30 Days of Doing my Best.

For the month of November, I set a goal for myself. I vowed to do my best, as much as I possibly could. I would, as much as I could judge, do what I “should.” This included reading with my kids instead of turning on the tv, going outside, saying “yes” when my only reason for saying “no” was that I’m lazy. It included exercising even when I would be tight on time, and showing up to my work when I planned to, even if I didn’t feel like it. I ate more of what I “should” and practiced stopping when I’d had “enough.” And because this is all very vague, I laid out some hard rules to follow; No TV, No sweets or desserts. No soda. No fast food. No coffee. No caffeine. No alcohol. Do your best. Give your best. I essentially removed all of my entertainment, distractions, and numbing devices. Here’s what I learned this past month:

-You can feel what you feel and do nothing about it- I have always felt the need to “do something” with emotions, particularly uncomfortable ones. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of being with these feelings…of staying with them…letting them be…to experience your downs, sadness, frustrations, etc. But honestly, I think I’ve always, in one manner or another, numbed myself. Life can be hard. Life can be extremely trying and stressful. And sitting with all the shit that life brings up in you…that’s hard. It’s uncomfortable and saddening and exhausting. But it is also clarifying. Being with these emotions, feeling them without the numbing of alcohol, food, tv, entertainment, whatever ways you numb, makes you see yourself, your life more clearly. After this month, I’m more aware of when I feel my worst- my saddest, my angriest, my most stressed, and pissed. I’m aware of how I’ve come to “deal” with these emotions instead of reading them for what they are- totally acceptable and useful tools to taking control of my life. You can not choose what stays and goes in your life in you don’t let yourself feel.

-Self love does not always feel very loving- Self love is a complicated concept. Often we see images depicting devotion to ourselves as luxurious bubble baths, pampering, shopping, sex, food, whatever. I suppose that self love can expressed and explored in all of these ways. But self love is also waking up early to exercise, it’s making yourself meditate, neglecting yourself of distractions to really explore how you’re feeling in your life, it’s taking the run, and going to the yoga class, and choosing to skip the second glass of wine. Sometimes self love is down right painful. Because self love, while it does include indulgence at times, is ultimately about feeling and being your overall best- it’s about caring for your body, mind, and soul from a kind, loving, gracious, and disciplined place.

-The energy of change is complicated and multifaceted- I read the Ana Forrest book Fierce Medicine earlier this year. One of the many things she shared that stuck with me was this concept of “the energy of change…”. I want that. I like that thought. The energy of change… what is that? How does that feel? What does it look like and sound like? Well here’s your very vague and likely unhelpful answer. The energy of change is both exciting dull. It’s painful and releasing. It’s clarifying and wildly confusing. It’s both bright, and dull. Moving and terribly sluggish. Change is not linear, and the energy around the experience of changing yourself and your life is ever-changing. The “trick” is to know why you want to change and then to stay with it and let it be.

-We know what we “should” do most of the time- it’s available to us. We have been provided a sophisticated system of wisdom and guidance in our beings. But many of us have also been taught to ignore such inklings. This month, I felt for the first time, maybe in my life, how it feels to honor when you’re body, mind, gut, instincts, etc, guides you. When you honor that “inner voice,” it grows. I feel like learning to honor our internal compass and navigational tools requires a lot of unlearning too; more than I can do in a month. It requires practice and patience. But it’s there, wisdom, authenticity, truth. It’s all there inside of each of us.

-The hardest part of change is belonging no where- You no longer belong to your vices, habits, or the people who share them. You’re not really a part of a new set of folks like who you’re becoming. You are alone, a soul, drifting between ways of being. We often ascribe all these little bits of ourselves to out identity. So leaving unhelpful bits of “who we are” behind can be scary. Who are you now? Who are you without your vices and hang ups? Can you bear being untethered, to belonging no where, to feeling lost? At least for a while?

Onward. Any thoughts?

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Steps to Self Love

i hate nothing about you with red heart light

While I find the calls to love thy self, posted across the feeds of my social media, uplifting, I find that much of the information on how to actually do that to be terribly misleading. Often it’s scattered with simple, one-step solutions, images of zen yogis, and people in decadent bath tubs. Long baths and yoga are great. But I’m finding that one-step solutions (and bathtubs and yoga) are not the answer (at least not for me). Self-love is a life style; and for many of us, it’s one needing to be built. For you list-loving, step-needing folks who are finding the path from self-loathing to self-loving to be vague and daunting, I feel ya. This one’s for you. 💜

I’ve compiled a short list of steps that I’m currently experimenting with on my own quest toward self-love. Check it out…

Step #1 FORGIVE.

