Kiss a Goldfish

5 Ways to Check in with Yourself

Article originally written for the Jordan Porco Foundation

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Sometimes our world gets so busy and we have so many things to cross off our To Do List that we become strangers to our own needs. We are on perpetual turbo cruise control, spinning our wheels from morning until bedtime. Where is the time for the me or the we in there? The following five questions can help you assess if you need to step it down, not up!

  1. What can I spend 15 minutes on every day that will refuel me? (for example: reading, walking the dog, gardening, meditating, doing a crossword puzzle, etc)
  2. What am I avoiding doing or procrastinating about that would actually relieve some stress if I completed it?
  3. Am I spending enough quality time with family members or friends?
  4. Am I moving my body enough? (at least a half hour of exercise per day)
  5. Have I found my purpose? Am I pursuing it? (That’s a big one!)

It’s really important that we carve out some time each day to do something we love so that we can re-energize and feel at peace (if only temporarily). It’s in those quiet moments of equanimity that we reconnect to ourselves and who we are. We are so outwardly-focused and so plugged in  to hundreds and thousands of others—the world, even—that we have lost touch with ourselves. Many of us need to seriously rebuild our friendship with ourselves.

Here’s the super cool thing: if we attempt just a few minutes of an activity then, miraculously, more minutes could magically appear and we may actually stay on the enjoyable task longer than anticipated! And if those minutes don’t magically appear, we’ve at least devoted 15 minutes to reconnecting with ourselves. Truly, we don’t have to feel guilty for taking a couple of minutes each day to do something we love!

Perfectionism breeds procrastination

We often put off a task fearing that we will not be good at it and then become bound by

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our own perfectionism (avoiding math homework or taxes, anyone?). Instead, we can give ourselves permission to complete a project with a C level of effort, which is far better than no effort at all! Like we say in college, “Cs get degrees!” So too does completing a task competently but not perfectly. It gets the job done, if not with a perfect score. Who cares if the basement isn’t perfectly organized! Did you get rid of 5 boxes of old clothes? Fabulous! Progress, not perfection is the goal.

Procrastination also increases anxiety and negative self-talk. Have you ever wished that you didn’t complete a project/task/assignment that was due? Me either. The trick is to only do it for 5 minutes and, just like doing something we love for a few minutes each day, doing 5 minutes each day of something we’re avoiding also yields great rewards. Five minutes frequently turns into more, but if not, that’s still putting in 35 minutes per week on something we weren’t putting any time into at all. Do those 5 minutes the moment you think of it! Nike didn’t say, “Just Do It” for no reason. It works!

Humans need other humans (yes, even introverts do!)

Humans are social animals who need some form of tribe or pack. Support systems are critical to overall mental and physical health and for longevity. So, if you’ve been feeling all alone on an island, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and either make time for family and friends, or find family and friends. How, you ask? Join clubs, take personal interest classes, go to the gym and take exercise classes, or connect with old friends—anything that increases your contact with possible future friends (who may become family over time) in a healthy way. Notice we didn’t recommend going to a bar to make friends?

If you already have your posse, but you’ve been in hiding for a while, invite one or more of them out for a walk, coffee, dinner, or whatever thing you do/did together.

The body is made to move

Photo by Miguel Salgado on Unsplash

 We have become a society of sitters and it’s impacting our overall health. Being sedentary is actually as risky as smoking! It increases the danger of coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even death. Now the good news: if we exercise, it’s a powerful depression and anxiety fighter as well as an ADHD modulator (as effective as antidepressants, ADHD, and antianxiety medications) without the side effects. It releases feel-good endorphins—dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It even promotes neural growth and increases self-esteem. Exercise also aids in the prevention of substance abuse relapse. It’s an all-around win-win for wellbeing and health! Exercise can be as simple as a walk around the block or with your dog. Great strategy: text your old or new friends, leash up your dog, and reconnect to nature, yourself, and your support systems.

Finding your life’s purpose is your life’s purpose

Looking for your life’s purpose is kind of like looking for love—it doesn’t come when you’re trying too hard. Some people are born with knowing what they want to do with their life, but the rest of us sort of bumble around until we trip over what makes us happy and serves the greater good (the greater good part is the key ingredient). When we do for others, our psyche sings. We can do it for the planet, for animals, for a neighbor, for children, or for goldfish. The “it” isn’t as important as the intention. And if we act in ways that enhance the vibrations of the universe with kindness and compassion, we change ourselves, too (even at the molecular level!). Bringing joy begets joy.

