The happy CAN’T DO spirit

I’m sitting here like many of you in profound paradox. 

I am grateful and thankless. I wish with every fiber of my being that my kids could be in school; we have grown closer in the last 8 months and I see ways my son was struggling in school before. Now that we are together 24 hours a day, I SEE IT. I am truly tearfully grateful for this and at the same time, exhausted.

I am glad for the joy and distraction and energy of my children; I despair at the endless days of lockdown on the horizon.

I have a fantasy of what my life would be like right now if it were just me. I would be reading novels and sipping hot tea all day long in delight. I would be having long complex conversations with adults. I’d be casting spells at midnight and howling at the moon.

Sometimes I tip over into my alternate life and get a glimpse of the fantasy she is dreaming, of a world where two wild children are spouting absurdist poetry and asking questions all day long, where family meals are being cooked and candles lit and stories told around a big table, where spontaneous family rituals erupt, where she feels deeply needed. She (alternate world Faith) is deeply alone and longing for company. 

I think of how she must feel. She thinks I am living a fantasy life; I long for her fantasy life. I am suffering; she is suffering. We are suffering from the same thing. Two sides of the same coin.

I too am deeply alone and longing for company. 

I too feel unneeded, unnecessary. 

The things I am needed for are juice boxes, string cheese and legos. Hugs and anger and wiped butts.

Don’t you know who I am, I want to shout. 

It’s a good question. Don’t I know who I am?

Over in alternate world she doesn’t have the luxury of distractions. She is alone with herself, nothing to distract from that question.

I do have that luxury, the perfect excuse, I get to comfort myself with a game called, what I would do if I could but I can’t. 

Isn’t that a beautiful fantasy?

I would do _________ if I could but I can’t.

Maybe we could do this together. Write that sentence down ten times and fill in the blank with different things. Even if it doesn’t make sense! First thought best thought.

  • I would do some big crazy project if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do more baking if I could but I can’t
  • I would do pilates if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do pirates if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do moving to Arizona and living off grid if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do elephant taming if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do novels if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do taking  it to the streets and f the police if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do writing subversive romance novels if I could but I can’t.
  • I would do a big online retreat if I could but I can’t.

Now take everything you wrote in the blanks and write them as a list.

  • Some big crazy project
  • More baking
  • Pilates
  • Pirates
  • Moving to Arizona and living off grid
  • Elephant taming
  • Novels
  • Taking it to the streets and f the police
  • Writing subversive romance novels
  • A big online retreat

Does your list tell you something? I don’t know wtf mine tells me.

OK let’s try this, for each thing write I CAN DO in front of it, then list three ways that could be true.

I CAN DO some big crazy project

  • I just have to give up the idea of doing it well
  • I’ve done a big crazy project before and it didn’t even fail
  • Actually I’m already doing at least one, a little bit at a time

I CAN DO more baking

  • I’m actually doing more baking than I usually do
  • Baking is fun to do with the kids
  • We could branch out to bread and that would take all day, offscreen time!

I CAN DO pilates

  • I mean i totally can
  • Do I actually want to do pilates?
  • I would rather do zumba

I CAN DO pirates

  • I can definitely dress like one
  • In fact I already did last week
  • I don’t know what it means to do pirates but I feel I’m doing that

I CAN DO moving to Arizona and living off grid

  • I could definitely do this with my kids if I wanted to
  • We had a crazy idea of buying a trailer and driving to Texas to crash with family, we almost did it
  • I could still go somewhere super remote… the truth is I don’t want to give up the connections we’re getting living online right now, for all my mixed feelings about it

I CAN DO Elephant taming

  • I don’t want to tame elephants
  • I maybe want to free them from the zoo
  • I do love them. I could go hang out with them at the zoo, or watch more documentaries.

