F*ck Being Average.

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I’ve always considered myself a fairly average person.

I was a good student all through school and even made it into the Honor Society in high school but I wasn’t at the top of the class. I was average smart.

At the end of art school, I won Best Overall Portfolio and was stunned. I think others were as well. There was another student who illustrated the textures of fabric so convincingly that you wanted to touch them. We all assumed she would win. But I did. Did I take that to mean that I was finally above average?

Nope. I told myself it was a fluke. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy or embrace the win.

That average feeling has carried over into other aspects of my life. Average graphic designer. Average writer. Average body. Average life.

Not the worst, not the best.

When I saw the phrase “fuck mediocrity” today as part of my journal prompts, I thought I had no strong feelings about it either way. I felt meh about it. But as I started writing, I realized I have some very strong feelings about it. It is a rallying cry to rebel against norms. At first glance, I would say that is not me at all. If anything, I am an extreme rule follower and always have been.

I’ve always been a follower, not a leader. Always wanted to blend in, not stand out.

But when I look back on many of my life choices, I see that I did not follow the average path.

Instead of getting a liberal arts education at a 4-year university, I chose to get an Associate’s degree in Fashion Illustration at a for-profit art school in Center City Philadelphia, graduating two years earlier than most of my high school classmates did.

I was a stay-at-home mom while raising our daughters when that was not the most common choice. We had to make some sacrifices to make it work but we did it. And seeing what amazing women our daughters are, it was totally worth it. I did some freelance graphic design work over the years, but my main job was being a mom.

Another way that I strayed from the pack, is that I don’t consider my self Christian. I believe in God, in the Universe, in a Higher Self, in Divine Goodness. I believe Jesus was a man we can learn from. But I don’t go to church. I’ve explored many over the years, from trailing friends to theirs as a kid to dedicating our babies in a Unitarian Universalist church. But I am just not comfortable within organized religion. I chose what felt right tot me and trusted that. I try to live a good life, being kind, healing myself and letting all of that ripple out into the world around me.

Being a writer is not a common vocational choice. And being a writer without Bachelor’s degree much less the lauded MFA is extremely uncommon. But I haven’t let that stop me. It may have slowed me down. Kept me from taking my writing seriously  for awhile but I hung in there. I have studied with so many amazing writers over the years, I read constantly, write every day. I have basically been living my own self-designed MFA program. Now I have a novel-in-stories that I am submitting to agents, finishing up another draft fo a novel, and have a YA fantasy trilogy and memoir waiting in the wings.

Another way I’ve bucked the norm is that even though my husband and I both come from divorce, we have been married for 32 years! We’ve worked hard and as we slide into the permanently empty nest and his retirement is on the horizon, we find that not only do we still love each other, we still like each other.

I did my 200-YTT just as my girls were getting ready to leave for college. That is a very common occurrence these days. But I created my own space within our community by combining yoga with writing. The class faltered for a couple of years. I even let it go for a year or two but then I kept being drawn back to it. I really believed that there was a place for it. So, I rebranded it, got a slot on the schedule and tried again. It struggled but I kept showing up with my passion for these two practices that changed my life even if there was only one student. My trust and perseverance paid off and now I consider that class a bedrock of our community. Five used to be the maximum number of students who showed up, now that is usually the minimum. And I see the growth and healing and support and light generated each and every week. It has exceeded what I imagined it could be.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who plays it safe, doesn’t take risks but looking back I see that isn’t true at all. At pivotal moments I followed my heart and gut, stepping off the beaten path and onto my own, creating a life that is far above average, far beyond mediocre.

Creating a life far richer and vibrant than I ever dreamed.

 

I Say I Don’t Diet, but…

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Image found via Pinterest.

I say I don’t diet anymore. But deep down, I still do.

I may say I am just trying to eat healthy. Have more energy. Balance my body. But deep down what I m really hoping for is to lose weight.

