Category Archives: projects

Checklist

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Started writing my book: check
Created an online savings account*: check
Finally figured out LastPass and Slack: check and check
Taught six awesome yoga classes this weekend: check
Laundry: check
Dinner: check
Full on adult mode: check, check, check
Result: SATISFACTION
Plan: Keep checking sh$t off that to-do list!

*Did you know that you can open a savings account here that gives you 2.25% APY (which poops on most brick and mortar banks’ APYs, which are more like .06%)? Dr. John Demartini (you can find his official site here) says that if you don’t place a value on saving money, you’ll never have any money to save. It starts with being willing to save something, no matter how small the amount might seem to you. It was a super big deal for me to finally open a savings account, because I’ve been telling myself ever since my ex-husband dropped the big ol‘ D-bomb that I simply didn’t have anything to save. But today I opened a savings account with just a tiny little amount, and I’ll throw a few dollars into it whenever I can. Maybe at some point it will become a nest egg. Or at least a new underwear fund when I need some new panties. ūüėĀ

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How many of you are fellow perfectionistic procrastinators, always waiting for the right moment to start something, take care of something, finish something, square something away? I have been discovering the last couple of days that if I just start, if I just take one tiny little step in the direction of starting, momentum begins to build, and then I can keep going with that momentum.

And gosh, it feels good. Forward progress, TALLYHO!

Writing 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page

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Hmmm, today’s writing 101 prompt kind of stumped me. ¬†Here’s the bare bones blurb:

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a distinct style from your own.

I have to say, I would’ve worded that last sentence differently…I would’ve said either “Write this post in a distinct style, different from your regular one,” or “Write this post in a style distinct from your usual style.” ¬†There was a little confusion when comparing voice and style, and I discovered upon further research that voice is your own personality shining through, whereas style is a broader concept–are you prone to writing ornate sentences or more sparse? ¬†Are your words flowery or straightforward? Choosing a particular style and sticking with it can give coherence and continuity to a piece, can help the reader feel like they have a better handle on what is being said. Ah, whatever–can’t escape from my own voice, don’t think I want to–but style, geez…uh…style…uh…what is my regular style? Yikes. I’m overthinking. Whatever, whatever, I do what I want, I do what I want.

Anyway, what am I scared of? If I stop and think, I’m afraid of many things. ¬†One of my worst fears is that I’m just as bad a¬†hoarder as my dad, and I’ll end up like he is. ¬†Here goes…

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It’s getting worse. ¬†My mother has been home for two weeks, and every so often she relays bits and pieces of information to us about the state of my parents’ house.

“There wasn’t room for my suitcase. ¬†We had to leave it in the narrow walkway he has left in the kitchen and move it when we had to get around it.”

I rarely go there; there’s no room for my kids or me to just come and visit. ¬†There are boxes on the kitchen table, ¬†no room for a meal, no space to sit, even the sofa has boxes piled on it. ¬†My children–their grandchildren–have never been inside their house.

“July 1, I’m outta there,” my mother tells us. I wonder when my dad will be buried alive.

A couple of years ago I contacted the show Hoarders because I was curious to see if they would do an episode about my parents’ house. ¬†I thought they might be able to help, given their budget and their resources. ¬†I filled out the questionnaire on the Hoarders website and was contacted a few days later¬†by a woman¬†who works on the show. ¬†She asked me for some pictures, and I obliged.

Cliff and our baby daughter distracted my dad enough for me to walk through the house with my iPhone snapping shots of the tiles falling out of the bathroom walls, how he has used packing tape on some of the tiles around the shower to hold them together, the mildew growing underneath the packing tape. I took pictures of the kitchen table piled high with bags and boxes, envelopes, empty vitamin bottles, old circulars, random electrical wires, tools. The kitchen counters with no space for food preparation.

I announced that I was going upstairs to my old room to fetch an old book of mine, and on my way there I snapped shots of my parents’ bedroom, the ceiling held up with a long slab of styrofoam affixed with tin can lids and nails placed at regular intervals; the familiar floor to ceiling bookshelves with pens, slips of papers, and plastic bags peeking out from the books, ¬†multiple bungee cords hanging from the shelving brackets, and all of this reflected in my mother’s dresser mirror, as if to double the cluttery hell.

¬†I continued capturing images through the living room on my way to¬†the stairs. ¬†The whole house had a cavelike quality to it–musty, dark, heavy. ¬†Could barely see the sofa around the wall of boxes, old computers from the 90’s, trash bags full of more plastic vitamin bottles. ¬†We used to play in here. ¬†We used to have slumber parties. ¬†Take naps on the sofa. ¬†No room now.

I found the book upstairs, dared to take pictures of our old bedrooms where the evidence of my father’s sickness had stretched its tendrils in ever widening circles. ¬†Some of my sister’s stuff was there, and I wondered what I had left in my closet; impossible to get to it now–my father had commandeered my old room and it contained floor to ceiling stacks of old computer equipment from the 80’s and 90’s. ¬†He had told us he would donate the computers to schools. ¬†Practically nobody could use them now. ¬†What are they doing here?