The first step on any personal quest is forgiveness. This may sound warm and fuzzy, but the burdens and guilt you haul around with you keep you stuck. Locate these in your psyche. Let it go. Forgive yourself. This is a step that is not made once, but every time your regrets and failures creep back into you life. When the ghosts of your past pains begin whispering, be prepared. Make a plan. Write it down. Keep it with you. This plan could be as simple as noticing thoughts that elicit the burdensome feelings, choosing to stop what you’re doing, and giving yourself something different to do (to create a new neural path and pull yourself out of that pattern); maybe take a walk to the water cooler. Stand up and stretch. Breathe. Sing a song. Stand on your head. You choose. But choose to forgive and let go of memories, belief systems, fears, and burdensome emotions that keep you feeling stuck, heavy, incompetent, or unworthy.

Step #2 ACCEPT.

Accept who, how, and where you’ve been. Honor the dark parts of yourself and your life for what it is- not shameful, only human; And an integral part of who you are and who you’re becoming.

Accept where you are in life. Your abilities, things you know and do not know, the way you feel, the job you work, everything as it is in this moment- accept it. This does not mean to settle, to never change, or to never strive for something different. It’s simply a step toward bringing yourself into the present and experiencing all that’s available right now.

Step #3 GROW RESPECT.

You, like all humans, are intrinsically valuable and deserving of respect. But for many of us, this truth is not enough to yield self-respecting behavior; It needs to be planned and practiced. Self-respect is like a muscle. It needs to be cultivated. Grown.

How do you do that? Give yourself something to feel good about. Set a challenging, attainable goal. And when you commit to that goal, make it matter; do not break these promises to yourself.

Attainable goals will be different from person-to-person. Here are some ideas:

  • Sign up for that 5k/10k/marathon/ultra-marathon.
  • Read instead of watching tv for 3 nights this week.
  • Call a parents/siblings/family member this week.
  • Take a walk 1 night this week.
  • Turn off the phone for one hour.
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier every day this week.
  • Substitute decaf in place of regular coffee for one of your many daily doses.

Make it whatever you want. But choose a goal that moves you in the direction of who you desire to become in an attainable way. And remember, you do not break promises to you. Not ever. In time, the energy you’re creating surrounding your commitments to yourself will spread into the other facets of your life. Let it.

Step #4 NOURISH.

I do not claim to know the purpose of life. But I’d say that enjoying it plays some part of it. So follow your bliss and find pleasure in a nurturing way. See my post “Numbing VS Nourishing” from several weeks back if you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all need to recharge, to disconnect, to refocus and allow time to recalibrate our paths. Give yourself this.

Step #5 LEAN INTO CHANGE.

Those uncomfortable feelings you get when your old habits begin to fall away- pain, anger, boredom, tiredness, laziness, feeling out of place, distracted- The space of change is murky and uncomfortable. And until you begin to really feel your newly discovered badassery, it really sucks. You may feel suddenly out of place in social circles you once called home. You may find yourself perplexed when that pint of ice cream that used to comfort you isn’t doing the trick. Try not to fix it. Instead, stay with it. Let your world shift from the inside out. Trust the process and open yourself up to the new views available when you finally allow yourself to lose sight of the shore. Underneath all that bullshit that helps secure the habits and thought patterns of the person you don’t want to be is your true self. When you begin to practice self-forgiveness and acceptance, when you are practicing and growing your self-respect, when you are supporting the growth of your best self with nourishing replenishment to you mind, body, and soul, your true self who trusts their intuition, meets life head on, and lives with authenticity begins to rise. Lean into the process of change

Step #6 REPEAT.

Do it all again. Reading this post, following these steps, and going through it again and again? Thats self-love. Put in the work, commit to it before anything else, and in time you’ll find that from self-loathing, you can begin to find shreds or forgiveness. Then perhaps you’ll discover a place of self-acceptance. Self-Acceptance leads you to self-respect, and that helps you discover this person in you who you actually like. And having self-like is a sure stepping stone to self-love. 

Please comment and share! Would you reorder these steps? Perhaps there’s something you think I’m missing? Tell me about it!

