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A new start at the end of the year!

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So, here we go – two days till the end of the year. Just the time for summaries and resolutions. I need to get some ice-cream and start singing “All by myself” and then my impersonation of Bridget Jones will be complete. (God, please, no!!!) .

The name of the post sounds provocative or plain stupid, I know. Really? Who starts anything in the end of the year? Well, I do and I’ll tel you why.

There were a lot years in my life when I postponed plans and ideas till the New Year.  “I’ll start blogging regularly”, “I’ll get on a diet”, “I’ll finally launch that start-up idea”.  An every time when the New Year arrived, it turned out that I had to do a whole bunch of other stuff (yep, more of that postponed heritage of the previous year). So this year I decided to act on my Grande Project Idea – now!

But before I tell you about this idea, I have to explain how I ended up where I am right now.

So what happened to me this leaving year? Well, I got married to the Love of my Life (cheesy, right? I know, but i kind of hope that if I get sweet enough here, I’ll eat less cake later at New Year’s Eve party.) And I lost my job. Well, the documentary movie project was successfully finished and premiered at film festival in Europe and even got the major prize there. It was nice but didn’t change the fact that I lost my job.

I spent a couple of months cleaning Panda Cave (our apartment, in layman’s terms), another month rewriting my resume and Linkedin profile, but never sent out a single application. I was considering the position of executive assistant, since last few years I’ve been not just a script writer, but also a director’s right hand. There were plenty of vacancies with pretty good salaries but…it just didn’t “speak” to me. Didn’t ignite me, didn’t seduce me, didn’t….wow, it’s a lot of negative verbiage here. And I know we should always strive to write positively, so now I am going to change “don’ts” to “dos”. Here we go. Those positions DID nothing to me. Cool, right? Now we are in the positive field.

So I decided to dust off my Master of Science in Marketing and go back to the once chosen profession. Since this is a highly volatile field of study, renewing and updating knowledge seemed like a good idea, so I went to the UCLA Extension – cute school with super encouraging professors and astonishingly honest student:  at the first lecture on Ethics at least 5 students from Turkey admitted that they didn’t give a rubber penny about ethics or studying in general. The only reason they enrolled in UCLA Extension was because it allowed them to stay in the U.S. Well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain: professors are more inclined to teach those who really care.

Studying has always been inspiring to me, but marketing in theory is almost like sex in theory. You can assume what moves would work, but you can never be sure. I needed practice. And not just some practice, but something interesting, preferably something I would be passionate about, and also risk-free for my ego in case I also must spoil before I spin, like other mortals.

So I started looking around …

(To be continued)

Pay It Forward or Workout for Karma

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No changes made to the original picture by Karma Indumentaria by  CC BY-SA 4.0.

What would you say if I told you that you can become happier and make this world a better place at no cost whatsoever except for – literally – less than a minute of your time?

But first come with me to a nasty grey winter morning several years ago. In Kiev we have lots of such days when all you really want is to sleep until spring. It was half-snowing, half-raining and I was hurrying to the subway, covering my face with the new scarf – my mom’s present. The scarf was bright and happy – blue, green and yellow stripes, it stood out in the ocean of black and grey outfits around. I concentrated my attention on the slippery stairs down to the station when I heard someone calling:

– Miss!

I didn’t even raise my eyes.

– Miss! – I looked up.

A young red-haired guy was smiling at me. I frowned and reached out for my purse to keep it closer to me. Is he hitting on me? Will he try to sell me a magic vacuum-cleaner? Is he a Jehovah witness? But the guy simply said:

– Just wanted to tell you that you look lovely in that scarf this morning! Have a great day!

He disappeared in the swarming crowd before I could think of any answer. And, frankly speaking, I am not sure I would be able to come up with one – I was too taken aback. I squeezed into my train and noticed that my mood improved. I touched the scarf – it was soft and warm and yes, so very pretty. That day turned out to be much better than I expected. I remember thinking – it’s a shame there are too few people like that. And then the question presented itself – when was the last time I was a person “like that”? When did I say something good to a stranger just because I felt like making his or her day a little brighter?

I made a commitment: every day I will pay a compliment or just wish a good day to someone I don’t know and, therefore, can’t expect anything in return. A tiny good deed without any hidden agenda, even on subconscious level. And at first it felt weird – do I need a schedule for good deeds? We are used to think that they should be a call of heart, right? Well, sometimes my call of heart is lazy or grumpy or simply shy, and maybe needs a touch of discipline.

It’s a real magic – a minute of your time and a couple of good words to make someone’s day. For me the return turned out to be really huge: my social skills got better and it has become easier for me to approach new people and start conversations on public events; it has become so much easier to see good in people, because now I’ve been training myself to look at them and see what I can compliment them on; when people, preoccupied or gloomy just a moment ago, smile back at me so sincerely and happily, I feel that it’s actually them making my day.

