It’s the end of the world as we know it

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…

  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. I don’t need to listen to any more parenting podcasts.
  1. I can let go of saving for my kids’ college, or worrying that I’m not saving, because there won’t be college.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 

  1. 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.
  1. 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).

I feel fine.

We are living in a sh*tty first draft

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?

Here is who is helping me:

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.

My inspiration for this is Anne Lamott’s advice on shitty first drafts  (which I’ve written about before)…

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

  1. Release live poisonous snakes into all the public areas where we want to discourage social interaction
  2. Follow our president’s instructions and whimsies to the letter
  3. Instead of wearing a face mask, get a tattoo of a face mask
  4. Fill the house with silly putty for the kids to play with
  5. What a great time to make paella with your small children! Or craft delicate glass objects to hang from windows and balance on tables!
  6. Oooh how about we make our own ant farm?
  7. 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)
  8. Announce your plan for the day to the neighbors via bullhorn
  9. Forage all food instead of going to the grocery store. Can you eat grass?
  10. 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…

img_3456

The benefits of being lost

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.


Shifting the power dynamic in your brain

I noticed a troll hanging out in my head this week, who was rolling her eyes, saying OH GOD GROSS every time I shared something and telling me everyone thinks I’m weird. Do you have a troll like this? I had a cold so I was extra vulnerable and it took me a while to notice.

Yesterday I pulled out ALL my tools: I drew a picture of the troll, I wrote down what she was saying, I asked questions and tried out opposite statements.

It sounds so silly — I drew a picture of the thoughts in my head and talked to the picture as if she were real. It is silly! I mean look at her:

I like mucking around in the weird mud of the inner world. This is messy, awkward, fumbling, vital work and I love it. It’s ok if it feels gross! EVERYONE thinks they are weird. We can be weird together.

It only took a few minutes of this and I was laughing out loud and feeling grounded and sure of myself again. I worked with the troll instead of trying to push her away, and arrived at something that feels true for me: I like being weird.

(I made a Facebook live video of some of this troll work if you want to see it on its feet)

Who are the trolls in your head who stop you in your tracks?

What do they say?

It’s too late, you missed your chance

You are being ridiculous

What a crybaby

Everyone else knows what they’re doing

Oh no, nothing is going right!

You’re going to lose everything!

What happens when you draw them and ask them questions and try on some different truths?

Your eyes are open to second chances

You are taking things much too seriously

What a loving emotionally healthy adult

Everyone doubts what they are doing

Oh no, everything is going right!

You’ve got nothing to lose!

I’m not saying this solves everything. It shifts the power dynamic inside your brain.

It’s one tiny step up a big ladder.

It doesn’t make the ladder disappear — but it does make climbing the ladder feel possible.

Try some troll work and let me know what you find out!

If you live in Portland and want to do troll work with a team: you can still sign up for Fruition.

Saying what you want out loud is a magic spell

I wrote a post two years ago about accidental spellcasting, about how we are casting accidental spells all the time — we  use our imaginations to predict, reflect, reframe, process and distract from reality. We speak predictions of the future as if they were certain, we worry ourselves into a repeating loop, we tell stories to make sense of trauma and thus, shake off it’s hold on us. We cast spells without realizing it — plant the seeds deep in our unconscious mind for the kind of world we want to live in. 

I think of magic as PHYSICALIZING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS. It’s a process for taking your inner world — the symbols, images and associations that make you do what you do — and expressing it on the outside. It’s about changing the inner tangle of associations so your perception of the outer world can radically change.

One of the simplest, most powerful magic spells you can cast is saying what you want out loud.

I’m not talking about manifesting or positive thinking. This is not about crossing your fingers and wishing hard. This is not about expecting everything to work out exactly the way you want it to.

No – this is a different beast. This is following the thread of what you want where it leads. This is paying attention to the images and shadows and surges and obstacles that arise when you say out loud what you want. This magic is a sideways, circular, cyclical, practical process. When you say your unconscious desires out loud — when you embrace them, play with them, pretend with them — they take on a life outside of you. You don’t control them — you dance with them, ride with them where they lead. It’s about co-creating with your unconscious mind.

img_2763

If this sounds whimsical or daydreamy, think of a baby. Babies cry for what they want. They voice their desire. They WANT with all their being, without question, without hesitation. They want milk, they cry out for milk. And you know what? IT WORKS. They don’t manifest the milk, they cry until they get it (or mine did. Babies vary, obviously). 

This is basic human survival. And yet what we learn as we grow is to hide our wants. Especially if you were socialized as a white American woman like me, you learn to wait and see what everyone else wants before you say anything. You mold your wants to fit the group. You try not to want too much, so you’re not a burden, a diva, an annoyance.

