#FamilyValues

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I will always value pizza- the #1 priority in my life.

I will always value pizza- the #1 priority in my life.

In middle school, I was obsessed with Limp Bizkit. I really wanted to go to the Family Values tour (when I told my mom, she listened to their music and almost had a heart attack). That’s a terrible segway but I’ve been thinking about my value system a lot of the last couple of weeks. What do I value? What is a priority in my life? How do I determine my values?

Values shape the way we live our lives, how we interact with others and how we feel about ourselves and others. Even if we recognize them or not, values do naturally exist. They’re learned, passed down from generation to generation, by friends and discovered after certain life experiences, turning points and big decisions. When your actions and thoughts match your values, we’re satisfied and content. But when they don’t align, things feel wrong and life gets hard and confusing. This can be a real source of unhappiness.

Life is easier when you acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honor them. I think about the things that make me happiest in life, my zen (please keep in mind that this is a random sampling): Purpose. My friends. My mental health. Community service. Creativity and originality. Forgiveness. Achievement. Adventure and exploring things and experiences unknown to me. Tolerance. These things are what I’m currently and always seeking out in my life. What do I do every day that honors these values? I reach out to my friends and make time to spend time with them. I take my antidepressants daily and see my doctor regularly. I dedicate most of free time not spent with friends to volunteering…

There are negative values, too. Fear. Self-doubt. Embarrassment. Competitiveness. Selfish. Pessimism. Guilt. Laziness. These are some of the ones I deal with and think about on a daily basis. Once I recognize these negative values, I can change them into something positive- they are largely false beliefs. Almost all negative values are connected in a broad way with a feeling of little or no self worth. These values can set up a negative pattern that you will bond to and repeat throughout your life. Once these negative beliefs are recognized, you need to listen to your inner critic and stop thinking what you’re thinking- bad thoughts lead to bad actions; bad actions lead to bad habits; bad habits make up a stressful and miserable life.

After determining my values, I think about how am I applying them to my life. I start by writing a list of both my positive and negative values (don’t underestimate the power of a Post-It) and purposely view it every morning before I start my day. Checking in throughout the day helps, too- I listen to music that represents my values on constant rotation and focus on the words. Each day brings a new challenge and I reexamine if the value is that important to cling to. Through this process of consciously shifting and examining my values, I’m slowly (and hopefully) becoming a better person.

What are your positive and negative values, dear reader?

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#SoThisIsTheNewYear (Finding Purpose and Happiness)

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This is about to get real, deal reader.

I think about death often. My death.

I want to preface this blog entry by writing that I’m not suicidal. If I am anything, I am reflective (although I do think about my funeral and what share of blue my body would turn without oxygen and bloody flow quite often). This death fascination has been especially strong the last couple of weeks, even during my happier moments.

Perhaps I have post-holiday depression. Maybe I need to have my antidepressant increased. I just feel nothing. Two days ago, I sat on the beach in Venice, CA- one of my most favorite places in the world- and I felt nothing. I had a great weekend, exploring, partying and meeting new people. But on that beach, even in moments before, I felt empty. On the plane ride home from Christmas, I sat with my seat leaning back, wishing that the plane would explode during midair. L’appel du vide– I’ve always had that feeling but as each day passes by, the feeling intensifies. I would never kill myself- it would kill my mom- but lately, I don’t feel like my life is worth it. I think about my cousin, Josh, who died two years ago in a terrible accident. He was a really good guy, extremely kind and grateful for his life- why couldn’t have God taken me instead of him?

I have a hard time feeling joy- that lasting moment of happiness that I feel like everyone around me has. They are happy all the time despite whatever they’re going through- they express that happiness physically and emotionally. Their lives aren’t perfect but they love them anyway.  For as long as I can remember, I thought it was my mental illness that kept that feeling away from me. I could never sustain that feeling. Even as a tween, I felt that overall sense of sadness all the time. I slept a lot- good chunks of my day- because of it. In college, one of my professors told me that I’m lazy. I replay that moment over and over in my head. I will never forget Paul’s words. Over Christmas, my father and step-mother called me a narcissist. My previous ex-boyfriend said the same thing. They all said that I don’t think about others and I don’t know my identity; that I chose to be miserable and have had a negative influencer in my life. What they all said they been weighing on my mind, as well as this song which features the lyric, “But people don’t really change.” I think about the times in the past when I tried to change my mindset into thinking happier thoughts or break bad habits. I would do really well for a week or two but then slip back into old ways. I don’t think in a sustainable way. All I do is want to sleep and be sad.

