When a person, especially a famous figure, tries to move away from the one thing they’re known for, it can often be a crisis not just for themselves, but for the people around them and those who follow them. But you must not shy away from reinventing yourself – the way you perceive yourself and, in turn, how others perceive you. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen chat with Ruby Roth, an artist and designer. Ruby talks about the process of reinventing yourself viewed through the lens of her own experience. If you’re on the verge of choosing a different path for yourself, maybe Ruby’s story can help you!
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The Artist’s Way: How Ruby Roth Reinvented Herself
The process of reinventing oneself seems to be ever-present right now, not just in a cultural sense, or people writing articles and blog posts and what to do with their lives, certainly in the aftermath of COVID. The shelter at home and all the things that we’ve collectively experienced the past few months in human society. Beyond all that, and including all that, for the three of us on this episode, it feels like there’s an interesting confluence of this idea of expansion, and reimagining oneself and reinvention. I felt compelled to start on that subject because first of all, I’m super excited to have you, Ruby, here on the show.
Whitney and myself, we seem to be in a similar place in terms of our life path where we’ve been doing this thing for so long of being leaders, if you will, or way-showers in the vegan plant-based movement, the eco-movement. Interestingly enough, all three of us seem to be at this massive reimagining expansion and reinvention point, and I want to dig right in like no floof and no light stuff. Let’s jump into reinvention and recreating oneself. For both of you, Ruby and Whitney, where are we all at with that? It feels like we’re at similar points at least.
We all got caught in this problem specific to the digital age. We were leaders leading the way in the vegan space just as social media started. When I started my Facebook page. I talked to my publisher, I was like, “Do I start a page? What does a page do?” They’re like, “We don’t know.” What happened is we became brands. It’s a problem specific to the age that we live in. Where the more you do the same thing over and over again, because it takes multiple times for people to even absorb what you’re showing them, you essentially become a brand without meaning to. All of us were always more than the vegan branch of the work that we do. I certainly can say for myself, I got pigeonholed into the children’s vegan, space, and demographic.
You got typecast.
Yes, or that I was seen as an activist and not as an artist. People forgot that I do women’s figurative art. That didn’t fit into the Instagram grid when all the other stuff is baby chickens and tomatoes. You feel pressured to be one thing.
In a way, Ruby, we hear about this a lot. That people become known and successful in a particular genre, art form, or business sense or whatever it is. We hear about people being “victims of their own success,” which is, we could unpack that maybe. That’s a loaded statement, but when I hear you talk about this and becoming a brand, so to speak, whereas people know you for one thing, and therefore expect you to keep hitting that one note over and over again. It reminds me of a lot of friends, heroes, and colleagues, where they’ll have a taste of success in a particular field, genre, or product. After that, their publisher, record label, managers, their agents, or whoever is in their particular universe are encouraging them to do their work. It’s like, “We had success. Do that exact same thing again because we made so much money and we had so much success the first time.”
Inevitably, you hear about the aftermath of these artists, personalities, or these human beings becoming increasingly frustrated. The universe around them becomes so enraptured in that one thing that it’s what everyone wants them to do because people want to be around success, fame and money. What’s that level of frustration? How have you dealt with that in this continuing evolution of yourself as an artist and a human to say, “Everyone wants me to keep doing the same thing, but I don’t want to do that.”
It’s totally unnatural for me as an artist to keep doing the same thing over and over again. Even the marketing advice like, “Use a cohesive color palette on your Instagram feed.” I’m like, “I’m using my whole palette and I don’t produce work like that.” The pressure is there and it’s definitely a part of the age we live in. Look at Shel Silverstein who wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends. We all know that book. We all love that book from childhood. He was an illustrator for Playboy, and he was a playwright. He wrote award-winning songs that we’ve all heard for other singers that were on pop chart lists. He didn’t have to maintain a website and a cohesive brand that he presented to the public.
He was also Jason’s Dad, apparently. It’s an inside joke. Do you know the story?
Do you know that my dad, Andres, was a doppelganger for Shel Silverstein? In the ‘70s, he was here in LA doing acting and he would go around to restaurants and clubs and things like that in LA as if he was Shel Silverstein. Like saying, “I’m Shel Silverstein.” He looked so much like him that he did this for a good probably 7, 8 years getting free meals and inside clubs and maybe even getting into the Playboy Mansion. There are some interesting stories, but eventually, someone caught him, and then the jig was up.
It was an artist of that level was treated like royalty. That was someone that you could pass for and you get extra royal treatment.
It goes to show that even before online celebrity, people were copying each other and getting things out of it. It’s interesting because that happens too. Not only do people want you to fit in some box, but they also think that they can copy you because if you’re successful, then they’re thinking like, “I’ll follow this formula.” We talked about this in another episode that we did about how we’re encouraged to be different, but we’re also encouraged to be the same.
Going back to your question, Jason, with the level of frustration. I’ve accepted and this is a theme in a lot of my work whether it’s children’s or my adult figurative stuff that we go through constant life and death cycles. That happens in our relationships. Sometimes a part of the relationship is dying off or that goes on in our families, in our work cycles, in our creativity or our moods. I’ve accepted that that’s going to be part of my whole life cycle of work for my entire life. There are going to be times of reinvention and there are going to be times of quiet, which I think we’re hard on ourselves when we’re not producing. We can look at even musical artists that we love who disappear for a while, and they’re not putting out stuff and then they come back with an album.
Sometimes they completely change. I didn’t know who Darius Rucker was and then I realized he was the lead singer for Hootie & the Blowfish. He switched from being an American rock band to a country singer.
How dare him?
Do you know much about that story?
Didn’t people get upset about that, Jason? You probably know about this too, I imagine.
Very much so and funny enough to get past the initial ‘what the heck’ moment. First of all, if you call him Hootie, and he cleared this up in the ‘90s, he’s like, “I’m not Hootie, it’s just the name of the band.” Nonetheless, I remember my first initial reaction was like, “Hootie is a country singer?” I gave his music a listen and I thought, “He’s actually really good.” There are an interesting authenticity and soulfulness and certain way for his voice to match that genre of music. After I passed my initial judgment like, “Hootie’s doing country,” I was like, “He’s good,” but it brings up, for both of you and I want you to chime in because you’re in this process of rebranding and reinventing yourself too. It’s this pressure of, “People expect me to do X because I’ve sold especially with success.”
If you fly under the radar, I feel like there’s not as much pressure because your identity, your perception of who you are, isn’t as entrenched, but someone like Darius Rucker, who sold tens of millions of records in the ‘90s. Getting a diamond record, that shit doesn’t even happen anymore, FYI. In the record business, nobody does diamond records anymore, but a diamond record, which is ten million albums or more, it was ridiculous. You think about that and you’re like, “I’m making millions of dollars. We’re selling tens of millions of records and sold out tours. I’m going to flip genres completely.” It’s crazy.
That also reminds me that you love Jim Carrey so much, Jason. Remember when he switched from doing Ace Ventura to somebody who’s doing all these dramatic roles and people are like, “You’re supposed to be the funny actor. You’re not allowed to be a dramatic actor.”
The keyword is authenticity and this very strange thing we find ourselves doing these days. It’s almost codependent like, “I need you to be one thing for me to be okay. I don’t like that you’re changing.”When people know you for one thing, they just keep expecting you to do that one thing. Click To Tweet
It just shows how so many people are afraid of change and there’s a resistance to evolution and adapting. We’re experiencing this so much during the quarantine of what feels like might be the tail end in early May 2020. We have no idea if the world will ever go back to what we thought it was. It seems like so many people are struggling with that. The uncertainty, fear of the unknown and the, “Things are changing. I don’t want them to change.” It feels to me this energy of people trying to cling to what was and wanting it to go back so badly, but would it even benefit us to go back? Maybe it’s good for us.
That fear of change is fear of loss. For me, transitioning from children’s books, which was my main focus for ten years, and I was in a family married and raising his child and they were part of my marketing story and inspiration. All my social media and newsletter was around that and then I had to switch because I’m not in that relationship anymore. I can tell you, for the previous years, since I got out of that relationship, my work has been about apocalypse, loss, facing it, and sitting with myself in the dark. Figuring out, “Who am I without my job? Without my husband? Without a daughter? Without being in a family unit?” Facing that fear of change.