Overcoming that programming is not easy. It feels scary and weird and uncomfortable — impossible even.

But it’s like any hard thing: you practice, and you get better.

You can practice saying what you want out loud. You can practice being honest about your YES and NO. You can revel in the tension, the thrills, the fears of wanting. You can WANT with all your night, even if it’s just for two minutes.

I have an example from my life. Seven years ago I was channeling my creative energy into theater — creating charged multimedia performances about big unanswerable questions, leading warm ups and trainings, co-leading with a group of strong artists who had been working together for years. Then I gave birth to my son Waylon, and everything turned upside down. What arose (slowly) from the ashes was a new idea — or more accurately, the old idea, with new wings. A new frame for what I had been doing all those years. What if another word for these skills is active listening, facilitating and … coaching? Could I be a coach?

Something about becoming a mother compelled me to physicalize this question, so I made a show to practice embodying a coach. That show was I Hate Positive Thinking, and over the course of a year, I went from calling myself a “coach” in air quotes to doing it for real, working with clients and leading workshops and classes. For over a year, I got up in front of people and practiced being this new thing I wanted to be. I tried it on. I performed my WANT with hundreds of people as witnesses and I felt the spell working it’s magic, night after night.

I am still practicing that want. I am still casting that spell. And guess what,  it’s still hard! It’s vulnerable and scary and feels weird to say what I want out loud. 

I will model it here, and say:

I want ten people with big, beautiful, ridiculous, audacious, scandalous, silly, ugly, ambitious WANTS to sign up for Fruition, so we can grow and hide and seek and surf the wave of change together. I want Fruition to be three months of life changing, world changing energy that I never could have predicted.

There, I said it out loud. That’s what I want.

You can say yours out loud too! Right now, try saying out loud what you want and seeing what happens as a result. Maybe nothing! That’s possible. But since change is the only constant in our universe, isn’t it more likely that SOMETHING will happen?

img_2759

p.s. If you want to sign up for Fruition, you can do that here: FRUITION

Granting yourself validation

I talk to so many people who are looking for validation from someone who is not giving it to them. And this is such a hard one! Because even if you know you should be validating yourself — even if you want to, even if (like me) you’re a recovering people pleaser trying to disconnect from the drug of outside approval — that desire is still there, to be validated, to be affirmed, to be deemed worthy.

I had a thought the other day: what if you granted validation to yourself?

img_2396

Not thought about it, wished for it, longed for it, waited for it, but GRANTED it.

How do you grant yourself validation?

How about we try this:

Write out the validation you want from someone. Imagine them saying exactly what you want to hear: singing your praises, telling you good job, nodding with approval at your actions.

Now this is the important part — read it out loud. If possible, to a trusted friend. Nod with approval. Stand up and clap your hands. Sing your own praises. And end with something like:

I hereby grant myself the validation I seek. 

 To commemorate, put on a validation song and dance to it, or write out a certificate, or make a tiny sigil to wear around your neck, or find a ring to wear, so any time you’re feeling small or insignificant or like an imposter, you can make a fist and say to yourself:

YES: I see you 

I know you

You are powerful

You are learning

You are growing 

I validate you

I strengthen you

I encourage you

I believe in you

I think something happens when we say this out loud to ourselves. When we adopt it as a daily practice, something you can do no matter how you feel, something you can feel your way into.

It’s not a given. It’s not either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something someone else can give you anyway.

Have you ever noticed that? How often, when the validation DOES come from outside, we swat it away, we deflect it, we dismiss it?

I wonder if, when we begin truly to affirm ourselves, when we build up those muscles and recognize ourselves, we also begin to receive more validation from the outside. Because we’re open to it — we’re ready for it — we’re not in a desperate game of hide and seek with it, we already have it.

Something to experiment with! And that’s what I love about this work. It’s something you can practice and learn. It’s a choice you can make and a stance you can take, a question you can ask.

What if I had the power to grant myself validation?

img_2395.jpg

Humbled & disoriented in my power

It’s been a strange week.

I had planned a trip back to my ancestral homeland of Lansing, Michigan to visit my sister’s family and their newborn baby.

It was going to be just my two-year-old and I – a chance to go on an adventure with him alone, for him to soak up grandparent love and connect with his cousins, independent of his wonderful, confident, boisterous older brother.

But two days before our flight, I started coming down sick, and though I drank tea, emergen-c, lots of water – the morning of our flight, the fog descended.

At the same time, a snowstorm descended onto Michigan, and (long story short) our flight was canceled. So instead of dragging my sick body through the airport with an excited toddler, I was home, unpacking my bags and feeling sad and sorry for myself.

