Acknowledging Ms. Rule-Maker.

Ms. Rule-Maker.JPG

Today I felt like a slug.

I took one nighttime sinus pill last night to help with a lingering headache and the effects seem to weigh me down. I laid on the couch until it felt like I was melting into it.

Finally, I hauled myself off of it and into the shower. Got myself dressed. Came to the bookstore. Ordered a chai (hoping the caffeine would help jumpstart me out of this energetic stupor) then began to write my morning pages (even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.)

One of the first things to come out was this so-called rule that if I had to go to the bookstore to write rather than sit in the perfectly lovely writing space I created at home, then I wasn’t a real writer.

Wait, what?

I recently unearthed a bunch of rules I have absorbed over the years about food. It was a long list.

So, I decided to do the same with this. What other rules were lurking around?

I should have a degree to be a real writer.

I should have a book published to be a real writer.

I should write a certain amount of words or for a certain length of time on my current WIP to be a real writer. (The amounts are always totally unrealistic.)

I should work on my WIP and not the ten other kinds of writing I may do on any given day.

I picture this rule-maker as an older woman, dressed in black, with a tight severe bun, pacing around, slapping a ruler against her palm.Once I have a visual it is easier to remember that her job is create rules. She thinks she is helping me. Just like it is my mind’s job to churn out thoughts. My job isn’t to stop either one. My job is to observe and then move on.

Meditating doesn’t mean not thinking. That happen when we die. Meditation is about observing the thoughts, becoming intimate with the mind while not getting swept away by the current.

Same with Ms. Rule-Maker. Once I acknowledge her, I can give her a brief nod that says, “Thank you for your input, I’ll keep that in mind” then go on my way.

That is exactly what I did today. And I managed to get everything on my writing agenda done:

Morning Pages 

Writing Practice

Read and do exercises from “You Are a Badass at Making Money”

Work on WIP

New rule: Writing anywhere, on anything for any length of time makes me a writer.

 

 

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Don’t Be Tossed Away.

Don't Be Tossed Away

“Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something—“I really want to be a writer”—then that little voice comes along, “but I might not make enough money as a writer.” “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don’t be tossed away. But part of not being tossed away is understanding your mind, not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections and then loads you with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something.”               ~ Natalie Goldberg

 

This is one of the first lessons I learned from Natalie Goldberg when I read her books then studied with her. But it is only recently that I feel I have really absorbed that lesson. It is only recently that I feel that I live that lesson.

I rarely allow myself to be tossed away now that I have decided to show up daily to my writing, to my mind through meditation. She is right. We must become intimate with the way our minds work and see monkey mind for what it is.

Part of me deeply regrets that I resisted meditating for SO long. At the retreat with Goldberg, she basically said it is the one true secret to writing and that while she din’t make it mandatory, she highly encouraged us to show up to the early morning meditation before the activities began for the day.

I blew off the meditation. I slept instead.

And as I write that, I realize I mean it literally ( I slept in) and figuratively. I slept through much of my life, allowing monkey mind to be in charge. Believing the stories it churned out and boy, did it churn out some doozies.

Those stories tossed me away.

Tossed me away from the page.

From the stories I yearned to tell..

From my goals.

From my dreams.

Now, I am not staying that I no longer have that voice taunting me, trying to derail me. Nope. Not at all. But now that I write every damn day, now that I meditate every damn day, I no longer care so much what money mind has to say.

I no longer wait for the perfect circumstances or the perfect beam of inspiration or the perfect feeling that that will propel me effortlessly to my desk or meditation cushion. If I waited for that, I’d be waiting forever. There’s always a reason not to write, always a reason not to meditate.

Instead I show up no matter what.

Being tossed away is no longer a thing I need to constantly fight against.

I just show up.

 

 

 

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.

 

Why Not Just Moderate my Drinking?

No Alcohol

Image found via Pinterest.

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.

Owning my Dream.