When my sisters and I lived there, when he was still working, when my mom and dad had moments of togetherness that they actually enjoyed, our house was livable, welcoming even. ¬†It was never normal. ¬†No, it was never your run of the mill middle class abode–it was always kind of cooky although I didn’t realize the extent of the craziness until well after I left home.

The pictures taken, I immediately emailed¬†them to the woman on the TV show, and within days she said that they would certainly be interested in filming an episode of the show at my parents’ house, but that they would need my dad’s cooperation, his consent. ¬†I knew deep down he would never agree, but we were all outwardly hopeful. ¬†My husband and I made a DVD of several episodes of Hoarders, gave the DVD to my mom to show my dad.

She later told me that he watched part of an episode, then turned to her and said, “I am nothing like these people, and don’t you ever try to do something like this to me.” ¬†And there you have it, the man wouldn’t budge. ¬†I never told him of my plan.

These days, when I take a look around my house, I see evidence of what I grew up with in the miniature piles of random bits on the counter–my daughter’s hair things, a pair of sunglasses, unopened mail. ¬†These are normal things; we use them…but the sight of them makes me wonder where we’ll draw the line.

I go downstairs to put in a load of wash. ¬†I see boxes of books, many of them holding the¬†journals that i’ve been keeping since middle school. They seem so heavy to me. ¬†The climbing gear that I haven’t touched in years because we live in Maryland. ¬†There isn’t any rock to speak of in Maryland. ¬†And I have two kids. And they aren’t of climbing age yet anyway. ¬†The dust has settled on my hangboard, my climbing shoes, my quick draws, my long board, my helmet and kneepads and elbow pads and wrist guards. ¬†I see my beautiful fluorescent green cyclocross bike hanging upside down, suspended from ¬†hooks in the ceiling. ¬†I feel wistful. ¬†And Aren’s baby clothes, a few old hats, my sewing supplies, moved downstairs because there was no room in the dining room for them. ¬†Lots of beautiful fabric, just sitting there. ¬†My Christmas serger, which I haven’t yet learned how to use, because I have an overfull schedule and time simply does not permit.

So I see my father in myself–all of those things he has but never uses–and I wonder if I am him. ¬†There is a sense of deep terror, wanting to get out, break free, wanting so much to reclaim some space in my life, but wondering if I have been permanently broken by this compulsion to accumulate.

I pray to God that I will never reach the same level of mental illness…but then I wonder if I haven’t already reached that level, but it has become so normal to me that I don’t question it.

Save me from my Father.  Same me from this fear of letting go.  Save me from the oppression, the burdens, the resentment, the sadness.

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I write ¬†a poem a day–
That’s what I do.

can I be free now that I have written a few lines,
can I sleep?

Can I succumb to the bone deep fatigue
and trust that all is well?

Eyelids are heavy.
Time for sleep.

The Power of Accountability

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The past few days I’ve been mulling over my attachment to having readers for this blog. ¬†It’s such a funny conflict that rises up in my mind: ¬†I don’t want anyone I know to read this blog, yet I desperately want someone I know to read this blog. ¬†I don’t need anyone out there to read this blog, and yet I desperately want someone out there to be reading this blog…everyday…

My husband and I had another discussion last night regarding the way we’ve structured our time. ¬†We talked about my meditation and blogging practice, and he once again observed that I’m away so often during the night that we have little time to be together. ¬†He asked if he should construct a graph illustrating his point. ¬†I told him that I’m a visual learner, so a graph might be helpful.

I spoke in defense of my practice, and even when he said, “I haven’t noticed any changes [in the three years you’ve been meditating]” I was able to remain calm and point out that in the absence of my practice, I might have been a thousand times worse than I am right now, and there is no way of knowing. ¬†And when I say “worse” I’m talking about my mood fluctuations, my reactivity, my depression. ¬†I told him that I was reasonably certain that had it not been for this blog, and my daily observation of my moods and my behaviors as a result of those moods, I probably wouldn’t have started taking anti-depressant medication. ¬†It is because of this blog, and the evidence that I have gathered in the daily recounting of my story, that I saw the need to make some big changes, and seek help to make those changes possible. ¬†I shared this with him. ¬†I told him that this blog was possible because of my meditation practice, that through my seated practice I have been able to develop the will and the discipline to show up for it daily, through pregnancy, labor, and the early days, weeks, months, and years of my son’s life. ¬†My husband said there have been no changes since I began my daily practice, but I see it differently. ¬†It can be summed up this way: No meditation, no blog. No blog, no meds. ¬†No changes? ¬†I disagree.

