Category Archives: Encouragement

Fill Your Journey with Joy!

I took Thursday off from blogging, planning to make a post on Friday morning.  But then, on Friday, I left the house at 6:30 am and didn’t come back until 9:30 pm.  I slept fitfully that night, and woke up Saturday with a fever and upset stomach.  I spent the first half of the day in bed, then moved to the couch to sleep for the afternoon, and at some point in the evening, watched a bit of Grey’s Anatomy Season Two that I got from the library last week, even though it seemed a bit too bright and loud.  Because I couldn’t keep anything down all day, I was also going through an unplanned caffeine detox.

Photo by Rachel Titiriga

I feel better today, weak and hollowed out, but better. Along with eating, I couldn’t write or read yesterday.  It was hard to take a whole weekend day “off” when I hadn’t gotten any of my own work done on Thursday or Friday either.  Not only had I missed blogging, but I am again a full week behind in my Ordinary Courage class, with only one week left, laundry needs done, and the pile of receipts and bills on my desk remind me that I still haven’t balanced the checkbook this month.

There isn’t enough time. Whenever my nieces complain that they are bored or I hear other people talk about how they don’t want to retire because “what would I do all day?,” I grit my teeth and want to scream.  There is so much I want to do, and I want to do it all, NOW.  Which, in part, is why I ended up sick. It starts with my inability to pace myself. I push because there is so much I want, and I don’t listen to myself or pay attention to what I need, don’t care for myself when I am doing too much.

And right now, the situation is more intense. I am trying to maintain a full work life–you know, they call it “full time” for a reason.  If you have such a job, it takes up all of your time.  You are either working it directly or preparing for it or cleaning up after it or resting up from/for it.  Yes, you might have evenings and weekends away, but I find that those are spent in recovery or preparation. Making sure we have clean clothes and groceries, the dogs are cared for, we aren’t defaulting on our bills, and we see our family and friends enough that they’ll remember what we look like is all I can manage on my “time off.” Add to that my my life-rehab, and my desire for a full creative life.  How is this ever going to work?

When my book group met with author Laura Resau on Friday night, it was one of the questions I asked her.  She’d been an academic, a graduate student and teacher, who eventually quit to write full time.  A few other people in my group are writers, one of them who has published multiple books but maintains a “day job.”  I asked Laura what the tipping point was for her, when she gave up the other paid work to write for a living/life.  It’s not so important how she answered the specific question, when that was for her or why, but rather that in answering, she reinforced that you take the steps, no matter how small, you start and keep going, keep showing up, and maintain that faith and trust, that deep knowing, that this is what you want, what you should do, that it is right and true.

Wings I noticed a shift in myself as a writer with my question to her.  As a more immature practitioner, if I had the opportunity to ask, the questions were always about “How do I get published?” Now I want to know, “How do you give yourself permission to write, to be a writer full time?” Maybe for other writers, the question really is how to publish.  For me, it’s about a whole life. It’s not just that I need to write and submit, but that I need to learn how to live, and the writing is part of the process.  I can share during, and then when I figure out some stuff, I can polish and publish it, share it with others who need the encouragement and resources.

Laura signed my copy of her book, The Queen of Water, “Fill your writing journey with joy!”  Today, feeling weak, hollowed out, and tired, with so much to catch up on and do, I am hopeful, committed to showing up, but also learning to pace myself, learning to live full time, with joy, and sharing the process.

Picture by Erik Sagen

Something Good.

It’s Monday, that must mean something good.

  • My current favorite hat.  It was hand knit in Nepal, wool that is lined with black fleece, and it has most of my favorite colors.  It’s one of the most awesome hats, ever.

  • Banana nut muffins, made by my boy.  And yes, they are as good as they look.

  • This quote: “It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” ~Sharon Salzberg  Thank goodness!  And thanks to Kind Over Matter for posting it.
  • This post, from Tiny Buddha. “It’s OK to Say No,” which says “Happiness is a choice, but it’s made up of lots of smaller choices we need to make based on what we actually want.”
  • Blogger Susanna Conway shared this link in her this week’s “Something for the Weekend.” It’s a website “All About Eve,” a blog where Eve’s mom (an amazing photographer) posts pictures of her.  Eve has an amazing sense of fashion, and of herself.  I don’t even care about fashion (obviously), but I see this girl, so brave and true, and I want to be more like her, and hope, hope, hope, wish and pray that she never loses that.  She clearly wakes up full of awesome.  Just look at her!

