“They say you find yourself in your 30’s.”

Slow Sunday

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with myself lately. Not the kind I normally have; they’ve evolved into something quiet and still and full of observation without words. They come instead with color and texture and movement and breath. With messy hands and a messy kitchen. With exposed shoulders and wisps of hair. With clutter and cleaning. My hands, my feet, my heart….they all want to be moving.

My husband said something that is hanging with me as maybe what is going on: “They say you find yourself in your 30’s.” And then I had to ask him how old I was, because I couldn’t recall if it was 31 or 32.

But I can recall my 20’s. My years of building structures, and tearing down walls. My years of rummaging through old photo boxes I kept locked in my mind, only to find the elements had damaged most of the images, yellowing and blurring the edges and the faces, leaving the rest to fit like a soggy puzzle, missing the most important pieces, the corners and the middle. Instead I found edges, lots of edges that I used to keep things in while I sorted it all out.

Art journal/mixed media page for #documentedlife project

They say you find yourself in your 30’s.

But only after you do all the searching in your 20’s. The mapping and packing and traveling on bumpy roads and through dark alleys and over beautiful landscapes where you think you want to stay awhile. But if there is one thing I learned from traveling these last 3+ years, it’s that the road always calls you forward. You can’t stay in one place or your tires start to lose their air and cobwebs starts to form around the wheels and then you make the mistake of feeling bad for displacing spiders that didn’t belong there anyway.

This finding of yourself comes with making peace with the blurred photos or missing pieces, when the parts you can’t quite fit together no longer need to go together, no longer seem as though they are missing anything, no longer register in your periphery as an obstacle or a thorn, and instead become part of the pile of ephemera you use to make your own beauty.

And then the most surprising thing is when you thought you were done sifting through the attic of self-discovery, only to uncover that you were only cleaning out those cobwebs and displaced spiders, discovering the things that didn’t belong, sorting it into a pile of Unnecessary and Unneeded and Unhelpful. And then you turn around to see that through a process of elimination, you have a second pile waiting and it’s full of Yes and Useful and You.

And that my friends, that one leaves you cross-legged on the floor, looking on in wonder, poking through with curiosity, and utterly bewildered at how you missed all this good stuff.

Things don't have to be wrapped up with a bow on top in order  to be opened with delight. #artjournal #messhappens #stillatpeace

I’ve spent my last month(s) making art, and sorting through the last remnants of my Searching Piles, organizing what used to work from what currently works, following the rabbit down the rabbit hole, making spaces that Nature abhors and tries to fill for me. It’s been an interesting challenge to unravel the web-work that’s been decorating the walls of my Monday-Sunday. I thought it would look another way by now, but I’m noticing it takes a little more time to transition mindfully than I expected.

Mixed media/art journal page for the Documented Life Project

Chunky cowl from SpiderWomanKnits pattern on Ravelry

But at the same time it’s transitioning. I’m transitioning. Creating. Writing (even if it’s only five lines on the back of my hand). Painting. Playing. Preparing. Staying home. Building and staining. Cooking. Cleaning. Taking weekends off and hunkering down with yarn and music.

And all the while observing the piles dancing, shifting, moving of their own accord. Listening as it tells me I’ve done the job of meeting it halfway. Now it’s time to let it do its own thing for awhile. Now it’s time to revel in what’s left. Maybe to let my 30’s find me, instead of the other way around.

Thoughts on Parenting for Show

If you haven’t read it already, this commentary on the public humiliation of children that has become so prevalent in the social media age of parenting is well worth reading and absorbing.

Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are. (Read the whole thing here.)

In addition to what is so eloquently said there, I think it’s important to examine why so many parents feel the need to “parent publicly”.

Is it to “prove ourselves”? To save face? To feel validated? To make a statement to others? None of these puts our real focus on showing up in our children’s lives (both for their struggles and their wins).

Interestingly, many parents I know will recoil at the public humiliation talked about above but don’t see the ways they themselves “parent publicly” in regards to the “good stuff”, not examining what drives their motivation to invite the whole world into their private lives and celebrations (anything from bragging to posting photos of a child’s personal life).

