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January 2024

My New Career: Music Video Backup Dancer 

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I have an announcement, and many of you have already seen it coming. I am adding a new skill to my resume. I will now open my schedule to offers for my appearance dancing in the background of professional or amateur music videos.

My skills, honed over the last three weeks in group dance classes at GoFit gym in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, are specific to a lot of Seal Paul, salsa, and some B-girl sassy flare. You can talk to my agent after this blog.

OMG it me! Please imagine I look just like this woman during GoFit's exercise dance classes, because I sure do (imagine such).

I know my competition for a spot is strong. Some of the men and ladies in these classes not only learn the entire sequence, but they have an impressive of physical fitness and joie de vivre. That’s what I’m going for. We all work up a sweat while pretending we’re in the background of a music video. Or is this just me?

I go three or four times a week, and these group dance classes are giving me life. I pair the dance class with stretching or lifting weights, and always a 15-minute sauna afterward. That’s called “habit stacking,” and it’s a proven hack to get you in a routine. I’ve taken some boxing classes, which are pretty kick-ass. I’m not sure I’m in touch with my warrior spirit.

But if you know me, you know I’m a dancer. I love moving my body to live music; I think of it like a physical expression of what I hear. Dancing helps me pay better attention to the music! You know what Bob Marley sings about music: When it hits, you feel no pain.

Not that I’m dancing to Bob Marley, unfortunately. There is a Sean Paul medley that brings me back to my years of living in the Caribbean. But the rest is a bunch of reggaeton, salsa, bachata, and some surprisingly hardcore B-girl jamz that remind me of my preteen years dancing in front of my mirror.

Now, I’m at a genetic disadvantage, as a gringa, dancing to the salsa and bachata, and a lot of the reggaeton, too, if I’m honest now about my new resume skill. Many of the old ladies would be picked before me for the next salsa music video background dancers.

But, when requested to by the unnecessarily loud music, I can “drop it low, pop it up, abajo ….” I’m also pretty good at the 90s-era “Rock Your Body” Backstreet Boys move, which is a little like the Thriller choreography I once learned during a stay in New Orleans.

I also feel at the front of the pack as an American at the end of one song with gym choreography of finger “guns in the air” partnered with the lyrics “I bring the pain like rat-tat-tat-tat!” I feel my heritage of rich gun culture makes me especially equipped for this move, or at least the attitude necessary to properly execute it.

If I were to be really honest here, I’d say on my best day, I’d be picked tenth in my class to back up a star in a music video. But then, that also presumes a talent scout for Beyoncé or Justin Timberlake would saunter into GoFit sala dos to look for amazing dancers. Did I mention I’m definitely in the lower quadrant of age? Most of my classmates are over 60 years old.

OMG it me! No, no ... I'm not so foolish to think I'm Taylor Swift! I'm gonna be one of the backup dancers -- as soon as the talent agent discovers me in gym class.

Still, there we all are, shaking it. Not everyone has imaginary professional aspirations like I do, but then — not everyone thinks big. You have to reach for the stars. Well, I’m doing it. Literally, too, with the choreography: We reach and step, reach and step, then the other way, reach and step, reach and step.

The gym instructors, of course, make it worth the loud, objectively bad music. I go so regularly that it’s not only a music video playing in my head. There’s an entire Netflix series soap opera called GoFit in there, too.

There are characters like Ana Sara, the spunky dance instructor who makes encouraging, extra-wide eyes when it’s time to change the step. She twirls her finger in the air when it’s time to spin our bodies and holds up a two when we “double” the right step. Then there’s Carlos, the young, mustachioed stud who forgets to lead us in both sides in yoga class but all the ladies forgive him. I don't know the name of Señorita Drawn-On Eyebrows who works the front desk, but I've never seen her smile and I think about what could be upsetting her.

I may be taking the daily classes, but I’m certainly not chatting any of these characters up. Everyone speed-mumbles in a language I comprehend so slowly that it’s frustrating. I’m not making much progress in Spanish, but I’m keeping at the lessons and listening. It hurts my head a little.

At least, you’d presume, I’m super-fit! I mean: Wow! She’s doing awesome with going to the gym every day! She’s lifting weights about three times a week, taking cardio classes, and even hitting the sauna with all the old hairy guys every single day! She hasn’t visited a bakery in a few months, and she’s only had a few “ice cream incidents” over the past month. Hydration, meditation, even intermittent fasting!

