Project Reverb prompt: “FAIL | What just didn’t work out this year? Is that okay with you? Or are you going to try, try again?”
Taking on too much. All you’d have to do is walk into my office at home right now and you’d be able to see it, the chaos and the overwhelm. It doesn’t work out, but I keep doing it. I posted on Facebook yesterday that “I’m feeling like the Jenga tower must feel at that moment when no matter what piece the next player pulls, the whole thing is going to come down.”
I continue to aspire to pare down, lower the bar, simplify, but saying “no” to really good stuff is hard. Right now I am in an Intuitive Eating book group, getting daily emails from four holiday programs (all intended to bring calm, ease to the season), taking part in all three Reverbs, and I took on an extra three people to buy gifts for. Oh yeah, and I have a full time job.
I also failed taking care of my body this year. I haven’t fed it what it wanted, when it wanted. I haven’t given it the rest it needs but rather pushed it past its limits. I haven’t let it move the way it wants to. I was talking with my trainer yesterday, and clarified something for myself by saying it out loud to him — My body actually wants 2-3 hours of intentional movement a day. I’m one of those people who actually loves exercise, getting out and moving around. Even on a rest day, my body at least wants a walk. And yet, because I am so busy and tired, I can’t give it this. I push and then I struggle.
It all boils down to this: I haven’t been honoring my hunger or fullness, in any aspect of my life.
Reverb13 prompt: “What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly?”
The challenges that I’m aware of: Yoga teacher training, an ebook about self-compassion, a new (to us) dog, spending money more mindfully, resisting ecourses and new books, new responsibilities at CSU, continuing to practice intuitive eating, working with anxiety that keeps showing up, a crisis of confidence and an awareness that love is never safe.
How to meet them boldly? Show up, keep my heart open, be present, pace myself, soothe and comfort myself when I feel overwhelmed, practice self-compassion, honor my hunger and my fullness in all areas of my life.
Besottment Prompt: “10 things you were thankful for in 2013?”
Besides the 5-6 things I’ve listed each week in my Gratitude Friday lists,
- Eric — how could I do it, any of it, without him?
- Sam – he’s helped me through my grief twice now.
- Dexter’s easy death, the extra time we had with him.
- Friendship, love and connection, support and guidance.
- Self-compassion, for all those who’ve taught me and for the chance to practice.
- Kind and gentle readers.
- Intuitive eating.
- Smart phones – I was skeptical, but now I can’t imagine not having it.
- Financial stability, in a time when it seems so many are struggling.
- All the good things, all the amazing people and the brilliant stuff they create and do. I make a list every Monday and am always gobsmacked.
This picture is the last one I took at Lee Martinez Park, the place we walk almost every day, sometimes twice. On that morning, that walk, I had no idea that the next day would be the day Dexter died. I knew it was coming, we’d known for a year it was on its way, but on that particular morning it still felt unknown, uncertain, undetermined.
We haven’t been back to Lee Martinez since Thursday morning, the last time we walked there with Dexter, the walk we took knowing it would be our last. We’ve been to City Park, Big South Trail, and this morning we walked at Colorado State University, but we haven’t been back to “our park.” It still feels too hard, too sad.
We’ve managed other grief hurdles. Eric cleaned the living room floor yesterday. The raw wood in that room was covered with tiny spots where Dexter’s nose had dripped, (because of his cancer, he basically had a constant runny nose). I washed some of the blankets from his bed, along with his Little D baby, (I’d originally planned to have him cremated with Big D but in the end I couldn’t stand to lose them both). Eric brought home his ashes, and I put those on top of his mostly empty crate, along with his collar and a clay paw print.
When I’m able to, I’ll open the ashes and put some in the urns I have that contain Obi’s ashes (one is on my writing desk and another on my meditation shrine) — I left room for Dexter so they’d be together again, they loved each other so much.
I still haven’t been able to put clean sheets on our bed (the ones that are there were slept on by Dexter) and his toothbrush is still on the counter, and I’m still putting a tiny offering of food in his bowl every time I feed Sam. I know it’s silly, but I was devastated yesterday when I went out to do poop patrol in the backyard and couldn’t find any of Dexter’s. I was so sad that I’d never get to pick up anymore of his poop — that’s a crazy kind of love.
Eric has been dealing with his grief, in part, by cooking. Yesterday, he made three pies. We did a pie drive by to our friends’ house last night because even as much as I love pie, we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.
Jamie Ridler’s mom, who also had cancer, passed the day after Dexter. Jamie invited me a few weeks ago to do a guest post in honor of her mom, the prompt being something her mom had recently said, “It’s not about being tough, it’s about being tender.” I have so much to say about that, will be finishing up my post and sending it to sweet Jamie later today. These losses (something we all face as we live and love), this prompt, has me thinking about how important it is that we have confidence in our basic goodness, the essential wisdom and compassion and power that rests in each of us, that we practice self-compassion and keep our hearts open, knowing that life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.
