Its Our Birthday!!

One year ago TODAY we launched this blog… so Happy Birthday to our blog, and Happy Anniversary to all of you who share our page! To celebrate with all of you, we thought we would take the week off of advice, and instead pass out virtual party hats and give our views on anniversaries, birthdays, and this blog. We asked each other questions, and here is what we came out of that! Enjoy!!

Xoxo

LL and Clare

Clare: What is the most important thing about an anniversary or birthday (to you)?
LL: I feel that bday’s, and anniversaries, are great markers in our lives to reflect about where we have been and picture/plan where we are going. I used to think it was all about the birthDAY. All about the anniversary. That was the day, party, or experience I was waiting for. Now, I realize that the days and years leading up to the parties and anniversaries is where the life worth living is. The most important thing about the birthday and anniversary is seeing how far you have come. A birthday or anniversary is a time o remind and review: What is in your life that you want more of and what isn’t rocking your bliss; What do you need to let go of; Are the people celebrating with you the right ones.

LL: What’s your ideal dream celebration for your birthday?

Clare: I LOVE surprises, but I’m TERRIBLE at getting them, because I see variations in patterns and behavior… so unless the person/people doing the surprises are really slick, I usually figure stuff out (and I HATE IT!! I always feel bad when I figure things out, or I’m really cranky at the people who are trying to throw me a surprise, not knowing that they’re working on something wonderful!  Thank you to everyone who has ever tried to surprise me!!).  I would LOVE to have a surprise dinner all that I love there, lots of yummy (and maybe free food)… and then some silly activity like bowling or mini golf after.  (I like to mix my fancy with silly!)
Clare: What is a suggestion you have for people to make an anniversary or birthday celebration the best?

LL: Have it YOUR WAY. Seriously have the celebration you want to have. It’s why I celebrate my birthday with Choose Your Own Adventure Party.  I got so tired of throwing parties and inviting people getting excited to see all of the RSVP’s, only to have people flake at the last minute. I didn’t want to reserve/pay for a table for 30 to only have 14 show up. I also realized that celebrating and having fun on my birthday was important to me. That I had to control my controllables. I plan my own birthday my way and do what I want to do and where I want to do it. I invite all of my friends, families and co-workers and the only rule is that they don’t rsvp. Then I get to only see who shows up. All the positives of the parties no disappointments. So, just do what you want to do and don’t worry about entertaining your guests. It’s your Freaking day!!

LL: Are their any special anniversaries you celebrate other than your birthday and why?

Clare: I celebrate my NYC anniversary–as it seems many of us do here.  It takes a lot to follow a dream and to stay strong in that dream.  “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” is such a true statement.  I’m actually terrible at anniversaries and remembering other people’s birthdays… so glad technology helps me remember.  I LOVE celebrating any friend’s birthday.  I’m always happy to make cupcakes!

Clare: Do you have a special thing you do on your birthday or anniversary, like a tradition you like to follow?

LL: Hmm… I said above I don’t do RSVPs; I guess that translates to keeping no expectations, so that way everything is a surprise. I also like to think back on the past ones and reminisce on past memories.

Clare: Did I tell you what I do with birthday cards–because it seems a waste to read them and look at them and then toss them?  I stick them into books, cook books, and random nooks in my apartment.  Then, later down the line when its NOT my birthday, I run into the birthday wish again!  Its like hide-and-seek with birthday cards!  And a fun way to revisit those memories.

LL: What birthday or anniversary in your life do you still think about, look back to or remember as something more than just a birthday?

Clare: 7th birthday was when I had to grow up quickly.  30th birthday was when everything seemed to make sense again.  I revisit both of those, often.

Clare: What is the best birthday or anniversary gift you were ever given?

LL: Time. Time with me. I honestly tried to think of my favorite birthday gift. I truly do love all the gifts I have been given. I am someone who puts sentimental value on things. So I do love and cherish and keep gifts because of whom they’re from. I like them as the physical representation of the Time. Joining me on something fun, sharing experiences and making memories. Love those gifts the BEST!

Clare: It’s amazing what we remember and what we don’t, isn’t it?  I remember giving you a purse you LOVED one year… and you got me a pair of earrings, which were stolen from my suitcase this last year–I’m so sad they’re gone.  I think that is part of the reason I make people food for their birthday’s–its always enjoyed and appreciated, and it really doesn’t matter if its remembered!