Because you see, what had also descended was (buckle up, gentlemen) MY PERIOD which has a way of amplifying my negative feelings until they are the world and the world is my bad mood.

For most of my life, I have thought of this as a bad thing. PMS sucks! Don’t make decisions! Don’t try to communicate! Hide away and cry!

Well, that’s what I did. I went to bed and slept for two days, shuffling around drinking tea and feeling like the world was ending. OH THE HORROR of my bad, bad cold.

Then I started to feel the fog lifting, and started to ask myself that essential question when you’re coming out of a fog: WTF just happened?!

It feels like I spent the last week in a strange Underworld, a topsy turvy world full of despair and darkness, that is 99% my imagination.

Which sucks, yes. But one reason I’m not a fan of positive thinking is that, as hard as it is to be in the underworld — for me, those dark times are also a source of power.

The best way I can explain it is to go back to my biggest baddest experience in the Underworld thus far in life: the two times I’ve given birth.

Six years ago I went into my first childbirth clownishly optimistic. I remember crowing at a party, seven months pregnant, that I didn’t think it was going to be that hard. I was half joking, but the other half believed that somehow I possessed a superpower — that deep down, maybe every woman who said it was painful was kind of exaggerating.

Ahhhh sweet justice. Sweet 44 hours of labor karma.

If I could sum up my experience giving birth in one word, it would be HUMBLING.

I went in feeling like a superhero, and the universe quickly showed me how truly, painfully mortal I was. I wrote a song afterwards about it called Mother Nature Doesn’t Love You. I was utterly schooled by my body, whipped around, tricked, tested, pushed to the brink and beyond. In the aftermath I was holding a tiny vulnerable human in my arms and overwhelmed by my own vulnerability, unsure, undone, a total mess.

Paradoxically, I was more IN my body than I’d ever been, aligned with it, listening to it. I didn’t have time to waste judging myself. I had to trust my body. Like a buddy cop movie, we had to learn how to work together if we were going to survive.

My second birth was totally different from the first – but equally humbling. (I wrote about preparing for it here. And about my artist residency in motherhood that followed).

The word that comes to mind is DISORIENTED. It happened so fast that my mind couldn’t catch up to my body and I was utterly lost, confused, my navigation tools spinning. I remember laying on my back with an oxygen mask on my face, weeping from sheer confusion, sheer lack of control, and in less than an hour my second son was born. It was easy in a way, and yet I felt so lost.

HUMBLED. DISORIENTED.

We don’t think of these as powerful words. And yet, growing into my own power has been deeply linked to these states.

Out of that disorientation, from a place of humility, I learned to listen to my inner voice.

To give over to chaos.

To cry – to howl – to ask for what I need.

To want what I want, to like what I like no matter how ridiculous it is.

To let myself be inconsistent. To let myself change, to want one thing one minute and the opposite the next.

To find relief where I can.

To find my way by fumbling and following the tiniest of clues, the tiniest slivers of light, the tiniest hint of an instinct.

This is what my birth experiences taught me, and why each time I get my period and return for several days to that state of darkness and loss, I know – even as I’m aching and confused, even as I don’t feel clear about the way – that feeling humbled and disoriented is a great gift. Because I can re-experience the tiny steps that re-orient me and connect me to other people – I can remember again that these tiny steps MATTER.

Tiny steps like taking a nap, drinking good tea, drinking water, listening to music that makes me cry (so cathartic), having a conversation. Looking for the tiniest of connections.

If you are in a state of disorientation and overwhelm, you can look around for tiny connections too, tiny ways you are supported.

If there are no people around, connect with the animals – is there a squirrel outside chattering in annoyance? Are they trying to tell you something?

If no animals, connect with the objects and pretend they’re alive. That’s what my six year old does! He’d rather play with real live friends but in the absence of humans, he’ll pick up a LEGO figure and get lost in rich, complicated adventures.

This may sound silly, and when you’re in a dark place, it can sound dismissive to say, hey just pick up a LEGO figure and pretend it’s your friend!

And yet it is in our times of darkness that we need silliness. When the troll voices roll like thunder in our heads and we give over to them – when the forces of patriarchy feel like they are crushing us – when the future looms and the bills are pilling up and it feels like we’re at the bottom of a deep dark hole…

… it is the tiny, silly, ridiculous things that pull us out. That get us connecting to the world. That get us the care we need, and get us caring for others in return.

Tiny things are deeply important. Like a tiny sip of nourishing bone broth, or a tiny glimpse of the ocean which reminds you to take a tiny breath – these are the ways we take care of ourselves.

