Baby steps… yes, that’s a real thing (A Project).

Have you ever found yourself avoiding checking out Rare Existence or some other source of inspiration for personal growth because you’re just like, “SHUT UP! I’m so tired!!!!” Do you ever feel like I’m asking you to change your industry, solve world hunger, win the first ever best parent of the universe award, and lose 15 pounds all at the same time?  Yeah I know, I make myself feel like that sometimes too. I recently had one person comment on the blog about how overwhelmed she is. She’s trying so hard to live extraordinarily and she’s finding it so crazy difficult because she’s barely above water in 95% of the “maintenance areas” that are a part of every life whether ordinary or extraordinary.

Ah the cycle of maintaining.
It’s one of the worst places to be. It’s when you feel like you’re living a reactionary life. It’s when you finally get the money you need to pay off your credit card debt, right when you car breaks. Or when you finally feel like you have a little extra time to start that business you’ve been dreaming about, right when you find out your son is failing school and needs tons of attention from you. Or even worse, it’s when you never ever get to that place where you finally have the extra money, time, etc., etc. and yet your list of things you need to do, accomplish, accumulate, fix, etc., etc. is never ending and feels so hopeless.
Yes my dears, I’ve been there. Often. And in many ways, I still am there. So what do we do, how do we move past this or at the very least survive it?! One baby step at a time.
I know, I know that sounds so cliche but that’s because it’s a God honest, undeniable truth. You have to start somewhere and baby steps is some of that “where” that you need to be starting at.

Before you list the areas that need some work, why don’t you start by listing the areas in your life that HAVE been progressing in the past year.
I recently made that list and it totally changed my perspective for the better. Once I had a list of all the things (big and little) that have been going somewhere I realized there are enough on the list to officially say that I’M going somewhere. That’s what really convinced me that the “one step at a time” rule was more than just an excuse for lazy people. I have been doing one step at a time in lots of small ways and they are now coming together to form some big movement.

After you make the list of the areas that you’ve seen positive changes in, it’s time to go back to the sucky side.
Now list the areas in your life that need a serious, reality makeover show kind of intervention. Once you’ve done that, just sit in your sadness and be depressed with no one but cookie dough to be your friend.
No, not really. Once you’ve made the list of areas that need to be changed, it’s time to choose the top 3 you want to start working on first and formulate a plan for each. In other words, list out all the tiny baby steps for each of the 3 areas to work on that would put Bill Murray to shame. Once you’ve done that for all three, pick the one area that has the steps that are most doable for you to start with today and then guess what…start doing them! My very official not at all qualified prescription for you is to start working on baby step number one in the most important category within the next week. If that step is too complex to do all in one week, then you need to babyfie it a little more and break it down further so that all your steps are just one small thing at a time… in one small area at a time… that will add up to lots of small life changes… that will create major life change in the end.

And that’s how we roll….

….Forward.

You can do it my dear

This post is dedicated to two of my friends (you know who you are).

 

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I told myself when my husband and I both went full time into our new photography business which has continued to support us for the past 3 years.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Kelli, told herself as she gave up her successful career to start up her non-profit organization that now helps hundreds of foster children every year.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Molly told herself (and her husband!) as he went in to reverse his vasectomy after they decided that extraordinary living for them means having and raising as many children as possible (they now have 4 boys and are pregnant with their 5th baby!).

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Nicole, told herself when she started up her blog that now has a large fan base and is leading to major speaking opportunities which enable her to help all kinds of people in more ways than she dreamed possible.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Christina told herself when her and her husband decided to start saving their money to fulfill their dream of living on Maui- which they succeeded in doing 5 years later.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Julia told herself as she gave up her life, time, and energy to nursing school because what she is meant to do with her life is help people.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Lynn told herself as her and her husband set off to leave their home in Phoenix and live in Chicago for a year… just to have an adventure.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Abby told herself when she moved to Africa to start housing and taking care of orphaned children there.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Katie told herself when she started sewing wedding dresses out of old tablecloths and soon became busier than she could handle sewing all kinds of unique women’s clothing.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell yourself next time you have a dream, inkling or idea, that seems made of equal parts amazing and impossible.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell your friends when they share their big dreams and ideas with you… right before you pull out a pen and paper and help them write out the steps to accomplish their plan.

