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Confessions of an Over-Caffeinated Brain

28 Sep

SkyI’ve been wanting to write, and the problem has been that there are so many things I’ve been wanting to write about that I fear they will exit the flood gates in a woefully unorganized fashion. I’ve spent most of the morning writing through various thoughts to be placed elsewhere, and caffeinating myself from an espresso machine that dispenses perfectly formed cups of coffee in the push of a button. I can never own one of these. I have enough energy to race around the building after two cups.

That aside, I have an hour before I have to leave for work, and in that hour I really want to write about the unknown.  Fear of the unknown, conversation with the unknown, and contentedness with the unknown.  And I’m giving myself permission to write about these things, despite how little I have actually engaged in dialogue with them, because how else do you familiarize yourself with something besides entering into conversation about it.  For me, for now, that means writing.

I think so many people have heard of that quote by Rilke,

I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…

I bought that quote on a magnet earlier this year when I was going through an incredibly difficult and foreign experience.  I bought it because I knew that I had no answers or explanations for what had just happened in my life, and that it was so new that it would take me a while to wade through the unknown, and I wanted to remember to sit with those things.

Now I’ve not always remembered to sit with those things.  I’ve gotten frustrated to the point of tears over the lack of answers I’ve been able to provide for myself.  I’ve been so disgusted with my inability to neatly categorize my experiences that I’ve tried to detach from them, only to have them erupt in very misplaced areas.  Of course I’ve had those times where I’ve slowed down, let feelings ebb and flow, let the unknown simply be the unknown… but those times have taken work.  Constant reminders and monitoring.  It’s been part of my challenge to myself over the past week… to take those necessary first steps but at the same time to ease off on myself.  To stop demanding that so much of my time and efforts and evolution be constantly producing efficient results.  To stop insisting that I always be able to chart my progress, and instead, to let my life shape itself through those first courageous steps.

I’ve been ever so slowly discovering that the reason I’ve had such a hard time taking those first steps into the unknown is because so far, I’ve refused to acknowledge that somewhere along the way I became a bit terrified of the unknown.  A thing I’ve always appreciated about myself is my comfort with change.  The excitement I find in changing living arrangements, going to new places, exploring new vocations, learning new things and resting in the comfort that things will work themselves out.  If something doesn’t go as I’d planned, an opportunity will always present itself.  This is how my life has always gone.  So it’s been really hard for me to recognize that this relationship that I had with the unknown had changed from happy-go-lucky acceptance, to tight-fisted refusal to move forward without some kind of predictable outcome.

But my attachment to that fact that I held dear about myself has not prepared me for this truth… that I have become intimidated by those unknowns.  That recently I’m tending more towards seeing the possible failures and heartbreaks and humiliations in them rather than anticipating a world of potentialities.  And holding on desperately to my former disposition of jumping into the thrill of the new is keeping me from offering up to myself those small bits of support and comfort that might give me the courage to walk more slowly towards those potentials.  And maybe that means taking small steps through the unmapped landscape that results from loss.  Making slow-paced venture, and allowing myself some excitement over growing possibilities for the future.  And most especially, acknowledging that maybe all those things I’ve been afraid of and worrying over and have kept me immobile are of my own making.  And that I really am strong enough and deep enough to pull out all the necessary love and forgiveness and curiosity that I need in order to keep taking steps forward.

Phew. Now there’s a lovely thought.

21 Days. A week later…

19 Sep

21 Days

So.  It is almost a week to the day since I got a text message from Miss Kimberly Gill saying, Would you be willing to commit to 21 days of moving outside of your comfort zone with me?

Now, those who know my friend Kim understand why this text did not cause me the least bit of surprise.   A handful of clarifying questions, a sunset and a sunrise later, a post showed up on her blog, followed by an email to friends and family.   Yes, she was presenting a challenge to herself and those willing to join, to spend 21 days to doing things that she wished to, but normally wouldn’t for fear of being uncomfortable.

This sounded like a fantastic idea to me!  I love to play these kinds of games, like little dares to myself.

So I added my affirmative comment to her post, read over the others, and set about with a pen and paper to figure out what my plan of attack would be.

