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.

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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.)

 

Why Not Just Moderate my Drinking?

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I have a confession.

I lied in my last post.

I lied when I said this:

I am still not sure that never drinking again is even my goal.

It is my goal. I don’t want to drink anymore.

So, why abstain forever instead of moderate and allow myself to drink occasionally?

Well, for me, that just doesn’t work. I’ve tried. Many, many times.

I set myself drinking rules or guidelines:

  • only drink on weekends
  • only after 5:00
  • no more than two glasses of wine in one night…okay maybe three
  • only drink when I am out but not at home or only drink at home but don’t order over-priced drinks when I am out

It starts off fine. I abide my my rules. I even measure the amount of wine to match a serving which is 5 measly ounces.

But then it starts to shift. See, I’m fine I tell myself. I can drink what I want when I want. I’m a grown-ass woman and drinking is one of the perks of being an adult. It’s my off-switch. What’s wrong with that? Everybody drinks.

Soon, I am back to my old habits of drinking during the week, drinking at restaurants, drinking to take the edge off a crappy day, drinking to take the edge off a crappy world, drinking to celebrate, drinking to commiserate. Drinking, drinking, drinking.

Here’s the thing for me. If I am asking myself the question: Should I moderate my drinking? I m already pretty far down that slippery slope. If I am asking the question, the answer is definitely yes.

It takes so much energy to moderate. I have to think about it so much. Should I drink tonight? How much? Do I choose a restaurant that offers alcohol or not? Should I have another glass? Am I drinking enough water in between so I don’t wake up feeling hungover?

The headspace moderation takes up is tremendous and I’d much rather use all of that energy to just quit all together.

I had a writing teacher who talked about having a “yes writing day” or a “no writing day.” Choose one or the other and own it. Be okay with it. He said that those maybe days will kill you.

It’s true. It’s why I now write everyday. It’s no longer a decision that has to be made.

Same with drinking. If everyday is a no drinking day then I no longer have to waste my precious energy deciding whether to drink or not.

The decision has already been made.

Booze-Free…for Now.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I have been extremely  hesitant to share any of this publicly. I kept telling myself to wait. Wait until I had more days under my belt. Wait until I had a handle on it. Wait until I had it figured out.

But here’s the thing. Whether I have 44 booze-free days stacked up (which I currently do) or 440 or 4400, it doesn’t mean I have a handle on it or that I have it figured out or that I will never drink again.

I am still not sure that never drinking again is even my goal.

All that I am sure of is that I what I need right now is to rethink my drinking.

My relationship to drinking has always been something I’ve never quite been comfortable with. I had my first real drink when I was thirteen with my cousins. We stole cans of Budweiser and I hated the taste but forced myself to drink it by taking big bites of a ham and cheese sandwich on Wonder Bread to help wash it down.Why? Why at 13 was it so important for me to finish that awful beer? I wanted to fit it.

In high school I drank to fit in and to be less anxious. I became a way more fun version of myself instead of the usual studious, honor society version of myself.

In college, the trend continued. Drinking was fun. Drinking made me feel more confident. More comfortable in my skin. It made it easier to approach guys and their attention was something I craved.

I actually didn’t drink much while my children were young. I jokingly now say that that was a blessing because I probably would’ve turned into an alcoholic if I had  turned to wine every time I was stressed. But it probably isn’t a joke.

For the last couple of years, I haven’t had a drink on New Year’s Eve because I don’t want to tarnish the beautiful blank slate ahead of me by being hung over on the first day of the new year.

I’ve participated in Dry January the last 2 years.

I stopped drinking for over 50 days earlier this year (after a particularly terrible hangover) but then had some wine the day my best friend had open heart surgery, telling myself that if there ever  time the I “deserved”a glass, it was then.

We drank a bit on our trip to Europe but not as much as I would’ve expected.

This latest foray into not drinking didn’t start because of a hangover. In fact, we had friends over in June and were drinking Moscow Mules and I was tipsy but not drunk. I wasn’t even hungover the next day. So why did I decide to try sobriety again? I think it was because I thought I should’ve been more drunk than I was. And that disturbed me. Was I trying to get drunk? Was that my sole purpose in drinking? And how much more would I have to drink to get to that feeling I was apparently chasing?

These are questions that I still don’t have answers to.

I still don’t know how long this will last.

I do know that I managed to not drink over 4th of July, on my birthday, at the art fair, at Girls’ Night Out and on our anniversary. Every time I am able to show up fully without the blurry haze of alcohol distorting my experience, the better I feel.

What I know for sure (right now anyway) is that as a yoga teacher, yogi and human being I want to be the most authentic version of myself. Looking back to the that very first drink, I can see that my intention in drinking is to be other than who I am, to feel something other than what I feel. That is not being authentic.