My tolerance level has gone so high up that I can see my mental health is pretty good during this lockdown. Because I’ve been readying myself in facing loss and death cycles. Facing, “There’s death in the house of love.” When I take everything, all the distractions away from my outside identity, what is the crystalline form inside of myself that’s left? I found a lot of love and a lot of fear. Not anger, jealousy, and not some of these other things that other people might find agitation. I found that for better or worse, I tolerate a lot. That’s who I am at my core. I think that applies to everything. I also had to face fear of loss of this thing that I built and say, “I’m not going to call it @WeDontEatAnimalsAnymore,” as my social handles. I changed it to my name and I’m going to put out my personal artwork which is feminine, figurative, edgy, erotic, and a little darker and there are skulls with a heavy metal vibe. If I lose some of the people, then so be it. What’s going to happen? I’ll still go on to live. That’s a time that we’re in on a massive scale. It’s facing loss and who are we without our jobs and without people around us?
Your story is such an incredible example of that. A lot of people go through their lives clinging to stability. It’s like, “I don’t want things to change.” “I’m too afraid of them changing.” There’s this tension. One of my friends is in a position where she might be evicted from her home due to some crazy circumstances. She’s so afraid to lose her home. I wanted to speak to her about how maybe it will be a better thing. Maybe she’ll find a better place. It’s a great opportunity to release attachment, but it’s challenging to talk to people about that when they’re going through it. It’s so tough sometimes when you’re in the middle of the storm to see out of it. For anyone reading who’s not experiencing that, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on what you would do, what you will do or what you are doing during those tough times of change where you don’t have control.
It’s also a great example of how we often think we have a lot more control over our lives than we actually do. Things can change on a dime. It felt like the rug was lifted out from underneath us. There was such a drastic shift when COVID-19 happened. Even though I had seen it, showing up in the news, what was going on in China, but in the US, where the three of us live, it was like, “That’s happening to somebody else. That’s not happening to us. That’s not going to happen to us. We’re safe here.” Even our president was saying that we were safe and then, seemingly overnight, suddenly the whole world changed and we were in it too. It’s a shock, especially if you’re not mentally prepared. Ruby, it’s such a great example of where you’re at, and what we aim with this show is to do our best to help prepare people mentally and emotionally. Help them learn from their challenges and their struggles. That’s a theme of your book Bad Day, which inspired me to have you on the show. I love the message, not to spoil it, but it is a kid’s book so you can read it pretty fast.
It’s for ages 0 to 101.
It’s true. I don’t mean to put it in the box as a kid’s book because I do believe it’s so much more than that, but meaning it’s a very quick read and illustrated. The message of it, in the end, is working through tough emotions, challenges, struggles, and recognizing that it can make you stronger. That’s one of the lines in your book, “This is what made me strong,” isn’t it?
Yeah. This little boy, you catch him in the middle of complete overwhelm and meltdown and he learns to take a pause which happens to happen inside of a brown paper bag. That’s his safe space. You go in there in the dark with him, just like I sat in the dark after my split. He learns how to pause and re-regulate when he feels dysregulated which we all feel right now. Our whole life system in America is dysregulated. This little boy learns to pause, reflect, and find the power of turning inward.
You said in one of your descriptions of it, that it’s about that self-empowerment, resilience, and understanding your feelings even if you don’t feel like you can explain them. Not feeling your place in the world or understood in the world. I love all those messages. In fact, your book almost feels like a poem in a way. It’s this beautiful story. It’s very short, but you can learn so much from it. Also, what’s neat about your book as an adult, you’re like tapping into your inner child and remembering how hard it was as a kid when you really didn’t feel like you understood yourself. Truth be told, a lot of us haven’t necessarily changed that much since we were as kids. Some people may go a huge part, if not, all of their lives without feeling empowered, resilient, or maybe completely insecure with their feelings and not knowing what to do about it. It’s a great opportunity for us to look back on, “What were we like as kids? What were we struggling with? Are we still facing that stuff now? How did the impact of our childhood have on our adulthood? What can we learn from that?” I love that.
I’ve been listening to Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. He’s one of the leading people on trauma and just learning about the definitions of trauma. One of the things he said is that trauma is related to a story untold or having ourselves unseen or unheard. Part of when I say go inward and find out who you are, that’s very abstract. What it means is reflecting on your own story and acknowledging what you had to do to survive or get through obstacles and who that makes you. That is relevant to what we’re all going through now. My training and that started as a child, I wore a back brace starting at age six for scoliosis. I wore it for twenty plus hours a day for thirteen years. Most of my childhood, I lived in it. Without anybody teaching me, it gave me the discipline to go inward when I was feeling pain on the outside of my body and say, “How am I going to dissipate this discomfort?”
As a little kid, I remember thinking and having the thought, “I am not my body. This thing is happening to me, but I’m inside this vessel.” That’s still a theme that you can see in my adult work and how the children’s work is related to the adult work. I’ve got posters about a woman in a garden and she’s wearing a gas mask. She’s standing in a field of blue hyssop, fungi, hydrangea, and all of these natural resources that suck toxicity out of the ground, bioremediate toxicity. I see ourselves, humans, with our “higher intelligence” that’s supposed to give us an ability to be vessels to transform toxicity into life force energy. We’re supposed to have that and it doesn’t just happen when you’re in yoga class and you feel calm for that 55 minutes. You have to do that when we’re having a pandemic. This is it. This is your chance to exercise those muscles.
It reminds me of how you and I were briefly discussing what it feels like for some of us, that the mindfulness work, the therapy, the dark nights of the soul, the questioning of our identity and purpose, really excavating a lot of the trauma. Certainly, the three of us and many of our readers and longtime supporters have been doing similar work like this. It’s been training us to deal with the rug being completely pulled out from all of us, not just the societal structures, but about our identity and purpose.
For me, my somewhat toxic link between my level of productivity and financial success or creative success with my worth as an individual and seeing that just becoming shattered. It reminds me of a book that I read years ago. Pema Chödrön wrote When Things Fall Apart, and we’ve talked a little bit about Zen Buddhism here and the philosophy of non-attachment and letting go of identity. How externalized material things don’t define who we are. It feels like so many of us are getting that lesson over and over again right now. Certainly, with our pocketbooks, our investments, and the transient ever-changing nature of reality here. If we ever thought we had some semblance of control, or we had some semblance of being able to predict the future, that all of that is dissolving right before our eyes.
You experienced the loss of a partnership that was well over a decade long and this sense of your motherhood, being a family caretaker, and all of these things. What I want to know is, in that dark night of the soul and in the darkness, where you had a chance to look at yourself without those titles anymore, without those identifiers anymore. Honoring and letting go of the loss of those roles. When you did feel overcome by anger, jealousy, toxicity, hatred, self-pity, what were the tools that you employed? I’m specifically asking because I’m sure the readers want to know. What do you do when that comes up? When you’re processing that kind of pain, how do you handle that? How do you move through it? How do you allow yourself to feel it without it overtaking you and destroying you?
The only way around it is through. I would literally sit in the dark. I would get flooded with feelings. I would say, “I’m not going to answer emails. I’m going to give that some space. I’m feeling it right now. It’s 10:00 AM. I’m supposed to be answering these emails, but I’m going to sit in my room and let this feeling flood over me. Watch whatever it is and cry.” Sometimes I would just wail, let it out and sit with the discomfort, agitation, fear and doubt of what was coming. I had no idea how I was going to make money, no idea what my future was going to be and where it was going to live. I let it wash over me. By doing that, and giving it space over and over, whenever it needed to come out, it started to become nourishing instead of draining.
After that, I turned to what feels good to me, which is drawing. It was one of the most productive times in my art. Not because I was selling or putting anything out but because things were flooding out of me. As I processed all this energy that was running through me, it was clearing the decks. I had my life force and my sexuality flood back. My creativity was flowing. I kept saying, “I feel so full.” It was full of grief and full of love and discovering that no matter what anybody else did on the outside, in my heart I honor what I had and what I built, and nobody can take that away from me.
Discovering that about myself, “My love is so big that no matter what anybody else does, it’s intact.” Sitting with that and that’s what I mean by discovering who you are. I wouldn’t have known had I not given myself the space of quiet and letting the decks be cleared. That’s in Bad Day too, in the children’s book like, “I wouldn’t have known until I tried.” Give it space, and you start adapting things you’ve learned in your professional life that make you a pro. To me, being a pro is putting your catcher’s mitt up and saying, “I got this,” whatever it is.
