Hello there. I am Faith Helma, otherwise known as my alter ego, Coach Faith Ra. I am a creative guide and I am here today to invite you to reconnect with your brilliant beautiful shining creative spirit.
If that sounds a little woo woooooo, guess what, I also have a care bear with me. This is a care bear that my dear friend bought for me a few weeks ago and I am unironically, nay UNABASHEDLY snuggling with this carebear. I am a 43 year old woman and I own a carebear. I am okay with that.
If you’re still watching this, fantastic. I think we are kindred spirits. Maybe you loved Anne of Green Gables as a kid, like I did. Maybe you believed in fairies and looked for them when you were out in the woods. And then you grew up and felt silly, you packed that away. You put yourself into a box marked ADULTHOOD and you locked the key on your childhood dreams.
I am making space to unpack that magic. It’s a silly ridiculous process. The silliness makes it possible. We have to make space for PLAY and MAKE BELIEVE if we are going to unpack the magic. We have to make space for real actions, actions that seem tiny but they are real, they transform physical space. Lighting candles, holding a care bear, making a circle on the floor out of salt and stepping inside. They are ritual actions, creative actions that make space and time for us to transform.
What happens when we accept that invitation, when we journey through the layers of shame and fear, the fog, the dark woods, the trolls saying TURN BACK, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, or I DON’T BUY IT, or THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME, YOU NEED TO GET ORGANIZED — what happens is powerful magic.
You doing the thing you’ve been wanting to do for ten years is powerful magic.
You feeling confident setting boundaries is powerful magic.
You singing in public is powerful magic.
You teaching what you know is powerful magic.
You connecting with your 9 year old self is powerful magic.
I believe that. And I believe that a group of us doing that work together over the next 12 weeks is more powerful than we can even imagine.
Are you in? I’m enrolling for Creative Magicians all this week and I would love to have you on the journey with us.
(And if you don’t sign up, you still have powerful magic and you are welcome to join us in your imagination)
It feels like the end of the world. And I’ve been thinking maybe that feels not only fine, but comforting. Maybe I prefer it! Obviously there are things that are not great, like grief and terror and violence. We’re all spending a lot of time thinking about that. But what about the aspects of the end of the world that make my life better? I’m going to share some with you.
You can watch me talk about it here in a sparkly headband if you want to…
… LIST OF WAYS THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMFORTING…
Who cares that I’ve had to put my career / calling on the back burner in order to homeschool my children, or “manage their online learning” which let’s be honest, is not my ideal job. I never said, hey when I’m 43 I would like to help my child click a cursor and type numbers in a text field to complete a math assignment while my three year old tries to tackle me for ten hours a day. I did not say that. But you know what? Who cares, because the world is ending.
If the world is ending, then all I need to do at any given moment is figure out how to enjoy myself. Even if it’s impossible, that’s my only job. I can let go of any other problems. This is maybe my last moment.
There’s no need to fret about what it will mean in ten years if my kid can’t figure out how to manage his anger, because none of us will be here, because our planet might not exist. So I don’t need to worry about that.
If my kids are being assholes right now, that’s understandable considering that the world is ending, and/or their mom is losing her mind. It’s a rational response.
I don’t need to listen to any more parenting podcasts.
I can let go of saving for my kids’ college, or worrying that I’m not saving, because there won’t be college.
All that time watching cheeseball disaster movies was good preparation. I get to find out who my disaster movie persona is now. I can say, I don’t give a FRUITCAKE what you think, I’m going to shave my head and walk around in a tank top. Oh who am I kidding, I’m not Ripley. I don’t know who I am but I get to find out now.
I can embrace my true destiny as a founder of a new world religion / order ala Earthseed, like Lauren from Parable of the Sower. I can speak my verses out loud and gather followers as we walk on the highway evading violent firestarting desperadoes. If you haven’t read Parable of the Sower it’s incredible for a lot of reasons, but one is that when I read it a year ago it seemed like science fiction, and now it seems like a roadmap to how we’re going to survive.
Lauren is ready for that moment with a theory of god and change and the destiny of humankind, and she isn’t shy about stepping up to it (and she’s only 15!) I don’t have to be shy either. This is what I have to offer. I can’t shoot a gun, I can’t set a leg that’s broken, I’m not good at building houses but I can create community and lead rituals and invite people into our safe haven.
If you don’t have a spiritual doctrine you’ve been crafting for 15-43 years, think about what you DO secretly want to do. No matter how audacious or ridiculous or ambitious it seems to be, now is the time to say it out loud. Drop the charade! Wear what you like! Change your name! Cut your hair! Say what you feel! It doesn’t have to be with exclamation points.
