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.

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Naming an Obstacle

I’ve been thinking more about the creative relabeling I brought up last time, when I talked about reframing ADHD as Big Wild Super Power.

I was reminded of a key tenet of the coaching I do — anything that’s true, an opposite is also true — when someone in my life emailed to tell me her son is currently being diagnosed for ADHD, and for them, having a label for something that has been an ongoing challenge is a relief.

Ah! It’s so true. Sometimes it can be freeing to find a name for a problem. And though it’s the opposite of what I was saying, it’s the flip side of the same reality: labels are powerful tools that we can use to change our experience of the world.

It can be powerful to reframe a bad situation as an exciting one. And it can also be powerful to put a name on something that is frustrating and challenging, to say out loud what isn’t working, what needs changing, what SUCKS.

And in the same way that praise can actually make you feel worse, giving a nice fuzzy sweet name to something that SUCKS can feel like avoidance, like sugarcoating, like bypassing.

Say you’re on a grand hero’s quest, and suddenly you come upon a raging river blocking your path. To continue, you will need to cross it. Calling it a stream and blithely stepping in will not help you cross it — in fact, it could be harmful. You need to give the obstacle in front of you a name that fits the challenge it offers. Maybe you sit for a while, watching the river. Maybe someone else walks up and tells you, oh they call that the River of Peril. You would be wise to listen to this name, as you prepare yourself for the arduous task of stepping into it.

Today my creative challenge for you is: give a name to an obstacle you are facing.

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Sit with your problem for a few moments. Let yourself feel it without pushing back, and see what name arises for what you’re feeling. Maybe a name already exists for this condition.

I have high blood pressure.

I am experiencing mom guilt.

This is my white privilege talking. 

Maybe it doesn’t, and you want to create one. Maybe the name that exists doesn’t fit what you’re experiencing, and you want to change it.

This isn’t morning sickness, it’s all day all night sickness.

This is not an awkward situation, it’s sexual harrassment. 

I am not a rockstar, I am burned out.

You could go deeper, and write down all your associations with the problem, then see what images, rhymes or alliterations appear and give those associations a name.

I’ve been trying to put into words the particular pain of watching your kid struggle with a thing you struggle with. Here’s my attempt to name it:

Associations:

Tantrums
Hearing my words come out of his mouth
Sinking feeling
Face drop 
Mirroring
Flashbacks
See his pain, feel pain
Ghost pain, phantom limb

Name: phantom parent pain?

This is close… I feel like a better one is around the corner of my unconscious but it’s a starting point.

What are yours? Feel free to share in the comments or on Instagram.

(And of course, as always… if you want some support as you name the obstacles in your path, you can schedule a free dreamtalk with me…)

Big Wild Super Power

One of the themes that comes up a lot when I’m working with people (and with myself!) is ADHD.

It’s such a loaded term, isn’t it?! I remember when my therapist gently brought it up with me a few years ago — have you considered that you might have ADHD? 

I felt a hot rush of shame and defensiveness. What are you talking about?! I’m smart, I’m on top of things, I was always a good student! Just because I’m late to everything, just because I have a lot of ideas, just because I talk in circles doesn’t mean I have ADHD…!

I resisted it hard, and yet as I did some reading, I found myself resonating with a lot of what I learned. I had to ask myself: if this rings true, why would I not embrace it? What am I resisting?

One way of getting help is to go do a doctor or therapist or psychiatrist, to get a diagnosis and therapeutic plan, maybe some medication. I’m not knocking any of those things — but what I find helpful is to approach it as a creative challenge.

This is something we can do with any label.

We can redraw the lines, we can choose how we define ourselves, we can reframe our world so that we feel at home in it. If I notice myself devaluing and minimizing and dismissing traits, that’s a clue. That tells me it’s time to slow down and do some looking and questioning.

Here’s an interesting thought experiment: what if my therapist had looked at me that day and asked: have you considered the possibility that you are a GENIUS?

Same traits, same condition, same situation… but what changes for me when it’s seen as evidence of my greatness instead of a sign of disorder?

I imagine I would have felt a thrill go up my spine. A warm glow of validation, affirmation. An instant reframe of my traits: ahhh yes, I do thrive in big impossible situations. I’m never short of ideas. Sometimes my passions are so big, I struggle to find the right words. I am full of energy, I am brimming with ambition. I dive in without a plan and learn how to swim as I’m swimming. YES. I am a genius.

(I actually find the label genius to be just as unhelpful as ADHD but we’ll dive into that another time).

When I notice myself using mean language to describe myself or my situation, the first step is to change my language.

That doesn’t mean ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean that’s all I change. But I start with language, because the language matters.

When I change the language to fit what feels right to me, the nature of the problem changes, and so does the solution.

Which brings me back to my creative relabeling of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What I’ve landed on for now is: Big Wild Super Power.

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You don’t have a deficit of attention, you have a surplus of energy and ideas.

You have a variant form of attention, a different way of focusing that requires motion and multiplicity to thrive. (Guess what else works like this? Our planetary system.)

You are not too much, too loud, too crazy, you are at your best when given space to run and move and be big.

You have big wild super power and you need a big wild super project to contain it.

You have big, wild super power that can change the world when it’s channeled in the right direction. The world needs your big wild super energy.

There! Try that on for size. I encourage you to do your own word associating and creative relabeling, of this label or any that give you trouble.

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(And of course, if you want help doing this, it is my great joy and I welcome you to sign up for a dreamtalk with me…)

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. 

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…