YOU can do it my dear(s).

 

Don’t expect to find the answers in a day

I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to decide what to do with my life.

And that doesn’t mean I just go through my normal day to day activities and hope the idea comes to me. That means I’ve spent hours and hours writing and brainstorming and breaking down ideas. Word associations, lists, rhetorical analysis. I’ve spent the past 2 years doing and I still am just barely touching the very tip of the answers to my questions!

I think it’s important you know this because when you find out that you don’t know what to do with your life it can make you want to throw your hands up in frustration and despair, thinking something’s wring with you, then debate giving up on your extraordinary journey.  But don’t give up! Because in fact….

If you don’t know what to do with your life, YOU ARE NORMAL!

You are like everyone else, even those who are living extraordinary lives! No one knows what they want to do at first! Particularly people who have unique personalities. If you are a unique person that means you’re meant to do something unique and uncommon which means that whatever you’re meant to do is not going to be the first thing that comes to mind when you first start examining the options out there for you. If it’s unusual it’s either going to be hard to come across it or it may even be waiting for you to create it! So just because it isn’t on the tip of your tongue, doesn’t mean you won’t uncover it one day!

Set aside intentional brainstorming time.

Don’t expect a rare magical idea to just float into your head unless you are giving it the time of day to come up with it. I spent the first year of my search having no idea what direction I wanted to go and it wasn’t until I spent a good 3 hours a day for a full 4 days straight (on vacation) sitting there and actually writing about various ideas in my journal that I even began to have an inkling of a possible idea. It was sitting there in a coffee shop in Mexico that I came up with the idea for this blog. An idea that never would’ve come to me if I wasn’t actively pursuing it and investing the necessary time and energy into finding it.

If you need help getting going, take the time to stop and do some of the exercises I’ve given you. Those will help kick start you into doing the kind of work that is essential for your extraordinary journey!

If you keep putting in the intentional work and have some patience, the answers will come to you and I think you’ll find out that they were SO worth the wait!

 

My Big Demon

So today we’re getting personal. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about bra sizes or that weird toe thing you have – or anything like that, there’s just a little (actually giant) confession I’ve got to make here.

It’s no secret that my extraordinary word is FREEDOM. If you know that, then you are not only an excellent reader, but you also know that I usually follow that declaration with a list of fairly generic things that I want to find or maintain freedom from. Well today I’m going to surprise even myself and get really specific up in here. I’m going to tell you what I want freedom from more than anything in the world. It’s an obsession even stronger than the one most girls have with Ryan Gosling’s seemingly photoshopped abs. So what is this obsession that takes precedence even over Mr. “Hey Girl” himself? The correct answer here is FOOD. I want freedom from food. Not from nourishment, not from cooking, and definitely not from the bliss of chocolate truffle cheesecake. I’m fine with all of that really.

What I want is freedom from my addiction to food.

I know that it’s totally normal for most people to daydream about food and spend lots of time looking forward to their next amazing meal. Being in the extreme foodie culture of Los Angeles has taught me that much. What I’m talking about is different than that. I’m talking about when you go out to eat with a friend and you literally can’t even hear a word they’re saying because all you can think about is the dry loaf of bread on the table that is causing you to use every ounce of energy to be socially acceptable enough not to chow both your portion and theirs in one swallow. I’m talking about when you are so full your stomach hurts because you’ve eaten everything tasty in the fridge, and yet you still start looking in the back to find your year old frozen pie crust or baker’s chocolate because even though it’s disgusting… it’s all that’s left.  I’m talking about not wanting to go to parties because you know you won’t be able to stop eating after one…two…three… make that four cookies, and people will notice and even though you’ll be mortified, you’ll reach for another and another after that.  I’m talking about when you spend 30 minutes weeping in shame over how much you just ate, only to eat that same amount 30 min. later when you’re stomach has stretched… which of course leads to another 30 minutes straight of crying. I’m talking about waking up in the morning, almost wishing you didn’t because you know you won’t be able to stop eating today any better than you did yesterday. I’m talking about just about every waking second of your life being devoted to food in some way… scratch that, every second in general because you dream about binging too.

