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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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.

Make Up Your Brags

Last time I wrote, I had you imagine yourself as Queen of your Domain.

Since then, I’ve been dreaming up more exercises for stepping into your power, and it brought to mind another topic that comes up with almost every woman I work with: how hard it is to talk about our accomplishments. To crow, to claim, to boast, to brag.

Everyone likes the idea of OTHER women bragging. But when it comes to doing it yourself, there is an instinctive deflection – a resistance – a horror.

Here is how the horror plays out for me.

There are things I know I can do well. And I can own that, in a comical half joking way, like…

I’M A REALLY GOOD SINGER. HA HA I’M THE BEST SINGER THAT EVER LIVED. JUST KIDDING!! I AM PRETTY GOOD THOUGH

Even if it’s something I know I can do well, there is this fear of saying it out loud, like I might jinx it or draw negative attention to myself. Or that I might not be as good as I think I am, I might be blind to the reality that actually I suck. Someone else out there is better so who am I to claim originality or excellence or anything special?

Like, oh my god, what if I am bragging about something that I am not in fact excellent at, but only REGULAR at? How embarrassing would that be? Who am I to say this spaghetti I made is delicious, what if it’s just regular old spaghetti that ANYONE could make?

THE HORROR. THE HORROR. That I might say out loud, this is really good spaghetti, and everyone eating it would be thinking, ehhhh, it’s ok.

That I might claim excellence when in fact IT’S NOT EXCELLENT.

I have known many men who do not have this problem. Who are not haunted with fears that they might secretly be subpar. Who are quite willing to take credit and claim excellence for regular or even mediocre work.

What many of us who identify as women do – and I’m not the first person to say this so OH MY GOD DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND I AM TAKING CREDIT FOR INVENTING THIS IDEA – is deflect and diffuse. We deny the credit. We share the credit. We do anything but TAKE THE GODDAMN CREDIT.

Taking the credit is SCARY. It’s taking ownership, it’s taking up space, it’s vulnerable, it’s exposed.

I led a beta test workshop over the summer on becoming Queen and bragging about your accomplishments and here is a hilarious thing that went on inside my head while I was leading it.

I had a group of women write a list of things they had done that they were proud of – things that were hard, things that seemed impossible, things that changed and stretched them – and then read them out loud.

There were some incredible things on those lists!

Here is what was going through my mind: oh wow. These women REALLY have things to brag about. They have been living life to the fullest. My list is not that impressive. I haven’t swum with sharks or traveled solo or raised my kids in an intentional community. Here I am leading an exercise on bragging and what do I have to brag about?

And yet, I was also aware that each woman didn’t think the things on her list were impressive until she read them out loud.

Afterwards, I had an idea for a new exercise, and I’m going to share it with you because it kind of blew my mind.

I made a list of things I wished I could brag about. A list of made up accomplishments.

If you want to do it, try it now: write down the things you wish you could say you have done.

There are lots of impressive things I have not done, that I would not put on my list. I do not wish I could say I’ve swum with sharks. I mean it would be impressive to say, but I don’t feel a pain in my heart when I hear someone say they’ve done that.

The ones that make you inhale sharply and say, oh wow I wish I could say I had done that – those are the ones that go on the list.

MY MADE UP ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I wrote a rock opera
  • I traveled through rural China for six months and learned rudimentary Mandarin
  • I planted a night blooming garden
  • I gave talks on energy conservation, climate change and wild clowny art at some big think tank conference
  • I took my kids backpacking in Montana
  • I toured as a backup singer with Tom Petty
  • I bought a house in my 20s

Now here is the amazing thing that I only realized after I’d written my list and was looking at it.

The very first thing on the list IS SOMETHING I HAVE IN FACT DONE.

I did write a rock opera! In my mind I was like, oh it wasn’t really a rock opera, it was more of a song cycle, but then I remembered that some critic had called it something and I looked it up and it was “a one woman no orchestra polyphonic opera” which is actually WAY COOLER than a rock opera.

Everything else on the list – and I mean every single thing – is something I have not done TO THAT EXTENT, but have done on a smaller scale.

I was SHOCKED to realize this. There is a grain of truth in every one of these fantastical, out there, made up accomplishments. I’m not as far away from that list as I thought.

LIST OF REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I traveled across the US for 3 months with my best friend when we were 22.
  • I planted a tiny fairy garden with my five year old last year.
  • I gave a talk on “creative living in an alternate world” at SXSW in 2016.
  • I’ve taken my kids car camping in Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Texas since they were each 10 months old.
  • I opened once for Justin Bond.
  • My partner and I bought a house in our 30s.

When I look at THAT list, I think: hell, that is nothing to sneeze at! Why am I not bragging about THOSE things?

It tells me something about where I am, and where I want to be.

