Reverb14: Day 12

reverb14withtextI always do more than one Reverb at a time, so there are sometimes prompts that repeat. It’s to be expected. However, this is the first time I’ve ever had a situation where the multiple prompts were the same on the same day.

Project Reverb prompt: “Write a letter to your future self, telling the future you about what you hope for you.”

Reverb14 prompt: “It all starts with kindness. Everything I have learnt, everyone I have interviewed, every word I have studied has guided me to this simple but profound conclusion: true happiness begins and ends with self-kindness. No more guilt. No more shoulds. No more comparison. And the very best way to give your weary soul some kindness at the end of this year? A love note. Write a letter from you to you… filled with forgiveness, love, and a big bear hug.”

Dear Sugar,

What I have to tell you is any one who knows you very well sees how hard you work, how determined you are to do good things, how depleted and exhausted you feel from pushing yourself so hard. What they might not know is the aggression that you direct inward to force yourself past your limits, the criticism that happens when you don’t meet your own expectations.

It’s time to forgive yourself — for waiting so long, for thinking you needed permission, for losing your sense of yourself, for not trusting your own intuition, for keeping quiet, for having to rediscover your voice, for saying yes or okay or that’s fine when you should have said hell no, for making yourself small, for not letting yourself feel what you feel, for abandoning yourself.

That is the past. You know better now. You had to live that, experience it, suffer it to fully understand it and find a way out so you could help others like you. You know from conversations with other women that your experience is actually quiet common, and there is a real need for guides, people who have made maps and can offer support.

The part you are just now recognizing is how important it is to care for your self, the ways in which you are embodied. Focusing on this is the next step — getting well so that what you offer is centered in sanity and health. And yet, don’t allow this to hold you back. You don’t have to wait. Offer who you are, including what you struggle with, what’s messy and uncomfortable, be an example.

Your future is so bright. It’s just as you’ve imagined and so much better. Don’t give up, but at the same time let go and allow yourself to surrender to it. Lower the bar, rest, take care of yourself, simplify, slow down, allow ease and you will find contentment but also your power. Don’t be afraid of yourself.

Love you.

Gratitude Friday

owlsunrise1. Getting to see the sun rise. This is good in the smaller sense of being up early enough to see it, how beautiful it is, but also in the larger sense of how lucky I am to be alive for another day, to be here with eyes that can see.

2. Sweet Sam. He turned five this week. We don’t really know when he was born, only when he was found roaming a tiny town in Wyoming with his brother. No one claimed him so he was sent to Fort Collins. We saw an ad his foster mom posted on Craigslist and picked him, adopted and brought him home. When he lost his first baby tooth, we counted back 16 weeks and gave him his birthday. He is so patient and sweet, but also so strong.

birthdaysam3. The end of Fall semester. Today is the last day of classes and next week is finals week. Even though I’m not teaching, there’s still a particular energy on campus this time of year — a mix of relief, exhaustion, and joy. People are giddy with the almost being done, the promise of a break.

4. All the cool stuff we see on our walks. Just the normal stuff — the trees and the river and the sky — is amazing, but then we get the added bonus of things like deer, wild turkeys, beaver, and the occasional fox or owl.

sunriseowl5. Christmas music. Not all of it. For example I had a doctor’s appointment last week and some of the stuff they were playing was awful. But there’s other Christmas music that’s so good I could listen to it all year, like Daniela Andrade‘s Christmas EP.

Bonus joy: the way you can call anyone at anytime if you have a cellphone with you, mashed potatoes the way Eric makes them, long hugs in the kitchen, cuddling with Sam, how cute Ringo is when he’s asleep or couching, good news when you’ve been worried and waiting.

Reverb14: Day 11

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “What small pleasures did you discover this year?”

Cooking while listening to a podcast. Listening to The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper while baking cookies, or Professor Blastoff while chopping kale for salad. I already knew the pure joy of listening to This American Life while balancing my checkbook and Creative Living with Jamie while folding and putting away the laundry, but this particular combination is new. The joy I’ve discovered in cooking, nourishing myself, both feeding and cherishing, is new.