Overeating isn’t the captain of the eating disorders football team or anything. It doesn’t really get the attention that the homecoming queen and king (anorexia and bulimia) get, but it can still bully any of us average Joe’s just as much as the popular kids can.

So now you know why I want freedom.

I can’t imagine how beautiful life could be if I could only find a way to never again eat to the point of almost being sick, or eat even though the food is disgusting and I’m not at all hungry, or leave a social scene because I want to go gorge myself away from my skinny friends, or give up the fight because it just feels pointless. If I could only find a way to escape living under the cloud. I live in a place that is covered in a grey fog, and no matter how much I squint or try to see above it, I just can’t get a clear vision of anything anymore. Either the thoughts of food or the thoughts related to the consequences of my constant thoughts of food, are with me through about 95% of my life. I am at all times hyper aware of where the closest Oreo is or isn’t, how long it will be until I will get to eat my next 98% sugar meal, how tight my jeans feel, how much lesser of a person I feel, how much I hate myself, and how I am just going to go eat more because I hate myself. This is the cycle of shame, addiction, and consequences…. and for me, it all revolves around what goes into my belly (and now my thighs and my butt too).

All the things I described above have been true throughout most of my life.

When I was a cute little, baby fat ridden 6 year old, I began the first page of my diary by describing how I couldn’t wait until I was “16, pretty, skinny, and hanging out at the mall with my boyfriend”. Turns out, I was not skinny when I was 16. I did not get asked to hang out at the mall (but this was partly because AOL browsers had brought the beginnings of online shopping to the world) and boys didn’t ask me to dances, football games, or anything else that Saved By the Bell promised me. When I was 18, I began the painstaking work of finding freedom from food thanks to a great class I took that I’ve since found out has evolved into a cult… hail broccoli, right? By the time I was 19 I was pretty far along the path to Skinnyland and almost wearing a size 6 (I bought a lot of Gap clothes back then because what they called a 6 fit a little more like a 7 and a half). But when I was 20, I broke up with my boyfriend (who, by the way, had fulfilled some of my girlhood fantasies by taking me to the mall sometimes)… and the layers of both fat, and muffin top disguising clothes, came piling back on. Since then, I’ve just gotten worse and worse and felt more and more trapped and controlled by food.

Now the same issue is back to haunt me in a different way.

As I now head down the path towards my extraordinary life, I find myself sort of hoping that many of my nearby dreams will actually wait a couple of years to come true. Wait, what?! Yep, it’s true. The thing is that some of these dreams involve me being in the public eye, so of course I want to wait that extra year since I will FOR SURE have lost 45 lbs by then!  I once heard that when Oprah was nominated for another Emmy in 1992 she actually prayed she wouldn’t win because she was the heaviest she’d ever been and was too embarrassed by her weight to go on stage and accept the award. Her dreams were coming true and her weight was slowing her down (probably both literally and figuratively). And now I’m beginning to feel the same way. The consequences of my obsessive addiction have found a whole new way to tear me down… they are getting in the way of my extraordinary life. In some ways they’ve always put a ceiling on the things I was capable of. But I’m beginning to realize that the chance of me achieving my goals are being significantly diminished, not only because fat people aren’t necessarily a favorite in American culture (despite many of us being huge), but also because my insecurities and wasted energy spent on this will hold me back from even doing something worthy of public attention in the first place. I can really only go so far in obtaining the life I am meant to live if I allow this weakness to control me.

But now, I’m moving on.

