Coming out of a fog

I’ve been in a fog the last few months – a fog I am grateful to feel lifting.

you don't control the weather

I’d been doing all the things to clear it – drawing, questioning my thoughts, singing, dancing it out. But my body kept getting sick, over and over. Or someone else would get sick and my week would get reoriented towards nurturing and nose-wiping and caregiving. Everyone would get better and I’d have a day or two of emerging clarity before the whole thing would start over again.

It was maddening, and frustrating, and overwhelming. All I could do was write from inside it and embrace it.

Now it’s been six weeks of no one getting sick (fingers crossed!) and I’ve had time to get grounded and clear internally. I’ve been thinking about what it is that is so difficult, when you’re stuck in a fog.

The circumstances that brought on the fog were frustrating, yes. But the part that really made it difficult was the shame. I was ashamed to admit I was in a fog. As if I were responsible for it, as if I caused it. I should be able to keep us healthy, to handle this better, to stop this from happening. The fact that I’m lost is a sign that I’m doing something wrong.

But think about literal fog, like in the external world. Would a sailor out on the ocean feel responsible if a fog came on? Would the captain of the ship apologize to the crew for causing it?

It sounds ridiculous! What sailor would dream that because they are knowledgeable about the weather, they have the ability to control it?! That because they know fog exists, they should be able to banish it on command?

And yet that is what I believed about this internal fog – that I should be able to clear it by saying the magic words, that I should be able to prevent it by taking the right measures, that when it stubbornly persisted, it was because I was doing something wrong.

What if I thought of it as something like the weather? Something that comes and goes, that I can’t control but can navigate through?

I don’t control the universe, I don’t control the weather, I don’t control my mind. Ahhhhhhhh.

There is a paradoxical power in that. It is a relief to give up that responsibility, a great liberation of my energy. What if my body is an ecosystem just as complex and sensitive as the planet? What if I let go of the idea that I can control it’s weather patterns, and instead learned how to ride the waves?

What do sailors do when they find themselves in a fog? Foghorns, right? Lighthouses! They send out flares of light and sound to connect with others and seek help. And when they can’t connect, they set down anchors and wait it out.

I share this, in case you too are lost in a fog and could use some words to guide you through – or just are heartened to know that others are out there.

A good sailor doesn’t believe they can control the tides, but learns how to read them, the better to co-exist with them, survive them, ride them, be at peace with them.

So it goes for us internal navigators – we get to know our inner seas, the ebbs and flows of our tides, when a storm is coming on, when a fog has settled, when it is good weather for setting out on an adventure and when it’s time to drop anchor and wait it out.

How do you navigate the internal and external fogs when they settle over you? And what does the fog have to teach you?

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What do I do? (A primer with fart sounds)

When I tell people I’m a Creative Guide, the next question I usually get is, what is that?

Or, so what do you do exactly?

They’re good questions. What DO I do, exactly?

I tell people that I “use creative tools” and “help people get in touch with their imagination” but this doesn’t sound very tangible. And in fact, the work we do often IS tangible. As in, perceptible by touch, palpable, real, and substantial.

I thought the best way to get this across would be to take a page from my own toolbox (my toolbox is FILLED with pages) and take these three steps:

  • name things
  • write the names on cards
  • arrange the cards on big paper

So that’s what I did! Here it is:

IMG_20150616_114857

My approach comes down to 6 principles:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Experiment
  3. Paradox: mess with binary oppositions
  4. Radical empathy + honesty
  5. Slow down, look & listen
  6. Do it badly

And I guess there’s a 7th wild card principle which doesn’t get a card because it pervades everything: go deeper by not taking things too seriously.

Or: take everything to heart while laughing your ass off.

An example of the wild card principle in action: one of my go-to exercises when I’m first working with people is to look deep into each other’s eyes while making fart sounds.

It sounds so stupid! And it is! We’re open and receptive, and we’re giggling like kids. An excellent place to start.

My point is, these principles might sound airy, but they are all about action that you can take, starting now, that shift your perspective and shift your world.

I’m going to talk about each of my guiding principles (god, hopefully I come up with a better word than principles… guiding lights?) in the weeks to come, and if you’re worried that it will be boring, I vow to include videos and dumb things to make you laugh.

In fact, I’ll start now! Let’s do the fart exercise together! I know we’re not actually in the same room right now, but let’s pretend we are and make fart sounds for 30 seconds. I bet you can’t do it without laughing, but if you do, you win a SERIOUS FART SOUNDER award (email me your address and I’ll mail it to you, for real.)

SFS Award

Ready? Let’s go. I’m going to say my name and title so I sound super important, and then I’ll pause to give you time to say yours, and then we’ll make fart sounds. YES!