Hugging a stuffed animal and whispering, I love you.

Picking up some playdoh and making a little blue figure and patting her head.

Drawing a monster and coloring her hair a wild orange.

Listening to the song that always makes you cry and letting yourself cry.

Saying out loud, I need a hug, and letting your six year old give you a hug.

Those tiny steps matter.

Thank you for listening, friends. I am feeling a little silly writing to you from this vulnerable place and yet, I will listen to my own tiny voice, and trust that this tiny connection is important.


Note: I swear to the goddess I do not plan this, but every year around this time I write a post about vulnerability and sickness and poop and getting lost in the fog. ‘It’s the season my friends!

November 2018: Stretching Season (aka the life changing magic of stepping in poop)

November 2017: Bragging about the mess

Scaring Ourselves Silly (fun fear circle)

Last weekend I had the honor and delight of joining my old comrades, the powerful forces behind Hand2Mouth Theatre, for a slumber party where they tried out ideas for the show / ritual / experience they are creating called A slumber party to dismantle the patriarchy. We did an exorcism ritual to clear out old energy and welcome in friendly spirits, we made prank calls and played truth or dare, we stayed up late talking in sleeping bags. It was beautiful.

One of the things we did together was go to this truly epic haunted house in Salem, where we spent 30 minutes screaming at the top of our lungs.

This is what we love about haunted houses and horror movies and Halloween, right? The chance to express our fears, to SCREAM them, to practice them, to feel them, to work through them.

It feels GOOD to scream, and I am struck by how little chance we get to do this. How often do we get to work through our fears, actively and vocally, with permission to grip the hands of whoever is next to us?

It feels good! Often our screams turned into laughter (or vice versa) and when we got out of there, the muscles in my face hurt like I’d been laughing for a half hour straight. Because I basically had!

So much of what people work on with me revolves around fear – and I find that fear, like our inner trolls, isn’t something you can banish directly. You can’t say to yourself, STOP FEELING THAT! Any more than you can say to a four year old waking up from a bad dream, IT’S JUST A DREAM, STOP CRYING!

My two year old loves saying YOU DUMMY right now, and if I let him see that it’s getting to me – if I tell him firmly, STOP SAYING THAT – he only grins and amps up his efforts. DUMMY! DUMMY! DUMMY! Louder, higher, faster.

If you want to get a two year old to stop saying dummy, you have to come at it sideways. And I think it’s the same with our fears. If you try to banish them directly, they come at you faster. If you come at them sideways and give them room to play themselves out, they pass. They might even be enjoyable!

Here’s an exercise I just invented:

FUN FEAR CIRCLE

  1. Draw a circle on a notecard. Inside the circle, draw your fear.

2. Freewrite for one minute: write what you see inside the circle, write about your fear, give it a name.

3. Put your hands on the notecard and set the timer for two minutes. For two minutes, feel your fear. Let it come. Feel it in your body, where it lives and how it moves. Don’t resist it or question it, let it wash over you.

4. Take your hands off the card. Let the fear go. Maybe rip up the card and scatter it on the wind. Maybe embody the fear and move with it. Maybe color it with crayons and watch it turn into something else.

For me, what arose as the antidote to my fear was movement and action — I danced around for 30 seconds and colored in my fear, and I was surprised to see it had turned into excitement and energy.

What happens when you try it? I would love to know. And if this speaks to you, sign up for a free coaching session and let’s do some sideways transformation.

Happy Halloween to you and your shadows! May you look twice at strange figures walking down the street. May your costume come unraveled and still be a sight to see. May your candles be lit up and may your pumpkins glow with eerie delight. May you fill up your bag with treasure and trash.

img_2206

Magic & mayhem & Lynda F#%*ing Barry

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.

Make Up Your Brags

Last time I wrote, I had you imagine yourself as Queen of your Domain.

Since then, I’ve been dreaming up more exercises for stepping into your power, and it brought to mind another topic that comes up with almost every woman I work with: how hard it is to talk about our accomplishments. To crow, to claim, to boast, to brag.

Everyone likes the idea of OTHER women bragging. But when it comes to doing it yourself, there is an instinctive deflection – a resistance – a horror.

Here is how the horror plays out for me.

There are things I know I can do well. And I can own that, in a comical half joking way, like…

I’M A REALLY GOOD SINGER. HA HA I’M THE BEST SINGER THAT EVER LIVED. JUST KIDDING!! I AM PRETTY GOOD THOUGH

Even if it’s something I know I can do well, there is this fear of saying it out loud, like I might jinx it or draw negative attention to myself. Or that I might not be as good as I think I am, I might be blind to the reality that actually I suck. Someone else out there is better so who am I to claim originality or excellence or anything special?