Now I’m in sunny southern California, the land of tofu, tummy tucks, and Tina Turner (what? sorry, I couldn’t think of a good T name). And I live right on the beach, which is of course the land of skin, skin, and more skin.  And no matter how many boob enhancing, waist minimizing swimsuits I order online from Victoria Secret, when beach day comes around for my friends, I still feel like a 13 year old girl on her period during Swim Party Saturday who suddenly comes down with small pox or some other previously eradicated disease to avoid attending. I am now surrounded by people who spend their lives eating only organic fruits and vegetables before and after their daily “surfing-yoga-kick boxing-spinning-Pilates-px90-hip hop dance-jogging” combination class. So far being here has still refused to magically turn me into a fit Californian, but I still have high hopes that the Jessica Biel Body Bug will come bite me one day. Not really, I actually am trying to do something about all this. So while I’m spilling all the beans here, I will tell you another secret, I’m in therapy for this now. There is obviously some degree of emotional eating here (notice the boyfriend break up trigger) and I just can’t seem to wrap my little head around the problems of my big body. I’ve also stumbled upon a great group of friends who happen to be in the fitness industry so there’s been lots of bartering going on between photography needs and fitness needs so hopefully giving a few photos will equal losing a few pounds. And really there is something to say for living around healthy people. It’s not as fun to eat a greasy Big Mac while everyone around you looks like they’d be less grossed out if they were watching the cow being slaughtered that made your Big Mac. I’ve also been getting great recipes and tips from some of my Jack Lalanne-esque friends. Those are all a few of the small things I’m doing to get started, and there’s plenty more where that came from. So here’s to California rubbing off on me a bit.

I’ve lived long enough to know by now, though it’s still hard to believe most of the time, that everyone has their thing.

Everyone has something that if they let take control, will threaten to hold them down until they lose their breathe and the life is sucked out of them. I always used to think it was just me, but it’s not. So what is it? What is it that is really holding you back? This is important because if this thing is still controlling you, not only is it stopping you from living a truly extraordinary life, but it’s actually forcing you to live an even less than ordinary life. You’re surviving in the negatives here, my friend. What is it? And what are you doing about it? It’s time for this to stop. It’s time for us to take control of this once and for all. If we’re living with constant and unnecessary fears, insecurities, shame, sadness, hurt, etc, etc, then we’ve done nothing more than waste our lives, regardless of how many of our dreams we’ve accomplished throughout it. Even if it is possible for us to have success while being torn apart by our weaknesses, I don’t believe any amount of it will make us happy anyways if we’re still being eaten away on the inside by something.

So there you have it folks, my soul, laid out bare on the operating table.

Now that you know I’m a real person with cellulite and all, I’m hoping you’ll love me in the same way you love Emma Stone- it’s that special place where you can truly appreciate her talent and really relate to her because her pasty white skin and ginger hair make her less threatening and more adorable to you.  I am very VERY scared to put this out there for all of you to read, but also very VERY excited because I believe it will be a major part in me finding support and eventual healing. Secrecy breeds shame, and shame isolates us from people. And as it so happens, the last thing we want is what we most need because people and healthy relationships are a major part of the treatment for breaking the shame cycle of addiction. So find some support, tell your secrets, make a plan, and join me as we overcome. Join me as we find freedom. Join me as we find a power we never knew we had that strengthens us to push through the seemingly impossible challenges. Join me so that when we find the life we are meant to be living, we can say that not only is it an extraordinary life, but that it is truly the best kind of life possible, full of more freedom and joy than we ever imagined possible. Join me.

(If you want to hear more awkwardly honest stories like this one, or just more about how to find and live an extraordinary life, follow Rare Existence on Facebook!)

California dreaming turned into reality

I have wanted to live in southern California my entire life.