At first, maybe early in my career, when the publisher wanted me to change massive things in the book, it destroyed me. I would sweat, shake, and felt like the project was ending. By the 2nd and 3rd book, I learned going in that this is a group effort. Things are going to change and not to be so attached to whatever my attachment is going in. In projects that came later, when those kinds of emails come in, that pull the rug out from beneath you. My attitude is more like, “I got this. It’s another notch in my belt.” I try to apply that same feeling in my personal life and relationships like, “Whatever this is, my mitt’s up. I got it.” “I know what this is. I’m going to deal with it.” “This is going to be, at worst, another notch on my belt of experience.”
It sounds like a combination of not only resilience, certainly building our resolve as we survive painful, confusing, scary, and traumatic situations in our life, but it seems like the flip side of resilience in this situation is also surrender. I know that word gets tossed around a lot as does authenticity and vulnerability but in the actual practical application of this rule. It’s almost as if you survive enough things and you go through enough things, the next time something comes up, it is not as debilitating, traumatizing, or painful because you remember what you’ve gone through.
Maybe it’s still debilitating, but you’re able to move through it knowing what it is.
The other thing that came up for me as you were describing this process is a question that I often wrestle with. I sit, meditate, and wrestle with a lot of questions and don’t have answers and that’s okay. One of the things is the conditioning I’ve observed, growing up in my family unit, but to extrapolate it in society in general is, this idea of attachment and how attachment is often equated to the depth of love that we have for a person or relationship, our career or our identity. That’s what we’re touching on in this episode.
If we can have a healthier attachment, so that if something doesn’t go the way we expected, or we realize we don’t have control or the proverbial rug gets pulled out from under us, that we maintain our center and our sense of self as this thing leaves our reality. I know that’s something I’m still extremely challenged by because I get so wrapped up. It’s like the line from the Fleetwood Mac song, Landslide, “I’ve been afraid of changing because I build my life around you.” It’s this thing of like I built my life around being a vegan chef, being in a relationship with this woman, and making a certain amount of money.
That ties into my masculine identity of how valuable I am as a man in the society. The point I’m getting to is this idea of investing in our careers and relationship because of the idea that there’s going to be some payoff. There’s going to be some great reward at the end of it. “I’m going to get married.” “I’m going to have a life partner.” “I’m going to be on the New York Times bestseller list,” I say all this because I’m still learning to wean myself off of that mentality that if I put enough love, focus, attention, and effort into something, it will result in X. I’m finding more and more that that is a complete illusion. That’s not reality. There are no guarantees.
I find it helpful for me to not think of the gold pot at the end of the rainbow, but each project being a success. Even if it’s not a project you put out but a thing you crossed off your to-do list. That’s good enough, you did it. This project getting done or this thing that I’m working on this week, just tackling it. That’s enough for now. I’m thinking more short-term goals instead of long-term because I’ve watched enough artists and enough entrepreneurs around me to go through ups and downs and know, even though it’s no less disturbing when it happens, that you’re going to be in constant cycles.
Your greatest biggest project, you think is your masterpiece, you’re still going to have to figure out what’s next after that. In 2012 on The Today Show. I was 26. I got all these major media around my second book Vegan is Love. It was “controversial” and when it all died down, I remember being in the shower and having a moment of panic, like, “Did I just peak at 26? I’m never going to get that level of attention and publicity again. What am I going to do now?” Switching my mindset to, “That’s its own masterpiece, and now I’ll create a new little masterpiece. It will be different and it might not get as much attention, but it’s in the creation where I want to find meaning.”
It’s so beautiful and it reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert, who Jason referenced her book, Big Magic a few times. She shared similar emotions to yours, Ruby. It was based on a comment she received from somebody who is like, “How does it feel to have such a successful book and knowing that your success might all be behind you?” It was something along those lines. Her book, Eat, Pray, Love was so huge. It made such a splash and it gave her so much notoriety, but she’s still making other work.
She’s similar in a lot of ways to what you are expressing, where her other work has been quite different from Eat, Pray, Love. It’s not like she’s churning out a ton of similar books. Big Magic was a book for other creative people. Her latest book, City of Girls. I want to read it even though it sounds so different from those other two books that I’ve read, but I just like her. That is what I think of in your case, Ruby, it’s like, “Your art may be different than what your current fans are used to, but I for one, I love you as a person. No matter what you do, it’s still interesting to me because you’re making it.” That’s true with so many people that I enjoy online is that I’m okay with them changing because I’m not attached to what they create. I’m connected to who they are as people. That is one of the most important things for us all to remember. It’s okay for us to evolve with what we’re creating and putting out there.
For me as I evolve and consider what I want to put out in the world and “rebrand myself” is similar to Ruby, moving away from being known as Eco-Vegan Gal, which I started over ten years ago and then owning my name. My avatar or moniker, whatever you want to call it, I want to use that because that’s who I am. I don’t want to be some masked crusader online creating content that is a separate persona. I want to express who I am right now in my life that feels more powerful.
Your outlook is so beautiful. You are the ultimate follower or fan. It goes back to trauma and being seen and heard. You are doing the work to see the people that you follow. When you said that, it’s so comforting to me because if I felt that the people who follow me were a sea of people whose outlook matched yours, I would be so relieved.
Maybe they are. Maybe they just don’t realize it.
That goes back to me building my own solid ground and feeling secure, also, the fuck you energy. That’s been helping me so much.
Jason can relate to that.
It’s a driving force and it feels real good. Even when you say it to yourself.
Ruby, when you say that, I have my own version of that, which is why Whitney had her reaction like I have my own version of fuck you energy. Describe the energetics of what that is for you. When you say fuck you energy, what does that mean to you?
It’s a mix of things. I’m going to flow out what it feels. It means, “I totally give up. Fuck all that project. I’m not even going to try anymore. I’m going to go for something different,” or “Fuck all that pressure. I’m putting myself to be one thing or to hit some other level. I’m just going to be.” I’m an artist in my core. That’s who I am. If I never sell anything again, my core is still an artist. I’m a thinker, I’m a creator, I need to write things down, I need to draw things. I need to remember then that no matter what’s going on in the outside world, when I get up in the morning, the way I make my bed is my art. The way I handle friendships is my art. The way I put my dishes away is my art. The way I clean up my house, organize, and decorate my space, that’s my art. That’s me without anything that has to do with the outside world.
Getting to that fire burning with that, knowing I don’t need anything, I don’t need any of you. I don’t need social media. I don’t need my newsletter. I exist fully, completely without you. That’s hard, I don’t feel that all the time but I get tastes of it. When I do, it feels good. It feels like solid ground. I made this little animation that lives on my website called the virus when lockdown started happening. It’s this woman going to the mountain and she’s asking the mountain for help. The mountain says, “You want another chance? I’ve given you all so many chances, but okay. I’m going to pause time and you figure out who you are without any of this outside world. Find out what’s meaningful to you?”
What do you know about medicine? What do you know about healing? What do you know about your own masculinity or your own femininity? What do you know about food and farming, relations to other negotiations, and being a leader or being part of a fellowship? Those are all important things that we should all be figuring out ourselves because it has nothing to do with producing anything. It has nothing to do with the outside world or jobs. It has to do with us finding meaning in ourselves, what’s meaningful to us, what makes us feel safe, what we can do with our own hands, and with the people that we know. No matter what goes on in the outside world, we’ve got this human system built in that we can meet our own needs on a primal level.
A lot of this too, is redefining what it means to be successful for ourselves. Something that came up in an online meeting that I was on, it was more like a group chat and support group in a way. One insightful thing that somebody said is like, “It’s more about finding personal satisfaction and figuring out what that means.” It goes back to what you were saying, Ruby. It’s like, “Did you feel satisfied with your life now and what you did?” A lot of the time, we define success on what other people think. It’s so much about the external. “Do people like this? Did I get the validation that I want? Did people buy what I’m selling or did they like what I posted on social media? Are they following me?”
To me, at least, that has been success. It’s a word that you can define however you want but I love that idea of personal satisfaction. One thing I’ve learned from this time of shutdown, lockdown, stay at home, quarantine, and all of that is tapping into, do I feel good? If all I did was survive, that in itself is a success. If I can wake up the next day, start anew and tap into how I’m feeling and know that how I’m feeling one day could be completely different from the next. At the end of the day, if I can go to bed and feel like I had some peace and be grateful and feel simply satisfied with that day, it to me is the ultimate form of success.
