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.)

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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.

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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Hiding and seeking

Last week we talked about hiding. Now let’s talk about seeking.

Counting to ten with eyes closed, peeking through fingers, saying READY OR NOT HERE I COME and then setting out into the world not sure what you’re looking for.

I talk about this in my video training, How to Undo a Creative Block (which you can watch for free by signing up here, if you haven’t already) – step one is noticing that you are hiding, and step two is making the decision to create every day. The decision to seek.

That decision can be tiny!

Creativity is like recovery, in that it’s one day at a time. One simple choice, one day at a time.

No matter where you are, how busy or tired or burned out you are, you can come back to that choice. A choice to create. No creation is too tiny. Today is another day and you can start where you are.

Our trolls, our dragons and demons like to make it an all or nothing proposition — why bother doing ANYTHING if you can’t do EVERYTHING – if you can’t be a great artist you are NOTHING – if you can’t work for five hours you can’t work at all! You might as well give up.

Those are your trolls talking. And I say, instead of giving up, give it five minutes. 

Five minutes! You can find five minutes.

Five minutes a day to do whatever you feel like doing, whether it’s drawing or writing or dancing or singing or playing with modeling clay.

Five minutes to follow your creative urge where it leads.

Five minutes to seek and see what you find. Five minutes to coax your inner child out of their hiding place and invite them to play.

Do it for one week and see what you find.

 


… if you are seeking structure, momentum and guidance this summer, it’s not too late to sign up for the summer of creative magic!

Hiding is part of the creative quest

I’ve been thinking about hiding.

The ways we hide as artists, as adults, as parents, as people.

Why do we hide from the things we most want? How is it that you can have this epic thing you’ve been wanting to do for ten, twenty, thirty years and somehow you never do it? The book of poems you want to write, the album you want to record, the country you want to travel to, the house you want to build, the children’s book you think you could dream up.

I coach artists through the creative process, so I have seen first hand how we all get stuck in these expectations, these fears, these stories that lock us in place.

I’m also an artist myself, and I am very familiar with hiding from the work I’m most called to do. I’ve done it before, and I’ll certainly do it again. I’m probably doing it right now!

I’ve carried around a lot of shame around hiding, but when I look back, I see no cause for shame.

Hiding is part of the creative process. It’s part of the hero’s journey – avoiding the call to action, trying to find some way to not embark on the great quest that calls to you.

We hide because it’s scary, and it’s hard, and it’s easier to avoid hard things than it is to face them. It’s easier to get pulled into other people’s projects, other people’s needs, other people’s agendas, other obligations than having the courage and tenacity to make space for our own projects, our own needs, our own vision and voice.

It’s absolutely understandable to be scared, to hide – and it is also absolutely possible to build up the muscles to face your fears and get out there and do it anyway.

So today, right now, let’s spend a moment noticing what we are hiding from. Notice those thoughts that are running through your head, take a deep breath, and sit with them instead of pushing them away.

Let’s think of the great heroes, real and imagined, who hid from their gifts and their demons as long as they could before they turned and faced their destiny.

I’ve been thinking about Sansa Stark, the hero in Game of Thrones (maybe the ONLY character on that whole freaking show who got a satisfying arc from start to finish but more on THAT another time).

One of the things I love most about her character’s growth is how it took a loooooooooong time for her to step into her power, to become an active agent. For many seasons I was impatient with her, dismissing her as passive and weak, a pawn.

But I was wrong. She was hiding for a good reason. She was hiding because that was the best way to survive, and she was slowly, patiently gathering the skills and the strength she needed to step out into the open.

I love that watching her grow helped me look at myself differently, to value the parts of myself I have dismissed in the past.

I’ve put together a video on working through your creative fears and blocks and guess what my first recommendation is? Accepting hiding as part of the creative process. 

