Creativity

Regret

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We are here to care for ourselves in our pain, our fear, our disappointment, jealousy, and regret. That’s our job–caring for ourselves in those moments of darkness. Not to make it go away or to make it better, but simply because it is there.

It’s like when we hold a crying infant. We are our best comforters when we are soothing the baby because she is crying not in order to make her stop. (Though I’ve been there too and it’s a far more stressful place to be, i.e., needing the baby to stop crying. It’s human but it’s also tricky because when there, I’m asking the baby to care for me.)

I’ve been thinking about regret in particular lately because I’ve been writing about it. Everybody is afraid of regret. In the self-help world, it seems to be a dirty word. NOT regretting is the morally superior position. You’re a loser if you admit regret. You can’t change the past so let it go! Every memoir with regret in the title proclaims with many exclamation points that there are NONE!!!

But what if it’s okay to have regret? What if the only issue with regret is what we make it mean? About ourselves? About our future? What if it’s just something we have in the moment it makes itself known to us? Oh. There’s regret. Hello regret. Is there anything I can get you? (What would regret drink? Lukewarm tap water? I just don’t see regret with a fancy coffee drink or frozen marguarita though I think regret would feel better if she did try a fun beverage.)

I think of Rumi and his poem Guest House, telling us to greet every part of ourselves, welcome them in. What he doesn’t say is, it is the welcoming that creates the opening for leaving. Or dissipating, or absorbing. But again, that’s not the point. We ought not make an opening as a technique, so that it will leave (but it does happen! At least, until it comes back.)

What heals regret? One might say psychotherapy or coaching through witnessing or thought work, perspective, understanding, compassion, love, time. Maybe it’s through this that we expand, clear a bit of space on the bench next to our grief for great losses in our lives or current situations that are chronic in their pain. Maybe it’s part of what gives us depth and complexity, helps us be a help to others.

I’ve found that my regret has come from not listening to myself. And so, healing comes from listening, really listening, and then–this is key–acting on what I hear.

Creativity has been healing my regret. Making something fastens me to the present moment. I am awake and curious and experimenting, testing things out. What I didn’t do then can never be retrieved. But this making of something, done one day and then again the next, is restorative. It allows me to recultivate the neglected places, reclaim lost aspects of myself.

People say, you can’t go back but the good news is, there is no need. The access point is here, right now. And we always have that.

Mindset

Ask

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Here’s what I have to say today: Ask.

Do it even though sometimes it’s hard to remember or scary to muster the courage to sit with the excruciating vulnerability that asking can bring.

Don’t wait for her to figure it out or for him catch your disappointed vibe.

Ask for the hug or help cleaning the kitchen or for a cup of tea to be brought to the couch where you’re pinned under the weight of the world. Ask for your back to be scratched in that spot that keeps jumping around somewhere just inside your left shoulder blade.

Ask to be asked about your work or your dream or your sorrow.

Ask for help googling something.

Ask for more information.

Ask for more time.

Ask for it be said another way. 

Ask for a do-over.

Ask him to stop doing that thing you don’t like (or to start doing that thing you do). 

Ask for quiet.

Ask for a round of applause.

Ask for forgiveness.

Ask her what she always wanted to be asked. And then ask to be asked the same. 

Ask for what you want. (You may need to ask yourself first.)

It’s not even so much about the answer. It’s the asking itself that grows us.

Plus, if you never ask, you never know. Think of what you might be missing. 🙂

Inspiration

What are you doing?

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What are you doing?

What do you want to be doing?

Notice.

What needs to shift in order for you to step into more of what you want, not later but now?

Is there something to let go of? Some story about what’s not possible?

Is there something you need help with?

Is there something that your body is craving?

A walk? A bit of water? A view? A hug? A cry? A moment of stillness?

Ask. Wait for the answer. Be willing to be surprised.

And then be willing to act.

Remember it doesn’t have to be big. No is a complete sentence. I’ll get back to you is a fair response. You may be right creates enormous space.

Step outside. Greet the lusty iris.

 

Body Compass

There’s space inside for all of it

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Yesterday was a dark day. A seam opened up and I fell into a pit. I did what I could to let go of the story and give in to the sensations because I know when I do, things move. When I don’t, the story loops over and over and nothing goes anywhere. I’m stuck and covered in tar.