I CAN DO novels

  • I have read more novels in the last year than in the last seven years
  • The libby app makes it easy to check them out from the library and read on my phone
  • I could definitely choose to do this more instead of reading the news

I CAN DO taking it to the streets and f the police

  • I did for three days this summer, it was hard but I did it
  • The reason I stopped was not because I couldn’t but because I didn’t want to / was vaguely traumatized
  • I am ready to do this again when the time / situation feel right for me (there’s a lot to unpack here)

I CAN DO writing subversive romance novels

  • I could write two minutes a day
  • Stacey Abrams did it
  • Could I add this to something I already do every day, the two minute self portrait? After my drawing / freewriting time, I do two minutes of romance novel freewrite. This would actually be hilarious.

I CAN DO a big online retreat

  • I could get a sitter
  • I could rope my partner into kid care, he owes me
  • A big sigh comes out of my body when I contemplate doing this, not a happy sigh but a deep I GUESS SO sigh. I don’t think I want to do a big online retreat.

So what’s interesting to me is, it turns out half of these things are things I can do if I want to, and… I don’t want to. The other half are things I am already doing, or can do pretty easily.

I DON’T WANT TO

  • Do pilates
  • Tame elephants 
  • Move to Arizona and live offgrid
  • Take it to the streets and f the police

I ALREADY AM

  • Doing a big crazy project a little at a time
  • Living like a pirate
  • Reading novels
  • Baking

I CAN: Write a subversive romance novel two minutes a day

So I guess instead of saying I would do _______ if I could but I can’t, I could say, I don’t want to do _______. I could say, Wait, I AM doing that. I would do that if I could because I am.

I could say, I would like to do that. Can I? 

I want to pause here because I’m starting to sound cheerful and optimistic and lately I find optimism deeply annoying.

I don’t want CAN DO spirit. I want to lay on the couch muttering I CAAAAAAAAN’T while my children leap across my body onto a trampoline.

I want some CAN’T DO spirit.

Is this another paradox? I want to revel in what I can’t do. I want to whine and bitch and moan. I want to have a bad attitude, I cling to it, I savor it like a nice warm cup of something gross.

Have you ever done that? Tasted something gross and then you can’t stop tasting it?

That’s kind of how I’m feeling. Savoring this gross CAN’T DO nog. Somehow I feel like in my alternate world I’m drinking exactly the same thing.

Ok folks, this is my odd message to you on Unthanksgiving Day, on this strange shut-in celebration of harvest, in the last month of a very strange year of constant change.

May you take the spirit of CAN’T DO and run with it like my 3 year old does when I tell him he can’t do something. Nothing motivates him faster! Don’t throw your food! Don’t use my shirt as a napkin! Don’t throw caution and careful planning to the wind and follow your wild crazy dreams!

Crying & painting toenails & other productive activities

Since I talked about the end of the world and the importance of crying, I’ve been thinking about the way we talk about action. The world tells me that productive actions are VOTING, paying TAXES, going to WORK, doing your JOB. 

Actions that are not considered productive are SLEEPING, CRYING, PAINTING YOUR TOENAILS. These kinds of actions are often used as a euphemism for wasting time. Something that’s totally pointless, with no real purpose. Fiddling your thumbs, that’s another one. 

I’ve been noticing this because these examples I just mentioned, they are all in fact productive. They are all actions with a clear tangible result.

Your body needs to sleep every night in order to function.

When you cry, water is being produced by your body to release emotion. There is relief and catharsis and clarity that comes from that action. 

Painting your toenails is fast and soothing and when you’re done, your toenails are a different color, it gives you joy to look at them.

Hell even fiddling your thumbs — I’ve never actually done this but I imagine it’s a very effective way to calm down a racing mind. ((Update: I just fiddled my thumbs and I did not find it calming but it reminded me of knitting which I hear IS calming for many people. We will report back on this breaking development as we hear more).

I was reminded of this because I was listening to Brene Brown’s interview with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on burnout and how to complete the stress cycle. They talk about how important it is to let your body physically process emotions. I’ve learned this over and over during this pandemic — if emotions don’t get expressed, they get stuck in the body. I forget this all the time!

The Nagoski sisters have some fantastic ideas for how to express emotions, and I made a list for myself of actions I do that are effective for processing emotions, and I thought I’d share it.

