Saturday, December 31, 2016

Annual New Year's Posty Thing, 2016-2017 Edition: Fear and Action

4 years ago on New Year's Eve, my mother called me.  She was coughing up blood, she said, and she was at the hospital.  They might put a tube in her, and if they did, she wouldn't get to talk to me for a bit.  

That was the last conversation I ever had with my mom.  She died about a month later of lung cancer and pneumonia.  

My mother was a remarkable woman in many ways.  She graduated from Cornell University and became a doctor at a time when it was very unusual for women to do so.  She started her own practice and it thrived.  She worked up until the day she went into the hospital.

As remarkable as she was, my mother was also a very fearful woman.  She lived in fear of many things, cancer being one of them, and organized her life in such a way that she thought she might avoid or prevent her fears from becoming reality.  Living like this, I believe, contributed strongly to my mother's final condition.  Even more so, I believe it prevented her from doing a lot of things in her life.  

I see this pattern often amongst people I encounter.  With clients, I see it manifest in fear of the weights (which prevents them from lifting what they want to lift), fear of lifestyle change (which prevents them from making the changes they want to make), and, as odd as it may seem, fear of changing their bodies or their health (in that they may use their current condition as a sort of comfort or shield from other things in their lives... more on this in another post).  Outside the gym, I see it manifest in various ways that prevent people from making changes, taking action, or realizing dreams.

To many people, the change in year doesn't mean much.  Time is time, no matter how you label it.  While this may be true, I see the new year as a symbol that may help people become motivated to take action.  

I value action.  

Someone posted on social media the other day that they wondered why certain people were dying, but they were still here.  Here was my response:

To me it doesn't matter WHY I'm here so much as THAT I'm here. And as long as I am here, I am going to try to make good things happen-- for myself, for other living creatures, for the planet. Make the most of the life you have, and instead of questioning your existence, celebrate it and make the most of it. 

Hopes, prayers, and good thoughts are all wonderful things, but without action they do very little.  I've seen lately that people have been feeling helpless due to the election, to events in the world, to events in their own life.  I am writing this blog today in the hopes that I can help at least one person feel empowered to take control of what they are able to control.

Here's how you can take action in the things you want to do.


I wrote this blog post a while back about ways to begin a healthier lifestyle.  I wrote this blog post last year about making resolutions stick.  While it is fitness-related, I believe these rules apply for just about any lifestyle change you'd like to make.  


There is no bad time to clean out your closet.  Whether that means getting rid of things you don't need, getting rid of thoughts and patterns that don't serve you well, or getting rid of poisonous people in your life, it is a valuable and very empowering thing to do.  While it can be scary to let go of something that's been around you for ages, making that leap and clearing out the garbage can do amazing things.  I cannot recommend it enough.

If the people close to you are going through tough times, great times, or neutral times, the best thing you can possibly do is be there for them.  Whether that means letting them know you love them from time to time, going out to lunch or dinner when you can, or just dropping them a note/text/PM/whatever to let them know you're thinking of them, these little actions can mean a whole lot.  If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's not to wait for someone to die to celebrate their life.  Be the friend you'd want someone to be to you.


If you want to see change in the world, you must use the resources that are available to you.  This generally translates to either time or money (or both).  So you can:

Volunteer.  There's a good chance there are tons of opportunities to volunteer near you.  If you're not sure where to find them, VolunteerMatch is an excellent website to help you discover ways to donate your time in your area for causes you care about.  This year, I started volunteering at a local school to help children with their literacy skills, and I also spend a lot of time helping local animal rescues locate foster or forever homes.  

Donate.  CharityWatch is a great place to research the places you'd like to donate to to ensure that your money is going to the right places.  Some of my favorites are EarthJustice, International Rescue Committee, Animal Welfare Institute, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Farm Sanctuary, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and the Cancer Research Institute.  I also donate to local animal rescues and homeless organizations.  For local organizations such as these, you don't even have to donate money-- they often are in need of things like:

I also carry Ziploc bags filled with toiletries, nonperishable food items, and dog supplies (for people with dogs) in my car to distribute to homeless people I often see on my commutes.  

