My friend Natty is guest-blogging this week. More about the man in my introductory post.
The self-help industry alone is a testament to the common experience of struggling to change, but in May of this year I had a moment of clarity that motivated me to set out on a self-improvement experiment that defied the very phrase, ‘self-help’. Filled with an energizing optimism I sent an email to 10 of my closest friends, a supportive dream team.
JJ and I met back in January of 2008 through our mutual friend Michael Paul Vine. I was visiting Nashville for a month in order to get a taste of the life there and whether or not I could stand living in a small city without an ocean for its western border. Other plans have since been made and now I live in San Francisco as a theatre-artist, having founded a company last year, Naked Empire Bouffon Company. Leading my own theatre ensemble and living in a beautiful metropolis were goals, achieved but tentative as I am the sole engine pushing for the existence of my company in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s been a struggle, but struggling to achieve one’s goals? This is the norm, no? This is how it works.
Especially if the goal is to change oneself, right?
The self-help industry alone is a testament to the common experience of struggling to change, but in May of this year I had a moment of clarity that motivated me to set out on a self-improvement experiment that defied the very phrase, ‘self-help’. Filled with an energizing optimism I sent an email to 10 of my closest friends, a supportive dream team:
I’m writing to you in a state of lightness and peace that I haven’t felt for quite a while, perhaps not since the early part of my first year of graduate school (Fall of 2005…eesh). All of you have had a significant influence on getting me here and now I’m taking advantage of this energy by building an infrastructure that will help sustain this lovely state of being. That infrastructure is you. For reals.
12 years ago I shed almost 60 pounds, started college, left home, came out of the closet, and committed myself to a life of theatre making. Twas a wonderful time of change and empowerment. Over these last years, however, I’ve struggled to re-find that same commitment ‘click’ inside of me that will lead to my reaching my ultimate goal of elite fitness and holistic well being. It’s the classic story of fits and starts. A few months of commitment here and there interrupted by long lulls in exercise, self care, nutrition, positivity, etc. I recently took a workshop about the power of utilizing one’s social networks to advance one’s arts organization and the encouragement was to be creative, inclusive, and courageous about approaching folks that care about my work so as to involve them in some real way in the organization’s growth (financially, marketing, resource development, etc).
I’m taking this lesson and using it to work on my personal growth. Like an arts organization each individual on this dream team contributes significantly to the world around them, making it a bit better by being good and smart and creative and loving. I have benefited from each of you being in my life.
I’m also using this as a kind of criticism of a too popular notion that the individual must find success on his/her own. I’ve blamed myself for lack of will or enough love for myself or some thing. That’s bullshit, no? The piece that I’ve been missing over the years is the power of kind and supportive voices, your voices, proactively and specifically teaming up to help me meet this goal.
I went on to provide a plan for a 15-week process that would culminate in my 31st birthday at the end of August. The plan described what I was committed to doing, like reporting to the group every week and following a dietary plan provided by my nutritionist and an exercise regimen that I had created and followed many times before. I asked the group to commit to being proactive with me by asking for photos of my work and providing mini-goals for me to reach from time to time. I asked the group to engage with each other as well in helping themselves design a true community of support. I created a facebook page just for us called the Thriving Natty Dream Team where the team could share with me and each other any sort of motivating tid-bit they could think of.
And in the first couple of weeks it worked. People emailed me with substantive advice based on their experience. With cheerleading. With heartfelt thoughtfulness about the lifelong work that I have set out for myself. With youtube clips of heroic drag queens and heroic movie underdogs. With gratitude for the inspiration that I was providing them just for doing this.
In preparation for this blog I have been re-reading all of these emails and facebook page entries. I have been remembering the phone calls and the in-person conversations. It all seems so long ago, like a season has changed. Indeed, I write this on the very cusp of Autumn about a time when Spring was in full bloom.
In the upcoming Part II of this blog I continue with the dramatic fullness of my ‘Thriving’ Summer. Prophetically, in my email inviting the Dream Team to join me I anticipated what was to come:
I’m super motivated now, but I face daily challenges of food at work, daily fatigue, bad weather, emotional instability, and over-filling my schedule. I’m admitting right now that these factors too often win the day-to-day battle and I can’t do it alone. This is the first time that I’ve admitted this and now I’m doing something about it.