It’s surprisingly hard to simply talk about our feelings without the why and when and who said what and how it’s all hideous but true true true!  It’s like that joke:

She: You’re an asshole.
He: Don’t tell me what I am. Tell me how you feel.
She: Okay. I feel like you’re an asshole.

Feelings are not thoughts or ideas or memories or plans or nightmares or dreams. Feelings don’t live in our heads. They live in our bodies. We FEEL them. That’s why they’re called FEELINGS. 🙂  It can feel odd because it takes us into new territory and that’s often scary.

She: You’re an asshole.
He: Don’t tell me what I am. Tell me how you feel.
She: I feel hot in my face and like an elephant is sitting on my chest.
He: Oh. Uh, line?

I did many things and lots of nothing all day. I cried. I ate things. I watched things. I stared into space. I asked for help (GAK that’s hard). I let myself be vulnerable (terrifying!). I talked about my feelings and my thoughts. I spoke some scary truths and also thrashed around in old familiar and icky painful ways about how I’ve failed and have been failed, have hidden and am still hiding.

It wasn’t my favorite day but you know what? It was sort of amazing because I stayed with myself all day. And I saw and felt things move. I mean, it was like actual things, physical things, moved and were lifted and got shifted and other things were revealed. There was a whole internal re-ordering. I started the day feeling as if I were strapped to a thousand pound tarp of junk and ended the day feeling grateful, connected, tender but also larger.

I didn’t decide things or figure things out. I think what I did was make space for the whole mess of it, both in my day and inside of myself. At one point, I sat in meditation and brought all of it to the center of my heart, every sharp and unwieldy seemingly ugly, inescapable thing, and my heart kept making room for all of it, just as it was.

There is space inside for all of it.

All the sorrow, loneliness, heartache, and grief.
All the anger, resentment, regret, and hurt.

The space is vast, untouched by circumstances, unfettered by the details, personalities, past or future. There are no lost opportunities there. It is both empty and full.

It is with you always; it is the ground upon which all things arise and fall away again. It is the space that is beating your heart.

It is you.

Creativity

Mining for joy; an exercise

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Here’s a quick exercise. Set your timer for 5 minutes (Truly! No more than 5!) and write (without editing) a list of things you love.

It can be activities or things or simply feeling states that bring you joy, pleasure, satisfaction, peace, energy. There are no wrong answers!

Ready? Set your timer. GO.

When you’re done, print your list out. Pin it up somewhere. Resolve to add more of them into your life.

Here are a few of mine:

  • Laughing really hard.
  • Making other people laugh.
  • Getting dirty.
  • Having adventures.
  • Sleeping.
  • Eating berries.
  • Eating something delicious when I’m very hungry.
  • Drinking water when I’m very thirsty.
  • My morning cup o’ joe.
  • Connecting with people.
  • Feeling clear.
  • Feeling seen.
  • Feeling open.
  • Feeling IN my body.
  • Experimenting with personal style.
  • Discovering things.
  • Making things.
  • Slowing down.
  • Being in the zone.
  • Being inspired.
  • Color!
  • Pretty, comfy, fun clothes.
  • Dancing!
  • Stretching.
  • Swimming in the ocean.
  • Feeling the warm air on my bare skin.
  • Hearing under the words.
  • Telling the truth.
  • Personal transformation.
  • Cozy in the bed with a cup of tea and a book.
  • A different sort of cozy in the bed (wink wink).

 

“Another year is fast approaching. Go be that starving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel. You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on 15 televisions at TGI Fridays. Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene. Be the change you want to see in the world.” –Jason Mraz

Creativity

What’s Your New Story?

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I’m having a hard time writing this morning. It might have something to do with being up for over 24 hours.

I flew back from California on the red-eye without one of those neck pillows and could not get a winky-dink of sleep. I went there for a combo-pack of visiting friends and attending a Kyle Cease workshop. It was a huge treat to have that time on my own, without my husband and son. I love them! And I also love being able to be in charge of my own time, follow my own rhythms, my own style, have no one to think about or attend to but myself. 

Anyway, I keep typing out sentences and then gobbling them up with my delete key. Maybe I’m trying to make my message more complicated that it is. Because truly, what I have to say is very simple:  

There are two stories that live inside us: the story of what’s possible and the story of how the very same thing is not possible. We might think these two are far apart but they’re not. They’re whisper close, almost touching. But they head in such entirely different directions that stepping from one to the other immediately puts us on a whole new trajectory that’s hard to see from the start.

