Adventures in Self-Love: Don’t Be Such a Drama Queen.

girl-fight-2I used to attract drama as if my life were a daytime soap opera.

I had a boss who sought out scandal and picked fights with people like it was her job.

I had a boyfriend who would scream “You never really loved me!” whenever things didn’t go his way.

I lost a personal and business relationship with someone and had my life devolve into the most dramatic episode I’ve ever experienced due to a silly incident that happened at my birthday party.

Whenever a friend was in crisis, I’d always get drawn into it to the point of being intimately involved.

I couldn’t understand why these things were always happening to me. I didn’t want my life to be like this.

Or did I?

Because, on some level, I was choosing all of this. I was addicted to the drama.

We might not like the anxiety, jealousy, anger, and frustration that come along with drama, but it sure is easy to get addicted to the rush.

Luckily recognizing the problem and realizing your part in it is the first step to overcoming it. To taking back your power, rather than letting your life constantly be blown up and down by whatever’s happening around you.

Drama is defined as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances” – so it isn’t inherently bad.

But when we get hooked on the adrenaline, excitement, and attention that drama brings, we get attached to it and we find ways to manufacture drama – usually by creating or seeking out conflict. When life is flowing easily, we’ll find ways to make it difficult. We’ll see obstacles instead of seeking solutions. We’ll hold back our feelings and create tension in our lives. We’ll put up with treatment from other people that diminishes our self-worth. Pretty soon we’re anxious all of the time.

When we give into the drama our body enters a state of stress. The adrenaline and cortisol it produces changes our circadian rhythm, which can result in insomnia, a disrupted metabolism, weakened immune system, and memory decline. In other words, being a drama addict is pretty much the antithesis of loving yourself.

girl-fight-1I would never have thought of myself as a drama queen – I like to avoid conflicts and if I’m not careful, I slide easily into people-pleasing tendencies. But if we’re not being true to ourselves, we create internal conflict. We fuel resentments. We manufacture anxiety. And eventually, something’s going to snap.

Last spring I started to think about all of this really carefully. I had just broken it off with yet another guy who made me feel less than. I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why does this keep happening?” I thought about The Super Dramatic Episode of 2013. About who I chose to date. About how I react to stressful situations. There was only one conclusion I could come to: I was the common denominator. I was a drama queen.

I had recognized the problem and I dedicated myself to figuring out the solution. That day I wrote in my journal, “I’ll still relish excitement and adventure, but I’m committed to living a life free from unnecessary drama. I’m no longer willing to tolerate people who treat me unkindly or who make me feel unworthy. I will speak up about my needs and voice my feelings freely. When I find myself mentally dissolving into future-tripping or manufacturing drama for myself, I will recognize my power to choose a different thought. I’m no longer going to be a drama queen.”

Recovering from a drama addiction is an ongoing process and requires more perseverance than I’d originally anticipated, but by bringing awareness to the situation and committing to change, I’ve made huge strides. Here are my suggestions for going on a drama detox and living a more peaceful existence.

heart Set clear boundaries.
When we know what behaviour we will and won’t tolerate, it becomes easier to know when we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and make difficult decisions about who we allow into our lives. I’d recommend spending some quality time with a journal thinking this through. What negative patterns have you recognised in your life? What kinds of conflict tend to create drama in your life? What behaviour have you tolerated in the past even though you knew you deserved better? Brainstorm a list of ways you’ll recognise when your boundaries have been crossed and what you’ll do about it.

heart Be strict about who you spend your time with.
Like attracts like, so if we spend most of our time with people who crave and manifest drama, we’re bound to end up with more of it in our lives. Sometime we have to make difficult decisions about who we have close relationships with. If you recognise someone as adding more drama than they do value to your life it might be time to think about ending your relationship or limiting the amount of time you spend with them. If this is someone you have to be around, like a co-worker, be very clear about the boundaries you have with them. Limit your interactions to the workplace and keep your conversations focused on the job. This isn’t about being cruel to anyone; just recognising that the people we spend time with play a big part in shaping our lives, so it’s important to choose wisely.

