My next webcast for writers is happening next Thursday, September 3, at 7 p.m. PST!
If you’ve been working too hard and vehemently not practicing what you preach – “take care of yourself! take naps!” she croons blithely while waking up at o’dark thirty, reaching for her laptop, and going under for ten hours – a face swollen with poison oak and an optometrist who says “how did your eyes get that much worse in a month?” is a bitch slap to wake up.
We teach what we most need to learn. It’s why I’m always on about self-care and self-love and connecting with yourself. Because I will actively and insistently not take care of myself – I don’t have time! I need to attack my to-do list! I need to make money!* – until my body is required to battle with a vicious plant and basically blind me to make me stop.
* fear, fear, fear – something I remember when I’m taking care of myself
I can’t do the work I do – write and create and channel for people – without taking care of myself. First. Not as an after-thought. Not after my body wrestles me to the floor and makes me beg for mercy.
Every morning is for me, not for work. I need to run or dance daily. Every breakfast is to be eaten on the deck in the sun, with no devices and no distractions. Every meditation is to find out if my heart has something to say or if it’s just my head hosting a gremlin party, cackling and poking my fear-centers with their pitchforks. I need to plop down in front of my altar and re-find the peace. If the day goes south at any point, I need to haul my butt right back there and remind myself of what is true. Pull my thoughts into the center of my head and drop them into the calm well of my heart. Peace, not noise.
Because writing from my head doesn’t do anything for anyone. Thoughts, old voices, static. But when I’m taking care of myself, I get pulled. Pulled into something that needs to be said, something that comes from a place of love and occasional near-tears. That’s when it connects and resonates and the magic happens.
Bonus: More naps and less worrying.
Magic springs from within. It’s easy to forget this, because we see it reflected around us, so we think that enchantment comes from some external source. But those who spot the most magic in their world are the ones who carry it with them and shine it like a beacon onto the world.
For most of this year, I’ve been playing with a lunar abundance practice. It’s sweet and gentle, moving in a yin and yang flow that shifts every few days. At each new moon, I set an intention.
This lunar cycle, my intention is to create a space of magic in my life and my work.
So far, it’s a massive fail. Both at making magic and at sitting with and feeling the intention each morning, the most crucial part of the practice. After a hard push toward my new goal of helping writers realize their true potential, I burnt out – both physically and emotionally. One of my steepest learning curves is taking deep and tender care of myself.
Tony Robbins said in an interview that he sits in a quiet space of gratitude and love for five minutes each day – if you don’t have five minutes each day, you don’t have a life.
After starting a new business while also trying to focus on my own writing – not to mention, wrestling with my beliefs around money, intense couples therapy, and fielding an outbreak of poison oak that had me in the doctor’s waiting room yesterday because my face was so puffy I look like a misshapen bobble head doll – I feel like the least magical creature on earth.
So I ignored my intention for awhile. Eh, I said. It’s not happening right now and that’s okay. Maybe next month, maybe next year, maybe next life. In the meantime, bring me all the drugs. Yes, the hippie lasts until I’m a) in pain or b) have a face like a misshapen bobble head doll and then hello pharmaceuticals! I cannot ingest you fast enough!
Until the next yin phase rolls through and I’m reminded that it’s not about doing all the things all the time. It’s not about pushing. Sometimes life is best when you take a moment to step back and reflect and notice and gently adjust as necessary. Maybe walking around with a face like a swollen leper for awhile is simply a reminder to slow down and take care of myself.
So I return to my intention. I allow myself to feel magic within and tune my receptors to notice it without, even though everything I can see in my world feels like the exact opposite of magic.
But every good fairytale has a troll, so maybe that’s the part I’ll play. At least until the medication starts working.
HI, WRITERS! GOT MORE STUFF FOR YA!
25 Bits of Channeled Guidance for Writers is meant to spark the flow, ease the pain, and help you do the work you’re here to do. It’s FREE! At least until next Tuesday, August 18, when it jumps to $5. So now’s a good time to grab it. If it resonates with you, I’d love it if you shared the link with any other writers in your life.
A teacher gave me an assignment a few months ago and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since we saw each other last, I’ve slept in an Irish castle, finished writing a book of animal stories, and adopted a pet sea otter (stuffed).
I’ve also started a new blog. I’m posting there almost every day and it’s very different from what I do here. Less me, more us. It’s about how we can live deeply, intuitively & joyfully. My hope is that it will be an internet magic eight ball that gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.
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.
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.
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.
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.