We get to choose. It doesn’t always feel like a choice. That’s part of the old story, the feeling (or actually the thoughts) that give us all the reasons WHY the can’t or should or have to must win out. It masquerades as reason or fact or responsibility or being realistic but it’s justification, distraction, habit, and fear fear fear. 

It usually goes something like this–we get hit with inspiration. Maybe we’re doing something or watching something or reading about someone who did something or maybe an idea or memory or a dream pops into our mind and our body lights up. We feel fluttery or flushed, tickled, intrigued, tingly or suddenly very powerful and full and open, like anything is possible! We might also feel a little scared but it’s the good, alert scared not the trapped full of dread scared. 

We know the difference. 

That’s when the mind wakes up and starts tamping us down in all its ways, sucking us in to deflection and numbing with food, gossip, busyness, overcommitting, the sinkhole of social media, and the endless stream of movies and TV shows at the click of a mouse (can you tell, that’s my rabbit hole?). 

That’s when we get to choose: keep the old story alive or step into a new story. 

You don’t need therapy or coaching or a class or a book to make it happen (though those are fine!). All you need is to honor the energy of expansion and possibility, and then take one step from this new place. Show up and start. Not sure how? Ask yourself, if I was a person who believed I could do that, what small first step might I take?

Why? Because we are here to follow our feel good. It makes us happier, kinder, more resilient humans. We vibrate at a higher frequency which lifts the vibration in our family, workplace, friend-circle, and community. 

Lord knows the current state of affairs is calling out for a new story, a new energy, a higher energetic frequency. It may sound like a stretch to say getting off Facebook and breaking out your hula-hoop (or guitar or crayons or manuscript or business plan or adult ed catalogue) is going to change the world but I say, it’s exactly the place to start. 

 

“We know the truth by how it feels.”

Inspiration

Open Your Mind; It Wants to MOVE

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It’s Wednesday! Time for a little inspiration to carry us through the week!

A lot of people say, you can do anything! Age is just a number! As much as we like hearing it, some of us are not convinced. We think, Well that’s all fine and good for her–she’s in her (insert some age here). But I’m (insert age here)!

Consider this: I was at a workshop earlier this year with about 30 other people, most of them in their 20s and 30s. A couple of us were in our 50s and one was in her early 60s. At one point, the amazing Josh said, Would everyone who thinks it’s too late for them, raise their hand? And every single person in the room had their hand up. Every one.

Feeling afraid it’s too late is not really about how old we are. It’s about how stuck we feel.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all read about the difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset, the work of Carol Dweck and her fantastic book, Mindset. You can read more about it many places including the Brain Pickings link here.

The shorthand is: our beliefs shape our lives. Who we think we are underlies who we allow ourselves to become, and therefore, how happy we feel. It’s like that Henry Ford quote, Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.

In a fixed mindset, we believe we are who we are is the ending point. There’s not much to be done about it. We’re ‘this’ smart. We’re ‘this’ old. We’ll just never be good at such and such. It’s too late to start such and such. Etc. etc.,  In a growth mindset, we believe who we are is a starting point. Our personality, traits, and abilities are seen as fluid or plastic, as the brain people like to say these days. Challenge is welcomed and failure is accepted as part of the learning process.

When you feel like what you’ve been dealt is an ending point, you operate from fear, trying to be okay with what feels disappointing or scary. When what you have is a starting point, you operate from a place of possibility.

Look–I’m not skipping around in my ponytail chanting, You can be anything! Some things are not possible. Making choices means some roads are not taken. But that’s okay. I used to dream of being an Olympic gymnast back when I was 12. It’s not my dream anymore. What I want now is to feel strong and healthy, to feel good in my skin, to feel capable and energized. That’s doable.

Now, for some inspiration:

Here’s Shirley Webb. She’s in her 70s. The article I link to said she had a goal of deadlifting 300 pounds by May. My brother saw her deadlift 300 pounds in early April.

Here’s Vivienne Westwood. She opened a punk clothing store in her late 30s and is still going strong well into her 70s.

Trudy Smith always wanted to paint. She finally picked up a brush in her 80s and she’s still going strong.

Harriet Thompson completed a marathon at 92.

Vera Wang didn’t begin her career as a designer until she was 40.

Robin Chase cofounded Zipcar at 42.

Betty White was just hitting her stride on the Mary Tyler Moore show when she was 51.

Laura Ingals Wilder published the first of the Little House on the Prairie books when she was 65.