I don’t want to set a New Year’s resolution. Last year, I came up with a simple on: be happy. I was miserable most of it. Right now, I’m on deadline for one of the publications that I write for. I’m writing about spring cleaning your being- getting rid of life’s dead weight. I want to be able to push through this dead weight of my life and be a kinder, more empathetic, happier person by the year’s end. But I’m scared of fucking things up, scared of disappointing others and disappointing myself. I’ve been this way for most of my life- I don’t know what it feels like to be happy most of the time, how to be kinder to myself and others. I’m terrified to step out of my comfort zone. What if I can’t break these bad habits?

I feel like I can be happy when I figure out my purpose in my life. That is something that has been weighing me down. Despite my friends tell me to enjoy being single, I hate it. I’m eager to jump into something when I know that I shouldn’t. I love that feeling of being a girlfriend, though. However, I know that you shouldn’t base your happiness on your title or through another person. I think of how being a girlfriend, and then eventually a wife and a mother (especially being a mom) will give my life meaning. But why do I have to wait for someone to come in my life? Why can’t I find that purpose now? I do good things for my community. I have a great circle of friends who support me. So, how do I let the feeling of lappel du vide morph into something happier?

I’m writing this today with no intentions for you, dear reader, to feel sorry for me. I already feel enough pity for myself. I just want to be real with you and ultimately, myself.  I haven’t been great with being honest about myself and the way that I live my life. Most people read this and think that I’m pretty carefree. I’m not. But I want to be. I really do. So, this is my 2017 journey- to 1) find a reason- a good, solid reason to live, 2) ) figure out exactly who I am and 3) be a better person to others and put myself and their shoes.

Happy 2017, dear reader. Maybe your year be filled with all the good stuff you want and need in your life right now. Join me on this journey, won’t you?

#FindingYourTribe

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I’m friends with a bunch of weirdos. But that’s okay- I’m quite strange, as well.

In my last relationship, I pushed a lot of friends away in favor of my ex. I now know this was the wrong thing to do, as I spent many nights during that relationship crying to him that I had no friends and how lonely I felt, missing companionship. When we broke up, I forced myself to reconnect with the people I pushed away, getting out of my comfort zone to apologize and hang out after months of no contact. I needed someone and really relied on them pre- and post- break up. In what happened seemingly overnight, my social circle- my tribe- grew and now, I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Over the last month or so, I applied to several jobs out of town, looking at moving to a big city like San Francisco, Chicago, even back to my beloved Brooklyn. But the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that I want to stay in my western mountain town. Sure, I may never write for “Vogue” nor “Vanity Fair” while living here but this is where my tribe is. I realize that I shouldn’t sacrifice my dream for people (if they love you here, they will love you anywhere). But these people are what give my life joy. I have met so different people in my life and I know once you find someone good, you don’t let them go. Perhaps I’m lacking something on my end- there are good people anywhere but the more I think about it, I have a good thing here. I don’t want to move and have to rebuild my social circle again.

I recently had two friends approach me, needing someone to talk about their depression and anxiety. I was beyond happy to listen to them, being there in their time of need. I’ve been open about my struggles with my mental health and for me to be the shoulder that they needed made me feel like I am worth something. To know that I’m valuable in their lives means the world to me. I imagine if I wasn’t there, what would have happened?

I don’t know what my future holds, especially as I’m making big change for the upcoming new year. It’s scary- extremely terrifying- but I know that I have a great group of people that I love rooting me on and holding me up. We all desire to have connect and I have these individuals who love and accept me just as I am even when I’m a complete jackass in a terrible funk. I found my tribe.

How did you find your tribe, dear reader?