I started listing things that I had really been wanting to do but hadn’t because they’ve felt too silly, scary or otherwise have made me squirm at the thought.  As my list grew, panic began to set in at the thought of tackling all of the things that I’d been putting off for weeks, months, some for a few years!   That panic proceeded to plague me for the entire week.  Lovely, hmm?

Enter David Whyte

He reads this poem on an audiobook I downloaded:

START CLOSE IN

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first thing
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Start with the ground you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own way of starting the conversation.

Start with your own question,
give up on other people’s questions,
don’t let them smother something simple.

To find another’s voice
follow your own voice,
wait until that voice
becomes a private ear
listening to another.

Start right now
take a small step you can call your own
don’t follow someone else’s heroics,
be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first thing
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

~ David Whyte ~

Start close in.  Don’t take the second step.  Or the third.  Start with the first thing.  Close in.  The step you don’t want to take.

So I reconsider… and I remember an email I got this week from the Inner Mean Girl brigade.   It was about ditching expectations.   Lightening up on an unattainable quest for perfection and underpromising instead of overpromising.

Start close in.

I think about the 21 day challenge again.   I know that I have a couple of security blankets, ie. things that keep me cocooned inside of my comfort zone.   Mainly they are: sleeping far later than necessary and extreme internet usage.   Both of these things eat up time in my day like no other, and set me off in a cranky mood because of that time I feel like I’ve wasted.

So.   In an attempt to broaden my chances for exiting my comfort zone… I’m going to start with curbing those things first.   AND in an attempt to wig out my inner perfectionist, I’m not going to overpromise.  I’m not going to lay out my master plan with my list of 21 things and my do’s and don’ts for the next 21 days.   I’m going to start with those first things, and let the rest unfold.   That’s what this 21 days will be about for me.  Starting now.

phew!

A Farewell, Funeral for my Former Self

16 Sep

We gallivanted. We walked on the edge of sleeping and waking. We kept things light and carefree, but we questioned our desires and motivations in our moments of fearlessness.  We were somehow simultaneously impulsive and ever hesitant.

Without you, I would not have felt my way through my own boundaries.  Because of you, I learned to be patient with myself.  Because of you, I’ve learned that life comes in seasons.  That sometimes periods must be reserved for trying on different shoes, testing limits, recovering, distracting, resting and centering.  You taught me how to trust my process, even if others can’t understand it.  And how to keep putting one foot in front of the other when traveling through the rough times…  trusting in the ebb as much as the flow.

I will always be thankful for everything you taught me.  for everything we went through together, and the entire course of events that have brought me here.  To this place where I can allow myself to be wildly in love with what is behind me and in front of me.  Where I can be… experimental with what surrounds me and fills me.  Where gentleness and trust and even breathing feel more easeful and necessary than distraction.  As the days and months pass, I’m learning to embrace the tender and sometimes frightening moments involved in… being present and aware and open.  That there is necessity in allowing vulnerability and progression, especially in a new, foreign direction.

I’m both relieved and solemn in witnessing your passing.  You were my segway, my breather, and my hit in the heat all wrapped up into one.  And I’ll always remember so many days and nights, stolen sunrises and blurred closing times.

Goodbye my crazy, beautiful, eclectic, movie-worthy, heart-breaking, whirlwind of a season.

Built up thoughts that pour out at midnight

8 Sep

WHAT IF…

you said exactly what you’re feeling right now?
you let your no be no and didn’t back down when someone pushed back?
you let yourself say yes to something that delights you even if it appears foolish or impractical?
you stand by your intuition and decide it’s okay not to explain or apologize for your wordless wisdom?
you ask for what you need and don’t wait for someone to offer or understand?
you allow yourself time to let go of the struggle and do nothing at all?
you stop doing that thing you do just because someone expects it?
you take things at face value and decide there is no reason to walk on eggshells after all?
you assume that underneath everything is NOT something dark and dangerous or scary but something more like goodness and love?

what if you assumed that compassion for yourself is a powerful way forward? that being gentle with who you are right now is a kindness that spares the world a certain kind of suffering?

what if you could let yourself imagine being held in a divine embrace?

