Episode #49 - Jim and Cindy (Part 2)

In part 2 In this week’s episode we wrap up last week's conversation with Jim and Cindy Wigdahl. Jim and Cindy have been friends for over 30 years, but have only been married for 4 or 5 years. Their story is amazing and sad and full of hope all at the same time. It will open your heart. I hope you love it.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • Not trying to change each other.
  • Be a good listener.
  • The power of male friendships
  • Don't allow yourself to be drawn to a person who is exactly like you
  • Love yourself first
  • Being ok not having all the answers, and instead being a questioner
  • How losing your spouse changes your perspective of life
  • Loneliness
  • How do you know in 2 months that you were supposed to get married?
  • "I'm happy to be stuck with you." When you're single, if you don't like something, you just leave and find something else that you prefer.

[jbox title="Show Notes:" border="5" radius="15"] If you love the smooth and sultry sounds of Jim's voice, you can check out his voice talent website <a href="jimwigdahl.com" target="_blank">here</a>. Leave your thoughts about this interview in the comments!

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How I Cultivated Self-love with Vulnerability and Comedy

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I just wrapped up my 28th year on planet Earth and my first year as an aspiring comedian. With immense gratitude I can honestly say without a doubt it was the best year of my life (so far). Not every part of it was happiness and bliss. Some of my darkest days also occurred in that same year but the bright light of the good days erased the shadows. The keys to this breakout year for me was embracing vulnerability, exploring my inner-goofball, and willing to love my authentic self. I’ve always had an inner-goofball but I suppressed it for most of my life. I can’t say I had the happiest childhood despite growing up in Naperville, a place that paints the illusion of blissful upper-middle class suburbia. As an unhappy child who was told by the media, my church, my school, my friends, and my parents that I should be happy, I felt the need to hide my misery. I carried a lot of shame because part of me bought the narrative that having plenty of material things should have made me happy. Out of fear of not wanting people to see my unhappiness I rarely displayed any emotion at all. It became an ingrained defense mechanism. When I was torn up inside, I looked neutral. When I was ecstatic and beaming on the inside, I looked like an emotionless android from Blade Runner. It took me almost three decades to finally release my inner-goofball and pave the road towards becoming a comedian.

This journey of becoming my authentic self began a couple years ago after reading Brené Brown’s incredibly successful book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead." The book was recommended to me by Loveumentary Contributor, Amber Rae. Brené’s research describes the power of vulnerability. She teaches that vulnerability is actually a strength, not a weakness. The title “Daring Greatly” comes from a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that inspired Brené. His famous “Man in the Arena” speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I get chills every time I read this quote. Critics can destroy you. Whether they are random strangers or peers, they can be vicious. Sometimes we are our own worst critic. When we are vulnerable and we allow the venom of unqualified critics into our psyche, we feel massive shame. This shame is what keeps us from wanting to be vulnerable. Brené says shame is, “the fear of disconnection”. Why should we fear disconnection from people we are not connected to? In Brown’s talk at the 99u Conference last year she said, “If you aren’t in the arena getting your ass kicked with me, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

After internalizing and embracing the strength that can come from vulnerability, it was time to practice what I started preaching and do something I'd always wanted to do... I decided to take a risk and give live comedy a shot.

In the spring of 2013 I began to seek out venues to perform a comedy bit I had been thinking about for a while. My idea was to talk about how Chipotle Mexican Grill could save the world from this terrible condition called Chipotle Deficiency Syndrome (CDS). CDS is responsible for practically every problem the world faces and if there were enough Chipotles across the globe, we would have a happy and peaceful planet. I applied to speak at Ignite Chicago. Within a few weeks of applying, I received notice that I was accepted. I would perform a 5 minute TED talk parody at Chicago’s coolest venue, the tech hub known as 1871. My talk was going to take place on my 28th birthday. I thought of this as the best present I could give to myself.

Too many times I had terrorized myself by imagining what it would feel like to be on stage, alone, trying to make people laugh. Public performances of any kind make most people frightened, but in my mind, live comedy takes it to a whole different level. I can’t imagine anything more awkward than trying to be funny on stage and absolutely bombing. Performing at Ignite Chicago was supposed to be a one-and-done, scratch-it-off-my-bucket-list event. The problem is, it went really well. I dared greatly. I entered the arena. I didn’t get my ass kicked. I kicked ass. My comfort zone expanded to levels I never thought possible. The rush I experienced after performing was something I will never forget. It’s the type of high that hooks people to come back for more. Satisfying my appetite for the comedic high wasn’t going to be easy. I had to be willing to be vulnerable again and put myself at risk to possible unwarranted shame. This time I was going to try a different form of comedy. It was now time for me to enter the improv arena.

