A teacher gave me this assignment a few months ago and it’s become a touchstone. I would tattoo it on my forehead if needles didn’t make me squawk like an indignant chicken:

“Your only job now is to raise your vibration.”

For those who don’t speak hippie, raising your vibration basically means turning up the dial on your joy and happiness. Even turning it up one notch above awful fulfills the assignment. Feeling whatever you’re suppressing because you’re scared or don’t have time or just don’t wanna fulfills the assignment. Stepping away from something frustrating to refill the tank fulfills the assignment.

As I focus on my new project for writers, I’m realizing just how crucial this kind of self-care is. How crucial every kind of self-care is. I’m getting really noisy about it, actually.

I’m even getting mad. Mad at myself for being so resistant to the idea for so long. Mad at the world for telling us we aren’t worth this kind of care, that everyone else deserves it before we do, that taking deep and loving care of ourselves means we’re being selfish and self-indulgent. I’m not quite sure how this crossed over from “good idea” to “thing that makes me want to yell and hit things because so few people believe this is true,” but here we are. (I haven’t hit anything yet, but I reserve the right.)

It just makes me want to curl up and cry. When did we collectively decide we weren’t worth taking care of ourselves? When did we decide that our worth was contingent on what we put out, rather than who we are and how we feel? When did we forget that everything we send out into the world is rooted deep within us and if we send things into the world from a place of need and lack and disconnection, our world will absorb that message until it’s passed on unconsciously to our friends and our children and everyone else who comes after us?

NOPE. STOP. NO MORE. Because you are worth all the gentleness, all the love, all the hikes, all the naps, all the massages, all the yoga, all the emotional tending, all the however-you-choose-to-define-it self-care you can muster up. You are worth all the soup.

Soup?

Yes, soup. It’s one of my favorite parables explaining the idea of growth and self-care. There’s a table. You and all your friends and family are sitting around this table. You’re all starving. From the ceiling descends a bowl of soup. It lands right in front of you. You are the only one who’s allowed to dip your spoon into the soup. No one else can have any soup.

Here’s the big question: Do you eat the soup?

Yes. You eat the soup.

Many of us fight this concept, especially if we’re accustomed to believing that others are more important than we are or that belonging is more important than our own wellbeing. In some ways, it stems from a good place. We care for others. We want to be with them, we want to understand them, we want to feel connected to them. We all have a deep-seated desire to belong. Historically, we know we need to be part of the herd to survive. Stragglers get eaten by peckish mountain lions, after it chases you around for awhile to get you nice and salty.

You starving to death doesn’t help your friends and family. Not even a little bit. Your pain doesn’t remove their pain. You being in pain only adds to the pain of the room.

Yes, there’s some guilt associated with taking deep and tender care of yourself. Because suddenly you’re feeling better than people around you. But the guilt isn’t because you aren’t taking care of those people – you can’t take care of them. They can only take care of themselves. The guilt stems from taking care of yourself when those around you aren’t.

allthesoup

Just as your pain would only add to the pain of the room, your happiness also adds to the room. If you’re in a happy space, that lightness will lift those around you, even if they don’t recognize it. If you’re taking care of your body and your emotions, it will show others that they’re allowed to do the same. Your joy will show others that joy is possible.

Eat the damn soup. Feel better. Because feeling better is the magic bullet and I will never shut up about it.

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Subtitle: Holy hummus on a Triscuit, I’m nervous about this.

Calling all writers!

(If you have zero interest in ever being a writer, here’s a giraffe video for you to watch instead.)

“Unlock your writing genius” sounds a bit grandiose. But if you’re truly called to be a writer (you know who you are) or you have a deep and unshakable desire to be a writer – then there’s no doubt in my mind that you have genius. So if you aren’t quite sure if you have genius or you’re wondering where it’s hiding, this is for you. Because you have a voice the world needs to hear.

Here, let me yell that: YOU HAVE SOMETHING THE WORLD NEEDS TO HEAR. I promise.