It’s not what you got even, maybe it’s because you felt bad and agitated. You made $0. You decided, “I remember what’s meaningful to me is the connection with other people and being part of a community.” You called a friend and lent an ear to someone else having a hard time. You being there for them gives you some solid satisfaction in your heart, makes you feel settled. It might not be what you get but what you give that day.
On a different episode, we talked about the energy of giving versus receiving. The same can be true too, is we’re encouraged to give so much especially as entrepreneurs and creatives. It’s like we’re measured by how much we give to other people. Oftentimes, we’re not feeling like we’re receiving much in return. I find it’s such an interesting dance because there are also different energies to both of those. Are you giving just to receive or are you giving so much that you don’t even pause to receive? Are you even allowing yourself to receive? What is it that you’re receiving? Are you receiving something emotionally, physically, financially, or is it a relationship thing? There are so many different factors here and sometimes we’re depleted. Sometimes we deplete ourselves by giving too much and sometimes we deplete ourselves by focusing too much on what we can receive because we’re not giving it from our hearts.
From a genuine place, I can say that I’ve been uncomfortable in 2019 as I was trying to put my feminine figurative work forward. I had another children’s book come out, Bad Day came out and being uncomfortable with its landing in the outside world. It was a harder book to get people’s attention around because in the last couple of years everyone’s overstimulated and everyone’s over newsletters. It’s harder to get people’s attention than it was in the past for me.
Realizing then, “I put this thing out with so much energy. I’m not getting back what I received, necessarily, as far as media coverage or whatever it is.” Accepting, “It’s going to be a slower, longer burn,” also, “Maybe my heart wasn’t totally in that book.” I love that book. It is a real and true genuine piece of me in my thinking, but where I’m at right now, I’m not in the children’s world. I’m not in a family anymore. I’m still getting on my own two feet in my womanhood. Maybe that’s why because I was trying around this thing that wasn’t even genuine to where I’m at.
You’re forcing it.
Yeah and just be okay. “Put that out.” That’s the timing of how all of this unraveled, and I’m going to be okay with it. It’s okay. It didn’t land exactly how I wanted it but all right, another notch on my belt. Keep on moving and I’ll keep promoting it. It’s part of my collection, my life masterpiece, not just trying to hit the bestsellers list in September 2019.
I hope that you don’t give up on it because it’s such a beautiful offering. It’s interesting too. Maybe it didn’t feel like it was fully resonating with your heart, but for me, it hit home. I’m grateful that you produced it. It’s like a lot of things artists-wise, you could have a favorite song and realize it was the musician’s least favorite song they’ve ever done. It’s a matter of perspective.
That book is genuine to me. It’s relevant still to what’s going on inside of me, but as far as promotion, I wasn’t wanting to speak in schools and do readings in children’s circles. I’m drawing women now and women’s bodies and telling those stories. Realizing things don’t turn out the way you think they’re going to. That’s it, that’s all it is. You keep it moving, you keep producing because the satisfaction is in creation.
The thing that also arises for me is a question, this is for all of us. The idea of initiating a new project or a piece of art, book and video. We can name different kinds of media that we’ve all done. All three of us have put out books, products, and all those things. To me, the energy feels different if I am sitting down with a specific purpose and intention of trying to get a specific result from that piece of art versus creating for creation’s sake. There are so many stories but it reminds me of in the early days of the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, their producer, would lock Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. There’s one story of him locking them in a bathroom of a flat for 24 hours or something like that and saying, “You guys are not coming out until you write a hit.”
You’re going to sit in this bathroom, and write and write until you give me a hit like that. That’s a focused hardcore approach to, “We’re not just writing to write, we’re writing because our producer is telling us we have to give him a hit song.” It’s this idea of how many artists in the world create out of a sense of pressure, expectation, or duress of you have to create this thing. They do it from that place versus, “I’m just going to allow it to organically strike me and ‘let the muse visit me.’” I’m curious how you both feel about that of like, “I have this idea of it. It has to be this thing, and there’s a specific direction. We’re going to do this because we have to achieve this thing,” versus “I’ll let the muse strike me when it wants to strike me.”
I personally feel both ways. Picasso said inspiration has to find you working. In one sense, I create space where I know I’m going to sit down and work and see what comes out. There’s definitely that. I have that in a practice like, “Tonight at 6:00, I’m going to draw. Tomorrow night at 6:00, I’m going to draw. The next night, at 6:00, I’m going to draw.” On the other hand, Bad Day was written this way. I keep a document on my computer and every time I have an idea, I go back and add a little more to it. There is zero pressure. It’s not like I’m writing a book. That book was written over the course of a few years.
You’re planting seeds and then all of a sudden, the project is done or it’s close to finish. You didn’t pressure yourself all that much. If you give yourself that space and wiggle room, both time and space to work, and also, I’m not going to create this without an end goal in mind. It’s a good combo. You don’t know what you’re planting seeds with. Bad Day won a Nautilus Book Award, which I’m proud of. It’s a book for a better world. I didn’t see that coming. Everything around Bad Day was quiet for a while. I let go and like, “I’m just going to sleep on that for a little bit.” You don’t know but the work is in the process. You keep producing. You find little ways to trick yourself. Make a nice space for yourself. Make it a ritual. I like candles, turn down the lights, put music on, and draw and stuff comes out that I wasn’t expecting. I feel both ways. There’s forcing yourself to create space and maybe that’s more important than the product and also doing things as they occur to you.
It is interesting, the creative process and all the different phases of it. The different ways that you can go as a writer. You can force yourself to write X amount of words every day no matter what. That works well because it gets you out of the resistance and it gets you into the flow. The key is to be unattached to the results that you get like after you’ve put it out there in the world. Jason and I have talked about this so many times. You can feel disappointed when you’re too attached to getting something and when it doesn’t work out, it is that horrible sinking feeling. The relationship didn’t work out. The job you wanted, the gig you wanted, the validation you wanted, the money you wanted, all those things worked more and more to let go of expectation.
It feels much better when you get something you weren’t expecting, to me. That’s such a huge challenge with us, personally and professionally, is that our expectations can be so high and then we get into that comparison trap. You see other people getting something and we think, “I’m going to do things like they did and I’m going to get the same results or better.” It’s horrible for me when I try to do something and follow a strategy, and then I don’t get the same results that somebody else did, I feel awful. I feel like I did something wrong. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. How come that person got it and I didn’t?
That happened to me at the beginning of 2020 with a project. It happened a couple of times at the end of 2019 and 2020, similar experiences. Jason and I were in one together and doing this group promotion project. Thinking about it, I’m going back to that stress I felt because I was feeling competitive or in that comparison mode all the time. One of the projects I was working on, they would send these email updates like, “Here’s the leaderboard of what people are getting.” They were thinking it was going to motivate and maybe it was. Some people work well when they feel like they’re competing. For me, one thing I’ve learned and known for many years is I don’t do well in a competitive environment. There’s an element of it that sometimes pushes me. I do have a slightly competitive side. It’s not non-existent but for the most part, trying to beat somebody is unpleasant. It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for somebody else.
You’re trying to beat yourself.
My friend was telling me a different perspective. She was doing a spinning class online. You’re able to see the leaderboards on there and she was like, “It was so frustrating when I was paying attention to how everybody else was doing and how I was in context. When I switched and tried to beat myself, or to basically compare my progress to yesterday’s progress,” she started to find it was more motivating when she was trying to look at her own results. How did she do compared to yesterday? Is she working harder or not? Are you going to beat yourself up if you don’t do as well as you did previously? It helped her have a more balanced relationship versus trying so hard to look at herself in comparison to other people because there are just too many factors.
Whether it’s relationships, fitness, your body size, or your age, all these factors, we can’t control most of them. Even with our businesses, we think that we can follow a formula. The same thing is true since all of us have done a lot of work in the content creation, influencer space, and online world, it feels tempting to try to measure yourself against somebody else. Whether it’s your follower count, how many likes you get in a post, or how well did your book sell? All three of us have been books, it’s like, “How many reviews did your book get?” “Did it land on the bestseller list?” and all of these things.
I can agree with so much, Ruby, when I think about my book project. I felt good about publishing a book. I didn’t care that much about how many reviews I got on Amazon, but the publishers want you to care about those things so you feel this pressure. I don’t want to be that person who’s bragging about getting on some bestseller list, but I would find myself trying to use that to validate my book. I’m like, “This feels gross to me.” I don’t want to parade around whatever success I’ve had because I just don’t. I don’t feel like that matters that much. Does it matter to other people?