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all of it is inherently bad. Just that we need to question it in order to parent with intention and mindfulness (and our full presence).

My questions to myself for several years have been “Why am I sharing this? Does this honor my son? Does this hold sacred our own relationship? Or is this done for my own ego’s satisfaction?”

You might have noticed that I don’t share a lot about my parenting anymore. Because the challenges deserve to be honored privately, and the beautiful moments deserve to be treated with sacredness. Unless I have his permission to share, and I know my sharing is not being done from my own ego – which let’s face it, isn’t often 😉 – I simply don’t share it.

Because parenting is a RELATIONSHIP, not a show to put on for others.

One Bag of Tricks = One Thankful Stranger (and a whole lot of emotion)

It’s crazy how much this topic makes my heart pound and my stomach clench. My body was betraying me when it all went down yesterday and it has done it every time I think about it since, most especially as I try to relate it all to you. Obviously there are some things to DIG IN to here for me. 😉

It all went down yesterday at Target. Zeb and I had just left our mama-son move date (Thor, if you’re curious) and were looking at bedroom furniture ideas for his new room, but of course that meant a detour through the LEGO/YuGiOh section of the toy department first.

As we’re standing there looking at droids, and speeders, and things I can’t remember the name of to save my life, I heard a tiny little guy from one aisle over crying loudly.

Now as a mama, my heart aches when any little one cries, because I understand beneath whatever the behavior is lies a whole lot of real, valid, strong, and often overwhelming emotion. It’s HARD being little, being dragegd around by the world, not able to make any choices yourself, completely at the mercy of your body’s limitations and your mouth’s inability to express itself, and your parent’s moods. (And let’s be honest parents: our moods aren’t usually that wonderful to little ones.)

My heart also aches for the parents, because again let’s be honest: handling a meltdown in the store is hard when all eyes are on you and you might very well have zero idea what’s happening in that little head/heart/body of theirs, while you’re also dealing with what’s happening in your own.

But as a human being, my mind likes to go places without my consent. It likes to create meaning and discern situations and think it knows what it’s talking about.

So when I heard the mom speak through gritted teeth to this little boy who couldn’t have been more than 18 months, and threaten him with the physical pain, public humiliation, and emotional fear of a spanking if he didn’t stop crying, while my heart ached harder, my head wanted to judge.

I wanted to judge this mom for not being patient.

I wanted to judge her for not listening and connecting with her little boy.

And I wanted to “save” this little boy.

So I can’t say I went into this situation with total compassion, but I certainly walked out with it.

I told Zeb to hold on and I pulled out of my purse my Mama Bag O’ Goodies. It’s a little pocket I rarely get to use that holds random, inexpensive, Sanity Savers. Stickers. A Wooly Willy. That kind of stuff.

wooly willy bag o' goodies

Then despite my clenched stomach and my pounding heart and my shaking hands, I walked an aisle over and gently said, “Excuse me.” I spoke to the little boy, unsure if he was of a verbal age or not. And I showed him the awesomeness of Wooly Willy. I showed him how to give him a mustache or hair, and how to hold it so it wouldn’t fall off.

He calmed down, eyes all big and gorgeous with the wonder of a strange, bald woman and this magical little toy, and gently took it from me, engrossing himself.

But it’s what happened next that humbled my big ol’ head.

This beautiful mama, who I hadn’t even done more than glanced at (out of my own fear that she would shoot me daggers) looked at me with eyes of relief and gratitude, and mouthed with earnest and emotion, “Thank you.”

And I was struck. Struck with my own awareness. Awareness that I had somehow in my head, without even realizing it, assumed her to be the “bad guy”, somehow separate from me, mean or angry. That I had created this separation between her and I, both of us mothers, a separation that said “We’re not the same, we don’t think the same, we don’t act the same, we don’t struggle the same.” I had failed to even look at her and so had fail to remember that we are exactly the same, that beneath our struggles we are both deeply conscious of our challenges and deeply desiring whatever it will take to love our children (all children) better.

I’m not a judgmental person. I wasn’t calling this woman names in my head. I wasn’t even really aware of the subtle stories my mind was telling about this woman. And yet my heart pounded because I was unconsciously experiencing those stories nonetheless.