The Grand Experiment

I want to help writers feel better. I want to help writers not just suspect they have something crucial for the world but know they have something crucial for the world. I want them to write their stories with ease and joy and send them out into the world confident that their writing will find the perfect home.

So I’m going to do a webcast, something I’ve never done before. I’ve never channeled in front of people before – except for a good friend once, who said this really nice thing:

Si

So obviously I favorited it, retweeted it, and then took a screenshot. OBVIOUSLY.

(Caution: This webcast is gonna get super hippie & will go pretty deep with the spiritual stuff. If that’s not your jam, I totally get it and here’s a giraffe video for you to watch instead.)

I’ve never tried to help writers in this way before. I did write a book for freelance writers and when the editors sent back the second draft, they said, “This is great, but maybe, um, less healing talk.” And I was like, BUT THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Then I felt all bad about myself for awhile until I realized, maybe all that healing talk isn’t the most important thing for freelance writers. Freelance writers need tips. Artists need healing. Because an artist – and her art – is here to heal. Art is meant to help people sob to their favorite country song or watch a movie that shows them there’s hope or read a story that gives them courage to confront what feels insurmountable. Artists make that stuff to help the world feel better. But artists need help feeling better too.

Moving hellbent down my spiritual path was what carried me away from the gremlin-fueled doubt and procrastination to the place where I could actually finish a book and be excited to share it with agents, rather than start, stop, feel terrible, start, read some agenting blogs, decide I didn’t have it in me to beat the insurmountable odds they were always talking about, and stop again – this time for good.

Developing my intuition and my self-care were the two things that got me to a place where I could do things like actually finish a book and send it out, rather than perpetuate the start-stop-feel-terrible cycle. I want to help you to feel better – about yourself, your art, your path through the world, and the progress you’re making. 

Here’s Why Being Sensitive Is Essential to Writing

  • Your intuition helps you find the heart of the story: where you feel moved or tearful is where to focus.
  • Honing your sensitivity and learning to allow your emotions flow through you will help stories flow through you too.
  • People who are willing to work with their sensitivity and treat writing as a spiritual path kick ass and take names.

Interested in this whole “Writers Feeling Better About Writing” thing? 

Sign up for the email list so you can hear about everything I’m brewing up:

What The Webcast Will Be

Meant to go deeper than simply working on a specific project and hoping it gets you what you want – whether it’s an assignment, money, fame, or a free smoothie – this webcast is about leaning into your intuition and your inner knowledge. Making your writing part of a bigger practice gives you a deep sense of peace that allows your writing mojo to skyrocket.

This will be channeled, intuitive guidance for writers. If you’re not familiar with channeling, it’s pretty much the bomb, because it hooks in with you on a very deep level and offers what you most need now to take your next step. I pull up some wisdom – through me, not from me – to help both your brain and your entire being begin to shift toward what you need to move along your writing path with speed and grace and joy.

How the Webcast Will Work

I hop on Spreecast on Thursday, July 30th at 6 p.m. PST. You hop with me. (Or watch the replay later.) I’ll do my thing. You can ask questions. Because of the way channeling works, the webcast will be very specific to the people who show up – or watch later. You leave inspired, refreshed, revived, and ready to kick ass. That’s the hope. But this is an experiment and, honestly, I’ve never done anything like this before. But I want it to feel like we’re sitting in the living room of my hobbit hole, talking about writing and getting all excited and gesticulating wildly until someone knocks over a mug of tea.

Is it free? Nope! It’s $3.33. Because that’s a fun number.

But I’m busy on Thursday evening: That’s cool. You can watch the replay after by following the registration link. You can even send in questions in advance. (Send ’em here.)

How do I get on this thing? Register here and then go to the link at the proper time. Come with questions about whatever’s plaguing you most right now or just come with yourself. We can start chatting up to 30 minutes before, so if you want to pop in early, feel free.

Webcast filming location. I wish I could invite you all in person. 