The mood was somber as we left our conversation hanging to clear the table of our dinner dishes; it was the end of the day and both of us were exhausted. ¬†We hadn’t reached any kind of real resolution between us, but as I went up to meditate, it struck me how my holding myself accountable for my practice has given rise to a certain inner strength that will permit me to continue practicing, especially through tough moments. ¬†My meditation (and now my blog) practice is so well-established that there is no question in my mind that I will sit, that I will write. ¬†It has become as important and as familiar as brushing my teeth, a part of my daily mental and spiritual hygiene.

The accountability piece is a little different with this blog, I’m discovering. ¬†Whereas meditation is an entirely internal, private practice, this blog–being published in the public domain–is open to anyone out there in cyber space who comes to read it, or stumbles upon it because I did some proper tagging. ¬†And here is where I’m getting a little hung up, and also a little excited–there’s the conflict again. ¬†I started this blog at the new year telling myself that it was a project for me, and I decided that there would be no pressure to create any kind of universally applicable content. ¬†I wanted to help myself, not save the world, which has been a goal of mine ever since I can remember, and which remains unfulfilled because I haven’t yet saved myself. ¬†This blog happened because I wanted to know myself better, to discover how I can be as disciplined in my writing as I have been in my meditation. “Meh, I don’t need readers,” I told myself,“I just need to hold myself accountable, show up and write. And it doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write something.”

And then I started receiving messages that so and so was following my blog. ¬†I have been truly surprised each time I get such a notification. ¬†Really? Now I have an audience? Then the pressure to say something witty or meaningful began to arise from the depths of the little girl who wants to impress the people around me, who wants them to like me, who wants to prove her worth somehow…and I started writing with my audience in mind. ¬†What will they think? Is this post too long? Am I being self-serving? Is this boring? Does it make sense? ¬†Is it worth their time to read this? ¬†Is it worth my time to write this?

The gift in all of this questioning points to accountability…in the moments when I’m feeling tired at the end of the night and unsure that I have the motivation to write something partially meaningful, I imagine my audience– sometimes just one or two people who I know follow this blog regularly–and envisioning them reading this, I hold myself accountable to make sense, at least a little. ¬†To proofread so that there aren’t too many distracting errors. ¬†To care, because they care enough to read my jibber jabber.

So to all of you out there who are actually reading this, THANK YOU. You are helping me to stay accountable, to recommit to this practice every day.  I truly appreciate your care and your kindness.  It is so powerful to be seen and heard.  Thank you.

 

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PS. I wrote this beginning at 7am. ¬†Now I don’t have to worry about fitting my writing practice in later! ¬†And I’m amazed at how much easier it is to jot some lines down (can you “jot” on a keyboard?) when it’s morning and my mind is fresh. Yay, another helpful discovery.

Write Something Every Day

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When I began this blog project, I had no real plan, only the thought that I would be writing something every day.

Something, every day.

There, I wrote it. I guess my day’s post is complete.

All joking aside, I see myself getting caught up in what everyone else thinks. ¬†I wonder if all of my mental meanderings ¬†are just boring, and if there is no real point to doing this work. ¬†I keep hearing my husband’s words echoing in my brain, and my mother in law’s and my therapist’s, and I even hear a comment posted by one of the readers. ¬†And then I wonder who I am in the middle of all of this.

Why is it so easy to get caught up in what everyone else thinks?

Couldn’t I write, and just be happy that I took a moment in time to think and feel and breathe, with no plan and no goal for those words? ¬†This is what I wanted when I began this project. ¬†I wanted to free my creative self a little more each day by removing the restrictions that have anchored me to one spot and just allowing the words to flow.

Before I began this project, it was never the right time to write, and my thoughts were never important enough to share with other people.  I was afraid of disclosing too much, of being too personal, and I suppose the worst fear was the thought that I would bare my heart and soul and no one would care.

I still feel this fear that no one will care, but if I take a half and minute to examine that thought, I might just discover that I don’t need anyone else to care besides myself. ¬†I don’t need anyone to approve of these words, I don’t need anyone to be inspired, I don’t need to be good for anyone besides myself.

Still working on self-acceptance.  Still trying to get to the place where I can encourage myself and feel sincere about it.  But this is my fifty-first post, and I know that means something.  Just showing up and doing it even when it feels like the stupidest thing in the world, just pushing through the resistance and the fear that wish to silence me, this counts for something.

I may never be a published author. ¬†I may never gain accolades because of my brilliance and wit. ¬†But I don’t need any of that stuff. ¬†I just need to find myself, my creative self–and any other good stuff will be icing on the cake.

There. I’ll write it again:

Something, every day.

Twelve Steps to Self-Recovery v2.0

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Note: I wrote a big chunk of this post this afternoon and published it under the gun because my son was waking up from nap in hysterics, calling out for me to get him–and I felt like I needed to hurry and just get the post done. ¬†I was afraid I might later forget and not publish my post of the day, so without feeling 100% sure that I was doing the right thing, I published it anyway. In the several hours following the publishing of the post, I thought of multiple things I wanted to say, so now I’m returning to revise and clarify a few points. ¬†Thank you for reading!

