Monthly Archives: October 2011

Something Good.

If you are at all like me, on a Monday you can use all the extra goodness you can get. So, here’s this weeks list.

  • My new favorite drink: I modified the recipe for a Perro Salado (Tequila Salty Dog), and now it is my drink of choice, without the tequila and salt most of the time, and a lot more juice than the original recipe calls for. I am drinking a virgin version right now.  Doesn’t it look refreshing?

Here it is if you want to try it:

  • Ira Glass: as I mentioned yesterday, a friend and I went to see Ira Glass. “Reinventing Radio” was the name of his show, and I had seen it a few years ago in Boulder.  My favorite part of the show, besides when he makes a balloon animal or cracks a joke, is his explanation of how to tell a story: there has to be narrative momentum (this happened, and then this, and this), a pleasing surprise, and a moment in which the universal meaning or message of the story is revealed.  He talked last night about how he thought for a lot of years that he’d invented this structure, worked for eight years to figure it out and understand it, only to realize that it’s the standard structure for a sermon, and was already old when Jesus did it.

Photo by Jeremy M Farmer

Here are a series of videos where Ira talks more about storytelling.

  • This American Life: This is the show that Ira hosts and produces.  It isn’t just something good, it’s one of my favorite things.  You know how safe and happy you felt when your parents read you a story at bedtime? (Okay, maybe that’s just me, and if you don’t have that memory, I am so sorry, because it really can be one of the best things in life.)  That’s exactly how I feel listening to this radio show.  It’s so comforting, safe, interesting, funny, smart, kind, and good.  I listen to old episodes when I am wrapping Christmas presents every year or when I am balancing the checkbook and paying bills, I listen to the new show every Sunday, or as a podcast later in the week if I have missed it. If you have never heard it, you can go to the This American Life website and find archived broadcasts.
  • In a video I mentioned the other day, Brene’ Brown talked with Jennifer Louden and said that if she had known the TED Talk she did in Houston would be selected to be on the front page of the TED site, be a featured video, she never would have talked about her breakdown spiritual awakening or “all that other stuff.”  She was vulnerable because she didn’t realize how important it was going to be, how many people would actually see it, and look at what happened–because she was able to be brave and vulnerable, she’s been able to help so many more people, me being one of them.

  • And finally, just for giggles and since I am not dressing up this Halloween, here’s me a few years ago, and another of me from many years ago.  I have to say, I don’t think I’ve really changed all that much.

  • Your turn: tell me something good.

Shadow Comforts and Time Monsters

I mentioned yesterday that I had watched “Wise Person Call with Brene Brown,” a video of Jennifer Louden talking with Brene’ Brown.  In it, they talked about Shadow Comforts and Time Monsters, who, from the sounds of it, are the younger siblings of these two:

Picture by Cubby

Jennifer Louden wrote her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, when she was 25. “I had no idea how to take care of myself. I wrote the book to discover how – and as I learned about self-care and self-nurturing, I realized how much of the time I comforted myself in ways that actually made me feel worse…I discovered that healthy comfort and shadow comfort are different in how they make you feel. More alive, more centered, more you? Healthy comfort. Dull, self-hating, anxious? Shadow comfort,” (from an interview with Jennifer on Marianne Elliott’s website).

In her published books, she describes shadow comfort this way:

  • A shadow comfort is anything that masquerades as a cherishing self-care technique but in fact drains your energy”
  • Shadow comforts are encumbrances like eating too many sweets, watching too much TV, shopping for things we don’t need, surfing the Internet for hours, reading too much — numbing out. Another word for these behaviors is soft addictions or buffers [or counterfeit comforts],” and “Shadow comfort doesn’t nourish you, it diminishes you. It’s what many people think of when they think of comfort. They are actually punishing themselves instead of nourishing their souls.”

In my attempt to learn self-care, this is an important distinction.  When I was looking up more definitions for it, looking into it further, I found an old article by Jennifer Louden in which she provided an exercise to help you identify your shadow comforts.  In a continued effort to be brave and vulnerable, to be public and accountable, and thereby hopefully some kind of inspiration to someone else wanting to do the same, and as a way to help you understand shadow comforts if the concept still doesn’t make sense, here are my responses to the exercise.