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So many of our human issues are tied up in money. Both on a global scale and on a deeply personal one. Money in and of itself is a neutral force. But money easily absorbs whatever emotions we want to plaster on top of it. Money represents so much to us – love, power, success, freedom. Any one of us can have any one of these things without money, but we throw money up as a barrier to what we want.

I know I sure do.

My tendency to under earn throughout my adult life has affected my self-esteem and my belief in my talent and my success. At times, to an unreasonable degree. Lots of people slam face first into this particular brick wall – especially artists.

When tying my self-worth up in my belief that lack of money equals lack of talent, I also had to admit that I never really invested in myself or in the kind of writing I truly want to do. Sure, you don’t necessarily need money to do this, but you do need energy. To be fair, much of my work over the past five years was to get me to the point where I felt like I could invest in myself this way. I’ve been blogging for almost ten years. I wrote stories I cared about. I used words to preserve pieces of myself and my history. I did my best to adjust my lifestyle so that my energy was solid and my sensitivities managed. When I hit rock bottom, I did what I could to lurch upward. When I hit rock bottom again, I flailed and then I found help in the upward lurch. Some writers need writing to find themselves, some writers need to find themselves before they can truly write. I needed both. Not that we are ever found, of course, that’s kind of a dumb phrase. We’re always here, but maybe we’re buried. Or we’ve slipped away from ourselves, our intuition, our deep knowing of who we are and what we’re here to do.

I spent a lot of my thirties hunting for myself, digging through the layers until I found my center. Then I lost my center, found it,  lost it, then I found it again. So it goes with center-finding. Balance is never rock solid, it’s always at the mercy of the wind. Until you realize that the wind can’t blow you any farther than you choose to go.

But one of the things I still struggle with is money. Lucky for me, now I can struggle with money while actually having some. When my dad died, he left $40,000 buried in the woods (true story) and a piece of property that we decided to sell. Buried treasure doesn’t last long when you have hospital bills and mortuaries to pay, but the property sale helped me get to the place where I always believed I should be at this age. Namely, solvent.

Some of me felt guilty that it took a parent dying to get me there. Sometimes it felt like blood money, but most of me didn’t feel that bad about that. I was perfectly willing to look at it as a paycheck for dealing with the pain, anguish, stress, grief, and crazy details of death more or less gracefully. (Mostly less.) What I felt guilty about was that the money made so much of a difference to me. Shouldn’t I have gotten there on my own? Shouldn’t I have figured out money by my mid-30s? Shouldn’t I have been more frugal? A parent’s death shouldn’t be a get-out-of-debt-free card. Maybe yes, maybe no. But spiritual counter-arguments of the “we all have our own paths and timelines” persuasion fall on deaf ears when you’re eager to feel terrible about yourself.

Money guilt, even though I’m not in the same dire $257-away-from-being-flat-broke straits as I once was, still rears its goblin head to stick out its tongue at me. Especially when I choose not to earn it.

A few months ago, I did a scary thing. When my last two big freelance contracts ended at almost precisely the same time, rather than engage in my usual six stages of coping – panic, worry, panic again, get over it, write things that excite me for awhile, hunt for a new client, find a new client – I opted to skip the panic part.

Instead, I decided to buy myself two months to write what I wanted to write, to work on projects that fed me rather than drained me, to both invest deeply in work I want to do and take the adult’s version of summer vacation. Three days after I made the decision, I finished my book of animal stories. Vindication! My choice was the right one! Tainted by only the smallest amount of guilt. Yes, part of the deal of buying myself two months of writing was that I wasn’t allowed to feel bad about it, but the gremlins devour good intentions like candy corn. Then a few weeks later, Free Giraffe was born. Now I’m creating some stuff for writers who want to learn how to use their intuition to make the whole process of writing easier and more fun and hopefully more likely to wow the world with their mad genius. (Do you know any writers who’d be into this? Send ’em my way! Are you a writer who’d be into this?) It’s fun and I love it and now I get to love rather than dread sitting down to work.