I REALLY REALLY WANT

My jaw has been clenched a lot lately.

Usually I write it off as stress. But in my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class last night, I wrote this:

I wonder what I’m trying to hold back by clamping my  mouth shut.

Wow! Such a tiny yet huge shift in perspective. So, today in my Morning Pages I explored that question. I was stunned by what I discovered:

What else? I don’t say how badly I want to be published. I focus on how much I love the process and even if I never published another word I would still write. And that is true. But this is also true:

I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT TO HAVE MY BOOKS PUBLISHED.

There I said it. I declared it. I owned it. It’s scary because now I can fail by not getting published. It was safer the other way, just dipping my toe into publishing here and there but focusing more on the process. I could hang out in that limbo forever. 

But that is not what I want.

And I am uncomfortable with wants. I’ve usually focused more on needs. Wants felt self-indulgent. Frivolous. Dangerous. Because then not getting what I want feels like a failure. Feels like I am a failure.

No wonder I’ve stayed away from wanting this, from declaring I want this.

But no longer. I want this and I am willing to work my ass off to make it happen.

What dream have you been afraid to own? What goal have you kept your enthusiasm tepid about in case it revealed how badly you truly want it to happen? Share it in the comments.

Want it badly enough to declare it to the Universe.

Onward!

 

 

Books read in May + June.

May June 2019 books

“Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One” a novel by Raphaelle Giordano

The raindrops crashing against my windshield grew louder and louder.

I picked this up in the English section at a bookstore in Italy while waiting for our train. It seems to be hybrid of a novel and self-help.

Camille, a seemingly happy woman, begins to realize she is not as genuinely happy as she thinks she should be despite her roles as wife, mother, daughter and employee.

A chance encounter leads her to an intriguing man, Claude who offers to help her through the process of “routineology.” He gives her specific tasks and assignments designed to help her become who she truly is.

It’s a charming, feel-good story that makes you consider if perhaps you might also benefit from working with a routineologist. And if you don’t have access to one, the book comes with a glossary of the steps Camille took.

“Best American Short Stories 2017” edited by Meg Wolitzer

Rarely do I sit down and read these editions straight through. Normally, it’s a book I dip in and out of but since I was on vacation I read it all the way through. Well, all but one. And that is also rare. Not all short stories are my cup of tea. I find it often depends on the editor and apparently, Meg Wolitzer and I enjoy the same kind of stories and writing.

I was really excited to see that 50% were written by women. I’ll be even more excited when that stat is no longer on my radar.

Reading these stories drops me into the center of many different worlds, which felt appropriate as I travelled from country to country.

It reignited my love of reading and writing short stories. I’d find myself beginning to narrate my own experience as if writing a story.

I love how each story is a lesson in structure, in voice, in character. 

We encounter a widower trying to raise their son in the age of social media; a person with both a boyfriend and girlfriend; a woman who hooks up with a Famous Actor.

Each story thrums with urgency.

A line that made me laugh out loud:

First sex is like being in a stranger’s kitchen, trying all the drawers, looking for a spoon.

“Crudo” a novel by Olivia Laing

Kathy, by which I mean I, was getting married.

Set against the backdrop of the Trump presidency, Kathy leads us through her external  and inner worlds in the days leading up to her wedding.

The voice is electric, which makes  sense since Kathy is also a writer. But how to make art in the face of racism and being tweeted into a nuclear war not to mention that the planet is dying? Why bother making a life-long commitment to someone when the world could end with a tweet? And is the Kathy of this novel actually meant to be Kathy Acker?

Laid out in real time, we get up close and personal into the inner workings of Kathy’s mind and heart.

A line that chillingly reflects our times:

Numbness mattered, it was what the Nazis did, make people feel like things were moving too fast to stop and though unpleasant and eventually terrifying and appalling and were probably impossible to do anything about. 

