Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday - on My Mind- Be Mindful of your Foremothers

This Monday morning, my foremothers are occupying my mind. Specifically, I've been thinking about my great-grandmother. I was fortunate to have her in my life until I was 20. She was 95 years old when she passed away, and in the time I knew her, she did spend time doing nothing. However, this wasn't always the case.

When she married in her early twenties, she spent her days cooking three full meals a day for my great-grandfather and his eleven brothers who share-cropped with him. We're not talking bologna sandwiches; we're talking fried chicken and mashed potatoes with cream gravy. We're also talking about no indoor plumbing and no air conditioning in the West Texas heat. No microwaves, no prepared foods, no dishwashers, and no paper plates or paper napkins. Even when she had tuberculosis and was exiled to an outbuilding, she was still expected to have lunch on the table at noon. On top of this, she had to tend to the family garden if they were to have any vegetables to eat, care for the chickens, and do the weekly washing with a washboard. The thing is, I'm sure she thought she had it easy compared to her great-grandmother. After all, at least she had access to a market and a pump to get water out of the ground.

After my bout with the flu last week, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how much time we really have. Technology has added hours to our days. We no longer have to fetch the water and make the soap to wash the dishes. We just load them in a machine and push a button. Of course, now we have to spend hours working to pay for that machine, but still, we have it pretty good. Take a minute to imagine yourself as a pioneer woman settling on the great plains. I can't imagine that those women ever had a moment to themselves, a few minutes to indulge in nothingness.

Take a moment to imagine the hours Jane Austen must have spent writing the entire manuscript for Pride and Prejudice by hand. Every edit requiring a complete rewrite of the entire page. No cut and paste option. No ability to back up your work. I can just imagine a page or two getting ruined by a spilled cup of tea. Can you imagine the frustration?

I have to imagine that all the women who have come before us would think us very lucky indeed to have so much time. So today, I wish to be mindful of those women. I wish to honor them by being mindful of my time and by spending it wisely. How will you honor your foremothers today?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nothing is Easy

Over the past few years, I have discovered that whenever there is a particular life lesson that I need to learn, the universe responds with compassion by providing the ideal opportunity to learn that lesson. I've also learned that when you fail to take advantage of the opportunities the benevolent universe has offered you, she tends to bitch slap you. I know all of this, yet I still find myself getting slapped around from time to time.

Last Friday I complained that I was a little stressed about trying to find fifteen minutes to dedicate to doing nothing. I had decided to join The Next Chapter, an online book club hosted by the brilliant Jamie Ridler, and I was already stressed about the first ingredient of The Joy Diet - Nothing. I'm self-employed so I can set my own schedule. I do have deadlines and such, but I do have quite a bit of flexibility. Yet I was still a little overwhelmed by the thought of taking a mere fifteen minutes for myself. After all, the world might just stop spinning if I stop tending to everything. The ever wise Lawendula tried to point me in the right direction with this post, but I didn't listen. After all, I had Important Things to do.

The universe responded with all her love by bitch-slapping me with the flu. Turns out, I had loads of time to do nothing. Five days to do nothing but lounge around in my pajamas in my bedroom, quarantined from the world. Surprisingly, the world did not crumble down around me. The things that absolutely had to get done somehow got done. It turns out that when you're sick as a dog, you become much more efficient. A fever addled brain refuses to waste time that could be spent dreaming those lovely delirious fever dreams. It really doesn't care about anyone's Facebook status or who got eliminated on Top Chef. It just wants to sleep.

I learned so much from my week of nothing, though not necessarily the things I would have thought. First of all, I learned that I have so much more time than I think I have. I waste too much time doing things that aren't really helping me. Five minutes here and there add up to hours that could be spent more joyfully. Secondly, I learned a valuable lesson about prioritizing the things that are really important to me. When you only feel human for a few moments at a time, you quickly learn what is really important and what can be put off until later. Most importantly, I learned that I really have no more excuses. I have the time. I know what is important to me. There is no reason not to act accordingly. There is no excuse for not taking my creativity more seriously. There is no excuse for not taking better care of myself. There is no excuse for not taking every opportunity to laugh and play with my daughter. There is no excuse for not taking the time to simply enjoy life. That's so simple, isn't it? Yet it is so hard for so many of us.