But now I’m at the end of my two months. I deeply want to keep investing in my own work and I do have the means to do it, but the Real Adults Make Money (Preferably Lots of Money) belief is tough to elude. So are the gremlins of “this is self-indulgent” and “who are you to think you can make money doing what you actually want to do?” and the “lucky you, you certainly couldn’t do this if you had a family to take care of!” All I can do is confront them head on and decide what’s truly important to me. While doing my best to untangle my own issues around money and trust in myself and my abilities.

My issues with money are mostly just my issues with myself – where I don’t trust myself, where I don’t trust my work, where I don’t trust the world. But trust is a muscle. All you can do is lean on it and hope it grows stronger.

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Free Giraffe

July 8, 2015

Free Giraffe

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From My Seat Today

April 21, 2015

Life stretches out, empty. But maybe life’s not a forever silent house and a perpetually pristine rug. Maybe it’s a bucket waiting to be filled.

Joy bursts with noise. Resounds in silence. Echoes color refracted from light. It’s always there, for it relies on nothing.

Leaves tap the window in a boundless cycle of growth, death, renewal. Hard to despair, if your eyes remember to seek out the green.

Releasing the illusion of control isn’t giving up so much as abandoning the fraught tension of worry that felt ever-present.

Purple blooms in a white enamel pot. The pot is labeled “Flowers.” A declaration, without irony, of what is and what will be. If given proper care.

Storytime. This one tugs on an ear, that one flops over in rapture. Another tries to climb inside the book, as if he could live inside what’s being told.

A stack of books tells me I eat too much meat and my sugar intake is questionable. I weigh it down with calendars and lists and a dish of rosy paper hearts.

Rocks glow near iron birds eternally perched. Shades of crimson because feng shui says that red near the bed invites love. It worked.

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One day, I want to be the eccentric woman on the hill with a menagerie. I’ve already scouted out the hill – there’s a perfect one right near my hobbit cottage, marked by a sign urging dog owners to keep hold of their pets so they don’t terrify the goats. I want a hill with goats and giraffes maybe a water park for a baby porpoise and a few adventurous hippos.

I almost started my menagerie on Sunday morning when we were walking through the town square for coffee. A man had four puppies on a leash and he was parked in a spot where people would stop to play with the dogs, which we promptly did. I know myself well enough to give puppies a wide berth but the manfriend was playing with them before I could coax him to a safer spot, one far away from puppies who need homes. Inevitably, one of the puppies crawled over to me and started to lick my hand until I was about thirty seconds from breaking my lease and smuggling a dog into my house. I might have even done it, if housing wasn’t so desperately hard to find in the Bay Area.

We hadn’t made it out of the town square before I started crying because I wanted a puppy. Not just a puppy, that puppy. We had to spend the rest of the day comforting me with discussion about how puppies pee on favorite rugs and chew on hot pink ballet flats.

Yesterday, I started crying in a diner when I saw an empty baby carrier sitting on the ground.

One could chalk this up to hormones – and I usually do – but it feels like a symptom of something bigger.

My life is very quiet. I have a lot of time and space alone. I know that friends with pets and kids and jobs would kill for the life I lead, or at least they would for a week or so, before they started missing their children and pets. But at some point, a few years in, the quiet begins to echo. It’s not emptiness precisely, but it is solitary. And I don’t believe we’re meant to be solitary creatures.

I’ve had people tell me not to wait too long before having children – but it’s not a question of waiting. It’s a question of timing. I’ve been knocking myself out, believing that I have complete control over what happens in my life and when. But the more I abandon the idea of control and just allow things to happen as they will, the easier everything gets.

But I will continue to dream of a time when there are kids and animals tumbling over hills. Even if the giraffe remains a bit of a stretch.

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I’m a hormonal, sugar-fueled mess this week. I find these labels empowering. Because they give me reasons and solutions for the way I feel.

You’re cranky, hungry, tired, and head-achey because being a female is terrible sometimes. To feel better, wait.

You’re cranky, hungry, tired and head-achey because you’ve been eating a lot of things that you know are bad for you. To feel better, stop eating sugar.

