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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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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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…)

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!

 

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.

The kind of magic I believe in

Two weeks ago, I finished up the first round of my new solo show / creative expedition. It was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, which is funny, because at every step along the way, I had doubts about its worthiness as a project and my ability to pull it off.

I can’t tell you how many times I almost cancelled it. And each time, the question came down to — is the risk that this will be a disaster a risk I’m willing to take?

And each time — BARELY — my answer was yes. So I did it. And lo and behold: it was not a disaster. It was wonderful! We performed a ‘What If’ spell to imagine a world where we have what we want. We named the trolls in the room and charmed them into helping us. We summoned champions and felt their energy. We dissolved toxic spells and enacted an ‘As If’ spell to imagine ourselves engaged in a beloved community.

Someone asked me after the show: well, do you believe in magic?

I was a little taken aback, because to me there’s no question. Are my feelings not clear? Am I communicating something subconsciously, some doubt, some deep lingering hesitation?

But then again, the reason I am working on a show about believing in magic, the reason I’m building a creative workout program around it, is because I frequently forget about it.

It’s easy to find yourself lost in a fog of forgetfulness about what magic feels like and how it works. To feel adrift, floating along at the mercy of elements you don’t understand or control.

For me, when I’m lost in that fog, the way back to magic is through magic. It’s like self care: when I get busy or tired or stressed out, I stop taking care of myself, stop paying attention to my self-talk, stop drinking enough water, give in to the desire to eat starbursts instead of eating actual fruit. I stop drawing self-portraits in my daily dream journal. I forget how important it is to check in with my friends.

And it starts to feel all or nothing. It starts to feel like what is required to get me back into alignment with myself is something huge and insurmountable. When in fact, the way in is through small gestures, small tokens, small footsteps. One drink of water! One drink of water is all it takes for my body to remember what being refreshed feels like. One text to a friend is all it takes to set a time to get together over coffee. Five minutes of sitting with a pen and a blank page of my dream journal is all it takes to draw a self portrait and feel that rush of recognition. Five minutes of walking outside to give all my attention to a tree is all it takes to see some magic at work.

Does that sound silly? I am serious: go outside right now and look at a tree. Or a plant or a flower or a bug. You start to notice things you didn’t see before. And in that noticing, magic starts to creep back in, possibility creeps back in. The awareness that the world is much bigger than you can imagine creeps back in.

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The key for me is this: magic isn’t a THING. You don’t snap your fingers and it’s there, easy to digest. It’s not a pill or a trick or a simple set of directions. It’s a state we can enter, an energy we can feel and a power we can sense.

 

It’s a process and a practice. Magic is both what we are trying to summon, and the way to summon it.

For me, for many years, the practice took the form of live theatre, which uses all the elements of true magic: you create a space. You dim the lights. You invite people to sit in silence. And then you enact a ritual within that silence. You spellbind. You cast spells together. You tell stories. You take people on a journey in their mind.

These days I’m still fascinated with these tools, and with what we can do with them, in or outside of the theatre.

Because I know that in my life – incredible things have happened since I’ve switched the focus of my creative work.

I’ve talked before (here and here and here) about the radical change that came about when I stopped thinking of my life as a vehicle for my creative projects, and instead turned my life into a creative project.

The transition into motherhood 3.5 years ago was a rough one for me, and in order to find my footing, I had to use all the creative tools I could think of to survive. I drew pictures. I wrote poems. I wandered into a zumba class down the street from my house. I made up little songs to sing to my baby son to try (vainly) to get him to sleep.

All these things helped me survive, and the big surprise was, I came out of the transition stronger. For the first time since I was maybe 9 years old, I felt comfortable in my skin. I felt comfortable with my taste and with voicing my ideas, no matter how corny or naïve or half baked they might be. Because for the first time, I wasn’t pursuing them to please or placate or impress anyone but myself.

Since then I’ve become passionate about helping other people do this, because I’ve become more and more aware of how desperately we all need creative work, and how little room we’re given to pursue it. When you’re left to your own devices, it can be hard to pursue – because as soon as you do, trolls start jumping out from under bridges and dragons rise up out of your nightmares to frighten you out of your wits. There are a million ways to sedate that creative urge and not many ways to step into it.

So to answer my friend’s question: that is the kind of magic I believe in. The magic of the creative urge, and what happens when you follow it. It’s there if you start looking for it. It’s there if you take one small step towards it.

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(And if you want to join a Creative Magic Workout, we still have open spots! Heed the call, friend).

What if where you are is exactly where you need to be?

Hello everyone! How was your summer? Mine was a glorious mess of contradictions, so most of the time I was days behind in my creative self-work, sorting through the various stressors that had hijacked my nervous system.

When I did have time to catch up with myself – to dance around with my kiddo, to sit down and draw and write in my journal and ask questions and breathe – the knot would loosen enough for me to remember: OH YEAH.

Oh yeah – there’s no such thing as doing it perfectly.

Oh yeah – I am a human being and it’s okay to mess things up.

Oh yeah – that’s how I learn: by messing up. It’s okay for me to be honest about it! That’s the only way to learn from it.

Oh yeah – When I don’t have childcare, things go nuts. Right! I’ve been here before. This happened last summer. I can figure this out.