I may say I am making peace with my body just as it is but a part of me is still hoping the weight will melt off and I will just land at this “perfect” number and all will be well.

I may say that I am just listening to my body and eating intuitively but, really I want my intuitive eating to result in weight loss.

I recently learned a lot about Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. I went into it thinking I am interested in this thousand year-old practice that aligns with my yoga practice and I just want to feel good in my body.

But, really, I want to lose weight.

How much? I don’t know. I’ve stopped stepping on a scale because I hate feeling like a stupid number is dictating my mood for the rest of the day.

This week has really triggered me. I hate following rules around food, even if they are ultimately good for me.

I really hated tracking food which I did with Spark People and even though it worked it made me so irritable and annoyed and obsessed with every morsel that went in my mouth. So I stopped.

But.

Part of me still kind of, sort of gauges what amount of calories I am putting in my mouth at any given time.

Part of me still tries to do this intermittent fasting thing that is so popular right now. And it becomes a game to see how long I can go without eating which seems like a slippery slope to an eating disorder to me.

I mean, just eat when I am fucking hungry.

So, with Ayurveda, I am finding myself obsessed once again with food rules. Eat this but not with that. Don’t eat this. Eat at this time of day but not at this time of day. Don’t drink water with meals, Sip hot water. No fruit with other foods.

I am just so entangled in the societal conditioning of what a woman’s body should look like and I can’t seem to untangle myself from it. It’s been with me since I can remember. Since a guy yelled out the car window when I was in sixth grade and I felt good about myself cuz some random perv thought a 12-year-old deserved to be cat-called. Since some high school asshat called me Thunder Thighs in my cheerleading uniform and I felt ashamed of my body.

I mean, commenting on a person’s body in any way is just so intrusive. I have stopped commenting on people’s weight loss. (If you’ve lost weight and I haven’t said anything, this is why.) I mean, it is none of my business what you do to your body. I wouldn’t comment if you gained weight, why should I assert my opinion if you lost some?

So, I am just putting this out there, (feeling incredibly vulnerable doing so) in case others are dealing with the same thing. Which I am pretty sure is a majority of women if you go by the size of the diet industry and the section of diet books at the bookstore.

I am putting it out there without any real solutions. It’s still an on-going process for me. I remember thinking that by the time I hit 50 I wanted to be done with this body image/food thing. Done, done done.

Ha!

I am 54 and still dealing with it.

But I think being aware of it is half the battle. Just like in meditation, the goal isn’t to not think, it’s not to be controlled by thoughts.

With this, I just don’t want my every waking thought to be about food and my body. So, I am using affirmations (which I normally stay away from) to help begin to rewire my brain. Create some new neural pathways.

Thanks to Amie McNee I am learning to soothe and mother myself on the page when these feelings take over. It is helping.

Writing this is helping.

Being honest is helping.

I hope this helps you in some way if you need it.

 

 

Opposite of Stuck.

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I can’t tell you how often I have felt stuck over the last few decades.

I have so many books with the words “stuck” or “unstuck” in the title.

Stuck in my body.

Stuck in judging my body.

Stuck in believing I am not worthy.

Not enough.

Stuck in the rut of zero motivation.

Stuck in fear.

You name it, I have probably been stuck in it.

I’ve been clearing out bookshelves lately as my husband gets ready for his annual pilgrimage to Arizona, hauling books to one of my favorite bookstores to trade in for me. When I come across some of those titles now I feel…nothing. Not angst. Not shame. Mostly gratitude that I had them when I needed them and gratitude that I no longer need them.

I no longer feel stuck. 

And I owe that to my two main practices: writing and yoga. 

They both allow me to flow which is the opposite of stuck. 

I flow in my body on my mat and, hopefully, off my mat as well. 

I meditate and allow the thoughts to flow  past. Well, not always, but it’s a process. It’s a practice.

I still struggle with societal conditioning on how my body should look but I am no longer stuck in that morass. The minute I notice it happening, it’s a win for me.

