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. 

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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!

Shameless optimist

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!

 

You have no power over me

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.

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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.

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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.

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(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)

Dancing with your trolls

I’ve been getting a big response from my last video, Dancing my Question, so I thought I’d try dancing with my trolls.

Trolls are what I call those negative thoughts that go on a loop, those critical inner voices that start in on you and won’t let up. I call them trolls because they are stubborn, they have that dogged ability to not let up or leave you alone. I’ve got lots of different creative ways I work with trolls (which I’m going to be talking about in my free webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS, and which we spend a lot of energy on in my creative magic workout) — but this was a new idea for engaging them, so I thought I’d make this quick video about it and share it right away: karaoke with your trolls!

Something I’m struggling with lately — there’s this little troll that’s like ewww ughhh nobody likes me, nobody’s helping me – it curls inward and projects all my insecurities about what I’m doing or not doing onto everyone around me – so when I drop off my kids at school this troll is saying, they all think you’re a bad mother because you’re dropping your kids off late, ooooooh! It’s this little Gollum-like troll.

If I’m going to work out with this troll using the life changing magic of karaoke, what song makes sense? The song that floated in my brain was “Tears of a Clown”… and honestly, when I worked this out for the first time earlier today, this song showed me SO MUCH about my fears and what’s going on with me and that troll. So thanks, subconscious!

I invite you to try this yourself: Identify your inner troll (I like to draw it and name it but it also works to just notice it) and ask them, what song would help me work out what’s going on? And see what floats into your brain.

Are you ready for me to work out “Tears of a Clown” with you? Let’s see what happens.

[Dancing / singing like a fool]

I’m kind of performing this but I’m also having some genuine insights here. I’m so surprised to realize that the flip side of this hidey nobody’s taking care of me feeling is, this pressure to only share a shiny happy face – I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing my sad face! I don’t feel like I can share my tears, even though I’m someone who talks all the time about crying and sharing your vulnerability. I’ve still got a sad little clown inside me who has to wait until there’s no one around to be real! I sound like I’m joking but this is genuinely helpful for me… and I have some trolls right now who are telling me, this is pretty self indulgent… which is another frequent troll for me. But I’m sharing because I wonder if some of you have those trolls, maybe the horror of self indulgence, or little sad Gollum who feels like he’s supposed to be Flashy McFlasherson?

If so: work it out, see what comes up for you!

 

When you encounter a troll in the shower

We’ve been working with our trolls this week in the Creative Magic Workout, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Trolls are what I call the critical thoughts that divebomb you when you’re trying something new or creative or risky or, you know, taking a shower.

That’s what happened to me this morning! I was in the shower and the thought popped into my head: “You should have figured this out five years ago.”

(“This” being “how to balance motherhood and making enough money and having a career that makes everything you want in life possible.”)

And I almost let that thought slip by unnoticed – it’s a thought I have often — but because we’ve been working with trolls, I did notice. I stopped and went, wait a minute, what was that? Is that a troll talking?

You should have figured this out five years ago.

So I did a transformation spell. This is what I call the process of considering, questioning and turning around those critical thoughts.

I considered it: is it true, that I should have figured this out five years ago? Do I agree?

Well, not really. I wish I had figured it out, but I also don’t know how useful it would have been. Or how possible. My life was totally different then, and I’m not sure I could have even imagined how it would change, much less figure out how to respond to that change.

I questioned it. What would be different now if I had “figured it out”? What does figuring it out even mean? Is it possible to figure it out? What is the benefit of figuring something out in advance – wasn’t I figuring things out then that were useful then? Aren’t I figuring this out now? Are there other women I can think of who have figured it out? Honestly, I can’t think of a single mother who has figured it all out. Everyone’s struggling with something.

And I turned it around, which means, I came up with opposite thoughts that are also true.

I should not have figured it out five years ago. In fact, it would have been ridiculous and impossible and kind of miraculous if I had.

It is a waste of time to try to imagine what your life might need in five years. It would have been a waste of my time then.

I am figuring this out now and that is the best use of my time and energy.

I did figure this out five years ago! I figured out some of it, anyway.

Once I went through all this – which was less than five minutes, tops – I was able to laugh at that troll. I wasn’t wrestling with it or struggling to shake it off. It stepped away of its own accord.

Later when I was out of the shower I thought: who is this troll, exactly?

And what came to mind were associations of impatience and wanting to know everything in advance and being very annoyed when things don’t go a certain way. I got an image of the classic rom-com business woman protagonist who falls in love with a laid back handyman and learns to laugh and not take herself so seriously.

So I sketched a picture. Here it is:

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Do you want to try it? Notice your critical thoughts as you go about your day, and when you have a couple minutes, jot down associations with that critical voice, sketch a picture, and give that troll a name.

And then do a quick transformational spell.

  1. Consider the thought
  2. Question the thought
  3. Turn it around

And see if the troll doesn’t soften, stand back and let you cross that bridge after all.