In this audio recording, Pema Chödrön talks about basic goodness. She tells a story about burnt cookies and a fox that is such a great metaphor for how we can approach difficulty — we can allow ourselves to become hard, closed off, or we can stay open to reality, to be present for whatever might arise. Yes this means we will be vulnerable, we’ll get hurt, but we will also be amazed, healed.
My heart is broken right now. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But there is so much worth showing up for. Such as:
A chance to get away. We hadn’t wanted to do this when Dexter was still here, were worried about being too far away from a vet if something happened. But now, sometime soon, the three of us are going to rent a cabin in the mountains and spend some time together in the green and the quiet.
Pie. Especially the ones made by my person, who is as sad as me, who knows just how I feel, just what I’m missing, who will talk all day about what we’ve lost and never get tired of it, who wants to do whatever he can to make me feel better.
Friends, near and far, sending us love and light. So many have reached out to me, offering such kindness, making this heavy thing so much easier to hold.
The sweet animal bodies that are still here, that long for love and need care. It’s Sam’s turn to become my favorite, and when we are all ready, there will be another dog.
Laughter. Last night, on the way to our friends’ house to deliver the pie, Eric suggested that they expected this happy gift of pie, so it would be funny if when they opened the door, we gave them a pie in the face instead. It was such a ridiculous and awful idea we laughed the rest of the way to their house. It felt good.
Brilliant nature — blooms and fruit and animals and trees and landscapes and sky and deep water and weather.
Practice. Yoga, meditation, writing, and dog — this regular attention, showing up and being open to whatever arises, moving in ways old and new, creativity and discovery, is medicine.
Music. I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and am totally in love.
because nothing lasts forever
some things aren’t meant to be
but you’ll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free
I’m so sad, kind and gentle reader, but at the same time I am so in love with my little life, my heart so full of every last wonderful thing that sometimes it feels like it will explode.
1. Truth: My body carries a deep wisdom, if only I would listen. And, if I refuse to listen, it will get louder and louder until I can’t ignore it anymore. This became very clear to me this weekend. I spent Sunday morning first in Urgent Care and then the ER. I’d been having chest pains and my jaw hurt for a few days (my body’s gentle nudging that got louder) and I knew that something about it wasn’t right, that I hadn’t just pulled a muscle or something.
It turns out that the sack of fluid around my heart was inflamed — Pericarditis triggered by an infection I’ve been struggling with, (which I was also trying to ignore instead of attend to). It’s completely treatable (steroids and rest), workable, okay, and yet it’s taught me that I really have to trust myself (specifically my body), that I need to listen, to show up, be present, to honor the wisdom available to me. I knew something wasn’t right, my body was telling me in the gentlest but most insistent way, and even though it seemed at first like I might be overreacting, I needed to get help.
My body knows. It knows how much to sleep, how to move, what to eat. If something I eat or do doesn’t work, isn’t agreeable, my body gives me the exact information I need to consider a different choice next time. It is directly connected to reality, this moment, through five powerful senses. It is constantly collecting information and making adjustments — heart pumping and lungs breathing with no need of my intervention, my control, my opinion.
A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ~Pema Chödrön
2. Truth: I can trust myself, my physical body, my intuition, my hunger, my longing, my desire, my suffering, my dreams, my fundamental sanity, my innate wisdom and compassion and power, even my emotions and thoughts are allowable and of value. I don’t have to reject, run away, deny, or hide.
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~Pema Chödrön
3. Truth: I am so grateful there are people to help, to keep me company as I stumble my way through, poets and artists and healers and friends and family and soft animal bodies, all of us messy but brilliant, clinging to each other on a boat that is guaranteed to sink, making each other laugh and offering comfort even as we crash and burn. Every single person I encountered in my time in various medical units this weekend was so kind and wise, wanting to help me, to help, and in the aftermath, I’ve been offered so much love from the people I am lucky enough to know. I mean it, dear people, this life is fucking brilliant, we are, (I’ve had to stop typing this paragraph twice to cry — is this what “Roid Rage” feels like?).
One wish: That we can continue to ask ourselves, in each moment, the question shared by my dear friend, poet and teacher, the amazing Julia Fehrenbacher, in her ecourse Getting Naked: “what would love do?” (this question has the power to change everything — you, your life, the world), and the additional wish that we have the courage to live the answer.
I shared this wisdom from Pema Chödrön earlier this week, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I was thinking of it again this morning — when I felt gratitude on our walk that today Dexter is doing well, even though his cancer will eventually take him from us, and when I checked on my new strawberry plants to see how they are settling in and dreamed of the future sweetness of their berries. I was reminded how important it is to “finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” Today I am going to keep in mind that “each moment is just what it is,” and that “is-ness” is precious.