“Girl Logic {the genius and the absurdity}” by Iliza Shlesinger

Women are not crazy. We are not crazy. We are conflicted. Crazy implies an impartiality to our thoughts when in actuality, we ar processing so many dichotomic thoughts that we get frustrated.

I discovered Iliza Shlesinger when friends told me I had to watch “Elder Millenial” on Netflix. I’ve watched it at least 4 times since then and I recommend it all the time. She is fucking hilarious but in a a way that is incredibly smart and observant. 

Her book is no different. Sure, it is funny but her advice and her observations and what she is learning along the way all really resonate.

She exposes that voice in our heads, what she calls “Girl Logic” and we think, oh… it’s not just me. She talks about what it is like for her to be a female in comedy, how she gets treated differently (sometimes shitty) just for being a female who had the nerve to beat a bunch of men in “Last Comic Standing.” She tells how she has learned to stand up for herself and that we teach people how to treat us. She explores dating in the age of social media and texting. Her lens may be Hollywood and the comedy circuit but her observations relate to any field and to any woman at any age.

A line that lands on something I STILL struggle with:

Evaluating your worth based on the opinions of others is a dangerous trap. The perpetual juggling act of trying to process everyone else’s assumptions about you—assumptions that are often incorrect—is as exhausting as it is useless.”

“Waisted” a novel by Randy Susan Meyers

Everyone hated a fat woman, but none more than she hated herself.

I have to admit, this was a tough read. Excellent read, but tough. It brought to the surface all the ways I have betrayed my body since I was old enough to realize I had one and that it “should” look a certain way. Meyers takes the question, “How far will women go to lose weight?” and creates an entire world from that premise. And it is not pretty. It is honest and unflinching as she explores not only weight and body image but also race and marriage and parenthood and friendship. She peels back the layers of the relationship women have with their bodies and how it is influenced by family and media and society. 

It is hard to read but equally hard to look away or put down.

I encourage all women, and men to read this.

It may be fiction but it is based in our reality.

A sentence that hit home:

Fat women look more naked than normal-weighted women.

Clothes made the woman. Naked made the shame.

“The Beautiful No and Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation” by Sheri Salata

So, this is my story.

Salata worked for years as a producer for the Oprah show. It was a dream job. But at some point she realized she wasn’t living her dream life. 

I used to devour every single self-help/self-improvement book that came out, desperate to find the answers to questions I wasn’t even sure I was asking.These days I am more discerning about what I allow into my energy and mind. I rely on intuition and as soon as I read about this book, I knew I was meant to read it.

I was right.

What I love is that she doesn’t spoon-feed you a set of rules to follow just because they worked for her. She shares her journey, the ups, the downs the in-betweens and what she learned and you take what resonates. I appreciate that.

One thing that truly resonated with me was her discovery that mid-life depends on your attitude. Is it downhill form here? Or is a chance to rediscover who you are now? That it’s never too late to begin again, to dream a new dream, to dream a new you into existence. She is clear that it is not easy. It’s not all wishful, magical thinking, that  changing your inner narrative is key. 

I am almost 54 (the age she warns us that women drop off the radar of marketing companies, becoming invisible) and though I have been writing for over 30 years, I still don’t have a book published. Part of me believes I have wasted my time, that it is too late. Now I am thinking what if it took me this long to write raw, true stories that resonate deeply not only within me but others? What if I am meant to struggle with my doubts and fears and procrastination so that I can share them with others? What if I am meant to be the writer I dream of being starting now, not back when I was in my twenties and barely had a self much less a voice to write from?

Thank you, Sheri for sharing your story and giving me to the courage to reimagine and reinvent mine.

And reading about Nate and Jeremiah’s wedding brought me to tears.

A sentence I needed to read:

Miracles were shifts in perception.

Not three hours earlier I had written how the cynical part of me was getting loud as I read a book about money and the author shared her so-called “miracle” stories of manifesting the exact amount she needed when it seemed impossible to do so.