girl-fight-3heart  Recognize your triggers.
Sometimes we’re addicted to drama because it feels like the norm in certain areas of our life, either as a result of how we were raised or the beliefs we’ve developed. For many of us, this manifests most strongly in our romantic lives or our relationships to work. If we grew up in a house where our parents were always yelling at one another, we may have unconsciously come to believe that this is what love looks like. As a result, even when we’re in a healthy relationship, we find ways to create drama and make ourselves unhappy with the situation. Luckily we have the option to choose new beliefs. In each of your trigger areas write down a healthier belief that’s infused with self-love. Maybe it’s “Romantic relationships are nurturing, affectionate, and mutually supportive.” When you find yourself creating your reality around an old belief, remind yourself of the new one and act on it instead.

heart Cultivate self-expression.
For someone who’s quite outspoken, I have a hard time expressing myself when I know it’s going to make me vulnerable. But by getting clear on my personal boundaries and identifying my triggers, I find it easier to articulate myself instead of staying silent, breeding resentment, and creating future drama. If you recognise the need to speak up with someone in your life, remember: it doesn’t have to be a major conflict. I find it best to let the person know ahead of time so that we can both be prepared for the conversation (and so I don’t weasel out of it). And the more I’ve been open and honest, the easier it’s become. And the more my life looks and feels the way I want it to, because I’m asking for what I need.

heart Choose a different thought.
So much of the drama we create is based only in our  thoughts – not in reality. And our thoughts are our own creations. There’s a powerful line in A Course in Miracles that says, “I can see this differently.” This simple phrase is an important reminder of the power we have to change our own minds. If you find yourself getting caught up in the drama of your thoughts, pause and remember that you can see the situation differently. Tell yourself, “I can see  love instead” and then choose a more peaceful, loving thought.

heart  Protect yourself.
Dramatic situations are going to arise. Conflicts are going to happen. But you don’t have to get caught up in them. Rather than letting your mind run away with you, find a way to pull yourself back to the present moment, rather than getting sucked in. Focus on your breath. Rub a crystal that you’ve got tucked in your pocket. Recite an affirmation. Find something that soothes you and use it to protect yourself.

This hasn’t been a clear, black and white process for me. It’s become very clear to me that romantic relationships and stressful work situations really trigger the drama addict in me. But by consistently applying the strategies above, I’m finding it easier to let go. To speak up. To look at things differently. And that’s a big step forward on my self-love journey.

What about you, do you find yourself getting caught up in drama or making situations more stressful for yourself?

Give up the drama, baby!
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Photographs by Steven Meisel.

The Birthday List: Go to a morning rave.

morning-glory-1morning-glory-2morning-glory-3As a teenager, I was perfectly at home in the throes of mosh pits at punk rock shows or flailing my limbs around to ska music, but I didn’t get into raving. Techno has never been my style of music and it just wasn’t my scene. And these days it’s pretty rare for me to stay out all night dancing. I’ve come to relish small gatherings of my favourite people (preferably with champagne and lots of shimmying) and relaxing evenings by myself, so if I do stay up past my bedtime, it’s usually by accident – because I’m having so much fun, and not because I’ve gone looking for a party that never stops.

And I’m really not a morning person. I’d like to be and I’m trying, but my bed is so cosy and sometimes it’s hard to pry myself out of it.

So why on Earth would I want to go to a morning rave?

Because my birthday list is all about trying new things. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Growing. Expanding.

And it sounded like fun.

Morning raves swap the alcohol for coffee. Toss the drugs for green juice. But keep the wild dancing and glittery, neon-infused aesthetics. Except instead of partying until the wee hours of morning, you wake up in the wee hours to shake your buns before work.

On the last Wednesday of every month, Morning Glory descends on the Oval Space in East London. Known as “conscious raving,” the phenomenon seems to have started in London but there are now events across Europe and North America.

I had a day off in lieu last Wednesday, but instead of having a lie-in, I hopped reluctantly crawled out of bed  at 5:45, slipped on a tutu, donned a pair of Crown & Glory ears, smeared my face with glitter, and got ready to dance.

When I arrived, there was already a long queue out the door and the mix of people in work clothes, kids in Halloween costumes (coolest. parents. ever.), and partygoers in elaborate, glittery costumes instantly put a smile on my face. The Morning Glory unicorns were there to greet us, glitterfy faces, and make sure everyone was having a good time.

Once inside, I grabbed an Americano and joined the revelers while we all shimmied to the Ghostbusters’ theme song.