1. List your favorite shadow comforts.

  • EATING, and eating, and eating.
  • Feeling sorry for myself, depression, worry and anxiety.
  • Sleep.
  • Illness.
  • Mindless TV watching, internet surfing.
  • Mindless chores, busywork.
  • Doing for others, taking care of them.
  • Working out.
  • Shame, blame and anger.
  • Smashing myself to bits.
  • Shopping online, buying books or signing up for classes.
  • Alcohol, sugar.
  • Procrastination and avoidance.

2. What are four or five situations or feelings that trigger a shadow comfort response in me?

  • My job.
  • Family problems that I feel helpless to fix.
  • Fear of failure, fear of success.
  • Shame, feeling not worthy or not enough.
  • Poverty mentality, a sense of scarcity, that there won’t be enough.

From Jennifer Louden about shadow comforts, “We often choose to do things that numb us or distract us because we are afraid.”  Based on my lists: um yeah, yup, okay, I see it, “whoomp there it is,” duh.  She goes on to say:

I know, cue smoting of forehead! How obvious but still, like many obvious ideas, huge when you get it.

We eat sugar or check email for the 1000000000000 time because we are afraid.

Afraid of our feelings, our power, our desires, our longings.

Afraid of intimacy, change, beauty, joy, the sweetness of life.

Afraid of anger, disappointment, judgment, shame.

Afraid of being afraid!

Sure, we choose shadow comforts for other reasons too (being tired, not knowing what we really want, being revved up, lack of self-permission, not thinking). And yet, behind even these, often lurks fear.

Then, there are the Time Monsters. Jennifer describes them as “Closely related but slightly different from shadow comforts are time monsters – anything we pretend is a creative, generative use of our time but is actually a way to dodge doing what we really want to do…I’ve coached many women whose lives consisted almost entirely of time monsters because they were too afraid to do what they really wanted to do – for fear of failure, for fear of what their mother/husband/children might think, for fear that when their long-held dream was realized, it would become tarnished by daily living…We spend our lives doing things that don’t matter, and meanwhile, our desires are sobbing, locked away in the basement.”

WAH!!!!  This is what I have been doing for at least the past 20 years.  20 years!  My good grades, my good behavior, my generosity, graduate school, in many ways my job…bleh. Time Monsters. Not a waste of time, just a manifestation of a basic confusion, a huge misunderstanding. I bought into what I thought I was supposed to do, what I thought would make people accept and love me, what would make them like me, think I’m cool or special.  I wanted to be smart, pretty, and popular, and I sacrificed the work that really mattered to me because I thought it would get me there. 

Photo by Toni Verdu

Again, I want to sink into thinking “what a waste of time,” but I remind myself that it was all necessary, that “It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now, and now is right on time.

There’s hope, there’s a plan, a practice, a way out. You can learn self-care, real and true “I love myself and I am worth it and I am going to show up” kind of care. In another article, Jennifer gives a strategy:

When I look at my habits or practices as something I am teaching myself, instead of as fatal flaws that I can never change, I create enough space to identify what I am doing that doesn’t feel nourishing. Then, if I choose to, I can move into the mood of being a creator, of shaping my life, by asking some of these questions:

Is this teaching me what I want to learn?

Is this helping me live my truest life?

Is this giving me energy?

And the most powerful question of all:

What do I really want?

I have to admit that right now, it feels like I really want a cookie, or an entire chocolate cake, but I know that would be a shadow comfort. Instead, I am off to see Ira Glass, the host of one of my very favorite radio shows “This American Life,” one of my very favorite things, with a good friend.

I will try again tomorrow.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed the past few days (weeks, months, years), tired and weak.  There is so much I have to do, so much I want to do, and so little time.  Being someone who is not good at self-care, who doesn’t respect her own limits, aggravates the situation.  I push, I don’t rest enough, I rely on unhealthy and unsustainable boosts to my energy, and I get run down or sick or neurotic, none of which are states in which anything of worth is accomplished.

Today, in an attempt to be more mindful of what I truly needed, or rather what I didn’t need, I did things on my to-don’t list.  I didn’t eat lunch because I’d eaten a big breakfast and wasn’t hungry for it.  I didn’t skip the second dog walk of the day or the two hour nap afterwards.  I didn’t catch up on my Ordinary Courage class homework.  I didn’t answer emails, I didn’t even read some of them.  I didn’t do laundry, didn’t clean.  I didn’t go to yoga so that I could go to dinner with Eric instead.  I didn’t ignore the dogs because I was too busy working.  I didn’t feel guilty for all the things on the to-do list that didn’t get done–wait, yes I did, but not as much as I typically would, and I certainly didn’t spend as much time beating myself up about it.