I’m tempted to say, why bother with the dishes or keeping the house clean… but I’m actually feeling the opposite. Over the weekend I deep cleaned and my 7-year-old was INTO it for no reason that I could tell (except that he’s a Virgo). To him it was a way to hang out and play with weird blue liquid in spray bottles, it was a science experiment, a game to put his world in order. Hanging out with him helped me see it like a game too. Why NOT see it as a fun way to pass the time? Might as well wipe the dust off all those surfaces and make them sparkle.
Which brings me to: things surprise you when the world is ending. What you thought was important is pointless, what seemed pointless is what’s keeping you sane and grounded. Career, school, imposter syndrome: nope. Dishes, dusting, disaster movies: HELL YES.
Maybe the world won’t end. Maybe in ten years my kids will be dusting and whispering to themselves about what they’re going to do about mom’s anger management problem. That’s comforting! I’ll take that, if it means we still get to be alive in ten years!
I’m Coach Faith Ra and I also go by Faith Helma and these days I also am called by my alter ego name MOOOOOO-OOOOOOM which is the reason I am losing my mind and coming out here to my art garage to put on a sparkly headband and talk to you about the end of the world.
What does your new world look like? Let’s talk about that next time. (IF THERE IS A NEXT TIME).
Friends, I have no good advice for you today. No insights, no tricks, no shortcuts to make this easier.
I have my truth: this is hard and I am struggling. I have another truth: this is a chance to rethink my life, my family, my work, my kids’ schooling, my income, my day to day life, and I welcome it. It doesn’t look linear or neat or clean and progressive like the line on a growth chart. It’s meandering, sideways, going around in circles — and yet on some level I can sense a pattern forming. This might just be what I need to believe — which doesn’t mean it’s not real. The need to detect patterns is a deeply wired part of our instinct to survive.
I have my willingness to live in paradox, and to model what that looks like. I have my lived experience which has taught me: when things get unclear, when you’re in unfamiliar territory, retreat to your body. Follow your body where it leads.
My body is finding some aspects of this familiar. It’s reminding me of being home with a newborn baby, the way you find a rhythm not through the thinking mind, the way your energy organizes itself around what you need to survive on a daily basis. The way what you need surprises you.
I am using creative acts to survive. I draw to ease my mind; I dance to release my stress and anxiety; I sing to give voice to my sorrow, hopelessness and rage. I seek out jokes and laughter to get some relief. I seek out poems and songs to get perspective, to find out how I feel.
I’m thinking of my art garage as a playhouse, and I created a Facebook group to try and share this with others, though to be honest, I don’t know if I even have the capacity to show up in that space in any way that is meaningful for anyone but me. But even if it is just for me, the idea of a playhouse is keeping me going.
What is keeping you going? How are you surviving? What expectations have you let go of and what odd new habits (other than washing your hands like a surgeon) have you adopted? Who is helping you in this time?
Pee-wee Herman’s Big Holiday (I watched this with my kids and it was EXACTLY what I needed, so silly and weird and radical and hilarious)
Oh my — this is getting perilously close to me giving you good advice! I promised not to do that.
Instead, can I offer you some bad, dumb, stupid, awful advice?
I call this a Bad Idea Brainstorm (a BIB) and you can use it on anything — school closures, unemployment, grocery shopping, parenting, coexisting with roommates, living alone… anything you’re struggling with.
All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.
You want to sit down and stare at the page? Try to write a great novel from day one. Want to actually write a great novel? Write a shitty first draft.
How can we take this idea and apply it to other areas of life? Because we all want to survive and make it through this weird time not just intact but thriving and healthy, but aiming for success right now feels overwhelming.
Well guess what: that’s because NONE OF US HAS LIVED THROUGH A GLOBAL PANDEMIC BEFORE, so we’re all living in a shitty first draft.
What changes when you admit that — when you give yourself permission to do a bad job, because that’s all you can do in a new situation (what Brené Brown calls FFTs, or Effing First Times)?
One way to embrace and celebrate and revel and LAUGH with this situation is to do a Bad Idea Brainstorm on it. Lean IN to your awkward uncertainty, your weird instincts, your dumb ideas.
BAD IDEA BRAINSTORM: PANDEMIC EDITION
Release live poisonous snakes into all the public areas where we want to discourage social interaction
Follow our president’s instructions and whimsies to the letter
Instead of wearing a face mask, get a tattoo of a face mask
Fill the house with silly putty for the kids to play with
What a great time to make paella with your small children! Or craft delicate glass objects to hang from windows and balance on tables!
Oooh how about we make our own ant farm?