I hadn’t been able to find anyone to go with me, but it didn’t matter. I quickly met a group of women who gifted me with a pair of glasses that make light look like rainbows and pulled me into their ranks. And being on my own pushed me to meet new people and get comfortable twirling on my own.

I stayed for about an hour and a half. As the music changed from cheesy dance numbers to drum and bass I decided to make my way home and prepare for the rest of my day off.

Despite being up much earlier than normal, spending my morning surrounded by colourful, friendly, sober ravers perked me up. I found the whole experience really fun and uplifting. It would be an especially quirky way to start a work day and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the new year.

How about you, have you been to a morning rave? Would you ever?

With stars in my eyes,
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Photographs by Nicole Latchana.

Dressed to Kill (Or Be Killed).

house-of-intelligence-outfit1See how scared I look? That’s because I was all dressed up for a day of running away from zombies. Okay, okay we had already survived by the time we took these but I couldn’t help hamming it up a little.

I know what you’re probably thinking: is a high-waisted circle skirt really appropriate for the zombie apocalypse?

As it turns out, my wardrobe of flared skirts, vintage dresses, and sparkly combats isn’t particularly well-suited for decapitating the undead. At least I had my trusty motorcycle boots to slip on, but perhaps it’s finally time to buy a pair of trousers.

Take a look at what I wore for our afternoon at Backyard Cinema and then I’ll tell you why my shirt is perfectly on theme…

house-of-intelligence-outfit2house-of-intelligence-outfit4house-of-intelligence-outfit3house-of-intelligence-outfit5I’m wearing a jacket from Danier, a Cryptococcosis vest c/o House of Intelligence, a thrifted skirt, tights from Boots, Frye Engineer boots, and a “Witch, Please” necklace c/o BeteNoire.

Okay, back to the shirt, which is the brilliant creation of House of Intelligence - a brand that infuses style with academic curiosity and scientific knowledge. This vest is from their Laboratory collection and while the print might look like innocent paint splatters but it’s actually a sample of fluid obtained from the lungs of a person infected with Cryptococcosis – a fungal infection that attacks the lungs. Creepy & perfectly zombiesque, right? But also totally fascinating. Talk about style that makes a statement.

The fabrics HOI uses are gorgeous and all of their designs are produced in the UK. Each garment is accompanied by a hang tag that conveys a small piece of information that is encompassed within the design itself. I’m so inspired by entrepreneurs that strive to create something new – something I think founders Charlie and her boyfriend Simon have truly accomplished with their company. Their clothing is beautiful on its own but every item also has it’s own story to tell, which makes them extra special.

What do you think of style injected with academia? Do you have a favourite piece from HOI’s Laboratory collection?

Love, tattooed hearts, & cosmic mysteries,
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Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Jennifer Lawes.

jennifer-lawes1Jennifer Lawes, 27, Pearl Harbour Gift Shop in Toronto

Jennifer tattoos in the first city that stole my heart – Toronto. And I have such a soft spot for her beautiful black work. Many of Jennifer’s pieces look like a wood print, magically transferred to skin, and her intricate dot work mandalas leave me in awe. Today she’s been kind enough to answer a few of my questions and tells us about how she made the journey to becoming a tattooer.

How long have you been tattooing?
7 years

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
My mom started getting tattooed when she split from my dad and I thought it was the coolest. We lived in the middle of nowhere so going to a tattoo shop wasn’t really a choice. They were 2 hours away and I couldn’t drive. When I was 17 I got a really bad tattoo of a rose on my foot in a college town. It sucked and I knew it right away. I wore sneakers on the beach all summer, hah! A year later I went with my mom and a tattooer from Indiana named Bill fixed my rose. He put some black in it, added some leaves and it’s a good looking tattoo now. The whole time my mom was asking insane questions…it was so embarrassing for my 17 year old self. Hilarious to me, now.

jennifer-lawes3Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own (ie. in your collection, not that you’ve tattooed)?
I think every time I get a new tattoo it becomes my favourite. I’ve been fortunate to get tattooed by some really great, kind people who are great tattooers. My co-worker Elissa Veinot just put a King of the Hill tattoo on me. It rules! I don’t have a lot of goofy tattoos but I’ve wanted a KOTH tattoo forever! I usually think of my back as a favourite. It’s Bert Grimm’s sundancer painting tattooed by Nick Collella of Great Lakes Tattoo, Chicago.