So there you go! In case you needed permission to go paint your toenails, YOU GOT IT.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It feels like the end of the world. And I’ve been thinking maybe that feels not only fine, but comforting. Maybe I prefer it! Obviously there are things that are not great, like grief and terror and violence. We’re all spending a lot of time thinking about that. But what about the aspects of the end of the world that make my life better? I’m going to share some with you.

You can watch me talk about it here in a sparkly headband if you want to…

… LIST OF WAYS THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMFORTING…

  1. Who cares that I’ve had to put my career / calling on the back burner in order to homeschool my children, or “manage their online learning” which let’s be honest, is not my ideal job. I never said, hey when I’m 43 I would like to help my child click a cursor and type numbers in a text field to complete a math assignment while my three year old tries to tackle me for ten hours a day. I did not say that. But you know what? Who cares, because the world is ending.
  1. If the world is ending, then all I need to do at any given moment is figure out how to enjoy myself. Even if it’s impossible, that’s my only job. I can let go of any other problems. This is maybe my last moment. 
  1. There’s no need to fret about what it will mean in ten years if my kid can’t figure out how to manage his anger, because none of us will be here, because our planet might not exist. So I don’t need to worry about that.
  1. If my kids are being assholes right now, that’s understandable considering that the world is ending, and/or their mom is losing her mind. It’s a rational response.
  1. I don’t need to listen to any more parenting podcasts.
  1. I can let go of saving for my kids’ college, or worrying that I’m not saving, because there won’t be college.
  1. All that time watching cheeseball disaster movies was good preparation. I get to find out who my disaster movie persona is now. I can say, I don’t give a FRUITCAKE what you think, I’m going to shave my head and walk around in a tank top. Oh who am I kidding, I’m not Ripley. I don’t know who I am but I get to find out now.
  1. I can embrace my true destiny as a founder of a new world religion / order ala Earthseed, like Lauren from Parable of the Sower. I can speak my verses out loud and gather followers as we walk on the highway evading violent firestarting desperadoes. If you haven’t read Parable of the Sower it’s incredible for a lot of reasons, but one is that when I read it a year ago it seemed like science fiction, and now it seems like a roadmap to how we’re going to survive.

Lauren is ready for that moment with a theory of god and change and the destiny of humankind, and she isn’t shy about stepping up to it (and she’s only 15!) I don’t have to be shy either. This is what I have to offer. I can’t shoot a gun, I can’t set a leg that’s broken, I’m not good at building houses but I can create community and lead rituals and invite people into our safe haven.

If you don’t have a spiritual doctrine you’ve been crafting for 15-43 years, think about what you DO secretly want to do. No matter how audacious or ridiculous or ambitious it seems to be, now is the time to say it out loud. Drop the charade! Wear what you like! Change your name! Cut your hair! Say what you feel! It doesn’t have to be with exclamation points. 

  1. I’m tempted to say, why bother with the dishes or keeping the house clean… but I’m actually feeling the opposite. Over the weekend I deep cleaned and my 7-year-old was INTO it for no reason that I could tell (except that he’s a Virgo). To him it was a way to hang out and play with weird blue liquid in spray bottles, it was a science experiment, a game to put his world in order. Hanging out with him helped me see it like a game too. Why NOT see it as a fun way to pass the time? Might as well wipe the dust off all those surfaces and make them sparkle.
  1. Which brings me to: things surprise you when the world is ending. What you thought was important is pointless, what seemed pointless is what’s keeping you sane and grounded. Career, school, imposter syndrome: nope. Dishes, dusting, disaster movies: HELL YES.

Maybe the world won’t end. Maybe in ten years my kids will be dusting and whispering to themselves about what they’re going to do about mom’s anger management problem. That’s comforting! I’ll take that, if it means we still get to be alive in ten years!

I’m Coach Faith Ra and I also go by Faith Helma and these days I also am called by my alter ego name MOOOOOO-OOOOOOM which is the reason I am losing my mind and coming out here to my art garage to put on a sparkly headband and talk to you about the end of the world.

What does your new world look like? Let’s talk about that next time. (IF THERE IS A NEXT TIME).

I feel fine.

We are living in a sh*tty first draft

Friends, I have no good advice for you today. No insights, no tricks, no shortcuts to make this easier.

