Saturday, February 1, 2014

Trust Exercises

Ace Hotel art gallery, New York City at the James Victore show

My Mama Di and I don't make new year resolutions—we set intentions. We also like to home in on a guiding word for the year, and her word for 2014 is "trust." I like that word so much that I'm adopting it as well.

My first reaction to "trust" is that it implies letting go of control. Without the illusion of control, fear takes over and contorts, riddles, and ransacks my relationships, my work, and my life. But even when I feel I am in control, the fear is there, simmering. There are moments when I am in complete trust—when time seems fluid or nonexistent and relationships are effortless. I don't usually appreciate them in while they're happening, but most definitely mourn them once they've passed.

I've spent much of my life as a worrier – I want to be a warrior. My vision of the warrior is self-possessed, strong, present, not necessarily combative except when the weapons are truth and love. There is an absence of fear, and in its place is trust.

There is a lot of power in simply stating an intention. When I take a few moments of silence in the morning and focus on trust, the intention becomes a gentle reminder throughout my day. When we let go of the features and benefits we think are going to come to us by stating an intention (overtones of my judgement of The Secret here), this exercise pulls us into the present and amplifies our days.

And when I'm at a loss for words, overwhelmed, or fearful,  I say to myself, "Warrior, not worrier."  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's Okay to Need Validation

Seaside cave at Sutro Baths

About a week go, I decided to take a vacation to my Den of Thieves—that special cave in my chest where all my insecurities dwell and greet me with, "Hey! Been a while! You still pathetic and useless? You bet you are!" And then they laugh while they pour a vat of french fry grease on my favorite leather recliner.

When I got sober, and my life shifted into focus, I realized I was hinging my self worth entirely on what others thought of me. This, coupled with taking up permanent residence in the Den of Thieves, made it impossible to cultivate self love. Without it, I was at the mercy of the voices in my head pushing me to better, faster, smarter, and approaching every endeavor with the unquenchable desire to have that person think I am, quite possibly, the most charming, effervescent, smartest, quickest, cutest person they have ever come across. Even if they've met Carla Bruni in person, I was going to be their new Carla.

How could I possibly be the best when I didn't believe it myself? And do I really want to be the best? By letting go of these high expectations for my relationships, and silencing the voices saying I wasn't good enough, I was able to show up authentically, and get some work done.


I started to pride myself on not needing external validation, to the point that any I received I flatly ignored. So when I met up with my french-fry-grease-wielding friends, I had no reserves. Nothing to tell them they were wrong. And I spent a week hanging out with them, digging out old resentments, running them over my hands and marveling at the many facets that illuminated what a sorry piece of shit I was. Worst vacation ever.

I finally spoke to someone about it, and she relayed her own experience, which mirrored mine. She reminded me that we can't exist in a vacuum. That the giving and receiving of love, compassion, even praise, shapes our humanity. It makes us human.

And I'm up for being human. Slowly, surely, blinking in the new light as I exit my cave, recognizing and embracing the faces and warmth around me.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Practicing Whims

After the hubbub of the holidays, I found myself a full day with no guests, no plans, and a refrigerator full of leftovers. So I decided to have an entire day to let whims take over –  doing whatever task I felt like doing in the moment.

Here are some of the whims I had:

1. Tried and failed to fix the kitchen window. Some things aren't meant to be, like functioning double-hung windows from the 1910.

2. Washed my makeup brushes with this super simple DIY recipe.

3. Wore my dirty, dirty hair in Heidi braids.

4. Wore red lipstick.

5. Found the most flattering lighting in my apartment (standing atop the breakfast nook bench in my kitchen).


6. Read about 48 entries on XOVain. I've never been one for makeup/beauty/trying new things, but once you start down the rabbit hole of product reviews, DIY remedies, "puppy eyes" eyeliner how-tos, it's hard to stop.

7. Started up Words with Friends again, after being the sorest loser when I lost my ninth game in a row.

Completely legal move made by my friend Kyle. 

8. Cleaned out my bathroom cabinet. So, so many travel-sized hand sanitizers.

It's rare and privilege that I have an entire day to myself. I used to treasure my solitude, but at one point it turned into isolation. I used to think it weak to need the company of people. Now I know it is a human (and okay) to want and need to connect. But sometimes I need to reset and recharge, and take advantage of those days when I can relish and enjoy my own company.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let's Make A List -- One Down!