You know the different feelings inside yourself when something is a challenge that’s hard but you know you want to do it and something that feels completely disingenuous to try and do. Maybe talking to the camera about your book is something you feel like you need to do, but it’s not genuine to you so don’t do it. You’ve got to ease up on yourself and find what’s genuine because only what’s genuine is going to work.
I can relate too, to what you were saying, Ruby, about your process with writing things bit by bit. I’m glad that you said that because that reaffirms it for me. Sometimes hearing that other people are doing that and it’s worked for them, you’re like, “Okay.” It’s funny how we often want permission. “You do that too? All right, I’m not the only one. I’m going to keep doing it.” I hope that people reading have a similar experience because that’s one of our big aims. To remind people that they’re not alone. I love that process. I do that too, constantly.
Something that one of you said, I went and wrote down in my little notebook for one of my future projects that have been in development. I found myself so many times trying to rush myself to put it out there. “I need to get this out there in the world, maybe if I don’t do it now then I’m going miss out on something.” We have this FOMO, this rush, this hustle. You’ve got to go and you can’t delay anymore. It’s tough whether you’re doing something creative or something that’s simply heart-centered. It’s tough to rush it because it doesn’t feel right when you try to rush something like that.
I encourage people, any kind of creative people or any people with goals. They often say things like, “You have five seconds between an idea and executing before you lose interest in it,” which is funny because I know that feeling, but to write things down. I encourage people, as soon as you have any about something, write it down. It’s okay if it’s on a big piece of craft paper and it’s not organized. Get it down on paper. Once it’s down on paper, it’s in progress. Even if you don’t touch it again for a couple of years, that idea was parked and it’s in your queue.The approval of people purchasing from you should just be the icing on the cake. Click To Tweet
I have a big piece of craft paper on a roll that I roll out every January of a new year. I write down things that I want to do. I move things from last year that I didn’t do onto the new piece. That’s also helped me chill out. A year is not much time at all. If you don’t get it done this year, you move it to the next year. You don’t get it done this month, move it to the next month’s to-do list. As long as it’s there, it’s in your mind and it’s something that your creativity and the muse can strike at, and you can add to it. Things get done that way. That’s being an art. It’s not selling an idea or selling a product. It’s in the process of creation.
The one thing that I want to dip back to is the competitive side of all of this. To me, I brought up this quote in a previous episode about Martina Navratilova. She is one of the most famous tennis players in the world, one of the most celebrated and winning tennis players. She said, “The moment of victory is too short to live for that and nothing else.” That’s always stuck with me because if I’m honest about it, and I look back at my entire life. I’ll give a few examples and this is not a humblebrag by any stretch. It’s just the first thing that came to mind.
I remember in college when I was at Columbia. I was like, “I’m going to graduate with a 4.0.” Why? Why was that important? I wasn’t trying to get a Master’s degree. I wasn’t trying to go to an Ivy League school after that. It was just this idea that I want to show that I’m better than everyone else. “Fuck you. You’re all idiots. I’m going to get a 4.0.” It was this competitive, psychotic drive. I did it and no one gives a shit. Since college, no one has ever asked me. “Did you graduate Columbia with a 4.0? You were Summa Cum Laude?” No one gives a fuck.
I did it because somehow it felt like I needed to prove I’m better than all of you. It was the same thing and I remember saying this out loud to people. Before I did How to Live to 100 on the Cooking Channel, I remember looking at specific other vegan chefs in our industry. I don’t need to name who they were but they were “doing better than me at the time” and I’m like, “I’m going to be the first vegan chef in history with a primetime series on a major network.” I did it and literally a few months after that, it was like, “Who cares?” It faded.
Somebody else is claiming that they’re the first to do it because they forgot that you did it.
That’s what I’m saying. It’s like, “Who gives a shit?”
It reminds me of a similar motion I felt which is like, “I’m going to prove that person.” I felt that lately. I was reflecting on it. Somebody said no to me, rejected me, in some way, to some project. I’m like, “I’m going to prove to them. One day they’ll see. They’ll regret not doing this with me.” How many times have you guys felt that emotion? It’s countless for me. I think back to high school, whether it’s a guy that didn’t like me and I’m like, “I’m going to prove them. One day they’re going to regret not giving me a chance.” There is that cultural narrative and you see that happening in the media sometimes.
What came to mind is like artists that are rejected. They’re on American Idol and the judges don’t pick them and then they become a huge pop star. The joke’s on them for not seeing their potential. Again, who cares? If you get the success, the satisfaction that you want, that’s all that matters. It’s not like somebody is going to sit at home and they can’t fall asleep because they regret not working with you at the time.
The approval or someone’s purchase of something that you made should be the icing on the cake and that’s it.
It’s interesting, too, because what you were describing Whitney, in addition to the competitive nature that is definitely encouraged in our society, there’s almost a sense of revenge or vindictiveness that’s intertwined in that. We mentioned this in a previous episode, The Last Dance, a ten-part docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Michael Jordan is one of the great cultural luminaries of our era. Most people on the planet know who Michael Jordan is. Because people were taking him to task about his gambling addiction, and apparently that he is so competitive that it spills over into other areas beyond basketball, investing, business and gambling.
To paraphrase a quote that I saw from him, he said, “No, people think I have a gambling addiction. I don’t have a gambling addiction. I have a competitiveness addiction and gambling is a part of that. Get it right.” My thing is, if we can frame competitiveness and the counterpart vindictiveness that often goes along with it as an addiction, we need to look at that as a cultural part of our mental health process. I mean this honestly because if I look at how devoid of satisfaction I felt so much when I’ve gotten into that, “I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m going to be the first to do it. I’m going to be the best at this,” and then how empty I felt afterward.
That’s the nature of addiction, isn’t it? It’s this idea that, “If I accomplish this thing, be this thing, do this thing, take this drug, enjoy this experience and then I feel empty, I must need to do it more, harder, better, or more ferociously so I can do it over and over again.” We then celebrate people. “You sold ten million records.” “You won the world championship.” “They’re so competitive,” but do we ever stop and ask, “Is that healthy?”
It’s a good question.
I look at both of you and you have been good friends for a long time. I value you guys so much and it has nothing to do with what you’ve sold. I find you inspiring because you think and you execute. You think and you execute again, and you keep going. It’s your energy that I value.
That’s the greatest compliment. Like what I was saying about your art, I value you. Hearing that from you, now I can relate to what you were saying when I gave you my perspective on you. How you felt comfort in that, that’s so comforting to me to hear because culturally, we’re conditioned to feel like we have to prove our worth all the time. “Somebody’s not going to love me if I don’t do this or that,” or “I’m not valuable to this person. I have to prove my value in order for them to care about me and want to be around me.”
It’s a sticky trap. It’s not how anybody who truly values you sees you anyway, so what are you working for?
It’s true with love, too. Jason, I’d love you to chime in on this. For all the ups and downs each of us has been through since we’ve known each other and the different relationships we’ve seen each other through. Those moments of being friends with somebody and seeing them go through all this pain and feeling like they’re not lovable and then as a friend you’re like, “What do you mean? You’re an incredible person.” It’s tough to see your friends feel that way about themselves. It’s important for us to support one another or remind each other of our innate worthiness and our beauty beyond whatever we think our flaws are. Our age, our weight, our size of any shape, and all of these things that we focus on and we think are going to make people reject us.
What this harkens back to is, in my personal life, a remnant of childhood from this idea of survival and trying to avoid further abandonment. We’ve talked about this in the early days of the show that as I experienced and compartmentalized the abandonment I felt from my father leaving when I was young. One of my ways of overcompensating psychologically as a child was learning that, “People perceive me as entertaining, funny, and cute. I bring positive energy, I entertain people and I make them laugh. I make them feel better when I’m in the room when I act a certain way.”
That remnant psychologically has been a thread through into my adult life of, “I’ve got to be the bright light. I’ve got to be the jokester. I’ve got to be the most entertaining guy in the room. I have to be the extrovert and make everyone feel good. If everyone’s feeling good, and everyone’s having a good time, they’re going to go, ‘I feel so good when Jason’s around,’ and if they feel so good when I’m around, I’m never going to be abandoned again.”