I have my truth: this is hard and I am struggling. I have another truth: this is a chance to rethink my life, my family, my work, my kids’ schooling, my income, my day to day life, and I welcome it. It doesn’t look linear or neat or clean and progressive like the line on a growth chart. It’s meandering, sideways, going around in circles — and yet on some level I can sense a pattern forming. This might just be what I need to believe — which doesn’t mean it’s not real. The need to detect patterns is a deeply wired part of our instinct to survive.

I have my willingness to live in paradox, and to model what that looks like. I have my lived experience which has taught me: when things get unclear, when you’re in unfamiliar territory, retreat to your body. Follow your body where it leads.

My body is finding some aspects of this familiar. It’s reminding me of being home with a newborn baby, the way you find a rhythm not through the thinking mind, the way your energy organizes itself around what you need to survive on a daily basis. The way what you need surprises you.

I am using creative acts to survive. I draw to ease my mind; I dance to release my stress and anxiety; I sing to give voice to my sorrow, hopelessness and rage. I seek out jokes and laughter to get some relief. I seek out poems and songs to get perspective, to find out how I feel.

I’m thinking of my art garage as a playhouse, and I created a Facebook group to try and share this with others, though to be honest, I don’t know if I even have the capacity to show up in that space in any way that is meaningful for anyone but me. But even if it is just for me, the idea of a playhouse is keeping me going.

What is keeping you going? How are you surviving? What expectations have you let go of and what odd new habits (other than washing your hands like a surgeon) have you adopted? Who is helping you in this time?

Here is who is helping me:

Oh my — this is getting perilously close to me giving you good advice! I promised not to do that.

Instead, can I offer you some bad, dumb, stupid, awful advice?

I call this a Bad Idea Brainstorm (a BIB) and you can use it on anything — school closures, unemployment, grocery shopping, parenting, coexisting with roommates, living alone… anything you’re struggling with.

My inspiration for this is Anne Lamott’s advice on shitty first drafts  (which I’ve written about before)…

All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.

You want to sit down and stare at the page? Try to write a great novel from day one. Want to actually write a great novel? Write a shitty first draft.

How can we take this idea and apply it to other areas of life? Because we all want to survive and make it through this weird time not just intact but thriving and healthy, but aiming for success right now feels overwhelming.

Well guess what: that’s because NONE OF US HAS LIVED THROUGH A GLOBAL PANDEMIC BEFORE, so we’re all living in a shitty first draft.

What changes when you admit that — when you give yourself permission to do a bad job, because that’s all you can do in a new situation (what Brené Brown calls FFTs, or Effing First Times)?

One way to embrace and celebrate and revel and LAUGH with this situation is to do a Bad Idea Brainstorm on it. Lean IN to your awkward uncertainty, your weird instincts, your dumb ideas.

BAD IDEA BRAINSTORM: PANDEMIC EDITION

  1. Release live poisonous snakes into all the public areas where we want to discourage social interaction
  2. Follow our president’s instructions and whimsies to the letter
  3. Instead of wearing a face mask, get a tattoo of a face mask
  4. Fill the house with silly putty for the kids to play with
  5. What a great time to make paella with your small children! Or craft delicate glass objects to hang from windows and balance on tables!
  6. Oooh how about we make our own ant farm?
  7. I know! How about try to work a demanding full-time job while home schooling your child! (My apologies to anyone who is being forced to do this for real)
  8. Announce your plan for the day to the neighbors via bullhorn
  9. Forage all food instead of going to the grocery store. Can you eat grass?
  10. paint I AM STAYING HOME on my roof in neon pink

I did one of these around homeschooling on April Fools Day, and wrote out the worst homeschooling plan I could think of. Y’all… I cannot tell you how much more fun THIS was to create then the real ones I was making the first couple weeks (a practice I have now thankfully dropped).

This is the beauty of a Bad Idea Brainstorm — it gets you laughing, it gets you thinking outside the box, it gets you moving and in the mood to try things, and (this is the secret) once in a while, a brilliant idea sneaks in.

