurses and doctors who quit their jobs, or died during this pandemic, or the ones who are still miraculously showing up to work every day.

I can’t think about the teachers and the parents and the bus drivers and the bank tellers and the pharmacists and the undertakers and everyone who had to, and still have to, find ways to bear this tremendous pandemic burden.

When I saw that headline this morning, I floated a little away from my body. I thought about my dad, the fact that I still haven’t had a real funeral for him, or better yet, the big fiesta I wanted to, with all the people and food and music he loved.

I can’t even think about that yet. Because it’s still not safe for us to gather. And I still don’t want to catch or spread this virus.

And sometimes, that is all I can think about lately.

Catching the Wind

If you know me well, you know my father. Maybe you called him Mr. Chagollan, or Sam’s dad, or Pa (like I did)—but he would tell you just to call him Manny.

He likely sat across from you at my dinner table, or tried to teach you how to swing dance at one of our parties, or bought you a drink and told you a story about what LA was really like back in the early 1950s.

He was so much a part of my life, so woven into my identity as a person, that I am not sure who I am now that he is not here anymore.

It’s now been four months since we lost him to COVID-19. At his virtual funeral service, I talked about how my Pa was my North Star. He was always so good at directions, like he had an inner GPS system that I could call on at any time, both literally and figuratively.

In the weeks after that service, I felt physically ill. I had a bout of vertigo, where if I turned too quickly to one side or the other, the horizon line would start bouncing and my sense of balance was completely gone. As if I had actually lost my center.

Then the wildfires started, and that enormous cloud of smoke drifted over this part of the world and just stayed there. Our usual coastal breezes couldn’t push it out. Waking up to dark skies and and orange sun for 6 days in a row kept me even gloomier. The headaches started. And the grief settled in.

Of course I have been affected by death before. I have lost friends and teachers, grandmothers and classmates, and most tragically, my beloved mother-in-law.

I remember when my Granny died, more than 20 years ago now. She and I were so close when I was a kid. If I try hard enough, I can still remember the nappy feel of her favorite blue cardigan sweater—the one with the brass buttons and the roomy front pockets. I can smell her lilac perfume, and the way her kitchen had a permanent, lingering aroma of freshly baked biscuits and fried onions.

She taught me how to drive, how to bake a flaky pie crust, and how to set a beautiful table. She had shamrock sheets on her bed, and her tiny mobile home was stuffed to the brim with knickknacks and Roger Whittaker records.

I loved her very, very much. And yet when she died, I didn’t feel a sense of overwhelming grief. She was what, 92? She had been sick before. My mom insisted I see her in hospice. I reluctantly agreed. Her eyes were closed, and I don’t think she even knew I was there. The only sound in the room was her rattling breath.

I would have rather kept the other, sweeter memories of her closer. And though I missed her when she was gone, I didn’t feel the same gaping grief that my mother did. I loved her, and she was gone.

With my dad though, it’s different. I know he’s gone—I was there when he died. But it’s like my mind doesn’t believe my brain. Like walking through the brand-new Whole Foods near his house that carries the kind of almond milk he liked. I even pulled out my phone as I walked out to my car to call him and let him know. Lists of random things I want to tell him follow me around like ghosts. We used to talk or text at least every few days. Now I find myself saving things up to tell him next time we talk until I realize—ah, that’s right. There will be no next time.

Normally, I am the kind of person who always has a million different things going at any given moment. I’m a born multi-tasker, or jack of all trades (master of none), depending on how you look at it.

Before this pandemic, I was doing all the things. Teaching yoga and meditation, six classes a week. Freelance writing for some corporate contracts, writing two interviews a month for a digital magazine, and taking on book and other freelance projects on the side. Plus taking care of my parents’ medical and financial affairs, volunteering when I could, trying to squeeze in time for friends and exercise, and oh yes, meditating daily and maybe doing some art sometimes or cleaning the kitchen.

As the pandemic began, of course things started falling away. And I welcomed it. I realized how good it felt to have a simplified schedule. How much more breathing room there was once the hustle was gone.

And then more things, more jobs, more tasks disappeared too. “This is great,” I told myself. The Universe is making it easy for me to finally rest.

And then my Pa died. And my body shut down. And I literally had no choice but to be still.

Lately I am prone to spontaneous weeping. As if something within has sprung a slow leak that I am unable to plug. In bed when I first wake up. Hearing a song he loved, or noticing that so many TV episodes and movies involve someone losing their father tragically. Reading the news about the never-ending spread of COVID.

I no longer find solace in yoga, the place I once went for soothing all of my pains. I’m not even teaching anymore. Now my only physical comfort is either in running, walking or cycling until I am exhausted. Or the opposite—total immobilization. I lay inert on the couch under my weighted blanket for hours at a time, binge-watching true crime and social justice documentaries.

I am certainly searching for justice in my own loss. For reason, for meaning. I can’t seem to reconcile the gap.

Yes, he was 89. I knew the end was coming. I just wasn’t ready. But I guess we never are.

I feel like a ship without a sail. Or maybe just without a wind. He was so much a part of me, so ingrained, that I rarely had to ask for his advice or direction anymore. He had already taught me so well. I knew he would agree with my choices, and support my decisions, would back me up no matter what.

He was always so sure I would be okay. More sure than I was.

But now that certainty has vanished along with him. Maybe it’s the quarantine, or the loss of work that has resulted in all the free time I so longed for before this. But I just don’t know what comes next. I don’t know what to do with myself.

