Monthly Archives: September 2011

And me, I have no idea.

I am so lucky to be alive at the same moment in time as so many amazing and talented and loving and giving women.  Danielle is one of them.

I am not writing these things to be difficult,
I am just trying to find what I’m searching for.
I am not writing these things to be difficult,
I am just giving them up as an offering.

Chakrasana: Wheel Pose

One of my current favorite yoga poses is chakrasana, or wheel pose, sometimes also called upward or raised bow pose.

If I am feeling depressed, I can go into this pose and find relief. This pose causes an opening, a stretch, a clearing of space in my solar plexis, the spot above my belly button, but below my heart, or what’s known as the manipura chakra, our power center. The psychological functions associated with this chakra are personal power, will, knowledge, wit, laughter, mental clarity, humor, optimism, self-control, curiosity, and awareness; the emotions are purpose and sunshine, (http://www.chakraenergy.com/chart.html).

I was told once by a writing teacher that this is the spot where you find truth, somewhere between your heart and your stomach.  I find that this is the place where I can tap into my intuition.  In my Mondo Beyondo class, we were asked to consider a time when we listened to this wisdom and it “totally paid off.”

Now.  Right now.  And here.  It was intuition, the flutter of butterflies in my stomach so powerful it lifted me on to my toes, that brought me right into this very moment.

I stand firmly planted on my two bare feet.  My yoga mat has a hole in it, but don’t think it’s because I am sloppy or don’t take care of my things.  My dog Obi, who I lost to cancer almost two years ago, chewed this hole in my yoga mat when he was just a puppy, before he understood what the mat meant.  He’d later learn that it meant time to curl up and watch, or to join in with a few downward dogs of his own.  But at that earlier moment, it just looked like a big purple chew toy.

Yoga Feet

I listened to my intuition about my yoga practice.  One day, I was the only one who showed up for my Monday morning, 6:30 a.m. class, so I got a private session with Niight Wind.  I had been practicing yoga for almost four years at the time, but when Niight asked me to set an intention at the beginning of class, and “be here, be brave” floated up from that spot in my solar plexis, my whole yoga practice changed.  I am here, and I am learning to love myself because I listened to my own intention, and because a wonderful teacher invited me, opened up the space and offered her support.

I listened to my intuition when I made decisions on Obi’s behalf in terms of his cancer treatment: to try chemo, to stop chemo, and ultimately to let him go.  I would stare into his big brown eyes, and listen to that center of truth in my own body, and I would do what I knew was right, even as it broke my heart into a million tiny pieces.
Brown Eyes

I listened to my intuition over the past nine months when I joined an Artist’s Way Group, signed up for a series of Creative Non-Fiction Writing workshops, formed a writing group, read “Gifts of Imperfection,” read Superhero Journal and Jen Lemen’s blog and zenhabits.net and “The Art of Non-Conformity” and Everyday Bright, bought a ticket to the World Domination Summit, signed up for Mondo Beyondo and Superhero Photo classes, signed up for the Ordinary Courage class, started a blog, started writing and wishing and dreaming and daring to believe I might be worth it.

My own two feet

My own two feet

I listened to my intuition and offered the ideas, shared the kind word, felt the fear and did it anyway.

  • Be here, now.  Be brave.

It’s okay. Cheer up. You’re perfect.

Recently, as a small part of my big effort to grow my life, dream it big, to ask for what I want and see what happens, I signed up for a newsletter from Everyday BrightJennifer Gresham is a career change counselor extraordinaire, utterly generous with her advice.  As part of a subscription to her newsletter, readers get “The Everyday Courage Email Challenge Series – 8 challenges over 8 weeks to boost your confidence and success.”  This week’s challenge was to ask for help.  Last night, a friend of mine did just that, posted a status update on Facebook that said “Tell me something happy, please.”  I do this all the time with my husband as well, asking him to “tell me something good.”