I flow on the page. Again, not always. But those words and thoughts and stories and beliefs find their way out of my head and onto the page where they are no longer stuck.

These practices keep me grounded in the present. I can see now how I was often stuck in the past or projecting into the future. 

I didn’t start yoga or writing to unstuck myself. Or maybe I did. Maybe a part of me, that wise self knew exactly what she was doing.

All I know is that even if I do feel stuck these says, it is a passing thing. I notice it, feel it, and am able to move through it.

And for that I am oh so grateful.

Write Every Damn Day- It’s Not Just a Hashtag Anymore.

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I started this board in 2016 to help me write every single day. (I got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld.)

While I had high hopes and high expectations for myself (always true at the start of a new year) I didn’t actually, truly believe that I would be able to write every day for a whole year much less almost 4 years!

But I have.

I wrote through the flu.

Through having my wisdom teeth pulled while I had the flu. That was a fun time!

I wrote on vacation.

I wrote when I was happy.

When I was sad.

Or anxious.’Or depressed.

Or enraged.

I wrote in my journals.

I wrote morning pages.

I wrote blog posts.

I wrote in my novel.

I wrote when I was motivated and when I didn’t want to write at all.

I wrote when I knew exactly what I wanted to write and when I had absolutely no idea what to write.

I wrote in the morning, the afternoon, at night.

I wrote at my desk, at the bookstore, at the coffeeshop, on the beach, on planes, in the car, on my yoga mat, on the deck, in bed.

I wrote alone and with others.

I wrote my way out of stories that had me all tangled up.

I wrote my way into myself.

Now, writing is no longer what I do. It is who I am. Writing is like breathing and reading. Non-negotiable.

#writeeverydamnday is no longer just a hashtag.

It’s an intricate, essential, sacred part of each and every one of my days.

 

 

Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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I haven’t been posting every day but I have been writing every day. There’s only been one day where I wrote but didn’t work on this novel. I’ll take it.

Learning a few things about myself and my writing as I get deeper into finishing this draft:

• I desperately need to learn the different between lay and lie (I had a cheat sheet at one point but I’ve lost it.)

• I also need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

• I need to write as early in the day as possible. My focus fades fast the more I get into my day.

• I am learning to write good enough for now. Good enough for this draft, this scene. Good enough to be able to come back and fix it up in the next draft.

• I am learning to use placeholders. Just put a random name in of a person or song or singer or street that I can then figure out later (with FIX IT in all caps after it). Don’t let “research” be an excuse to stop writing.

• I work best in 30-45 minute increments. Then I need to get up and do something for 15 minutes to get the energy flowing: yoga, browse the bookstore, play with the dogs or do some light household task.

• Accountability is key for me. I know that nobody really cares if I finish this draft or not, but since I declared that I would, I feel pressure to honor that.

• Planning for the next day is really helpful. I like to know when and where I plan to write and have little assignments ready to get me started.

• Mostly, I am learning to be my own personal cheerleader instead of constantly judging and criticizing my efforts. I mean, I am writing a novel! Another one, actually. Not many people do that. It is a huge deal. A huge commitment. It is helping me let go of the I-am-lazy story I tell myself and replace it with I-am-a-badass-writer-devoted-to-her-craft story.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you learning about yourself? Your writing? Your process? I would love to hear!

 

Permission Granted.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Remember being a child and needing to ask for permission for just about everything? To watch a show. Go out with friends. Have a snack. Stay up later. 

We needed permission to keep us safe. To help us learn to make choices that were good for us. And we looked for that permission from our parents, teachers and caregivers.

We looked for that permission outside of ourselves.

Often, we carry that permission-seeking well into our adulthood. I know I have.

I sometimes look to agents and contests to give me permission to be a writer. If that person out there sees something worthwhile in my work, then I must be a writer, right?

Wrong.

I am a writer because I write.

