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!

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.

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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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.

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.

Urgency trolls and creative transformation

Last week I got pulled into urgency by my old friend the urgency troll. Ironically, it happened while I was writing about how to work through urgency fears.

I was taking a long time to say what I wanted to say, and telling myself to hurry.

The time is now.

If you wait too long it will be too late.

You have to act, there’s no time to think.

My urgency trolls seemed to believe that I NEEDED TO TELL YOU HOW TO TURN AROUND URGENCY TROLLS IMMEDIATELY.

I did not get it done, and lo and behold, a week later I am still alive.

Looking at the self portrait and freewriting poem I drew last week and taped over my urgency troll — I can see that it was a magic spell, and it worked. 

You can do this too! (Scroll to the bottom for my urgency dissolving spell.)

Using creativity to work through big questions

Let’s talk a little more about the thing I wanted to urge you non-urgently to do. I had decided last minute to revive my online course, the Creative Magic Workout, and I wanted to remind you to sign up for it.

But a funny thing happened when I gave myself permission to slow down: I realized something didn’t quite fit. Something about the way I’ve been describing my offerings this summer is off. 

I’ve been focusing on the creative project, the creative practice — I can help you develop them and get to work on the thing you want to do. And don’t get me wrong, that’s a wonderful thing to do … but it’s not exactly what I do.

What I do is use creativity to work through big questions in life. For most of us, the most pressing issue in our lives is not making time for creative projects. No — it’s our stress level, our toxic job, the pressures of parenthood, our kid in transition, us in transition, our exhaustion, our restless heart, our bills that need to be paid, our heartbreak, our hunger for more.

There are lots of ways to get help for these things. Talk therapy, somatic therapy, hypnosis, yoga, zumba, reiki, massage. Some people go to church every Sunday. Some go out dancing every Friday night. I’m a huge fan of all of these things and have done them all myself (well, except the church).

I’m offering a different kind of help. It’s somewhere between coaching and therapy and it’s firmly rooted in the creative methodology I spent 15 years developing with my theater company — the kinds of exercises we used to generate and improvise performance together. The exercises we used to train ourselves as an ensemble, to build communication and charisma and the ability to make strong choices.

When I went through my own rocky initiation / midlife transition into motherhood five years ago, I started using these exercises not to make projects, but to survive. I used them in my daily life to figure out what I was doing, who I was, where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there.

I did also make a creative project (my solo show, I Hate Positive Thinking). But before, during and after that, I used creative exercises to work through my feelings, to move past my impostor syndrome, to sort out childcare and money and my toxic job, to learn how to make new mom friends, to dream up a new business, to navigate having a second child. I didn’t solve any of these things — but in working through them creatively, something shifted. I shifted. 

Once I shifted, what I really wanted to do was clear — and since then when the fog returns to obscure my vision, it’s creative work that helps me get clear again.

Last week I was reminded that what fascinates me about working with other people is the creative project of their lives — their stresses, their blocks, their wants, their needs. We don’t answer the big questions. I don’t give you advice. We work creatively, until something shifts.

Anyway, so I’m not doing the creative magic workout this summer and I’ve decided to take it back to basics. One person at a time, one conversation at a time. If you want to work with me, contact me about scheduling sessions.

And as promised, here is the…

Urgency Dissolving Spell

1. Write down what your urgency troll is saying (and if you want, draw a picure of your urgency troll)

In my case it was…

… Quick!

… Hurry!

… If you don’t send this now you’ll be stuck forever!

… You have to decide now!

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2. Question each of those statements

… What does moving quickly do for me? Can I slow down?

… Why do I have to hurry?

… How will I be stuck forever? What makes me think that? 

… Do I have to decide now? Could I take a little more time?

3. See if there are opposite statements that feel just as true

… Slow down 

… There is no need to rush

… If you don’t act now you’ll have many chances to act again 

… It’s ok not to know

4. Draw a picture of yourself feeling those words

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Boundaries, Vulnerability and Magic

I’ve been thinking about boundaries.

I am someone who resists boundaries – who likes to keep options open and puts off making decisions – but I’ve learned in my creative life that when I set boundaries, everything is easier. Paradoxically, the  more limits I set, the more free I am to take risks, to go deeper and wilder and weirder.

The same advice applies to parenting – setting boundaries around what Janet Lansbury calls a “yes space” helps kids move and explore more fully than if you set them loose in, say, an open field with snakes and holes and rusty nails.

Structure gives freedom for movement and experimentation and joy. It gives you a place to start. It gives shape to the chaos of limitless potential.

One of the hardest things about doing creative work is facing the blank canvas, the blank page, the empty room, the silence.

I’ve been talking to people this spring about what thrills them, what scares them, what they want to do and what stops them from doing it.

Some fantastic ideas for exercises have emerged from these conversations – or as someone referred to them, creative exorcisms. Yes! This is exactly what they are – spells we are dreaming up, to cast out what blocks us, to call in what we need.

One of the most powerful spells you can cast is to give a name to what you want to do – to give a title to a project and to say it out loud.

If you tell that name to just one person, it gains power. It travels from your mind to the outside world, setting down roots and growing outside your control. The more people you tell, the more it grows.

When you put your ideas into words, draw what you see, move your body, open your mouth and sing: these are acts of magic, acts of power, acts of trust, acts of vulnerability.

And you know what? THAT IS HARD TO DO. It’s scary.

Brené Brown says you can’t have courage without vulnerability – “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” (Did anyone else watch her Netflix special this week??)

When we show up, when we open up, when we drop our defenses and try something, we are casting a spell. We are asking the magic in. We open up to failure, to not knowing, to rejection, to our humanity.

When trusting and waiting and opening up feels impossible, I try to remember that all I need to do is start.

Draw some boundaries. Make up some rules. Draw a circle and step inside and say, this is for magic. Give what you’re doing a name and say, I am doing this. Then wait to see what it is.

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Your trolls scoff, your body resists, your mind wanders, and you stay in that circle, trusting that the magic will come. Trusting that what you are doing will become clear.

This is what happens when you give birth to a baby, and why so many people experience it as an initiation: your body is pushed to impossible limits and you are handed a tiny vulnerable human to care for at all hours of the day. It feels impossible and yet you must do it. And then one day you look around and your baby is five years old, tying their own shoes and telling you about arachnids.

The magic happens in every moment of every day. The growth happens without you realizing it.

It’s so easy to see the magic in others, and so hard to see it in yourself.

So if I may, I’d like to offer you some encouragement today.

You are living in the middle of magic you can’t see. The magic is there, and later when you look back you’ll be able to see it. Take a deep breath and trust that it’s there.

Even Beyoncé shows up to day one of rehearsal not sure of herself, not sure what she’s doing. She keeps showing up, trusting that the magic will come.

I take so much inspiration from her courage, the incredible courage it took to say, I am going to train and show up every day for eight months and trust that what feels impossible will become possible.

It would be easy to watch her and think, I could never do that. She is a magical being and I’m just me.

But she is human, and she did it.

You can do it too — not what she did, but something that only you can do. What is that thing? What are you capable of? What story are you waiting to tell?

Whatever it is – you can do it, you can tell it.

That’s my pep talk to you (and to myself) today…

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… and if you would like some deep coaching to open up to your vulnerability and creative power this summer, read about the program I’ve put together for six courageous people here: Summer of Creative Magic. What can happen when we say our truth out loud, to ourselves and to others? Let’s find out…

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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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. 

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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