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Remember, your life’s purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be your job. It can be found and pursued in any number of activities we engage in. Yet another reason to do something we love every day—we could finally find that thing we’re meant to do!

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This is your prescription for greater happiness: be present for yourself and extend to yourself the love and care you have for your most cherished loved ones. Because you are your most cherished love one. You will be with you every day of your entire life. Be kind, be generous, be patient with you. That is the most important part of your life purpose. And then, go kiss a goldfish!

We Were Cowgirls, Then

Written by Rhonda Spaziani

The 70s

There are cinematographic moments that define a generation—the kissing in the street of the sailor and the nurse to herald the end of WWII; the stoic images of Civil War veterans with sabers drawn across their chests; the portraits of our great American Indian warriors with their soul-searing eyes holding within their depths their vanquished spirits; the stiff family technicolor photographs of the 60s with women imprisoned beneath their bouffants and bowed frocks; and in the wildly reckless abandonment of propriety in the pictures of women who came of age in  the 70s.

What changed for these women? What made them so irrepressible and impetuous? And the answer is simple: We were cowgirls, then.

The world was our wild west. We were progenerated by the backcombed women of the 50s, who married (mostly) deserving the virginal white of their wedding gowns, truly believing in the religious dogma that effectively bound them, and who honestly assumed that the repressing of their daughters’ spirits was in their best interests. However, no matter how hard our mothers tried, we did not lay down for any man–unless we wanted to, of course.

What. The. Hell. Changed?

We don’t really know. Gloria Steinem? Betty Friedan? Yes! But there was something more afoot. My friends and I were not activists or even intellectuals, for the most part. We  were smart enough to fly through college all the while defying conventions, dissing boys for girl fun, and redefining the rules at play. Was it an orchestrated revolt? No. It was far sloppier–intrinsically defiant of the existing parameters, not some existential awakening. We were not Glorias. There was nothing purposeful in our revolt. We changed the world by just being the way we were. When we overindulged, we left the carnage behind raucously laughing at our missteps without apology. We took no prisoners. Good girl? Nah. Bad girl? Hell, yeah! We were gunslingers of the first order. We lied to our parents, lied to the world, and just stopped behaving in order to live our truth.

Cowgirls of the Highest Order

I think of all that this generation of women may take for granted (even in this dark and perilous age). We changed their world by not accepting what was. We went to work and fought our way to powerful positions with the same intensity and focus we once applied to girl fun. We raised children early or later in life or not at all, it didn’t matter. We called the shots when it came to reproduction. It was our bodies, after all.  We had great adventures, traveled, worked out, drank and did drugs, fucked up, bounced back, married, divorced, married again (and maybe even again—who’s counting?) bought houses, finished degrees, started businesses, saved the world, blew off church and synagogue (or not), found yoga, cancerous moles, meditation, and the cure for Hepatitis while writing dissertations and op-ed diatribes. I think of my role models and heroes—true cowgirls of the highest order—my sisters, Raina & Resa, my friends Lisa, Jenny, Kim, Dorothy,  Diane, Sarah, and Chrissy—all of whom redefined the world and my own by their brave exodus from the status quo. We were champions of the new order by simply divesting the old.

We Pass the Gauntlet

For a while I believed that I wouldn’t want to come of age now when the roads are paved, the frontier tamed, and every waking second chronicled. But recently I realized there is still much work to do. We toss the gauntlet to you. Make it count, ladies. Keep up the fight by defiantly being exactly who you are.

Cowgirls live boldly and without apology. Don’t let anyone grab you by the pussy (without your consent, that is). Leave some parts of your life and experiences out of the public view. Keep your private moments (and parts) private. That’s damn good advice that you’ll never regret heeding. Savor the deliciousness of the mysteries of your time.

Cowgirl Shadows

There should always be shadows left behind, in addition to the indelible images to define a generation–the secrets only that generation knows and holds impregnable.  Our legacy is turning into vapors and whispering ghosts. Our time will be forgotten as all great epochs are—but we know we changed the world, ladies. Because we were cowgirls, then.