It doesn’t surprise me that I have judgments. We all have judgments. They are the constructs of our mind, created to help us navigate safe versus dangerous, good versus bad, friendly versus stay-the-fuck-away. What does surprise me (other than the strength of my body’s reactions) was how quickly I can forget.

I’m thankful that it didn’t impact whether I approached them, or my kindness to her, but it has been a beautiful reminder to seek and see that love and light first, rather than be surprised that it’s once again right where it always is – within each one of us.

I was pretty touched by her energy. By the love and gratitude and connection I felt with her, mama to mama. So touched that I couldn’t hardly answer her and don’t even remember what I said. I know I whispered something small, something that I hoped conveyed the understanding and empathy I had for her, the love and strength I wanted to pass to her, the hug I wanted to give her, the reminder that she’s not alone.

Then I turned to see my own son, who is beginning to tower over me, standing at the end of the aisle, his eyes on the family with a kind smile, looking like he might have been absorbing it all too.

I didn’t say anything else, didn’t bring it up with Zeb for fear I might cry myself. We just went back to looking at furniture, waiting for my adrenaline to settle down, and pretending like it was no big deal.

But you know what? I think it was a very big deal.

Even when we’re self-aware and conscious of our thoughts, we can still pass judgments on each other that simply don’t belong before we even realize what has happened. Judgments that assume the sum of a person is boiled down to their current behaviors. Judgments that fail to look beneath the surface out of nothing more than righteousness. Judgments that help no one. No one. Not a single person.

If I had chosen to respond to her from the judgment I formed of who I thought she was, I probably would’ve been rude to her (even subtly), triggering her own indignation and strengthening her resolve against anything I might have been offering (and towards any possible thought she might have had that strangers are indeed judgmental asshats).

And if I had chosen to respond to my own fear of her response being just that, I might not have made a beautiful impact on their own mama-son day together. I would’ve lied to myself with statements like “it’s none of my business” or “there is nothing I can do” or “I’ll only make it worse“, instead of reaching out with all the love and empathy I can muster with a genuine desire to leave a positive impression on an otherwise stressful-as-shit parenting moment.

So regardless of how long of an impact I may or may not have had, I know choices like these to be a very big deal. Certainly to my own spirit, and quite possibly to theirs as well.

Shit surfaces. That’s okay.

Shit surfaces. via theorganicsister.com

“Shit surfaces. Watch it. Laugh at the silliness of it. Breathe through it. DIG IN. Dance it off. Make friends with it. Talk to it. But most of all, don’t take it seriously. It’s just a function of our minds. The point isn’t to fight it off or try to make it go away. The point is to learn how to let it come and let it go.”

These words come from a great convo with a friend, colleague, and client.

It might just be the hardest thing to learn.

Shit does and will surface.

But with practice it ceases to feel like shit, and just starts being “stuff”. It’s like meditation: Buddha didn’t have NO thoughts cross the mind during meditation, just no attachment to those thoughts. One of the meditations I practice uses these words about thoughts (i.e. “shit”)…”Let them come. Let them ALL come. And let them go.”

Don’t believe them. Don’t feed them. Don’t latch on. Do what you gotta do to make sense of them perhaps, so that you can let them go. Cuz they will go.

If you’re not hanging on.

My Wisdom, My Bullshit (and showing up for the right one)

She insisted we had too much to do. I insisted nothing was more important than this right here. #betweeniandme #morningwalk #meditation #consciousness #organicwisdom

I leave in just a couple hours, and I haven’t packed or even done laundry. I’ve been rushing through all the things I need to do before I leave because once I’m gone I’m actually going to be 100% gone. Off the grid.

Seven days. Nothing but meditation.

No email. No Facebook or Instagram. No internet whatsoever.

I’m not even going to bring my phone. [Insert wide-eyed look of fear here.]

Unless there is a bonafide emergency – something that (heaven forbid) involves a hospital or a mortuary – I will have zero contact with anyone but my own Self and the few others who will be on this little “retreat” with me. (That alone is a big deal. I can’t remember ever being out of contact with Justin or Zeb for more than 24 hours.)