In January of this year I participated in Fear Experiment. For 3 months, me and 16 other amateurs studied improv and then performed in front of 600 people at Park West, in Lincoln Park. Prior to starting our classes, I was terrified. I thought of improv as the ability to constantly be super witty at all times. My improv teacher Pete Aiello cooled my nerves a bit at the beginning of our first class when he said improv isn’t about trying to be funny. It’s about being in the moment and learning not to judge yourself. It’s about saying “Yes and”. No matter what you say is happening, you go with it. Even if it seems totally ridiculous, don’t judge it, just own it. The most important rule is, “If it feels stupid, do it harder.”

Suddenly I wasn’t scared of improv, at least while I was performing in class. I had permission to do whatever I want, to not be judged for it, and I could never be wrong. As weeks of improv class went by, I noticed that the improv mentality of not judging myself and being in the moment had spilled over into the rest of my life. I was having better conversations with people. I was less afraid to speak my mind in the face of controversy and I generally became more playful. I really started to enjoy this new side of me.

As the countdown to our big day came closer, I was still a little bit intimidated by the fact that I was going to be on stage in front of hundreds of people. Before I started Fear Experiment, I felt that the big show would be one of the most important days of my life. It would be a launching point for me to not be a different person, but to be the person I have always kept hidden. A big part of me was not happy with who I was and have been disappointed that I had not been my authentic self. It is often said, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else, and I want to be happily married with kids someday. In the few weeks before the show, I began to think of the big show as a wedding. There is a ton of preparation before the big day, including a rehearsal. Friends and family were going to be there to watch all of us have the time of our lives. This was going to be a wedding to myself. I feel partially embarrassed to say that because it sounds super cheesy, but screw it, I’m willing to be vulnerable!

When the big show arrived, I was pumped. I had never been so excited in my life. Being on stage with a huge audience staring at me with stage lights shining down didn’t phase me a bit. Each time we went off stage I couldn’t wait to go back on for our next segment. It was such a bizarre feeling. Less than a year before that, I was dreading being on stage and now I felt it was going to be hard to get me to leave. My wedding day didn’t end with an “I do” or big kiss, but an “I am”. I am me and no one else. The whole experience was without a doubt the greatest moment of my life (so far).

As months have passed since Fear Experiment ended, I’ve continued taking more improv classes and even experimented with a new form of comedy. I began writing Onion-style satirical articles. On the last day before I turned 29-years-old, I had my first piece published at the Libertarian Republic. I sent my publisher a short bio to include at the bottom of my article, which read:

“Ryan Lazarus is an entrepreneur, future Oscar/Emmy winner, writer, and a great connector of people, ideas, and talent. A libertarian. Chipotletarian. Comedian?”

My publisher dropped the “?” and left “Comedian.” I’m no Louis CK but I feel like I can actually call myself a comedian now. You don’t have to be Elton John to call yourself a musician or be Bobby Flay to call yourself a chef. If Carlos Mencia can call himself a comedian, so can I.

My article did better than I expected. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my year of comedy. After such an amazing year I couldn’t be more grateful. So many people have helped me, encouraged me, and inspired me to pursue my passion. I take nothing for granted. Having an attitude of gratitude has allowed me to fully appreciate how good life can be and how many wonderful people are now in my life.

A year or two ago I would have been terrified to write this piece, let alone share it on the Internet where an infinite amount of eyes have the potential to see it. That was the old me, or actually, the lesser version of me. I’m now my authentic self and I love that. I’m now seeking a woman who also loves herself and who can love me back. No more waiting. I’m ready for love and it feels great!

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Ryan is a film school dropout turned entrepreneur. He is a Co-Founder of Effioa Capital. His company focuses on infrastructure development in underserved areas of India. Effioa also utilizes its strong network and experience to assist companies that wish to expand into India.