Asking for help, for cheering up or encouragement, probably seems easy to some of you, no challenge there.  As a people pleaser, perfectionist, self-hater in recovery, it is difficult for me.  I am quick to offer help.  In fact, I love nothing more than being able to help.  This is what gives my life meaning, it’s what makes it matter, what makes me matter—and that’s exactly where it can go dangerously off course, spin out of control.  If I am good enough, I will earn the right to happiness, I will earn love.  I think I have to be good enough first, fix what is broken about myself, rather than believing that I am loveable, I am enough, I am good—just as I am.

I am too attached to being liked, needing to please and take care of others before I do the same for myself, putting myself last and sometimes not even getting around to me.  I also think I need to be perfect, because that’s a good way to be liked and cared for and appreciated.  I watch people very closely, feel what they are feeling (actually, as someone who is intuitive and feeling, an INFJ, I can’t help this, couldn’t stop even if I wanted to), and judge from that what they need from me without them even asking.  What do I need to do to make them happy?  Make them love me? I try to get the combination right so that the response is attention and affection, and I punish myself, blame myself when it doesn’t work.

Free ebook from Jen

This awareness of how hard I make it for myself inspires how I treat other people.  I assume that they don’t need my criticism, don’t need me to point out their mistakes, don’t need me to point it out when they fail, that they are most likely doing enough of that for themselves and what they need from me is encouragement.  They need to know that no matter what, they are loved, and that even if no one is okay, everyone is fine.  They need to know that we all are simply doing the best that we can, and when we know better and can do better, we will.  In the meantime, we are here to support each other, to make each other laugh in the face of IT–the thing with the big teeth that lives in the dark.

In my Mondo Beyondo class, we were given a secret mission this week: write out an affirmation and leave it somewhere for someone to find.  This is not a new idea to me, in fact, I do it quite often.  Just last week, I was leaving work, and a good friend’s car was parked right next to mine.  CSU is a large campus, with 26,000+ students and about 5000+ employees, so it’s a surprise that you would end up parked right next to someone you knew well enough to recognize their car.  I couldn’t pass up the chance.  I found some paper in my car and left a note on her windshield.

Another time not long ago, walking down the hall in my building at CSU, I saw a folded piece of paper on one of the tables.  There was writing on it.  As a fan of Found Magazine, I can no longer simply walk by when I see such a thing.  I picked it up, took it with me into the bathroom and unfolded it.

This person had used a black gel ink pen and the writing was slightly messy, hard to read and smudged in a few places.  Both sides were completely full of horrible statements the author made about themselves—what a phony I am, what a terrible writer, what a terrible partner to my spouse, what a terrible parent.  There were enough personal details that the author’s identity was clear to me.  It made me so sad, to think that this person felt this way. Even if it was just one of those things you wrote to vent, to make yourself feel better by getting it out, something where you blew everything up beyond it’s real size, where you presented your life and yourself in the worst possible light—how sad that we do that to ourselves, even if it’s just for a moment.

I decided that somehow this letter, this two page self-hating diatribe, needed to be returned to the author, but there needed to be the additional message that everything was okay.  I found a picture; I think it had maybe been a post card sent to Post Secret at one point, of a beautiful blue lake with a snow covered mountain range rising up behind it, and a blue sky that was impossibly both daytime sunny and night time stars.  Across the center, neon letters spelled out “Everything Is Going To Be Alright.” I printed the picture, glued it onto some heavy card stock, and placed that and the letter in an envelope, wrote the person’s initials on the front and put it in their mailbox.

I hope they found it, were happy to have it back if they’d worried about what had happened to it, feel like someone heard what they had to say, as ugly and bad as it was, and still felt moved to respond that everything is okay.  There isn’t any need to beat yourself up.  All of what you said can be absolutely true, and it’s still all okay.

We all need a little encouragement from time to time, and some of us need it more often than others.

It’s okay. Cheer up. You’re perfect.

  • What secret missions of hope and help have you completed? What are some ideas for offering help and love that we could try? What can you do to encourage someone today?  What help do you need and who will you ask?

