Ditching my Usual MO.

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I’ve been having a hard time settling back into my life after 16 days in Europe, my month-long sabbatical from teaching yoga and just being out of my routine.

The daily barrage of horrifying news hasn’t helped..

The gloomy weather hasn’t helped.

What did help?

Writing. Writing always helps. It doesn’t solve every problem immediately but it definitely shifts my energy.

Yoga. Yoga grounds me in my body, in the moment where everything is okay no matter what my head is thinking. In this moment right here I am okay. Yoga reminds me of that over and over.

Meditating. I resist it but it always ends of being of benefit. Just finding that stillness. Or just observing  my mind being yanked around in twelve different directions. It always helps. Always. In all ways.

Feeling crappy. Yep. You read that right. If I am feeling crappy for whatever reason, I need to feel crappy. I can’t immediately go to the thing that will erase that crappy feeling. It’s there for a reason.

Friday night I had zero intention of going to the Summer Solstice ceremony at my studio. I was home alone most of the day. I cleaned the house which felt good. But I kept having this wanting to crawl out of my skin feeling. When I was finally able to pin down what I was feeling it was this: in flux, stuck and like I was unraveling.

Now, a lot of the time I would avoid those feelings. I would drink some wine, eat some chocolate, binge watch Netflix, mindlessly scroll through social media. None of those things help. In fact, they all make it worse.

Somehow, some part of me convinced me to go the ceremony. So, I dragged myself there. I actually felt like I was hauling a hundred pound duffel bag behind me, but I got in the car and I drove there.

There is something magical about being in community. Being in a sacred circle. My whole body just sighed with relief. This was where I was supposed to be.

Now, I’ve attended several of these ceremonies that include journal prompts which I love. I thought I had discovered all I had to discover about this resistance I feel in my writing. No, not the writing itself, but the getting the writing out into the world. How I sabotage myself just when I get in the groove of submitting my work.

I’m not going to go into the specific details but let’s just say I had not discovered everything I needed to know. I discovered something new. Something that had been there this whole time, just staring me in the face but I hadn’t seen it. I thought my resistance was about one thing and it turns out there was this whole other piece I hadn’t even considered. When I saw it I was stunned. But, of course, it made perfect sense.

And that piece I discovered? I also discovered that it was not mine to carry.

So, I let it  go.

I burned it in the ceremony.

I released it.

And I left that ceremony feeling a hundred pounds lighter.

If I had gone into my usual MO for dealing  with feeling crappy I would have missed this.

If I had ignored that voice inside me, nudging me to go to the ceremony when it was the last thing I wanted to do, I would have missed this.

We never know what small movement forward will make a huge impact.

Listen.

Make that move, no matter how small.

Be stunned at what you may discover.

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Still Squaring Off with my Not-Enougness.

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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.

Showing my Writer-Self Some Love.

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I am learning how to show my writer-self some love every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

My Writer-Self works hard. She struggles with rejection, with doubts, anxiety. She is constantly honing her craft through intense reading and writing. Even when she isn’t writing, she is thinking about writing. Every experience that crosses her consciousness becomes fodder for her work.

She battles with my inner mean girl and harsh critic constantly so she definitely deserves some love.

Here is what I do:

I’ve created a writing sanctuary. It is a room of my own that when I enter my writer-self sighs with relief. Ah, I am home she says.

I get enough sleep because a tired writer-self is not creative or productive.

I move my body because a cranky body makes for a cranky writer.

I treat her to hot chocolate or chai tea at the local bookstore at her favorite table.

I read books that nourish her heart, mind and soul.

I slow down because life is lived, experienced and written about in the details.

I meditate because a calm mind has room to wander and explore.

I buy colorful pens because she loves to spill colored ink onto page and after page. It makes her heart happy.

I buy beautiful journals because her words are worth it.

I commit time to daily writing because she requires daily attention. It tells her I am serious. It shows her how devoted I am to her.

How do you how your writer-self some love?

 

Writing into the Deep.

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After a session with a psychic (something I’ve always wanted to do), I’ve changed the focus of my blog to, well, focus more on writing. I realized I was trying to cover everything that interests me: writing, reading, yoga, marriage, family, being vegan, politics. And by trying to cover everything, it all became a bit too diffuse. Nothing was getting the attention it deserved.

By streamlining my focus here, I am finding my focus more streamlined in real life as well. I am currently reading “Rapt” by Winifred Gallagher and she writes about how the quality of our lives depends on where we put our attention. And, just as importantly, where we don’t. (Yeah, social media I’m looking at you.)

In 2019, I am pouring my attention and devotion into writing. Into writing daily. Into submitting my work to magazines. Into finally finding an agent. Into publishing the novel-in-stories that is already done. Into finishing a draft of my current novel. Into finishing a draft of book one in my YA fantasy trilogy. 

Writing into the Deep means writing with deep focus, deep passion. It means writing and stepping into the unknown. It means staying afloat when I don’t know what happens next in a scene or in the submission process. It means writing far past first thoughts into what Natalie Goldberg calls “wild mind” where all the juiciness lives and thrives. 

So, here’s to 2019 and all that it may bring and all that I will bring to it!

What are your 2019 writing intentions/focus/plans/goals? I’d love to hear. 

1,026 Days in a Row.

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Today marks the 1,026 day in a row that I have written.

I’m kind of bummed that I missed the 1000th day but this is still something to acknowledge and commemorate.

See, I still carry the belief that I am lazy, that I don’t work hard enough, that I don’t follow through enough. But the fact that I have written something every single day for 1,026 days in a row seems to disprove that belief. But beliefs aren’t grounded in facts. They are built on feelings, on those stories we hold in our bones.