LL: Speaking of gifts, you have a gift for writing!  What is a favorite blog you’ve written and I’ve written. Why? Did it surprise you?

Clare: Thanks, love!  You’re great at it, too!  Probably, Love Your Skin Now–it felt like a really risky and really, literally, naked piece to write.  I’m used to sharing my thoughts and insecurities through my characters on stage, but never my personal ones.  I’m so excited that I wrote it and it got such a great response.  I cried while writing it.

Clare: Where do you see this blog at our next anniversary?

LL: More blogs each week for our readers and our Book in print!

LL: Thinking forward, is there a birthday or anniversary you’re looking forward to celebrating?

Clare: September 8th this year I hit my 5 years in NYC.  I’m also looking forward to my 40th Birthday (which is only a few years away).  And this birthday…it’s the same day as the birth of our blog!

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Love Your Skin Now! 

LL recently wrote about Loving The Skin You’re In. I suggest you go read it, or re-read–spoiler, the article was about getting up and getting out and moving–but seriously, go read it!!! It’s VERY motivational! 

I want to reiterate that idea: Love the Skin You’re In! But I also want to remind you that you should love yourself now. Just as you are. Your body is like anything else in life: a result of choices; unique; amazing if you believe it is!
My body type is tall, curvy, overweight (according to BMI, I’m obese). I’m 6’1″ and people are in awe and at times jealous. I’ve made choices. I like to eat, and I love some exercise, but I don’t like to make time for it. This is ironic because LL is a pilates instructor, my roommate is a gym enthusiast (and just came home stating she dead lifted 200lbs–go, girl!), one of my best friends is a dancer and gym bunny, and another bestie is a trainer and a spin instructor. They ALL encourage me to get out and work out–and I admittedly make jokes and faces at them. What can I say–other things take priority.  Here’s me April 2015:
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Apple shaped–whenever I gain weight, I gain it all over–I have fought weight since hormones kicked in when I was a teenager. I have an crazily distorted body image (I forget I’m tall and just view myself as “big”). I’ve also learned how to dress myself so my squishy parts are camouflaged. When I was a teenager, I thought I was fat. I was a size 14 when most of the other girls were size 3s or 5s. Shopping in women’s sizes at 15 years old sucked. Pants and long sleeved things are always too short. I remember a specific incident when I shopped in the hip juniors fashion shop, bought a pair of Z Cavaricci shorts, that frankly barely hid my lower lady bits. I brought them home, and was immediately told to return them. I did–but for a pair exactly the same, but in a different color.  Those got returned as well, this time with parental figure towing me, and then a trip to JC Penney’s women’s section where I was bought bright coulattes–quite the opposite of what all kids my age were wearing. Needless to say, I was unhappy for so many reasons. As an adult, I mostly derive feeling I was fat. Probably because I insisted I was a 12, and the shorts that were too large were also too tight in the waist and I never wore them. I know that the phrase, “you’re too big for those shorts” was used for all unfortunate purchases during this incident. I’m pretty sure I gave up on myself sometime in high school. I know I tried again in my 20s to reimagine my body. But my body image has always been so distorted. My mind is a fun house mirror–the one that makes you look like Violet Beauregard AFTER she blows up like a blueberry. Every time I walk in front of the mirror, I hope I’ll see the other type of funhouse mirror–the one that stretches you and makes you look super tall and skinny.
Looking back at pictures from high school, I wasn’t ever that big. Tall yes. Round, no. I did get rounder as I got older. In fact at one point I was 270lbs–which on my frame was very plump. I struggled into size 20 pants. I was in a few plays around then so I know my measurements.  I was shocked when my waist took almost the entire measuring tape around my waist–56 inches.
I now walk as much as I can, I try to swim 2-3 times a week, and walk a little extra when I can. Even though I’m now down to a size 14, 223lbs, I’m just a little bigger than I was in high school, but I still have that distorted image of myself as Violet.
I’ve created a reality of my body that isn’t true. It is a daily wrestling match with my brain to actually know what I look like and to Love The Skin I’m In. It’s difficult. How do you fight the distortion?  Fight it with truth. Get down to the nitty gritty. Get naked.
Find a full length mirror you trust, and take it all off.
This is really hard–especially the first time. Because you are not allowed to pick yourself apart. The new TV show “Younger” Sutton Foster is about to go on a date and asks Debi Mazar about a “cleavage wrinkle”. To which Debi replies: women have such a distorted body image, stop creating issues that aren’t there.
Look at yourself. You beautiful snowflake!  Yes, there are things that could be changed, but the life you led and your genetics brought you to this. Don’t pick yourself apart for the first minute. Look at all body parts, all sides. Those oversized parts encompass joy. Those undersized parts are freedom. Those wrinkles are proof of wisdom.  Stretch marks show experience. Changing your body isn’t instant–even with surgery. Remember there is a healing process in THAT as well. Nothing is instant. The physical things you don’t like about yourself now took time to put there. I have my mother’s thighs and my father’s stomach. But I have MY memories–my friend’s birthday where we ate until our stomach’s hurt, my Christmas holiday in the Dominican Republic where French fries and margaritas were delivered to us on the beach, my dad’s pot roast whenever I’m home–my most favorite food. I have stretch marks on stomach and thighs to remind me of how unhappy I was at 270lbs and a reminder not to return to that–and I’m reminded to be happy at the 50 pounds I’ve lost.
Before you put your clothes back on, pick three things you really like about your body. It could be that you love your pinkie toenail on your right foot, it could be you love the shape of your belly button. Small details are ok. Hold on to the positives. When you start beating yourself up, use the three things you like as a mantra to remind yourself that you do possess beauty. You are a snowflake. Different. Beautiful!
Now, if you want to change things about yourself–DO!  But, unless you’re willing to actively and HEALTHILY work on yourself YOURE NOT ALLOWED TO COMPLAIN!  This negativity will only harm you more. Physically and mentally. Read this Danielle LaPorte article on positivity.
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To review:
1) Stop the negativity–towards your own body, and the bodies of others.
2) Get naked. Literally face the truth, your truth.
3) No matter what, find positivity about your body.
4) LOVE YOURSELF
5) Change it or don’t, just know you are the only one in control of how you look and feel.
…and someone hears Trumpets
Clare
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Art credit: Cheryl Richardson.