Sharing this before I know where it will end up or how it will end up is me being real.

I am booze-free, for now.

(I will continue to share my journey here as it and I evolve. This is not a judgment at all on those who do drink. This is an exploration into why I drink and if it really enhances my life or diminishes it. I plan to share the ups and downs, resources I have been drawn to that I have found helpful and what I am learning about myself along the way.)

The Heart of the World.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I read to slip into other worlds. To escape the world I am living in. While writing is solitary and it isolates me, it doesn’t allow me to escape the world. I don’t escape my life. If anything, writing slams me smack into my life. It slips into the crevices ands corners, hiding in the shadows that I’ve overlooked, taking me deeper into what I think, feel, believe at any given moment. 

Meditation, yoga and writing all allow me to slip deeper into myself, rather than away from myself. In each practice, I meet myself exactly where I am. I sit on my meditation cushion, set a timer and just observe my thoughts, observe my breath. Some days it is easier than others but it is never easy. I step on my mat and meet my body where it is that day. Rather than just moving through the poses, I try to drop deeper, connecting with my breath and my mind. Writing brings all of these together. It’s a practice I’ve been showing up for for over 30 years when I first picked up “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I began filling notebooks with timed writings, not expecting them to lead me to a destination such as a story or a published book, for once just being content on the journey.

Once my girls were in school and Pre-K, I used my precious alone time to go to the Starbucks around the corner from the school to write. I didn’t call myself a writer. I just wrote. Sitting there with my soy chai latte and pumpkin scone I picked up a pen, opened my notebook and let the words spill out of me. Being a stay-at-home mom, I had a lot of pent up words.

I began to use writing as a way of untangling the knot of thoughts in my head. Stories that were guiding my actions—and reactions—but that were rarely based in reality. Once I found yoga, I learned that those stories have a word: samskara. Things that happened in the past that we don’t process and they get stuck in the body as energy. 

No matter what I write—fiction, memoir, personal essays or a blog post—there is no hiding from the world, from myself. Everything I write reveals my obsessions, reveals a piece of me that I may have been avoiding or was completely unaware of. Natalie Goldberg says, “Wild Mind isn’t just your mind; it’s the whole world moving through you.”

Reading allows me to go into other worlds; writing takes me straight into the messy, pulsing heart of the world.

So-called Food Rules.

Obsessing over food

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I just made a list of all the so-called food rules I have absorbed over the years and, let me just say, I was stunned. I had no idea how much garbage has been implanted in my brain, garbage that has defined how I see myself, how I nourish myself and most importantly, how I deprive and shame myself.

  1. Weight loss/maintenance depends on 80% food and 20% exercise
  2. You can’t out exercise a bad diet
  3. Eat healthy food 80% of the time, “cheat” the other 20%
  4. Sugar is evil. It feeds cancer cells. It’s as addictive as cocaine.
  5. Carbs are bad
  6. Fat is bad
  7. Avoid white foods: rice, bread, potatoes, flour
  8. Gluten is an inflammatory
  9. Dairy causes mucous
  10. Don’t eat after 7 PM
  11. Fast for 12-18 every day
  12. Break your fast with a smoothie or green juice
  13. Eat only fruits one a day week
  14. The less ingredients, the healthier the food
  15. Track every morsel you put in your mouth
  16. A moment on the lips, forever on the hips
  17. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels
  18. Use a small plate
  19. Leave 20% on your plate
  20. Dont’ serve family style as it encourages second helpings
  21. Don’t go back for seconds
  22. Don’t eat off your child’s plate cuz a bite here and a bite there adds up
  23. Sip water or tea while cooking so you don’t taste as you go cuz those tastes add up
  24. Brush your teeth as soon as you are done eating so you won’t want to eat more
  25. Don’t go to all you can eat buffets
  26. Eat before going to a party so you don’t eat the party food
  27. Fill up on soup (clear broth of course) before a meal
  28. Eat salad after a meal to aid digestion
  29. Measure all foods and liquids
  30. Eat at the table without the distraction of reading or TV

I could probably come up with 30 more but this is enough for now. Seriously, it is enough forever.

What a waste of precious brain space and energy these rules are. They suck the fun out of something that should bring me joy: feeding and nourishing this body of mine.

It’s hard to let them go but I am trying. Just writing them out, getting them out of the dark recesses of my subconscious and into the light of day is helpful. I can’t change what I don’t see.

By doing this, I am clearing out space for my dreams, for my sanity, for my Self.

Onward!

(This exercise is from “The F*ck it Diet” by Caroline Dooner, an absolute game-changer.)