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One Step at a Time

I’m currently in the midst of a particularly busy season.

If August was the sprint, this is the marathon. This is the part that feels overwhelming and exciting and where all the growth and anxiety and change happens.

This is the best and worst part.

I’m loving and hating it.

Without going into detail, mostly because I don’t have time, I just wanted to take a moment here in my personal space to say that I believe these big projects get accomplished one little choice and one little step at a time.

I heard this story about Desi Arnaz once and the huge piles of scripts and work he always had on his desk while he and Lucille Ball basically transformed modern television.

When asked how he got it all done, he simply said “One script at a time.”

In looking at some of the tasks ahead on the current project I’m embarking in (which is happening while all the other projects I’m involved in are still very much going and not relenting at all), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or wonder how the hell it will happen. But down that way lies madness. And even worse, not getting it done.

So instead a trust in the magic and I trust in myself and I do each task one at a time.

I just get it done.

No time for complaints or judgement. There is time to listen, but that’s different. Time now is just to act. Soon will be to reflect.

But until reflection, it gets done one script and one step at a time.

That Little Voice

I was inconvenienced yesterday. It was minor but I found it annoying because it was very nearly avoided. Ten extra seconds and the next twenty minutes of frustration could have been avoided.

I wasn’t proud of my initial reaction. I was pissed. I was annoyed. I was resentful. I was heated. I thought the person who made a mistake was an idiot. I thought the company who employed the person was automated and didn’t care. I thought the customer service representatives I talked to were obnoxious. I was even pissed that they were using soothing tactics with me that were working. I didn’t like to be calmed when I wanted to be annoyed and angry.

I was pissed at myself for getting so angry. I was peeved I let my temper flare again. Unfortunately for my husband, he came home right in the thick of it and left again without plans to help. That didn’t bode well for him, as you can imagine.

I felt the tension in my body. I felt the “I have to everything myself” and “People are so stupid” pity party starting. I even lost my patience on my perfect pups and begrudgingly walked them with very little care for what they actually wanted to do or smell or sniff.

The whole time it was happening, I heard this little voice in the back of my mind saying “Make it a joke,” and “it’s okay,” and “it’ll turn out fine.” It whispered that there’s a bigger perspective I’m missing and a version of me that actually could ride this wave…maybe even – dare I say it – find a way to get joy out of it.

I resented it. I knew there was some truth to what it was saying but I just wanted to let it let me be pissed.

I don’t know about you, but I was often told that I’m overreacting. That I’m being too dramatic. My emotions were mitigated so much that whenever I felt something that wasn’t beautiful, I got a side order of shame served right along with it for even feeling. The fact that I express and manifest emotions differently meant, to some people, I was obviously doing it wrong. So I’ve rebelled in recent years and been very protective of my own self worth and the fact that I’m allowed to feel whatever emotions I am feeling.

So I yelled back at the voice and told it that I’m allowed to be this pissed and I’m allowed to go on a small rampage and take it out on the creatures I love most and it can eff the eff off. It just patiently agreed and reminded me that’s true but also that’s probably not the most fun use of my time. I listened but raged anyway.

The dogs and I went on a walk. Long story short, because of the walk and listening to that little instinctual voice inside me, I was able to fix the problem set out. I even did so pretty quickly and with help of a kind stranger. And now I’ll be able to leverage this problem into a gift.

I petty quickly let go of the anger and listened more intensely to that voice again. It didn’t gloat. It didn’t berate me. It didn’t say “I told you so.” It simply calmed me down and reminded me that there is another voice in my head now even when the old frustration patterns creep up. It’s okay to be mad. But you don’t have to be that mad for that long.

I’ve worked hard to have another voice in there. Hours of meditation, reading, self growth, spirituality studies…you name it. There’s clearly plenty of work to do because that voice wasn’t my go-to. The old patterns still took over. But having her in there and having a seat at the table gives me hope.

This morning, I made it a point to meditate for a bit longer than usual. Yesterday, it didn’t happen (shocking). I tend to run hot and move quickly. The best thing I can do is in the moments of calmness, cultivate that voice more and give it more empowerment and muscle memory in my bones. That way, if and when something goes awry again, I can increase its influence over my reaction.