Reading and taking naps. This isn’t a new discovery, but rather something I’ve rediscovered, started doing again.

Playing with Ringo. When he was still a baby baby, he needed watched and entertained constantly when he was awake and that could feel like a chore. He’s easier now, more relaxed, more content to just hang out, so when he gets rowdy and wants to play, I can find the fun in it again.

Cuddling with Sam. He didn’t used to really like it, and sometimes when he wanted to I was trying to sleep and his long legs and weight were just too much for me, but we’ve finally found our groove.

Hugging Eric in the kitchen. He spends a lot of time there, cooking or listening to the radio, reading or surfing the web on his phone. Leaned up against the counter he’s the perfect height for me to snuggle my head into his neck and rest there.  If he’s been cooking, it’s extra warm and smells good too. It feels so normal and calm and peaceful.

Eating what I want. I haven’t truly done that in years — had exactly what I wanted, what I was craving, enjoyed it without shame or guilt, without having to punish myself afterwards.

Writing letters. Real, old fashioned, by hand on stationary letters.

Watching movies. I used to do this a lot, but somehow got out of the habit, and have started to again lately. Eric and I just watched The One I Love and it was so good, I’m still thinking about it days later.

Reverb14 prompt: “What tiny rituals: signal that your day is starting; help you ease into a creative project; give you closure from an intensive task; or mark other significant milestones in your day? What new rituals would you like to create in the new year?”

My rituals to start my day, every day, are half a cup of coffee, a short meditation, setting my intention for my writing practice with a prayer, doing my writing practice, and ending with what’s known in Buddhist traditions as a “dedication of merit” (essentially making an offering of any good you generated during your practice so that it might benefit others). If I do yoga, that practice has the same beginning, a setting of intention, and ending, a dedication of merit.

I’m very bound by routine. I enjoy it, am comforted by it. It’s what works for me. However, most of my routine isn’t necessarily ritual. Sure, every time I get ready to walk my dogs, I get ready in the same way — change clothes, put on my coat and shoes, get my sunglasses, or glasses and a headlamp if it’s dark out, gloves and a hat if it’s extra cold; make sure I have my phone, house keys, dog treats, and poop bags; put leashes on the dogs; lock the door behind us and go. But that’s routine, not ritual, at least the way I think about it.

The only other ritual I have is simply to pause. To hold still and quiet in a particular moment, to mind the gap, to rest for a moment before moving forward, to notice where I’ve been and contemplate where I’m going. Part of the pause might be a long walk with my dogs or a nap or meditation or some form of divination. Sometimes after a long, big project, my ritual is to give myself a few days off before starting the next thing, staying in my pajamas, reading or watching tv or napping, resting.

A new ritual I’d like to create is to celebrate my accomplishments. I have a bad habit of rushing right past them into the next thing, and I’d like to cultivate more of a sense of wonder, spend just a little time marveling at what I’ve done, really honor my hard work. I don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I want to try.

Another new ritual I’d like to try is more intentional and regular self-care. And I don’t mean the normal stuff like taking a shower or flossing my teeth. I mean the special stuff like getting a massage once a month, but also simple things like using my favorite lotion every day or lighting candles when I meditate — allowing myself to be pampered. to experience pleasure rather than waiting until things are necessary and rushing through them like a chore.

Reverb14: Day 10

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “What decision did you make this year that was a leap of faith? Did it work out? Or not?”

Getting another dog. We lost our first two dogs to cancer, too young and with not much time in between to heal. We got Sam four months after we lost our Obi, and when Sam was only three years old, Dexter was diagnosed. Again with Dexter it was the same as with Obi: a type of cancer that was incurable so from the moment of diagnosis we knew we were going to lose him. In the last year of Dexter’s life, Sam was sick with a mysterious condition that only got worse after Dexter died. No one, not even specialists, could figure it out. It got so bad, we thought we would lose him too. This was the moment in which we found ourselves considering another dog.

It was a difficult decision. We didn’t know if we could do it anymore, love them so much only to get our hearts broken. Take such good care of them only to have them get sick. Should we focus our energy and attention solely on Sam because we might lose him, or get another dog because we might lose him? It really came down to one thing: do we get another dog or is Sam the last dog we’ll ever have? Even though it had been so hard, neither one of us was ready to give up dogs altogether.