“On Being Human- A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Hard, and Listening Hard” by Jennifer Pastiloff

When I finally got out the tools to build what I thought I needed to get the life I wanted, I realized that what I needed was within. But first, I had to rebuild everything. Once I did that, I would be on my way to a different kind of living.

Jen Pastiloff popped up on my radar when I first started teaching yoga and just knew that I needed to combine it with writing. I knew that these two practices would deeply enhance each other. I googled “writing and yoga” and found her! I haven’t had the chance to attend one of her workshops but it is definitely on my to-do list. I subscribed to her newsletter “The Manifest-station” and eventually had a piece published there.

Once I heard that she was writing a book, I marked it in my calendar once the pub date was announced and bought it the day it was released. I pretty much devoured it in a couple of days. 

If you follow her on social media, you know that she is all about being real and her book is no different. I imagine that when I finally meet her in person, it will be like I’ve already met her through her words.

In her workshops, women are encouraged to be vulnerable and she doesn’t ask anything of others that she is willing to do herself. She dives deep into her story and shares all of it, not just the shiny trinkets: her father’s death, grief, hearing loss, body shame and eating disorders. She shares her journey. And it is a journey. She transforms her life by beginning to listen hard to others but also to herself. Yoga helps her do that, so does writing, and just showing up to her life exactly as she is in any given moment. Her raw, messy, beautiful realness encourages us to show up to our own lives exactly as we are.

Some sentences I underlined:

Before we are molecules, we are memory.

I began my apprenticeship to the art of unknowing, a skill that would take all my life to unravel.

In my workshops, I talk about how unbelievably hard it is to break patterns. How we can’t beat ourselves up when we struggle. We all struggle. Always. It’s part of being human.

“City of Girls” a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert

I received a letter from his daughter the other day.

This was the perfect summer read: a delightful romp that allowed me to escape into another world. I am always amazed and impressed by the amount of research Gilbert does for her novels. The immersion into the world she creates feels seamless to me. And the themes of women’s pursuit of pleasure and their sexuality, freedom of choice and how men are held to a completely different standard mirror issues the we are confronting today.

If you are looking for an escape this summer, I highly recommend this book! And if you want a listen inside the process fo writing it and how it was juxtaposed against an almost unbearably loss in Gilbert’s life, please listen to her interview on the “Good Life Project” podcast.

A line I loved:

At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” Vivian mused. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”

“Lush” a memoir by Kerry Cohen

I wasn’t a drunk until I was.

Cohen examines her life, her self and her drinking in this relatable and incredibly honest memoir. She realized in her forties that she had a drinking problem, using alcohol to blur the edges of a life she wasn’t entirely happy with or present for. She noticed that she was not the only one struggling with this. That many, many women her age drank on a regular basis, drank to feel joy, to ease stress, to bond with friends, to escape the monotony of their lives.

She wrestles with her own demons chapter by chapter, letting us know we are not alone as we struggle with our own. 

A line that resonated:

Shame is like hammered metal inside you. It lodges there, sealed forever.

Still Squaring Off with my Not-Enougness.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

I don’t always see it, but when I finally do I am stunned at how I talk to myself and what I expect from myself. Sometimes it’s just a frustration with myself but other times it spirals into something a little darker and I wonder why I am alway trying to fix myself instead of just living my life and is this what I am meant to be doing and I start questioning everything and if I am struggling this much then how can I possibly teach? And it just spirals out from there.

Here is what I wrote a few minutes ago:

Just spent an hour trying to figure out a structure for my days. As Annie Dillard says a routine is a net for catching days and I need to catch my days. They seem to slip through my fingers without any effort on my part. And that is the problem. Zero effort on my part. I need to step up, step in, lean in to my life, into my days. I can’t keep sitting on the sidelines pretending to be doing the work and then be upset when nothing happens. For so many years…like SOOOOO many years, I have felt like I’ve been dipping my toe into the shallow end of my life. Just hanging out there, waiting for the water to feel good instead of just taking the plunge. Diving in, diving deep, no matter what the water feels like, no matter how deep the water is, no matter if I can no longer see the shore. I seriously cannot believe I am still struggling with this bullshit. 