Henry Bernstein wrote and wrote but no one heard of him until he published a memoir at 96.

Ernestine Shepherd didn’t start start weight training until she was in her late 50s.

What do you want? What dreams won’t leave you alone? What do you want to learn, try, experience, make, see? Write it down. Check your mindset. If it’s fixed, resolve to unfix it. How else are you going to get any traction unless you can move?

 

The TAO of You

The TAO of You!

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I recently stumbled upon a Facebook group called Crones of Anarchy–I mean can you even with that name? I love it. They are fierce and feminine and all out of fucks.

I asked to join but am I a crone? What is a crone? Are they women in the 3rd act of their lives or are they women who can no longer conceive?

I looked it up and here’s what I found: Crone = an old woman who is thin and ugly.

Fuck that.

Here’s another definition from the Crones Counsel: “Crone, hag, and witch once were positive words for old women. Crone comes from crown, indicating wisdom emanating from the head; hag comes from hagio meaning holy; and witch comes from wit meaning wise. Crones, hags, and witches frequently were leaders, midwives and healers in their communities.”

Yeah. That’s more like it. Crones are wise, holy, and powerful.

I have a button that says Gave My Last Fuck. Sometimes I wear it; sometimes I don’t. I have another button that says, Stopped Caring About Bullshit. That one I wear all the time. The first one though…

My hesitation to wear it everywhere and all the time is not about asking for permission or making apologies for anything. I love to swear.  But I don’t want to come from a place of aggression. I’m not interested in being all up in people’s grills. I don’t mind making people uncomfortable if their discomfort comes from them rejecting my strength, my power, my truth.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m not here to make people comfortable or uncomfortable. I’m here to be unabashedly myself.

This is what I love about the energy of the name Crones of Anarchy. It seems to me, they are all about inhabiting themselves: fully, freely, and finally.

Presuming I live to be 100, I’m still in the 2nd act of my life (2nd act = 40-69).  I’m a Crone-in-Training.

I’m here to practice the TAO of me. I don’t have to pretend anything, to know more than I know. I’m here to be Transparent, Authentic, and Open.

In life and work, we are seduced by our culture into believing we have to play a role, hide behind some false bravado and expertise when true boldness and confidence come from simply telling the truth in each moment, as best as we can.

Now. I’m speaking to the late bloomers in the audience, to the people who know they have desire, dreams, and gifts but feel confounded by not having ‘figured out’ a way to interweave those and bring them out into the world.

Tell the truth. In every moment. It will liberate you. That’s when wisdom shines through. Either the person you are speaking to will totally GROK you or, the very fact that you’re speaking from your truth will pave the way for them to do the same.

You are too powerful to waste any more time.
Too wise to let resistance stop you.
Too holy to hide.

Be all done with comparison, competition, and harsh self-talk. Be done with doubting, playing by anyone else’s rules, or trying to talk anyone into anything.

Step into the TAO of you.

Creativity

Courage is Contagious

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We all know that stepping out of our comfort zone feels unsafe. Our reptilian brain wakes up and smells the uncertainty and does whatever it can to get us out of there. It’s confused. It thinks it’s keeping us safe. But it’s just keeping us small. It likes it tight and cozy. It likes to keep an eye on everything, just in case.
 
But our soul wants wide open spaces. It wants a view. 
 
This is how it goes for me: I want to do the thing. I’m scared to do the thing. I want to get less cared before I do the thing so it’s easier to do the thing. But it doesn’t work that way. 
 
I try anyway, employing such timeless strategies as: being a deer in the headlights, bemoaning my lack of ability and discipline, talking on the phone, binge-watching shows, staring into the white light of the open fridge, and in general, over-scheduling or over-committing so, gee, see? I just can’t get to it now!

Yet, I know that having done thing is the BEST feeling! I am alive with energy and relief and frankly, all the new information and ideas that come from taking action.
 
There are many tricks I employ to take my fear with me as I do the thing. Sometimes just focusing on how good it will feel to have done the thing works, and then the next time, I’m a tiny bit less scared. The more I do it, the less scared I am and pretty soon my comfort zone expands to include this new thing. 
 
We all want to expand. It’s hard-wired. How we do the expanding varies wildly, but the drive to expand is in all of us. We can’t help it. We’re curious monkeys at odds with a primal drive to stay safe. Those are the push/pull forces within us. Waiting for that to be different works as well as blowing out a lightbulb.
 