How did you get started in tattooing? What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
I started driving out to the east coast of Canada to get tattooed when I was 18. It was a 17 hour drive I would make with my friend. We were pretty wild. We had no money, barely a car and would have the best time. Everybody thought we were drop outs going through a phase but my mom was all about it and would cheer us on. One year I decided to stay out east at the chance of learning how to tattoo. My mom gave me her old mini van and I left. I started working at a shop. I was there for a few years and while out there my mom back home in Ontario died. I was wrecked and left to go back to Ontario. I don’t think I did much of anything for the next year and then started working at bummer shops when I got back to work. I am so lucky. I don’t know how it happened but for the past 5-6 years to get from there to here, I have had so many tattooers be kind to me and I am so grateful for their advice and help. All of their support along with my husband’s has brought me to a really great place. I love the shop I work at and the people I work with. They are all a hardworking, no BS group of tattooers. I’m very excited to be tattooing at The Pearl.

jennifer-lawes2Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
Not really. My mom was big into folk art, sewing and beading so we had that when we were little. She always had something creative going on for us to take part in. In high school I thought I was pretty great in art class but I probably sucked. I didn’t go to art school and started drawing and painting as soon as I was hanging around tattoo shops at 17. I really love painting now. Lately I’ve been very into printmaking techniques and have started working with wood cutting. I’m lucky to work at a shop that has a group of tattooers that are constantly producing awesome drawings, paintings, t-shirt designs…it pushes me to stay productive.

How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
You mean having tattoos? No, I don’t think so. I have always been a homebody and anti-social. I hid my tattoos growing up and didn’t have to talk to anybody about them. Nowadays people love them, it’s no big deal. iI’ve always thought they were the best. I love putting tattoos on people.

jennifer-lawes4How would you describe your style of tattooing?
I like doing a lot of black tattoos. using dots and lines within traditional tattoo imagery to achieve some different looks. I’m into a lot of botanical imagery. But I am very open to tattooing anything and everything, I am here to do whatever the client wants.

Who or what influences your work?
My husband, he puts up with my painting mess at home and talks me through some of my crazy ideas till they make sense. My sister – she is so talented. I grew up tracing her artwork. All the tattooers that I work with at The Pearl; they’re really strong tattooers. They do awesome tattoos every day and give so much advice – it’s great. I love looking at scrimshaw, wood etching and printmaking lately, I think that influence is obvious with the kind of tattoos I’ve been doing lately.

Thanks, Jennifer! I find your story really inspiring. I know that the tattoo industry can be difficult to break into and it’s nice to hear that there were people there to help you along the way.

If you’re looking for a tattooist in Toronto, look no further! And if you want to keep an eye on what Jennifer’s up to, be sure to follow her on Instagram.

Je t’aime,
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This is London: Backyard Cinema.

Backyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadBackyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadLondon is full of the weird and the wonderful, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I spent the Sunday afternoon after Halloween in a military safe zone trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Backyard Cinema started as a homemade cinema project that has grown into large themed events complete with immersive theatre and over-the-top sets for a film experience unlike any other. So when Sarah invited me to join her at the Apocalypse show for a screening of Shaun of the Dead, I happily said yes, even though I seriously doubted my ability to outrun a zombie.

We met outside a warehouse in Hackney Wick, where we were debriefed by a rather surly sergeant (whom we quickly befriended) before heading into the decontamination room and through to Cyba Corp Headquarters.

Inside we sipped Zombie Antidote cocktails, learned a bit about the ‘situation,’ checked out some very alarming zombie experiments, and then settled in to watch the film.

I don’t want to give too much away, but here are a few photographs to wet your whistle.

Backyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadBackyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadBackyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadBackyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadBackyard Cinema Shaun of the DeadThis was such a fun way to spend the afternoon! We spent lots of time laughing and also feeling rather tense about whether a zombie was about to jump out at us at any minute. And to both of our surprise: we survived!

The Apocalypse show is on until 9 November and they’re screening a variety of zombie films during that time. I’d highly recommend checking it out.

If you’d like to see more of the action, check out Sarah’s post with the YouTube video she put together.

Have you been to Backyard Cinema? What’s your favourite zombie film? And perhaps most importantly: how did you celebrate Halloween?

I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show with some of my co-workers and taught a bunch of strangers how to do the Time Warp.

Love, fake blood, & silly dance moves,
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