I am a writer because it is how I live in the world

It is how I inhabit this life.

It is how I process this being human.

I don’t need permission to call myself a writer.

I don’t need an agent or a publishing contract to call myself a writer.

I grant myself permission.

What do you need to grant yourself permission to do or be?

Maybe you need permission to :

To speak up.

To rest.

To not finish that book you started. (Seriously, let it go.)

To say no.

To say yes.

To go after a new dream.

To let an old dream go.

To accept an apology you never received.

To extend forgiveness to yourself.

To embrace your body as it is right now.

Whatever you need permission to do or be or say or believe, consider it granted.

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Image found via Pinterest.

(Feel free to share what you are granting permission for in the comments!)

100 Observations After 100 Days of Sobriety.

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  1. I sleep better. 
  2. Not perfect, but definitely better.
  3. It’s easier to fall asleep, I stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
  4. I have more energy.
  5. I am more focused.
  6. I read more.
  7. I have dreams that I drink and I am so disappointed in myself in the dream. 
  8. Then I wake up relieved that it was just a dream.
  9. I am glad that I decided to share my story. 
  10. It has allowed other women to reach out to me for support.
  11. My skin looks better. 
  12. Actually, it looks to me like it is glowing.
  13. I am getting more comfortable being uncomfortable.
  14. I feel all my feelings.
  15. I am finding new ways to decompress after a long day:
  16. Tea.
  17. Meditation.
  18. Guided body scan.
  19. Play with my pups.
  20. Reading.
  21. I binged on sugar when I first stopped drinking. 
  22. That has leveled out.
  23. I also binged on social media at first. 
  24. Still working on that one.
  25. I find it easier to make other heathy choices.
  26. I am easy on myself when I don’t.
  27. That’s a surprising development. 
  28. This newfound compassion for myself.This tenderness.
  29. I didn’t go out often at first. 
  30. I am slowly making my way back out into the social world.
  31. I am saving money. 
  32. Like probably $50 a month.
  33. I go out to eat less so I am saving money there as well.
  34. And when I do go out, the bill isn’t bloated with booze.
  35. Everyone has been supportive so far.
  36. No awkward questions about why I’m doing it or suggesting that I don’t have a problem or attempts to peer-pressure me into having just one drink.
  37. I do notice that some people feel compelled to justify when and how much they do drink. 
  38. I listen but I am not judging. 
  39. I am doing this for me. 
  40. Your path is your path.
  41. My dreams are more vivid and involved, often spooling out like novels or movies.
  42. My digestion is smooth.
  43. I no longer say things drunk that I wouldn’t say sober.
  44. If it can’t be said sober, it doesn’t need to be said at all.
  45. No hangovers!
  46. No shame.
  47. I collect sober celebrities.
  48. They keep me company on this journey.
  49. And they remind me that I am in good company.
  50. Demi Moore.
  51. Mackelmore.
  52. Jennifer Hudson.
  53. Jennifer Lopez
  54. Bradley Cooper.
  55. Brad Pitt
  56. Among many, many others.
  57. There is no longer this haze shrouding my vision.
  58. I see clearly who I am.
  59. And who I want to be.
  60. I feel like I am living my life on purpose.
  61. Not sure how this is related but I no longer buy a bunch of stuff.
  62. I am buying less books.
  63. Less clothes.
  64. Less stuff to clutter up my life.
  65. I go to Target and actually stick to my list.
  66. Maybe I am not longer trying fill myself up.
  67. Maybe I no longer see myself as broken.
  68. In need of fixing.
  69. Maybe I am finally able to embrace all parts of myself.
  70. No longer numbing to parts I don’t like.
  71. No longer trying to not feel what I am, indeed, feeling.
  72. I listen more intently.
  73. To myself.
  74. To those around me.
  75. To my body.
  76. To my intuition.
  77. I have space in my life to do the things that I always say I want/need to do:
  78. Meditate.
  79. Yoga.
  80. Writ.
  81. Read.
  82. Walk.
  83. I am clenching my jaw less.
  84. I don’t feel guilty when I feel the need to have a jammie day.
  85. I am starting to cook more.
  86. To be honest, that is probably partly due to the season change, too.
  87. I still have the urge to drink.
  88. Out of habit.
  89. After a long day.
  90. Out for a nice dinner.
  91. While cooking dinner.
  92. I no longer tell myself that I’ll probably drink again at some point so why not now?
  93. I have fun without drinking.
  94. Even if people around me drink.
  95. Summer was a test that I passed:
  96. Patios, birthday, Anniversary, Art Fairs. 4th of July without booze.
  97. I am experiencing more:
  98. Clarity.
  99. Grace.
  100. Ease.