There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.
I got the most precious package in the mail yesterday. It got me thinking about how grateful I am for all the amazing women in my life. This morning as I was writing in my journal, I made a list of names. It took up two full pages, and I wasn’t even done–friends and teachers and artists, women who offer support, wisdom, inspiration, and encouragement.
I have a clear vision about where my life is headed, an “exit” plan that will make my paid work and my heart’s work one and the same. I aspire to make my living, my loving teaching ecourses and workshops and retreats and “face to face” courses, blogging and writing books, maybe also offering some kind of one-on-one creative coaching or therapeutic support. Writing and yoga and meditation would be at the center of these offerings, my core practices, with the intention of bringing women into relationship with their creativity, opening their hearts to what is and who they are, and helping them to develop trust and faith in their own basic goodness–their essential wisdom, kindness, and power.
I feel so lucky that I have support and such amazing role models. The books and blogs they write, the classes and workshops and retreats they offer, the art they make, the friendship they extend, their open and tender and brave hearts. I aspire to be like them, and in so doing be more deeply and authentically me.
Today I rest in honor of the essential kindness, wisdom, and power of all women. I offer my rest, my self-care, my gentleness, my joy, my mindfulness in gratitude to all those women who’ve shown me how to sink into myself, how I might love myself, and what I have to offer. They have collectively crafted a map to the center of my own heart, at the same time that they have urged me to trust myself, to make my own way.
I just got done watching this, Brene’ Brown with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. First of all, I am incredibly grateful that there is a live simulcast, and that later today the video will be available on demand. I had to miss Brene’ when she was on Katie, and was so bummed. We don’t have cable tv, and even if we did, we probably wouldn’t have OWN as part of our package, but I was able to turn on my tv and the computer hooked up to it, go to the website and watch with everyone else. It was so good, (I took five pages of notes!), I plan to show up again at noon. (P.S. It’s now available to watch online, on demand).
When the opening credits started, and Oprah was introducing Brene’, I cried. I know how much it meant to Brene’ to get to do this, and it made me so happy for her. I spent the next hour crying off and on for myself, because I was so grateful to get to see it. By the end, my heart felt sore it was so tender. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, kind and gentle reader, you know how much I adore Brene’ Brown, how much her work has changed my life.
I first encountered her work two years ago. A friend and I formed a “book couple” (with only two of us, we couldn’t really call it a club) and read Gifts of Imperfection. It made me see I had been in a long term abusive relationship–with myself–and helped me to understand the way out of it. I’ve had the opportunity to hear her talk multiple times about her work and research, her life and experience, most notably this past summer at The World Domination Summit, and also at The Power of Vulnerability, a two day workshop she held in Boulder this past May. I am currently working on finding funding to have her invited to speak at Colorado State University (CSU, where I do my paid work), with the hopes of creating a CSU Reads program leading up to her visit in which I can reread her books and talk about her work with my local community.
By showing up, opening her heart, sharing the truth (part research, part personal experience) about shame and vulnerability, daring greatly, and living a wholehearted life, Brene’ Brown is helping so many to discover the value of being brave, in being exactly who we are, in living a wholehearted life.
The wisdom I have been drawn to over the past six years (always?) is about opening your heart, keeping it open. In this episode of Super Soul Sunday, Oprah said her definition of spirituality is living with and having an open heart. Brene’ at one point said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we are hungry for,” and that if we want greater courage and greater clarity, vulnerability is the path. Brene’ shared that the word courage originated with the Latin “cour,” meaning heart, “sharing your whole story with your whole heart.”
Living with an open heart. Being wholehearted. Showing up and being seen, being vulnerable, open to what is as you are. Oprah said she viewed vulnerability as the “cornerstone of confidence.” It gives you the confidence to be yourself, confidence as Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”
Brene’ suggests in her interview with Oprah and in her books that vulnerability is the key to having meaningful human experience, that it is “terrifying and liberating,” and that “you can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”
This message is reinforced for me through my work with The Open Heart Project and Susan Piver. Susan says that “having an open heart can feel kind of dangerous, unsettling,” but she also suggests that Vulnerability Can Save the World and reminds us,
To feel, we have to open—our eyes, minds, hearts, senses—while putting aside what we expect/hope/fear we will find, otherwise the only communication we have will be with ourselves. To open, vulnerability is required… When we become vulnerable, we can feel. When we can feel, we can connect. When we can connect, our hearts open. When our hearts open, we cannot hate.
And if all that feels just too overwhelming for you today, watch this episode of Soul Pancake and rest in the knowledge that you are loved.