It’s not really a retreat, in the way we’ve come to see retreats. It’s not up in the mountains or filled with yummy organic foods made by some Kitchen Goddess. It’s not scheduled on the calendar and filled with other meditators from around the world who signed up with me (although I did plan my retreat at a time when others were also planning theirs).

Nope. Nothing “fancy” or “sexy” or “dreamy” about it. Which is exactly why I chose it.

It was only an opportunity. A standing offer to anyone who seriously wants to confront their own practice, deepen it, not because it looks fun or beautiful or restful, like a gorgeous vacation; not because it will make me look like any of those things. Those things are beautiful and wonderful and meaningful, but I knew I needed to take up this offer without all that in order to take it seriously.

The offer to stay at a nearby meditation center in the middle of busy commercial part of town. To putter around, read their books on their worn down sofas, partake in endless conversation that will either energize me or totally wipe me out, scribble mad notes in my notebook, DIG IN, and most importantly, take it all a step further – practice how to fully and completely release it and come instead to meet and know my own center of consciousness.

How does one... #artjournal

I know it will be intense, not because they or it is intense, but because the shit that has been surfacing as this date approached is intense. Intense resistance, in the form of irritation toward it, fear of it, exhaustion at the thought of it, and endless, endless, endless reasons why the timing is just not good.

I used to think that resistance like this was my inner guidance telling me not to go.

I mean, it’s LOUD, and loud is something to listen to right?

But I can now recognize it for what it is: Bullshit.

We’ve all been there, right? In that space between My Wisdom and My Bullshit, and unsure of who is telling the truth when they both insist the other can’t be trusted?

I faced those battling voices – one being damn near drown out over the screaming of the other – and had to make a choice. Which do I listen to? Which do I trust to be my guidance?

It’s a question we all struggle with. Only this time I knew what personal patterns to look for.

When I made the decision to retreat, I felt a pounding heart, tears in my eyes at the sense of homecoming, anticipation and impatience that I had to wait three months for September to come around, and an undoubtably steady knowing that I needed to be here. I felt an overwhelming surge of Love; for myself, for this opportunity and those offering it, for the journey I am on, for Life and all those who live it with me. I felt confidence in my decision to confront my own meditation practice and felt the same confidence that this safe space would be the right one to support me, without taking any of my crap. I knew it all like I know I have a vagina. It was obvious. You couldn’t convince me otherwise without sounding like a crazymaker.

When the resistance started sneaking in, I felt agitated, critical, annoyed, judgmental, unsettled, uncomfortable. I felt scattered, distracted. Too busy, full of excuses. Short-tempered or full of doubt. I danced on the corner of “how could I” and “it’s just not a good time”. I tried to DIG IN and hit a protective barrier, something that told me to go “Fuck Off” because this one wasn’t going to budge no matter what I did or said.

It sounds like it was an obvious choice when I write it all out – a choice between Love and Trust…or everything else – but it really wasn’t.

Even when I could see the contrast, I still wasn’t sure which to trust. I mean, I’ve spent a lot of time showing up for that voice of fear in my life. It’s strong, insistent, convincing.

But this time I decided to show up for that voice of Love instead.

I wrote this in the Sisterhood:

But my mantra has been to “keep showing up”, steadily choosing to follow my initial instinct…Those initial instincts can be so easily buried once the mind starts gibber-jabbering, so I just keep bringing it and me back to that moment when I knew beyond any doubt the choice was perfect. I’m not giving those surfacing doubts the same power to make my decisions as I’m giving that joy and the whole-body-Yes feelings I’ve had (even if they aren’t the stronger sense right now).

I made the final decision on Monday. I chose to just show up.

To keep showing up to my daily meditation practice, even when I really don’t wanna.

To show up to this retreat and hopefully confront whatever the hell is rearing its ugly head and locking me out of the conversation.

After making the decision I had one Oh-Shit moment when I almost backed out – too much to do, too many distractions (too many excuses).

And in that moment I chose to “just show up” again.

Not perfectly. Not with a sweet smile and a fake disposition. I might even scowl at someone when I walk through the door tonight (I think they’ll understand). And I might even just own my bullshit and ask for help.