#TouchMe

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I’m a sucker for cuddling. Holding hands. Giving long hugs. Sitting close on the couch. Kissing. Scientists figured out that human beings need at least five different touch interactions during the day and the lack of that comforting touch can lead to depression and anxiety. Touch gives us humans the sensory input that we crave.

The power of touch is pretty incredible. It’s our primary language of compassion and care. Even when it is non-sexual.Touch instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. It lifts serotonin levels, elevating your mood. Touch builds trust and a sense of safety. It’s one of the most simple of ways that we continually renew our bonds with those we love- holding our children, caressing our partners. It relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body.

It is possible to be touch deprived (something that I have been experiencing lately). “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting,” said psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University. “Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.”

In the 1960s, psychologist Sidney Jourard observed friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. Sometimes, they hugged. Sometimes, they gave each other a simple high five. Sometimes, something more. In England, Jourard noted that the two friends touched each other zero times within the hour. In the United States, we touched each other twice. In France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour- no wonder the French are considered so sensual, engaging in their sense of touch.

Why are Americans so afraid to touch one another?

We live in such a busy, crowded world. Yet, it’s so easy for many of us to go days, weeks, even months without touching and/or being touched by others. Ask yourself, dear reader, if you are deprived and why you are. I’m not saying to tackle the next random person you see on the street. But maybe the emerging cuddling businesses might be the way to go. Perhaps I should become a professional snuggler…

#FightingFOMO

rsz_american-boxing-glove

Fear Of Missing Out

It was rough missing out on Burning Man this year (I know, I know. First world problems). I’ll admit that I am incredibly jealous of those who adventured on the playa and well, in general- others who get to venture out for their jobs or have multiple PTO days (or those who don’t have to work) to travel, exploring beautiful places, the world’s darkest corners and experiencing fun, life changing events. My FOMO is real.

‘‘The uneasy and sometimes all consuming feeling that you’re missing out– that your peers are doing, in the know about or in possession of more or something better than you. Under this framing of FOMO, nearly three quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.”

I can’t speak for others but in my life, the rise of social media has increased my FOMO. I see other people having these great experiences and then, feel the envy rush through my body, this strong mix of inferiority and resentment. Instagram is my killer, stabbing me time and time again. I think, “I making the wrong decisions with my life.” “Other people are having a better time than me.” “I wasn’t invited; I didn’t know about it; I couldn’t make it.” “I suck.” “My life sucks.” My FOMO steamed from my unhappiness with my own life and lack of doing cool stuff. Author Erica Jong once said, “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” I chose not remember that most people only post their highlights online. People don’t broadcast their troubles and problems to the world on Facebook. I believed that others are happier than they actually are. The thing to remember is social media is fake. It’s not real life. Only real life is real life. When we experience FOMO, we neglect the present (or live only in our memories- this is what happen when I start to miss NYC and want to move back). We end up disconnecting and being distracted from the most important social experience of the moment: the one we’re actually in.

Forget the fake perfect lives of Facebook that lead to FOMO. Instead, try JOMO: the joy of missing out on all those illusions. It’s your life you’re missing out on. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But remember that your grass is a vibrant emerald, too. And if you’re like me, use your FOMO as inspiration to get out of your rut- maybe make a change, stop embracing your comfort zone and go out and live in this moment.

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#HowToBeHappy

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Mid-month, I joined this support group because, quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. After being unemployed for a good chunk of the year and having an incredibly stressful summer, I finally had enough of it. I’ve always struggled with my happiness, thinking why can I never be like the people around me. They must be living better lives. They have the ideal boyfriend or husband. They have the perfect jobs. They’re making vaults filled with money with such perfect jobs. They get to travel and experience amazing things and events. It wasn’t until now I realized that these thoughts of mine were bullshit.

I’ve read a decent amount of self-help books and blogs over the last several years, hoping that some magical answer would appear like a magician’s bunny getting pulled from its hat. What a load of crap and a big waste of my time. I used to believe that happiness was a light switch. Something flicks on. You get an overwhelming sensation. It hits you like a bag of bricks. Nope. WRONG. My therapist the other day told me this simple statement and I’ve let it resonate throughout thoughts:

Happiness is a choice.

You can choose to be happy. (You have to.)