Connection is Medicine.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Medicine.

Medicine used to equal a cure or a fix or something to ease symptoms of pain.

It used to be so simple. I could take a pill and I would be better. I never questioned what better meant or looked like or felt like.

Usually it meant that the pain or discomfort would go away. But I never questioned where it went. Even more curious, I never questioned where it came from.

I used to think that medicine only came in the form of pills or surgery.

Now I am learning that anything that brings me back into awareness, back into balance is medicine.

Yoga.

Meditating.

Breathing.

Walking.

Moving.

Writing.

Sex.

Crying.

Laughter.

Deep conversations with friends.

Random encounters with strangers.

It is all medicine.

Connection is medicine.

We now know that social isolation can be as detrimental to our health as smoking cigarettes. Forming these deep bonds of love and friendship weave a tapestry of support through our lives.

Finding ways to connect is essential, and not only with others.

We need to connect with our bodies in a loving, compassionate way.

Connect with our hearts. What are we feeling? What do we need?

We need to connect with the Earth, our home.

We need to connect with that which is larger than ourselves. Something that allows us to feel a purpose for being here, in this body, at this time.

Purpose of Being, not Doing.

Who or what do we turn to when despair slugs through our veins? When sadness permeates our bones?

Feeling like we are merely here to do things then die is not medicine.

It is why I write, why I draw cards for guidance. Why I go outside in nature. Why I eat whole, fresh foods. Why I have lovingly built a tribe of amazing women.

It’s why I have stopped drinking. Drinking broke or frayed my ability to connect. It changed how I thought, changed who I was and so any connections I thought I was making were based on a lie.

So, now I know. Connection is medicine.

We are surrounded by opportunities to connect or isolate.

Connect or separate.

It’s all medicine.

Every word.

Every thought.

Every belief.

Every action.

Every choice.

We can ask if this choice will heal or harm. Then move toward the healing.

(Thank you to Bryonie Wise for the inspiration.)

No Place to Hide.

 

No Place to Hide

I like to keep track of things. Things I do and for how long.

Currently I am keeping track of how many days in a row I have not had a drink. (68) I track how many days in a row I have meditated. (426) And I keep track of how many days in a row I have written something. (1,337)

And what does this add up to? That is such a left-brain, ego-based question. Because the things we do must add up to something. To some goal, some achievement. Right?

Why can’t the achievement be in the doing. Or in the case of drinking, in the not doing?

These things may not have added up to something but they have certainly added to the quality of my life.

I am more present. I feel things more, which is challenging. There was a reason that I often poured one, two or three glasses of wine on a random night. I didn’t want to feel those pesky, uncomfortable feelings.

Meditating helps me to see how those feelings and thoughts just come and go. I know it will change so I can sit with it for now.

Writing helps me to process all those feelings. I get them out of the dark, knotted twisty space of my head, onto the page and into the light of day where they lose much of their power.

Doing things everyday, like writing, builds momentum. This is huge for me. I can become so easily stuck. Stuck in my head, stuck in this tendency to overthink every single thing and end up immobilized on the couch binge-watching Netflix. But writing something every day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant is not insignificant at all. It builds momentum and the muscle of showing up.