He is a Contributor to The Libertarian Republic where he focuses on satirical writing and political commentary. Ryan is also currently writing a screenplay for a satirical hip-hop musical about the war on drugs. Do you make hip-hop beats or want to help? You can reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out his new obscurely named blog, “The There There Optimist”.[/jbox]

Nourishment is Gratitude: Feed Yourself Something Beautiful

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A sushi spot and a nail salon.

I have two favorite spots in San Francisco that are my go-to, feel-good places to spend a little time in quiet reflection or restoration. It’s nothing fancy or special, but it means a lot to me.

After a long, tireless, thankless workday behind a computer drawing lines in AutoCAD and Photoshop, I’d descend the steps of the late bus back home from work tired, unmotivated, and exhausted. I would be hungry and a bit sad, and the prospect of heading back to my dark apartment alone sounded miserable.

I began to indulge in two practices of self-love almost accidentally. The first was once a week: I’d take myself to a small sushi shop just a few blocks from the bus stop, work bags in tow, and find a quiet spot under the window to sit. I’d take out a paperback book, order the same $12 dinner, and sit and read chapters of my book. It because a ritual of sorts—a treat of taking myself out to dinner just to read my book.

The second space I started frequenting was a whacky hot-pink nail salon run by three ladies who always drawled about how “fabulous” I was. I’d go in to get my nails done—not that I’m a nails-done kind of person—but because the experience of having someone take care of me, wash my feet, and letting me sink into the blissful state of relaxation amongst a massage chair felt so dang good. It didn’t hurt that they would do an additional shoulder rub for $10.

While battling student loans and low wages, I’d shop at the goodwill just to save up money to go to these stores. When I was too broke to spend the money, I’d fill up a big bowl in my apartment with hot soapy water and stick my feet in it and just sit there, quietly, until the water got cold. I did it because it made me feel luxurious.

These nourishment practices aren’t indulgent; they’re restorative. Healing. Filled with elements of self-care. We often overlook ourselves — taking care of everyone else and forgetting that one of our most important jobs is taking care of ourselves. And herein lies one of the paradoxes of gratitude:

In order to nourish yourself, practice gratitude.

In order to practice gratitude, nourish yourself.

We must be whole and healthy in order to do our best service in the world. Gratitude practices, however, help us to become whole and healthy.

Scientific Proof?

Being thankful and grateful affects your health. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, shares that the scientific evidence is fairly conclusive when it comes to health: “Happy people live up to ten years longer than unhappy people, and optimists have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimists,” she writes.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How Of Happiness, sheds light on why this is. While “50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point,” the other half is much more malleable—and something we can influence. Ten percent is based on life circumstance, and fully 40% is related to intentional activities and behaviors we cultivate.

What does that mean? “That means that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives without changing our circumstances one bit, and one of the key intentional activities is the practice of gratitude.”

How nourishing yourself is a gratitude practice.

What is nourishment? Nourishment is “food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” Just as we wouldn’t expect plants to flourish in dark places devoid of water, humans aren’t meant to be deprived of love and care. Furthermore, the practice of nourishing yourself and taking care of your body and soul is an act of gratitude. It’s gratitude towards yourself, gratitude towards the gift of life, and gratitude for how hard and tirelessly you’re working.

Each of our actions is an opportunity for gratitude—towards ourselves, towards our lives, towards what we value.

Nourishment isn’t just food—although healthy greens, large glasses of water, and steaming cups of hot ginger tea aren’t a bad way to start. It includes feeding your mind with rich words and good ideas; your soul with vibrant love and caring thoughts; connecting to your community, and reaching out to others.

In yoga practices, the act of taking care of yourself begins with the simple, yet extraordinary practice of breathing. Each breath itself is a gift—a nourishing, cleansing, uplifting ritual in and of itself.

A simple practice of gratitude is breathing out a sigh of relief and taking in a deep breathe of healthy, cleansing, delicious oxygen.

Nourishing gratitude also comes in the form of taking five quiet minutes to yourself to reflect or pause. It comes in relieving some of the pressure on yourself. It comes in saying a gentle no to a busy night so that you can tuck into bed earlier. It comes in the form of getting a babysitter for no other reason than to sit on the couch and spend three hours to yourself. It comes in the form of a long, hot, shower. It’s taking yourself to the movies because you want to and you come back a better, more fulfilled person because of it.

Feed yourself something beautiful.

Gratitude is about nourishing ourselves and our communities. Food is nourishment for our body; words are nourishment for our soul. What are you feeding yourself? How are you nourishing yourself?