  • It’s Time to Redefine Your Life!,” a new blog post from Mastin Kipp of The Daily Love.  In this post, he says: “If you want to live your dreams, if you want to grow and Love and experience life to the fullest, then it’s VITAL that you begin to tell a new and empowering story. Think your own thoughts and CONSCIOUSLY surround yourself with people who support, approve of and LOVE your empowerment. And then give the same thing to the people in your Life. We tend to bond over pain and don’t like it when other’s rise. Let’s change that. Let’s bond over our Love; let’s celebrate each other’s successes and choose to be in partnerships and relationships that build us up instead of keeping us down.”  I am in!  What about you?
  • Darling, We Went for It,” a post by Tara Mohr. “Whenever…I say, ‘I was being more loyal to my fears than to my dreams,’ people perk up. They interrupt me and repeat the phrase, turning over each word. Or they write it down. Or they gasp and drop their pens. There’s some kind of ‘oh sh*t’ moment.” I read this post this morning, and had my very own “oh sh*t moment.”  Towards the end, she says “We make the move to have a shot at joy. We make the move because our souls ask us to. We make the move because it is too painful not to.” AMEN!

  • Okay, it’s your turn: tell me something good.

Thank You and Amen, Days 3,4 & 5

Maybe you didn’t even notice, but I took the last two days off from blogging.  On Friday, I was so tired and Eric & I had tickets to a play that night (where I was hardly able to keep my eyes open, kept nodding off), and I noticed that I had made 50 posts to this blog.  I decided I needed to take the day off.

That one day turned to two, because yesterday I was still so tired.  I skipped both of my yoga classes this weekend, have taken three naps in the past 48 hours, am a full two weeks behind in my Ordinary Courage class, haven’t done any writing for National Novel Writing Month, and spent some time watching TV, which I rarely do anymore because I am spending all my time working (this is equal parts good and bad, paid and personal work).

Photo by Jason

On Friday, I got the “weekly round-up” from blogger Susannah Conway.  Her blog is called “Notes on Unravelling the Heart” and I really love it, it’s beautiful and so is she, especially her Friday posts, “Something for the Weekend.”  This week, she started the post by saying:

I don’t really know how to look after myself. I mean, I try, don’t get me wrong, but these days I seem to be turning into a workaholic. I’m just so flippin’ passionate about what I do I don’t want to slow down…

And ended with:

And finally, how do you practice self care? What do you do just for you? And if, like me, you find it hard to do…do you want to join me in trying to learn how to do it? xo

Does this sound familiar, dear reader? I had to respond to her post, express the empathy I was feeling, so I left a comment, some of which said:

Oh, self-care. I am right there with you. I made a New Year’s resolution this year, having never made one before, to “be a better friend to myself.” I started to do a lot of work towards that end, only to realize that I had been in an abusive relationship for years, maybe my whole life–with myself. I had been smashing myself to bits, so confused and so sad and pushing myself to earn acceptance and love, exhausting myself in the pursuit and performance and pleasing and perfection that I thought would make me worthy.

Ugh. For months now, I have been taking tiny steps, making little changes, but honestly, I have been mostly doing the necessary grieving. It’s such tender and deep sadness, the awareness of what I have been doing, where I have been stuck. So for now, the real and true self-care is just to sit with myself, to sit with the devastation and cultivate compassion and forgiveness, let go a little, bit by bit.

Another blog I read, Goddess Leonie, published a post on Friday about “How to Make Blogging Sacred” in which she suggested that you should give yourself “Time Out” and linked to another post where she’d talked about “Cave Time.”  It’s time that you need to rest, regroup, refresh, restore, rehab.  I have also lately been reading a lot of Jennifer Louden’s work around self-care, her books, her blog, her “Savor & Serve” newsletter, so I got the message–I needed to take a little break. So, I did, but now I am back.

Photo by opensourceway

Even though I took a break, I continued to notice where I was grateful.  Here’s what I missed sharing by being gone for two days:

I am grateful for the tribe of people I have found online who are committed to doing what they love and what is true as they practice compassion, kindness, love, and wisdom with the intention of making things better for all.  Chris Guillebeau describes it as “set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world.”  Jennifer Louden phrases it this way, “Self-love + world-love = creates wholeness for all.” They inspire me to do the same. On the right side of this page, you will find links to their websites or online work, but many have also published books well worth reading.

I am grateful for weekends. I usually spend them doing my own work, but it’s good to get a break from my paid work, to have the time away and apart.

I am grateful for the extra hour.  We all “fell back” this morning, and even though technically that was the hour we lost in spring being returned to us, I am glad to have it. I’d take a few more of those, please.

I am grateful for libraries. Eric and I walked out of our local library yesterday with our arms full of books, magazines, and DVDs. All free! We said what we always say leaving the library, “Libraries are so awesome, one of the coolest and best things.” And if our library doesn’t have what we want, we can usually order it from another library in the Colorado system and have it sent to us. I love the library.

I am grateful for a growing awareness of my own power. My sanity, my stability, my wisdom, my compassion, my ability to make sound choices, my capacity to learn and love, my willingness to reduce suffering rather than generate more, my gratitude and joy.