I was feeling good when I stepped on the InBody scale this week to get some validating metrics for all my sweaty effort in dance class. Ana Sara, who helped me analyze the results at the help desk at the gym, used her big eyes to look at me sympathetically: It seems, in the last month of squeezing sweat out of my pores and focusing on my health, that I’ve lost an entire one pound and somehow, according to the scale, gained 0.1% of body fat. I lost 0.1% of muscle.

No wonder the background dancer talent scout for the hottest music videos hasn’t been calling. Ugh! I’m regressing!

I also feel like I’m moving backward with recording the audiobook of One-Way Ticket, as I needed to first get familiar with Final Cut Pro. I'm learning how to edit both audio and video, and it’s more than I’m currently required to know. But it’s good to get an education before starting on a big task.

I’m not really regressing, of course, regardless of what a stupid hunk of computerized plastic tells me. I may not be moving forward toward my goals as fast as I’d like, but such is the way of self-improvement. The rate of improvement isn’t linear. The graph starts a slow accent and may even seem to dip down for a moment before it shoot upward toward mastery. I feel that slump, though.

Here's a graphical depiction of why it's so hard to stick to the work necessary to reach a goal. There's a point where you are moving backward before surging ahead. Source:

Sometimes, I see that slump in the dance class mirror. Like today, I can’t lie: I did not have any coffee before I left. I was not completely impressed with myself as I was dancing Alingo. To be really honest, I was tired. And so, when I got home, I rested. Put that on the resume.

Back To School, Fool!

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Here’s the thing about new beginnings: There is always a lot to learn.

There’s a reason that the word school rhymes with fool. The Fool is the first card in the tarot deck. It’s all about the new start to the journey. It makes sense for me lately, as I’ve been in a major learning era of my life.

The Fool, the first card in the Major Arcana of the Tarot

My daily habits feel as familiar and annoyingly structured as a school curriculum: First period is studying Spanish by listening to Pimsleur classes and living in the Canary Islands. Sometimes I take a field trip to the fruit market and try to have a little conversation or at least pay attention to the television news they play there. Then it’s second period, studying Final Cut Pro with Ripple Training so I can record and edit the audiobook of One-Way Ticket. Next, I go to gym class at GoFit. I may have music or meditation club after that, or perhaps my book club.

And just like when I was in high school, I also have to, oh yeah, work for money!

I haven’t yet mentioned my hardest class: Self-Mastery.

The most recent lesson in this never-ending class is on boundaries. How are you with boundaries? OK, that’s a trick question: Really, I’m just asking if you’ve ever been to therapy, because otherwise you’d likely have no idea what I’m talking about.

I am challenged by boundaries. This week, a client — who I let repeatedly dump her personal problems on me during the work process of the eBook she hired me for — had an emotional meltdown and verbally abused me. She had just received the final draft of the work. She’s now threatening not to pay me for the work I completed that she previously approved. Great.

The last guy I dated? Yeah, I let him treat me pretty poorly too. Same goes for the previous guy. And the guy before that.

I’m really good at pulling up the anchor and fleeing once I realize I’m being abused — but I seem to need a big, neon flashing sign before I figure it out.

What happened to Mr. T? Was he on your Trapper Keeper in elementary school? I need him to deal with some jerks in my life.

I approach most people with an open heart and a positive attitude, ready for a win-win relationship that helps us both. It works well with my large, supportive group of friends. But bad actors have a field day with my tender heart.

I know the answer isn’t to build a wall around that flowering field of my heart, either. I’ve certainly beaten myself against some brick walls, and it hurts! I am stuck between being wide open and being locked in a box.

How do you build healthy boundaries? I’ve got some homework to do.

But first: let me pass you a note that’s folded like origami. Did you see there was a man who dressed as a wall and Trump invited on stage at a political rally in Iowa? That’s one kind of boundary I don’t need, I know that much!

Personal boundaries, of course, are different from political boundaries, which are crossed all the time. That’s what many wars are all about. Russia denied Ukraine’s boundary, for example.

Cue "Fantasy is Reality" by Parliament Funkadelic.

I don’t know how to defend boundaries very well, either political or personal. It doesn’t seem like most countries can, either. Can you?

Boundaries seem usually one of two ways: It’s all or nothing. Rigid or porous, as they say in therapy. Either you walk right over the line, or you can’t even find the line. File under: Can’t win for losing.

I do have many friends with whom I practice boundaries. One of my best friends calls me when she can — I know she’s busy with a big family, and I am secure in our friendship. I don’t overstep with her. Another dear friend calls me almost every day, and sometimes I have to tell him directly to not vent so angrily with me. I get upset with too much venting. It’s actually not healthy!

There are a few things — the operative word being few — I’ve come to understand about boundaries.