And my husband Scottie, has wanted to escape the summertime heat ever since he got his first “welcome to Phoenix” seat belt branding back in 2001. Over the past couple of years, our business has brought us to the Golden State multiple times. And every time we leave more inspired than the last by the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done and seen. Whenever the sad day to return home comes, we pile our camera gear back into the car and head away from the salty sea air, towards the looming saguaro cacti, and find ourselves making longer and longer lists of what we can do to live a more beautiful and creative life. Only to arrive back in Phoenix, get hot, and decide to plant ourselves in front of the fan next to the TV all day everyday… with the occasional trip to the kitchen to get a snack.

So what’s stopped us from following our California Dreamin’? There are the usual reasons… leaving family (whom we actually LIKE), extra expensive everything in California, and of course having to start all over with our finally successful business sounds terrible to us. So there is all that, but really the biggest reason we haven’t left is because…

…we just thought it was impossible.

People in small towns think they can’t move to a big city and people in Arizona think they can’t move to California.  I don’t know what it is, but you just believe the state line is made up out of trampolines that will bounce you back if you try to get in with a moving truck. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but you just have to believe me when I tell you that’s how it feels… it’s a weird phenomenon.

At some recent point though- I don’t know if it was hearing about my friend’s 18 year old sister who moved there just because she wanted to, or driving through East LA and being like, “see, you don’t have to be rich to live in California!”- but for whatever reason, there was a magnificent moment in time where we found a little shred of hope as we realized that some people actually do pack their stuff and move to California! And then they just get to live there!!! Can you believe that?!

Combine that glimpse of a possible palm tree filled future with the fact that we had just spent a week away getting some R&R on vacation with our family and had done lots of thinking about our currently floundering life (too many possibilities, not enough clear direction… you know, the typical stuff Millennials deal with every 6 months). We worked on our discipline of dreaming, 5 year planning, and goal setting and were very surprised to find that everything pulled itself together to aim in one clear direction. West. Ha, of course it would. That does it! We are going to pack up our covered wagons and head down the trail with dreams of surfboard bruises and yacht party cruises filling our little bonnet covered heads.

We’ve decided to take the plunge and move to Los Angeles, California…

…for 3 months.

Yes, just for 3 months. What? That’s still a huge deal, OK!

Surprisingly enough, the summer is the slow season for wedding photographers in Phoenix because apparently most brides have a thing about getting married with pit stains (I don’t know why- twinsie pits brides and grooms can be pretty cute). So we have decided to take advantage of our free time that is usually filled with sweating our eyebrows off, to go on a adventure!

“Sure”, we said.  “Going to California sounds great!”.  Of course as the words were escaping our lips, we both felt the unspoken doubts in our hearts.

You have to understand, we are wedding photographers.  We have absolutely no idea when we will be getting paychecks. Well we have some idea, but in January, the squares on our calendar for the rest of the year are still so bright white that they burn my retinas. Basically, our budget meetings usually come down to something like this:

Scottie: “So do we have enough money?”
Breanna: “Depends on how long you want to live for”.
Scottie: (Rolls his eyes at Breanna’s annoying sarcasm).
Breanna: “We have enough money for the next 4 months”.
Scottie: “Sweet, but what about after that?”
Breanna: “Well, if we don’t book more weddings in the next 4 months then that means our business is failing and we probably need to get new jobs anyways.”
Scottie: (Silent pondering, as is his way).
Breanna: “I’m saying we’re fine for now, and so far we have always been fine, so I hope that in 4 months we’ll find out we’re fine again.”
Breanna: “If not, then we have to find something else to do no matter what so there’s no reason in worrying about it now”.
Scottie & Breanna: (lots of worrying going on in their minds)

Seriously, it’s like that every time. So it is a big deal to say, “OK, we’re good for 4 months on our current budget. But, I know!!! How about we triple our rent, double our grocery and gas bills, AND maintain our apartment in Phoenix, and hope not only that it works, but that we will still have money to live on in the months following that!”. Yep, we’re stupid. Whatever- where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?!

This is the time to play the “what if” game. After playing, we found out that the worst thing that could happen is that we go, run out of money, and come home, and then possibly get short term jobs to make up the money we spent there. The consequences of failure at this aren’t insurmountable. Basically the biggest thing we’re risking is our pride.

