Stretching Season

Hey beautiful dreamers,

I’ve been out of contact or a lot of reasons – long story short, this fall parenting has taken more of my energy than anticipated, and my plan to offer a lot of free webinars and launch an expanded round of the Creative Magic Workout in October got knocked to the ground like cheerios from the hand of an exuberant toddler, which is mostly a metaphor and also a pretty literal description of my day to day life.

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I’ve been a bit lost, in a bit of a dark place – a place where my trolls take over and drive out my sense of humor and incite a stewing toxic jealousy about everyone but me who has their life figured out. My poor wretched trolls, with their either/or thinking and their helpless rage. YOU ARE A LOSER. EASY FOR HER, SHE CAN BE A WINNER BECAUSE HAS EVERYTHING. (It’s no accident that my trolls sound a lot like Trump supporters).

When I’m lost and overtaken by my trolls, it feels like I’m out of control. I forget that I am the one who decides, that I am at the helm of this ship, that I can change course if I want to. Life feels overwhelming, unmanageable, something that happens to me, like projectile vomiting in the middle of the night (another metaphor drawn from my recent experience).

This feeling sucks, obviously. Let’s not sugar coat it. It’s hard. At the same time, it’s instructive.

It’s instructive because it is a feeling – an internal state – not objective reality. The thing I’m wrestling with is 100% in my head.

And knowing that is really helpful. I can feel the trolls taking over, but they have not totally taken over. I am aware of them. I know that the things they are saying are not true, even though they feel true.

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It’s also instructive because in that moment of overwhelm, when it feels like I’m trying to pull off the impossible, when I’m making dinner even though I cannot possibly make dinner, I can feel my brain and body stretching. I can feel the gulf between what needs to be done and my ability to do it, and I bridge that gulf and do it anyway.

My parents were in town and my Dad said on two different occasions I was muttering to myself, I don’t know what to do here, I don’t know what to do. That moment when you are suspended in the not knowing: that is what I’m talking about. That is when the growth happens. And that is also when I burst out laughing because what else can you do, when your kid has an attack of diarrhea in the parking lot and in the scramble to remove clothing and clean up the poop and wrap him in a baby blanket and get him in the car without anyone noticing, you step in the poop.

There is just something so GROUNDING about stepping in poop. And I am laughing as I say this but I am also dead serious. This is the grounding, grinding poetry of my everyday life, the way it stretches and stops me, the way it helps me laugh at myself.

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With that laughter comes space, comes distance, comes relief. The trolls step back and I remember that I am okay, this is a moment in time and it will pass, that help is all around me if I choose to see it. I am not the only person dealing with a sick kid! As Byron Katie says: other than what I’m thinking and believing, am I okay?

There’s a primal call to all this, a drumbeat of THIS SUCKS, an I CAN’T, a WHY ME that vibrates through my body as I remember how to laugh, as I remember how to feel like myself. It’s not about resisting that drumbeat. It’s about giving in to it, saying it out loud – OH MY GOD THIS SUUUUUUCKS – and then laughing as I give in to it.

I wipe the poop off my shoe and get my kid home and in the bath and into his pajamas and now he’s asleep (and so is his brother) and I make some tea and write this to you. Telling you about the tiny ways I find to survive. The poems I jot down, the shows I dream up, the ballots I cast, the ways I get clear.

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I am not offering the Creative Magic Workout this fall. I might in the spring. I might put it together differently. For now, I’m embracing the unknowing, the undoing, the unraveling. I’m choosing it. I resisted at first and then my body made it clear: that’s not what this fall is about.

I’m going to offer 1:1 sessions and have as many conversations as I can instead. I want to hear about what is blocking and trolling and demanding too much from you.

I also might start working on a show / book – I have been remembering that three years ago, that’s how I found my way out of the fog and reorganized my creative universe, by making a show about my questions.

This time my questions have something to do with the power of apology and atonement and reparations, with fragility and white flight and escape, with truth and reconciliation and songs about Saturn and joyfully upending fascism like dandelions busting through the sidewalk.

I will work on it the way I’ve learned to since becoming a mother: jotting down the ideas I have in the shower, writing in my iphone at 3am, inviting people to come and look at what I’ve made even though it’s a mess, drawing the costume I imagine and waiting for it to find me. Actually, this happened in reverse this summer when I found this incredible teal dress suit at my neighbor’s garage sale – I am waiting for its purpose to reveal itself:

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And the hardest, most important part: remembering that my creative work is vital and worthy of dedicated time and space.