You Have to Communicate

Communication is a two-way street, which is a radical concept in today’s one-way splatter-gun content creation. Not everyone can handle a direct and effective communication style that requires the patience that listening requires. Some people view honest communication as confrontation, so I try to be as soft and compassionate as I can while talking to someone.

But if you’re not clear about what you want and what you don’t want, you simply can’t give the other party a clear definition of what you find acceptable and not. You can’t make presumptions that everyone is on the same level as you. Sometimes, the only way to find out is to ask and really listen to the answer.

I’m slowly discovering that many people have no idea about this. Like the client, I made a presumption that she would share my ethics because I knew her casually and had mutual friends. But I was wrong. I actually had to tell this person that it’s not okay to take a final product of work and not pay me.

Look for Red Flags

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure, as I’ve confirmed as I work on staying clear of people who are less likely to respect my boundaries.

Here’s content from a Facebook post I made last spring about the early warning signs of abusive men, which I learned from reading the highly recommended “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bandcroft. They include:

😬 Speaking very negatively about former partners

🔪Saying she “falsely” accused him of abuse or that, in fact, she abused him (may show photos as “proof”)

💕 Says you’re different (phrases like “I didn’t think people like you existed!”)

😒 OR glorifies former partner (you’ll never stand up to her)

🤦🏻‍♀️ Takes no responsibility for end of his last relationship

🙅🏻‍♀️ Is disrespectful to you (interrupts you, talks over you, yells at you “because you’re not listening” or to prove he wasn’t yelling previously)

🏮 OR puts you on a pedestal (very uncomfortable)

💐 Creates a sense of indebtedness early on (does favors you do not ask for, often publicly to create an image of being such a good guy)

🐲 Is controlling (makes comments about your body or clothes or friends, or dictates how you should text a friend, etc)

🦮 Is possessive (calls you “his,” needs you around all the time)

🧸 Nothing is his fault

🙎🏻‍♂️ Makes excuses, plays the victim — cannot apologize

🕺🏻Self-centered, always brings conversation back to him

🍻 Heavy drug and alcohol use, pressures you to do more than you want, too

🍆 Pressures you for sex

👩‍❤️‍👨 Gets serious too quickly (posts photos on social media after first or second date)

‼️ Shows intimidation when angry: too close, finger in face, blocks way, shouts you down, drives recklessly, throws things

🎭 Double standards for himself and you

🤹🏼‍♀️ Has a negative attitude toward women (such as saying women always win in courts, women cannot care for themselves)

🥊 Treats you differently when around others

🧚‍♂️ Is attracted to (perceived) vulnerability

Clients “love-bomb,” too. Before that client told me to “go f**k myself,” she said that she wished I were nearby so that she could hug me because she was so pleased with my work.

Listen to Your Instinct

Yes, I had that nagging little voice in my head telling me that the client was no good and the guys were no good. In fact, all my past bad relationships — the ones that made me doubt my abilities to stand up for myself and uphold my boundaries — all started with me ignoring myself.

I think this is the biggest lesson of all. If you don’t quiet your mind enough to hear what your instincts tell you, you’ll be in for a rude awakening! I practice meditation every day, but I’ve still got a beginner’s mind! And so it’s back to school I go ….

Every Breath Is a New Beginning

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I caught 11:11 on 1-11, and what else do I need to tell you about my feeling of a fresh start? Well, it’s the new moon. I got my period today. Literally, talk about being in the flow!

11:11 is a powerful number because, as someone once told me, when you look at it sideways it is a staircase to God.

I’m also two fresh weeks into a triumphant return to the gym — I write it like this not because of my performance in the gym’s boxing classes but because it was difficult for me to sign up for a membership. You’d think it would be just me walking up with a credit card, a form of official ID, and a smile, but alas this was not the case here in Spain.

Many normal life activities require registration numbers known as a NIE, or the foreigner identity number. It’s the way they keep track of economic, professional, or social activities of expats like me. I don’t have one, mostly because I haven’t had time for the paperwork and the bureaucratic headaches.

I also do not have another important number, known as an IBAN. Every reader who isn’t from North America likely has an IBAN, as it is a number that allows you to transfer funds from one bank account to another. This was my sticky wicket with the gym, but I finally got it sorted thanks to a great friend here on Gran Canaria.

That’s not all on which I’ve recently embarked. I’ll soon be teaching yoga online by donation (more on that soon!), thanks to a friend I met in the Bahamas who is starting a digital studio that is giving the vast proceeds to charity. I asked for 22% of the donations, which gives me the option of giving back an extra 11% and still receiving 11%. You know, with the portal and everything.