If you want to see what my other recommendations are you can watch the video (or read the transcript) by signing up here: get the HOW TO UNDO A CREATIVE BLOCK video

And wherever you’re at in your creative quest, whether you are hiding or crossing a bridge or facing a monster: I wish you strength and courage!

Motherhood kicked me in the a***

Since we just celebrated mother’s day (or skipped it entirely if you’re not down with the pressure holidays), it seems like a good time to re-introduce myself and one of my favorite topics.

Hello. I’m Faith Helma. I’m an artist / creative guide and I would not be who I am today if motherhood had not kicked me in the aaaaaabdomen.

If you’re a mother, you know what I mean. If you’re not, swap “motherhood “ with big life transition / roadblock / curveball of your choice.

Turning 50.
Getting pushed out of a job you love.
Deciding not to have children. Starting a business.
Traveling around the world for a year.
Breast cancer.
Building your own house.
Caregiving a parent at the end of  life
Falling in love.

The hero quest starts with a call to action — an initiation —and for me becoming a mother called me to action in the most humbling, loving, brutally shamanic way.

I went in knowing it would be hard, knowing there was so much I didn’t know. I had no idea.

It’s probably similar to climbing a mountain or doing any other impossible thing. You’re in it now. There’s no going back.

What do you do, when you’re deep in it and there’s no going back?

That’s the exciting part. And that’s why, for me, no matter what logistical challenges motherhood throws my way, from childcare to balancing work and family to lack of paid leave to health insurance to dentist appointments … and no matter how physically hard the act of parenting is, from projectile vomiting to 2000 hours of wiping poopy butts to the neverending rush of leaving the house in the morning… I’m getting to my point here… for all that, I am grateful for the ways it pushes me to be real, to be honest, to be stronger, to be kinder. To be more creative.

Its made me a better artist even though I’ve technically produced far less since my first child was born 5.5 years ago than I did in the fifteen years before.

It’s fundamentally changed my idea of production and art and who it’s for.

IT’S FOR ME.

I used to think of self-indulgence as the worst thing an artist (or human) could be.

It took going through the marathon of giving birth then realizing I was in charge of someone else’s survival 24 HOURS A DAY to free me from this fear.

Suddenly self-indulgence didn’t sound so bad. Are you kidding? That sounds AWESOME.

I would kill for ten minutes a day of self-indulgence.

Owning that, claiming that is so liberating!

My art is for me. If I make art and I’m the only one who likes it, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

That’s my challenge for you today. If you set out to make art for you and you alone, what would you make?

And if you’re someone who wrestles with the fear of self-indulgence, ask that troll: what’s so bad about indulging myself? What’s the worst that could happen? Could anything good come of it?

Let me know what you find out!

Faith

p.s. If you are wanting company as you wrestle with your trolls and claim your human right to be creative, consider joining the summer of creative magic!

Boundaries, Vulnerability and Magic

I’ve been thinking about boundaries.

I am someone who resists boundaries – who likes to keep options open and puts off making decisions – but I’ve learned in my creative life that when I set boundaries, everything is easier. Paradoxically, the  more limits I set, the more free I am to take risks, to go deeper and wilder and weirder.

The same advice applies to parenting – setting boundaries around what Janet Lansbury calls a “yes space” helps kids move and explore more fully than if you set them loose in, say, an open field with snakes and holes and rusty nails.

Structure gives freedom for movement and experimentation and joy. It gives you a place to start. It gives shape to the chaos of limitless potential.

One of the hardest things about doing creative work is facing the blank canvas, the blank page, the empty room, the silence.

I’ve been talking to people this spring about what thrills them, what scares them, what they want to do and what stops them from doing it.

Some fantastic ideas for exercises have emerged from these conversations – or as someone referred to them, creative exorcisms. Yes! This is exactly what they are – spells we are dreaming up, to cast out what blocks us, to call in what we need.

One of the most powerful spells you can cast is to give a name to what you want to do – to give a title to a project and to say it out loud.