And it tells me, I’m not starting from scratch! The seeds are there. I can brag about what I’ve done, right here, right now.

You can too! Whatever it is you wish for, you can find the seeds in your life right now. Look at your list of made up accomplishments, and ask yourself: have I done something like this, on a smaller / different / more modest scale?

Or ask yourself: have I actually done that? Is there something I’m minimizing or not seeing that is in fact AN AMAZING THING I DID?!

So to recap, here’s how to brag in make believe and then in real life:

  1. Write a list of made up things you wish you could say you have done
  2. Look at the list and ask: is there a grain of truth in here? Have I done anything like these things?
  3. Write the list of things you have actually done
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: can I take credit for these things?
  5. And if the answer is YES: say them out loud.

(If the answer is NO, schedule a free session with me and by the end of the hour, I’ll have you bragging like a pirate.)

Queen of your Domain

Hello my Queens,

Do you mind if I call you Queen? Its been coming up a lot this summer season, this desire to be Queen. To be in charge, to be in power, to feel confident and comfortable in your skin.

It’s been a slow journey for me, finding my way towards sovereignty. For a long time I thought it made me stronger to be harsh with myself – to expect more, to not be happy with what I saw in the mirror, to critique, to push, to want to be better. I gave my inner drill sergeant free reign. Don’t go easy on her. She’s lazy, make her work harder. Don’t let her rest. 

As I settle into my 40s (I turn 42 on this month) I continue to learn how untrue – how unhelpful – those thoughts are. Being hard on myself doesn’t make me stronger. It freezes me, locks me in, blocks me, paints me into corners. Being gentle with myself frees up my energy, allowing me to do more, try more, open up more, learn more.

I continue to unlearn harshness, to learn how to love what I see in the mirror, to relish my mistakes. To ask, what if NO ONE was judging me harshly? It still feels like a thought experiment most of the time. Oh of course, I know that everyone is judging me harshly. But what if they weren’t? What if they were curious and loving and wanted me to succeed?

Still, I can finally say most of the time: I love myself, I love the way I look, I love the way I talk. I love my hesitations, I love my awkwardness, I love my sudden clarity, I love my ebbs and flows. This is a huge leap forward. 

I am finding my way towards sovereignty – towards being Queen of my domain.

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How are you Queen of your domain?

It’s another way of asking, how do you set boundaries? What are your rules? What do you do when someone invades, when someone breaks a rule, when someone crosses a line?

What kind of Queen are you? What kind of Queen are you NOT? You don’t have to have an answer, you can play with it as you figure it out.

You can do what kids do naturally without anyone telling them to do it: find a quiet corner, find some dolls or a hat or a car or a stick, and give yourself five minutes to play pretend. Or just walk into a coffee shop dressed as you are saying nothing, but thinking: I am Queen of my domain. I am Queen as I order this macchiato. I pick up my cup, I turn around, and everyone can feel that I am Queen.

Does that feel ridiculous? I know! It does for me too. We are adults and we don’t allow ourselves time to do this.

This is why for years I made theater – it gave me an excuse to play pretend.

This is why, when I wasn’t able to make theater, I freaked out – WHERE DO I GO TO PRETEND?!

But the good news is, you can pretend anywhere, quietly or loudly, in full color or in darkness. When you close your eyes and go to sleep, your body will insist on pretending. If you choose, you can write down your dreams so you have a log of the ways in which you deep down are pretending, and you can use your awake brain to decipher the code.

You can make a decision — a Queenly decision — to send some of your awake time pretending.

How am I Queen of my Domain? What would my day look like if I moved through every moment as Queen?

You can pretend your way through these questions, in your waking life or your dream life, and see how different answers make you feel.

This is one way that creative play is different from, say, talk therapy or straight up life coaching. You can ask a bold question and play with different answers – try them on to see how they feel. You might think you know the answer – but as you play with it, a surprising answer emerges. You’re not even sure you believe it! You play with it to find out what’s true and what’s not.

For instance, you might think you know what kind of Queen you are. But you find, as you draw her on paper, that she is much weirder or bolder or craftier or sneakier than you thought.

So that’s my labor for you, this month of July in the year 2019, when the sun is in Cancer and the moon in Aquarius.

  • Draw yourself as Queen of your Domain
  • Write what you see in the drawing
  • Circle five words and turn them into an incantation
  • Find an object that speaks to you and hold it in your hand
  • Recite the incantation when the moon comes out

I’d love to hear what you find out! My Queen loves to hear from other Queens. I believe we all strengthen and fortify each other – like a network of sovereign beings who build each other up, like a grove of trees reaching out their roots underground during a storm. We make each other more powerful as we ourselves grow in power.