This time was different. We rescued all three of our other dogs, but this time we got a dog born on purpose. There were all kinds of reasons, and it was a hard choice to make, especially for me, but it was so clearly the right thing to do. It’s been really hard, so much work, but did it work out? Absolutely.


Reverb14 prompt: “I am not going to lie, I often dread the holidays because I grew with the holidays laden with heavy expectations of giving. The gifts wrapped in bright colored paper sitting under a tree sparkling with multi colored light were tied tight with invisible cords of what I was suppose to be or do that made it almost impossible to enjoy the gifts.

Now as an adult I strive understand there is a difference between generosity and giving. Generosity is free of obligations; it opens the heart, and creates warmth and connection between the giver and receiver. When I cultivate generosity the holidays become something I look forward to sharing with my loved ones.

Look back at the last year and consider: how did generosity open your heart? How can you cultivate generosity in the coming year?”

Generosity is one of my super powers. In that way, generosity allows me to be most myself, honest and true. Cultivating generosity this past year has meant saying no more than yes. The ability to practice generosity needed space and energy. There was so much I wanted to do, to offer, but I had to be careful, selective. At the heart of my generosity this year was the realization that I only had so much to give, that I sometimes push myself and give too much. I continue to untangle my urge to be generous from my need to be loved, accepted, worthy.

In the coming year, I hope to continue to make wise choices, to not fall into the trap of giving for the wrong reasons, to not be driven by poverty mentality or idiot compassion. I hope in this next year to engage others at the intersection of what I have to offer and what is needed, win/win, to bring some ease to the interaction, to focus on generosity as a natural and spontaneous experience that “creates warmth and connection between the giver and receiver.”

Reverb14: Day 9

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “It has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others. How did you take care of yourself in 2014? How will you take care of yourself in 2015?”

The ways I took care of myself in 2014: I stopped starving myself, stopped dieting and restricting, and stopped weighing myself, all in an effort to stop hating my body, to quit trying to force it to look and move and behave the way other people wanted, expected. I continued therapy for my disordered eating, which is never just about the food. I risked making other people uncomfortable by being myself. I gave away less — less money, less time, less effort, less worry, less attention, less of myself. I was a little bit better about resting, allowing myself down time, not expecting so much of myself. I trained to be a yoga teacher and I was not a perfect student. I “lowered the bar” in all the ways I could find to do so. I asked for help. I rejected external expectations and judgments. I tried to let go of my agenda whenever I could. I let myself cry and fall apart, but I didn’t move in and live there. I studied and practiced. I said yes. I said no. I took vows. I said I was sorry. I stopped apologizing for myself. I ate what I wanted, wore what I wanted, did what I wanted. I made room for myself, created space. I showered. I flossed. I drank lots of water. I took supplements. I read more books and took more naps. I explained exactly what I needed to feel loved.

The ways I’ll take care of myself in 2015: I will continue to discover and practice what it means to be truly healthy and well, even when it goes against the expectation of others. I will be my own expert, guru, healer. I will seek help and support when and where I need it. I will move the way I want to move, the way that brings me joy and makes me feel good. I will continue to forgive myself. I will be gentle and generous. I will listen deeply. I will keep my heart open. I will be my own soft place to land. I will feel what I feel but not feed it. I will feed my true hungers. I won’t abandon myself.

Reverb14 prompt: “As you enter into the new year, what would you like to do/make/have/be more often? How will you bear witness and celebrate the tiny milestones? How will you respond on the occasions when your intentions do not come to pass?”

More: reading, rest, naps, ease, courage, openness, wisdom, kindness, laughter, cooking, hiking, love, publishing, teaching, connection.

The best way I can bear witness and celebrate: to pause. To take a moment to be fully present and still, to not move forward until I have fully noticed and honored my experience.

I will respond with gentleness and forgiveness when my intentions don’t manifest, when things don’t go how I imagined or planned or expected. I will let go, drop my agenda, surrender my expectations with an understanding that sometimes Life knows the way better than I do.