When I was first starting out in my twenties, I could not bring myself to say that I am a writer. I didn’t have a degree in english or journalism or communications. I didn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree, much less the much lauded MFA. I had an Associate’s in Fashion Illustration. I also had a love of books and a desire to explore the world through language. I jumped into that yearning and proceeded to fill notebook after notebook with writing practice. I went to classes, attended week-long writing retreats, formed writing groups, even taught writing workshops to moms with young children. Still, I hesitated to call myself a writer.

I’m not sure when that changed. But it did. Not completely. I still take a breath before I say the words, waiting for the inevitable question of where can I find your books? I can list the places I’ve been published. I can declare that I have one completed novel and that I am looking for an agent. That I am halfway through novel number two as well as into writing a YA fantasy trilogy. These are all facts. But they aren’t what matters.

Now, that I am in my fifties, what matters is that  I know that writing is no longer something I do, it’s not even a label or title I need to claim.

It’s who I am.

Coming Home to Writing Practice.

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I entered this writing path through the writing practice Natalie Goldberg teaches. Practicing writing the same way an athlete practices her sport, the same way a pianist practices scales. Showing up to the page, grabbing a prompt and just writing for ten minutes without stopping, without crossing anything out.

The end product didn’t matter. The process of showing up and writing and connecting with the wilderness of my own heart and mind is what mattered.

Then I decided I needed to be more disciplined. I needed to produce more. More stories, blog posts, novels. And I let writing practice slip away, not counting it as “real” writing.

This summer I joined an on-line writing class hosted by the luminous Bryonie Wise called “Human is What We Are.” Honestly, I was hesitant. I have committed time and money to so many on-line classes over the years and I rarely finish them. My enthusiasm wanes then my connection to the group fades and I’m off on my own again.

This time has been different. First, I am intimately familiar with writing practice. Slipping back into it has been soothing and inspiring. It has been reconnecting with an old friend who really knows me, who sees all of me.

Second, Bryonie makes is all so accessible: writing, creativity, life. She gives us permission to meet ourselves where we are. She assures us that there is no wrong way to do this. That there is no such thing as being behind. We are where we are.

Third, summer has been the perfect time for this kind of loose but supportive structure. Ten minutes a day for ten days then we have a break to let everything germinate, let it settle and find its way into our bones.

My own notebook is more than half-filled. I have three separate pages filled with prompts that will draw me back to the page long after our third and final session ends. Coming back to writing practice has illuminated my creative process, allowing me to find inspiration everywhere.

It has reminded me of why I write at all: to come back home to myself which allows me to connect more deeply with the world around me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

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“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t remember the first book I ever read.

I can’t remember that moment when the strange black marks on a page turned into words, which turned into images which turned into stories I could see in my mind.

I do remember that Library Day was my favorite day of the week in elementary school. I checked out the same series of books over and over about three Swedish sisters named Flicka, Ricka and Dicka.

At some point I gravitated to “Gone with the Winds’ but the librarian steered me away, deeming me too young to read it.

I remember receiving Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books for Christmas and being so happy we had the 4-hour drive up north so that I could lose myself in them.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase and a Taylor Caldwell phase spurred on my older cousin who was also a bookworm. I went through a phase of devouring romance novels in a single sitting.

I now have six bookshelves bulging with books, both read and to-be-read. The ratio is getting to be about 50/50. Don’t judge. There are worse habits I could have than loving books and having way more than I can possibly read in this lifetime.

I try to read widely and diversely: different genres, authors of varying ages, ethnicities, gender.

Not surprisingly, before I was a writer, I was a reader. A huge, avid reader. Every single report card mentions my love of words.

As a writer, I am even more of a reader, if that is even possible. I still read for the reasons I used to: to escape, to immerse myself in other lives, other cultures, other worlds. To see life through the lens of another. But I also read with this other layer of attention, of curiosity, of wonder. How did they structure the book, the story? Why did they choose to use that point of view? How did they write such a beautiful sentence that took my breath away?

I may not remember exactly when I learned to read or what my first book was. I definitely don’t remember all of the books I’ve consumed over the years, and “consume’ is the perfect word. Each book is absorbed into who I am, helping to mold me into who I am becoming.

As Emerson so eloquently states, they have made me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!! What are some of your favorite books? Book memories? Writers? Please feel free to share in the comments.

The Practice of Curiosity.

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

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What Happens Next.

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Although I am still showing up to write every day, lately I have been stuck on one particular chapter.

Sure, I still open my laptop, read what I have and manage to squeeze out a few more sentences. But when I close the laptop I still have no idea what happens next so I have no idea where to start the next day.

But the next days arrives and I open my work-in-progress and eke out a sentence or two. I close it, satisfied that I am living up to my goal of writing something each day, disappointed that it feels like such a lame, extremely low bar effort.

This went on for a couple of weeks.

Then today, I take myself to the bookstore, snag my favorite table by the window, get my venti iced soy chai, open my laptop, pop in my earplugs, and set Freedom for a ninety- minute session and start to write.

Reader, by the end of the session, I finished that chapter. And I am set up perfectly for the next chapter.

I am stuck in the messy, bogged down middle of my novel. I can’t imagine it ever being done. But I show up each day anyway. Each word, no matter how few or how lame they may seem, leads me forward.

And that is why I continue to show up, day after day, even when—no, especially when— I have no idea what happens next.  Because showing up daily has taught me to trust that eventually I will write my way into exactly what happens next.

 

 

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.