 

 

Being Ruled by Lies and Fear.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Keeping my 4 and 2-year-old at home was a decision I made, largely based on this idyllic image in my head of me and my daughters spending all these lovely days together, and then their going off to school as these confident, smart little girls, totally prepared (thanks to all that studying our ABC’s and 123’s at home with Mom). Add together a wild 4-year-old, a totally sweet but nutty toddler, the general stresses of gradually setting up a new life in a new place doing new jobs, financial insecurity, and a Mom (that’s me!) who sets totally unrealistic expectations for this experience= Mess, chaos, and meltdowns galore (many of which are mine). Welcome to my life 🙂

With a heavy cloud of self-doubt and frustration hanging over me, wading through a sea of Pre-K prep, Brain Quest books, and flash cards, anxiously planning out lesson’s and time with my kids, something dawned on me; This is not fun.

Life is not always fun and that’s ok. But learning, something that many of our kids go about naturally and joyfully….in this house, it’s become painful. Yikes. Stuck somewhere between sight words and numbers, I sat there thinking; Why did I want to keep the girls home again? Why am I trying to do everything? Why am I consistently shirking off my husbands advice to get help? Immediately a list of well-rehearsed answers strung through my mind…..they’ll go to school soon….spend time with them now….good foundations….connectedness with your kids….blah blah blah….and then as if that dark cloud that’d been lingering over my head sprung a lightning bolt, I saw it; I saw the truth; All these reasons I have for being the way I am now and making the decisions I have, they’re not untrue; but they are also not the whole truth. In part, they are a shield; One I’ve been wielding, feigning a noble cause, when on the flip side of these truths, there is another real and dark motive; FEAR. As if my metaphorical cloud began to pour, I suddenly saw that my perfectionism, my dedication to make my 4-year-old sit the fuck down and focus, for what it is. It’s not about protection or preparation. I am not functioning from the fear that my daughter is lacking. I am being driven from the fear that I am lacking. I sat there feeling foolish. Silly. Guilty. Here I am pressing feelings of lack and anxiety onto my perfectly fine kids. This my friends is one of many ways we pass our burdens onto our children.

“I am stupid.” “I am silly.” “I’m incompetent.” “I do not have the capacity.”

These are variations of lies I learned young and have carried with me into my adult life. We all have lies about who we think we are, and many of us go about our lives terrified of discovering their truth. 

This post is not about parenting or kids. It is not in any way meant as a commentary on homeschooling or using educational stuff with our kids. It’s about the lies we let dictate our lives. It’s about the way these lies and our fear of their truth creep into every facet of our beings. It’s about seeing them for what they are….lies, and then choosing a new way. My kids don’t need my lessons. And they certainly don’t need the energy of self-doubt that I’ve been drudging around here. They need my love and my attention. As do I, I suppose. 

When you look as your life, does it reflect who you really want to be? Your job, your attitudes, your politics, your habits, your hobbies, your relationships…in what ways do you struggle with not allowing your fears to dominate your life?

 

My Dog the Manifesting Machine

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

The movie is set. The popcorn is popped. The kids are pj-ed. Bruno, my dog, is prepped in his usual spot, back to the tv, sitting before the couch, staring adamantly at me.

He’s poised. Focused. He’s certain of his coming treat. And as I sit there munching on the popcorn that Bruno is so eagerly awaiting bits of, it occurs to me…this dog is a manifesting machine.

I’ve been listening to life gurus and reading the self-help books for years. Manifest. Source energy. The secret. Your vibrations. I get it; I hear what they’re saying and on a very superficial level, I get it. But to live it? I’m still on that journey. And yet, here before me, day in and day out, is this manifesting master; my dog.

He knows exactly what he wants; Popcorn bits tossed up which he can nab out of the air and swallow whole. He’s certain of it’s coming; so certain in fact, that every move I make, he flinches, prepared to leap. He’s doing everything in his doggy-trick-arsenal to get his goal. He sits- and that’s all he can do, so he sits and sits and sits. When one path (Mommy throwing popcorn) seems to be becoming stale, he tries others! He sits and stares at Daddy, then kid 1, then kid 2, and then he starts all over again. And perhaps most animalistic, least human-like, and so very vital and powerful- he has no concept of worthiness. He doesn’t spend hours and days and years toiling over being worthy of treats. He has no concern of being “not enough”. He just shows up, knowing exactly what he wants, and does what he can do with certainty!

Can you imagine if we chased our own desires this way?

Can you… can I… Focus on our goal(s) the way my dog focuses on flying popcorn treats? Can you see them (your goals) with assurance of their fulfillment? Can you commit to doing anything and everything in your power to achieve it? Can you follow through on that? Can you change course when prompted to do so? Can you not judge what you want?

Can you believe it? Can you live it?

Take the first exit off of “Sane-and-OK highway” and you’ll be in “Ruts-ville” in no time.