I feel really good about where I am at in my life, in my life-rehab.  I am learning so much, feeling joy and creating, being brave and vulnerable.  But sometimes, regret sneaks up on me.  There is so much good happening–“Why wasn’t I doing this sooner?  I have wasted so much time!”  This way of thinking has the capacity to freeze me where I am, to stop me completely.  “With all the time I have already wasted, how little I might have left, what’s the point of trying?  I’ll only be disappointed by how little I am able to do, how much opportunity has been lost. Why bother?”

But then I remember the time I spent wasn’t wasted.  I had to live through that, be so stuck and numb and confused.  I had to understand that way of being from the inside. “Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it need to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now, and now is right on time.” ~Asha Tyson

A few things that helped me today:

Instead of losing yourself in the climb, make it your practice to shine like the beacon you are. Guide. Illuminate. Cheer. Teach. Love. But leave the pushing behind. Begin walking with love in your heart. Compassion filling each step. Feel the lightness, the levity that comes when all you are responsible for is your own blessed experience. Know with each step forward, you inspire others to drop their Sisyphean task and glide, with grace and ease, toward the peak.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

  • I’m going to try again tomorrow.  What about you?

Starting Over, Again.

I got an email today, someone I love talking about being “45 and starting over.”  It made me think of all the times I have done it, called a do-over, begun again.

Photo by Steven Depolo

  1. I married at 18 and moved to Arizona.
  2. I moved back to Oregon and got unmarried.
  3. I moved in with my mom and dad and went back to college, (a change inspired by the loss of my friend Heather).
  4. I moved to Colorado and married Eric.
  5. We moved back to Oregon and I went back to school, again.
  6. We moved to Colorado, again, and I went to graduate school.
  7. I got out of a bad work situation and started working on myself, (inspired by the loss of my dog Obi and my friend Kelly).

Lucky seven?  There are a few things after all this practice that I know are true when it comes to making changes, starting over:

  • I am already whole, (all of us are).  I am not a problem to be fixed, or a project to take on.  “Improving” or healing are about becoming what I already am.  My friend Courtney wrote a blog post the other day about the same kind of thing, “Not Fixing.”  In it, she says “Say goodbye to the wrench and screw driver approach to your healing. You don’t need fixing. You have all that you need inside you for your healing to take place.” Thank you.  Amen.
  • To practice “self-help” does not mean that I have to change who I essentially am, but rather be true to who I am.  To change, I make a commitment to manifesting that which is fundamental about myself, my basic goodness and wisdom.  What I do let go of in this process are habits, and actions or thoughts that no longer serve me, (that probably never served me the way I expected, the way I needed). “The purpose of our practice is just to be yourself.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

I get daily emails from Jo Ann at The Receiving Project and today’s was “You cannot run away from yourself. The sooner you stop trying, the sooner you can begin to bring love and compassion to yourself. The sooner you can embrace that which pains and transform it into that which loves.”

Brave Belly

So, what am I looking to change? In a post that seems full of them, here’s another list, the list:

  • To eat in a way that feeds a healthy body, not a sick and starving heart.
  • To continue to write daily, with the intention of eventual publication, (beyond this blog).  The daily practice and public forum of my blog will manifest this in an organic manner.
  • To be more settled, satisfied in my current paid work, or be financially able to let it go.
  • To be financially fit, debt-free, simply living.  To have the ability to take care of needs, save, provide, share and gift, take the occasional vacation or bigger purchase without depending on long-term credit.  To have freedom without too much sacrifice.
  • To become craftier, more hand-made, learn the skills of “my people”–farming, gardening, canning, baking bread, sewing, quilting, knitting, carpentry, car repair.
  • To be vulnerable and brave, to let go of shame, pleasing, performing, and perfectionism.
  • To repair my relationship with myself, and through that, repair my relationships with others.
  • Learn the ukelele and take voice lessons, giving my creativity and voice another outlet.
  • Be more green, more simple, more careful, more mindful.
  • Continue to develop my yoga and meditation practices, remaining open to the possibility of teaching, but not forcing it, allowing it to manifest naturally.
  • Slow down, continue to be mindful about how I spend my time.
  • Keep my eyes and heart open to great work, as I continue to do good work.
  • Be aware of the ways I can grow deeper into myself, seek out those opportunities with kindness and wisdom.