I’m also launching into the next phase of the project of producing One-Way Ticket, the creative non-fiction book that I foreshadowed back in 2020 when I was driving the Shanti Shack through Wyoming. Now that the paperback and eBook is released and selling, I’m now getting ready to begin recording the audiobook. It’s 522 pages, so I know this will take a while to produce. I’m learning new software and buying new hardware, and I’m enjoying the new medium.

It's like that new car smell — except without all the chemical off-gassing. In fact, I’ve been living a very healthy life: Being off the sugars and staying away from all bread has also been new for me. It’s still hard to walk past all the bakeries here and not get pulled in for a straight-from-the-oven little bit of love. I have to remember, of course, that bread is not a good substitute for love.

Here is a picture of my friend's new puppy Banjo, because he's just so cute!

And so, with the help of my new acupuncturist and my new online therapist, I am moving forward through this powerful portal. I am releasing the old stories of the past (literally — I honestly do not recommend crafting a memoir from recent past that requires a detached perspective! It was such extreme self-analysis!). I am instead forward-focused on my vision of the future.

What exactly is that, you may ask? Well, there’s the $64,000 question, except first you must convert that number into euros, thanks. Everyone I know, including my parents, always want to know where I’ll be living in the next month. That’s not new: I’m staying in the warmest part of Europe as long as there is snow on the ground anywhere south of London.

The newness here isn’t geographic, which is a first in a while, but rather an identity shift. As you know, our thoughts and feelings influence our behavior. Our consistent behavior becomes our habits, and our habits become our lives. Change starts with thoughts.

I speak clear and relaxed Spanish! I am fit and flexible! I have completed the audiobook, and it’s been accepted by the Audible platform! I choose to feel good and happy every day!

It’s hard to imagine your future self. But the reality is that we are always, in fact, our future self. Think about how every breath is a new beginning. The truth is that we are constantly changing, and we are constantly becoming who we are going to be in the very next moment.

Whenever I see 11:11, I imagine it is a wink from the Universe telling me that I am supported, am on the right track, and setting up my future self for success!

It’s easier to remember — and presume you’re not going to change — than it is to imagine something we don’t know yet.

So, OK. Change is indeed inevitable. How do you want to change? We’re responsible for our lives, based on the flow of how our thoughts eventually turn into our lives. I’ve got a lot, including a 60-Day Challenge to Change I’m running with a couple of friends. It’s hard, but I’ve been pretty good with daily exercise, studying Spanish every day, and writing the new weekly blogs. Now that I’m at the beginning of my menstrual cycle, I can restart my fasting regime. My last 60 days messed up my hormones, but now I’m in the know thanks to reading Fast Like a Girl.

After all, the goal here is to create a life where I feel filled with bliss all the time. As I grow into the highest expression of myself, I’ll feel fulfilled with my work and creative projects. I’ll rest in the feeling of abundance and joy. I’ll feel gratitude for the hard moments and inspired by what I accomplish. I’ll be excited when I wake up. As my friend Monika says, I’ll follow the feel good.

Connection is perhaps the best feeling, and the 1-11 portal reminds us that we are all one, too. How many ones do you need to see to get this message? The more connected you are with yourself and your plan for the future, the more you will be supported by the energy of unity. With that, you can create anything and beyond that which you can even imagine!

It Takes a Long Time To Grow an Old Friend

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I have never struggled to make friends at any age — provided, of course, I can speak their language. A simple, “Hi, that’s a neat t-shirt” is usually enough of an opener to see if a person is interesting, kind, and fun enough to spend time with.

I like to exchange names early in the process of getting to know someone, too. I ask repeatedly if they have a unique name that’s tricky to remember. I often ask for a spelling. I want to get it right because I like it when people know my name is Suzanne and not Susan. It shows they care, if only a little.

Of course, I misjudge people all the time. New friends can disappoint me, and I’m forced to start over socially wherever I am. It’s good to balance new and old friends. Keeping a healthy group of friends and developing long-term relationships that are positive and supportive are part of the next-level work.

It’s easy to find a bunch of drinking buddies. Just show up at the bar. But making friends who help you get to the next phase of your growth? That’s something else. It isn’t easy to find people who understand that you will be different next time they see you, and that your growth doesn’t discount their growth (or lack thereof). When friends can’t handle your growth, you’ve outgrown them. Thus, the need for new friends.

Remember the 1980s TV show "Bosom Buddies"? Two guys can't find an apartment so they dress in drag to live in a women's only building. Talk about going all-in for a friend. And isn't it funny how outrageous that show would be today?