Thank you for listening as I work my way through the darkness and richness and paradox.

I hope you are finding your way too.

 


p.s. It is not lost on me that EXACTLY a year ago I wrote a post almost exactly like this one. I don’t know what to make of that but it is evidence that what goes around, comes around, and that what you learned before will come in handy again in the future. 

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Here I Am

Hello out there. How was your summer?

I had a very creative summer in many ways – lots of family time and swimming lessons and camping trips and first steps and whoopie cushions and a superhero scavenger hunt.

So many things to inspire and instigate and invigorate my creative spirit. Nothing makes my heart swell with love and pride more than seeing my kids give free rein to their creative instincts. Beautiful!

And at the same time, exhausting. Because facilitating the growth and healthy development of small children involves a lot of thinking ahead, a lot of making mistakes, a lot of head-bonking, a lot of tantrum-decoding, a lot of blanket-fort-decomissioning, a lot of tears, a lot of night frights, a lot of messes.

I believe in messes. I believe in the creative anarchic spirit. And I believe parenting – all caregiving, really – is creative. It requires deep pools of creativity in order to do it at all. And because it is so all encompassing, so demanding, so FREAKING HARD — it also makes it difficult to focus on other creative projects.

Like, it’s hard to foster my son’s beautiful anarchic creative spirit while also embracing my own. It’s hard to embrace making messes when I’m the one cleaning them up. It’s hard to hold space for chaos when you’re also in charge of setting the boundaries.

So I am excited that we are in the fall and my kids are in someone else’s care for part of the day so I can make some time for my creative spirit to bounce off the walls. So I can write to you and turn my mind towards what the hell I do when I’m not wiping applesauce off the floor and chasing a one year old into the bathroom shouting NO HANDS IN THE TOILET!

My coaching tentacles are slowly coming back to life and here I am, curious about what’s going on in your world.

I find my mind returning to a topic that always carries such a charge – something that is a key part of the Creative Magic Workout, the one people are most resistant to, the one that seems like it’s got nothing to do with creativity – like it’s a separate universe – and which turns out to be intricately, inseparably intertwined with creative expression.

That topic is BRAGGING.

Bragging is a loaded word so allow me to use some other words to describe what it means to me:

  • Telling your hero story
  • Standing fully in your experience of the world
  • Owning your experience — what you feel and believe and think
  • Feeling pride in what you have done and what you will do, good or bad
  • Speaking with confidence about your experience, about what you have done and will do
  • Holding yourself with power, acknowledging your power instead of deflecting it, hiding it, pretending you don’t have it
  • Claiming your space
  • Claiming your time
  • Claiming the attention of others

So scary, right?

There is a reason we spend a lot of time on this – because it’s HARD and because it’s KEY to your creative expression.

So my approach, as with anything creative – come to think of it, this is my approach to parenting too – is to make it as easy as possible.

How to make bragging easy?

One way is to find someone to emulate, to remind you of what kind of person you want to be, to spur you on, to cheer you on, to encourage you.

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One of my champions is Dolly Parton and I’m so thrilled to see my very favorite song of hers, “Here I Am,” out in the world as a new duet with Sia. And it strikes me as a FANTASTIC bragging song. (One of my favorite ways to creatively work things out is to find a song that speaks to whatever is on my mind, and then sing / dance / jump around to it in my garage).

If you’d like to do that with me today, please join me in singing and dancing and hopping around and saying out loud, HERE I AM.

(And if you want to register for my free webinar next week, DYNAMIC BRAG, you can do it here: REGISTRATION)

Make your shower a holy temple

I’m looking for a better word than “life hack” for those genius moments when you redraw the boundaries / find an easier way / reallocate your resources to get more done in less time. Energy Aqueduct? A ReConduit?

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Lately one of my favorite energy aqueducts (my that’s bulky… should I just called it an energy duct?) is to turn my bathroom into a mini temple.

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That way I get to use my shower time – already a precious resource – as sacred mind/body/spirit/hair revitalization time. Time to refresh my spirit, worship my body, cast spells and sing along to Barbra Streisand.

 

It doesn’t add any time – because time is one luxury I do not have – but in the same amount of time, I can either jump in the shower and stand there on autopilot OR take some simple actions to make that time more energizing, hilarious and meaningful, to make it an intentional cleansing ritual for my spirit and my body. (Not that I’m knocking being on autopilot — sometimes you don’t want meaning and depth and beauty, you just want to stand there under hot water, and that’s good too).