If it’s food, perhaps it’s a cup of warm soup, a ripe avocado, or a glass of cool, fresh, clean water. Or you nourish your body with an extra serving of healthy greens, or you add an apple to your bag on your way out. Perhaps you steam a hot cup of ginger tea and journal for a few minutes.

Perhaps you pause for a few minutes before you start a task and take ten cleansing breaths and offer up thoughts of gratitude to the space and the world before you begin.

Perhaps you feed your hungry spirit with thirty minutes of down time or restoration time, by getting your nails done (if you’re like me), or stopping by your favorite burrito place with a book and dedicating it to reading time.

You can also feed yourself with words. I have several poems and phrases I pin up on my walls to read and re-read each day. Just reading a poem is enough. That is gratitude. That is grace.

Today, the beautiful practice of gratitude is feeding your self something beautiful.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]

Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, open water swimmer, and urban nerd.

She teaches digital workshops on writing, storytelling, content strategy, and gratitude. This essay is an excerpt from her class on Grace & Gratitude, a two-week journey into the heart, mind, and soul.

By trade, Sarah specializes in media strategy, content strategy, and getting communications projects from conception to creation. She writes at It Starts With, is a stories-based site about psychology, motivation and human behavior, and her work has been featured on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, 99U, Psychology Today, and more. In her free time, she swims outdoors, teaches yoga, writes books, and teaches yoga.

Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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Episode #33 - Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy, And It's Your Fault... Ladies

 

Warning: This post and the associated podcast are controversial... which is exactly why I like them so much.

Ladies, does your relationship suck? Has it grown stale and boring? Do you feel hopeless, and yearn to feel connected and adored?

What if I told you it's all your fault?

Wait, wait, wait! Don't close your browser!

I get it. It sounds ridiculously chauvinistic and immature. Of course it's easy for me to absolve myself of blame and say that a lack of intimacy in a relationship is not a man's fault, but a woman's... but what if I told you this idea isn't something me and my guy friends cooked up during some late-night video game and pizza binge? What if I told you it came from a relationship expert who is also conveniently (for me) a woman?

Laura Doyle believes that women are the gatekeepers to intimacy in a relationship. She has focused her entire career on empowering women (she refuses to work with men, or even couples) with skills, tactics, and tools to radically transform their average, mundane, or even horrible relationships. If a lack of intimacy exists, and abuse is not present in the relationship, she believes women have the power to change it.

6 Intimacy Skills to Transform Your Relationship

  1. Self Care - In any relationship, you are responsible for your own happiness. If you rely on others to fill your self-worth tank, you'll inevitably end up stranded on the side of the highway of life, broken down, frustrated, and alone. Rather than relying on others to fill up that love tank, take initiative and fill it up yourself.  This means you must love yourself, not just with words, but with actions.Make a list of things that fill you with joy, energy, and happiness then do those things every day. Make them a priority. Whether it's sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee, calling an old friend, writing in your journal, meditation or yoga, reading out of a good book, or some intense exercise, make a commitment to do the stuff you love religiously... make it as big of a priority as brushing your teeth - which you do regularly (I hope).
  2. Relinquish Inappropriate Control - Did you know that something as simple as telling a man he's doing something wrong - even when well-intentioned - can be incredibly emasculating? As a man, I feel a sense of pride when I can provide, protect, or otherwise take care of those that I love. Often times, correcting things (especially small things), make us feel like we can't do anything right. It's easy to feel defeated, incompetent, and worthless when you can't even dress yourself, or clean a mirror properly.Sure, many of you may say that I'm being over-sensitive. We men just need to "pony up" and "be a man" when it comes to taking criticism. Well, as a man, I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart: If you want more intimacy in your relationship, think before you speak. Your words can fill us up with courage, open us up to vulnerability, and give us the courage to slay dragons... or they can strip us of our confidence. The ball is in your court.
  3. Receive Graciously - When a man gives you something, whether it's a gift, a compliment, or some form of help, he's reaching out in an attempt to connect. It's a display of his love and care. A rejection or dismissal of his effort to bond with you are not only a rejection of the offer itself, but a rejection of his attempt to connect, and subsequently a rejection of him.Rather than play the "not good enough" card, thank him and tell him how much you appreciate him... because he thinks you're good enough, and sometimes that's all that matters.
  4. Respect - For this skill, I quote Mrs. Doyle herself. Her words are just too perfect: "Lack of respect causes more divorces than cheating does because for men, respect is like oxygen. They need it more than sex. Respect means that you don't dismiss, criticize, contradict or try to teach him anything. Of course he won't do things the same way you do; for that, you could have just married yourself. But with your respect, he will once again do the things that amazed and delighted you to begin with -- so much so that you married him."
  5. Gratitude - Good men don't do kind things with the expectation of thanks, but honestly, nothing is sexier than a woman who regularly expresses gratitude... especially for the things that you don't expect them to be grateful for. When a woman expresses appreciation for something I did for them, it makes me feel like $1 million. It makes me want to do more nice things more often.Cultivating a habit of expressing gratitude every day will also put you in a mindset of looking for the very best things. When you see and recognize the best in a man, he will rise to the occasion, and become the best version of himself. Your gratitude has the ability to unlock hidden reserves of potential, intimacy, and overwhelming love.
  6. Vulnerability - A truly intimate and trusting relationship requires vulnerability at its very core. Getting naked emotionally with someone often requires a lot more of that trust than getting naked physically with them. Being vulnerable requires honesty and assertiveness, and responsibility. Merely expressing how we feel is now vulnerability. Rather than nagging or criticizing, state your desires. "I feel lonely," is far more vulnerable than "You never come home on time." "I miss you so much," is far more vulnerable than, "When was the last time you took me on a date?"Striving to come to the table palms-open to express your feelings and your needs is courageous... and this approach not only avoids putting men on the defensive, but encourages them to do what they love doing most: step up to the plate and make their women happy.

