Coming out of a fog

I’ve been in a fog the last few months – a fog I am grateful to feel lifting.

you don't control the weather

I’d been doing all the things to clear it – drawing, questioning my thoughts, singing, dancing it out. But my body kept getting sick, over and over. Or someone else would get sick and my week would get reoriented towards nurturing and nose-wiping and caregiving. Everyone would get better and I’d have a day or two of emerging clarity before the whole thing would start over again.

It was maddening, and frustrating, and overwhelming. All I could do was write from inside it and embrace it.

Now it’s been six weeks of no one getting sick (fingers crossed!) and I’ve had time to get grounded and clear internally. I’ve been thinking about what it is that is so difficult, when you’re stuck in a fog.

The circumstances that brought on the fog were frustrating, yes. But the part that really made it difficult was the shame. I was ashamed to admit I was in a fog. As if I were responsible for it, as if I caused it. I should be able to keep us healthy, to handle this better, to stop this from happening. The fact that I’m lost is a sign that I’m doing something wrong.

But think about literal fog, like in the external world. Would a sailor out on the ocean feel responsible if a fog came on? Would the captain of the ship apologize to the crew for causing it?

It sounds ridiculous! What sailor would dream that because they are knowledgeable about the weather, they have the ability to control it?! That because they know fog exists, they should be able to banish it on command?

And yet that is what I believed about this internal fog – that I should be able to clear it by saying the magic words, that I should be able to prevent it by taking the right measures, that when it stubbornly persisted, it was because I was doing something wrong.

What if I thought of it as something like the weather? Something that comes and goes, that I can’t control but can navigate through?

I don’t control the universe, I don’t control the weather, I don’t control my mind. Ahhhhhhhh.

There is a paradoxical power in that. It is a relief to give up that responsibility, a great liberation of my energy. What if my body is an ecosystem just as complex and sensitive as the planet? What if I let go of the idea that I can control it’s weather patterns, and instead learned how to ride the waves?

What do sailors do when they find themselves in a fog? Foghorns, right? Lighthouses! They send out flares of light and sound to connect with others and seek help. And when they can’t connect, they set down anchors and wait it out.

I share this, in case you too are lost in a fog and could use some words to guide you through – or just are heartened to know that others are out there.

A good sailor doesn’t believe they can control the tides, but learns how to read them, the better to co-exist with them, survive them, ride them, be at peace with them.

So it goes for us internal navigators – we get to know our inner seas, the ebbs and flows of our tides, when a storm is coming on, when a fog has settled, when it is good weather for setting out on an adventure and when it’s time to drop anchor and wait it out.

How do you navigate the internal and external fogs when they settle over you? And what does the fog have to teach you?

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It’s safe to dance

A while ago I was in the shower, and a song came on that I remember vividly from the last round of the Creative Magic Workout, because it felt like the most divine answer to the question we were grappling with: it’s safe to dance, it’s a safety dance.

Hearing it again, I was struck by its message — how often do we hear, in our culture, that it’s safe to dance?

You can dance if you want to.

When things feel out of control, dancing is something you can do to feel better, feel stronger, feel in control.

Dancing can change the world because it changes your world. Immediately.

You have the power to express yourself, to say what you want, to will it into existence using your body and your imagination.

How often do we dismiss our imagination, dismiss dancing as something frivolous and fun, the opposite of serious?

And yet, when we see powerful dancing, when we see it fused with image and strength, we know it can knock the walls down.

There is a paradox here: Dancing is frivolous, and it can only be done by professionals who have trained for years and years.

No. I want that power in everyone’s hands. You don’t have to be a professional dancer to access it. You can dance if you want to.

I’m not a professional dancer, but in my years of work in the theater, I have seen over and over how terrified people are of dancing. (Don’t even get me started on singing).

Coaxing them through that fear has nothing to do with teaching skills or routines or sweet moves. I mean it has a little to do with that because learning skills can build confidence and confidence is fun.

But I have seen people who HAVE the skills the routines the moves and DON’T have the confidence. Which tells me that the fear has nothing to do with the actual things you are doing and everything to do with the FEAR. With that little voice of judgment, saying you look ridiculous, you look stupid, you can’t dance, you can’t learn, you can’t move right, you’re slow, you’re clumsy, you have two left feet, you don’t have rhythm, you can’t get it…

I could go on and on. The voice of judgment has endless variations, all on the same theme of SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR BODY / HOW IT LOOKS OR MOVES / SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU. 

I love figuring out how to break through that voice of judgment. Helping other people do it helps me do it myself. Helps me remember to dance and sing my way through the fear, which is good, because few things bring joy more immediately than dancing and singing.

For years I deprived myself of dancing. When I was a kid I loved dancing like most kids do, but around age 9 or 10 I decided I was awkward, and that decision kept me rooted in my spot, hiding in corners, hugging the wall, resisting the urge to move my body, to get up and dance.

I told myself a story that grew stronger and stronger as I grew older – that I wasn’t a natural dancer, I wasn’t the kind of person who liked to dance, it wasn’t my thing, I didn’t get it.

I was lucky to experience a kind of divine intervention in college, when some gentle, encouraging friends coaxed me out of my fear — my story — the spell I’d been casting — and got me to dance.

Breaking that spell was a gradual dissolution, and also a quick change. After slowly working through my self-consciousness, one day I was no longer scared to dance. The looming terror of dancing with other people was a dream and once I woke up to it, it was gone.

I even decided at some point to start thinking of myself as a good dancer.

And why not? Hadn’t I been telling myself a lie for years, that I was a bad dancer? Why not tell myself a lie that I’m the best dancer in the room? Even when it feels like cognitive dissonance, even when I’m surrounded by ‘better’ dancers, even when my inner trolls are sure that I look ridiculous – thinking I’m a good dancer makes me a good dancer.

You can do this too! Let’s say it right here, right now:

It’s safe to dance, and I am a great dancer.

It’s safe to _____ and I am a great _____.

What happens, what changes when you believe that? When you tell yourself: I am a great dancer – or singer or speaker or artist or entrepreneur or parent or leader or baker or ANYTHING — and it’s safe to do that thing. When you pretend that WHATEVER YOU DO, is evidence of you being great at it?

Dancing is a good place to practice: start moving and pretend that whatever you are doing is fucking great, and why not? Why not believe in the greatness of your own body and feel it’s unique power? Why not dance yourself into greatness, and dance to create a world that appreciates your greatness? It’s a spell you are casting with your body and imagination.

It’s safe to dance, and we are going to dance safety into existence. Once we feel safe, what else could we dance into existence?

Could we do a confidence dance, a professional dance, a calm mom dance, a generosity dance, a powerful dance, a world changing dance, a me too dance, a humility dance, a laugh out loud dance?

Let me know what you dance into existence! And thank you for sharing this space with me. It feels good to be up on my feet again as we dream up a vision of what we want 2019 to be.