Like, oh my god, what if I am bragging about something that I am not in fact excellent at, but only REGULAR at? How embarrassing would that be? Who am I to say this spaghetti I made is delicious, what if it’s just regular old spaghetti that ANYONE could make?

THE HORROR. THE HORROR. That I might say out loud, this is really good spaghetti, and everyone eating it would be thinking, ehhhh, it’s ok.

That I might claim excellence when in fact IT’S NOT EXCELLENT.

I have known many men who do not have this problem. Who are not haunted with fears that they might secretly be subpar. Who are quite willing to take credit and claim excellence for regular or even mediocre work.

What many of us who identify as women do – and I’m not the first person to say this so OH MY GOD DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND I AM TAKING CREDIT FOR INVENTING THIS IDEA – is deflect and diffuse. We deny the credit. We share the credit. We do anything but TAKE THE GODDAMN CREDIT.

Taking the credit is SCARY. It’s taking ownership, it’s taking up space, it’s vulnerable, it’s exposed.

I led a beta test workshop over the summer on becoming Queen and bragging about your accomplishments and here is a hilarious thing that went on inside my head while I was leading it.

I had a group of women write a list of things they had done that they were proud of – things that were hard, things that seemed impossible, things that changed and stretched them – and then read them out loud.

There were some incredible things on those lists!

Here is what was going through my mind: oh wow. These women REALLY have things to brag about. They have been living life to the fullest. My list is not that impressive. I haven’t swum with sharks or traveled solo or raised my kids in an intentional community. Here I am leading an exercise on bragging and what do I have to brag about?

And yet, I was also aware that each woman didn’t think the things on her list were impressive until she read them out loud.

Afterwards, I had an idea for a new exercise, and I’m going to share it with you because it kind of blew my mind.

I made a list of things I wished I could brag about. A list of made up accomplishments.

If you want to do it, try it now: write down the things you wish you could say you have done.

There are lots of impressive things I have not done, that I would not put on my list. I do not wish I could say I’ve swum with sharks. I mean it would be impressive to say, but I don’t feel a pain in my heart when I hear someone say they’ve done that.

The ones that make you inhale sharply and say, oh wow I wish I could say I had done that – those are the ones that go on the list.

MY MADE UP ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I wrote a rock opera
  • I traveled through rural China for six months and learned rudimentary Mandarin
  • I planted a night blooming garden
  • I gave talks on energy conservation, climate change and wild clowny art at some big think tank conference
  • I took my kids backpacking in Montana
  • I toured as a backup singer with Tom Petty
  • I bought a house in my 20s

Now here is the amazing thing that I only realized after I’d written my list and was looking at it.

The very first thing on the list IS SOMETHING I HAVE IN FACT DONE.

I did write a rock opera! In my mind I was like, oh it wasn’t really a rock opera, it was more of a song cycle, but then I remembered that some critic had called it something and I looked it up and it was “a one woman no orchestra polyphonic opera” which is actually WAY COOLER than a rock opera.

Everything else on the list – and I mean every single thing – is something I have not done TO THAT EXTENT, but have done on a smaller scale.

I was SHOCKED to realize this. There is a grain of truth in every one of these fantastical, out there, made up accomplishments. I’m not as far away from that list as I thought.

LIST OF REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I traveled across the US for 3 months with my best friend when we were 22.
  • I planted a tiny fairy garden with my five year old last year.
  • I gave a talk on “creative living in an alternate world” at SXSW in 2016.
  • I’ve taken my kids car camping in Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Texas since they were each 10 months old.
  • I opened once for Justin Bond.
  • My partner and I bought a house in our 30s.

When I look at THAT list, I think: hell, that is nothing to sneeze at! Why am I not bragging about THOSE things?

It tells me something about where I am, and where I want to be.

And it tells me, I’m not starting from scratch! The seeds are there. I can brag about what I’ve done, right here, right now.

You can too! Whatever it is you wish for, you can find the seeds in your life right now. Look at your list of made up accomplishments, and ask yourself: have I done something like this, on a smaller / different / more modest scale?

Or ask yourself: have I actually done that? Is there something I’m minimizing or not seeing that is in fact AN AMAZING THING I DID?!

So to recap, here’s how to brag in make believe and then in real life:

  1. Write a list of made up things you wish you could say you have done
  2. Look at the list and ask: is there a grain of truth in here? Have I done anything like these things?
  3. Write the list of things you have actually done
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: can I take credit for these things?
  5. And if the answer is YES: say them out loud.

(If the answer is NO, schedule a free session with me and by the end of the hour, I’ll have you bragging like a pirate.)