Tools of Illumination.

illuminatd path

Image found via Pinterest.

I heard Dani Shapiro on a podcast this morning and she said that writing is a tool for illumination.

Yes.

Exactly.

And so is yoga which is why they work so well together. One illuminates the other.

Yoga shines a light into the dark, heavy corners of my body where I’ve stored rage and shame and grief. I move and breathe and unlock those old emotions, those old stories, releasing them.

Writing shines a light into my heart, into my psyche. I write my way into what matters, into what I am thinking or feeling on any given day at any given moment.

Through yoga and writing my path forward is illuminated.

I am illuminated and able to shine my light out into the world.

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Surrounding Myself with Inspiration.

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The Celtic Goddess Boann is the most recent addition to my writing space. She is the Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity.

Judith Shaw writes, “In the same way that flowing waters clear debris in its path, Boann clears your mind of mental debris and negativity. She helps open your soul to receive divine inspiration. Call on Boann when seeking your own creative voice, an open door to spiritual insight and our connection to source.”

I love that!

My writing space cloaks me in inspiration from the colors (poppy and robin’s egg blue) to all of the books lining my shelves, from artwork and quotes to the view out the window.

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I’ve created a writing nest, a writing cocoon. I finally prefer to write here than out  in public. I light a candle (something sweet in the winter and fall, a fresh scent in spring and summer), sit at my desk that is nestled between two bookshelves with a view into our front yard, pop in earplugs, open a notebook or laptop and dive in.

The objects, words and images that surround me in this space were chosen specifically because they spoke to me. They challenge me to show up daily, to find my voice, to connect with my source.

 

Notebook Love.

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I love notebooks/journals.

I keep so many going at once:

  • one for morning pages
  • one for each WIP which is currently 3
  • one for writing practice
  • one for writing books I am working with like “The Writer’s Portable Mentor”
  • one for the Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach since I also write along with my students
  • one for yoga workshops
  • one for capturing themes & ideas for yoga classes I teach
  • a mini-notebook that fits in my purse

I figure the more opportunities I offer myself to write, the greater the possibility that I will actually write.

And it appears to be working.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” ~ Jack London

Things I’m Done Apologizing For.

no apologies

Image found via Pinterest.

I’m done apologizing:

  1. For my house that may never pass a white glove test. I have better things to do with my time.
  2. Before I speak up. My opinions don’t need to be prefaced by an apology.
  3. For saying no when I want to say no.
  4. For saying yes when I want to say yes.
  5. When I need help.
  6. For my political passion. If it bothers you, unfollow me.
  7. For sending food or drinks back at a restaurant.
  8. For claiming space in public whether it’s on an airplane and I actually use the armrest or just walking down the street and not contorting my body to stay out of everybody’s way.
  9. For setting boundaries.
  10. My feelings.
  11. For being my messy, beautifully imperfect self.

 

Mother’s Day 2018.

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When my daughters were little I used to want to celebrate Mother’s Day with time alone. They’d bring me breakfast in bed along with the cards and gifts they’d made then either my husband would take them out for the day or I would go out.

Back then, that is what I needed. Time alone to recharge, to remember who I was besides “Mommy.”

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Now, my daughters are 21 and 24. They just finished up this semester at college and both had trips to go on this past week. Katie attended a LeaderShape conference and Emily went on an Alternative Break where she volunteered on a Native American reservation in South Dakota.

All those years ago I couldn’t even picture having all the time I now have. Now, all I want is to spend time with them. Today, we went to a restaurant for a vegan brunch then browsed the bookstore.

Right now, we are all just hanging out together in the family room, watching “The Good Place,” pausing it to talk then playing it again.

And it’s been the perfect Mother’s Day.

 

Writing in the Age of Distraction.

Distraction

Image found via Pinterest.

It used to be so easy to sink into my writing. Even though I had two small children, once I dropped my youngest off at pre-school, I’d slip into the nearest Starbucks, order my chai and a pumpkin scone and hunker down at a table for the next two hours.

The writing itself wasn’t easy, but the ability to focus and disappear into my writing was.

See, this was almost twenty years ago. Before cell phones and the internet and Twitter and Facebook. Back then the only thing standing between me and my writing was me, not the entire world in the palm of my hand.

Sure, I’d get distracted by looking out the window or watching people but those activities kept me in that dreamy receptive state necessary to write. Checking my phone rips a hole in that state, tearing it to shreds as I allow the noise of the world in, drowning out my voice, the voice of my story and characters.