I know! How about try to work a demanding full-time job while home schooling your child! (My apologies to anyone who is being forced to do this for real)
Announce your plan for the day to the neighbors via bullhorn
Forage all food instead of going to the grocery store. Can you eat grass?
paint I AM STAYING HOME on my roof in neon pink
I did one of these around homeschooling on April Fools Day, and wrote out the worst homeschooling plan I could think of. Y’all… I cannot tell you how much more fun THIS was to create then the real ones I was making the first couple weeks (a practice I have now thankfully dropped).
This is the beauty of a Bad Idea Brainstorm — it gets you laughing, it gets you thinking outside the box, it gets you moving and in the mood to try things, and (this is the secret) once in a while, a brilliant idea sneaks in.
That’s what I have for you today! Until next time…
I have a trait that drives me nuts: I get lost everywhere I go. I’m a terrible navigator, a map is mystifying to me. I google map everything and half the time I still get turned around.
I’ve been playing with this idea: what if getting lost is a sign that magic is at work?
I believe that traits we think of as flaws in our culture — running late, getting lost, losing keys, forgetting things — are actually invitations to step into magic.
It’s how most fairy tales start. Alice down the rabbit hole, Dorothy diving into the cellar to hide from a tornado, Sarah (from Labyrinth) running home in the rain to babysit her brother then accidentally invoking David Bowie the Goblin King (it happens).
It’s how two year olds live every moment of their day. It’s what happens when elders slip into dementia. We think of these stages as annoying — a terrible willful phase to be trained out of, a dreaded no turning back threshold to be held off as long as possible. And I’m not pretending they are beautiful! I have a two year old right now and this morning he stood on a chair shouting, I PEEING! I PEEING! and then ten minutes later he did the same exact thing again.
It’s not fun to clean up. It didn’t feel very magical to me. But then, I’m on the outside looking in. My two year old is in it, mystified, watching, wondering what it means.
It’s hard when you’re the caregiver, the boss, the clean upper, the project manager. We are in charge of keeping things running, maintaining order, moving everyone along, noticing what needs fixing. That’s the power, right? I’m the decider, I’m the fixer, I’m in control.
Losing control = losing power.
Except what if it isn’t? What if losing your way, losing track of time, letting things slide into chaos is a different kind of power? A power we could embrace?
What if instead of aiming to eradicate these moments from my life, I saw them as invitations to lay down my certainty and feel the strange tension of not knowing what is going on — the tension of magic. Is that possible?
I had a dream two months ago, where someone said to me, Uncertainty breeds confidence. In the middle of the night I wrote that down and I keep coming back to it.
Uncertainty breeds confidence.
There’s no way to real confidence without fumbling through not knowing. So if you’re fumbling right now: you are in the magic. Instead of fighting it, can you feel it’s tension, it’s bubbling chaos, it’s mystery?
Here is a magic spell to try tonight:
Go outside and stand under the dark sky. Whisper the things you do not know. Welcome in the uncertainty all around you.
Feel the earth, how solid it seems. Feel it whispering back, rotating and shifting for miles and miles and miles under your feet.
See the blinking of stars in the sky, sending you signals from light years past.
Hear the sounds of night life, the scratching and rooting and scrabbling that is mysterious because you cannot see it.
Leave a tiny object outside in the night, with a question. Go inside and make yourself a cup of tea. In the morning, see if the object is still outside where you left it.
If it is, pick it up and carry it in your pocket like a talisman.
If it is not, take it as a sign that your question has been taken under consideration by a creature of the night, and await their answer.
If you want help interpreting their answer or making space for magic in your life, I am offering 20 free coaching sessions for my spring People Project.
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.
Since we just celebrated mother’s day (or skipped it entirely if you’re not down with the pressure holidays), it seems like a good time to re-introduce myself and one of my favorite topics.
Hello. I’m Faith Helma. I’m an artist / creative guide and I would not be who I am today if motherhood had not kicked me in the aaaaaabdomen.
If you’re a mother, you know what I mean. If you’re not, swap “motherhood “ with big life transition / roadblock / curveball of your choice.
Getting pushed out of a job you love.
Deciding not to have children. Starting a business.
Traveling around the world for a year.
Building your own house.
Caregiving a parent at the end of life
Falling in love.
The hero quest starts with a call to action — an initiation —and for me becoming a mother called me to action in the most humbling, loving, brutally shamanic way.
I went in knowing it would be hard, knowing there was so much I didn’t know. I had no idea.
It’s probably similar to climbing a mountain or doing any other impossible thing. You’re in it now. There’s no going back.
What do you do, when you’re deep in it and there’s no going back?