In the moment, it’s not going to happen. But I can do it in the in-between moments.

That’s where all the juicy good stuff happens anyway.

Remembering Your Why

The same question has been popping up lately in my world. It’s come up in myself. It’s come up with people I think are successful. And it’s come up with people who are trying to find their big break.

That question is variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

When my peers get big – or even small – successes in their lives, I used to constantly ask myself (or the universe, whoever was more open to listening at the time), “Why didn’t I get that?”

When talking to people who are in early stages of their career or who are trying to figure out how to pursue creativity as a career, I’ll often hear then bemoan about people who are in similar boats to them who have found some traction. They’ll ask variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

Even people who are successful will look at others who have made different choices and wonder, “Why didn’t I get that?

It’s a natural question. We’re creatures who love to compare. But it’s even more potent at the moment in a world where we share more information than ever before, so it’s easier and more addictive to compare yourself to others than it has been throughout human history.

Though the question is natural, it’s not helpful. And the longer you entertain it, the more it will lead you down a spiraling path where entitlement and victimhood are unhealthily entangled.

The truth isn’t what you want to hear. The truth is, you didn’t get that because it wasn’t meant for you. It was never your thing. It was always the thing of whoever has it. And the longer you bemoan the loss of something that wasn’t yours, the more opportunities that could be yours pass you by.

The best advice I’ve recently heard about changing this same perspective into a more positive and productive one is from a person who is killing it in their respective field at the moment. They said their major mental shift came from thinking “Why isn’t the world giving me what I want?” to “What can I do to really make an impact on the world?”

Not to get all JFK on you, but ask not what your creativity can do for you, but ask what you can do for your creativity.

The more you lean into what you really want to do and the type of content you want to create, you start to inevitably become more unique. And the opportunities that are unique to your particular perspective and interests start to appear. And those feel more tangible and more uniquely you because you’re creating tangible things that are more uniquely you.

It’s about remembering your why. Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Why do you want to do it? What is it that originally drew you to this world? What makes you stick around or keep coming back even when it’s difficult?

Once you understand and lean into that, your interest in comparisons diminishes. It doesn’t really matter to you what other people are doing because you’re not doing it for the outcomes they’re receiving. You’re doing it because of the reasons you remind yourself. You’re doing it for the purposes of really making an impact. You’re doing it because you love it and you need it.

Accolades are fine. But spending your life staring at the accolades of others and wondering “Why didn’t I get that?” seems like a boring existence, if you ask me.

And you didn’t. But you’re reading this. So I’ll pretend you did.

You didn’t get something because you did get other things. So recognize, embrace, and utilize what you’ve got and use it to make your unique mark.

Or don’t. I can’t control ya.

The Invitation

I talk a lot about my dogs.

Believe me, I know.

To me, dogs have a lot of simple pleasures figured out. And, like all living creatures, there are lots of wonderful things you can constantly learn from them. My dog, Clyde, taught me another lesson recently that I have found to be incredibly inspiring, so I’m going to share it here with you.

Plus you get to see a cute Clyde pic. So really, all around, you’re welcome.

My Clydie loves this one ridiculously colorful furball we have for him. He used to love a very similar furball we got that was all yellow. So I went to get him another and found this multi-colored one. We call the original “furball” and the other one “party ball.”

It’s his favorite toy. When we get home from being gone, he loves to show it off to us. He runs to get it and then brings it up with his tail wagging. If you throw it, h’oh boy game on. If you don’t, you might eventually find yourself with a party ball in your lap and a cute Clyde a few feet away with his tail wagging beckoning you to throw it.

It’s adorable.

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He doesn’t just grab it when we get home, though. He grabs it often. Even if I’ve been sitting and working for a while, he will sometimes come up and just hold party ball in his mouth and wiggle his tail inviting me to play with him.

If I get up after a long spell of work, the first thing he does is go over and grab party ball. He brings it over and gives me a look, inviting me to play with him.