She compared happiness to love. Like love, happiness is a series of choices. Love is about making a choice every single day, to either to be or not love. That’s it. It’s that simple. Either to continue the process or not. We don’t love our partners or our friends every day. They do thing that hurt and piss us off. I have done terrible things to my friends and my partner but despite all that, they continue to love me. We choose to forgive. We choose to love. We need to give ourselves that same love.

So, I’m choosing to be happy. Most of the days lately, I don’t know exactly what that choice looks or feels like. It can be fucking hard to do sometimes, making that choice. I want to crawl back into my cave of despair (some day, I want to so badly). The same things don’t make me happy all the time- even my darling cat (who I think is the best thing in the world- well, other than cheese) pisses me off from time to time. Even cheese, an inanimate object with no movement nor feelings, can upset me. I still fume at the world. And I do need help reminding myself to chose happiness (I believe in a great therapist and medication if you do need it. I even write on my hand so I can remember my choice throughout the day).

I know I’m making the right choice. I’ve spend the last couple years miserable out of my mind. I constantly compared myself to other and dreamed of a life that I felt like I could never have. Stress is my abusive spouse. When things weren’t absolutely perfect, I had a meltdown. I often thought about how others’ lives would be better if I was no longer around. But I chose to turn those miserable feelings around. I’m not saying that I wiped away all my jealousy- it’s still there. There are some days where my envy is the only light shining in the room- this bright green beam that burns your retinas. There are moments when I get depressed and just want to cry, sleep and repeat. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy. I’m learning that happiness isn’t feeling joyous every second of the day. I’m learning how to be okay with all of the good and bad in my life. I’m working on myself. I know that I deserve to be happy and I’m determine to reach its maximum potential.

I hope that you’re happy, dear reader. However, if you’re not, I hope that you will take the steps to get there. I don’t know what the right steps are for you but if I can get there (especially being so miserable for the longest time), you can get there, too.

All of my happiness to you.

#DearDonald

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Dear Donald,

Five years ago, I was walking towards Lennox Hill on my way to interview a source when I passed your building. I was impressed with its unique exterior design and when I peeked my head in, the I noted that the interior lobby was warm and inviting.

Unlike the lobby of your Upper East Side building, many don’t find you warm and inviting. They call you cold, callous and a racist. You’ve compared Mexican immigrants to criminals and rapists, proposed registering all Muslims and said of a Black Lives Matter protester, “maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” (You telling the Black community to vote for you because well, what else do we have to lose was tacky- in my opinion).

You mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for his disability. You attacked John McCain for being a POW, saying “he’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

You were so eager for President Obama to show his birth certificate but you still haven’t released your tax returns.

Your wife, Melania Trump, allegedly lied about her college credentials in her biography at the Republican National Convention’s site and on her  personal website.  When she pulled the inaccurate biography down from her website, her team said “has been removed because it does not accurately reflect [her] current business and professional interests.” Not to mention her choice of words during the her RNC speech(thanks, Michelle Obama!). People comment that your staff is a joke.

Others claim that your outbursts and demeanor doesn’t fit the bill when dealing with domestic and international crisis., and you will continue to stick up only for the wealthy (not even the middle class) in this country.

Needless to say, I’m not your biggest fan. But I do appreciate all the entertaining television you’re providing. This coverage certainly better than your last couple seasons of the Apprentice– I’m excited to see what Arnold will do with the show when he takes it over. Andrea

#DearHillary

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Dear Hillary,

First off, I wish you a speedy recovery. Pneumonia is awful but you showed the world the power of women- we are always hustling. Even when we’re sick, we hustle- we take care of business and the people that we love. I want you to know that I’ve been a supporter since day one. But I do have some comments and a few questions for you…

Many people say you are untrustworthy. Many think you lied to the American people about your email server; that you broke the law and deserve to go to jail. They say that’s you’re responsible for the Benghazi attacks. Allegedly, when you were Secretary of State, over 600 requests were made for more security for that facility. Nevertheless, in the end, the building was attacked and  four men died.