Showing up when I am happy and inspired.

Showing up when I am sad and thoroughly uninspired.

Showing up when I know what happens next in my story.

Showing up when I have no idea at all what happens next.

Showing up after all these years. It’s obviously not for monetary reasons. Sure, that would be nice and I haven’t given up on that. But what keeps me coming back to the page again and again is this desire and habit to be there for the stories that want to be told. To be there for the deepest parts of my self that want to remain hidden but also want to be seen and heard.

There is nowhere to hide on the page. It’s like I tell my students, no matter what prompt I provide, whatever you need to write will find its way out.

I see now that each of these daily practices are spaces where I can no longer hide. I can’t hide from myself, my desires, my fears.

These daily practices allow me to see myself with clarity and compassion. And I can then turn that that clarity and compassion back out into the world around me.

 

Lessons Gifted.

Let go and trust

Image found via Pinterest.

So, I hurt my back at our yoga retreat this past weekend. Like really hurt it. Laying in the fetal position, crying, scared, panicked about how I would get myself home the next day with a 90-minute drive ahead of me, panicked about how I would even be able to get myself off of my mat and back into the house.

The whole trauma of that summer 4 years years ago came rushing into my mind and into my body.

Let me just say, if your back is going to go out, then having it happen at a yoga retreat— surrounded by people who love and support you and can offer massage, Reiki, and an OT who can help you move in the least painful way possible— is the way to do it.

A few lessons that this experience gifted me with:

  1. Bee’s breath works, folks. Like seriously. I apparently went into mild shock as my body trembled uncontrollably (not a pleasant feeling when your back is hurting.) I couldn’t take a deep soothing breath or even make a sound to stimulate the vagus nerve. Then I remembered Bee’s Breath. As soon as I did that the trembling lessened. When I stopped it started again but a little less intense. I just kept up with that breath until all that energy was released. I believe it was the story of the trauma from the first time it happened needing to be released from my mind and my body.
  2. Be careful and intentional for what you put out into the Universe. The first night we had a fire ceremony and I burned the desire to release the old story/beleif that I can’t be loved and accepted exactly as I am. Well. The Universe said okay, let’s do this. As soon as my back went out, I had to love and accept myself in this vulnerable state. I then had to accept the love and support from those around me exactly as I was: crying, hurt, vulnerable, scared, anxious. There was no mask to hide behind. It was just me, raw and there exactly as I was.
  3. Be careful what you ask for. Recently, I declared that I wanted to be more courageous, vulnerable and authentic in my life. Well, this demanded that I be all three things at once. So…thank you, Universe???
  4. I had to ask for what I wanted. But first I had to figure out what that was. Finally I asked myself if I could wave a magic wand and have anything I wanted happen, what would it be? I wanted to wake up in my own bed. Once I got clear on that and was brave enough to ask for it, so many wonderful people stepped up in amazing ways to make that happen.
  5. Don’t ignore messages I get from my writing. I had a nagging sinus headache all that day. In my writing it came out that the headache was actually unexpressed sorrow. I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and went on my merry way. A few hours later, I am sobbing in the fetal position on my mat, then in my bed, and I have cried at some point every day since then, crying, writing and releasing all of that sorrow.
  6. Surrender. It’s message I need to learn over and over and over again. To surrender to what is, not what I think it should be. Surrender to the moment as it is, not as I want it or expect it to be. Surrender to the needs and desires of my body instead of pushing it. Surrender into grace. Surrender into fear. Surrender into sorrow. Surrender into joy. Surrender into anxiety. Surrender into acceptance. Surrender into what is. Surrender.

(Update: I am in so much less pain and so much more mobile than I expected! I was crying to my doctor that I don’t understand why this keeps happening when I am doing everything right. She gently reminded me that this hadn’t happened in over a year and the reason I am in not in much worse condition is because I have been doing everything right. Get yourself a doctor like mine.)