I don’t always do it. In fact, most of the time when he grabs the ball, it is not play time. Sometimes I’ll throw it for a minute but then get right back to work. Sometimes I just throw it once. Sometimes I just acknowledge him with it and move on.

But, see, the thing is… Clyde doesn’t dwell in rejection. He dwells in possibility.

And, no matter how many times I don’t throw party ball, he always invites me to play every chance he gets. Because sometimes I do. And when I do, it’s awesome.

I adore his optimism. I adore his ability to not count the rejections. I love the fact that every time there’s a break, I get a small little reminder that there’s always time for quick play. Or at least, time can (and should) be made for a little whimsy.

He’s a wise little furry cutie patootie and I’m grateful to call him my baby.

 

 

Lesson from the Islands

I just got back from Hawaii yesterday.

I spent a long weekend in Maui. I was there for a wedding. They call it getting “Maui’d.” I enjoyed that pun probably too much.

I feel somewhat behind on things. That’s likely thanks to the intense travel I had for a couple weeks before this trip. I don’t have to travel again until early next week. Woot. Go me.

I realized this morning I wanted to share the lessons I learned from my trip to Maui. It wasn’t a pure vacation since there were some marriage-oriented obligations. But those were easy and fun. And I spent the few days I was there at a condo that was right on the ocean, so I went to sleep and woke up every day to the sounds of the ocean waves.

I always like to be “productive.” I like to get something out of or make the most of almost any situation. So with four or so days off-the-grid just hanging out with minimal obligations, I wondered what lesson I have to show for it. What can I share with the world that is life-changing from these precious few days letting my brain fully let go and just enjoy?

It’s actually pretty simple. The lesson is relax.

Relax.

That’s it.

There’s so much we can’t control. There’s so much to see. They’re so much to linger on and dawdle over. There’s so much in this world to enjoy.

Sure, packing up and living on the islands isn’t the trajectory for most people. Though I loved it, I am happy to be back (with my dogs). I’m happy to be in a place where my industry thrives and able to take advantage of many opportunities around me. But that doesn’t mean I need to be tense about it all. I can enjoy and relax even without going to sleep with ocean sounds every night.

The environment on Maui caters to relaxation. So if we know it’s possible to reach that level of relaxation, why not do whatever it takes to allow elements of that external environment and the lesson it provides to internally cultivate that same feeling? 

Even with all the beauty, you can still be stressed on Maui. And even with all the chaos, you can still be calm in LA.

Or wherever you are.

Just relax, baby.

Relax.

Deliberately Taking the Hard Way

I spent this morning playing at the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. If you haven’t been, go. I don’t care how old you are, you need to experience it at least once in your lifetime. It’s basically a large welded windy weird and wonderful playground for kids of all ages (and that includes grown-ass kids aka adults).

My body is sore and I have bruises everywhere. I loved it.

All around the City Museum are choices. The whole experience is really just a series of choices. From the moment you walk in, you choose which area you’re going to explore. They’re mostly interconnected, but unless you’re an expert at it, you don’t always know where one place will lead you.

There are all kinds of choices in every area. You can stay on the outside and enjoy some of the sights and sounds available from outside of the jungle gym-style area. Or you can take some of the easier stairs and other routes that don’t require too much physical work. Or, you can take some of the more mysterious and exciting tunnels that are often dark and confusing and it’s purposely unclear where they lead.

That’s my favorite mode. Go the hardest and weirdest route I can find. If it looks like I *might* even be able to get through, I’m trying.

It’s by far the most fun.

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I feel like we often choose the easier route in whatever decision we’re making. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel some ease and some flow into your life. I’m not saying we have to choose hard things because we need to feel like something is difficult to get enjoyment out of it. But I do think sometimes we miss out by choosing the path we can see and/or the one of least resistance. 

Resistance can be good for us. It can be good to us. It’s a wonderful teacher that forces us to push ourselves to the limits. And, in those limits, we can see the truth… which is that they aren’t really limits after all. They’re just arbitrary limits we set on ourselves.

I mean, sure, sometimes you actually can’t fit in a tunnel. Your body is physically too big to get through a space. I get that. But for the most part, you are able to do a lot more than you thin you can. You’re able to push yourself past where you think your own boundaries are. Then those new further boundaries become the new goal to push past as you continue to grow and change.