Here's hoping that we all find it easier to find the joy in life as we add the next ingredient to the recipe.

Wishing you all nothing but goodness.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Where's the Joy?

Today is the start of a new book for the Next Chapter Book Club, an online book club hosted by the brilliant Jamie Ridler. The book selection for this go-round is The Joy Diet by Martha Beck.

As I was writing my morning pages this morning, this question kept knocking around in the back of my mind. To get it to quiet down, I am going to ask you: What has happened to us as a society that we instruction manuals on how to be happy? How did we manage to get so lost and disconnected?

I'd like to think that I'm a pretty happy, positive person. After all, I've devoured The Art of Happiness. Yet here I am, knowing that I need to read this book. It isn't that I don't know what to do to protect my mental health; it's that I seem to put myself on the back burner. Don't we do that too often? Especially as women and wives and mothers and caretakers. Every one else comes first. All our other obligations come first. Take five minutes for myself - are you crazy? I don't even get to go to the bathroom by myself!

Maybe it isn't that we need an instruction manual; maybe it's just that we need a reminder to cherish ourselves. Maybe we just need to remind ourselves that we deserve to treat ourselves to a diet of pure joy. Whatever it is, I am looking forward to this journey.

Perhaps it is divine providence that the assignment this week is NOTHING. The next five days of my life are going to be absolutely insane. I have a crazy amount of work due, I'm going out of town for a training, and the list could go on and on. The idea of doing nothing for 15 minutes a day sounds wonderful, but stresses me out a little too. I'm going to accept this synchronicity as the Universe telling me to slow the hell down. I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stretching Big!

Every week, Jamie Ridler poses a simple question. At first glance the question may seem simple; however, as you let it stew a bit you find yourself lovingly cursing Jamie for making you examine your life more closely than you may want to. This week's simple question:

How do you wish to stretch?

Hmm. I wish to stretch BIG! I wish to stretch to fulfill my full potential. I wish to stretch and grow to fit into the person I'm intended be. I wish to stretch into infinite possibility and endless opportunities. I wish to stop hiding behind excuses, logic, and reasoning so that I can stretch into intuition, wisdom, and love. I wish to stretch into my Bad Ass Wild Woman and out of But Maybe, to stretch and grow without thinking or rationalizing because it is what we are all meant to do, and to constantly stretch upward and outward towards all the beauty and love that this world holds. Now, SSSTTTRRRETTTCCHH! You'll feel better if you do.

Wishing you nothing but goodness. May the wishes of your heart come true.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Bad Ass Wild Woman

After writing Wednesday's post, I cruised on over to visit Blisschick's blog and had to laugh at the "coincidence" that she was interviewing someone about their inner Wild Woman. I hadn't ever named my impulsive intuition before, but as I was wishcasting Wednesday, she named herself: Bad Ass Wild Woman.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, I have the "Eccentricity Revolution for Wild Women" poster set as my wallpaper. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes to associate intuition with the Wild Woman. When I think of Wild Woman, I think of primal, animal instincts. Knowing without words. Knowing without having to think or analyze. Just knowing and acting on that knowledge.

But why Bad Ass? Because I need her to be. I need her to be a Bad Ass because, frankly, I don't listen to her very well. I need her to be willing to kick me in the ass when I'm being a pain in hers. I need for her to push me when I'm too afraid to jump. She's a Bad Ass because I am not. I rationalize and make excuses and over-analyze everything. I carefully weigh every possible repercussion of every possible decision. She just does it because she knows the eventual outcome will be the one possibility I overlooked. She knows that if I just listen to her, no matter what the outcome, we will be able to handle it together.