Picture by David Sky

  • Wishing you an extra hour of love today.

Thank You and Amen, Day Two

I am grateful for so much right now that I almost can’t be reasonable. It’s just that there is so much good stuff, and when you start actively looking for it, it seems to multiply, and suddenly there is so much good, you can’t get your brain around it, there aren’t enough words or enough time to ever be able to explain. There is enough joy though, and enough love. Seriously, you’ve got to get in on this. There is so much extra, and I’d hate to see it go to waste, for you to miss out.

I am grateful for my students. “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ― Pema Chödrön It is that point in the semester when my students are feeling tired and overwhelmed, just when their classes are asking the most of them, demanding that now they ramp things up, really show what they’ve learned.  I got an email from one of them last night with the subject line “jiiiiiiillllll hellpppp.” Through it all, they make me laugh, allow me to help and support them, don’t act like complete jerks, and let me have my own mistakes without making too big of a deal about it.  We are all struggling, none of us can keep up, but that’s okay.  I think we are managing to learn something anyway.

Picture by Christopher Sessums

I am grateful for Pema Chödrön. She was the teacher that provided my way in to the Buddhist study and practice that have helped me so much in recent years. And you don’t have to be a Buddhist to learn from her, (technically, I am not a Buddhist). She is amazing: funny, wise, compassionate, and kind. She wants all of us to simply make friends with ourselves, to relax and not take things so seriously, to sit with what is instead of running away or getting angry or numbing out (or all the other ways we try to resist who we are and what is), and has made it her life’s work to see that manifest in the world.  She is precious, and teaches us to see that we are too.

I am grateful for the Metta Drum blog.  Right now, especially these two posts: “Your Openness is Your Gift” and “The Truth of Loving Yourself.”

Why yes, that is me as a baby.

I am grateful for the chance to rest, for the choice to rest. I am still struggling with this.  There is so much work to be done, so much to write about, so much to study, so much to read, so much to taste and feel and see and talk about and love…I am not good at knowing when to slow down, or when to quit.  But I know I can, and I am trying to do better.

I am grateful for you, dear reader.To know that you are “there,” listening, allowing me to be heard and seen, is such a gift.  Even when I am not getting direct feedback from you, I can feel the kindness, and it gives me the strength to take another risk.  And when I do get direct feedback from you, it is so filled with love and generosity and knowing and empathy, I am filled with gratitude and joy.

May you be peaceful.
May you be happy.
May you be safe.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be free.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: You are enough and there is enough for you. Just as you are, you are basically good and wise, you are whole.  Even if you do nothing but breathe, you are worthy of love, space, belonging. You may suffer from poverty mentality, that deep belief that there will never be enough, that you have to cling to and hoard what you have, but it isn’t real.  There is enough, enough to share even.  There is no need to compare or compete.  Let go, give it all away.  Open your heart, give and receive, knowing that you are enough and there is enough.

Photo by Ganesha Balunsat

2. Truth: Gratitude brings joy, and when you are creative, you are happy. Andrea Scher on Superhero Journal posted today on her blog about gratitude, and said “I think practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful things we can do. It gives us power and joy.”  On Tiny Buddha, there’s also a recent post on gratitude’s connection to joy, “There’s More Right Than Wrong.”

I was thinking about this while I was walking the dogs this morning.  The facts of the morning were: I was tired and it was early, dark, and cold.  One way to experience that is to get grumpy, cranky, irritated, and hateful.  Another option is to recognize how utterly amazing it is to see the moon and stars, and then the sunrise, all in a single hour. To be aware of how the cold and movement wake me up, and how nice it is to be out alone in all that quiet and space. To understand how lucky I am that I can get up, that I can move, that I have these two amazing dogs that want to go with me, who will protect me from anything out there that might be scary, (all there was this morning was a fox and an owl, so nothing too bad).

And there’s the happiness that comes from creating, any active process in which you give of yourself, your love or wisdom or kindness.  That act of offering, the action and attention, returns to you as much as you ever give away. It feeds the deepest, hungriest part of you.

Photo by Mara

3. Truth: Right now, in this moment, there is no problem, everything is okay.  Ask yourself, in this moment, right now: is there a problem? I guarantee that anything you can come up with isn’t about this moment, but rather is attached to the past or the future–I have tried this many times, and I can never come up with any problem that is attached to right now that I don’t know exactly how to handle, to render it “no problem.” Everything else is completely workable. In Eckhart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now” he says “To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment.”

Photo by On Being

  • Wish: I wish that we could all internalize and manifest these truths. That we would understand joy and experience happiness in this present moment, now. “Decide today that you are enough, even if you never do anything, accomplish anything or produce anything ever again. You are enough.”

  • Your turn.  Make a wish.

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.