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot. I don’t always love to do things that I do. I do love the growth that comes from choosing to do them. And so I get over the petty hurdle of actually doing whatever it is I’m doing in order to reap the hefty benefits.

For example, when I’m in my routine (and not traveling like a maniac), I’m a very early riser. I get up, journal, meditate, read, go to the first yoga class of the day, then come back and start my day with my family. By the time 9 or 10 am hits, I’ve accomplished so much, had a ton of quality time, and my brain is ready to be incredibly productive for a while.

But let me be clear: I don’t like getting up early. I don’t like anything about it. I need my sleep, so in order to sustainably get up early, I go to bed early. This means I miss out on a lot of things. And if I have to be out, I’m often tired too late into the night. I love to sleep in and I don’t always get to cuddle with my dogs or my hubs first thing in the morning. Instead, my ass is out of bed quickly so my alarm doesn’t wake them.

And I don’t like it. But I do love what it gives me so I do it anyway.

At the City Museum, I don’t actively think “I can’t wait to bruise my knees and body as I attempt to go through this tiny tunnel.” Instead I think, “Oh, that’ looks fun I wonder what wonders that will lead me to.” And I take it.

Even if that tunnel turns out to pop up right next to a really easy path, I enjoyed my harder road because I knew it challenged me. And I got to see something others won’t. And I got to push myself past my own boundaries. And, hell, sometimes taking the longer route is fun just for the whimsy of it – and whimsy doesn’t have to explain itself to you or anyone else.

I’m not saying make your life hard. But I guess I am saying if opportunities that might be more challenging arise, think about what lies on the other side of them. If it’s worth it, do it.

There’s only so much satisfaction that can come from coasting.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit this perfectly:

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

 

Above the Clouds

One of the most powerful visuals I remember learning when I was first learning how to meditate was the idea of your thoughts being like passing clouds. Usually you hear this when you’re learning Buddhist-based meditations, which I probably was. But the truth is, so many good meditation teachers this same idea (and I’ve always been pretty voracious about learning so I like to learn multiple styles at once…so who knows where I first heard this).

It’s often been repeated to me. I’ve always loved it. I’ve loved the idea that if you allow a thought or feeling to enter, you can simply observe it as it passes through your mind, letting it pass as easily out as it did in.

I’ve always found a calmness in looking up at the sky and the clouds. Even when the earth itself seems dirty or chaotic, there’s a calmness to the clouds. In their meanest form  (like thunderstorms or hurricanes or lightning) they’re still incredibly beautiful.

I’ve been back at traveling season for me lately (hence the belated post today). Traveling is not easy on the body. It’s not easy to find good nutrition. It’s a lot of weird hours and time spent in cars. It’s a lot of negotiating with your travel companions and attempting to find balance when and where you can. I didn’t get any (any!) yoga classes in this year. (I did a couple small sessions on my own in my hotel room, so I did something but stillllll) I didn’t get too much sightseeing in the beauty of nature. I got a few adventures and stolen moments away. But I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate and a lot of personal ambition to satiate. So I often felt frustrated, even if it was just an undercurrent.

When I travel, I have to be in a lot of airplanes. I’m a decent flyer. I’m not great, but I’m not terrible. I can handle it. I’m usually the first one to jump at the slightest turbulence and like to grab my seats to help the pilot concentrate to get us through it… but otherwise I’m alright. I have my methods for getting through it.

But as I was flying this time and letting my brain wander while staring out my window seat (my preferred seat so I can see we’re still in the air during turbulence), I had a thought that connected my love for meditation and my frustrations on the road. I remembered that every small frustration is something that can simply be observed, learned from, and let go. I realized that the frustrations are often a result of my own expectations or something happening in my own personal life or from my own personal perspective. They have nothing to do with anyone being “out to get me.” They just exist. And if I see them, allow them to come in, and let them go, I’m giving them as much power as the thought I treat like a temporary cloud during meditation.

And…get this.