Recently on a breakfast outing with G (my husband), over what I consider to be the city’s best chicken and waffles, I expressed that I was feeling a bit in a rut (hence the copious amounts of butter, syrup, coffee, fried chicken and waffles…). This statement got a whole conversation started on our “ruts,” what gets us there, why and how it happens, and how (if possible) to avoid them, or maybe more realistic, pull ourselves out when we find ourselves stuck.

I feel like we can generally point it out when we’re there; what I’m more interested in is the road that leads to “ruts-ville.” Cheesy, I know. In a long diatribe with the intent to track my rut-road (this really displayed my husband’s amazing attention-span) I suddenly saw it; I saw where that road began.

It’s one thing, one moment where you’re feeling a little sensitive, a little self-conscious, a little self-doubt, but instead of feeling it and then focusing on all the reasons to feel strong, self-confident, and assurance, we dive into that fear and begin a wild, swerving race down the road to “ruts-ville.” Ok, let me explain…

Currently there are various happenings in my life that are not entirely in my control. For all you other control-freaks out there, you know how challenging that can be. I’m waiting for a response from a literary agent whom I would Love Love LOVE to work with. I’m on the cusp of beginning to teach yoga in a new city, a new studio, as a new teacher. In short, these are two of many going-ons that have the possibility to flare up my insecurities. Days go by and I haven’t heard from Agent Lady. The conclusion I jump to? My poem-formed query was a stupid idea, I’m a lousy writer, and really just an all-around twat. In my yoga practice, the conclusions and fears I hover over are similarly bleak. I fall out of a pose, forget what’s next, you name it= you can’t teach. You’re a clumsy cow, who would see you as a teacher? Ugh, joke! Seriously, mean inner conversations happening here. Take these obvious visceral things and mix them with the intricacies of moving with kids, setting up a new life, and really just all the ins-and-outs of daily life…it’s a concoction for a serious detour off of “Sane-and-OK Highway” right on down to “Ruts-ville.”

The nugget of wisdom that made me want to share this is the reality that it all starts in a moment. I miss my alarm? Yep, that could do it. I’m late getting my kids to school? Yep. No emails from Agent Lady yet? Yep yep yep. My pants fit just as tight as yesterday meaning that yoga doesn’t work and I’m just an eternal cow? Yep.

It’s not about the moment that brings up that insecurity. It’s about what we do when that feeling arises. It’s about making the choice to focus on the empowering aspect of any given moment rather than the aspects that bring us down, the moments that we make mean all these other irrelevant things (I’m stupid, lazy, not enough…etc).

We then become hyperaware of any moment, interaction, feeling that might solidify our fears that whatever scary conclusion we’ve come to about ourselves is true. Example- I slept through the alarm. So we’re late for everything. I’m so lazy, pathetic. Ugh, the other moms won’t be late. You are incompetent. You’ll never accomplish anything you want. And then when someone beeps in traffic, I assume it’s at me. A look from a stranger…yep see? Every moment then supports what I fear to be true. And voila! Momma is in “Ruts-ville.” Anyone else do this? I know you do.

 

The trick, I suppose, is to catch the moments where your self-doubt is triggered. Feel it. But then, instead of following that feeling and ending up with some disempowering message that you’ll go on to seek proof of (and find of course), choose not to follow it, but instead, to let it go. Instead of focusing on what’s not happening, on being late or behind, or feeling out of shape, feeling that your work may be rejected; Instead focus on what good IS happening right in this moment. So you’re late? Don’t rush, vow to come up with a system to help you be on time, pat yourself on the back for caring, and let it go. Feeling behind or out of shape? You are where you are today. Can you find something you love about where you are? Fear that your work will be rejected? Can you instead focus on the joy of doing work you love and putting it out there? Can you congratulate yourself for being brave enough to share what you create?

Choosing to uphold the perspective and belief that “I am enough” again and again, I believe, is “the secret” to keeping-going on down that “Sane-and-OK Highway.” There is, of course, a necessity to be realistic and to see ourselves with enough clarity to be aware of what ways and habits don’t serve us. But to use that knowledge to beat yourself down helps no one and certainly does not set you up for more successes.

Do you catch yourself when your insecurities rise?

Do you feel when you’re beginning to lose control, beginning that wild ride down to “Ruts-ville”?

What do you do to bring yourself back? To keep yourself moving along the “Sane-and-Ok Highway” as smoothly as you can? I’d love to hear.

 

In other news, I’m posting Chapter 1 of Strawberry Moon tomorrow. 1 chapter a week. Whooo! Stay tuned.