(P.S. Not to rub it in or anything, but eating sugar often means no adverse affects from hormones.)

Unfortunately, the blithe “stop eating sugar” mandate is tough sell right now.

Sugar is my achilles heel. My mouth loves it, my body hates it. If I eat sugar, I feel tired and cranky and my brain goes foggy and my skin breaks out and I have cravings for a week.

In the past, simply acknowledging the cycle and recognizing how much worse my life is when I’m eating sugar has been enough to pop me out of the dreaded cycle.

Making good food choices is an experiential process. Quitting certain foods to lose weight or because it’s healthier isn’t enough of an incentive for me, because the concepts are too vague. Vague does not hold up well when confronted with butterscotch pudding on a sunny patio. But experimenting with alterations – over the past five years, I’ve experimented with raw, vegan, and no sugar – for long enough to learn how I feel and how my life shifts without those things provides amazing incentives. Like, stop eating that thing and life gets 100% better and you know this to be a fact. Now, that’s an incentive.

When I’m off sugar, I don’t have food cravings, I sleep well, my energy is high, creative work feels easy, my moods are cheerful, my skin is clear and my jeans fit.

But sugar is in everything. It’s in your curry chicken when you go out for Indian food, it’s in bread you buy at the grocery store, it’s in basically any food that comes in a box or from a restaurant. It also craftily hides under innocuously healthy sounding names, like honey and brown rice syrup. Alcohol reacts in your body the same way sugar does. So do potatoes.

Sugar is also in pancakes and oh my stars, how I love pancakes. Green juice is so terribly uninspiring when what you really want is a stack of buttery blueberry pancakes.

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Portrait of the artist after she has demanded pancakes on a Sunday morning. 

But pancakes make me feel terrible and green juice makes me feel like I’m flying through the sky on a friendly dragon.

I’ve been dabbling in sugar again, because I’ve been going out to eat a lot more often than in past years and I’m in a relationship now so my exercise routine is all thrown off and also the demon of over-confidence started to whisper in my ear about how “sugar doesn’t affect you that much!” and “you’re fine!” and “mmm, buttercream-frosted cupcakes!” 

I’ve given up sugar four or five times now. Sometimes it lasts for a year, sometimes it lasts for six months, last week it lasted for about three days. Usually, I have to hit some point of pain – like watching the sugar cycle of crankiness and depression roller coaster me up and down for awhile until I decide it’s absolutely 100% not worth it. Then everything clicks in and abandoning sugar feels easy for green juice feels easy. But I just haven’t hit that point yet. And I’m a little mad at myself because I need that point.

Willpower isn’t really a thing for me. I have no interest in torturing myself, even for the sake of health or feeling better. Self-control and discipline have never made me jump for joy. So I wait until eating sugar is actually a more painful prospect than not eating sugar and everything gets easy.

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You know how sometimes you get nudged by something? Maybe you’re stepping out the door and the sky looks fairly innocuous, plenty of sun and only a few clouds off in the distance, but something inside you whispers, “Grab your umbrella.” But you ignore the little whispering voice because your brain says, with great authority, “That doesn’t make sense, the weather is perfect and nowhere on my weather app did it say rain,” and then you get soaked on your way to the car later that evening.

I’m learning to pay attention to those nudges, even when they don’t make logical sense. I’ve never been a huge fan of logic anyway.

Lately, my nudges don’t seem to care so much about my personal comfort – they tend to be more work related, even when it’s decidedly uncomfortable for me. (Thanks, nudges.) In the past few weeks, the latest of these – a newsletter – has graduated from nudging to knocking. It’s merciless and unrelenting and so for the good of my skull, I need to get this newsletter idea moving.

So here we go.

One of my favorite things to do is intuitive writing. It’s hard to put words to it (ironically), but here’s a reasonably decent description, if you’re interested. I’ve been doing it more seriously for about a year now, doing love and career readings for friends or just a “whatever you need to hear right now” sort of thing. What I’ve learned is that I can also do it for groups. Feel into what a certain group of people – say, a group of newsletter subscribers – most need to hear and type it out.