sitting in my room tonight, holding the what ifs, wondering if you are, too. sweet dreams, dear friends. i’m thinking of you.
-Jen Lemen

That felt like a direct challenge to me. So here is exactly what I’m feeling right now, however unperfected.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. A LOT. About so many things. And at so many points, I’ve also thought, I should write that out… Writing it out helps me to figure it out along the way, expands my own consideration of it.  But as soon as I evolve one notion, another flicker starts to attract me in a different direction.  For instance, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships. What makes them strong and lasting, nourishing to each other… what causes them to deteriorate or transform into a sustained energy suck. And going down this thought path keeps leading me back to myself over and over again.  To consider the ways I relate to others and the ways I relate to myself.  The thoughts and habits that keeps me alive and strong and enchanted with the world, and the ones that cause me to feel like I’m withdrawing from it.
I listened to this talk yesterday, with a man named Mike Robbins. Right before he and his wife had their first child, he had a mentor that told him that he had two main jobs when it came to his new daughter. The first was all about teaching her how to get by in the world. Things like tying her shoes, blowing her nose, crossing the street safely, and all of that stuff. Then he says, “But the second job you have is the most important. And it’s harder. You gotta teach her how to love herself.” And Mike says, ok… how do I do that? And his teacher says, “Well you love yourself. And you let her see that.”
It’s got me thinking about how many things that is true about… how much more of an impact something has when you can witness someone living it.  How much more you can reach out when you have your own reserve to reach from.  My friend Megan just wrote a post about an exercise she did.  Imagining herself at her own funeral, standing in front of all the people most important to her in her life… what one, brief message would she want to give them all.  She chose, “Love one another.”  I think that’s beautiful. One of my favorite quotes of all time is a Storypeople quote that says, “Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning & loving the world all over again.  That’s what takes a real hero.” I agree with that. But I’d add to it.  Try waking up every morning & loving yourself all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.  Love yourself ((be patient with yourself, don’t demand immediate perfection of yourself, encourage yourself, listen to yourself))… so you can love one another.
So, ever so slowly… I’m holding up pieces of myself up to the sun… inspecting them to see which beliefs and habits still hold any sparkle for me and which have dulled without my realizing it.  There’s times when it’s an overwhelming process. When I feel like I need to show some kind of tangible measurement of my progress in order to know that my days are being well-spent. But I’m finding that this kind of work doesn’t respond like that.. and trying to remind myself to be gentle.
I feel like I’ve had so many lightbulbs go on at such a rapid pace in the past several weeks that I almost haven’t had time to catalog them all… which is what I’ve been feeling like I have to do. I had been trying to put a finger on why and I came across a few lines in another blog that sparked some recognition in me… “Just as surely as my outer geography has changed, so too has what’s inside. I’m in need of new inner maps; the old ones don’t seem to be of much use here. They no longer match the terrain.” (Kate’s Ordinarium)  I feel a need to re-orient myself to my own life again, because I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes recently and haven’t quite caught up to myself yet.
I guess I’m writing these half formed thoughts now as another reminder to myself. That everything is always evolving. That the more comfortable I can become with the parts of me that are unfinished or not quite smoothed out and nicely packaged and presented, the wider and more steady my foundation becomes.  As one of my new favorite writers Jen Lee says, the more we are loved, the braver we can become.  And for me that includes loving all those parts of myself that are still being worked out.

Reinventing the Dog Walk

20 Aug

         Okay, I’m about to admit something that I’ve never admitted to anyone for fear of sounding like a beast of a human being, a spoiled brat, or at the very least a bad pet owner… but I do not enjoy walking the dog.

         I feel terrible saying that! But it’s true.  And I adore my dog, love to cuddle, love to rough house with her, love her crazy noises and stubborn sneak attacks to crawl into bed with us after she thinks we’ve fallen asleep.  And I envy those people who list long walks with their dog among their most favorite activities… but I’ve tried to love it, I’ve pretended I love it… I do not. I get bored.  I make frequent pleas to her as we walk to do her dog business as quickly as possible so that we can head back home (sometimes I even read a magazine as I’m walking).  I’m sorry! I really am… but it’s also something that had started to believe just isn’t going to change.