For the last week I’ve been toying with the idea of working through the Twelve Steps to Recovery in this blog, and working through one step per month. I have committed to one year of daily posting, and it occurred to me that if I don’t find some kind of scope and sequence for this work, I might fizzle out sometime in mid-March. I was an elementary school teacher for five years, and ¬†grasped the importance of a long-term scope and sequence when mulling over lesson plans for a week, a month, and several months down the road. A clear idea of scope and sequence gives some purpose and continuity to the path, it helps build enthusiasm for what is to be accomplished, it breaks down the long-term goal into actionable steps, each of which brings us closer to the finish-line.

Twelve months, twelve steps…this has been appealing to me the more I’ve been thinking about it. But I really don’t know too much about the Twelve Steps, so I need to find out if I could actually use them in this blog to uncover more of my creative self. I went on line and found a variety of interpretations of the Twelve Steps to Recovery. Here’s one interpretation, taken from this site:

Steps 1-3: Out of Despair Find Hope
1.We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
 2.Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
 3.Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God

Steps 4-7: Clean House by Taking Inventory
 4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
 5.Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
6.Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
 7.Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

Steps 8-9: Clean House by Making Amends
8.Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
9.Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

¬†Steps 10-12: Continue ‚ÄúCleaning‚ÄĚ and Help Others
 10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Okay, so I wasn’t so sure about all of this. The G word, to start off with. I consider myself to be a spiritual person but have never subscribed myself to any one religion. The G word makes me a bit antsy, it stirs up my resistance to becoming involved with anything that sounds remotely like religion. In my experience any attempts to define the great All That Is,¬†and then express that definition in a ritualistic and dogmatic way,¬†has only drawn me farther away from the object of my search. It would take some softening on my part to navigate freely within the framework of the Twelve Steps, given that God in this model appears to be some¬†one, ¬†an¬†entity that would take care of my life and affairs, if I were to turn them over to whomever this God¬†is. They do mention “as we understand God,” so that implies some openness, some kind of relaxed willingness to make room for different kinds of interpretations of what this¬†God¬†is. So maybe I can find my way somehow, with my own interpretation.

I also came across a book¬†entitled Recovery–The Sacred Art: ¬†The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice, by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. As implied in the title, the author¬†connects¬†the Twelve Steps to spiritual practice and describes a way of life that includes ongoing awareness of these steps. This appealed to me; I’ve been meditating regularly ¬†for over two and a half years and I see the value in daily, consistent practice. This is also one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place, because I saw a potential to grow creatively, if I could commit to showing up regularly and consistently and just writing and writing and writing through it all, developing a strong, steady writing¬†practice.

The book grouped the Twelve Steps into seven chunks:

Powerlessness (Step One), Faith (Step Two), Surrender (Step Three), Humility (Steps Four, Five, Six, and Seven), Forgiveness (Steps Eight, Nine, and Ten), Wisdom (Step Eleven), and Hope (Step Twelve).

Powerlessness, Faith, Surrender, Humility, Forgiveness, Wisdom, and Hope. Ok, I think I can get behind this.

Oh gee, my son is waking up from his nap and is crying for me to come get him. I’ll revisit this later. Lots to think about.

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Ahem, so here I am again, it’s now 9:18pm, the children are in bed, and I’m able to put some more time into this post and see it through to my satisfaction. This might take a while.

First of all, I want to clarify that I’m not against God at all, in fact I have written letters to God in my journal for decades. I just feel uneasy about the idea that I might surrender my life and affairs to God, not having a real understanding of what or who God is. When I write letters to God in my journal, I’m mostly writing to the idea of a unified, intelligent force that is woven into every atom of existence. Writing to God and asking questions, I am calling a certain energy to be put into motion, asking for coherence in my life, asking that the harmony be revealed to me, and the truth, and the deeper meaning. I don’t imagine some elderly white bearded gentleman residing on high and pointing his finger at me and scolding when I make a mistake. In fact, I don’t imagine a single entity or person at all. And this is perhaps why it is so difficult for me to imagine surrendering my life and affairs, because¬†to whom would I be surrendering, or¬†to what?

Next, when I wrote the first bit of this post, I don’t think that¬†I was able to adequately express why I’m wanting to explore the Twelve Steps in the first place. ¬†It’s hard to put my finger on, especially because I’m not struggling with substance abuse–and I almost always associate the Twelve Steps with substance abuse– but I’m thinking that I can use the Twelve Steps as a way to reclaim the creative self that has been buried under many years of self-doubt, self-criticism, self-loathing, depression, and fear. I know that there are many paths that lead to the destination I’d like to reach, but the idea of working through one step a month appeals to me. The Twelve Steps seem to give me some time to explore the path that got me to where I am right now. ¬†They give me time to process myself in this moment, the key relationships that have factored into my becoming who I am. And perhaps most important, they give me tools to change what isn’t working…or at least this is what they appear to be able to do. I really can’t know how viable a plan like this might be until I give it a go. But I’m figuring that I’ll have a pretty good idea of its applicability to my life by the end of the twelve months.