Even if all I do is take the shower with the intention to connect with myself, it makes a difference. The sound of the water and the steam surround me like a cocoon, I feel my skin and feel alive. I feel taken care of.

And these days, when I am in the thick of  mothering two little kiddos and feeling stretched very thin — that makes a huge difference.

Sometimes when I get out of the shower, I take a moment to repurpose my kid’s paints that he left out and paint a little self portrait.

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What kind of energy ducts have you been using to get through this strange winter season?

Glory In Excelsius

(Or, more thoughts on excellence)


Note: I wrote this a week ago in a moment of breezy triumph, and then the mess of life — in the form of my baby coming down with a fever for five days and caterwauling whenever I put him down for one moment, and then passing the fever on to me — got in the way of me taking that extra 5 minute step of posting it here. Ah! The glory of excellence and messiness intertwined…


I’ve been thinking more about excellence and what it means. If my version of excellence is not perfectionism, if it includes messiness, what is it?

Magic is mess and order

Let’s break it down, starting with the word mess

= fertile
= lost
= too much stuff
= overwhelming, avoiding
= piling = stockpiling = hoarding
= natural
= creative = destructive = generative
= fertile
= neverending
= comforting

And there are some parts of that I want to keep and some I’d like to move away from. What are the qualities of this thing around excellence that I want in my life?

I want…

= a well tended garden
= room to expand
= the right tools
= something manageable = a little chaos but not all chaos
= doing = diving in
= to put things away
= to get out tools, make a big mess, then clean up and put away
= enough space to make a mess
= to let things go
= the key to survival
= to tend to nature
= to tend to myself

And what I don’t like about excellence is this idea of the BEST or the FINEST or getting rated or ranked or lined up and compared. This is the greatest, this sucks, this is hot, this is not. Yuck.

I looked up the word EXCELLENT to see where it comes from.

Ex = outside, beyond

Cellence = Celsus = lofty, high

I remember the term “in excelsius” from some hymn… which one, does anyone know? It means higher, loftier, more elevated, ever upward. Glory to god in the highest.

So to be in excellence is to exist to the utmost degree, to be high, to be praised for being what you are to the greatest degree – to celebrate that quality and that desire and that process.

When Bill and Ted say, Excellent! — they are saying, this is in alignment, this works, this is how things should be. When they say, be excellent to each other, they mean, bring out the best in each other. Enjoy each other. Treat each other well.

My excellence encourages your excellence. When I see you being excellent, I want to be excellent too. Our mutual excellence is a game, a way of taking care of each other.

I want to fly high to the limits of my nature. Which also will mean, failing. Failing and flying are both included in excellence, two sides of the same process.

It is the opposite of calcifying.

It is the process of alchemy, of change, of evolution.

It is stretching and morphing and molting and figuring out what you are now in this moment, which is impossible to figure out, which is why it’s so fun.

Fun is not COMFORTABLE.

But it feels right.

You’re glad on some level.

Like when the toys are scattered everywhere

And cleaning them up will take a lot of work and you don’t FEEL like doing a lot of work, you’d rather go to bed

But you take a deep breath and you put them all away

And it only takes five minutes

And it will only last about five minutes

And when they are put away you look around and feel a surge of goodwill, of pride, of rightness, of clarity

And you make yourself a cup of tea instead of the beer you feel like reaching for

And you feel cozy and comforted and strong and healthy

As you close your eyes and drift off to sleep

In alignment with yourself and the universe

In this moment

That is excellent

May you be excellent to yourself this weekend! Let’s all be excellent to ourselves and each other.

Listening to Venus de Riveter

So, here we are. It’s December. I’m still a mess.

Don’t know if it’s got something to do with having a six-month-old, but last time I felt like this was four years ago when my older son was six months old. And what’s keeping me sane right now is remembering that. And remembering that even though it felt neverending and impossible while I was in it — the period of time in which I was hitting the wall was only about three months. And what came after that was huge, sudden, sea changing breakthrough.

It helps a little, to remember that. But nevertheless I am at a wall. The wall of: I can’t go out at night without paying someone $50-75 to watch my kids. I can’t seem to go one goddamn week without forgetting a meeting or an appointment or when my kid last pooped, oh god is he constipated again, where did I put the miralax? 

I have big ideas, ideas that fill me with tingling thrilling excitement, but when I try to make them happen in the real world, I run out of steam or blow a fuse in my art garage or lose hours in a tailspin of self pity and web edits and mom guilt.

My body wants to dance in the streets and bring the baby with me everywhere. All of me wants revolution and paradigm change and to join hands with all the women I know and shout me too,  me too, me too. 