And then one day, the sun was in my eyes…
         On one of our trips outside, I brought my sunglasses.  And WHAT a difference!  You have no idea what a little tint and color did to change my whole neighborhood into a brand new eye candy filled place!  It sparked a little memory in me… followed by a little idea…

         Whenever I come back from a vacation… I swear that I’m going to treat the town that I live like a foreign city.  It’s not hard to imagine really, old Mediterranean style tiles and buildings, views of the water and hills, bricked pathways, parks galore.  And when I’m traveling, my favorite thing to do is walk.  I walk for miles, eating up the architecture, the scattering of leaves colored for the season, people watching to no end and lingering whenever I think something deserves a little more attention.  I only succeed in this in Santa Barbara when I have friends or family in town.  A little excuse to play tourist. But who needs an excuse to do something that will give their eyes a little feast and perk up a sadly unbeloved event!

         So I pulled down the leash, rallied the little dog leaping in excitement, grabbed my sunglasses and a camera, and went off to pay attention as I walked.

The Result Follows…

         Oh! I almost forgot to add. Yesterday I also came across a site with a challenge… to imbue intentional creativity into every day. I like this because it refers to creativity in a really broad sense.  Meaning I don’t have to be specifically creating a piece of art… but creativity can be brought to doodling, cooking, playing, or as in my first day, walking.  Yes, this was intended for the year of 2010 and yes it’s halfway through August of that year.. but hell. I’m in. The (optional) theme this month is fire.  And since I’m feeling like my attempts at creativity are needing a little jump-start… “fire” for me is being translated into anything that sparks my creative fire again.

         My first day involved the reinvention process of the dog walk, and resulted in a handful of photos, most taken through the lens of my sunglasses because it had the coloring and provided the shadows that I loved.  Today… I uploaded them to flickr and meant to just write mini descriptions to each one… and ended up getting so enchanted by my walk all over again that my descriptions ended up taking the form of a rambling traveling kind of poem.  It might not make as much sense to someone outside of my head… but it was really a lot of fun!

So really this time…

Walking Ruby:

A Different View
Led by anticipation and whatever smells new
Intent on seeing things through a different hue



Lights and webs
When the colors tint and shift and fade
The light shines through webs and tangles
that deserve to be noticed,



Hearty Arrangement
Romanticized by a passerby.



Still Truckin'
With each step and a quick catch of breath,



Glancing Back
pausing to glance back,
the realization hits me
that as lovely as the image
of what was planned might be,
It’s just not yet for me.



Keep Up
So we keep moving down the path we’re on
led by the steps and spurred on
by the occasional sweet jaunt of blissful contentment.



Flowers in My Heart
Holding the small blooming in my heart
amongst shadows and light.



Firegazing
Rekindling that firey red inside



Violet Eyes
and the violet blue that was and
(I’m finding) still is my creativity.



Still With Me?
Stopping to play along the way
Because isn’t that what we say
that we’re missing most days?



Living the Dream
A moment to contemplate
the clash of free thinking schemes
with the big shuttered house dreams.
And realizing that maybe its not a conflict to be solved.



Fenced in Wildflowers
That maybe its the juxtaposition that creates the beauty.
That not only have the white picket fences learned to live with and be enlivened by wildflowers,
but also that the wildflowers are enhanced and supported by that white picket fence.



Hidden Rainbows
Ah, the crossroads we come to,
the hidden rainbows we’ve climbed.
The ease we find after redesigning the stories in our mind.
The alluring and reassuring play of colors right above
the path that leads to home.