Is this what grief feels like? Like the person you love has been taken out of every scene? I’m reminded of the opening titles of the TV show The Leftovers, where the empty silhouettes of those who are gone are like cookie cutter cutouts in every scene.  

So I go on my walks. Sometimes just a mile or two, down by the Santa Ana river trail by my house. Once I took a wrong turn and went for 8 miles. I came back dehydrated and limping, but I relished the pain. Another time I barely broke a sweat, but wept for the entire walk. I’m sure everyone who passed me on that tearful walk feared for my sanity.

Silently, I asked him for help. I told him how sad I was, how much I loved him, how I didn’t know what to do next. I asked him for a sign. Then I looked up, through my tears, and saw a huge bird—maybe a hawk, maybe a vulture—gliding on the late autumn breeze above me. He crossed above and in front, swooped around behind me, and circled again. Just floating, stretching his wings and seemingly gazing down on me. He followed me for a half a mile. Circling back and around again.

There you are, I thought. You’re still here after all.

What would he do with this grief? His own father died so young, at 56, when my dad was just 27. I think that must be part of what drove his joyful curiosity, his love of family gatherings, and his infamous tall tales. He wanted to soak it all up.

Maybe that is what he is trying to tell me, flying above and riding the wind. You just keep going. You live the most out of life. You love your family, you keep going, exploring, and learning. You catch the wind and let it carry you to the next place.

I think he would say, “That’s how life is, chula. Sometimes it’s hard, but sometimes it’s a lot of fun too.”

So I’ll keep walking, listening to the playlists with all the music he loved, leaning on my friends and my partner, and trusting that he taught me well enough to do this without him. Someday soon, this pandemic will dwindle, and we will have hugs from friends again, I can go visit my mom again, can host dinner parties and classes and go on vacations. I’ll catch the wind and let it take me somewhere new.

On Losing My Father

This is me, 4 weeks into losing my Pa to COVID-19. Has it really been a month since he died? I’m trying to crawl out of this little cave of grief I’ve created for myself in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s not easy. The little motivation I muster gets suffocated under this weighted blanket that has become my constant companion, even in the intolerable heat of late August.

Memories get mixed up with realizations of future experiences that now will never happen. I wish I could debrief with him about Obama’s speech at the DNC last week, which he would have raved about. That makes me remember election night in 2008, when he called me in joyful disbelief at the outcome. “I never, ever thought I would see this in my lifetime,” he said to me, and we both cried. He voted in every single election since he was 18.

In the haze of these last few weeks since I held his hand at his hospital bedside, so many questions pass through my mind like shape-shifting clouds. Why him? Why did COVID pneumonia make him so sick, when others recover? Why didn’t I demand they give him remdesivir, the drug that aided my mother’s COVID recovery? Could I have insisted, when they told me the drug was in extremely short supply now and they had to keep it for those who had a better chance of recovery? Did I say yes to palliative care too soon? Too late?

The questions my mind struggles with most are the adjustments to the finality of his absence. How is it possible that I will never hear him say my name again, hug me again, hear him give a Thanksgiving toast, spin me around the dance floor or tell me another story?

My brain can’t make sense of it. He was there when I took my first breath, and I was there when he took his last.

Two days earlier, they permitted me to see him to decide whether or not to move forward with palliative, or end of life, care. Because the memory care facility he lived in had been in lockdown since March, I hadn’t been able to see him outside of a video chat in more than 4 months.

The charge nurse helped suit me up in full PPE, and gave me stern instructions on how to remove it all safely on my way out. I have seen my dad in the hospital before, but this time was markedly different. He had a BiPAP mask on, and restraints so that he wouldn’t try to rip it off again. His legs were elevated because of the blood clots in his legs, and he was distraught and disoriented with the mask and all of the wires and monitors.

He didn’t recognize me at first, with the face shield and gown hiding my face and hair. But I started talking to him, and he got excited, trying to shout to me over the mouthpiece of the mask. I sat, and stroked his warm hand with my gloved thumb, trying to calm him down. The hospital’s speaker played some random mellow 70s tunes, while I nervously rambled about my husband, our dogs, and the Dodgers. We got my mom on video chat so she could see him, but she couldn’t stand it for very long.

I held his hand tightly and tried to memorize every inch of his face. I noticed the song playing was “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” I felt the tears sliding past the edges of my N95 mask, as the reality started to sink in that he was never coming back from this.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

I tried not to cry. I started to tell him about every family member who was sending their love, from his brothers to his nieces and nephews, and friends and loved ones everywhere. I spoke each of their names, and told him they loved him so much. He said, “I have the greatest family.”

We talked about my wedding day, when he walked me down the sandy aisle in Hawaii, how he almost cut off the circulation in my arm because he was gripping it so tightly, afraid to let me fall. We talked about dancing to one of his favorite banda songs at the party afterward. The music changed to “Strawberry Fields” and we talked about the playhouse he built me when I was 4, the strawberry pancakes he would make me on my birthdays as a little girl. The next song was “I Got You Babe,” and he told me I would always be his chula, “la luz de mi vida.”

Finally he said, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?” and I knew he was ready for me to go.

36 hours later, Matt and I both held his hands when they took the mask off and he took his final breaths. By then, he couldn’t speak anymore or open his eyes. So I just held on tight and told him over and over and over again, “I love you, I love you, I love you so much.” He was gone within ten minutes. It was as peaceful as I guess a passing can be, and it still shattered my heart.