There are those who branded you as a liar and a crook, saying that large amounts of money went directly into yours and your husband’s pockets for doing speeches and guest appearances as you claimed the money went to the Clinton Foundation. That money influenced the State Department into doing favors for those deep-pocket donors.

On a more personal level, people have questioned your morals, saying that you don’t follow your convictions. Why be with a husband who’s (allegedly) banging everyone in town, they ask. Does it benefit you in any way?

Is any of this true?

Despite all of these allegations, your personal life is none of my business- it’s not anyone’s business- and I think you’re more than qualified to run the country. I understand why you seem cold and get right to the point (not everyone is as smooth as President Obama). Sure, people will have their doubts but you still have my vote this November. Andrea

#BodyTalk

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What a happy, little tampon!

Most things don’t gross me out. Perhaps it’s because I’m the daughter of a nurse- I remember one time my dad showed my sisters and I cell phone pictures of a little boy’s bowel movements. When I lived with my old roommate then in med school (now a doctor), I was delighted when she shared stories of her carving up a cadaver. To me, bodies and what they do are fascinating, not unmentionable. So, why don’t we talk about natural occurrences like menstrual cycles?

Earlier this week, Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, made headlines when she announced that she was on her period, breaking the  silence about menstruation. While China is becoming more accepting of the natural occurrence, one would think that the US of A would be a little bit more progressive, especially since half of our population has or will experience their period. But as I read comments on multiple sites about Yuanhui’s post -wim interview, I realized that wasn’t the case. Especially with men.

Even in relationships, I found that talking about menstruation was taboo. In the past, I’ve had boyfriends who promised the world to me but still refused to buy me tampons. Female lawmakers in multiple states are trying to lift the tax on tampons but are being struck down by their male counterparts. Allegedly when Yuanhui was in the pool, several male critics claimed that swimming while menstruating was unhygienic and unhealthy.

I’ve been trying to figure out why talking about menstruation is so shameful even when sex runs rampid throughout our media. Sex is what we see and talk about every day. Society oogles breasts, whose primary function is for feeding. We cracked jokes about both male and female anatomy without a second thought. We need to stop looking at our bodies and our sexual behavior as something embarrassing and scandalous., when our bodies are as natural as water and air.

I hope to see the day where women, all around the world, aren’t shunned for having a period. Women’s bodies deserve more respect and appreciation- your mom, your sister, your friend, your significant other- all deserve better. And you, male reader, will totally get points with me if you purchase me some Tampax.

#BlackLivesMatter (How to Keep the Movement Moving Forward)

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Protesters take to the streets on July 17, 2013 in Beverly Hills, CA.

Protesters take to the streets in California July 2013.

It’s been about a month since the multiple shootings that sparks protests, vigils and questions about race, law enforcement and gun violence in our country. My city and the surrounding municipalities hosted various rallies where individuals held signs, cried and spoke in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). But now, as the media focuses its attention else where, I feel like the thought of BLM and the racism some Americans experience is fading from everyone’s minds.

And this depresses me.

A colleague asked me how to start a conversation about racism. I honestly had no idea how to answer him. It’s one thing, talking about the frustrations of dating in my town when you’re a person of color (something that I talk about with my girl friends often). But it’s another thing trying to explain racism and BLM with people who aren’t so open. After some thought, I told him that I believe people need to be more bolder and simply stop avoiding the subject in every day conversation. We shouldn’t wait for national headlines to bring to a harsh reality to light.

Even so, I feel that my answer is a cop out. I don’t know how to address racism to people other than my friends or those who read this blog. And I don’t know how to keep the movement moving. The one thing I know is that I can’t do this alone. The greatest thing I saw when I was at the Reno BLM rally was the amount of community members coming together for the common good. We still stood together, hand-in-hand spreading the word and the love. I believe if we’re going to change minds about the misconceptions of BLM and racism in general, we need to be physically present together– step out from behind our computers, meet (and meet often!) with certain shared goals and outcomes in mind and show the world that we mean positive business. We need to have more rallies, host lectures, volunteer in our communities and speak to our local government and advocacy groups- together. We need to slam down the negative stereotypes about our races and the Black Lives Matter movement. So… who’s with me?

How are you going to keep the movement moving, dear reader?