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.

 

 

Tossing Away my Usual Approach to the New Year.

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I can feel the rumblings. Can you?

The rumblings of discontent, of excitement, of potential.

Not only is a new year upon us but a new decade!

I need to be ready for this. I need to have plan. I need to set goals, make resolutions, create intentions.

I need to map out steps to reach those goals.

I need to have a vision of who I want to be and what I want my life to look like.

Don’t I?

I was all ready to jump on this bandwagon yet again. I set my Core Desired Feelings because that is what seems to work for me. I created a screensaver to remind me daily of how I want to feel and to see if my actions align with those feelings.

Then.

Then Liz Gilbert popped up my Instagram feed one night. It was the middle of the night in India for her and she had jet lag and she had a message she wanted to share with us:

“You don’t have to have a new year’s resolution. And this new year doesn’t have to have even more pressure and anxiety than normal because it’s a new decade. You don’t have to have a new decade resolution. You are not required to justify your existence on earth through constant improvement. You are not a Fortune 500 company. You don’t have to show increasing profits. You don’t have to earn your right to be here by putting yourself to higher and higher standards. You just get to be here. You belong here. You are loved on earth. And January 1st can be a day like any other where you sleep in and maybe do a little bit more of nothing.”

This changed everything for me.

What freedom.

What joy.

I felt this huge sigh of relief just ripple through me.

I don’t have to create plan?

I don’t have to decide now how I want to feel for the next 365 days? For the next 10 years?

I don’t have to try so hard?

I don’t have to prove anything?

I don’t have to improve/fix/alter myself?

I can just be.

That’s allowed?

I am realizing the problem with my approach to the clean slate, fresh start to the new year is deeply flawed. It implies that  I need to toss away huge swaths of myself. A clean slate implies erasing pieces of who I am, who I was. And I am no longer willing to do that.

I am no longer willing to erase who I am even when—especially when— those versions contain the times I failed or let myself or others down. Instead of throwing them away, I want to love them. Accept them. Embrace them. Integrate them into who I am. Tossing them away just perpetuates the cycle that only the perfect versions of myself are welcome and that is a cycle I am ready to break for good.

All of me is welcome here.

So, after this awakening (thank you so much Liz Gilbert! You are an angel!) I tossed away my original plan for the new year:

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This image suddenly seemed too dark and heavy for what I want. It was putting a lot of pressure on myself. This doesn’t mean I can’t incorporate feelings of depth, desire and daring into my life the next year, the next decade. It just means they are not going to be the center around which I revolve.

Instead, I created this, completely inspired my Liz Gilbert’s midnight pep talk:

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I just feel a exquisite lightness when I look at this. I love the words. I love the image of the ocean, reminding me that ebb and flow is a natural, essential part of life.

I am not tossing away finding clarity for the year and decade ahead. Instead I am choosing to just be. Clarity in just being.

I am choosing to remember I am loved just as I am.

God/Universe/Goddess/Higher Self already knows this.

It feels like this is the forgotten treasure I have been searching for my whole life. It is something we know before we are born then it is hidden away once we arrive here on earth. It is our purpose to remember.

I remember now.

And I am sure I will forget at times.

But for now, for now I remember.

And I am oh so grateful.

How about you? How are you approaching this new year/new decade? There is not right or wrong way. this is just what is speaking to me right now. And I am choosing to trust it. Share in the comments or link your own blog if you’d like to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear!

 

2019 Reflection.

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Before I look too far into a new year (and a new decade!) I like to reflect back on the previous year. Give myself props for all that I did.

This is not a space to judge my accomplishments. It is a space to honor them.

In 2019, I:

~ Continued to write something every singe day. Even while on vacation.

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~ Meditated every single day. Even while on vacation.

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~ Oh, hey…I went on vacation! Took my daughters to Europe for 16 days!

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~  Submitted my writing to agents, contests, and even a residency.

~ Met my goal of wanting to read at least 52 books this year.

~ Continued my practice of posting book reflections to my blog.

~ Created space in our life and hearts for a new puppy!

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~ Created space on our patio and in budget for a salt-water hot tub!

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~ Stepped out of my comfort zone by subbing the YTT at our studio when needed.

~ Made substantial progress on finish this draft of my WIP during NaNoWriMo.

~ Took steps to strengthen my back and I am feeling great!

~ The biggest thing by far is that I quit drinking this year. 177 days today!

How about you? What did 2019 look like for you? What can you honor before you start setting intentions and goals for the year ahead?

Enough with Not Enough.

I am always looking for topics to inspire my writing and specifically topics that ask me to inquire deeper into my own writing life. When I came across the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by the Positive Writer, I knew I had to explore it.

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Typewriter image found via Pinterest. I am enough found via Pinterest. Photos merged using Photos Merge.

Enough. It is a word that has haunted me for years. 

There is an entire advertising and marketing industry designed to make us feel like we don’t have enough, don’t do enough and aren’t (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Thin. Strong. Curvy. Blonde. Rich. Spiritual. 

I have especially felt this tug of not-enoughness in my writing. See, I didn’t go the traditional route, which I used to consider a hindrance but eventually came to see as a strength. I earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration right out of high school. No general education courses. No literature classes. Just art.

I worked as a graphic designer for years which allowed me to eventually ease into a freelance career so that I could stay home and raise our two daughters. 

Along the way, I kept up with my own voracious reading and sporadic journaling. At some point I stumbled across a book called “The New Diary” by Tristine Rainier. It opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

The next turning point came when I discovered “Writing Down the Bones.” Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing. I continued to practice and read. A lot. My work colleagues were used to seeing me with my nose in a book at lunch, usually a different book every couple of days. A friend finally commented that at this pace I’d soon run out of books to read and would have to start writing my own. Hmmmm… the seed was planted.