Another key point that I wasn’t able to mention earlier: ¬†If I’m working through one step a month, and we’re already into the second month–the second step–what happened to that first step? ¬†Well, I’m going to say that a lot of my time in January was spent working through the first step without actually knowing that this is what I was doing. In retrospect, I can see that a lot of my posts centered around my struggle to find and validate my creative voice. I wrote a lot about wanting more time to write or sew or just be. I was able to explore my inner critic, to identify how long I’ve been haunted by these self-limiting beliefs, and I discussed how painful it can be to try to push past the fear and doubt and resistance and just write, even if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t perfect.

So I already know what the problem is. Some part of me has always known what the problem is. In fact, I may have spent most of my adult life stuck in the first step, identifying and re-identifying that I have a problem that is too big for me to solve on my own. I am angry. I am scared. I want to create. I am reactive. I hate myself.¬†If we’re talking in terms of addiction, I could say that I’m addicted to anger, addicted to self-hatred, addicted to this vision of myself as never good enough. Now to say that I am powerless over this addiction, and that my life has become unmanageable–this does not quite ring true for me. But there are certainly moments when I feel powerless. Powerless to control my anger, powerless to hear anything besides the voice of the inner critic, powerless to hope for something better. And the sheer intensity of this powerlessness can drive me to despair.¬†

And this is why I’m looking to the Twelve Steps. I know I have a problem, and I really want to make changes in my life. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right? I took that first step, now I’m looking to the second.

Step 2: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

This month, in between my normal late night ramblings in which I explore what happened during the day and what all this normal human life stuff made me think and feel, I’m going to examine the idea of faith in a higher power. This should be pretty interesting; I’ve mulled over the idea of a higher power innumerable times in my life, but now there is a purpose in this exploration–I want to find out how surrendering to this higher power could help me find release from my self-made prison.

See you tomorrow!

Tote #4

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Reversible tote. On the left you see the exterior, on the right, the lining.

Reversible tote. On the left you see the exterior, on the right, the lining.

Yay! I finished my son’s tote tonight in record time. I’m getting really good at these things, and having so much fun making them. I might mention that I was plunging ahead at warp speed, trying to get it all done before dinner, proud of myself that I was remembering each step and being efficient–but then I realized I had forgotten the pocket, and had to stitch it in with more difficulty than if I had gotten the steps in the right order. Then, on the last step, I realized I hadn’t top-stitched the handles, so again, did this with more difficulty, because they were already attached to the bag.

Oh well. I named my other totes, so I’ll dub this one my “Think Before You Leap” tote. My son is not yet two and won’t care that the pocket isn’t perfectly symmetrical. It bothers me less than it would’ve one year ago. One year ago I was terrified to make sewing mistakes. Today, I’m allowing myself to learn from them and move on. Progress!

After the kids were settled in bed this evening, I was sewing away, making the final push to get the tote done, and I was struck at how calm, relaxed, and happy I was feeling. It’s so gosh darned fun to sit at the sewing machine with a project that I’m excited to work on, a project that is helping me to learn and progress with new skills. And then I had this thought that everybody should do something creative every day, something that is a unique expression of themselves. Whether it’s a few words in a journal, or strumming a guitar, or arranging some flowers, knitting a few rows of a scarf, doodling with crayons, whittling something out of wood–if everyone could tap into their creativity on a daily basis, what a wonderful world it would be.

I’m way into the idea of leading by example. After spending a good deal of my life being hardheaded and taking forever to realize that people really don’t want to be told what to do, it has finally sunk in that “being the change” I wish to see in the world is far more effective than anything else to effect positive change in the world around me.

So beginning with myself, tapping into my creativity every day, enjoying the creative process, living an inspired life, maybe the people around me will feel motivated to tap into their creativity. I really hope so, because what a gift it is to find things (even small things!) that bring us joy and then to do them. 

Time to meditate. To breathe, settle into stillness, and remember who I am beyond my body and my mind. Time to become absorbed in the unity of all there is, the inner space, the true self, the infinite ocean of consciousness. Time to bring my mind to focus, so that I may experience the presence beyond the thoughts. Time to try to stay awake for thirty minutes.

Oh beautiful beautiful life, thank you.

Sunday Night Mental Meanderings

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It’s Sunday night at 9:00. I’m sitting here in my meditation room not sure about what I want to write. I’m tired. I taught two times today; there were 25 students in my class this morning, ¬†and 29 students showed up to my evening class. Fifty-four students breathed and moved and found stillness with me today. I feel so honored to have their willingness and their trust for the span of a class. I love it when they laugh at my jokes. I love to hear everyone breathing. I’m so grateful to be excited about my work, to want to show up, to enjoy it while I’m doing it, to feel calm and blissful afterwards. How fortunate I am to sincerely love my job.