Oh yeah – what works for someone else might not work for me! That’s not because I am a FAILED HUMAN. This isn’t a contest. No one is winning the Best Mom Award.

Oh yeah – I don’t have to be hard on myself! That’s a choice. I can choose to be gentle and loving. When I do that, it’s easier to be gentle and loving with those around me. Especially my sweet little 3-year-old monster who is figuring out how to be a human being too.

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We relearn the same lessons over and over, don’t we? And then get mad at ourselves for not learning it the first time, even though of course we didn’t learn it the first time. Learning is circular and repetitive!

Look at how much you are learning right now. Look at how far you’ve come. Think of where you’ll be a year from now. What if what you’re doing right now is exactly what you need to do to get there?

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That question is a big one in my life.

I first heard it ten years ago, at a workshop led by an Australian performance artist named Margaret Cameron. The workshop was part of an international festival for women theatre artists. I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choice to fly all the way to Denmark to take part, but here I was, in a workshop led by a woman wearing (in my memory anyway) a flowing muumuu and turban.

I tried to be open-minded but she seemed to be making it up on the spot, leading us on a ridiculous journey across the stage like we were children. I was jet-lagged and grumpy. What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be learning? What is she training us to do exactly? My inner teenager rolled her eyes HARD.

And then something happened. She asked several questions:

What if this is exactly where you need to be?

What if what you’re doing right now is exactly the right thing?

I know it’s not – but what if it was?

What if you are doing exactly what you need to be doing?

Something about these questions made me stop and notice that I had a running commentary in my head of this is dumb, you shouldn’t have come here, you’re not doing this right…

These were familiar thoughts. I realized that in most moments of my life, my brain was buzzing with this refrain.

And how liberating would it be to imagine – not even to believe, but to CONSIDER – that I might be doing some things right.

It felt radical and dangerous and ridiculous all at once. And in that moment, everything shifted. My energy shifted and suddenly this workshop was blowing my mind. Suddenly Margaret Cameron wasn’t some kook, she was a fucking genius.

I remember thinking, I wish I had the courage to do what Margaret Cameron does. To share my silliest, scariest, most heartfelt ideas and not care whether anyone thinks I’m a fool. To patiently wait for people’s resistance to fall away, or not.

Her blithe confidence seemed absolutely alien to me. I thought, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll be ballsy enough to do something like this.

Today I was thinking back to that time, and I realized: holy shit – not only was Margaret Cameron’s question a great exercise in shifting perspective – it was RIGHT.

I was exactly where I needed to be in that moment. I was doing exactly the right thing. Every single thing was the right thing, even the parts I thought I was doing wrong. They all led me to where I am today – a place I couldn’t imagine ten years ago.

I thought I could never be brave enough, confident enough to risk looking like a fool. But here I am!

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Where will I be ten years from now? I can only imagine, and experience tells me the reality will be wilder than my wildest vision.

So what if it’s true for you? What if everything you’re experiencing now is preparing you for where you’ll be in ten years?

Does anything shift when you ask yourself that question?

My daily ritual for centering & questioning

This is my daily ritual.

It’s not set in stone. And I don’t do it every day.

But when I do, my day goes smoother, my life feels grounded and my sense of humor is quick to the draw.

And when I don’t, my frustrations snare me quicker, my doubts creep in faster and life feels overwhelming.

Funny: knowing that, you’d think that when I start to feel overwhelmed, this ritual would be the first thing I turn to.

But often if I’m overwhelmed it’s too late — I am deep in forgetful mode.

I forget that my daily ritual will help.

I forget that it’s not hard to do.

I forget that life is one thing at a time, one moment at a time.

I forget that the past is the past and the future is the future and both exist mostly in my imagination.

I forget that no matter what is going on I have the power, right now, to take a breath and listen to my body, my mind, my voice.

I forget to listen to that little voice that says, hey, when’s the last time you checked in with me? Why did you stop doing your morning ritual?

For a while, anyway. Until I slow down enough to hear it, and listen to what it’s telling me.

That’s why I try to do this every day. So I can keep from getting to that overwhelmed, stressed out, frustrated place. Because it seems so small but doing my ritual for five minutes every day is what keeps me grounded, calm and light on my feet.

I’m calling it MY RITUAL like it’s a big fancy thing but my ritual is basically just taking deep breaths, listening to my thoughts and sitting with them.

I do this different ways depending on my mood. I can sit in a quiet spot, or go for a walk and do it on my feet. I can end with 2 minutes of dancing to Cyndi Lauper. I can write down words I want to remember in sharpie and stick them on my wall. But it usually goes something like this:

  • Stop what you’re doing
  • Put your hand on your heart
  • Close your eyes
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Ask yourself: what is stressing you out?
  • Write down one thought that is stressing you out
  • Breathe with that thought and let some questions in. Don’t fix it, don’t solve it. Sit with it and let questions come: is it true? How do you know? Are you sure?

And honestly, if all you do is the first four steps, that is the most important part. Giving yourself a moment to take three deep breaths with your hand on your heart. Trust me: spending a moment doing this will get you so much more than two minutes of scanning the New York Times or scrolling through Facebook.

I’d love to hear what your daily rituals are! And if you don’t have one, steal mine, or make one up yourself.