It’s a compensatory mechanism that I created as a child to be like, “If I’m entertaining you, making you laugh, making you feel good, then I’m abandonment proof.” It becomes a security blanket and a protectionist mechanism that, to be honest, a lot of times I don’t want to be the brightest light in the room. If I’m feeling it and I’m emo, I’m a sensitive person, maybe I just want to be sad. Maybe I want to allow that. Maybe it’s okay if I go into a room and people are like, “What’s wrong, Jason? You’re not making everybody laugh. You’re not Mr. Mojo.” I’m like, “Because I don’t want to be. I don’t want to have to play that role.” I’m identifying how much I’ve played into that mechanism subconsciously and how much I no longer want to do it.
How about in your romantic relationships, Jason?
This is a funny thing too. If I’m the most generous, loving, best lover you’ve had, most attentive, most sensitive, and listened to you. If I do all the things “a good boyfriend ought to do,” whatever I deem that to be, same thing, I’m abandonment proof. You’ll never leave me. You’ll never take your love away, but the funny thing is, whether it’s, “I’m going to do all the perfect things as a TV host, an author, a chef, an artist, a boyfriend, or a son,” there are no guarantees of anything. All of us can do “the perfect thing” and check off all of the perceived boxes of what we think we ought to do in that role in our lives.
The three of us certainly know. The reader probably identifies maybe with this too. It’s like, “There’s no guarantee of anything. There’s no guarantee that person is going to stay. There’s no guarantee that the relationship is going to go the way you want. There’s no guarantee that your TV show is going to get renewed or your book is going to sell.” There are zero guarantees, even if you think you’re playing the perfect role of whatever you think this thing ought to be. I’ve learned that over and over. It begs the question, “Can we release ourselves from the outcome or try to manipulate an outcome in our life and show up the best we can?”
It’s important for each of us to talk about these things because for the three of us, I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or not or cultural thing, but there’s so much of this Keeping Up with the Joneses. People not talking about their struggles. We want to hide our mistakes. We want to hide the lows in our life. We don’t want anyone to know what’s not going right in our lives, whether it’s our relationships, and trying to pretend our relationship is so much better than it actually is. “Everybody thinks that we have the perfect relationship and let’s keep it that way.”
The problem with that, whether it’s personal or professional, is that you perpetuate this idea that it has to be that way, otherwise, you’re a failure. If people don’t see what is not going super well all the time, then other people feel like there’s something wrong with them. On social media, the highlight reel, most people, at least up until the current time, is showing all the things that are going so well, “My great house. The great cars. My great boyfriend and my great kids. Everything’s great,” but you’re seeing a second of somebody’s life, that moment that photo was taken, the couple of seconds that video was taken.
What about the rest of their lives? People not showing these things creates this idea, whether we realize it or not. “If our life doesn’t look like that all the time, then we’re doing something wrong.” There’s something wrong with us because everybody else is succeeding. If we don’t feel that pretty or that successful, if our relationships aren’t going as well, then something’s wrong with us. It’s important to speak about those challenges and share the lowlights in our life as much as we share the highlights.
I try purposefully to share some of that through my artwork on Instagram or my newsletter because it bothers me that someone might think everything’s perfect on this end. Look at her like, “She’s made it.” When I have been hustling every single day, juggling five million things and doing way more than anybody on the outside or in the social media world could even imagine that I’m doing to keep things afloat. I like putting a little darkness out there because people relate to it. They want to celebrate the highs too, and they want to know you as a person as we all do on personal levels. What we’re all saying is we value each other because of personal things. We’ve sat down with each other in hard times. We’ve high fived at our book signings. As much as the digital age has isolated and made things branded and so much pressure, the backlash is that people are hungry for authenticity.
It’s authentic authenticity as well. That’s an interesting thing, and I struggle with this on social media. It’s almost like training myself to share authentically because, for over ten years, we’ve been in this world of only sharing the perfect things. Make sure you take 100 photos and then pick that one photo that looks the best. Make sure you edit it and write the perfect caption. That’s how we’ve been trained. At least I can say so and that’s the culture of social media and Instagram. Jason has often said to me that he doesn’t feel like posting. He doesn’t want to share every moment of his life. He doesn’t want to have to feel like he’s camera ready and I feel that way too. It leads me to not posting as frequently. Thinking this through, my life is better, for sure, but then it’s this weird balance where you also don’t want to plan to be authentic because that in itself is not authentic.
It’s easier to not post at all because I don’t want to change my voice when I get on camera, but I’ve been trained to do that. I have to untrain myself and find the bravery to post a picture without makeup. I’ve done that a few times. It’s still incredibly uncomfortable to not wear makeup, do my hair, or put a filter on. I feel vulnerable in those moments. I feel so much more comfortable taking that perfect photo and editing it. I’m trying to get away from that because it doesn’t feel right to me most of the time. Sometimes it does but most of the time it doesn’t. It’s that weird transition that we’ve been talking about throughout this episode. As you work on your shifting and the way that you do things and trying not for it to be too contrived either. I don’t want to get on there and be vulnerable because I’m trying to manipulate people to like me more when I’m vulnerable. You see this on social media, people that try to use their vulnerability to get more followers, to get more likes or something like that, and that itself starts to feel cringy because you’re like, “I like this vulnerability, but now it feels contrived.” It feels like you’re manipulating me.
I see a lot of that too.
This is such an interesting subject because it harkens back to a couple of things. It harkens back to when you see something working for someone else, “Let’s copy it because clearly there’s a formula at play.” I feel this authenticity and vulnerability. I don’t want to use the word oversharing but for lack of a better word at this moment, I do feel for content creators and artists, sometimes I’m like, “I personally don’t need that level of detail about your life. The minutiae of those specificities but go for it,” whatever you want to share.
To me, it’s part of this broader idea of wanting to do something because I’m trying to elicit a specific outcome and not just share something because it’s in my heart to share. It reminds me of this interview I saw with Gary Vaynerchuk where he didn’t name someone specifically but someone he was working with. She’s become well-known for posting risqué photos of herself which are common on Instagram, in particular. Women and guys in various states of undress, showing their physical bodies and gaining a certain level of success and sponsorship and things like that.
She was relating to Gary Vaynerchuk that, “I don’t want to do this anymore, because there are some things I want to share intellectually in terms of my interests and things I’m passionate about. The things I’ve studied in my life but I feel like I ‘can’t do it’ because I’ve built up such an incredible level of success.” It goes back to how we started this, you brand yourself so specifically. She’s like, “I don’t feel like I can stop sharing semi-nude pictures of myself because that’s what I’ve built everything on. If I start posting about biochemistry or my interests in paleontology,” or whatever she was talking about, people won’t take it seriously and be like, “What are you doing?”
It goes back to that fear of loss, change, and letting go of something that you’ve worked hard for. It’s real. It causes a physical feeling.
There was something I was ruminating on because I’m in this right now, the process of reevaluating, in particular, how I want to move forward with my relationship to creativity, identity, and all of this. I’m in it. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to you about it, Ruby. Whitney knows this because we’ve talked about on the podcast of me moving away from vegan cheffing because it doesn’t resonate and I don’t have much passion for it or feel creatively inspired. I felt this way for a long time, but it feels like I’m at a fork in the road and reckoning around this.
It was the person that I’ve been dating at the time of this podcast said to me, “Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you should do it or feel obligated to do it.” I feel for a long time, I personally have felt obligated to keep doing the culinary work that I do because of the brand I’ve created but also because I’m “good at it.” It’s like, “You’ve been given this talent. You’ve cultivated this talent. You’ve spent fifteen years working on it. You should keep doing it,” but my heart isn’t in it anymore. It’s this hard thing of you see the proverbial carrot in society being dangled of book deals, money, success, attention, but there’s a certain point for all of us. Your heart, your soul, or whatever it is, is like, “You can’t keep doing this anymore. You can’t.” I feel like I’m pretty close to that point of, you need to surrender to your soul because your soul is saying you don’t have anything left to give and you know you don’t. Stop forcing it.
You might have a period of time where you do nothing and hopefully, you have some savings to give yourself that space. To decide to do nothing for a while until the decks are clear and you gain some other clarity. When I talk to my girlfriends and what I call it in my life and you can call it something different, but I call it pussy power. Go with what feels good. For me, the core of me and where the inside of me knows everything is the core of my femininity. I call it pussy power, your pussy knows everything. You know what to do. If it feels good in the morning to wash your face, do a face mask, and go outside for fifteen minutes, then that’s what you should do even if you have 50,000 emails to answer or a to-do list that’s super long. If your body is telling you that, follow it because if you go outside and you lay down in the sun, that might be when a grand idea pops into your head. You follow that and you get on this path of feeling good and I swear every time I give in to that, something good happens.