I want to make a literal space for us to come together and cry and rage and laugh and feel our power. It’s such a great idea! A monthly creative emotions worksho so we can cry and rage together. I know I can do this. I want to lead with the confidence I had when I was nine years old, I want to be doing and creating and taking care of my family and making our dreams come true, doing it our way.

But my body reels me in and tells me to slow down. I burn my hand on the stove. I bonk my head with the car door which… how do you even do that?!

So I listen. I slow down. My inner goddess — these days I’m seeing her as a combination of Venus de Milo and Rosie the Riveter — she reclines with her chin on her fist, smiling and waiting for me to come back to myself.

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What a relief, when that cloud clears, when that story drops.

And if I’m making this sound easy and idyllic, like I just sit back and the clouds clear, like I am a different human than you are, more evolved or courageous, or that I always snap out of it easily: no, girl. I am still a mess. But sometimes I see that what I thought was a wall is an optical illusion.

The mess hasn’t changed. The judgment has – THAT was the wall.

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Here’s what dissolved my walls this week:

I cut my own hair and felt the simple, immediate power of being able to alter my appearance.

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I read something from the great witch whose work I love so much, Carolyn Elliot — she said:

… you’ll definitely die, and in dying, you will totally fail to keep your ego projects in motion. You’re a complete failure no matter what. A dead failure.

And that bracing reminder helped me drop my sad sack story — god, that’s right! No matter what I will fail! What a relief. We are all going to die. No matter WHAT I do, the realization of my big ideas will never match the vision in my mind — ahhhhhhh. There is comfort. There is the sound of my grand ridiculous expectations, spontaneously combusting.

And as soon as they disappear, there is Venus de Riveter, lounging in my psyche, eating some almonds and laughing. Hi honey. Where you been?

Hand on heart, listening to Venus, why don’t you text so and so? And I do, and simple as that, I’m not alone. I am surrounded by loving, wonderful friends. They were there the whole time, but I couldn’t see them.

There is magic, right in front of my eyes.

My son, drawing intricate maps carefully inscribed with the letters B, O, T, D, A and Y. What does it mean?? Who knows?

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The trains he is always pointing out — I notice that they are roving art exhibitions. What an amazing thing.

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Even his tantrums — his huge, primal anger that I find so overwhelming — they are an opportunity to feel my feelings, to witness someone I love expressing feelings without filter. You’re mad! You wanna knock over chairs, that’s how angry you are! What can we do instead? Let’s rip some paper! Let’s draw a storm! Let’s dance to Sly and the Family Stone! 

Look at that! Every day is a damn creative emotions workshop in my world. I don’t need to make anything happen, it’s already here.

So in case you’re feeling angry at your mess or stuck behind a wall or lost in a storm today: you are not alone. I’m a mess too. We all are. Let’s draw / write / sing / breathe our way through it, shall we?

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Bragging about the mess

I talk a lot about bragging about what’s hard and celebrating failure and being real. And I try to walk that walk. But I have been hiding the last few weeks, because I couldn’t find the story that I wanted to share.

And once I realized I was hiding, I thought: why do I feel like I have to find the right spin to put on this? Why can’t I just talk about my doubts and questions as I’m living them? Isn’t that what I encourage other people to do?

So here you go. My life is feeling like a mess right now. Lots of glorious beautiful moments in that mess – and also lots of questions and doubts and problems I don’t yet know how to solve.

In a lot of ways, my summer artist residency in motherhood was easier, because I focused all my attention on figuring out how to mother a newborn baby + a big kid with big feelings and energy and needs. It took all my attention to do that, and there was poetry in living that, poetry in not having a moment to write down the poetry.

And in the last two months as I’ve edged back into work – which is not a singular thing but many overlapping obligations, of which this creative magic biz is one – and the kids have edged into school and childcare, it’s been much harder.

I plunged myself headlong into promoting the fall round of the creative magic workout, and then decided to cancel it. Partly because not enough people signed up, partly because I’m so consumed with mom guilt, it’s difficult to give my full attention to creative magic these days. Even though I think it’s worthy of my attention. My body is at odds with my mind and one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is, when that happens, it’s a good idea to slow down and listen to my body.

And right now my body has a lot of contradictory information. It wants peace and quiet and a break so it can sleep, and it also wants the baby to be snuggled close at all times, and it wants someone else to hold the baby. It wants to dance and play piano and not be mothering, and it wants to dive deep into mothering and nothing else.

How do I brag about this mess? Oof.