Small Things

If you haven’t read any of Mary Oliver’s work, or even if you think you don’t particularly like poetry, I highly recommend her to you.  If you read one of her poems and are not moved, well okay then, I was wrong.  I don’t mind being wrong. Not everyone can love what I love, or see what I see. But just this once, I might be right.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

To share Mary Oliver with you, to either introduce you or remind you, is a small thing.  Or is it?
bee
I was writing the other day about doing “great work,” and used what Operation Smile does as an example.  But that’s not the whole story.  You don’t have to do something technically difficult that not many people know how to do, or make a grand gesture, spend a lot of money or time, cause a stir, be a big deal or make a big fuss or raise a stink–you can make a difference by doing the small things.

Leave a note on someone’s windshield, or in their mailbox or lunchbox, or tie it to a tree branch in the local park, or tuck it into a book at the library.

If you are headed into a grocery store and plan to use a cart anyway, and you see that someone is just about done with theirs, and they’ll have to take it back or abandon it, ask them if you can take it for them.

Hold the door open for someone.  Let someone cut in line.  Give someone a sincere compliment.  Really listen when someone is talking to you, look them right in the eye.  Talk to a stranger, (you may be the only one that did all day). Pet your dog. Tell someone that you love them. Express your gratitude. Encourage someone. Instead of complaining, do a chore with love and attention. When you eat, feel gratitude for all the people and the planet that worked to get you that meal. Be kind to someone who doesn’t deserve it. If someone, almost in passing, tells you about something they really want, and you can make it happen for them–make it happen.

Share all the good things.  Smile.  Don’t be a jerk.  These are really small things, but they make a huge difference.

And please don’t forget, you should be doing nice things for yourself too.  Honor yourself, rest when you need to, stop adding so many things to your to-do list, do the little stuff that will restore you: listen to your favorite song, take a nap, skip yoga and go on a date with your husband instead, take a walk, stretch, take a deep breath, stop apologizing for being who you are, ask for what you need, say “yes” when someone offers to help.  Tell yourself you are loved, thank your body for carrying you around, be grateful that you showed up, that you keep showing up.  Here’s a list of a few more things you might do for yourself, from the amazing Rachel W. Cole.

  • What are the small things you do? What small thing could you do RIGHT NOW, for yourself or someone else? If you need help thinking of something, there’s a whole website devoted to the subject: “Do One Nice Thing.”

Update: In my mailbox this morning was this quote from Mother Teresa: I don’t do great things. I do small things with great love.”

Another update: Even more ideas for small things you can do, from Operation Nice.

A Friendly Reminder

Aspen“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

—-from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.

What I Know by Heart

When I was thinking about what to write about this morning, as usual, I had 47 ideas, all of them equally interesting to me.  There is so much I want to share, to talk with you about.

Horse or Dog?

Horse or Dog?

Like the post on Brave Girls Club, “We Must See Past What it Seems,” and how important it is to give ourselves and each other a break.  All of us are doing the best that we can, and things aren’t always as they seem.  The person at work that seems so irritating and rude to you may have a father who is dying, or have an alcoholic sister-in-law whose suffering is tearing apart the whole family.  Or maybe that person is just lost and confused and afraid, and in their desire to avoid pain they are lashing out at anything that moves.  Maybe that person is you.

Or the article that Anne Lamott wrote for Sunset Magazine, “Finding Time,” and how it made me think about what I might be doing in my life that is wasting time, what there is that I could let go.  Almost seven years ago, I gave up cable tv in the quest for more time.  I live 1200 miles away from most of my family, so those visits and that contact are careful and compressed. I don’t have kids, although I do have two needy dogs and a boy that gets lonely sometimes. I have a core group of friends in my life, but the time I spend with them is focused and far between.  I work, a lot, so on the weekends, I don’t make many plans, and I try to keep my evenings during the week free.  But I’m sure there is more I could do, more moments, more minutes to be discovered. Even though Anne warns “I think this is going to hurt,” it’s worth considering.

VoxOr about the few times this week that I was afraid, but did it anyway.  I climbed up the long ladder (20-25 feet?) into my friend’s tree house.  I’m not so much afraid of heights as afraid of the dizziness it triggers, that the feeling might cause me to fall.  I am nervous around people I don’t know, but I talked to a man in a cape, a stranger to me but a Superhero for the environment.  I shared the link to my blog.  I had dreams and made wishes that, if they come true, will be as amazing as they are terrifying, but I made them anyway.  I told the truth and was vulnerable and opened my heart, even though there were some people I knew would be irritated or think I was weird.