I’ve never experienced a loss like this before. I have heard people say that grief comes in waves, and I guess that’s true. So does the anger, the regret, and the sweet memories.

Some of those waves have a fierce rip current that can really knock me down. There are days when I feel like I’m swimming along okay. And there are other days when I feel adrift.

That reminds me of the last time we took him to Hawaii with us, a few years ago. I was worried about him going into the waves for a swim, but he wasn’t. He charged right in there, fearless and laughing in delight when the water splashed up in his face.

I hope I can hold onto that part of him. That joyful courage that marked all of his days, as I navigate my own journey forward, without him.

Why We Focus on Fear

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of riding a bike. I have a somewhat irrational fear of flying over the handlebars and cracking my head open.

Now of course that is a real thing that could happen, but it’s never happened to me in the past. I was never one of the kids who rode their bike to school. I had a blue Schwinn beach cruiser, like so many other kids in my neighborhood, but I was only allowed to ride it on the sidewalk, around my cul-de-sac only, never crossing any streets. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? I think I inherited my irrational fear from my mother.

These days, I live less than a mile from the bike trail and I own two bikes: a cruiser and a hybrid. My husband is an avid road cyclist who has completed century rides and puts miles on his  bike two or three times a week. I would love to go with him sometimes, or to go on some cycling adventures when we travel. But I can’t keep up.

I’ve always been content to take a few rides a year, down to the beach or just along the trail. Truth be told, I usually wake up the next day with aching shoulders because I white-knuckled the handlebars the entire time.

When you’re focused on the fear

Recently a couple of my friends started riding with a women’s cycling group at The Unlikely Cyclist, a local women-owned bike shop whose mission is to get more women on bikes. My friends talked about how fun the group rides were, and what a great complement cycling is to yoga. They asked me to join them on a group ride.

“Oh no, not me!” I chuckled. “I could never do that. I have real bike fears!”

“Why?” asked my friend Jessy. She already told me she overcame her own biking trepidation when she lived in Thailand and had to ride her bike through literally life-endangering traffic to get anywhere. No big deal. “What scares you about it?” she asked.

Me: The traffic. Getting hit by a car. Changing gears. Downhill speeds. Somersaulting over the handlebars. Cracking my head open.

She (with kindness and not an ounce of judgement): You can’t focus on the fear. Focus on the good parts. What do you love about riding a bike? The sights, the sounds, the smells of being outside? That’s what I love.

I went home that night and pondered. Is it comforting somehow to focus on the fear rather than challenging it? Fear is a real and helpful thing: it’s what keeps us from stepping over the edge, touching the hot pan on the stove, or maxing out the credit card on a Nordstrom Rack shopping spree. (Oh, is that just me?)

Fear keeps us safe. But if unchecked, fear can keep us from experiencing some really awesome things. I think it’s easy to focus on the fear because it’s such an easily accessible emotion, tied to habits or inhibitions that go way back, like the blue cruiser rules of my childhood. But what if we looked that fear in the face and asked it to explain itself? Where does it come from, and is it valid?

I mean, danger is literally always around us. I could fall out of a headstand in yoga class and break my neck (literally) or have a severe allergic reaction to my food or get hit by a bus or ANY NUMBER OF HORRIBLE THINGS.

If I lived my life in a state of  fear and anxiety about what danger could befall me at any given moment, I could not actually live my life. Besides, just because it could happen, doesn’t mean it will.

And here’s the real truth: many of the bigger fears I have been holding on to and dreading my entire adult life have come to pass in the last year: my dad was diagnosed with dementia, I had to clear out and sell my childhood home, move both of my parents into assisted living facilities…it all happened. It’s still happening. I was always afraid of this stuff–I mean, it has tortured me from the back of my mind for years. I knew it would be painful and I knew I would have to deal with it.

Some of my worst fears came true, and some didn’t. There were surprises, good and bad. The thing is this: I had no control over 99% of what happened in the last year. I’m sure that’s true for whatever is coming in the years ahead too. I am not in control.

And that is exactly what fear is based in: the feeling of being out of control.

So how do you overcome fear?

One way to deal with fear, according to this MIT study, is to recognize that your brain can only focus on one main thing at a time. So an effective method of getting over a fear is to focus instead on what you CAN control.

Or as my friend Jessy suggested, focus on what you enjoy instead of what is freaking you out.

So I challenged myself to stop focusing on the fear. I joined the Beginners Group Ride and I wore my helmet and super-tight, padded shorts and I learned how to signal a turn and pump my brakes.

More important, I started redirecting my attention and focusing on the experiences I love when I ride my bike: seeing the moon rise on an evening ride, watching the sun set over the water of the back bay, feeling the breeze on my skin, meeting new friends and moving my body in a new way.

When I am on my bike, I bring in what I have learned from yoga: I breathe through the hard stuff and I tell myself that I am safe, even when I’m careening down a steep hill.

Because the reality is, I don’t know what’s coming around the bend, on the road or in my life. I might fall. But I can’t white knuckle it anymore. That’s no way to live.

Instead, I choose to jump in with both feet. Or in this case, both pedals. I also choose to limit the risks of my imminent demise by wearing a helmet and riding safely and responsibly.