I realize this post is a bit different from what I usually post on New Year's, but I feel like it's an important one.  I hope it helps someone.  I wish you the very best in the new year, and every year.  May it be full of love, good health, and plenty of action.

Do you have suggestions on good ways to take action?  Post 'em here!

ROCK ON, 2017!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

So Many Trolls, So Little Time

This weekend, I attended a rather spectacular conference (Women's Fitness Summit-- check it out).  An interesting question was raised that struck a particular chord with me, and I thought it was worth writing about.  The question was this:

How do you deal with internet trolls?

Let's face it-- anything you put out there to the public is subject to armchair critics.  No one who puts content online is safe from people who want to drag you down.  And a lot of them are good-- really, really good-- at what they set out to do.  The comments they leave can be really painful if they strike the right nerve.  But you can beat them, and you can do it any way that suits you.

The first thing that is important to realize is that trolls will strike anywhere, anytime, for any reason.  For example, here is a compilation of cute kitten videos.  It has 1,185 "thumbs down" ratings.  IT IS A COMPILATION OF CUTE KITTEN VIDEOS.

I think we can all pretty much agree that anyone who "thumbs down" cute kitten videos is probably a bubbling cauldron of misery.  And there are clearly a large number of misery cauldrons out there.  So if almost 1200 people have serious cute kitten video hatred (or at least have any interest in trying to bring down the awesomeness of cute kittens), it'd be pretty easy for them to try to bring down pretty much everything else good in the world.

My point is, the computer-concealed venom of misery cauldrons has very little bearing on anyone's opinion of you who means anything.  And, truly, the only opinion of you that really matters is your own.  You put content out there because you had something to share that you thought was worth sharing.  When it comes down to it, that is the most important thing, and the people who really matter will appreciate what you have to share.  

That being said, the sting of troll venom can be powerful.  So what can be done to neutralize it?  

1)  Delete and block.  This is probably the easiest, most common, and most effective way to deal with trolls.  Your space is your space, and you can choose who to allow into it.  If someone is spitting toxic goo at you, you have the right to take away their mark and their ability to ever do it again.  No one needs that kind of energy, really.  If you don't have it in you to address the trolls yourself, you can always get a friend or hire someone to do it for you.  Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.  

2)  If the comment is directed to you personally via message, document it and report it.  Any threatening messages can and should be reported to whoever manages the site (most have a "report abuse" button or something similar).  

3)  Don't feed the trolls.  When it comes down to it, they are looking for acknowledgement.  Don't give it to them.  In addition, when one troll posts, others will often want to jump on the bandwagon.  Deleting and blocking can help stop a trollpocalypse.

4)  Take care of yourself.  Several years ago, I did a series of exercise videos for a company.  I've had a lot of pretty nasty comments aimed at me before, but I'd have to say the one that has stuck with me throughout the years, for whatever reason-- and let's keep in mind that this was an EXERCISE VIDEO-- is:

"She's ugly, but I'd fuck her anyway."

First I scoffed, and then I was in disbelief, and then I just tried to ignore it.  Because I did not own the video, there wasn't much I could do to remove it myself, so there it stayed until the powers that be would do something about it.  And I have to say, just knowing that was out there made me feel dirty and a little bit ashamed of myself.  For publishing an exercise video.  Designed to help people.  

And then I realized:  

I am not the problem.

The problem resides deep within the person trying to bring me down.  This is really the case with bullies of all kinds (and as someone who has been bullied for a good portion of her life, I do understand how difficult it can be to wrap your head around that sometimes).  A bully, or a troll, or anyone who tries to bring you down, is someone who has something very dark inside them.  And as hard as it can be to believe it sometimes, that darkness has absolutely nothing to do with cute kittens, and nothing to do with you.  

That being said, it can be really, really difficult sometimes to just let it go.  So take care of yourself. Surround yourself with people that lift you up.  Treat yourself well, and know you deserve to be treated well.  Try to keep things in perspective.  But most importantly, don't let your voice be silenced.  There will always be people who want to drag you into their darkness.  

Keep your face in the sun.

And just in case you need it, watch some kitten videos.

How do you deal with internet trolls?  Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!