When your flaws are your superpowers

My kid, like many five-year-olds, is fascinated with superheroes. He is constantly aligning himself with ones who embody something he wants to be, from Batman to Spider-Man to the Green Ninja, and raiding the costumes, closets and recycling bin to come up with an outfit that strikes closest to whatever he’s imagining.

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One of the best things about hanging out with a five-year-old is getting pulled into this mindset, this fluid spirit of let’s pretend.

I was reminded of this the other day hanging out with my friend Dana Inouye (of Lean In Mama) and her fabulous five-year-old, who likes to be called Flash, and to assign superhero identities to everyone  around him.

He was extolling his grace and speed (something else kids do so naturally: celebrate their greatness!) and I suggested that I had the opposite superpower — I can’t get anywhere on time and tend to move slow. I asked him jokingly, who’s THAT superhero?

He pondered this for a few moments and said, I know who you are. You’re Ease Woman.

Ease Woman! I don’t know if I could have come up with a better name if I tried. It was such a fantastic instant reframe. I loved this identity so much I drew a picture of her as soon as I got home, and when I’m having moments of rushed frantic overwhelm, I think to myself — hey, I’m Ease Woman. I’m on time whenever I arrive. I don’t rush for anybody.

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It made me think — what other superhero identities can we come up with to embody our flaws? To change up our energy, to embrace our full selves? How can we use our natural ability to pretend and project and play to deal with the frustrations of everyday life?

Wanna try it? Give it a go! And if you happen to know a five-year-old, ask them to help 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.

Bragging Mad Libs

As I said in my last post, it takes a lot of ENERGY to own your power – to express your life’s journey with confidence – to brag.

Know what else takes a lot of energy? Creative expression. It takes time and effort to sit down and draw, to get up and dance.

But creative expression also GIVES a lot of energy. You sit down to draw and suddenly, hours have gone by and you’ve been wholly absorbed in the colors and lines and shapes of what you are creating, and your brain is sparking. You spend an hour dancing like crazy and you end up working out harder than if you’d gone to the gym, but you feel like you could keep going for hours.

Bragging works that way too: it takes energy to stand up and say, this is my story, this is my strength, here I am. But when you do it, you feel the energy flooding in. This is who I am. BOOM. YES. This is who I am.

This is why I encourage you to practice bragging – because you can feel the effects right away.

Here is a super quick and easy way to practice right now – bragging mad libs! Fill in the blank and see what comes up for you.

I like to write down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Because if I stop to think, I’ll get stuck and my trolls will want to get in on the action, and then I’ll start wanting to get it right, and then there’s no hope. You can’t brag if you’re trying to be perfect.

Though (as with most things) the opposite is also true: you could also sit with this, testing it out, seeing what comes to you over time.

If you want, make up your own mad libs! I take inspiration from the king, Muhammad Ali, and also from musical divas, country queens and classic rock gods. Here are some lines you could play with:

I’m so mean I make medicine sick

I’m so fast I can turn out the light and be in bed before it’s dark

Here I am, rock me like a hurricane

I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me

I was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in butcher’s holler

I’m the sister of a hellraiser, the daughter of an old tomcat, I was playin’ the piano in a honky-tonk before you bragged about that (I just heard an interview with rock and roller Linda Gail Lewis which is where I heard that line!)

So easy to turn them into fill-in-the-blank brags:

I’m so ___________ I make ________ __________

I’m so _______ I can _______ and ________ before it’s _________

Here I am, rock me like a ___________

I’m a ________ baby so why don’t you _____________

I was born a _______, in a ________ on a ________ in _________

I’m the sister of a _________, the daughter of a _________, I was _________ before you bragged about that

Try it! Jot some things down, and why not: speak them out loud.

WOO HOO! Do you feel a rush? Do you feel a thrill? That’s your power, baby.


If you want to do this with others in a safe environment for practicing space-claiming and power-proclaiming, you can sign up for my free webinar, DYNAMIC BRAG

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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)

Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about

Hello from the other side of newborn mountain! Or in the middle of it? I’m not sure but I can tell you that this ridiculous bundle of sunshine is 2.5 months old.

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I’ve got a lot to tell you about my birth experience and maternity leave (or as I have been calling it, my artist residency in motherhood) but first I thought I’d share this creative exercise that came to me yesterday.

I made a video about it here (co-starring my newest collaborator, River Rowan Helma-Walters) or you can read on below if you’re more of a visual/verbal processor.


I had a quick idea for an exercise today and I wanted to share it with you while it’s fresh in my mind. Here’s the context behind it: so I was walking my son, Waylon, in to summer camp this morning, and I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the window and had one of those classic moments of, ewwww, this shirt does not fit me well, my belly looks kind of weird… etc etc…  

Anyway, I continued on my way and hugged Waylon goodbye and passed the window again on my way out, and had a reflexive cringe as I saw my reflection again. And then I thought, hold on, hold on: why am I feeling embarrassed?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four years, it’s that when I feel embarrassed about something, whether it’s physical or emotional or otherwise – it’s a good idea to slow down and pay attention to that feeling.