My Bad Ass Wild Woman is needing some love because I have shut her out for far too long. I'm gonna go spend some time with her doing something wildly impulsive. How do you spend time with your BAWW? How do you honor her?

Peace and Goodness to you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning to really listen

Once again, Jamie over at Jamie Ridler Studios has asked a question that seems to hit a little too close to home. Today's question leaves me feeling like I've been punched in the gut - a good sign that I need to listen to my answer.

Today's question: What do I want to learn?

I want to learn to really listen to myself. I am smarter and wiser than I am usually willing to admit. I have a very wise inner voice that would lead me if I would only let her. She was there to warn me before I got myself into any number of damaging relationships. Instead of listening to her, I listened to the "But maybe . . ." voice.

I used to think that the But Maybe was my hopeful, optimistic voice, but I am learning that she is my self-sabotaging voice. She convinces me to make choices that I know will end in heartache. When my Bad Ass Wise Woman self says, "This is a bad idea, period," little old But Maybe pipes in, "But maybe it will be the most wonderful experience of your life. Maybe you can change him. Maybe you can learn to be happy with this situation. Maybe this will be enough." When I listen to But Maybe, I find myself in pain that takes years to heal.

On the rare occasions that I listen to Bad Ass Wise Woman, I find myself in the most amazing places, in the most fulfilling relationships, and in the midst of that peace that passes understanding. I'm afraid that I have ignored her into silence these past few years. So, I want to learn how to bring her back, to honor her, and most of all to listen to her and heed her wisdom.

What do you wish to learn today?

Monday, September 7, 2009

My first story

I rummaged through my old trunk this weekend. Somehow, through dozens of moves across oceans and continents, I have managed to hold on to this trunk and its contents for over 20 years. It has somehow survived several planned and a couple of unplanned purgings of my personal possessions. I have gone through the contents of this trunk dozens of times in the last decade, so I was quite surprised to discover something in it that had somehow escaped my notice for the past few decades. It was this:

A short story I must have written when I was around 7 or 8 years old. As I read it, I was struck by how bold I must have been at that age to sit down and create a story. How bold that little girl was to place it somewhere for safekeeping for all of these years. What happened to that boldness? When did she stop creating? When did she lose her confidence?

OK, to be completely honest, the plot was lacking a bit, but there was a discernible climax, and the opening was pretty dramatic. Some of the writing was even quite descriptive and evocative. I found myself wishing I could hug my younger self. I want to encourage and nurture her. I want to tell her that she shows true promise. I wish I could help her find people who would encourage her to pursue her dreams, and I wish I could protect her from the criticism from without and within that will silence her for thirty years. Most of all, I wish to borrow some of her boldness.

I wish I could tell her that she does have something worth saying, stories worth sharing with the world no matter how much she believes she might not. I wish I could tell her that she is unique and fascinating and has a quirky way of looking at the world that is worth sharing. I want to tell her to hold on to that boldness no matter what.

I want to tell her thank-you for sharing some of that boldness with me. I will keep her in my heart and my mind, and I will bring forth her boldness whenever the whispers of self-doubt grow into screams. I honor her by showing up on the page, even when I don't want to - especially when I don't want to.

What words of wisdom or encouragement would you pass on to your younger artist? How do you honor her?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I wish to begin . . .

Well, Jamie Ridler has stumped me again with todays wish prompt. These questions seem so easy, so simple, but they really require a bit of introspection and self-examination. I'm still not sure what my answer will be, but here it goes.

What do you wish to begin?

I wish to begin creating more space in my life for me and my writing. I wish to begin protecting myself and my space from would-be invaders. I wish to begin honoring my craft and my creative spirit, and in order to do so, I wish to begin creating a sacred physical space for my work. I wish to begin creating a space in my home that is mine, a small corner where I can find rest and refuge, safety and silence, tenderness and time. I wish to begin taking myself seriously as a writer and to claim that title with no hesitation or doubt. I wish to begin now.

May all your wishes come true, today and always.