When you fly, you’re often relatively smooth after you get up above the clouds. Even if you’re escaping rough weather, it’s typically close to where the cloud cover is. And some of the roughest parts of even smooth flights are when you’re getting just above the clouds.

Because… you guys the clouds are what keep us from seeing clearly.

Sure, I’ve been in intense thunderstorms where I saw our big plane hit by lightning on the wing several times and have often prayed to whatever god was listening for a second chance at life even when my plane was above the clouds. But typically the meanest weather and the roughest air is when you’re at or below them.

So I’ve been forcing myself to see every frustration as a passing cloud, even outside of my meditations. When I’m really in a good headspace, I become genuinely curious about the frustration. I wonder where it’s coming from. What underlying belief is it bringing out in me? Do I really believe that or is that something I’ve been programmed to believe? And do I want to keep thinking that? What does this emotion feel like in my body? Where does it live? Have I ignored it before and there’s a lot of residual emotions in that particular location? And so on…

Once I had the cloud realization about flying, I’ve been able to approach it with a lot more patience and surrender. The air will be whatever it wants to be. I can’t control it. I can simply experience and learn from it. And I can wait for the moment we clear the clouds and enjoy the “cruising altitude” for however long it lasts.

Interruptions

The more you learn about listening, the more you realize what a skill it actually is. It’s something everyone can do, sure. But it’s not something everyone is necessarily good at.  And I’m not just talking about listening with your ears. There are lots of ways to listen. Yet we often do whatever is the bare minimum and whatever is easiest.

Have you ever been listened to? Like, really really listened to? The type of listened to where you can feel it in your bones? Where when you’re done speaking or communicating (however it may be) there’s a pause while the recipient takes it in and further validates that you were really listened to and not just heard?

So many times in conversations we just wait for our turn to talk. We may be thinking of something or want to steer the dialogue in one direction, so we obsess with getting our thoughts out so that we can talk about the thing we want to talk about. It’s not listening. It’s patiently waiting for your turn to scream into the void towards a specific person who is also only hearing you while they patiently wait for their turn to talk.

I hope you get listened to. It’s a wonderful feeling.

I make it a point to listen often and as much as I can. I don’t always nail it. But I do make a consistent effort. And because I’m often willing to be more patient and listen more intensely than your average bear, I find myself often interrupted by people who are so eager to get their thing out, they can’t wait another moment. My usual immediate reaction is to defensively and interrupt them back to steer the conversation where I wanted to go. My other typical reaction is to quietly get frustrated and judge the person who interrupted me. Who are they, after all, to think their ideas are more important than my own?

But I’ve recently changed tactics a bit. I’ve realized that by getting frustrated at people who constantly interrupt and judge them, I’m wasting energy wishing for them to be someone they are not. Or I’m wasting energy putting too much clout into their thought process behind the interruption. As if they meant to do so as an outward act of aggression. Or by actively waiting for them to stop talking so I can get back to my thing, I’m wasting energy sitting on pins and needles rather than just going with the flow of the conversation.

So I’ve been making an effort now to stop wasting energy. Instead, I’m going to view interruptions as an opportunity. They’re a chance to actively work on staying present. They’re a chance to practice my flexibility and willingness to just go with the flow.

And they’re a chance for me, most importantly, to listen.

Wrapping Up My Year of Jesus

My birthday is right around the corner. Very exciting, indeed.

(If you’re not into astrology, that makes me a Leo and we love attention so feel free to wish me lots of happy birthday wishes because I will very much appreciate them. If you are into astrology, you already knew that.)

Anyway, this time about a year ago I decided I missed blogging and that I was going to commit to writing more. Though it took me a bit to settle on the general time of day and my favorite day of the week to let ‘er loose, I more or less held true on that commitment. I mean, I’m still here typing right now, aren’t I?

Oh, god, seriously, aren’t I? If I’m not doing that what on earth and I doing because I think I’m doing that… AHHHH!

I called this past year my “Year of Jesus.” I remember when I finished up the pictures and the post I was at an airport. The Philadelphia airport, I believe. At some point they all look the same. But I do know I was waiting for the others in my crew to show up so we could get rental cars and head off on our touring adventure.

