Scaring Ourselves Silly (fun fear circle)

Last weekend I had the honor and delight of joining my old comrades, the powerful forces behind Hand2Mouth Theatre, for a slumber party where they tried out ideas for the show / ritual / experience they are creating called A slumber party to dismantle the patriarchy. We did an exorcism ritual to clear out old energy and welcome in friendly spirits, we made prank calls and played truth or dare, we stayed up late talking in sleeping bags. It was beautiful.

One of the things we did together was go to this truly epic haunted house in Salem, where we spent 30 minutes screaming at the top of our lungs.

This is what we love about haunted houses and horror movies and Halloween, right? The chance to express our fears, to SCREAM them, to practice them, to feel them, to work through them.

It feels GOOD to scream, and I am struck by how little chance we get to do this. How often do we get to work through our fears, actively and vocally, with permission to grip the hands of whoever is next to us?

It feels good! Often our screams turned into laughter (or vice versa) and when we got out of there, the muscles in my face hurt like I’d been laughing for a half hour straight. Because I basically had!

So much of what people work on with me revolves around fear – and I find that fear, like our inner trolls, isn’t something you can banish directly. You can’t say to yourself, STOP FEELING THAT! Any more than you can say to a four year old waking up from a bad dream, IT’S JUST A DREAM, STOP CRYING!

My two year old loves saying YOU DUMMY right now, and if I let him see that it’s getting to me – if I tell him firmly, STOP SAYING THAT – he only grins and amps up his efforts. DUMMY! DUMMY! DUMMY! Louder, higher, faster.

If you want to get a two year old to stop saying dummy, you have to come at it sideways. And I think it’s the same with our fears. If you try to banish them directly, they come at you faster. If you come at them sideways and give them room to play themselves out, they pass. They might even be enjoyable!

Here’s an exercise I just invented:

FUN FEAR CIRCLE

1. Draw a circle on a notecard. Inside the circle, draw your fear.

2. Freewrite for one minute: write what you see inside the circle, write about your fear, give it a name.

3. Put your hands on the notecard and set the timer for two minutes. For two minutes, feel your fear. Let it come. Feel it in your body, where it lives and how it moves. Don’t resist it or question it, let it wash over you.

4. Take your hands off the card. Let the fear go. Maybe rip up the card and scatter it on the wind. Maybe embody the fear and move with it. Maybe color it with crayons and watch it turn into something else.

 

For me, what arose as the antidote to my fear was movement and action — I danced around for 30 seconds and colored in my fear, and I was surprised to see it had turned into excitement and energy.

What happens when you try it? I would love to know. And if this speaks to you, sign up for a free coaching session as part of my people project, and let’s do some sideways transformation.

Happy Halloween to you and your shadows! May you look twice at strange figures walking down the street. May your costume come unraveled and still be a sight to see. May your candles be lit up and may your pumpkins glow with eerie delight. May you fill up your bag with treasure and trash.

img_2206

Magic & mayhem & Lynda F#%*ing Barry

I have to share the magic I’ve been experiencing this week, in all it’s unpredictable mad wild glory.

There are plenty of times when I feel lost and frazzled and… unmagical. Monday morning was one of them. I saw in my facebook memories that four years ago I’d posted a gleeful, glowing update that ended with something like…”even though the past year has been the hardest of my life, it’s also been a time of joy and change and breakthrough. For me, motherhood = creative explosion.”

I vividly remembered writing that post – but I can’t remember what happened that day to fill me with excitement and confidence about my new ventures, the business I was dreaming up, the show I was making. And though I’ve made a lot of progress in the last four years and I still feel like this is the most confident creative time of my life… this Monday I was not feeling confident or joyful. I was feeling tired and overtaxed and unsure.

I had time for a shower so I did one of my favorite rituals: I asked a question and drew some tarot cards to find an answer, and stepped into the shower to contemplate them. How can I tap into that feeling from four years ago? The cards went deep: what helps me is the Queen of Swords. What stops me is fear of failure. Who I am is the Fool.