The Freedom app helps. As soon as I set a session, turning off access to the internet on all of my devices, I immediately feel a little more present. My breath has some ease, my mind and heart unclench and I am able to turn my attention to the page for a certain amount of time. When I get to a scene where I don’t know what happens, instead of reaching for my phone, I gaze out the window and dream.

And dreaming is where the stories exist.

An Experiment in Blogging Everyday.

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If you’ve followed this blog at all the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been trying something different lately:

Blogging. Every. Day.

I got the idea from Austin Kleon who got the idea from Seth Godin.

I enjoy the structure of needing to write and post something every day.

I found that I was hoarding my blog ideas, saving them for a “better” time. But, as Annie Dillard says:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now.”

This isn’t an attempt to build my platform or increase my blog presence/readership. This is an experiment for me, to explore new ideas, to write daily and send those words out into the world.

I’m not worried about timing my posts to get the most traffic or writing headlines that lure readers in. It’s truly just about writing something every day.

As Seth Godin says,

“Are you able, every day, to say one thing that’s new that you can stand behind?”

As I write something each day, I’ve become a tuning fork to the world around me, always seeking something new to explore here. Something I can articulate and stand behind.

The more I create, the more ideas I have.

The more ideas I have, the more I write.

The more I write, the more I learn to spend it all, every time.

The more I learn to spend it all, the more I learn to trust my creative process.

The more I trust the process, the more I create.

 

Writing for my Ideal reader.

emerson

Image found via Pinterest.

I didn’t set out to write for anybody in particular. I just wrote what I wanted, how I wanted. I wrote things that I’d want to read myself.

These days I find myself writing with two particular people in mind. They probably don’t even realize it.

For my fiction, I write for a woman who has laughed and cried when she’s read my stories. She discovers layers that I am even aware of writing. I try to write up to the level of how she reads my work.

For my blog, there is another woman that the words really seem to resonate with and so she has become my ideal reader for this space.

It’s not that I try to guess what and how they want me to write. It’s just nice to visualize somebody on the other end of my words, receiving them, being moved by them, nourished by them.

I don’t need to have thousands of views, shares or likes. If just one person is moved by what I was going to write anyway because I needed to write it, then that feels like success to me.

Listening to my Body.

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Image found via Pinterest.

My low back hurts.

It’s not completely out but it is definitely talking to me.

I’ve felt it coming for a few days. There was that twinge going up into forearm plank Sunday morning. There was the moment when I almost fell off  a bike during a 14-mile ride later that same day and twisted kind of funny. There was the day my dog almost yanked me off my feet chasing a squirrel on our walk. Then there was moving our daughter out of her apartment yesterday. First I felt a little tweak lifting something  heavy onto the trailer and I was at an odd angle. When I really felt it was when I leaned down in the car to pick up a piece of paper.

That’s all it finally took, a stupid, small move but like I said, it had been building up.

So, no I’m not flat on my back. I can move, walk, (hopefully) drive, do some gentle yoga. I know how to care for my back.

When I ask my body what this is telling me this is what I hear: Less doing, more being.

That makes total sense. I feel like each time I get to this point it is because of exactly this. I get so caught up in doing: doing the laundry the minute it begins to pile up in the hamper, cleaning the house every day, logging more miles walking and biking, teaching and subbing and more teaching and subbing as I save money for our trip to Europe, writing and blogging every day.

So much doing, doing, doing.

So little just being.

So for now, if you need me I’ll be here, just being.

Being present.

Being still.

Being here.

Books Read in March + April.

books read in march and april

“An American Marriage” a novel by Tayari Jones

There are two kinds of people in the word, those who leave home, and those who don’t.

This is Oprah’s latest book club selection, but it was on my radar long before that. I will read anything Tayari Jones writes. (And I keep waiting/hoping for her to write a book on the writing process.) 

It takes a lot these days to draw me into another world. I desperately need it, but it takes a lot of to pull me away from the constant drama that is our current reality. But this novel did just that. And I gratefully fell into it. Not only is it a beautiful, complex exploration of marriage but also of race in America. 

The chapters alternate points of view and are filled with letters between the two, letters that break your heart as you see their marriage steadily frayed by circumstances beyond their control.

As I neared the end, I did not know who or what I was rooting for. Jones did such a masterful job of keeping every character real and flawed. There was no bad guy or good guy. Just human beings with their messy,complicated hearts doing the best they knew how to do.

Without giving anything away, when I got to the end I closed the book and thought, “That is exactly how this story needed to end.” Not that it was expected or cliche. Far from it. It just felt inevitable and right.

A sentence I underlined:

“When she gives a song, it isn’t entertaining; rather, it sounds like she is telling secrets that are not hers to reveal.”