I have a version of this, Ruby.
You better because it’d be funny if yours was called pussy power too, Jason.
It’s definitely not pussy power. As a cat dad, I could say that I derive my powers from my felines, therefore pussy power. My version of this is I was working with a great coach years ago on acting and stuff for TV performance. His name is Sky Redlove. We had a phrase which was connecting with your power as you’re describing, Ruby. We called it, put your dick in the dirt. Imagine your dick going to the core of the Earth and drawing up the power of the core of the planet, Mother Earth, in through your dick and into your body. “You’re not being authentic in this. Put your dick in the dirt, Jason.” That was my power, it’s like listening to your intuition, get inspired by the Earth, the muse, nature. Put it in the dirt and see what happens.
That’s your core. That’s the gift of your masculinity too, that energy. This is the gift of my femininity.
It’s a return to the primal instinct and the primal inspiration and perhaps getting out of our own way. That means whatever shoulds, ought tos, or manipulative ways we’re trying to move through life. We move beyond those things and reconnect with a deeper connection to nature, life, and inspiration. That’s such a wonderful thing. A great reminder that if we get too much in our heads, which I am apt to do, is to like, “How do I get out of my head and reconnect with something more primal?” I see that in your artwork, Ruby. I remember when I bought a t-shirt of yours a couple of years ago at one of the shows. I had seen some of it, but I remember seeing your shirts and being like, “This is dope.” There was just a primal, raw, sensual, dark nature to it that I immediately connected with.
The t-shirt you’re describing is a girl. You’re looking at her from the back and she’s riding a skull. She’s got the punk rock hand signal and she’s naked. She’s got her feet in the eyeball sockets.
I get so many random people that ask me, “What does that shirt even mean?” I usually say it’s something about death and life. As the mythology goes in Greek mythology, Dionysus riding the leopard without being torn to pieces. It’s this passion like riding the knife’s edge of life knowing that you can get ripped to pieces at any moment. Whether that’s proverbially speaking, our identity getting ripped to shreds, or literally our bodies getting destroyed and we go on to whatever the next incarnation is.
I call her the writer muse. It’s a sense of warriorship and being able to tolerate life and death cycles. Because you’re in a death cycle or you’re feeling a death cycle, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to keep living. It isn’t over. You keep going. Expecting that and being able to identify life and death cycles is so helpful in our careers and in relationships too. I was talking to a girlfriend and she was saying, “My relationship is over.” I was like, “Maybe part of it is, maybe that’s just the death cycle but the relationship is not over.” It covers everything we’ve been talking about from reinvention to wanting to be liked and putting things out there. Things are not working out and you keep going. It is building your resilience, tolerance, and your willingness to go through the cycle that life throws at you and continue to be a vessel for lifeforce energy. Even when you don’t feel it, know that it’s still coming. The flip side of the death cycle is the life cycle. It’s always there.
One thing I’ve been thinking about, especially at this moment in human history as we’ve been dealing with COVID-19. The quarantine, shelter in place, people losing their livelihoods, their jobs, and their careers, and in many cases, the divorce rate, especially in Asia being massively high. What I think about as I feel we’re getting close to the end of this podcast or the death of this episode, is the lack of initiation rituals related to death in our society. How death is something in the shadows and it’s not talked about. We put our elderly and squirrel them away in convalescent homes. We don’t even talk about death or how to prepare for death. We don’t even talk about our wills or our trusts. These are conversations that we are so frightened of in our society.
Maybe that’s why people are so triggered by COVID-19.
Yes, because it’s a death initiation. It’s a ritual we’re all collectively experiencing. “You don’t have any cultural initiation rituals to have a good healthy relationship with the idea of death.” Whitney, that’s exactly it. I feel this is a collective human initiation into, “We’re going to put death right in front of your face.” Physical actual death, the losing of people’s lives, and the proverbial archetypical death of your career dying, your job dying, your sense of who you thought you are is dying. This, to me, on a spiritual level is a massive death initiation. It’s a ritual.
For me, I’ve seen it as a grand opportunity. I don’t even know if it’s going to go as far as it should to create permanent, sustainable change. I don’t wish suffering on anybody but I’ve seen this as an initiation like you’re saying. An opportunity for us to do things in a different way. From the way we consume to how we grow food to knowing that we don’t need to travel as much. We can cut the carbon rates. When the Amazon was burning, why weren’t the planes grounded then? What does it take to get people to say, “How many times can we be initiated in and step up to the plate and make the initiation a realization?”
We go through so many different waves of consciousness as human beings and none of us know how long we will be around personally or as a species. That’s part of releasing the attachment or knowing, the control and all of this power that we think that we have, and transforming our power into something more positive and less ego-based. That’s what I hope comes out of this. The benefit of becoming self-aware is moving away from your ego, which is the ongoing lesson that our episode seemed to come down to.
It’s like, “Can we step away from being selfish and unaware? How can we become conscious about our choices and how we affect other people, how we affect animals and the planet, and how we feel about ourselves?” Can we deal with ourselves on a certain level as opposed to trying to escape it or lead from our ego all the time? We get all these lessons over and over again. Personally and as a society, how many times do we need to learn that leading with our egos does not do as much good?
It’s going to be up to the people who realize that to carry that energy and knowledge passed when the lockdowns are lifted.
Who knows what’s going to happen? In the US, we have a President that is leading from his ego. Not to get too political but from my perspective, it’s a matter of fact. It’s about him, the way that he is perceived by others, being right all the time, and he seems to struggle with being wrong. It’s driven by how he can make himself look good. Sadly, there are some people that see that as an example and think that that is a good way to move forward. From my perspective, it’s so ego-based that it’s causing more harm than good.
In that way, Trump is his own initiator. We are in initiation because of him. I’ve seen people rise up in anger and blame and point fingers during his whole presidency. I’ve always gone back to, “What are you going to do about it? It’s up to you. Are you going to pull your money because you have the ultimate influence?” He can’t do anything if you’re spending your money in different ways and supporting the institutions, organizations, and life systems that you want. It comes back to us and our agency as individuals.
That’s also such an important lesson. We do have more power than we might realize. It’s just in a different way than we might realize. Sometimes, we exert our power in ways that aren’t productive but our power lies in the actions that we take and the mindset that we have throughout it all. That’s been the comforting side of it is when I feel like the world is in a negative place, and I feel depressed. I’m not happy with our current leadership. I also have to remember that there’s a lot that I can do and I might have even more power than I have ever realized before.
That’s deep. When all these marches started happening around the time Trump was elected, women’s marches and all of it, I didn’t participate. I did go down once to feel the energy and I do understand the motivation and the benefits of people coming together and showing bodies. To me, my grandparents were Holocaust survivors and the first thing that the Nazis did was march them. They were drained and exhausted and then they’re vulnerable. You are not going to catch me marching and begging corrupt leadership to change when I’ve got all my own energy to change right at my fingertips without them. I don’t need them at all. That’s a fuck you energy. I don’t need you. I’m not going to fall in line with the trend of marching because it’s not genuine to me. What’s genuine to me is the way I eat, spend my money or don’t spend my money, take care of people, my relationships one-on-one, tolerance for people, and working through conflict.
I love that so much because we’ve talked about activism before and how I’ve struggled as a vegan feeling like I’m not enough of an activist. Maybe my power isn’t in that form of activism and going to the marches and the protests similar to you, Ruby. For different reasons, it doesn’t resonate with me. I felt a little bit of shame for not going to things like that and wondering, “Am I not doing enough?” I’m doing my own version of it and maybe that’s more powerful for me. Maybe that’s a better use of my energy.
That’s true leadership. When someone can activate their agency independent from what other people are doing. Follow your own North Star because you’ve checked in with yourself and checked in with what’s genuine and effective in your mind.
Even if it’s going against all the masses.
