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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Re-metaphor-izing to summon inner champions

I’ve been doing lots of champion work this week in anticipation of the new Creative Magic Workout – during which we spend a whole week summoning, channeling and seeking out champions within and without.

A key part of this work is looking at the images in our language, and finding ways to swap out harmful or mean or unhelpful images with ones that are more kind and encouraging and useful.

I call it re-metaphor-izing.

Often there is a potent image behind the meanest names we call ourselves — the ideas that sink their teeth in us and won’t let go.

And you can’t force those ideas to let go, but you can seek out new images that entice your mind to drop the old ones.

For example, did you notice that I used a metaphor just now, to describe how powerful our thoughts can be? I said they “sink their teeth in us” even though, of course, they don’t actually do that. But comparing them to a wild and dangerous animal makes my point more vividly then saying “they are very powerful.” (Suzette Elgin talks a lot about the power in metaphor and how we can use language to defend ourselves, and this is what first got me to thinking about the ways our minds use images and associations).

So, let’s say I want to make the point that ideas are powerful without summoning up feelings of dread and fear and danger.

What else is powerful and won’t let go? A tsunami, a hungry child, a great hug, the moon….

And isn’t it true that your thoughts can also roll over you like a tidal wave

Or call out with a neverending urgency

Or wrap arms of peace and security around you

Or ebb and flow like the ceaseless tide of the ocean

My point being: you can put conscious effort into the images you are summoning, and change the feeling, the vibe, the structure, the EVERYTHING around it.

Like with troll work, a lot can change just by noticing the thoughts that are running through your mind, noticing the images your mind is defaulting to – and seeing what happens when you consciously swap in a new image.

I’ll give you an example from my life – I often think to myself, “you are a hot mess,” or some variation on that theme. You are full of shit, you are batshit crazy, you have got to get your shit together.

And when I slow down and look at those images… wow. I’m comparing myself to garbage, to stinking piles of poop.

What is a different image I could use, that would still be true to the facts?

Hmmm… isn’t “a hot mess” also the conditions under which life emerges on a planet? Aren’t swamps and marshlands teeming with life and activity and balance and their own kind of order?

What if instead of you’re a hot mess, I thought: you are a hot thriving ecosystem. You are a marshland. You are ready for new primordial life.

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Here are some other ones:

I am batshit crazy –> I am a night-cloaked superhero

I am flaky –> I am a wizard

I am a broke loser –> I am free as a bird

The facts don’t change. But the way you talk about the facts – the way you tell the story of your life — can change everything.


I’d love to hear some of your images and brainstorm some ways to turn them into champion metaphors! You can register for my free webinar, Champion Yourself, which is Friday May 18! We’ll work this out in real time…

Reverse engineer some self-admiration

Last week I talked a lot about trolls and the how to turn around the inner voices that shut us down.

This week I’ve been thinking about building up the voices that encourage us, that believe in us, that urge us forward. I call these voices our champions.

It’s hard to ask for what we’re worth. It’s hard to know what we’re worth, much less ask for it. We’re conditioned to devalue, minimize, deflect and downplay our thoughts, our ideas, our bodies, our selves. The worst thing we could be is FULL OF OURSELVES.

Noticing our own value and saying it out loud feels alien to us: no idea what it is or how to do it and vaguely terrified by the prospect of coming face to face with it. So we take that idea and stuff it in the closet.

I’ve been playing around with ways to coax out that idea and make it feel more comfortable. Maybe pull out some feather boas and fuzzy bathrobes to wrap around that tiny spark of self admiration and breathe it into a nice healthy campfire of love and approval.

Is this metaphor working for you? Is your idea of self approval looking like this right now?

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I’ve got a simple exercise for reverse engineering self-admiration:

  1. Think of someone you admire. Maybe someone you’re jealous of, someone you imagine surrounded by golden shimmering light who is a different better kind of human than you are. Maybe it’s someone on the national stage like Emma Gonzalez, maybe it’s a friend who moves through the world with a grace you wish you had. See them in your mind.

2. Draw a picture of them. I drew a picture of my friend Kate!

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3. Write a list of their traits you admire:

Kate is good at business

Kate is fearless about finding mentors

Kate is an incurable optimist

4. Look at your list and replace their name with “I”. Write out each trait with I:

I am good at business

I am fearless about finding mentors

I am an incurable optimist

See what comes up for you when you write each of these down. Maybe you have deep resistance – that isn’t true at all! – or maybe you feel a thrill of deep resonance.

5. Circle five words that stand out to you, and turn them into a poem. Write them down. Try them on. For me it was:

Fearless hustler flair, I’m a shameless optimist

6. Stand up and speak your list out loud. I am in incurable optimist. Speak your poem, repeat it like a mantra. Move around like the person you admire. How do they stand? How do they dance? Find a song they would dance to and practice moving like them. Try it on!

If any of this seems ludicrous, that’s okay. You can laugh with yourself. That doesn’t mean some part of you doesn’t believe it’s true.

I would love to hear what you learn! And because this is what a shameless optimist hustler would do, I gotta tell you that if you dig this kind of fun inner self work/play, this is exactly what we do in the Creative Magic Workout which is open for registration now! It’s a lot easier to champion yourself when other people are championing you too.

Take care of yourself out there, dreamer!

 

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?

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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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.