But of course what we stand to gain is amazing and MUCH bigger than what we stand to lose…

We have the opportunity to use these 3 months to the fullest to discover new experiences that will help us grow, inspire us, bring us closer together, and bring new and wonderful people into our lives … all while pushing us closer to our short and long term goals in both business and life. Not to mention it will be very VERY fun and way WAY better than spending a summer in Phoenix melting and angry, while not making any money anyways. The scales are tipped and California wins.

So here we are, just waiting for summer to come. Hoping to see the money come in, hoping to schedule photo sessions, and hoping to find a cheap enough car that won’t hinder our ability to head west (oh yes, my beloved car crossed over to the other side right after we made this decision… awesome). By the time you read this, since most of my posts are written far in advance, I could very well be there, or way past there. Who knows where we’ll be?! But the point is, I think it will be somewhere better than we would be if we weren’t taking this adventurous chance and you can be sure I’ll tell you about it when we get there!

Summary:

Since this was such a long post, I’ve decided to summarize it for you lazy ones.

Scottie and Breanna love California… but they can’t go because of stuff… mostly because the trampolines stop them…then they saw some poor people… they made some plans… which is OK because they just lay around in the summer anyways… but they didn’t have enough money… so they just said, “oh well, we’ll get some”… and they decided to go. The end. Or rather, “to be continued”.

(UPDATE: sooo…. 3 months in CA turned into six years! Read about the decision to move there here, and the decision to leave there here).

(if you liked this story and want to hear more stories about Extraordinary Living join the  Rare Existence community on Facebook)!

 

From Intellect to Action

Now it’s time to get down and dirty with the practical application.  So far I’ve been all whimsical and inspiring, while I speak in poetry and riddles trying to convince you to ethereally join the extraordinary life style.  Now I’m going to turn all real on you.  No, you can’t just continue to make changes to your thinking alone, it’s time to get started on the transformation of your day to day life.

In short, no more pretending…you can’t get away on simply agreeing with all of this on an intellectual level forever.

Trust me, I tried that, remember?  I told you how I married Scottie thinking he was so fantastic because of all of his genius philosophies and views on life. I loved that I’d found a man who believed in setting a max amount of money he needed to live on and then if he made more than that, he’d give the rest away.  I mean, that shows what a generous and unique soul he is, right? Who wouldn’t want to date a guy like that?  Until you get engaged that is and you realize that all this altruistic talk means that even though you’d never planned on being rich, if you ever did in fact find yourself there, you still couldn’t live like it.  Somehow the glamor of all his beautiful, idealistic dreams started to fade when I realized that I too was going to have to start sacrificing for them!  I can’t tell you how many conversations we had about “but what if I really, really love that $120 sweater at Anthropologie, do I still have to buy the $20 one at Target… even if we make 2 million a year?  Really?! OK, but what if we just budget enough so I can buy ALL my clothes at Anthropologie and then if I have some left over at the end of the month, we give THAT away? How much is too much to spend on a vacation… on a house… on the perfect french bulldog, etc., etc?”  Things that sound good on paper, don’t always look so hot when they’re happening before your very eyes in your very own life!

So this place I found myself in after I slipped that engagement ring on- the place where it hit me like the diamonds we may be throwing towards the orphans one day- this place where I realized that all his unorthodox and slightly dangerous views about life, now applied to my very normal and safe life.

And that’s the place where you are now.

You: “Oh wow, I love dreaming about the big picture and thinking about how beautiful and crazy all of this life stuff really is!”
Me: “OK, but how crazy and beautiful is YOUR life right now?”.
You: “Um, uh, that doesn’t really matter.  The point is that we’re on the same wave length here.”
Me: “No, the point is that you’re going to have to sack up and do something about all of this”.
You: “oh $&#**”.

Your first official assignment will come in the next post.  No throwing it out the window because you were “afraid it would self destruct”.  I’ve heard that excuse before.