Round Peg, Square Hole, or How To Make Situations Work For You

Whenever I hear this analogy I think of the kids toy, either the wooden puzzle like thing where the player replaces the cutout shapes in the correct spots or the plastic tetrahedron like thing that the small plastic bits are pushed from the outside into the center. I have a vivid memory, or maybe it’s a created thought of trying to make one just work into a spot. Not having the cognizance yet to know that a triangle shaped piece goes into a triangle shaped hole. (I also was BIG on coloring outside the lines for a good amount of time as well). I’d try to manipulate both the piece and the whole. Sometimes I’d find a different hole that it would “fit” into but it wasn’t the correct one.

There are several views or thoughts on this one. First, the child hasn’t learned that a certain shape corresponds to a specific hole-but in time with practice, will understand. (Mind out of the gutter. That’s a different topic!) Second, there is creativity and ingenuity in trying to make things work that just don’t. Third, conformity is something that will develop as an adult, so why bother to force the child to conform now—conformity is overrated and dampens creativity!! Maybe the last one isn’t extremely popular; and I’m sure there are more thoughts on this. Feel free to share yours by comment below, tweet (@liveclarelesley) or email (liveclarelesley@gmail.com), about this subject.
But moving on…I was always trying to put whatever I had in my possession into whatever place I wanted. I got pretty good at it. Creative and intuitive they’d say about me. I LIKE being thought of as creative. I LIKE being thought as ingenuitive. I delight it these traits and make it my daily quest to continue to maintain my status in these areas. This is a blessing and a curse. As an adult I’m daily handed a crate of shapes to deal with. Some days, I go with the flow and put the right parts in the right spots. Other days it feels like all I’ve gotten handed is square pegs, and all that are in front of me are round holes. Some of these days are awesome. Sometimes I can make magic happen. No, strike that, often I make magic happen because I’m not about to be limited by only what I’m handed. Now this is instinctive for me, but I think everyone can learn to do it. The first step is thinking positively.