And I’m tired. My mind is a bit sluggish at this point, and it’s not giving me too many exciting ideas. I’ve been tired so frequently since becoming a parent, I’m almost used to it, but I wonder what I’d be saying if I felt fresh and well-rested.

More tote bags are on the horizon. I have a fairly large block of time in between my two Sunday classes and headed over to the fabric store after my first class let out. It was such a treat being by myself, able to take time to examine fabrics, choose colors and textures, really commune with them. Normally I have my two little ones with me when I go to the store, and much of my energy goes toward keeping my son from pulling bolts of fabric off the shelf, or preventing my daughter from undoing spools of thread. It means that I end up getting in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and I leave feeling like I’ve been wrestling with tornadoes.

But not today. Today I was by myself and strolled at a leisurely pace through the aisles. I wondered what people make with pink vinyl and black pleather. I chose some purple knit fabric to make myself some yoga pants, and I kind of went overboard buying lots of different fabrics for many more totes. It was just so exciting to pick fabrics for specific people, and play with different mixes of color and texture. I reasoned that I’ll be making these tote bags as gifts, spending the money now so that I won’t have to later. It took a while to get through all of my fabrics at the cutting counter, but the lady was methodical, kind and patient, and I was almost sad when it was over. Back home I went, with fun new fabric riding in the passenger seat.

Sigh. Husband wasn’t too thrilled that I spent money on fabric (again), but he seemed more relaxed about the whole thing after we talked. So much of marriage ends up being how to stay open, even when you don’t agree with your spouse. At least, this is what I’m learning to do in my marriage. Keep the communication flowing, speak honestly, directly, and from the heart, and resolve the disagreements before they end up exploding into craziness, or slowly smoldering into resentment.

I saw the kids for a little while after their afternoon nap, got them a snack, goofed around with them for a bit before it was time to leave to teach my second class. I even managed to squeeze in a moment to cut fabric for my next tote, which I’m sewing for my son. Don’t ask me what a nearly two year old boy is going to do with a tote. He’ll probably run around his room with it, singing, “Clean up! Clean up!” and putting his stuffed animals or ¬†his socks in the bag, before dumping it out and starting the whole process over again. That little boy makes me smile, and I love him more than words can express. He can do what he wants with the tote.

I reckon I better sign off before I grow too tired to meditate. I hope I can stay awake. Evening meditations are so challenging because I’m usually incredibly exhausted when I sit, and I spend a lot of my energy trying not to doze off. Recently I tried doing some deep breathing along with the silent repetition of passages, hoping that this would energize me, give me some clarity. It helped, but this too takes discipline, and by the end of the day there is something so seductive about giving in and just letting myself slip away into sleepy land.

Ok, that is all for now. Except, thank you life for this day. Thank you world. Thank you body. Thank you family. Thank you home. Thank you computer. Thank you mind.

Good night.

 

 

 

 

Why Am I Writing?

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Last night was rough. I was awakened multiple times by my husband, who is slowly recovering from the mother of all colds. The tossing, the turning, the need to get up and dig in the medicine cabinet for a Sucrets…poor guy. As I was awakened the third time that night, I was certainly feeling sorry for him, but now I was also feeling sorry for myself. There I was, awake at 2:41 am with no immediate hope of getting back to sleep, so I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and started catching up on emails. A dear friend had sent me a message with this post about starting a blog and becoming a writer. ¬†The post came from ¬†this website¬†established in 2006, ¬†called “Live Your Legend.” It offers tools to help people make positive changes in the world by discovering and doing meaningful work that they love. Sounds great, yes?

At 2:41 am, I was reading about how a blog can be a steppingstone to discovering what is really important and meaningful in one’s life, finding true clarity about one’s passions, and taking concrete steps to harness those passions and create something great. Blogs can help writers develop thinking and communication skills, and writing regularly, these writers can become adept at getting the point across clearly, concisely, efficiently. ¬†When one gets one’s point across clearly, concisely, and efficiently, things change. Big things happen.¬†So I was kind of becoming fired up, thinking, “Wow, my little yoga mom blog might actually be helping me discover what it is I want to do with the life energy I have, beyond what I’ve already been doing? I might uncover a passion I didn’t know existed?”

The author of the post, Scott Dinsmore, referred those readers who already have a blog to yet another post–all about creating a blog that matters, a blog that achieves some purpose. Read it here. So yes, there I was, now at 2:50am, asking myself if my blog matters, if it is achieving a purpose, if it is helping anyone.

Gosh. Gee. Ummm.

I originally began this blog as a project for myself, because I had been hiding from my writing for far too long. For some years now, I have been fervently wanting to write in a more serious (dare I say professional?)¬†capacity, yet I never have been wholly successful at pushing through the resistance that inevitably arises whenever I sit down with a few thoughts. I wanted this blog to be a pressure free space to practice and explore and–even if other people might read it–I didn’t want to think too much about my potential audience, because I knew that this kind of thinking would send me into a spiral of too afraid to write/don’t bother/they won’t like what you write/what you think isn’t important. ¬†A shut down, drab, bleak, claustrophobic place, a no room for creativity place. Yuck. No thanks.