This year, I’m sitting sipping (surprisingly bitter) coffee on my porch with my beautiful and newly-groomed pups around me. I have another solid 24 hours before I have to be on multiple airplanes and traversing multiple timezones for a prolonged period of time. I’ve somewhat purposely gone into my little shell to recharge before the trip.

So much has changed. But, then again, so little.

I’ve made a ton of small often incremental changes in my life. For several months out of this year, I was absolutely on top of my sh*t. But that motivation came from getting low and frustrated and feeling completely out of control.

I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve created some cool things. I’ve sold some project and completed others. I’ve failed and triumphed. I’ve probably made major decisions that will impact me in the future without even knowing it. I’ve ended relationships or cut off personal energies that don’t serve me anymore and don’t fit into the person I want to become. I’ve transformed completely yet so much has stayed the same.

I don’t yet know what I’m going to call this next year of my life. I was exited about 33 because of the whole Jesus thing. No matter what you believe, there’s got to me some sort of cool spiritual energy around 33 if that’s the age the stories of Jesus decided upon.

As I’m thinking about it, I was really excited for 30 because it was the start of a new decade. 31 was gonna be a rear up for 32 which I was beyond stoked for. And 33 was my spiritually transformative year.

But for this upcoming year, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have expectations. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know what theme I’m going to approach it with.

Then again, right now I’m deeply interested in studying the Tao Te Ching and have been drawn to numerous stories and books about how to be present and simply trust in the flow rather than working against it. I’ve been actively trying to let my intuition take over while listening to the subtle movements around me and the opportunities that arise and how I feel while doing certain things to best determine how to be my happiest, most fulfilled self. And all of that study pretty much says the same thing: Slow down, be present, and listen… then let yourself go with it.

So maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s a year of flow. Of enjoyment. Not of taking off work, of course. But more of doing work that feels the most fulfilling. Letting go of judgments about work and choices and what happens to and around me. Simply deciding how I feel about something, trusting that, and leaning into it.

I guess the answer is there isn’t an answer. Now that the year of Jesus is up… I’m on my own. And I’m excited to see what I sage advice I have for myself.

Also, happy birthday to me.

 

 

Enjoying the Garden

I got a piece of advice recently that I’ve been absolutely obsessed with.

I don’t really feel like giving you the full context of how I got this advice. Not out of laziness. I think just out of boundaries. As my ongoing readers already know, I’m working on learning boundaries.

Anyway, I had sought out a person with more knowledge in a certain field than me and was asking them for help with various elements of something I’m working on. Yes. I can say that. That feels fine. And, it’s true!

This person was talking about a few creative projects I had been focusing on lately and they very casually reminded me of a wonderful lesson. They used a happy woman in the garden as the metaphor and told me that the woman in the garden isn’t out there yelling at her plants to grow faster. She’s simply taking care of their needs little by little. She’s not overdoing it. She’s not constantly replanting. She’s simply enjoying her time in the garden.

By nature, I am a very fast-moving person. I like to see results quickly. Even though I’m aware that the most dramatic changes in my life happened gradually, my natural personality likes to see something happen fast. And I’m sure living in a society that’s grown accustomed to immediate gratification at every turn certainly doesn’t help.

So the idea of a woman just enjoying time in her garden was so powerful to me. And the ridiculousness of her yelling at her plants to grow faster feels like it puts a mirror on my own actions and helps remind me to just be more pleasant and more present.

Yelling at plants is a waste of energy and goes against the natural order of nature. Why, then, do I insist on thinking that I, a human existing in nature, somehow can control my own circumstances and force them to go against the natural flow of nature? Like the woman yelling at her plants in the garden, all I’m doing is getting myself all worked up in a tizzy and frustrating myself while not allowing the plants to do their thing because I can’t just leave them be.

I’m not saying I do it all the time. But I certainly feel the impulse to do it often.

I’ve decided, then, to start simply enjoying my time in the garden. I can recognize the garden needs tending while not overdoing it while I also simply enjoy the seeds as they grow and stay present in the delights that the garden has to offer and the relaxation gardening can bring.

The feels good. That feels right. So that’s what I think I’m going to do.