Reverb14: Day 8

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Who was your hero this year? Tell us why. What makes a hero in your eyes?”

My hero this year was ME. What I was able to accomplish and withstand this year (the past few years really) is pretty amazing. I was my own champion, protector, advocate, defender, guardian, angel.

When I first read this prompt, that’s the answer that immediately arose, but I laughed and kept looking. I thought, “how arrogant would it be to answer I’d been my own hero?” and kept contemplating the prompt. I was thinking about people who have supported me in the past few years, and Rachel Cole and the book club I did with her came to mind, so I checked my calendar, unable to remember if that was this year or last. That led to looking at my schedule, seeing all the things I’d done in the past year, specifically yoga teacher training and getting a new puppy and trying to figure out what was wrong with Sam, along with everything else that I do, all the other difficulties.

I carried myself through this year. I provided support, made sure I had the help I needed, was my own soft place to land. Sure there were lots of people who helped and loved me, but I was always there, through it all, ready to do whatever was necessary — I never abandoned myself.

Reverb14 prompt: “The hectic pace of our lives can make it difficult to remain connected to the things and the people that matter the most to us. We get wrapped up in our work or our busyness and connection falls by the wayside. How have you created and/or sustained connections in your life this year?”

I have regular dates with friends. I make sure to spend the time face to face. I’m very selective about who these people are, and I am uplifted by our time together. They are smart and funny and kind. However, as an HSP introvert who is very busy, I don’t have the space or energy to give this to very many people. And yet, I have many other relationships that are very real which I sustain through technology both old and new — letters, phone calls, texts, emails, Skype, social media. These connections are a different flavor, but just as real — for example, my connection to a sangha through the Open Heart Project.

With my tiny family, I make sure my evenings and weekends are typically free so we can spend that time together. I’ve also had to learn to sustain a connection to those I’ve lost or see very rarely, and that has taught me that even if you never see them again, the relationship and the love remains as long as you remember, as long as you keep a place in your heart for them. Things like metta practice and prayer, simply taking a moment to think about someone and send them love maintains a connection.

Something Good

Every year, just after Thanksgiving, someone sneaks into the park where we walk our dogs and decorates three trees that stand next to the trail. This is the Charlie Brown one.

Every year, just after Thanksgiving, someone sneaks into the park where we walk our dogs and decorates three trees that stand next to the trail. This is the little Charlie Brown one.

1. Creative Living with Jamie has been named one of the Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepeneurs by Entrepreneur magazine! It’s really good. One of my favorite moments from the past year is when she interviewed me.

2. “It’s not about “giving up” control…”, wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke.

3. Good stuff from Bored Panda: I Draw Pet Illustrations Based On Their Personalities, and This 5-Year-Old Girl Sneaked A Baby Cow Into Her Home To Cuddle With It, and 24+ Beautiful Ice And Snow Formations That Look Like Art.

4. True Stories Series: Maya Stein on 27 Powers.

5. Dear Woman on the Cusp from Rachel Cole. Her new offering, Feast, is so perfect for me that it feels like she created it just for me, but luckily for you, you can come along too if you’d like.

6. Life Was Perfect When Her Son Was Born. 14 Weeks Later, Everything Changed, on the importance of gratitude.

7. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook. And also from Liz, Karaoke wisdom.

8. Truthbomb #680 from Danielle LaPorte, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

9. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

We ache and bleed and suffer when we wish things were different than they are…and we don’t even realize that the thing that is really keeping us from healing is that we are simply not accepting things as they are, but we are still wishing things had happened differently, or not happened at all.

And this,

You will come across things in your life that just feel wrong, things that make you feel heavy or confused or wobbly or sideways. Something deep inside you will feel unsettled and you will know that you want to move away from that thing or that situation or even that person … Be willing to walk away from things that feel wrong.

10. A Note from the Universe, (I want to believe this so badly…)

Jill, if, way down deep, you can even slightly comprehend that time is an illusion and that space is just a stage, then it shouldn’t take much of a leap to realize how safe you are, how much magic there is, and most importantly, that there must exist a super-consciousness with wishes and dreams all its own, that include you.