So today I’m buying myself a road bike. Look out world, here comes another girl on the road. I’ll be aiming to keep a light grip on the handlebars.

Why we don’t say anything when there’s so much we could say

Let’s just get this out of the way—this is not a lighthearted, inspirational post. There’s plenty of that here in this space, but this ain’t it.

This is something I started writing almost a year ago, when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction and every day in the news we heard about some new “hero” being felled by claims of inappropriate behavior.

That’s what we call it, right? Because it’s more polite, it’s easier on the ears than calling it what it is: harassment, assault, degradation, molestation, rape.

We’d rather lump it all into one category and call it ‘inappropriate’ than to get specific.

Well, I’m gonna get specific. Because I’m all done with not saying anything. And I’m rankled by blamers and shamers who complain about not telling soon enough, or wanting justification for holding our stories close to us.

This is my story. Or part of it anyway. I didn’t say it before because I didn’t feel like adding my voice to the chorus. But now…I do. This is what I feel like saying right now.

It started a long time ago, I think. I grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales and happy endings. I bought into the Prince Charming theory wholeheartedly, and by 14, I was pretty sure I was going to meet him any day. But even at 14, I had already learned to be careful with boys, let alone men.

I had been followed around by the kid who lived next door for a few years by then. He was a big, tall kid whose only friend was the school janitor. Whenever he’d see me in the common area at school, he’d tail me to wherever I was going. Once, he came up behind me and slammed me into a locker, whispering, “I’ll get you, you bitch.” I kicked up my heel and caught him in the balls and he left me alone after that.

At 14, my best friend was a guy who was often my defender and confidante, but also memorably told me I’d never get a boyfriend if I didn’t lose some weight. He was already having sex, sometimes with other girls who were my friends, and they were all ostensibly thinner and prettier than me. I definitely didn’t fit into the norm in my school, and I guess he was just letting me know–don’t expect too much looking like that.

At 14, a family member I considered a brother molested me, while telling me repeatedly that he was in love with me and we were meant to be together. He was 17 years older than me, and married. It started off innocently enough, with him saying I was so pretty, and asking what was wrong with the boys at my school and why didn’t I have a boyfriend because who could resist me? Once he grabbed my ass. Once he kissed me on the lips. Warning bells went off but I told myself I was being ridiculous and I truly believed he would never hurt me. Until he did. Even after I talked him out of raping me, the next day he grabbed me and shoved his tongue in my mouth. I tried to beg off family gatherings after that, but there was one party where he tracked me down and shoved me up against the kitchen wall. He grabbed my shoulders and asked, “Why are you being such a bitch to me?” As if the whole thing never happened. But it did.

Years later, when I told my family what happened, I was deemed a liar. I was told his side of the story was that I had tried to seduce him. That I had asked for it. At 14. Which I guess in the eyes of some family members, meant I deserved it. The most common question from family members was, “Why didn’t you ever say something before?” as if that somehow meant that because I didn’t speak up at 14, I was making it up. He said I asked for it, but he also said nothing happened. The reason I came forward was because I agreed to testify against him in his trial. He had been arrested for raping his daughter. She was 5.

At 15 and 16, my body started to develop and I finally got the attention of some of the cute boys in school I was interested in. They used to ask me if I could touch my elbows behind my back, or they would knock my pencil out of my hand and then watch me bend over to pick it up so they could look down my shirt. I laughed right along with them, even after I caught on to the joke. It felt good to have them notice me.

As a grown woman, I have been ogled, catcalled and groped in public. It has been fairly common for me to have to redirect a man’s attention, even in the boardroom, back up to my eyes to break his unwavering stare at my cleavage. At one corporate job, my male boss (and former mentor) screamed at me about my incompetence until I cried and then he told me I was trying to manipulate him by crying. He once said to me, “I guess you hurt the ones you love the most” as a form of what I suppose he considered to be an apology for his ‘inappropriate’ behavior. In many executive meetings, I have been called “sweetie” and “honey” in front of an entire room and have had everything from rate discrepancies to profit margins man-splained to me.

And that’s not all of it. Of course, there is more to my story. But it’s enough, don’t you think? And that’s not even considering the experiences of my female friends, and colleagues, and family members. It seems every woman I know has some version of this story. Any of it, all of it, is enough.

Maybe it’s because of what’s been happening in the news lately, when each day reveals another man we held up has crossed the line, but I have noticed how often older men feel comfortable getting in my physical space. Cutting in front of me in line, cutting me off in traffic, or practically stepping on me to get where they’re going, as if I don’t even exist in the space they are trying to inhabit. I have no patience for it anymore.

We have to do better than this. We have to teach our young men not just to respect their female counterparts, but to speak up when they see that others are not. Yes, we also need to teach our young women to respect and defend themselves too, and that it’s never funny when the joke is on you—so you don’t have to laugh along.

I suppose what gives me hope is that I have been fortunate to also have so many good men surrounding me in my life, especially my incredible husband. He was raised by a strong woman who taught him so much about respect. Because of him, I know it’s possible for men not to just claim what they want and assume it’s theirs for the taking. I live with a considerate, respectful and deliberate man who is just as outraged about all of this as me.

I guess that’s my happy ending. And I’m more than grateful for it. But I’m still pissed off that it took all of that other bullshit to get me here.