Within a day or so of starting the blog,¬†I actually had a follower. And then another. Gee, really? I’m surprised anybody is following this thing, it’s so full of my personal observations and details about my daily life. My aim was to link what I’ve learned from my yoga practice to these real life, moment to moment experiences so that I could use them as a means for personal growth and evolution. If this act of sharing my experiences helps just one person know that they are not alone in their challenges, not alone in their quest to find meaning in the little details of daily life, I’ll be thrilled; but beyond that I just want to validate my own experiences, let them take on the importance that I assign to them, and perhaps even lessen their importance as I practice some detachment from them. Because sometimes I’m a drama queen. Sometimes I blow things out of proportion. It has been known to happen.

The medium of the written word has always been a safe place (the only place?) for me to explore my thinking; I’ve kept a journal since I was in second grade, and became a serious journal writer in high school, following a dear English teacher’s six week assignment to write daily. ¬†Decades later, I have amassed volumes upon volumes of my writing, which live ingloriously packed in boxes in the basement. These volumes rarely see the light of day. Poor little lonely forgotten journals. I think of them like abandoned children, and fear that they might morph into Golem-like creatures at some point.¬†Precious.

I’ve been writing forever, taking solace in the freedom of the blank page, but have never had the courage to really share my writing, because, jeez–it’s just so personal! My journals have been a place to write out my ugliest of thoughts, to be depressed as hell, to be angry, petty, and resentful, to dream big, to celebrate, to fantasize and hope and remember, to be silly–and to be completely, utterly human. Completely utterly my self. No wonder I’ve hidden those journals in boxes. It’s frightening to show someone who you really are! It’s much more safe to hide. And now I’m asking myself–for whatever reason–to be daring, be courageous, be brave–and¬†just share this writing, whatever it is, whatever it looks like, with whomever might want to read it?¬†Yikes!

Writing in this public blog space has been a bit scary for me, for all the reasons I’ve been mentioning in my other posts about this project and my relationship to the creative process. Inner Critic. Perfectionist. Procrastinator. The fearful, vulnerable, lonely one. Note: The sceptic wishes to remind me that no one will read this anyway, and I’m fooling myself if I think otherwise. Thanks guys, real nice.

Scott Dinsmore, the fellow I mentioned above, the one whose website provides the tools for exploring and living out one’s unique purpose–he mentioned that deep down, many of us are afraid of success, and so we unconsciously do things to sabotage ourselves. His words jolted in me an awareness that coming to terms with this tendency for self-sabotage, and embracing a new definition of ourselves as visionaries who can make positive changes on this spaceship earth–this can unlock tremendous power and potential–so that ultimately we can move forward and realize our deepest dreams for ourselves and all beings.

Wow. Ok. Visionary? Deep dreams? Life’s purpose? Passion? Yes.

Why am I writing? Because, yes.

Tote

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Not quite finished, but still looking good!

Not quite finished, but still looking good!

I bought a sewing machine for myself one year ago this month. I was intimidated by it at first; it took me some time to take the thing out of the box and start playing around with it. ¬†The perfectionist in me is always really afraid I’ll make some kind of horrendous, irreparable mistake, and then the whole world will fall apart. It speaks to me with this whining voice of fear and says, “You better not, you might mess up!” But I was determined to learn how to sew, intrigued by all the beautiful crafts I’ve seen people make with their machines, so I ignored the perfectionist’s fearful admonishments, opened the user manual, and got down to teaching myself the basics.

Little by little, I managed to get the machine to wind some bobbin thread. I learned how to thread the machine, change stitches according to different needs, replace the needle, how to backstitch, turn corners, change the presser foot, troubleshoot, and many more little techniques I never knew went into sewing. ¬†One year later, I’ve made a couple of quilts, 3 fleece blankets, 70 flaxseed and lavender eye pillows (many of them with names embroidered on them), and three pairs of pajama pants. I even put pockets in the pair of pants I made for my husband, after he tried them on and told me he needed a pocket for his chapstick…

The perfectionist dovetails nicely with the inner critic, whom I discuss in this post, and who as you know likes to tell me repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, “Don’t even bother.” If I listened to those two, I would never attempt anything creative. Luckily, sometimes I manage to listen to the kid in me who wants to play again, who wants to dabble in this or that, to spend time doing things with my hands, making things. I’m so glad I listen to the voice that wants to make things, because making things¬†is fun.

These days I’m working on tote bags. The picture above shows the third one, and it’s about halfway done. ¬†This one is for my daughter. She saw the rainbow fabric at the store sometime last summer, and I couldn’t resist getting her some, because rainbows.¬†I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but you don’t need to have an idea of what you’re going to make in order to get pretty fabric, you just need to be able to appreciate the beauty of it, its colors, the texture, that’s enough.