A few weeks ago I posted a list of things I would do if I lived without fear. Today, my biggest fears are failure (in my job, relationships, creative pursuits) and rejection (from strangers and intimate relations alike). In that list, I included:

  • Sing an original song at open mic.  Again, I haven't actually had the opportunity yet, but I have a feeling that if I were asked I would make some kind of excuse not to do it. 

I'm happy to report that the opportunity came and I seized it! Joe and I sang a song gifted to us by his father (so not a an original song of ours -- but an original song nonetheless). Our friend captured the moment on video. My nerves made me cold, so I wrapped myself in my scarf and looked a little like a homeless, disheveled Stevie Nicks.

One down -- six to go! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Change in Perspective

I rag on social media a lot, mostly because of my own insecurities and how I choose to interact with various platforms. However, sometimes, goodness shines through the bullshit. 

My mama Dianne shared this experience on her blog: 

A few months ago, Kim Klassen, who writes one of my favorite blogs, revealed in a post that her husband had been diagnosed with leukemia. I have never met Kim or her husband in person, but have come to know and be constantly inspired by Kim's writing, images and the occasional email exchange. 
Having lost my mother and a good friend to this undiscriminating disease, I was filled with sadness when I heard this news. I know first hand how a diagnosis like this affects everyone. (I am sure most of you do too........) I wasn't aware that her husband was scheduled to have a stem cell transplant until while scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across this post by Kim's friend Myriam Joseph:

I immediately grabbed a candle and then spent ten minutes looking for matches. 
The point of all this is, here I was feeling a little "snarky" about social media when it was brought to my attention the power of the online community. Of course I wish deeply I could do more than light a candle and this won't cure any disease, but sensing the energy this simple act was creating, made me pull back, count my own blessings and send good thoughts through the universe for a friend and her loved ones. 
This is a small sampling of the 193 posts made with the hash tag "LightForJohn". 

Before I end, I just want to thank all of you for being part of my community. This includes my online friends and those of you I am lucky enough to be able to engage with occasionally in "real time". Participating in social media through this blog, Facebook and Instagram has definitely enriched my life and broadened my experience of the world. While it's not always perfect, I now have a stronger sense of the important role it plays in our lives and I am grateful.
I needed this reminder that social media is not all selfies and posturing. Sometimes, genuine connection and raw honesty break through the noise, and we put the "social" back in "social media." 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let's Make A List

I love lists, big fan of lists. Lists are cascading, straightforward, physical records of intention that follow a delightfully simple organizing principle. And it is also delicious to cross things off lists with beautiful red ink.

A friend of mine challenged me to make a list of things I would do if I didn't have fear. My biggest fears are failure and rejection (not so much fear of broken bones – which is why skydiving isn't on this list). So here it goes.

If I didn't have fear of failure or rejection, I would:
  • Sing an original song at open mic.  Again, I haven't actually had the opportunity yet, but I have a feeling that if I were asked I would make some kind of excuse not to do it. 
  • Move to a new city. I haven't been given the opportunity, but I would make every excuse not to do it, most likely. 
  • Talk to strangers I find intriguing. I always want to compliment people, and for some reason I think they will be offended or find it weird. 
  • Work to create the life I want. One with higher engagement, deeper connections, authentic ownership, more risks, less excuses. 
  • Embrace the richness, fullness, wholeness, oneness. I have a life that is rich and beautiful, I have a disease that tells me otherwise, I have evidence of a different way of being. Instead of exploring facets, I tend to shut down or get insular, because it is easy and safe. Easy and safe is not working out for me right now. I'm getting restless.  

What does your list look like?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing on the Wall

There have been messages all around me lately – literal writing on the wall. Most positive, some playful, all reminding me that the possibility of whatever it is that seems to be alluding me (happiness, contentment, serenity) is there, I just have to open my heart to receive it. 

It started with seeing this message all over the neighborhood I live in: 

And then I started noticing messages all around me. 

What messages have you been receiving lately? How do you open up to receive?