So why don’t we say anything when we could say so much? I can only speak for myself. I’ve said some of this to some people, over the years. I’ve told my story when it felt right for me to tell it. Not to damage someone else’s reputation or create drama. But because what happened had real consequences, for me and for my life. I hope somehow it gives someone else comfort, or pause, or cause for contemplation.

I am the writer of my own story, and I choose when and where to share it. There is certainly good intertwined with the bad; lessons learned all mixed up with fear and and anger and sadness. Let’s give space to those who want to talk, and respect to those who don’t. There is room for everyone’s stories, all in good time.

Why Curiosity Matters

Why Curiosity Matters

Picture of a bridgeToday marks three years since I resigned from my corporate job. I had no plan. No other job lined up, no exotic vacation planned, no lottery winnings to cushion my leap. But I was disruptively curious. Why did I no longer have the energy or desire to do anything creative anymore? Why was I so miserable if I had everything I should want? My Curiosity would keep me awake at night, with questions like “Is this really what I’m meant to be doing?” “Isn’t there more than this?”

Don’t get me wrong. I was truly grateful for all of the prosperity I had. But that’s not what this is about. It’s not about “crushing it” or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about the potential consequences of ignoring your Curiosity. Of blocking out that inner questioning whisper that keeps asking you…are you sure you are okay with this?

I had recently read both The Gifts of Imperfection and Big Magic, and the issues of choosing curiosity over comfort or fear kept coming up for me. And finally the inner whisper of Curiosity became more like a persistent directive, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So I did it. I resigned from the safety and security of a comfortable office job, and I cracked open the vault of my life savings. I took some time off, and I reconnected to all of the curious creative desires I had been neglecting. I painted, I traveled, I spent long afternoons in the park. I tried to let Curiosity lead me wherever it wanted to go.

Trying new things became my new job. New museums, new restaurants, new hobbies. I fed my Curiosity a daily diet of “never done this before, let’s try it.” I even started this blog, to chronicle my adventures and see what would happen.

Slowly, very slowly, I started to remember who I was. I felt the dense fog of not listening lift and some of the lightness return.

And now, three years later, I have a thriving business I created myself and I get to make and do a ton of really cool and creative things.

I'm making space for the unknown future

But as my calendar has started to get crowded again, with client appointments and meetings and classes and you know…time to do the actual WORK, the fun and creative time gets pushed aside.

Yes, I still calendar all of my creative stuff too, like crafty classes or artist’s dates with myself. And I know how important it is! But I’m going to be honest here: if a client calls, those creativity times are the first appointments to get bumped. When you’re a small business, your livelihood tends to take precedence over any and everything else.

Why do we stop listening to Curiosity? Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s that we’re just too damned comfortable right where we are.

But here’s why Curiosity matters: if I’m not following my Curiosity, my creativity suffers. My Curiosity is what opens me up, lets me play, experiment, and find joy. It’s like a beautiful flowering plant. If I don’t water and feed it occasionally, it withers away.

And I’ve already killed enough plants, so I’m not letting this one die.

I owe a lot to my Curiosity. These are just some of the adventures I never would have taken if I wasn’t following my Curiosity:

  1. Started my business, Purple Ink Creative
  2. Traveled to NYC solo
  3. Attended Craftcation (and made a ton of cool crafts and crafty friends)
  4. Became a yogi and then a yoga teacher
  5. Taken classes on kayaking, soldering metal and Reiki
  6. Learned to love papaya (work in progress)

Clearly, my Curiosity has led me to some exciting and amazing places. And my business depends on my creativity. I can’t serve my clients well if my creative juices aren’t flowing at full capacity. Plus–a happy me is a creative me. So on this third anniversary of my own Independence Day, I’m reminded that I need to pay some attention to my Curiosity.

How can we choose Curiosity over fear or comfort?

  1. Listen Up

    Start listening to that inner whisper when it says “is this really okay for you?” or “don’t you miss being creative?” or “hey, that looks fun, try it out!” PS: If you’ve been ignoring that voice for a long time, it’s going to take some practice to start tuning in again. Just start by noticing when it comes up for you. It might be more often than you think.

  2. Ask Questions

    When you say no to something automatically, PAUSE. Ask yourself why. Be curious. Can you say yes instead? Why don’t you want to do it? Maybe, just maybe, try on what it feels like to say yes instead.

  3. List It

    Make a list of all the things you have ever wanted to try. Make another list of things you have no interest in EVER doing and then ask yourself what it is about those things that make you avoid them. Maybe you’ll move some over to the “TRY” list. I’m a big list maker, but even if lists aren’t your thing, try it. It’s a great, quick way to organize your thoughts. (Maybe it’s the first new thing you can try!)

  4. Leap & Learn

    Now you just need to actually DO. Be brave! Start small! Try a vegetable you’ve never liked. Check out a new restaurant, book store or morning walk route. Read a new book, listen to a new podcast, sign up for a new class. Take note how it feels. Are you pulled towards something? Explore that more.

  5. Ignore the Resistance

    Remember that pesky Resistance? It’s going to tell you that you’re being silly, irresponsible, ridiculous, etc. Thank it for the warning, and let it go. Get back to your work of being curious.

Bonus points if you keep a journal during this curious time and document for yourself how it feels to try new stuff. I promise you will enjoy looking back on your journey. And it will help remind you when you occasionally lose that sense of joyful Curiosity how important it is to go and find it again. And please come back here and tell me how it goes. I’m so curious!

What Resistance Feels Like

Have you ever listened to what your inner critic actually says to you on the daily?