I’ve really been enjoying making these reversible totes, and I’ve learned a lot in the process. The first tote I’ve nicknamed my “measure twice, cut¬†once” tote, because I screwed up on my measurements and had to dig out additional fabric to make the thing work. The second tote should be called my “patience is a virtue” tote, because dang did I ever have to get out the seam ripper multiple times because I hurried through the pocket stage and sewed them in wrong. I just wanted to get the thing done, got distracted, and paid for it by having to backtrack.

Wouldn’t you know every time I make a mistake–even a teeny tiny, little, itty bitty mistake–the perfectionist whines, and the critic lets loose with a cry of victory. This noise can be really distracting when I’m trying to get beyond the frustration I’m feeling and just fix the freakin’ mistake already. I honestly think one of the reasons I began sewing in the first place is so that I could see how making mistakes is not such a big deal after all. Somewhere deep down, I’m terribly afraid that the world will realize that I’m not perfect. It took me a while to get to that point, and it might take a while to train myself to be comfortable with the inevitable imperfection. It might be quite a long journey before I can embrace the humanness in me–the messy, up and down, success and failure, fun and not fun humanness in me. ¬†But I know there’s hope. Even in the face of my worst mistakes, when it looks like the perfectionist and critic might win and send me back into a black hole of no creativity, all out shut-down, giving up, hopeless, lonely place, something inevitably calls me back and whispers, “You can try again.”

I’m so glad I have yoga. So glad I’ve been exploring the idea of transcending duality. It sheds some light on this process of reclaiming my creative self. I get to observe my thoughts jumping all over the place, and remember that the witness self within is unchanging in the midst of this infinitely changing universe. I can feel the anger and irritation arising, and realize that I have a choice, that I don’t have to be the victim of my own reactivity. I don’t have to remain in the prison of my conditioned thinking. I can create something different, now, today. I can witness the sunset, and appreciate it, knowing that its beauty is temporary, but the self who knows how to appreciate is limitless.

So maybe I’ll call this third tote my “self-realization” tote.

Before I Get Too Tired

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It is 1:35pm, and I just got the kids in their rooms for “nap”– in quotes because napping isn’t really happening these days. It ends up being the kids playing by themselves in their rooms for an hour or two while I have one blessed moment to myself. A lot of the time I end up lying down and trying to catch some shut-eye, knowing that at any moment my daughter may interrupt my attempts to rest with breaking news of her latest toilet accomplishments. ¬†And then there’s the ceaseless chatter issuing from her bedroom. Her stuffed animals have been very noisy lately. They have involved, often heated, conversations with each other, and they have little regard for my profound need to rest. I’ve stopped fighting. I don’t tell the stuffed animals to be quiet. I just let them have their conversations and try to sleep in spite of the noise.

I find myself typing here, trying to get my post of the day over with, so that I won’t have to worry about it later when I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. There is resistance in me to what I’m attempting to do here, and it’s strong, and loud, and intimidating. It pushes against me, tells me sleep is better than this baloney I’m smearing across the screen. It again says, “Why bother?”

Well, because I can. And, because I want to. 

I talked yesterday about the anchor of procrastination and the inner critic monster that accompany me whenever I attempt to write, and how heavy they are.  Today I have a different visionРof my creative self sobbing silently, sitting on the floor of a dungeon, back up against the cold stone wall, arms wrapped around knees, body curled in a little ball, head hung low. Creative self has been here a long time. It has nearly given up hope of ever seeing the light of day.

But¬†lo, a candle flame appears at the end of the dank, dark hallway, and the someone carrying a candle is also carrying a key. Slow steps toward the prison door. Waiting, waiting. The face of the candle-bearer is cloaked in shadow–such a mystery–who has come to deliver this tired self from this awful place? The key turns softly in the lock, the door groans open on rusty hinges, a hand is extended to the prisoner who has waited so long.
Can my creative self get up and walk again, after so many moons of feeling bent and broken? At the moment of release, will the prison spring up again, so much bigger and deeper and darker than before? Trying to stand now, trying to take a step forward, learning to walk again, to leave this lonely place. Silently, the candle-bearer waits until the prisoner finds her legs and takes a few wobbly steps toward the door.

 

Many stair steps lead up to the light…each step takes great effort and the prisoner is feeling weak from hunger. She follows the candle flame, which appears dim and vulnerable in the encroaching blackness. One foot after the other, one by one by one…some day, some day I will be free.

Every time I show up to write a post, I reclaim a little bit more of the creative self that has been wasting away in my dungeon of procrastination, fear, and hopelessness.  I may find myself back in the dungeon after a brief moment out in the fresh air, but even so, the next time I may not wait so long to summon the one with the key, whoever that someone is.
Hmmm, who is this candle-bearer, and who is the despot that imprisoned me?