One of the choices Steven Chandler mentions in his book, Crazy Good; A book of Choicesis Choosing versus Deciding. At first, they may sound like the same thing.  If you’ve ever been a waitress, you know the difference. You know the pain of standing beside a customer as he stares and stares at the menu, I don’t know… What’s good here? I just can’t…I mean, I don’t…What do you think?

 OMG JUST PICK SOMETHING SO I CAN SCURRY BACK TO THE KITCHEN! 
  
You have to choose. You’re the only one that can do it. 
 
You’re the only one who can take that class, make that pitch, write that page, send that email, have that conversation, toss out that ratty bra, sing on that stage. That’s the bad and good news. No one can do it for you but when you do it, you own it. It’s yours. 

You mustered the courage. You faced your fears. You get to swagger and strut.

Yes. You.
     
I can’t make a client do the thing. I can’t make anyone do any thing. I can’t even make my son get out of bed in the morning. I can sweet talk him or yell at the top of my lungs and everything in between. He’s either going to get out of bed. Or he’s not. 
 
Doing the thing brings a bunch of uncertainty. Who knows what’s going to happen? Will you fail? Fall flat on your face? Feel exposed? Embarrassed? Piss someone off or scare them away? Will your hands shake? Will you make a little poo in your pants?

Will they see that you don’t know what you’re doing?
 
That’s one of my big fears.

Even though I know that doing anything that matters means tolerating the discomfort of not knowing on the way to knowing.

I also know that most of the time people don’t see us the way we imagine they are seeing us so chances are, we look and sound a gazillion times more steady and confident that we feel.

But mostly I know,  SO WHAT? Not only is it okay if they see me not being sure of myself, I’ve decided it’s a plus.

When I see someone nervously showing up, I am flooded with empathy. I’m totally in their corner.

I’m all in.

I realize now, that feeling? That’s my body learning how to be brave because courage is taught by example; courage is contagious.
 
No one wants to see your perfect polished performance. They want to see your truth. When you speak from your truth, you speak with your heart and when you speak with your heart, you wake up theirs.  

And that’s what we need, more of us out there beyond the edge of our comfort zones, doing the open-hearted things.

Little Stories

A bird in the mouth…

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Once upon a time my dog Beegu, the labradoodle, escaped from our yard and dashed to my neighbor’s where their chickens were loosely scattered, happily engaged in the industrious and vacuous pursuits of the chicken world.

Our gates had been left open (apparently) and it didn’t take long for Beegu to tear over there just as Mrs. Peepers was proudly pecking and scratching her way to freedom.

I must have been out in the yard myself, pulling weeds or rearranging the plants as I am prone to do, when I heard Miss Peeper’s screech. Terror makes an unmistakable sound.

I flew across the street to find Beegu, black as night, with Miss Peepers, white as snow, firmly wedged in her mouth. Feathers filled the air and littered the pavement all around them. There were spatters of blood.

NO! I sputtered. LEAVE IT DROP IT STOP LIE DOWN STAY!

I grabbed Beegu’s collar, pried open her jaw and released Miss Peepers. She fell to the ground in a heap. She’s dead! I thought. I’m too late!

Beegu stood stock still with a shock of feathers sticking out in every direction, like she was clutching a downy fan in her mouth.

A moment later, Mrs. Peepers stirred and staggered to her feet. She shook her head a few times, turned, and began to walk drunkenly back to the gate. But her trajectory was off and instead of navigating through the open space, she kept bumping into the fence over and over like a misguided wind-up toy.

Soon after, my neighbors came outside and scooped up Miss Peepers. They took her inside to look her over and clean her up, poor girl.  I walked Beegu home to rinse her off and give her a treat. I couldn’t punish her–she was only following her instincts. I may have even given her an egg (which means it was the only time I could actually answer the question, which came first?).

Mrs. Peppers’s injuries healed and she returned to the henhouse. She had to endure a few days of ill treatment from her clutch. (There really is such a thing as a pecking order and I’m afraid, she was temporarily at the bottom.) But in time, her humiliation was forgotten and she reclaimed her rank. Beegu never brought it up but I noticed she walked with more of a swagger. I may have intervened but I couldn’t take away the memory of what she had captured.

What’s my point?

I haven’t the foggiest.

Except maybe to say, maybe life is like that. Sometimes we’re Beegu and sometimes we’re Miss Peepers.

And sometimes we’re me, thwarting and rescuing at the same time.