That’s what I have for you today! Until next time…

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The benefits of being lost

I have a trait that drives me nuts: I get lost everywhere I go. I’m a terrible navigator, a map is mystifying to me. I google map everything and half the time I still get turned around.

I’ve been playing with this idea: what if getting lost is a sign that magic is at work?

I believe that traits we think of as flaws in our culture — running late, getting lost, losing keys, forgetting things — are actually invitations to step into magic.

It’s how most fairy tales start. Alice down the rabbit hole, Dorothy diving into the cellar to hide from a tornado, Sarah (from Labyrinth) running home in the rain to babysit her brother then accidentally invoking David Bowie the Goblin King (it happens).

It’s how two year olds live every moment of their day. It’s what happens when elders slip into dementia. We think of these stages as annoying — a terrible willful phase to be trained out of, a dreaded no turning back threshold to be held off as long as possible. And I’m not pretending they are beautiful! I have a two year old right now and this morning he stood on a chair shouting, I PEEING! I PEEING! and then ten minutes later he did the same exact thing again.

It’s not fun to clean up. It didn’t feel very magical to me. But then, I’m on the outside looking in. My two year old is in it, mystified, watching, wondering what it means.

It’s hard when you’re the caregiver, the boss, the clean upper, the project manager. We are in charge of keeping things running, maintaining order, moving everyone along, noticing what needs fixing. That’s the power, right? I’m the decider, I’m the fixer, I’m in control. 

Losing control = losing power. 

Except what if it isn’t? What if losing your way, losing track of time, letting things slide into chaos is a different kind of power? A power we could embrace?

What if instead of aiming to eradicate these moments from my life, I saw them as invitations to lay down my certainty and feel the strange tension of not knowing what is going on — the tension of magic. Is that possible? 

I had a dream two months ago, where someone said to me, Uncertainty breeds confidence. In the middle of the night I wrote that down and I keep coming back to it.

Uncertainty breeds confidence.

There’s no way to real confidence without fumbling through not knowing. So if you’re fumbling right now: you are in the magic. Instead of fighting it, can you feel it’s tension, it’s bubbling chaos, it’s mystery?

Here is a magic spell to try tonight:

Go outside and stand under the dark sky. Whisper the things you do not know.  Welcome in the uncertainty all around you.

Feel the earth, how solid it seems. Feel it whispering back, rotating and shifting for miles and miles and miles under your feet.

See the blinking of stars in the sky, sending you signals from light years past.

Hear the sounds of night life, the scratching and rooting and scrabbling that is mysterious because you cannot see it. 

Leave a tiny object outside in the night, with a question. Go inside and make yourself a cup of tea. In the morning, see if the object is still outside where you left it.

If it is, pick it up and carry it in your pocket like a talisman.

If it is not, take it as a sign that your question has been taken under consideration by a creature of the night, and await their answer.


If you want help interpreting their answer or making space for magic in your life, I am offering 20 free coaching sessions for my spring People Project.


Shifting the power dynamic in your brain

I noticed a troll hanging out in my head this week, who was rolling her eyes, saying OH GOD GROSS every time I shared something and telling me everyone thinks I’m weird. Do you have a troll like this? I had a cold so I was extra vulnerable and it took me a while to notice.

Yesterday I pulled out ALL my tools: I drew a picture of the troll, I wrote down what she was saying, I asked questions and tried out opposite statements.

It sounds so silly — I drew a picture of the thoughts in my head and talked to the picture as if she were real. It is silly! I mean look at her:

I like mucking around in the weird mud of the inner world. This is messy, awkward, fumbling, vital work and I love it. It’s ok if it feels gross! EVERYONE thinks they are weird. We can be weird together.

It only took a few minutes of this and I was laughing out loud and feeling grounded and sure of myself again. I worked with the troll instead of trying to push her away, and arrived at something that feels true for me: I like being weird.

(I made a Facebook live video of some of this troll work if you want to see it on its feet)

Who are the trolls in your head who stop you in your tracks?

What do they say?

It’s too late, you missed your chance

You are being ridiculous

What a crybaby

Everyone else knows what they’re doing

Oh no, nothing is going right!

You’re going to lose everything!