Mine says stuff like, “Wow, you’re really terrible at that.” “What makes you think you can do this?” “Who do you think you are?”

It’s now week 4 of my 200-hour yoga teacher training. When we started a few weeks ago, one of my wise teachers (the indomitable Colleen Hieber) asked us all to think about what resistance looks like. We had to write down an answer to this question: “What stops me from completing what I want to do?”

Now we’re a month in and last week I got a peek at that Resistance first-hand. I’m fairly comfortable and confident in my practice at this point. I’m not an expert or an advanced student, but I no longer doubt myself much in class anymore. I know my limitations and my strengths.

But learning to teach others how to do yoga, specifically how to cue them to bend themselves into these shapes with Sanskrit names, is a WHOLE other ball of wax.

My mind goes completely blank. I know the pose, but I don’t know how to tell you to make it with your own body.

And then my mind starts sounding off with some pretty harsh reprimands, such as “I can’t do this.” “I’m no good at this.” “How come I’m not getting it?”

Then I move on to the justifications: “I don’t really need to teach. I’m not even sure I want to teach. I don’t need to do this.”

Ah, Resistance.

I realized this week that I may have a particularly vocal Resistance that is speaking up because it’s not used to being poked too much. It kind of gets to run the show in my life.

As a freelancer/small business person, I don’t do things I’m no good at. I do the jobs I want to do, and typically I accept those jobs and get excited about them because I’m pretty sure I’m going to do an awesome job at them.

Sure, I stretch myself and learn new skills from time to time, but on my own terms. I don’t have a boss assigning me a new project I have no choice but to complete. I don’t answer to shareholders who want to move in a new direction. I do the work I want to do, for the most part, on my own terms.

So I was feeling pretty crappy about my progress in teacher training, but I drug myself to my favorite Monday morning yoga class with Colleen, still brooding a bit about my sucky teaching skills.

We got to the part of class where we do handstand drills. In fact, that day, she challenged us to do one-minute holds. And it was hard, but I did it. Then she says to us, “Remember when you first started coming to my class and you couldn’t do a handstand? Now you can hold it for a minute. Can you appreciate that transformation?”

Aha! Lightbulb moment. Because I remember exactly how I felt two years ago in her class, thinking, “Handstands, is she crazy?!” The first time, I don’t even think I tried to do one.

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demans your whole being.

My Resistance said, “You’re too old.” “You’re too weak.” “You’re too fat.” “You could never stand on your hands.”

That voice was strong. I believed it 100%. But the rebel in me wanted to try anyway. At first, I would kick as hard as I could, and THUD, hit the wall behind me, if I could even kick up at all. Then one class Colleen asked us “Have you noticed what you’re saying to yourself as you try to kick up? Can you change that dialog?”

It’s amazing how when you tell yourself you can’t do a thing, you then in fact, actually can’t do it. You prove yourself right. And the cycle perpetuates.

So I changed that conversation. I would say to myself instead, “I am light. I am light. I am light.” Over and over again, and that was the only thought I allowed in my brain while any type of inversion was being attempted. I meant it in both the divine and physical ways.

And I stopped arguing with my Resistance. I told it instead, “I hear you. I might really suck at this. I might fail. But I’m going to try anyway.”

I remember my sense of utter delight and wonder when I actually got upside down.

Cut back to what I wrote that day when asked how my Resistance shows up for me and what stops me from finishing something I want to do. I said:

  • I think it’s too hard and I can’t do it.
  • I check out when I feel like I’m not doing something really well.
  • I get overwhelmed and my energy drains.

Check, check, and check. Thanks for coming to yoga teacher training with me, Resistance. Glad to see you made yourself comfortable.

How to handle the Resistance

Sound familiar? If so, here’s what I plan to say to myself next time this happens. Maybe you can try it too.

Here’s the deal, Resistance. I understand you just want to protect me. You don’t want to see me fail and my ego get crushed. But you know what? My Curiosity is in charge for awhile. We’re going to try a few things that are going to make you uncomfortable. Everything will be okay, I promise.

Because whether it’s standing on my hands or figuring out how to explain Downward-Facing Dog (that’s Ardho Mukha Svanasana to me) to a beginner, I want to try to learn something new.

Let’s see what happens now. I’ll keep you posted. For more on my yoga journey, check out when I fell in love and the decision to start teacher training.

P.S. Part of the reason I recognized Resistance is that I just finished reading The Big Leap, which is all about how you have an Upper Limit Problem you don’t even realize. It’s definitely worth a read.

musings of a yoga teacher trainee

musings of a yoga teacher trainee

Being enlightened means as you wake up more and more, you become sensitive to the world around you and within you…Waking up to the world, feeling yourself as only a part of it, and loving the interpenetrating parts that make up all of life is the goal and gradual fruition of spiritual practice. —Michael Stone, Yoga for a World out of Balance

When I started this blog almost three years ago, I promised I would take you with me on my newest adventure: leaving my corporate job and seeing what happens next. I had no plan, no safety net…just a little bit of savings and a desperate desire to find my way back to a more creative life.

Since then I’ve shared some of my travels, the creative classes I’ve taken to get my mojo back, and talked about what it takes to start your own freelancing business.

Then I got so busy with said business that I forgot to stop and chronicle some of these adventures.

I’ve also talked about my growing love for yoga, and that has led me to a new adventure: I’m training to become a yoga teacher.