Luckily, a wise, compassionate part of me stepped up and stepped in:

Okay. Stop. Breathe. It’s time for some perspective. Let’s see what you have accomplished. You are a 200 RYT who teaches 7-8 classes a week and you have built a strong, supportive community within your classes. You made and saved enough money to take an amazing 16-day trip to Europe with your daughters. You have managed to write something every single day for over three years. That’s not nothing. You have submitted your work more in the last four month than you have in the last 4 years. Sure, you’ve lost some momentum in the last few months but let’s take stock of what has been going on. Your best friend had open heart surgery and you helped her through it. You’ve been preparing for this trip. You took a month-long sabbatical. You took the trip and now you are back and experiencing some reentry pains. Let that happen. Take a breath. Don’t jump on the what a lazy-ass, terrible-human-you are bandwagon. That’s a bunch of bullshit. This path you’ve been on, it’s not easy but you have stayed on it. You are creating this life for yourself. Maybe these lessons are the lessons you are meant to share, not because you have conquered them but because you keep persisting through them. You don’t let them stop you. You do not have to be perfect. You have to be real. That’s it. That’s all anybody wants from you: your family, friends, students, readers. They just want you to be real. And this struggle you are dealing with, that’s part of being real. So share it. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. That may never happen. Just jump in from where you are now. That is all that is necessary. Breathe and take it all one step at a time. What are you doing in this moment. Are you showing up? Yes. You are. Here you are, typing, writing when nobody cares or is expecting you to. Doing it for yourself and not for an agent or an editor takes grit. And you have that. I just with you could see it.

img_9558.jpgOkay, so here I am taking a breath and sharing the not pretty parts of myself. The parts that struggle with my not-enoughness. Not doing enough, not being enough. I am not sharing this to get praise or validation. I did that for myself. I am doing it to be real. To share all the parts not just the shiny, photoshopped, pretty-filtered pieces of my life. 

May it be of benefit.

How I Spend my Days.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I have written something every day for the last 1,222 days.

I have meditated every day for the last 311 days.

Why to I keep track of these activities? It started as  a way to motivate myself to do the things I ket saying I wanted to do but somehow kept putting off doing. Taking a cue from Jerry Seinfeld, I created a yearly chart on a dry erase board and marked an “X” in each box every day I wrote. Seeing that chain of x’s created enough momentum that I didn’t want to break the chain.

Same with meditation. I use an app that keeps track of my sessions. It’s so encouraging and empowering to see the days add up.

As the days add up, I notice a shift. A shift in how I relate to myself, to the world, to my writing, to my thoughts.

As the days add up, I realize I am no longer longing to live the life I want to live, I am actually living it. As Annie Dillard says:

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Image found via Pinterest.

Tools of Illumination.

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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.

Restaurants: Please Offer more than Salad and Fries for Vegans.

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Dear Restaurants,

How hard is it to put at least one vegan option on your menu?

But it can’t be the sad, vegan, last option of a salad and fries.

Or a salmon salad without the salmon and you still charge me the same price.

I mean, you all jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon when only one percent of our population has legit celiac disease.

The are 3.2 percent of Americans who are vegan. There’s a need there.

There’s a market share to be had.

There are restaurants I no longer frequent because there are no options for me.

You don’t have to go as far as Ale Mary’s and provide an entire vegan option menu but, wow, that’d be great! I’m happy that the martini bar I love to go to in the summer to sit on their patio now offers a Beyond Burger.

All I’m asking is that you be a tad more inclusive.

It’s good for our health.

It’s good for the environment.

It’ll be good for your business.