That’s the exciting part. And that’s why, for me, no matter what logistical challenges motherhood throws my way, from childcare to balancing work and family to lack of paid leave to health insurance to dentist appointments … and no matter how physically hard the act of parenting is, from projectile vomiting to 2000 hours of wiping poopy butts to the neverending rush of leaving the house in the morning… I’m getting to my point here… for all that, I am grateful for the ways it pushes me to be real, to be honest, to be stronger, to be kinder. To be more creative.
Its made me a better artist even though I’ve technically produced far less since my first child was born 5.5 years ago than I did in the fifteen years before.
It’s fundamentally changed my idea of production and art and who it’s for.
IT’S FOR ME.
I used to think of self-indulgence as the worst thing an artist (or human) could be.
It took going through the marathon of giving birth then realizing I was in charge of someone else’s survival 24 HOURS A DAY to free me from this fear.
Suddenly self-indulgence didn’t sound so bad. Are you kidding? That sounds AWESOME.
I would kill for ten minutes a day of self-indulgence.
Owning that, claiming that is so liberating!
My art is for me. If I make art and I’m the only one who likes it, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
That’s my challenge for you today. If you set out to make art for you and you alone, what would you make?
And if you’re someone who wrestles with the fear of self-indulgence, ask that troll: what’s so bad about indulging myself? What’s the worst that could happen? Could anything good come of it?
Let me know what you find out!
p.s. If you are wanting company as you wrestle with your trolls and claim your human right to be creative, consider joining the summer of creative magic!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I had a dream the other night, about someone who used to be a troll in my life.
This wasn’t an inner troll – no, he existed in the real world. He was a manager at my day job, and he triggered all my fears of being seen as stupid or flakey or childish. I had a strong desire to prove to him that I was smart and capable, and – FOR SOME REASON – I had an equally strong drive to divebomb that desire.
Consciously I wanted to do a good job and show him what a good worker I was. But every day I would mix up my words, misunderstand his directions, forget some key detail, stammer over a customer call, mix up numbers, double book appointments. He would simmer and stew. He never outright said to me, YOU ARE A MORON – he said it with loaded silences and unblinking stares. And I was baffled. Why was I making such stupid mistakes?
So he showed up in my dream, which is funny because I haven’t thought about him or that job for a while. In the dream he told me how idiotic my creative endeavors were, and I reacted with curiosity and sympathy. This sent him into a boiling, helpless rage, which I calmly defused and then moved on.
Isn’t that awesome? I love it when things work out in my dreams. The way I handled him was a beautiful example of boundaries and of how far I’ve come since I left that job four years ago.
And one of the reasons I’ve come so far is BECAUSE of that job.
I’m better now at reading my body, owning my truth and asserting my boundaries because of what I learned there over two years of NOT listening to my body, not asserting my boundaries, not owning my truth.
So really, his trollishness was a gift. His constant dismissal of people as MORONS helped me assert to myself something that has become a key mantra for me:
I don’t believe in morons.
I remember the day I said that to myself. It was like a fog clearing. I don’t believe anyone is a moron, including myself.
I don’t know if I would have articulated that so clearly had I not worked for this magnificent troll for two years who called people morons every single day.
So thank you, troll, for bringing me to a deeper understanding of what I believe.
Thank you, troll, for helping me stop dismissing myself, and start claiming my strength and my space.
I do not choose to divide the world into morons and non-morons. Anyone who is alive on this planet is alive because they have the intelligence to survive. Thank you for helping me see that.
And thank myself for stepping out of a situation that didn’t work for me.
Thank you, dream self, for showing me that — like Sarah and the Goblin King who she thinks she has to appease — he has no power over me.
Even when he technically had power over me at work, his power to dismiss and disdain and diminish only worked if somewhere inside I had an inner troll who agreed with him.
I don’t believe in morons. You have no power over me.
Those are some powerful mantras!
Is there a troll in your life you are giving power to? Whose approval you are seeking when you could be saying, I do not need your approval, I do not live by your values, I do not care to share space with you…?
Sometimes it takes a while to identify a troll! It’s not easy. It’s a practice.
(If you want, come and practice with me tomorrow during my free live webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS! Bring your entrenched, enmeshed, embedded critical thoughts and we will do everything we can to charm those trolls)
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.
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.
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.
peace within a glorious riot
An accidental collaboration with my young child leads to a new exercise: let your kid draw all over your planning chart, then interpret the ink blots — what do they tell you about your now/next/future plans?
remember growth comes from doing impossible things
Ready, dream, action
It only takes one roll of toilet paper (and four minutes) to lay down a path to adventure
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:
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.