Because it’s better understood experientially than logically, let me give you an example of what a group intuitive reading might look like:

What does the group need to hear today?

We are all here for the same purpose. It may look different, as each life looks different, but we are all on the same journey. To see the light in ourselves and in others, to see the love reflected back to us that we radiate. We recognize that terms like light and love have become overused, almost to the point of losing their meaning. We invite you now to relearn that meaning. To look for that light and love in whatever it is you cherish most – your child, your spouse, your dog, your home. Even a car can be a source of great joy, when the car is truly loved for itself and not for what you think it means about you. (Cars don’t work when they’re purchased to impress your neighbors. They only work when you love them and putting your hands on the steering wheel brings you a great sense of joy. Zoom, zoom.)

Now is the time to begin working with these almost hackneyed phrases. To bring them into your own life, to recognize them for what they are – as the warm feeling that spreads through your chest as you relax into your body and into the knowledge of what you truly love. (A book, the ocean, your oldest friend, the way your living room looks when the light hits it just right and you don’t have anything to do for at least an hour…)

Find new words if you wish, but learn that feeling. Learn what inspires it, learn how the sensations in your body feel, come back into knowing what it feels like to be filled with light and love. Because it’s not about learning, but remembering. You all know what this is and how it feels and how to turn your attention toward it. You just need to be reminded that you know and to ask for help in accepting it again. For the moment a desire comes into being is the same moment the answer is available. This is another thing to remember and relearn, but it comes with opening yourself up to the lightness of true joy, for its own sake.

So, there you have it. I honestly don’t know exactly what this newsletter will be yet, but it will definitely include some form of group reading like that one up there and maybe news about the animals stories, which I have decided to turn into a book and am terribly excited about. And maybe pictures of giraffes or updates about how badly I want a bunny named Ophelia.

If you’re interested in getting something like this in your inbox every so often, jump in! 


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Nobody Likes Big Rats

March 4, 2015

Viola learned one harsh, inviolable, life-defining truth the hard way:

Baby possums are adorable.

Adolescent possums…not so much.

She had been adored as a child. Revered, even. People stopped to coo at her in the streets and she was given treats by anyone who had a treat to give. Her parents fussed, her grandparents doted, and her aunts spoiled. A nice life, if you can get it.

But as her fuzzily sweet baby self grew into an ungainly rat-like creature whose whippy rodent tail dragged behind her, reaction to her person became far less enjoyable. It seemed that the other animals responded not to her sparkling personality, not to her ability to soothe fussy infants, not to the fact that she could recite every flower that grew within two miles of the village – alphabetically by name and genus, thankyouverymuch – but to her appearance.

People loved her when she was adorable, but were decidedly less interested when she grew into her tail.

Viola pushed her spectacles up her nose and glared at her fellow classmates. Her sharp eyes scanned the room. She was definitely the ugliest one between these – and let’s be honest, most – four walls. She wished she didn’t care so much. But it’s hard to go from toast-of-the-town to ignored-in-the-corner in just a few short years.

Noticing that her left lens was smudged, Viola whipped off her spectacles and polished them on her gingham dress. When she put them back on and the classroom swam back into focus, she saw a perfect pale face right in front of her, a little too close for comfort. Especially when that face was Fern’s, the prettiest bunny in the county. Viola’s eyes crossed as she tried to focus on the diminutive pink bunny nose two inches from her face.

Viola hated Fern. She hated her pink leather satchel, she hated the way her shiny whiskers floated and her silky ears lay down her back. She hated that Basin the badger was always sitting next to her in school. She hated that Fern was now sitting right in front of her, nose twitching expectantly, impossible to ignore.

“Will you help me with our spelling list, Viola?” Fern asked, rather anxiously. Viola was surprised. She just assumed that Fern had deigned to join her in order to mock her lank gray fur or perhaps the long, unattractive tail she kept curled under her seat. Just because Fern had never shown any penchant for being unkind didn’t mean today wasn’t the day.