11. Wisdom from Geneen Roth:

Ask yourself if what you are telling yourself is true. Is it true that your body is ugly? Don’t answer so fast! (I heard you!) Ask yourself to what and whom you are comparing yourself? To a younger version of yourself? To a 20-year-old or an actress who works out three hours a day? Your body is the piece of the universe you’ve been given, the place where love and joy and grief happen, where happiness unfolds. Do you really want to keep believing that it’s a horrible, ugly, lumpy thing? Do you really want to keep punching yourself like that? (Call me psychic, but I have a feeling that the answer is no.)

When you stop telling yourself stories about your body, about your eating, about your life, you stop having to eat to fix how awful you feel because you stop feeling awful. Then and only then can you actually figure out what is really true. What you really want. What you really feel. What you really believe.

Ask yourself what would happen if you stopped the incessant chatter about how lumpy or stretchy or ugly your body is. What would happen if, instead, you thanked your body for taking you this far. For schlepping packages and bearing children and making love. Then listen to it carefully to see what it needs.

12. The myth of finding your purpose, from Kris Carr. It’s an older post but one of the most important, still.

13. 50 Lessons From A Decade of Blogging from Leonie Dawson.

14. Let’s make some magic in 2015! Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead 2015 workbook (FREE), one of the practices I gift myself during this busy time of year. She’s also offering a FREE 5-day email class to help you figure out your word for 2015, Find Your Word.

15. This Blog is Going to Embarrass my Husband.

16. 5 Tips For Being An Ally from Chescaleigh.

17. The Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision and We Can’t Breathe from The Daily Show.

18. Wisdom from Ethan Nichtern,

It was wonderful to be among many thousands at the rally last night, even under such brutal and tragic circumstance. Right now it feels like my practice is all about awareness: increasing my own awareness of the people in this world who I habitually ignore or fail to see. We each have massive blind spots, and the first step in transformation is accepting that we live in a world where so many people remain unseen and unheard, and simply developing the courage to look. May all people feel seen, heard, and valued.

19. Anne Lamott discusses grief and forgiveness in Small Victories on Booktrib.

20. this was a good week? from Chookooloonks.

21. Little Humans Reading Little Humans.

21. Pine Ridge Holiday Project. “There is still time to provide a little holiday cheer to the people of Pine Ridge. We have plenty of names of elementary and junior high aged children. You can also send donations for firewood to be delivered to families and elders to help keep them warm and toasty. Please email and let me know if you prefer to provide simple gifts for children or if you would like to make a donation for firewood. Thank you for your kindness and generosity! Chris and Julie.”

22. In related news: “Please consider donating $110.00 for a cord of fire wood for a family on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It is already freezing up there. A small group of Lakota gentlemen cut, deliver and stack the wood…so this provides income for the wood cutters as well as warmth for a family. Here is the link to Village Earth to donate firewood (tax deductible).”

23. 10 Habits of Happy, Healthy Couples from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

24. How to Change Your Life in Just 2 Minutes a Day: 10 Quick Habits from the Positivity Blog.

25. 5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays from Zen Habits. Why limit it to the holidays? We should be asking ourselves these questions all year, the rest of our lives.

26. The Last 5 Most Frustrating Things about Simplicity from Be More with Less.

27. Good stuff from Austin Kleon: Most Questions Can Be Boiled Down To (this brilliant image is from this post), and Interview with Reading Lives, and Video of my Show Your Work! chalktalk, and a link he shared to this amazing quote, Murdering A Book.

28. Six Causes of Procrastination And How to Overcome Them on Life is Limitless.

29. Shared on Positively Present Picks: 36 Prompts to Help You Plan an Awesome 2015.

30. A Lesbian Takes Her Niece To Meet A Princess, Is Mistaken For Her Dad, And…, another great TEDX Boulder talk from Ash Beckham.

31. Why Fat-Shaming By Doctors Really, Really Matters from xojane. Reading through the tweets tagged #diagnosisfat makes me so angry, so sad.

32. This Toddler’s Killer Dubstep Dance Moves Will Even Blow Skrillex Away. I am so in love with this little guy.

33. What’s next?, a set of really great prompts from Seth Godin.