Now before you roll your eyes and wonder if it’s possible for a person to check every box on the cliché checklist, let me tell you: I’m not sure yet if I actually want to teach.

And I am still 100% committed to my business as an author and marketing consultant.

But I love this thing called yoga so much that I want to learn more. Every time I learn something new about it, I crave more. For the last couple of years, I have been going beyond my usual weekly classes to seek out more information in workshops and other forums. I’ve studied Reiki and inversions and yoga philosophy–but I’ve really only scratched the surface. There is SO much more out there to learn.

So I committed myself to 14 weeks of training, which will ultimately lead to a 200-hour yoga teacher certification with the Yoga Alliance.

I am learning sanskrit. And anatomy. And all about chakras and ayurvedic principles, how to cue poses and read the room and look for misalignments.

It is a LOT of information. I come home tired and excited and overwhelmed and did I mention tired?

I don’t know where this is leading. But I know I love the journey.

It was not an easy decision to make. It’s a significant investment, both in time and money. At first, the pragmatic side of me could not wrap my head around it. “But why would I do this?” I asked my teacher. “I can’t come up with a practical reason.” She laughed and said, “Because it will change your life.”

Ultimately, I made the commitment because it’s what my gut (and my curiosity) told me to do. The timing was right, I adore my studio and the teachers who are running the program, and it just felt like the right path for me to follow.

We have started our studies with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and this is one of my favorite quotes so far:

If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude towards them does that. —Sri Swami Stachidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

So I choose to be liberated. To build the life I want to live. As my studies continue over the next few months, I know there will be revelations and breakdowns and breakthroughs. When I have a moment to stop and reflect, I promise to keep you posted.


How to get yourself out of a tailspin

The room went eerily silent, and 24 pairs of eyeballs were pointed at me. Anticipation was hanging thick in the air like a humid summer day.

A few months ago, I did my first official reading of my bilingual book for kids, Enchanted Forest. I was delighted to be asked to do a reading and signing at the Children’s Museum in La Habra.

I was so excited about it, that I fretted in the weeks leading up to the date. How would I read it? Would the audience be expecting me to read my story in Spanish too? What if the kids don’t like it? WOULD ANYONE EVEN BE THERE? If an author reads a story in an empty children’s museum and there’s no one there to hear it, does it still exist?

So I did what any former actor would do: I rehearsed the daylights out of it. I read the story aloud to myself, and to the captive audience I have at home. I watched YouTube videos about author readings and I saw how others did it, which incited a whole OTHER list of questions. Should I have a PowerPoint? (Do kids really need a PowerPoint presentation to hear a story?!) Should I have some music? What should I wear–a dress (this is what an author looks like, kids), jeans (I’m cool and casual, see?), a costume (woohoo! I’m a creative type!!)

That’s just the reading. Then there’s the signing part. Do I have enough books? How many is too many to bring? But I don’t want to run out. Do I have a good Sharpie–one that’s not flattened out and all dry and flaky? How will I carry my stuff into the venue? I need one of those rolly cart thingys to lug all my author stuff around…

We are talking #nextlevel anxiety here. I was working myself into a tailspin about one little reading. That I volunteered to do.

And I was really, truly excited to do the reading! I just wanted it to be perfect.

But at one point, I had a moment of clarity and realized what I was doing to myself. I was trying to control the outcome of something I had absolutely no control over.

I started thinking about ALL the things I do this with. Ever since last year’s election, there has been a cloud of uncertainty and anxiety following me around like a curse. I don’t think about it every minute of every day, but I do listen to podcasts and read news stories every day that have me seriously fretting about the future of our country and the world.

Add to that the other stuff that’s swirling around in my head all.the.time., like my biz goals, work for my clients, traffic on the 405, new story ideas, the grocery list for next week, healthy meal prep, yoga inversion poses that challenge me, finding decent gluten free pasta, and on and on. And all the things I forget to remember, like shutting the freezer door all the way, replenishing the dogs’ biscuit supply and setting up lunch with that friend I said I would call three weeks ago.

I know you all have the same list of a thousand things running through your brain all the time. Don’t you?

Well, I’m calling it. IT’S TOO MUCH.

Some of that stuff I can control, but some of it (most of it), I absolutely cannot. And even if I could, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

Case in point: here’s what happened at my reading.

I did not leave 45 minutes early, as planned. Traffic stunk. I got there just barely on time to an empty room.

I took some deep breaths.

The room started to fill up. Slowly at first, and then in little rushes. It wasn’t a full house but there were at least 20 people there. Kids and parents and grandparents…it was kind of awesome.

I took a few more deep breaths, and then I just jumped in. I read my story and to my delight and surprise, no one threw any rotten tomatoes or insults at me. In fact, I think they kinda liked it. A few of them even wanted to buy my book and take a picture with me. Pretty cool.

So as I drove home, I started thinking about what I could do in the future when I get myself into one of these anxious tailspins, and I came up with these three keys. I sure could have used them before this reading, but I think they actually can be used for anything.


  1. Lower the stakes and narrow the scope.

    Dial back the drama already. Ask yourself, “If this thing doesn’t turn out the way I want, what is actually going to happen?” No doubt the world will NOT end, your life will not be over, and your life’s purpose will emerge unscathed. So lighten up a bit, will ya?