If you tell that name to just one person, it gains power. It travels from your mind to the outside world, setting down roots and growing outside your control. The more people you tell, the more it grows.

When you put your ideas into words, draw what you see, move your body, open your mouth and sing: these are acts of magic, acts of power, acts of trust, acts of vulnerability.

And you know what? THAT IS HARD TO DO. It’s scary.

Brené Brown says you can’t have courage without vulnerability – “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” (Did anyone else watch her Netflix special this week??)

When we show up, when we open up, when we drop our defenses and try something, we are casting a spell. We are asking the magic in. We open up to failure, to not knowing, to rejection, to our humanity.

When trusting and waiting and opening up feels impossible, I try to remember that all I need to do is start.

Draw some boundaries. Make up some rules. Draw a circle and step inside and say, this is for magic. Give what you’re doing a name and say, I am doing this. Then wait to see what it is.

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Your trolls scoff, your body resists, your mind wanders, and you stay in that circle, trusting that the magic will come. Trusting that what you are doing will become clear.

This is what happens when you give birth to a baby, and why so many people experience it as an initiation: your body is pushed to impossible limits and you are handed a tiny vulnerable human to care for at all hours of the day. It feels impossible and yet you must do it. And then one day you look around and your baby is five years old, tying their own shoes and telling you about arachnids.

The magic happens in every moment of every day. The growth happens without you realizing it.

It’s so easy to see the magic in others, and so hard to see it in yourself.

So if I may, I’d like to offer you some encouragement today.

You are living in the middle of magic you can’t see. The magic is there, and later when you look back you’ll be able to see it. Take a deep breath and trust that it’s there.

Even Beyoncé shows up to day one of rehearsal not sure of herself, not sure what she’s doing. She keeps showing up, trusting that the magic will come.

I take so much inspiration from her courage, the incredible courage it took to say, I am going to train and show up every day for eight months and trust that what feels impossible will become possible.

It would be easy to watch her and think, I could never do that. She is a magical being and I’m just me.

But she is human, and she did it.

You can do it too — not what she did, but something that only you can do. What is that thing? What are you capable of? What story are you waiting to tell?

Whatever it is – you can do it, you can tell it.

That’s my pep talk to you (and to myself) today…

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… and if you would like some deep coaching to open up to your vulnerability and creative power this summer, read about the program I’ve put together for six courageous people here: Summer of Creative Magic. What can happen when we say our truth out loud, to ourselves and to others? Let’s find out…

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…)

When your flaws are your superpowers

My kid, like many five-year-olds, is fascinated with superheroes. He is constantly aligning himself with ones who embody something he wants to be, from Batman to Spider-Man to the Green Ninja, and raiding the costumes, closets and recycling bin to come up with an outfit that strikes closest to whatever he’s imagining.

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One of the best things about hanging out with a five-year-old is getting pulled into this mindset, this fluid spirit of let’s pretend.

I was reminded of this the other day hanging out with my friend Dana Inouye (of Lean In Mama) and her fabulous five-year-old, who likes to be called Flash, and to assign superhero identities to everyone  around him.

He was extolling his grace and speed (something else kids do so naturally: celebrate their greatness!) and I suggested that I had the opposite superpower — I can’t get anywhere on time and tend to move slow. I asked him jokingly, who’s THAT superhero?

He pondered this for a few moments and said, I know who you are. You’re Ease Woman.

Ease Woman! I don’t know if I could have come up with a better name if I tried. It was such a fantastic instant reframe. I loved this identity so much I drew a picture of her as soon as I got home, and when I’m having moments of rushed frantic overwhelm, I think to myself — hey, I’m Ease Woman. I’m on time whenever I arrive. I don’t rush for anybody.

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It made me think — what other superhero identities can we come up with to embody our flaws? To change up our energy, to embrace our full selves? How can we use our natural ability to pretend and project and play to deal with the frustrations of everyday life?

Wanna try it? Give it a go! And if you happen to know a five-year-old, ask them to help you.

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