I don’t know if you believe in karma, but if you do, it’s a super workout for your karma. It’s a way to get 80th-level karma in no time! Because I believe that kindness is the biggest deficit in our super high-tech progressive society and, once launched, always comes back to the giver.

So take a moment of your time and just pay it forward – today.

Bliss be upon you!

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Photo by Torsten Dettlaff by CC0 License

This is going to be a serious post. I want to talk about something very personal and intimate but not a STD or political views. Yes, there are some other things in this category. I mean religion.

I have to admit that I have never been a religious person. But two years ago I met my husband and I was converted. He is deeply religious, though he is a not a rabbie, not a priest or a monk, he is a sommelier and his religion is wine.

First of all let’s remove any doubts that wine IS religion. Most of us know that ancient Romans had Bacchus, a god of wine and legendary Greek mythology tells us about Dionysus, a god of winemaking and wine.  But there also was Yi-Ti, a Chinese god who created first rice wine; Shesmu, an Egyptian god of wine; Sucellus, an ancient Celtic god of wine; Oslad, patron of wine in Slavic mythology and many others.

I wasn’t converted overnight, of course – as a true Virgo I always need some good, solid reasoning before taking any decisions, so here are the three major arguments, which transformed me.

Wine is older than any other religion.

The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production dates back to 6000 BC in Georgia, it’s almost 8000 years ago. Hinduism, which is considered the oldest religion on record, began only 5000 years ago.  Numbers speak for themselves, don’t they?

Wine doesn’t require you to “go exclusive”.

You can be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist – wine will still accept you, nurture you and then let you go to accept back any time you want – no questions asked and no strings attached. What other religion can boast such tolerance?

Finally, wine doesn’t impose any obligations on its adepts – you don’t have to go to church every Sunday or pray 5 times a day or fast for weeks. Freedom, kindness and forgiveness – altogether!

There is only one ritual – it says: get a good company, polish the glasses, put on nice music, prepare your favorite snacks and open a bottle of wine. Pour, swirl, sniff, sip and – enjoy. That’s all worshipping wine asks for. Now, anyone who can say this isn’t awesome, please, raise and leave now.

So, whether you are religious, spiritual or atheist, I suggest this weekend you invite friends, put some treats on the table, open a bottle of wine and experience the true bliss coming down upon you.

Los Angeles as a fitness capital of the US or why is it both great and painful for a girl to live in West Hollywood

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A part of Sunset Strip in 2001, Public Domain

Today I went to say hi to the ocean and as I was crossing the street in Santa Monica I paid attention to the traffic light counting down the seconds left until the next red light: Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! It sounded like the trainer from Crunch in West Hollywood I used to go to.

Before I got married, I used to live in West Hollywood, which is the best and the worst place for a girl in LA to live in. The best because it is super safe, you can talk long walks under the moon alone and arrive home in one piece. The worst because all guys in your neighbourhood are so well-groomed that if you don’t have time for a Brazilian blowout before going out to Trader’s Joe, you prefer sneaking to Rite Aid in a hoodie and huge sunglasses than getting anywhere close to those Greek gods. They also smell better. There. I admitted that in public. (For those who don’t know, I’ll note that WeHo is THE Rainbow City, Mecca and Medina of gays)

They say, that LA is a fitness capital of the US. If you come from Europe and you haven’t been to other parts of the US to be able to compare them to LA, you actually have to learn it from someone, or, even better, to read it in some very trusted source; otherwise it’s hard to believe. But people do go to the gym, I’ll give them that. I am just not sure if they go there just to tick a box off their to-do list and pat themselves on the back. Maybe here when they make those New Year resolutions to go to the gym they actually mean just GOING to the gym, not doing anything there, I am not sure.

But many times I have seen those women, coming to the gym, meeting their trainers (and I am talking about guys here), making a small talk – you know, 15-20 minutes, half an hour max. Eventually, the trainer would try to get to the point: “Ok, then, let’s grab those dumbbells…” and then the chick would make that funny face, pretending she is a little mischievous girl, which, by the way, looks super ugly and unnatural on anyone over 10 years old, and bleat: “Ooooh, I just had my nails done and they are not completely dry yet….How silly of me, right? He-he-he…I guess, we just have to take it easy today.” And it would definitely fly by anywhere else, but we are in WeHo, right? So the trainer gets back at her momentarily: “Whaaaaat?…You don’t do gel mani? Oh my God, what’s wrong with you?! It’s 2016, after all!” You see, trainers here know that gel mani is perfectly safe and dry before you leave the salon and if you don’t do gel why do you even have a personal trainer and, seriously, what’s wrong with you?!