I am ROCKING this mom guilt, y’all. Oh my god, I am doing an amazing job of relishing the exquisite pangs of shame and longing that consume me when I’m away from my baby.

I am letting myself feel it, letting myself sit with my questions. Instead of forcing the situation one way or another, I am sitting in the paradox. I am brilliant at sitting in the paradox.

My body is such an amazing teacher that even when I sit and listen closely to what it wants, I don’t have a fucking clue what to make of it. That’s how far ahead of me it is. I find this incredibly frustrating.

Oooh – except, and this is interesting – as soon as I wrote that, my body came alive with an image of exactly what it wants.

(Clue to think about later: sometimes you can’t figure out what you want until you express your rage and confusion).

So here is the image that just came to me: I’m in a small cozy room and I am surrounded by loving, patient women who take my baby and rock him and gently push me out the door saying, go, do your work honey, let us take care of the baby for a while. And I leave him in that cozy place and go outside under a big far-reaching tree to do my own work which begins with checking in with my body.

Ahhhh. I love this. This helps me understand what my issue is. It’s not about the childcare itself, it’s about the where and when and how of it.

I encourage you to join me – to take a moment, if you are currently in the mess (which – I don’t know about you, but I am in it all the time) to sit with your body, to voice your frustration, and to pay attention to the images that come to you.

Write them, draw them, or just notice them.

As soon as I noticed this image, my whole body changed. The low level panic and stress I’ve been feeling all day fell away. I haven’t solved any problems but now I’m alert and creatively engaged in the problems.

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Let’s keep bragging about this freaking mess we’re all living, shall we?

(And if you are interested, I will be offering the Creative Magic Workout at some point later this year — never fear, my mess will not keep me from making a space for expressing the wild ridiculous wonder of our true selves together)

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Artist Residency in Motherhood

Hello, dear friends.

For the last 3+ months I’ve been in the newborn dreamtime, remembering the things that make it maddening and miraculous. I have been thinking of you and the work we are all doing in the world to keep the flame of creative healing and revolution alive. I’ve been crafting manifestos in my head, while I’m cradling a tiny human in my arms.

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In some ways this has been much easier than the last time around, when it was all unknown and I groped forward guessing at the unknown. A lot of beautiful, hard-won truths emerged from that unknown, and I am surprised to find that this time around, even on the hardest days/nights/days, it’s a lot easier. This time it’s a known challenge. It’s looking down the path and being able to see a bear coming towards you and reaching for your bear spray, versus listening to grunting in the darkness and wondering what it could be and letting your mind race to all the worst possible outcomes. (I’m not sure why I’m drawn to bear metaphors when it comes to motherhood – something to explore in a future creative time).

So many things seemed impossible the first time. The fact that some of those things now seem easy helps keep me going when I hit a snag that feels impossible (like how to handle bedtime with two small children, or how to figure out childcare, or how to take a shower).

I tell myself: right now this seems impossible, but soon it will be possible, and then it will be easy.

Which is not to say that it is all sunshine and rainbows over here. (Obviously, since last week it was toxic wildfire smoke for all of us in the Portland area). There are plenty of times when I am feeling grumpy or edgy or full of self-pity or exhausted or coming down with mastitis AGAIN or taking my baby to the emergency room because his fever is too high or waking up with a four year old’s foot in my face. Trying to go out into the world with both my children is total madcap chaos and it takes all the good humor I have to laugh at myself as I chase my four-year-old across the park while clutching a tiny baby to my chest.

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A moment of stillness

It feels impossible, but I am doing it. Doing it badly, sure! But doing it!

And I have tools to help me when I feel overwhelmed. I can take five minutes to draw out my feelings or put my hand on my heart and breathe or pull a tarot card or text a friend or go on an imagination walk.

The beautiful thing is, when I use these tools, my kid picks up on it and dives right in. I’ve gotten so many great ideas for exercises from him, like stomping around the room pretending to be the bad guy, or building yourself a literal safe fort space, or scribbling all over your (or your mother’s) five year plan.

This is a whole different way of seeing myself and my life and my creativity. Motherhood isn’t the thing that keeps me from practicing my art: it is the practice. The challenges are impossible to separate from the rewards. This time around, though of course I do need breaks from being all mom all the time, I am feeling less of a need to escape from it and more of a desire to dive into the mess.

This has been my artist residency in motherhood (an idea I first heard of from this brilliant artist/mother, Lenka Clayton). Mothering my children makes my creative work stronger, and creative work makes my mothering stronger.