Once we were settled in Arizona, writing found me over and over again. I was fortunate enough to attend a week-ling retreat in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg where I filled 3 notebooks in 7 days. I also discovered a fantastic program through the Phoenix YMCA called “Writer’s Voice.” They offered a “MothersWrite” class. It was a free, ten-week writing class that provided childcare. It was a lifesaver. A sanity saver. It allowed me to keep connected to that tenuous creative part of myself at a time when I felt stretched thin with the demands of motherhood. They also offered various creative writing classes as well as Master-level workshops that required you to submit work in order to be admitted. It took a long time for me to take the step of submitting my work but when I did I was accepted and attended an intense ten-week workshop with Elizabeth Evans and later, a second one with Simon Ortiz. Later I audited a fiction writing class with Melissa Pritchard at ASU. I always felt slightly out of place in these academic since I was usually the only one without any kind of four-year degree backing me up.

Over the years, I’ve considered going back to school to get that degree. Or maybe attend a low residency MFA program that would waive the Bachelor’s Degree. They’re out there. I’ve looked. But with two girls to help put through college, I really couldn’t justify the expense. It’s not like I want to teach at the college level. I want to write. Realistically, all I need is a pen, paper and if I’m lucky, a computer, all of which I have. I’m more envious of the experience of the MFA rather than the physical piece of paper. I salivate at the thought of immersing myself in writing for two years– eating, breathing, talking, dreaming books and writing. But really, my life can’t hold that right now. What it can hold is this: a writing group; occasional workshops; lots and lots of books; and lots and lots of writing.

Yoga has also played an essential role in my writing. As soon as I began to practice yoga, I saw the connection between the two. Both require me to show up, to meet myself where I am and to be present. I now teach 7 yoga classes a week including one I created that combines writing and yoga called “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.”

Yoga has helped me cultivate a relationship with my mind. With my whole self, not just the shiny parts. It has helped me see beyond the veil of not-enoughness to the deep truth that I am more than enough exactly as I am.

As of today, I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks. I have written many short stories and even had a few published. I have a novel-in-stories that is complete and looking for an agent. I am deep into the third draft of another novel. Then there is the YA fantasy trilogy simmering as well as a memoir based on my journey with yoga and writing.

At the age of 54, “enough” has a totally different connotation. It is no longer a word I use to judge and bludgeon myself with. It has become a word that fills me with hope. With a sense of ease and grace.

I write every day. Some days I write more than others. And it is enough.

I show up to the blank page. And it is enough.

I read as much as I can. And it is enough.

I submit my novel and stories and essays. And it is enough.

I have created a life that not only makes space for writing but truly nurtures it. And that is more than enough.

Day 14 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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Image found via Pinterest.

I find myself getting mired in the murky middle of this draft. Again.

I am going back through it, taking notes on each chapter, seeing where the story is at, where it needs to go. Noting when something is a repeat. Filling in with new chapters.

But I find myself avoiding my novel. The enthusiasm to finish it this month has waned,

This morning I realized why.

I am editing when I need to just be writing.

Writing it through to the end. Not caring if I change tense or repeat a scene or throw a whole new story arc into the mix.

I can fix all of those things. But only after I have a full next draft done.

So, that is what I am doing now. Just writing the damn thing through to the end no matter how messy or imperfect or incoherent or poorly written it is.

I can fix messy and imperfect and incoherent and poorly written.

I can’t fix not written at all.

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Image found via Pinterest.

So-called Food Rules.

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Image found via Pinterest.

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.)

Birthday Reflection #6: Second Act.

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I firmly believe this.

This perspective changes everything.

It’s no longer “it’s all downhill from here.” That’s bullshit.

This is a second act. I have more freedom now. Freedom from hands-on parenting, from caring so much what others think of me, from my own incessant self-crticism. Why squander that freedom?

I am stronger now than I was in my twenties.

I am more confident.I am getting more and more comfortable in why own skin.

I started yoga in my forties and became a yoga teacher in my late forties.

Although I have been a writer for over 30 years, I believe I will be published in my fifties.

I’ve gathered an amazing tribe of women who offer fun and support and encouragement.

My marriage (thankfully) has continued to evolve as we have evolved individually.

So, how does your life change if you imagine this is the beginning rather than the end?

Birthday Reflection #5: Energy Over Age.

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I love this quote from this amazing woman!

Age not energy dictates the quality of my life.

After our 16-day trip through Europe, my daughter pointed out that I probably couldn’t have done this five or six years ago, which coincides perfectly with when I committed to a yoga practice.

Since then, my practice has helped me to heal from and come back stronger than ever after hurting my low back. It has given me strength in my body but also in my mind and spirit.

Before yoga, when I would be away from home, I’d often find myself having anxiety attacks in the middle of the night. I was worried about that on our trip. I had one, but barely. I think it was mostly due to sheer exhaustion by that point but I slept a solid 10 hours , took it easy the next day, kept up with my writing, meditation and yoga and was fine.

My energy comes from within.

It comes from living my yoga off the mat, practicing all eight limbs.

It comes from taking care of my body and listening to it.

It comes from stoking the light within me and using it to help others find their own light.

It comes from being true to myself.

It comes from, as Liz Gilbert says, embracing the glorious mess that I am.

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Birthday Reflection #3: Caring for this Body of Mine.

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I am learning to take care of my body.

Not to make it look a certain way but to feel good in it.

I care for my body by moving it daily.

I care for my body by showing up to my yoga mat daily.

I care for my body by eating vegan, eating whole foods as much as possible, drinking a ton of water and currently by not consuming any alcohol.

I care for my body because who else will?

I care for my body so that it will carry me exuberantly into the second half of my life.