But then I thought, instead of writing about those things, I’d write about some of the things I learned about myself in the last 24 hours:

What I Know by Heart:According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am a INFJ: Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging.  Apparently, in the book “What’s Your Type of Career?: Unlock the Secrets of Your Personality to Find Your Perfect Career Path,” author Donna Dunning calls this personality type the “Compassionate Visionary.”  Oh my!  I am so in love with that…When I look up some of the careers I am suited for, I have to smile: therapist or counselor, coach or mentor, social worker, human resource specialist, mediator or conflict resolver, holistic health practitioner, teacher, writer, editor, actor, artist, and minister.  I smiled because just this past week, I had made a visual representation of the direction I felt my work taking, (see the above).

What I Know by Heart: The reason I have been having so much trouble showering first thing in the morning, making myself do a bunch of chores and busywork instead, is because I have too long associated it with leaving the house, specifically to go to work. I was resisting this idea, the work, to the point of not being able to appropriately care for myself. I’m going to try and be better about that.

What I Know by Heart: Part of the trouble I am having keeping up a regular meditation practice is that I have Obi’s ashes and his picture on my shrine. Today, when I sat, I was thinking about Obi, and about the email I just got this morning from the Brave Girl’s Club (“your daily truth from the brave girls club,” you should totally sign up for itBrave Girls Club) that said “it’s okay to feel a bit of a hole in our hearts where loved things used to be,” and I lost it. Sobbing for a dog and a girl, both lost to cancer and both gone for more than a year, a hurt that is still sitting heavy on my chest, one that I am avoiding, that I need to sit with, every day until I am able to let it go.

What I Know by Heart: I have really great friends. The support and love that they give me, the inspiration they provide makes all of this so much easier, and so much more fun. Love you. Love, Me. (You know who you are.)

What I Know by Heart: I require a lot of time alone. It’s not that I don’t like people or being out in public, it’s just that I am so sensitive to all of it that I have to take the time to restore and recharge–by myself. This morning, Eric took the boys running at Lory State Park, and the time alone in the quiet to scribble, putter, read, and think was just the thing.  I need to honor that.

  • What do you know by heart?

Make Somebody Smile

I saw this video last night, and it brought me to tears.  You have to watch it. Go ahead, watch it.  It’s okay. I’ll wait.

Can you imagine what it would be like to do the kind of work that made people feel like that? To do work that made that big of a difference in a life, in the world?  I can, but I’m not doing it right now, or at least I haven’t been.

I’m not blaming my employer or my husband or my gender or my environment or my culture, (well, maybe my culture needs to take a tiny bit of the blame), for holding me back. Really, it’s been me all along. I got caught up in a trap of fear and doubt and doing what I thought would make people like me and accept me. I wanted to be comfortable and safe, so I did what I thought would get me there, allow me to stay there. As Brene’ Brown explains so well in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” some of us get stuck in self-hate, get stuck making choices based on a need to please, perform, and be perfect.

But there is another option. Doing something like the Operation Smile people who made the little girl above so happy, doing the kind of thing that Michael Bungay Stanier calls “great work.”

I am not going to do bad work anymore, and I’m not going to stay stuck in the rut of good work either.  I am going to stop waiting for that one great project to fall out of the sky into my lap, (or to hit me on the head). I am going to stop waiting for my Fairy Godmother to magically make over my life or a rich benefactor to give me special funding or permission.  I am going to stop allowing my fear to paralyze me.  I am going to stop listening to that mean, nasty, little voice that tells me I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not creative enough, not enough.

I am going to breath deep and open my heart.  I am going to be afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.  I am going to make wishes and dream big dreams and I am going to believe in them, believe in me. I am going to do great work.

I am going to make someone smile like that.

  • What great work do you want to do?  When was the last time you made someone smile?  What is stopping you?  What are you waiting for?