I love that we’re talking about this. I’ve identified a psychological thing, even in the well-meaning activist communities, whether that is the vegan community we have all been a part of for a long time now or the ecoactivism, a lot of women’s rights and all the things that we are talking. Even in those, there seems to be a tyranny of the majority, which is the term I like to use. It’s the sense of you identifying as this thing. You’re a Democrat, a Liberal, a vegan, eco-friendly, queer, transgender, or whatever the thing is that people identify. Because you are that thing and you’ve claimed that label or lifestyle or you are that thing, you ought to feel this way that we feel as people who also identify as that.We go through so many different waves of consciousness in our lifetimes. Click To Tweet
If you don’t feel that way and you don’t take the same kind of actions, we’re going to castigate and shame you and make you feel as if you ought to do what we do. That’s been one of the biggest things that has motivated me to step out of a lot of different communities, including the vegan community. I don’t want to use any of those words anymore because I’ve been so disillusioned with this mentality in so many of the different communities I’ve been in. A lot of them, I’ve named where I’m like, “I identify as the thing you do but I don’t feel, think, or want to take the same action you do. I don’t want to be shamed for it.”
I feel the same way about a lot of feminists’ stuff. Obviously, we support equity or equality, whatever it means to you, fairness or equalness. That’s up to you in your mind. This just came up, the male gaze. As a feminist, you’re supposed to have a critique against the male gaze and doing things for the male gaze approval. If I check myself, I actually like the male gaze. I think that’s one of the masculine’s greatest powers. You can make somebody feel beautiful, safe, or that things are going to be okay. It can be your girlfriend, mom, or sister. More men need to use their power for good but I would never put it down because I derive joy and a feeling of safety from it. I like it.
That’s important too. I feel similarly, about a lot of things. I don’t feel the need to put things down. I feel like life is full of gray areas. The older I get, the more I want to get away from judging things as right versus wrong, good versus bad because I can see a positive side to most things. I don’t need to reject, protest, or shame something. I don’t like that energy of debate or taking a side. It doesn’t feel right to me. I’m not even going to judge somebody if they do want to take a side. That’s part of it. I am trying to be conscious about me taking sides, in general, even though I have actions. Being vegan is, in a way, taking aside. It’s saying, “I don’t agree with the way animals are treated or used for our benefit but I can still do that without consciously judging and shaming somebody and trying to convince them of something.” I feel the same way about politics. I personally don’t agree with Trump’s leadership but I’m not going to shame somebody if they voted for him or not want to talk to somebody. I enjoy hearing from people on the other side of things.
It’s not even neutral. You want to hear. You want to create more understanding and tolerance.
That’s true unity, if we can really accept everybody from where they’re at. One of the themes here is it’s okay whatever you’re feeling. We’re all at different places. We all have different levels of consciousness and awareness. It’s based on how we were raised as kids, what our parents taught us, what society was like at that time, where we live, how we grew up, and what our life experiences were that lead us to who we are. All of us are coming from so many different places and we don’t all need to be the same. We don’t all need to be at the same place.
It’s not a competition, ultimately, about how you can get to a level of awareness, peace, or if you are doing everything right in life. That’s another thing that’s come up so much. Who even decides what’s right or wrong, good or bad, successful or unsuccessful? It all comes down to our personal experiences and not in comparison with other people. Instead, we could all just say, “I love who I am. I see my innate worthiness. I respect the people around me and love them for wherever they are.” To me, that feels like the ultimate form of peace.
One thing I wanted to bring up in a funny way is this idea that has been spreading around the internet for a while about getting woke and people being woke AF. I remember in 2019, we wrote a blog post about this. There was this funny competition about what level of woke you are. If you are perceiving wokeness and self-awareness as a competition or that there are things to attain or levels to get to, you’re missing the point completely. Maybe that’s part of it too. This is something I think about all the time. If everything is awareness, soul, universe, or God and everything is everything, to your point about good, bad, right, wrong, evil, if it’s all part of the same thing, then it’s about our individual subjective perceptions that make things good or bad.
If we’re aware of our ego, then judging somebody else for being different from us is our ego talking. Even talking about Trump, I try not to talk about him. I don’t want to judge him. That’s my ego talking if I’m going to judge somebody who’s different from me. The truth is, everybody is different from me. With this whole woke thing, you’re right. My definition of being woke is being at peace. That might be different from somebody else’s definition but I don’t need to be in competition with my level of awareness in life and how I act. When people try to come across as better than me, that turns me away from them. That doesn’t make me feel closer to them. It has the opposite effect of what I feel like people are trying to achieve.
We talked about this so much. We even have the episode about Can You Really Be an Expert in Anything. Sure, it depends on your definition of being an expert. I can understand why you might want to use that. I would rather feel like the playfield is level and that somebody is seeing me just as valuable as they are versus thinking that they’re better and more knowledgeable than me. What if that person says, “I am more experienced than you in this but you’re probably more experienced than me in something else.” That makes us all equals at the end of the day. We have different experiences and one another. That doesn’t mean that anybody is better than somebody else or in a higher level home. Our society is trying to force us into these different levels.
Welcoming conflict and difference into your life is a good test of how practiced you are. Some of the liberal progressive demographic are some of the most intolerant people. We hear a lot of hatred coming out, whether it’s directed towards Trump or towards southerners.
Even in the vegan community. We’ve been in this vegan world for so long, it can be the infighting of whether you’re vegan or not, it can be so extreme. People go, “You’re not vegan enough,” or whatever else like judging other vegans. It comes down to that not good enough mindset. It’s a massive mental illness that many of us have. “I’m not good enough,” “You’re not good enough. You’re never going to be good enough,” or “Nothing’s ever good enough.” It’s this whole thing of you’re not enough. You’re not vegan enough, you’re not woke enough, you’re not political enough, or you’re not whatever enough. That, to me, is incredibly draining and stressful no matter what. No wonder anxiety is so rampant because a lot of anxiety stems from that not enoughness feeling.
I honor both of you for doing the work to identify it and try to move to a higher level of consciousness. That’s what we’re all doing in our creative work and how we try to relate to the outside world. I highly appreciate the work.
Likewise, Ruby. As we are heading towards the conclusion of this episode, I do have one final curiosity for you, Ruby. In the pantheon of the human experience, what do you personally feel is the purpose of artwork? What role does it serve in the human experience? Why is art important?
It’s almost a trigger to give you a sense of something that you may not even be conscious of or have words for. It goes back to processing creations. If you don’t follow it or look at it, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Art can be a trigger to help you find something. Whether you find what the artist intended or something else, it’s there to lead you to something that’s not in your immediate consciousness.
It’s beautiful, Ruby. Thank you so much for being here. It feels the energy, even though we’re physically at a distance that this is the kind of conversation that the three of us enjoy when we are physically present. I appreciate you so much as a friend, fellow artist, and someone that I know. Whitney would say the same thing. We deeply value you in our lives and appreciate your time.
I love you guys, too. I want everybody to ease up on themselves. Find what feels good, both of you.
Thank you, Ruby. Are you still selling those shirts like Jason has?
Yeah, there are some left. There will be more in the works.
We put everything on our website at Wellevatr.com. We’re here for you so you can connect with us. You can connect with Ruby. We have our email address and the social media links and lots of different ways for you to get in touch and learn more. We’d love to continue the conversation with you on social media or on our website. There’s a comment section where you can share your thoughts there too. You can also share this episode. If you read it and it resonated with you and you know someone else who might enjoy it, please pass it on to them. Leave us a review on iTunes if you’d like as well. That always helps us reach more people. We’re so grateful for you, as we’re grateful for Ruby. We will be back with another episode so stay tuned.
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- Ruby Roth
- Where the Sidewalk Ends
- Darius Rucker
- Bad Day
- Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
- When Things Fall Apart
- Vegan is Love
- Big Magic
- Eat, Pray, Love
- City of Girls
- Eco-Vegan Gal
- Nautilus Book Awards
- Why Have We Become Desperate to Reach the Highest Possible Level? – Previous Episode
- How to Live to 100 on Cooking Channel
- The Last Dance
- Instagram – Ruby Roth
- Twitter – Ruby Roth
- Facebook – Ruby Roth
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- We Are NOT Woke AF – Medium Blog Post
- iTunes – This Might Get Uncomfortable
About Ruby Roth
Featured on Today, CNN, FOX, and other major media outlets, Ruby Roth is an artist, designer, and via the renowned branch of her creative house, the world’s leading author-illustrator of a series of vegan books for kids, the first of their kind in children’s literature. Her newest title, Bad Day, expands her themes to emotional wellbeing.
From figurative drawings and paintings to radical picture books, Ruby weaves together a world of wild women, children, and flora and fauna, reflecting her lifelong interest in bodies, nature, and over a decade of research into nutrition, spiritual psychology, politics, and social justice. Ruby uses art as a tool for transformation, inspiring over 160,000+ social media followers. Her books have been translated into 10+ languages and are distributed worldwide.
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