So I noticed that feeling of embarrassment and took a second to ask myself, hey, why am I feeling like I should hide my belly? Why am I feeling some shame here?

And then I thought, What if  decided to I flaunt it instead?

So I did. Instead of tucking it in and folding my body inward, I took a deep breath and stuck my belly out. And you know what? My embarrassment dissolved.

And that’s basically the exercise: take something you’re hiding, and try flaunting it. If there’s something you feel as a flaw, ask yourself, what would it feel like to show this off? And give yourself two minutes, whether it’s alone in your bedroom or out in the world, to do that.

This is especially potent to try on your belly, because man, the belly is such a loaded body part. I’ve heard it from so many women I know, this shame around having a tummy, like it’s not okay, it’s repulsive. Unless you’re pregnant, and then it’s gorgeous. Both times I’ve been pregnant it’s been striking how much love and admiration and worship is lavished onto my belly from other people. People encourage you to flaunt it! They want you to show it off, they compliment it, they ask to touch it. Some people find this intrusive, but I find it kind of lovely, this loving attention given to something that doesn’t usually get attention.

And then immediately after the baby is born, BAM – the exact same part of your body is suddenly NOT cute, it does not get any attention and if it does, it’s shameful. The worst insult a woman can hear is someone asking if she’s pregnant when she’s not, right? Oh god, the horror!

Why is this belly so horrifying when there’s not a baby, why is it no longer beautiful now that it’s just my body?

So the exercise for me is to pretend my belly is just as beautiful without a baby inside it, to act proud of it, to show it off the same way I did when I was five months pregnant.

I encourage you to join me in drawing attention to whatever body part you’re embarrassed about and giving it some love. Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about. This is like a Daniel Tiger song! Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about. Just give it some attention, that’s all I’m saying. This applies to physical parts of your life and also to the emotional things, which is trickier. Or maybe it isn’t! You could pretend it’s not trickier.

Anyway, that’s me reporting to you from my artist residency in motherhood, with creative ideas inspired by my own body and my own life, that I hope speak to you, in your body, in your life. I wish you well on your artistic journey and navigating the world in all it’s complexities and violence and joys, I hope you’re finding solace amidst the chaos.

The chaos of nature

I’m writing to you in the midst of a wild Portland spring. One day it’s 80 degrees, the next day it’s cold windy sheets of rain. In between, there are moments of glorious rainbow transition.

I’m in transition too: wrapping up the first online round of the Creative Magic Workout, which has been a lovely and fruitful experiment. I’m making plans to retool it a bit and launch it again in the fall. (Registration will open September 12, if you want to sign up).

I’m also preparing my body, mind and soul for the entrance of a new baby into the world (and its exit from my body).

Not gonna lie: I’m scared. And this is different from the last time I had a baby. It’s the fear of the known (or, relatively known) versus fear of the unknown.

Last time, I handled my fear with bravado and denial and blithe ignorance. I went in overconfident and underprepared. And it’s taken me a long time to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know, to see the beauty in how things unfolded as they did, to trust my body and my instincts. Honestly, it took me a long time to forgive nature itself.

I thought my body would know what to do naturally — I thought wanting a “natural birth” would somehow guarantee me a blissful, pain-free experience. And that is not the way it went. (Someday I’ll get around to writing the epic tale of my birth story, because it was beautiful in its own way, medicated and mediated and messy as it was).

This time, I’m approaching the prospect of childbirth with more wariness. The way you might approach a wild grizzly you happened upon in the woods. It’s natural, sure. And it also might claw your face off.

I went on an imagination walk with my son the other day, and we happened upon this sign:

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The funny thing is, I read it as: “Take time to listen to the chaos of nature: it is the music of life itself.”

Either way — chaos or chorus — I love the reminder.

In the years since I gave birth to my son, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve accepted the parts of myself that I used to reject as flaky and soft and inconsistent and weak; I’ve reclaimed them as the strengths of spontaneity, empathy, improvisation and vulnerability. I’ve created a new world for myself, a beloved community that comforts and calls me out, that reflects what I value and shows me what is true.

I’ve forgiven nature her fierceness, her brutality, her dramatic swings. They don’t negate her chorus of calm and loving care. They exist alongside it.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, friends. I will probably be off the radar for the next few months while I adjust to new life. I’m excited to see what I learn while I’m down in the dirt of newborn baby bootcamp, and to return to you in the fall with some hard-won insight.

Until then, I wish you kindness and good fortune on the chaotic chorus of your creative journey.

chaos or chorus