I didn’t have much time to dwell on it after that, and when I picked up the kids and hustled to get dinner ready, I remembered that the new sitter was coming over in an hour. I had to cancel a bunch of plans over the last two months because we couldn’t find a sitter, the kids were sick, miscommunications, mayhem, etc. Now I had one coming over but I didn’t know what exactly to do with myself! I didn’t feel like singing karaoke, I didn’t have time to text anyone to meet me, and I didn’t want to drive around aimlessly without a plan. I felt like reading a book, but I was worried that I’d get sucked into scrolling on my phone. The thought drifted into my head – is it possible there’s a reading at Powell’s tonight?

I looked it up while the kids threw spaghetti noodles at each other, and sure enough, there was something happening… and what’s that? That can’t be right. Is it Lynda Barry??? My hero, the person who got me thinking about changing the way I work as an artist??! Was she really in town?

SHE WAS. And she was reading at the exact right time for my schedule. WHAT?!

I have no doubt that if I had planned it for weeks, something would have come up to throw sand in the gears. But somehow magically with no effort I was on my way to hear Lynda Barry speak on a night I surely, sorely needed inspiration.

I went, and it turns out she also has a new book coming out!

And long story short – oh my goodness. It is pure vivid direct delicious magic. I can’t read it without grinning, and crying. I couldn’t listen to her reading without grinning and crying either. 

I was reminded why I got so excited four years ago when I first read her books Syllabus, then What It Is – why I felt that thrill of recognition and clarity and sureness, the THIS IS WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING feeling.

They gave me the structure and confidence to frame my ideas as coaching – to bring the kind of creative transformational work I was doing in theatrical spaces to people directly. And to start drawing and encourage others to draw with me.

It wasn’t until I was driving home that I remembered the accidental magic spell I’d cast that morning – my desire to connect with the inspiration I felt four years ago. Here I was, 10 hours later, not remembering that inspiration but reliving it, immersed in it, swimming in that beautiful blissful sense of connection and purpose and deep need for creativity. Lynda Barry, man. Her books are a guidebook for how to connect to your own soul using creative work.

I drove to Powell’s feeling exhausted and overwhelmed; I left with so much energy I could barely sleep Monday night.

And then life continued. I picked my six year old up from school on Tuesday and found out he’d been acting out, as boys often do, by being physically aggressive.

As it happens, many of the exercises in Making Comics come from Lynda’s work with her 4-6 year old “co-researchers”. So I used one of those exercises with my son, to see if it would help us connect.

And OH MY GOD. We spent about two hours drawing and talking and telling stories and laughing. I had him draw a Bully Monster, and then draw the Bully Monster’s parents, what he looked like as a child, where he lives…

I’ve been trying to get this kid to talk for two months, and that night I was so mad I couldn’t speak the whole drive home, until Lynda’s exercise floated into my head. We went from not speaking to joking, laughing, dancing, telling each other stories, asking questions. I asked him why he likes to hit and got curious instead of freaking out. He asked me to tell him one more time the story about the kid who was bullied in high school, who I wish I’d stood up for.

I still have no freaking idea how to handle this, but it opened up the energy between us. 

So that’s the magic I’m experiencing this week. A lot of ups and downs, joy and despair, I’m the best / I’m the worst / maybe I’m doing ok kind of magic. And I’m sharing it because this is magic we all need. To connect with our children, with our inner children, with the world. We need it. We need to draw with our own hands to see what’s going on in our hearts.

I’ve still offering a free hour long session as part of my people project, so if anyone out there is resonating with this and wants to draw and dance and talk with me, please sign up. I know it’s scary! I’m a little nervous before every single session I do. And then each one fills me with energy and a rush of connection.

Here is the self portrait I drew at Lynda’s reading on Monday, and one I drew four years ago. If you want to draw one right now, set the timer for two minutes, grab a notecard and draw. It doesn’t have to be good. And anyway you are not a reliable witness on whether it’s good or not. What does it say to you? That is the question.