Viola looked down at her own list, accurately spelled in her beautiful round hand. Viola spent hours perfecting her penmanship. Just because her face couldn’t be pretty didn’t mean she couldn’t make her homework so.

Fern took this as an invitation and sat in the empty seat beside her. “Flowers are so dreadfully hard to spell,” she said miserably, plopping her fuzzy chin in her paw. “Chrysanthawhat? Basin doesn’t know how to spell any of these either,” she said, as Viola’s entire frame tightened. “He sits next to me to help me with my sums because I’m hopeless at them, but he isn’t good at spelling and we’re both lost.” She gazed despondently down at her long bunny feet. “Can you help? You’re so good at school.” Fern looked up at Viola earnestly, her entire body quivering in hope.

Viola had her suspicions, but decided she was in no position to be choosy.

So she sat with Fern and Basin by the river every day after school, teaching them how to spell. By the day of the test, Viola had both Fern and Basin accurately spelling everything from anemone to quibble – and she had two new friends.

Fern and Basin didn’t care what she looked like. In fact, they were jealous of her tail and its ability to hit a croquet ball through the farthest wicket. In turn, Viola didn’t mind that Fern was hopeless with fractions or that Basin was late to everything. It meant she was useful – it’s nice to be useful – and that she and Fern could eat all the cake before Basin arrived.

True friends are in charge of loving what you don’t like about yourself, Viola thought, holding it for you until you learn to see it as they do.

This is the fourth in a collection of stories about animals who talk and drink tea and get themselves in trouble. The first story, about a fastidiously dressed raccoon named Randall, is here. The second, about a world-weary lemur named Mortimer, is here. The third, about mischievous wombat twins with terrible names, is here. These stories have become some of my favorite things in life, so I hope you enjoy them. 

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Who’s been crying a lot lately?

ME TOO.

After years of desperately wishing I had been born with an instruction manual because I really don’t understand how I operate and am prone to pulling the wrong levers, I’m finally noticing how deeply my emotions can help or inhibit me.

If I observe and express them – usually by sobbing like my heart’s about to shatter like glass on concrete – they help me.

If I ignore them or decide I don’t have time for them right now because I have to watch TV or because whatever’s on my to-do list is infinitely more pressing, they inhibit me.

When I let myself carry around unexpressed emotion, it totally blocks me up. To the point where I can’t function. Getting client work done is like pushing a two-story house up a cliff using only my thumbs and writing anything creative is impossible. My brain spends all its energy coughing up all the reasons my relationships don’t work and why everything is terrible and why that won’t ever change.

But when I let myself cry – sob, really, in the most dramatic fashion possible – then in an hour or so, everything feels better.

My therapist told me I needed to cry more and I thought that was silly. “I cry the perfect amount,” I thought. But then I’d go for a week or two without giving much attention to my emotional state and everything would begin to pile on top of me like layers of fog and dust and rubbish until my entire life felt like a toxic waste site. Crying is like washing away the acres of sludge with a convenient tsunami that leaves everything clear and ready for whatever’s next.

I feel like someone just handed me that instruction manual. 437 pages on How Amber Works, complete with diagrams. Now every time I feel incapable of getting anything done, it’s not because I’m lazy or unmotivated or undisciplined or in the wrong career or a complete waste of space. It just means that I need to go outside and stick my bare feet in the grass and cry for awhile. Or go make a list of everything I’m feeling sad and angry about. The signs have been pointing me in this direction for a long time, I was just too caught up in telling myself I was a bad human to see what was really going on.

Crying is incredibly freeing. It releases whatever has piled up on top of you and wipes your outlook on life clean. Crying makes you happier, smarter, more productive, and less prone to guilt trips. Crying takes the mess your three-year-old inner self has made on the etch-a-sketch of your life and shakes it clear.

I think we should all spend some time crying today. Maybe even every day.

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