Love,
Me

Conversation Starter

18 Aug

Admissions of overinduldgence

         I’ve spent a couple of weeks now… obsessively indulging on this new world of blogs I’ve happened upon.  Of course blogs aren’t new, and they’re not really even new to me.  What’s new is this daily drive to eat up all the fascinating content I’m finding.  I read as much as I can about creativity and business and finances and writing and cooking and whatever else snags my attention at the moment.  The hours I’ve spent scrolling through beautifully presented, wittily written and authoritative sounding blog posts… that is what is fairly new.  Now, because all lovely obsessions must come to an end at some point, I’ve started to narrow down my daily followings to only those blogs that fill me with a sense of wonder or connection (rather than fill my head with dollar signs and my inbox with subscriptions). Partly because whenever I log that many hours in a row focused on a computer screen, my head starts to get scattered and overstimulated and my body screams with antsiness.
         But also… I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a Freedom Fighter, or a meritocrat, or sell all my belongings to prove that I live an Untemplated life so that I can sell books and adspace and e-courses to help you learn how to live that Ridiculously Extraordinary lifestyle too.  I’m really not trying to knock those approaches, finding a marketable niche is just not my style and not something I’d want to focus on.  Amidst those blogs, the posts that have held my attention and lingered in my thoughts days after have been the ones where someone is able to stop holding up the sun and the moon and open up their experience a bit, for me to peek in on. They give me a chance to notice how they handle things like Avoidence, in order to get to the place where they are thriving.  In posts like The Failure Manifesto, where in a moment of honesty, she is less concerned with appearing wiser or more experienced, savvier or under control.  When people are willing to lay out their own moments of joy and pride and challenge and in between-ness so that maybe you or I or we both can explore and taste and reflect on their experience… and take with us what we may to integrate into our own process.

Backing up…

         I actually started looking at blogs in the past few weeks because of two friends.  One, who has started looking into a potential business and turned me on to some of the blogs above.  And one friend who has just moved from California to New York to continue blossoming as the incredible stage actress she is, but whom I will miss hugely and terribly because she remains one of the only people who can read my eyes from across a room, and with whom I have had some of my most important conversations with.  When we talked about blogging as a way to keep up with each other… I was more excited about her blogging… seeing as though she’s the one starting her new adventure, and mine, while constantly changing on a less national scale, will more or less continue on statically. So from my angle… and with my recent discoveries through other blogs, I’ve been thinking… what about blogging just to start conversation? Since it’s These Conversations that, over the years, that have become so necessary for my sanity.
         One of the first Douglas Coupland quotes I ever heard was when I was 16, filled with conflicting thoughts from some recent teenage drama, but refusing to talk about them with a good friend of mine for fear that they might burst through my tearducts in a very uncomposed moment.  He flipped through the book he was reading and just pointed,
“Our conversations are never easy, but as I – we – get older, we are all finding that our conversations must be spoken. A need burns inside us to share with others what we are feeling.  Beyond a certain age, sincerity ceases to feel pornographic.”
It’s funny really… that a decade or so later I’ve just recently started to try and articulate this truth that I’ve always felt.  Funny too, that I named my blog Conversations before I’d fully developed the thought.  But really, I’m finding its a pretty basic truth for most people (Liz).  I learn through conversations.  I move forward with conversations.  I release and realize sometimes more fully through conversations than trying to be my own temple of self-reflection, because when I go to say something out loud… I’m suddenly extremely acutely and sometimes painfully aware of how much truth is in it… How smoothly it rolls of my tongue or if the words get choked back in my throat.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made declarations to myself about my intentions or spun explanations that I truly believe are behind my action or inaction… and then made a little visit to my best now-living-in-New-York pal only to try and look her in the eye and say the same thing. The minute I try, I know the truth. Or the untruth that I’d been trying to turn into truth.

It’s really amazing.

         I think it’s wonderful actually, comforting in its own way. That although we may not need others to buy our groceries or walk us across the street or tie our shoes before we stand up, we still need that interaction and those conversations with friends and strangers, in order to provide the occasional reference point or reassuring gleam from a lamppost illuminating that fact that we all have fantastic, adventurous times, frighteningly blissful times, paralyzingly uninspired times and delectably slow-paced moments.  All of us. Different shades and shapes and emotional tints perhaps… evolving at a different pace and spurred by different events… But how else would we know that all these things we’re going through… all these crazy random thoughts we have… are quite a bit more collective than we might first assume.  We all know guru’s and experts have their place in all technological, spiritual and perhaps even personal development arenas… and that’s great, they can always be looked to for a little shot of inspiration.  But there’s just no substitute for the rolling, rambling bantering tangents of a good, no holds barred conversation, regardless of the topic.