Not to sound all new-agey or sparkly optimistic, but there really is something good to every situation. And, in a way, you asked for whatever change happened. Last spring, I was sitting around my apartment for months wishing my room was just a little bit bigger or that I had more space to spread out all of my stuff. Well, I was told in April with two months notice, that I need to find a new apartment, that the person I’m renting from is moving back in. It sounds harsh, but that is kinda the way it is in New York. Even though I was upset—this was the fourth time I’d had to pack up and move in less than 15 months, and looking for an apartment is time consuming and a complete crap-shoot, moving was good thing. There are many things, I started to realize, that I wasn’t a fan of about that space. Yes, it met many of my needs, but it didn’t meet all of my wants. I squeezed myself into this round hole with my square peg, because 12 months ago it was a necessity. But, I now can search around and figure out exactly where I’m going. It’s a frustration that I’ve moved so much, however, its allowed me to get rid of lots of things I don’t need or use. It also makes me better at packing things up and moving.

Figuring out how to make Lemoncello when life hands you lemons (you can make Lemonade if you want… I’ll take it a step further, and have a party, too) isn’t as difficult as it may seem. First, you have to come to terms with whatever happened. I had to move. Ugh. Ok, moving on. If you sit and allow yourself to continue to be upset, then you’re not going to be creative and figure out how to get out of the situation with which you are faced. Figure out all options. This is something you can do anywhere. You don’t need to sit and make time to do it. Also, reach out to friends and colleagues, the more ears and eyes you have to help you out, usually, the better. Start working on your options. This is the difficult part, because you might work better going in multiple directions at once, or you might do better focusing on one specific option or goal and then completing it and moving on. You’ll have to figure that out as you go. Again, ask for help if you need it. Many friends don’t know that I need help because, I’m always so resourceful and I rarely complain about things. If I don’t ask for help, they’re not going to just offer it—everyone has their own life and their own problems, and things they want to go do and enjoy… so don’t be scared, just ask for help. Worst they can say is: no, I hate you. Which they won’t, not if they’re a real friend (and if they did, you might want to check out Growing Out Of Friends.

Once you start working on options, others will appear. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times, moving and doing creates options. Even if they’re not the ones you originally thought of. There are many versions of this favorite quote of mine out there but: worry is negative imagination. If you’re sitting on your sofa, chewing your nails, and worrying about your situation, nothing is getting done. Get off your butt, and go do something. Even if it isn’t related to the thing you need to accomplish.

I had to move in a month, and I was offered a role in a play that went up two weeks before I had to move. I was panicked because I didn’t know if I should take the show or not—it would take time away from work which would cost me money, it would take away time from apartment hunting which might not give me as many options, it would take time away from packing, meh—I just have to throw my stuff in boxes, I’ll invite friends over and make a party of it and work it out after my show closes. So, I took the show. Maybe it was the right choice or maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t sit home waiting for an apartment to fall into my lap. Things work themselves out. I went out and did things and lived my life (Limoncello in hand). I still made time to browse apartment listings. I picked up boxes and figured out how to get all my things packed. And in going forward and living my life, I met new people who reached out to their friends about apartment possibilities.

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened. Well, this “fairy tale” has a happy ending. I found an apartment (which I’m sure you’re aware of if you read Five Things I’ve Learned From Moving.  I have found the most amazing roommate and clandestinely, I live upstairs from two great friends. The show—wasn’t a mistake; I made amazing connections and made a brilliant piece of art. Was it perfect: no. Did I work it out: absolutely. Next time life hands you lemons, stare those lemons down, take a breath, and start web searching Limoncello and lemon meringue pie recipes.

Clare

No More Projections, Please!

I was beat, abused, salted in wound and stabbed-in the front. Verbally. By a friend.

Now mind you it wasn’t the first time. I think we want to claim shock, surprise when these things happen but the truth as we know it is that we know our friends who do this have done it before. The friends that undercut, hit you where it hurts or take a dig at you. They’ve done it before maybe not so blatantly or maybe we excused or away. Perhaps we were “asking” for it or just turning the other cheek. After all they are our friend, right?