Most of us do not realize how much individual power we possess to influence, change, and improve our relationships. We get stuck in the tedium of the day-to-day. We forget that little things can make an enormous difference. I hope you have the courage to give these 6 tips a try in your relationship... especially if you see it suffering.

And don't forget to listen to today's podcast at the top of the page. It is full of amazing stuff that blew my mind. I'm sure it will rock yours as well.

[jbox title="Show Notes:" border="5" radius="15"] Thanks for reading and listening to the podcast. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to get episodes delivered to your computer every week!

Check out Laura Doyle's website The Surrendered Wife. And here are some links to her books:

Intro Music:

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Why You Should Stop Looking For "The One"

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You don’t go on a journey around the country to capture 100 great love stories and not think about what it means to find “The One.”

So many of us (women in particular) approach the next potential partner we meet and the first question we ask: “Is this The One?”

That’s a heavy question, isn’t it? It puts a ton of pressure on every interaction. We lose focus. We lose sight of the joy in meeting someone new, discovering who that person is, learning whether we dance well with him or her.

And unfortunately, that’s precisely the reason why we’re rarely able to accurately discern whether the people we get to meet could, in fact, be the one we really want to end up with.

"Is this person the one?"

That question hints at a lack of trust that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should. The truth is, the next person that comes into your life is going to be EXACTLY the one. Maybe it’ll be for a conversation; maybe it’ll be for a lifetime.

The next person you meet will, in fact, be the one. And if there’s a person after that, he or she will be “The One,” too.

You aren’t responsible for predicting the next 50 years of your life whenever you go on a first date. That’s basically what you’re asking yourself to do by starting with the question, “Is this person the one for me?”

Your responsibility is simply to come to each One with an open heart, and an open mind. And let that person teach you what you need to know. So you can be a better woman or man. So you can be the best version of The One for the next One you meet. Because you’re someone else’s future “The One” too, you know.

And, if you’re lucky, you discover the lesson the world has been meaning to teach you all along:

That YOU are the person you’ve been waiting for. You are the limitless source of love. And whether you’re single or in a great relationship or in a relationship you’re questioning, that’s perfect for you.

You are where you are because there’s a lesson (or twenty) that you must learn to evolve to the next best version of you, which brings you closer to your next One.

So embrace where you are. Learn what you can.

The next person who walks into your life will be exactly the right One for the next set of lessons you need to learn.

And if they help you realize that you are, indeed, the One you’ve been waiting for—that there are a million reasons why you’re lovable and worthy…

I think that’s when you should hang on and not let go.


This article was originally posted on Melissa Joy Kong's blog. Read more about what Melissa has written about life, love, and personal growth here.