My Mondo Beyondo class taught me that there is power in dreaming big, making a list of all the things you want and sharing it. “What happens when you give an unspoken wish a place to become a dream come true?

ScribbleIf you are looking to begin again, start over, “be the change you want to see in the world,” you might want to read:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

Holy Wow.

Ever since I wrote about it the other day in a post, I keep asking myself “What is my heart hungry for? What does it crave?”  Yesterday, I was a little cranky about it, responding “What my heart wants right now is three kinds of cheese on this grilled sandwich,” or “My heart wants you to shut up and stop asking it so many questions,” and finally “My heart wants a shot of tequila and then a nap.”

But, I keep asking.  Once, when I was petting Sam, and he was wiggling closer to me, I thought “it wants more of this.”  I also noticed a few times when I didn’t give it what it needed, made it do something else instead–work on a “have to/should” task or keep going when it required rest–and I felt its sadness, the despair, how it gives up when I don’t listen.

Photo by easyrab

This morning, in that moment between asleep and awake, the question again, “What is my heart hungry for, what does it crave?” and an answer: grace.
I snapped awake, with a deep “Yes!” and a second later thought, “Well, that’s just about the sappiest thing I have ever heard.  And anyway, how do I give it ‘grace’, how does that even work?”  Then I looked up the word, what it meant.


  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment
  • favor or goodwill (kindness, love)
  • a manifestation of favor (forgiveness, charity, mercifulness)
  • mercy, clemency, pardon


  • to lend or add grace to, adorn
  • to favor or honor (glorify, beautify, elevate, honor, enhance)

Holy wow.  Light bulb on, aha, oh yeah, yes please, amen.

That answer came from somewhere, my intuition, my basic wisdom, the Universe, and caused a shift, a deep knowing.  It was magic and it was true.

Grace.  It’s the word, the potion, the answer.

  • What is your heart hungry for, what does it crave?

Tuesday Three Truths and One Wish

  • Truth: My dogs get at least two hours of exercise a day. The primary way we provide this for them is walking, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  As a working breed dog not quite two years old, Sam needs two walks and 2-3 play sessions in the backyard per day.  At 8.5 years old, Dexter doesn’t so much need both walks as love them.  It’s not just good for them but for us too. The physical exercise is good, but so is what a walk does for the mind.  I move, breathe, get out of my own head, but also go deeper into my own heart.

For example, when I wrote first thing this morning, I had no idea what my three truths and one wish for today would be.  I couldn’t think of anything.  I could think of one truth, or one wish, but that’s as far as I could get.  Then, I went on the morning walk, and this post became clear to me, the ideas and phrases building with each step.

  • Truth: Walking so early in the morning means we see things you wouldn’t if you waited. This morning, we saw two eyes lit up by my headlamp–could have been a fox, raccoon, skunk, or a cat, but all we saw were its eyes.  Then we saw a herd of 10-15 Mule Deer, standing still and quiet in the dark.  Then we heard the squawk of a Gray Owl, and saw it sitting on the branch over our heads, bobbing its head in warning and screeching at us.  When it flew away, to our right, we heard an answering “whoo, whoo” and turned to see two owls fly off together.  Then there was one of the beavers smacking its tail.  We started our walk under the stars and new moon, and by the end, we were watching the sun rise.

There are a few mornings a year when I grouch and grumble about a walk, usually because of especially nasty weather plus my nasty mood, but mostly, I am grateful.  The walk is usually one of my favorite parts of the day, (and if they could write, the boys would offer their agreement here).

  • Truth: A walk is one of the best ways to bond. This is true if you are talking about walking with dogs or people, or even about walking alone.  Moving forward in the same direction, dwelling in a moment, being together in a particular time and space binds you, connects you, you to them or you to yourself.  It’s an opportunity to be united, awake and alive in the world.  You never know what will happen, who or what you will see on a walk, and even as they might be alike, each walk is new and different.

  • Wish: That sometime soon, you can find a partner, or the place and time for a walk. “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely / the world offers itself to your imagination / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.” ~~From “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

  • What are you waiting for?  Where will you go? When?  Why not now?