What happens when you draw them and ask them questions and try on some different truths?

Your eyes are open to second chances

You are taking things much too seriously

What a loving emotionally healthy adult

Everyone doubts what they are doing

Oh no, everything is going right!

You’ve got nothing to lose!

I’m not saying this solves everything. It shifts the power dynamic inside your brain.

It’s one tiny step up a big ladder.

It doesn’t make the ladder disappear — but it does make climbing the ladder feel possible.

Try some troll work and let me know what you find out!

If you live in Portland and want to do troll work with a team: you can still sign up for Fruition.

Saying what you want out loud is a magic spell

I wrote a post two years ago about accidental spellcasting, about how we are casting accidental spells all the time — we  use our imaginations to predict, reflect, reframe, process and distract from reality. We speak predictions of the future as if they were certain, we worry ourselves into a repeating loop, we tell stories to make sense of trauma and thus, shake off it’s hold on us. We cast spells without realizing it — plant the seeds deep in our unconscious mind for the kind of world we want to live in. 

I think of magic as PHYSICALIZING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS. It’s a process for taking your inner world — the symbols, images and associations that make you do what you do — and expressing it on the outside. It’s about changing the inner tangle of associations so your perception of the outer world can radically change.

One of the simplest, most powerful magic spells you can cast is saying what you want out loud.

I’m not talking about manifesting or positive thinking. This is not about crossing your fingers and wishing hard. This is not about expecting everything to work out exactly the way you want it to.

No – this is a different beast. This is following the thread of what you want where it leads. This is paying attention to the images and shadows and surges and obstacles that arise when you say out loud what you want. This magic is a sideways, circular, cyclical, practical process. When you say your unconscious desires out loud — when you embrace them, play with them, pretend with them — they take on a life outside of you. You don’t control them — you dance with them, ride with them where they lead. It’s about co-creating with your unconscious mind.

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If this sounds whimsical or daydreamy, think of a baby. Babies cry for what they want. They voice their desire. They WANT with all their being, without question, without hesitation. They want milk, they cry out for milk. And you know what? IT WORKS. They don’t manifest the milk, they cry until they get it (or mine did. Babies vary, obviously). 

This is basic human survival. And yet what we learn as we grow is to hide our wants. Especially if you were socialized as a white American woman like me, you learn to wait and see what everyone else wants before you say anything. You mold your wants to fit the group. You try not to want too much, so you’re not a burden, a diva, an annoyance.

Overcoming that programming is not easy. It feels scary and weird and uncomfortable — impossible even.

But it’s like any hard thing: you practice, and you get better.

You can practice saying what you want out loud. You can practice being honest about your YES and NO. You can revel in the tension, the thrills, the fears of wanting. You can WANT with all your night, even if it’s just for two minutes.

I have an example from my life. Seven years ago I was channeling my creative energy into theater — creating charged multimedia performances about big unanswerable questions, leading warm ups and trainings, co-leading with a group of strong artists who had been working together for years. Then I gave birth to my son Waylon, and everything turned upside down. What arose (slowly) from the ashes was a new idea — or more accurately, the old idea, with new wings. A new frame for what I had been doing all those years. What if another word for these skills is active listening, facilitating and … coaching? Could I be a coach?

Something about becoming a mother compelled me to physicalize this question, so I made a show to practice embodying a coach. That show was I Hate Positive Thinking, and over the course of a year, I went from calling myself a “coach” in air quotes to doing it for real, working with clients and leading workshops and classes. For over a year, I got up in front of people and practiced being this new thing I wanted to be. I tried it on. I performed my WANT with hundreds of people as witnesses and I felt the spell working it’s magic, night after night.

I am still practicing that want. I am still casting that spell. And guess what,  it’s still hard! It’s vulnerable and scary and feels weird to say what I want out loud. 

I will model it here, and say:

I want ten people with big, beautiful, ridiculous, audacious, scandalous, silly, ugly, ambitious WANTS to sign up for Fruition, so we can grow and hide and seek and surf the wave of change together. I want Fruition to be three months of life changing, world changing energy that I never could have predicted.

There, I said it out loud. That’s what I want.