“Big Love- The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart” by Scott Stabile

I was fourteen when my parents were shot and killed in their Detroit fruit market.

The first sentence sets up this brave exploration of pain and how one traumatic event impacts a life. Stabile does not shy away from the tragedy that shaped his young life, nor the aspects of his personality that need to be healed. It is his utter honesty that ties the book together. You don’t walk away with a tidy list of things to do in order to love with a wide-open heart. Instead, you are invited to look at your own life, at the events that have shaped you, at how your are behaving now, today, in this moment and bring a wide-open hearted compassion to everyone involved.

A sentence I underlined:

It’s impossible to communicate with love and clarity when we’re filled with judgement.

“The Body is Not an Apology- The Poser of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya ReneeTaylor

Let me answer a couple of questions right away before you dig too deeply into this book and are left feeling bamboozled and hoodwinked.

This disclaimer was the perfect way to start this book. It is not the usual self-help book guiding you on a journey to body acceptance, body love. It is more of a call to arms. She is calling for a revolution on every level: in each individual body, in our relationships, our communities, our governments. In calling for radical self-love, Taylor is asking us to get real with ourselves, with our bodies, with the body shame we are immersed in, the body terrorism that haunts us. 

Don’t pick up this book if you are looking for a gentle voice, coaxing you to love your thighs or belly. 

Don’t pick this book up if you are looking for easy answers to the body shame you’ve been carrying for decades.

Do pick up this book if you want to wake up to all the ways we have been indoctrinated into body shame, all the ways we perpetuate body shame and oppression.

Do pick up this book if you want to be transformed on a deep, sacred, level.

Do pick up this book if you are ready to embody radical self-love.

A sentence I underlined:

Radical self-love demands that we see ourselves and others in the fullness of our complexities and intersections and that we work to create space for those intersections.

“Barbara the Slut and Other People” stories by Lauren Holmes

In Mexico City the customs light lit up green, which was lucky because I had fifty pairs of underwear with tags on them in my suitcase.

How could I not buy this book when that is the first sentence that greets me? And every story had that same kind of edgy first line that just drew me in. 

These stories are poignant yet laugh-out-loud funny at times. They explore the tangles of our emotional and physical lives as the characters navigate relationships with others and themselves.

A woman learns that she prefers the company of her dog to the foreign guy she was having a fling with who has somehow set up camp in her apartment. A woman who graduated law school decides to sell sex toys instead of practicing law.

Each story is fearless and precise. A voice to watch for sure. 

A sentence I underlined:

 My mom and I were going to stop to break up with my boyfriend on our way to Emerald Isle, but the muffler fell off my car right before we got to the exit we needed to take to Raleigh, and my mom said we couldn’t stop anymore. 

“Half Wild” stories by Robin Mac Arthur

“You want to jump in the creek?” my mother asks.

The title of this collection is perfect. Each story and the collection itself feels like they are half wild—the settings as well as the emotional terrain.

Each story seems to linger at the edge between the wilderness and populated areas, between the wild space of the hearts of the characters and the lives they are actually living.

So many sentences took my breath away. I longed to linger in the wilderness of each story. An amazing debut collection.

A paragraph I underlined:

What is it about fields? The way they make all directions viable. The way they give houses, porches, voices perspective. The way the word itself—fields—makes you capable of heading toward that porch with its smoke and laughter, or toward the woods, where you could quietly and, without a sound, start walking.

“The Possibilities” a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings

I pretend that I’m not from here.

I’ve been a huge fan of Hemmings long before her novel,”The Descendants’” was made into a movie starring George Clooney and  Shailene Woodley. I used to devour her blog, “How to Party with an infant” when I had infants myself. 

Her latest novel is another dive into the complex emotional terrain we are all called on to navigate at some point in our lives. This time, Sarah St. John is reeling from the death of her 22-year-old son, Cully, from an avalanche.

They live in a resort ski town in Colorado where she hosts a TV show for the guests of a resort, giving them tips on where to go, what to do, where to eat. But after her son’s death, it seems pointless.  

When a strange girl shows up at her home, with a secret related to her son, it turns everyone’s lives inside out.

Hemmings explores the rocky terrain of grief with honesty and compassion. It feels real, not like what somebody thinks it might be like to lose a child, but how it actually is.

Set against a backdrop of a town whose soul purpose is to entertain and provide and escape from reality while the tourists visit, Sarah and her family and friends are immersed in the complicated reality of their own lives.

A passage I underlined:

We all look around at the well-dressed people of the surrounding rooms. Everything harkens back to a time when people had the same problems yet used a different language.