  2. Define your intention.

    If you don’t know already, ask yourself why you’re doing this thing. What do you want to get out of it? When you’re done, how do you want to feel?

  3. Crack a smile.

    Try to have a little fun. Whether you’re reading a book in front of a bunch of toddlers, or speaking to a crowd of a thousand, nothing is THAT serious. Think of something that makes you laugh, or find a little humor in the situation. Seriously, it’s not that serious.

Got it? Good. Now take a breath and go conquer the world. And PS, I’m happy to report I have since done many public reading and signings for both Enchanted Forest and my next book, Enchanted Castle, and somehow the kids always show up and seem to enjoy it. Imagine that!


Things I Had To Unlearn


When I took the leap from corporate to freelance work a few years ago, I was both frightened and empowered. I knew I had gained some valuable knowledge and skills in my corporate job, and I was confident I could provide valuable assistance to other businesses.

But I didn’t realize I needed to UNtrain myself in order to be a successful consultant.

My approach, my mindset, and my attitude all needed some serious adjustments, and it took me awhile to figure that out.

So if you’re thinking about taking the leap from corporate to freelance, here are some ways you can shift your mindset before you take the jump.

  1. Multi-tasking is Masochism

    In the corporate world, everyone seems to have this in common: too many projects, too many meetings, not enough budget. Am I right? So we end up hiring candidates who are multi-tasking warriors. We even ask them about this specific skill when we interview them: “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple projects on a tight deadline, and how you handled that.” Sound familiar?

    Chagollan_Samantha_multitaskingMulti-tasking can (and has to!) work on a corporate team, where different team members are assigned to various projects, and a manager keeps everyone on task and on-time.

    But when you’re a freelance consultant, you are team member, manager, and project manager all in one! And if you try to multi-task different client work, you will end up disappointing your clients and wanting to throw your laptop out the window.

    You have to take each client, each client project, ONE at a time. I use my Google calendar to schedule out EVERYthing, from client work to workouts. And I know myself well enough now to know that my sweet spot is taking on one to three client projects in a week. And when I block out time for a project, I only work on THAT project during that block of time, and nothing else.

    Because–here’s the beauty of freelancing–I can hang up my Do Not Disturb sign. My boss isn’t calling. My team isn’t knocking on my door. I am truly in control of my time, so I make sure to devote my full and complete attention to each project, and I do my best not to get distracted.

    PS: Do yourself a favor and schedule some free time in-between those project blocks too. A 5-minute Vitamin D break or a 15-minute walk around the block ensures you’re ready to give your whole mind and focus to the next project too.

  2. It’s All About Me. No, Really.

    At my last job, I managed a team, so I was always talking about what “we” accomplished or achieved together. It was so ingrained in my vernacular, actually, that a recruiter for another corporate job I was considering before I decided to freelance called me out on it. “Your resumé is great,” she said. “But who is the ‘we’ you keep mentioning? I need to know what YOU personally contributed and achieved.”

    As a freelance consultant, humility is NOT a virtue. I had to get comfortable talking about the knowledge I have, the praise I have garnered, the skills I have that make me unique and knowledgeable.

    I had to learn how to toot my own horn. Not in an arrogant or boastful way, but with a confident certainty that helps my potential clients realize that what I have to offer is what they need. Every initial client consultation is a job interview. So you’d better be ready, and shelve that humility for a bit.

  3. A Little More Flow, A Little Less Hustle

    In corporate land, you often don’t have much say in which projects you work on. Most assignments are given to you–by your boss, your boss’s boss, etc.

    As a freelance consultant, you have the freedom to choose whatever projects and clients you want to work on. Awesome, right?!

    But there is a common problem for many of us freelancers: feast or famine. Meaning, oddly enough, one month clients are knocking down your door like crazy, and the next you are knocking on THEIRS begging for work.

    I don’t know why those flurries occur (cosmic energy? quarterly budgets?) but I can attest to their absolute existence.

    So as a freelance consultant, you have to come up with your own ways to ride out the waves, because there’s no big boss to come hand you your next gig.

    Here’s what I’ve learned: I schedule my hustle into my flow. When client work is leaner, I start to schedule in time for networking events, polishing up my social media game, and learning new skills. Yes, I put those things on my calendar too.

    And you know what inevitably happens when I start connecting and learning? I meet new clients. I learn new stuff to attract new clients. And my regular clients start calling again too.

    The key is not to panic–or park yourself on the couch to Netflix for a solid week either. Keep doing your work, and the tide will come back in.

  4. Make YES Your Favorite Word

    Just Say YesSo often in my corporate job, I had to find ways to tactfully say no. There wasn’t enough time, or budget, or resources to do some of the projects I really wanted to do. Of course there were some I was happy to say no to also.

    Now that my time is my own, I try to say yes as much as I can. Time is still money, so I can’t say yes to everything. But when I am approached to volunteer for an organization I admire, or to attend a new event or networking group, or even to have a conversation with a head hunter when I’m not in the market for another corporate job–I say YES. Because you never know whom you might meet, or what connections you might make that lead to the start of something wonderful.

    I still listen to my gut and if it doesn’t make sense for me, I will politely decline. But I really like to say yes now, because I can. And it feels so much better than always saying no.



For more on making the making the leap from corporate to freelance work, see my post on the 5 tools you need to know about, and what it really means to work from home.

And if you need some help with marketing, writing, or editorial, come on over and see me at Purple Ink Creative, I’d love to help!