You can say yours out loud too! Right now, try saying out loud what you want and seeing what happens as a result. Maybe nothing! That’s possible. But since change is the only constant in our universe, isn’t it more likely that SOMETHING will happen?

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p.s. If you want to sign up for Fruition, you can do that here: FRUITION

Granting yourself validation

I talk to so many people who are looking for validation from someone who is not giving it to them. And this is such a hard one! Because even if you know you should be validating yourself — even if you want to, even if (like me) you’re a recovering people pleaser trying to disconnect from the drug of outside approval — that desire is still there, to be validated, to be affirmed, to be deemed worthy.

I had a thought the other day: what if you granted validation to yourself?

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Not thought about it, wished for it, longed for it, waited for it, but GRANTED it.

How do you grant yourself validation?

How about we try this:

Write out the validation you want from someone. Imagine them saying exactly what you want to hear: singing your praises, telling you good job, nodding with approval at your actions.

Now this is the important part — read it out loud. If possible, to a trusted friend. Nod with approval. Stand up and clap your hands. Sing your own praises. And end with something like:

I hereby grant myself the validation I seek. 

 To commemorate, put on a validation song and dance to it, or write out a certificate, or make a tiny sigil to wear around your neck, or find a ring to wear, so any time you’re feeling small or insignificant or like an imposter, you can make a fist and say to yourself:

YES: I see you 

I know you

You are powerful

You are learning

You are growing 

I validate you

I strengthen you

I encourage you

I believe in you

I think something happens when we say this out loud to ourselves. When we adopt it as a daily practice, something you can do no matter how you feel, something you can feel your way into.

It’s not a given. It’s not either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something someone else can give you anyway.

Have you ever noticed that? How often, when the validation DOES come from outside, we swat it away, we deflect it, we dismiss it?

I wonder if, when we begin truly to affirm ourselves, when we build up those muscles and recognize ourselves, we also begin to receive more validation from the outside. Because we’re open to it — we’re ready for it — we’re not in a desperate game of hide and seek with it, we already have it.

Something to experiment with! And that’s what I love about this work. It’s something you can practice and learn. It’s a choice you can make and a stance you can take, a question you can ask.

What if I had the power to grant myself validation?

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Humbled & disoriented in my power

It’s been a strange week.

I had planned a trip back to my ancestral homeland of Lansing, Michigan to visit my sister’s family and their newborn baby.

It was going to be just my two-year-old and I – a chance to go on an adventure with him alone, for him to soak up grandparent love and connect with his cousins, independent of his wonderful, confident, boisterous older brother.

But two days before our flight, I started coming down sick, and though I drank tea, emergen-c, lots of water – the morning of our flight, the fog descended.

At the same time, a snowstorm descended onto Michigan, and (long story short) our flight was canceled. So instead of dragging my sick body through the airport with an excited toddler, I was home, unpacking my bags and feeling sad and sorry for myself.

Because you see, what had also descended was (buckle up, gentlemen) MY PERIOD which has a way of amplifying my negative feelings until they are the world and the world is my bad mood.

For most of my life, I have thought of this as a bad thing. PMS sucks! Don’t make decisions! Don’t try to communicate! Hide away and cry!

Well, that’s what I did. I went to bed and slept for two days, shuffling around drinking tea and feeling like the world was ending. OH THE HORROR of my bad, bad cold.

Then I started to feel the fog lifting, and started to ask myself that essential question when you’re coming out of a fog: WTF just happened?!

It feels like I spent the last week in a strange Underworld, a topsy turvy world full of despair and darkness, that is 99% my imagination.

Which sucks, yes. But one reason I’m not a fan of positive thinking is that, as hard as it is to be in the underworld — for me, those dark times are also a source of power.

The best way I can explain it is to go back to my biggest baddest experience in the Underworld thus far in life: the two times I’ve given birth.

Six years ago I went into my first childbirth clownishly optimistic. I remember crowing at a party, seven months pregnant, that I didn’t think it was going to be that hard. I was half joking, but the other half believed that somehow I possessed a superpower — that deep down, maybe every woman who said it was painful was kind of exaggerating.