For many people, making new friends is a challenging task. Currently, I am one of those people because I live in a country where I barely speak the language. I can have a nice transaction when buying persimmons from the man with glasses and puffy, gray hair at the fruit market, and I can chat a little with the people in my weekly meditation group. But when it comes to making jokes on the bus, I instead tend to look uncomfortably out the window.

I won’t lie: On the bus, I’m likely listening to a podcast or an audiobook (in English, no less) in my earphones. I’m not even open to someone who speaks my language and could say something I’d appreciate. When earphones aren’t an option — like in the sauna, for example — I close off my body language to avoid conversation. I reply in mumbles. I’m too insecure in my Spanish for friendly small talk.

Insecurity, it seems, is at the heart of many missed friendships. When you allow yourself to be open to a stranger, you are by definition vulnerable. They may reject you. They may laugh at you. And in my case, they may talk so darn fast that I stare blankly at them and muster up what little sense of humor I can find to laugh at myself in the situation.

You may think that you make a poor first impression and that many people don’t really like you enough to want to form a friendship. This is known as the Liking Gap, and it’s scientifically proven false. People like you just fine. People like you more than you think they like you.

As a way to sweep that insecurity under the rug, you may think that making new friends is kid stuff. After all, remember how easy it was to make friends in school? Lindsay happened to have the same permed, brown hair and glasses as I did. I had to decide in that seventh-grade moment whether this pseudo-doppelgänger would be my best friend or my arch enemy. I’m glad I choose the former.

Are you more likely to be friends with someone who looks like you? I suspect so, but I also think it's a shame that we miss out on horizon-expanding connections. Source:

Maybe you think you have enough friends. Me, I never do. I would love to run into someone (besides the man at the fruit market) who smiles when they see me every day. I love it when my friends call me or send me a note. I love to support people through their hard times, paying it forward for the inevitable time when things turn upside-down in my life. We’re all in this together, right?

I’ve recently learned about Dunbar’s Number, which states that due to the size of the human brain we can only maintain 150 meaningful contacts — or, in other words, real friendships.

This concept is based on research by Robin Dunbar, who breaks down the theory into concentric circles of different levels of friendship maximums. We tend to only have five of our closest loved ones, 15 good friends, 50 actual friends, 150 meaningful contacts, 500 acquaintances, and 1,500 people you can recognize on the street and offer a passing hello.

Yes, people who consider themselves extroverted may have a larger network of meaningful contacts, for example. But then introverts may have a larger number of very close friends. Women tend to have more close friends than men, according to the research.

How this research fares in the face of social media is an interesting debate. If you’re like me, you are already thinking about the number of people who are your Facebook friends. I currently have 1,842 Facebook friends, and I have shaken the hand of 95%.

The few whom I haven’t met in person, I’ve likely connected with through a group and have embarked on an accountability challenge together. For example, it’s fun to stay in touch with Agnes, the woman from Kenya with whom I shared an extended fasting experience when I lived in Uruguay. People who are different than you may, indeed, have a lot in common.

A few years ago, I culled my Facebook list down by about 500 contacts. Did those people even notice that I wasn’t in their news feed anymore? Unlikely, according to Dunbar’s Number. Those people were those who never felt like they wanted me to win. They were “frienemies,” and we can all do with fewer of those in our lives.

What about those people who have assistants who send flowers on birthdays and reply to invitations? Of course, they have more people in their lives because they’re paying someone to do the emotional work of friendship. After all, friendship can be work.

Currently, I have a number of friends going through hardship. More than one is breaking up with her lackluster boyfriend. Another is quitting drinking alcohol. Another is trying to get a new job. Another is struggling with losing weight. Another is having trouble with family. I talk with all of these friends regularly on the phone. I want them to succeed. I spend time listening.

After all, I think that listening is the true key to friendship. How good of a listener are you? We all move so fast in today’s world, scrolling with limited and disrupted focus. Even my father, during the annual holiday video call, was staring out the window as we talked. He’s so used to Twitter and TV that I’ve grown boring. Friendship requires patience as we develop a slow-moving, in-depth understanding of another person.

It’s part of why I wrote a long, creative non-fiction book in the first-person. It’s a disruptive experiment to see if people would sit down and get to know the main character, who happens to be me. There’s no scrolling mindlessly through a 500-page book. I love long-form prose because it requires a little investment on behalf of the reader. I sure hope it’s worth it — for my old friends, new friends, and people I’ll never meet.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. And friendship won’t grow unless you first plant the seed.