There is another type of gym-chicks, who go there mostly for “meet and greet”s. They sit at the bar, have a protein smoothie, then a kale-cucumber-ginger fresh squeezed juice, then a herbal tea and then, in despair, one of them whispers to a bartender: “Do you serve any alcohol? Like, any at all? Maybe something with electrolytes?…”

 

 

I’ll do anything you want, just don’t make me…speak

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Yesterday I was presenting my first speech in English to the English-speaking audience. It was a 30-minutes report on influence of Justin Bieber’s “music”on the formation of Black Holes. (spoiler: after the second song they pop up like error messages while operation Windows) Ok, ok, I am just kidding. It was a totally chill thing – my first speech at Toastmasters. For those who don’t know – first, congratulations,  second, it’s an educational organisation for improving public-speaking skills. So if you’ve already conquered Everest, served a year as a nurse in Doctors Without Borders, took your elderly spinster aunt Jenny to a Caribbean cruise and don’t know how else you can improve yourself by leaving your comfort zone – you’ve just scored a jackpot. Because everyone – I mean, everyone – fears public speaking.

Every time I thought about the coming speech yesterday, my intestines tied themselves up in a knot somewhere beneath my ribs and I felt a rush of adrenaline. Eventually, it made me angry and curious at the same time: what exactly are we so afraid of? In most cases it’s a completely irrational fear – unless, of course, you are your own lawyer in a first-degree murder case delivering your final defence speech. Then you’d better be VERY good.

I respect rational fears – I think we need some fear in our life just to keep us alert and alive. For instance, I am afraid that I will get fat and ugly – and it’s a rational fear, because then my handsome Italian husband will dump me and I will die alone with the cats I will have to adopt and I simply hate cats. This is a good fear because it keeps me from eating that second slice of pizza at 11 pm. (To tell the truth, I wouldn’t touch pizza with a ten-foot pole anyway, but that’s because I used to have anorexia and it never really leaves you. ) So it’s a valid fear, no questions asked.

But yesterday’s speech was a total joke – I’ve been at 4 meetings of that club before and I knew that they would applaud even a stammering sloth with an IQ of -10. I’ve seen that happening, so I know what I am talking about, ok? And I was going to be talking about myself (not because I am so full of myself, but because the first speech must be an introduction), so it’s not like somebody could interrupt me and expose my lie: “Bullshit! She has been chubby all the way through high school and practiced giving blowjobs on bananas!” It wasn’t a job interview, nothing in my life depended on these people, they had no power over me no matter how much they hated my speech – and still I was sick with worry.

For those, who always need a closure: I did it and even won the Best Speaker of the evening, but, my, oh my, did my feet and hands turned icy cold when I got to the middle of that room and did I stumble and mumble for at least first few minutes before my senses came back to me!…

But the question persists –  what the hell was THAT?!  Any ideas?

 

Sprite and Cognac – what is softer or how to overcome anxiety and not hurt yourself

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Cognac by Geralt by CC0 1.0

Few days ago I was reading one of these “self-help” books, which are actually written by somebody else but they are so nice that for the moderate price of $9.99 allow you to take all the credit for the benefits of using their advice.

First it hit me when I was going through the list of prolonged stress symptoms. It read:

– too much eating

– too much sleeping

– unwillingness to take on responsibilities

– laziness

I thought “Holy shit! So all my ex-boyfriends were actually not assholes, but rather people under enormous amount of prolonged stress! And it makes me an unsympathetic bitch for dumping them instead of supporting them and supplying comfort food!

By the way, why is it that there is a “comfort food” but no “comfort drinks?” For me personally a bottle of Riesling is much more comforting than a chicken soup from my childhood.

This leads me to another issue – “soft drinks”. Whoever came up with this definition has never tried a proper aged cognac – this is soft and has an amazing aftertaste, whereas Sprite successfully dissolves limescale in my kettle. So what is actually softer here?

But back to self-help. I’ve reached a section with the tips on how to get rid of negative self-talk. That’s what they call a 24/7 dialogue in my head, you know. “You can’t avoid that pile of laundry forever, you know that, lazy pig? Maybe you can do it right after you get your ass to the gym, if you ever make it there…” and so on and so forth. So, to overcome this habit the author offered a Rubber Band Snapping Technique. Basically it means that you are supposed to wear an elastic band on your wrist and come up with the phrase like “I am going to be a positive person from now on” and every time when you have negative thoughts or anxiety attack you should snap the band and say the phrase.

I picked up one the same day and put it on the next morning. By breakfast time my wrist was red and swollen and my thoughts were in a cursed loop.

– Only an imbecile or a masochist would be doing something like that to himself!

SNAP! “I am going to be a positive person from now on”

– What’s next? An electric collar?

SNAP! AAAAAAH! “I am going to be a positive…”

– I guess, from now on your dating sites would be the BDSM ones?

SNAP! AHHH! SNAP! AHHHH! SNAP!…

I guess I’d better wait with the other self-helping tips before I get my insurance.