Ahhhh sweet justice. Sweet 44 hours of labor karma.

If I could sum up my experience giving birth in one word, it would be HUMBLING.

I went in feeling like a superhero, and the universe quickly showed me how truly, painfully mortal I was. I wrote a song afterwards about it called Mother Nature Doesn’t Love You. I was utterly schooled by my body, whipped around, tricked, tested, pushed to the brink and beyond. In the aftermath I was holding a tiny vulnerable human in my arms and overwhelmed by my own vulnerability, unsure, undone, a total mess.

Paradoxically, I was more IN my body than I’d ever been, aligned with it, listening to it. I didn’t have time to waste judging myself. I had to trust my body. Like a buddy cop movie, we had to learn how to work together if we were going to survive.

My second birth was totally different from the first – but equally humbling. (I wrote about preparing for it here. And about my artist residency in motherhood that followed).

The word that comes to mind is DISORIENTED. It happened so fast that my mind couldn’t catch up to my body and I was utterly lost, confused, my navigation tools spinning. I remember laying on my back with an oxygen mask on my face, weeping from sheer confusion, sheer lack of control, and in less than an hour my second son was born. It was easy in a way, and yet I felt so lost.

HUMBLED. DISORIENTED.

We don’t think of these as powerful words. And yet, growing into my own power has been deeply linked to these states.

Out of that disorientation, from a place of humility, I learned to listen to my inner voice.

To give over to chaos.

To cry – to howl – to ask for what I need.

To want what I want, to like what I like no matter how ridiculous it is.

To let myself be inconsistent. To let myself change, to want one thing one minute and the opposite the next.

To find relief where I can.

To find my way by fumbling and following the tiniest of clues, the tiniest slivers of light, the tiniest hint of an instinct.

This is what my birth experiences taught me, and why each time I get my period and return for several days to that state of darkness and loss, I know – even as I’m aching and confused, even as I don’t feel clear about the way – that feeling humbled and disoriented is a great gift. Because I can re-experience the tiny steps that re-orient me and connect me to other people – I can remember again that these tiny steps MATTER.

Tiny steps like taking a nap, drinking good tea, drinking water, listening to music that makes me cry (so cathartic), having a conversation. Looking for the tiniest of connections.

If you are in a state of disorientation and overwhelm, you can look around for tiny connections too, tiny ways you are supported.

If there are no people around, connect with the animals – is there a squirrel outside chattering in annoyance? Are they trying to tell you something?

If no animals, connect with the objects and pretend they’re alive. That’s what my six year old does! He’d rather play with real live friends but in the absence of humans, he’ll pick up a LEGO figure and get lost in rich, complicated adventures.

This may sound silly, and when you’re in a dark place, it can sound dismissive to say, hey just pick up a LEGO figure and pretend it’s your friend!

And yet it is in our times of darkness that we need silliness. When the troll voices roll like thunder in our heads and we give over to them – when the forces of patriarchy feel like they are crushing us – when the future looms and the bills are pilling up and it feels like we’re at the bottom of a deep dark hole…

… it is the tiny, silly, ridiculous things that pull us out. That get us connecting to the world. That get us the care we need, and get us caring for others in return.

Tiny things are deeply important. Like a tiny sip of nourishing bone broth, or a tiny glimpse of the ocean which reminds you to take a tiny breath – these are the ways we take care of ourselves.

Hugging a stuffed animal and whispering, I love you.

Picking up some playdoh and making a little blue figure and patting her head.

Drawing a monster and coloring her hair a wild orange.

Listening to the song that always makes you cry and letting yourself cry.

Saying out loud, I need a hug, and letting your six year old give you a hug.

Those tiny steps matter.

Thank you for listening, friends. I am feeling a little silly writing to you from this vulnerable place and yet, I will listen to my own tiny voice, and trust that this tiny connection is important.


Note: I swear to the goddess I do not plan this, but every year around this time I write a post about vulnerability and sickness and poop and getting lost in the fog. ‘It’s the season my friends!

November 2018: Stretching Season (aka the life changing magic of stepping in poop)

November 2017: Bragging about the mess

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 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.

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