As Clare wrote about last week, Growing Out of Friends is an occurrence that happens. I started taking a look at my closet of friends. Who fits? Who’s in season or just a night on the town? On this particular night I decided to put on my Friday night family dinner outfit on. Everything was same old hang time until the evening went on. In an effort of caring my friend started lecturing me about choices I make, men I attract and why it’s all bad. I asked her to stop, I stood up for myself. She continued this time accusing of me being in love with “him”. I didn’t actually know who “him” was. So I asked her. As she said my ex’s name I got angry. First: NO. Second: why would she even say it? This totally came from left field and it stung. As calmly as I could I ended the conversation. Waited a minute and politely left the situation and went home for the evening. I am quite proud of myself. I do not know what she is going through but I have to believe that I know what’s best for me.

The situation got me thinking. This happens to so many of my clients. Friends digging into friends. I do not believe it’s on purpose but what if we caught ourselves? What if we stopped this cycle? Ladies, I love you. I truly do. But, I need a favor…please stop projecting your fears, worries, doubts, insecurities and any other negatives you’re feeling onto your friends.  Ok, I realize we all have been guilty of this, even me. However, I am working on. Taking a stand against projecting how I am feeling onto others in my life. Why? It’s really not helpful to anyone!

Let me give you another example: A Lovely Artist in my world had a chat with a girlfriend of her’s the other day. This other friend of hers was probably thinking she was being helpful, suggested Lovely Artist get back with her ex-boyfriend. After all she wasn’t getting any younger and it’s harder to find a good date, she should just go back. Lovely Artist was sent into day of feeling as if she maybe should go back to a guy she didn’t feel good about dating in the first place. Was he nice? Sure but he didn’t rock her world. She didn’t feel good about herself with him. This friend has told her more than once this week she just needs to go back to him. So, so wrong! Lovely Artist should do what makes her feel good about herself. She left him because she didn’t feel good about herself with him. Her friend should be supportive instead of projecting onto her the fears and woes she’s having in the daring world. Bad Advice Friend is probably wanting to get back with an ex, or is having troubles finding a good guy. Guess what? It’s tough out there but don’t try giving advice that 1) wasn’t asked for 2) puts your friend in a place that makes her second guess herself 3) that isn’t leading to a positive feeling towards oneself.

I teach Pilates to both men and women. I hear many stories about lovers, parents, friends and work. One thing I don’t hear a man complain about is his friend telling him to get back with an ex that wasn’t good enough for him. I don’t hear him say “my friend said I should just settle for the job I’m in.” Nope I do not have any male clients come into a session telling me that they are questioning their own judgment because of a friend’s advice. I have had many a female client come in after just hearing from their mom, best friend, female coworker that they “shouldn’t have done…” they “needed to do…” We women should be supporting each other. If your friend leaves her boyfriend: support her. If your friend says she’s thinking of leaving her job: support her! If she’s going back to the gym regularly: support her! Are you seeing the theme?

I understand that we worry for our friends. What if she can’t find another job? What if she ends up single for years? What if she becomes a gym rat? What if—who cares what if! There are what ifs for EVERYTHING! You can “what if” until the cows come home. Why not turn those “what ifs” into positives! What if she finds her dream job? What if she gets healthy feels good about herself, and because her self esteem is skyrocketing, she meets a great guy? What if she starts sailing her own ship? Wouldn’t that just be awesome?

I, honestly, do not think many of us ask the questions that put doubts in our friends minds on purpose. I really hope I’m right that its not a conscious decisions. Instead we should be more present in our conversations. Ask ourselves the question in our minds before stating it out loud how it might affect the person sitting in front of us, that we do care about. I think we would actually

1) learn something about ourselves.

2) have deeper, stronger friendships. We would be lifting up our friends rather than bringing them down.

How can you be sure you’re an uplifter? Think before you speak. Is what you’re about to say supportive of your friends decision? If its not, file it away for now. Ask yourself why you think that question is important. What do you fear?

My Lovely Artist spent a whole day feeling terrible and questioning whether she made the right decision when she left her ex for the possibility of happiness.   I will give her friend the benefit of the doubt that she did not mean to put Lovely Artist into a tailspin of self doubt. But, she wasn’t asked or this information, so why offer it?

Lastly, ladies don’t be afraid to tell, your friend: “Stop, hold up. Thank you for your opinion but I feel very good about this decision. I really just want you support.” Then check out Clare’s info one “growing out of friends.” (Read that blog post here: Growing Out of Friends)

I love being a strong woman, I love that my friends come to me for advice. I will be working hard to be their cheerleader not their party crasher. Who’s with me?

–LL