But even without the bells on, I will definitely be there. Which is more than enough.

Wisdom for the Newly (or not so newly) Self-Employed

by Scott Biersack

I’m over on the always wonderful, Kind Over Matter, sharing some words of wisdom for those newly self-employed sisters.

I find that business – like relationships, like parenting, like our health, like Life – comes into our world for one true reason. Not to make us money. Not to make us happy. But to make us grow. To show us what we get to learn.

I got (and still get) to learn a lot. In all my adult years, I’ve only been self-employed. This means 13+ years of Spiritual Growth coming at me masked behind the costume of Big Ideas. It’s been intense, exasperating, liberating, enlightening, exhausting, exciting, and mind-blowing (depending on the day or the lesson or the way I approached it).

Anytime someone is starting a business, they tend to ask questions like “How do I find the right business name?” or maybe “What do you think about this color scheme for my branding?” Necessary questions, for sure.

But what I really want to do is invite them in for tea, show them to the nearest cushy seat, and share some hard-earned sisterly wisdom. Not to freak anyone out, or turn them off from business. But to help them see through the easy parts – the excitement and fun of getting started – to the real gift of self-employment: the ways in which you get to expand. And also to share with them the wisdom I wish I had had from the very beginning so they can move through it with more grace and fewer bumps or stalls along the way.

Where would I start? With these three words of wisdom:

Click here to read more.

 
 

The Four (Biggest) Mistakes of Personal Growth Junkies

Do you know how hard it was to title this post? I almost called it “The Four Mistakes of Seeking Self-Awareness” but vague and noncommittal woo-woo jargon only sometimes float my boat and never for titles. Anyway, what I hope you know I’m talking about is those of us that are committed to rising up out of the habit of sleep-walking through our lives to grow spiritually and inter-personally in ways that fulfill and satisfy our desire to experience all that Life is offering and asking of us.

I’m talking to those of us who want to be awake and embracing Life. Those of us who already live pretty unconventionally, even if it’s only vicariously right now. Those of us who want more.

I’m talking from experience, too. Experience in my own life. Experience with clients who stumble with the same things.

These are the four biggest mistakes I see us all make:

1. We try to work on others as much as (or more often than) we work on ourselves:

Some people call this projecting. I look at it like a Fix It mode. We’re trying to “fix” our lives and we do so by meddling in what other people “should” be doing in their own lives. We (and by we, I also mean I) constantly think the problem is someone else’s, and if we can only fix our partner or our child or that really annoying neighbor who keeps triggering our desire to get all stabby THEN we will be able to reach personal enlightenment. (Essentially, we make our joy the responsibility of someone else.) OR we have to tell everyone we see with a “problem” about this new, great technique or practice we have. We essentially try to coach people we’re not meant to coach, instead of practicing the love and acceptance we know we’re called to practice.

The answer: That person or thing outside of yourself that you’re trying to fix or help or change is there only to reflect back to you the internal work you need to do. Take what is it they are bringing up in you and DIG IN to it. Bite your tongue or take a walk every time you’re tempted to “help”. The greatest gift you can give them is your own best self in full presence, love, and acceptance of where they are, with the trust that they don’t need fixing or changing.

Quotes by Mooji from www.theorganicsister.com

2. Sharing too much, too soon (or with the wrong people):

I’ve found there is an incubation period with both our dreams and with our healing/growth. There is a time to share and there is an even greater time (especially in the beginning) to hold our Inner Work Cards close to our chest. There are also spaces in which to share that are safe and can hold you in gentleness and nonjudgment and there are spaces that will be too much, too bright, too harsh, too upfront, too cold, or too out of alignment. We sometimes like to blame the people or the space, and call them rude or harsh, and hold onto that hurt we felt for years to come instead of seeing the truth of it: that it wasn’t a right fit. There are also people who just won’t get it, won’t understand where you are, and if your inner work is in its infant stages, they can easily knock you right back down. But none of this is the fault of the people or space; they may be perfectly what you need at another time in your “journey”. They just aren’t right now.

The answer: You wouldn’t subject a just-walking and wobbly baby to a Black Friday sales crowd. They aren’t near ready for that kind of crazy movement. Neither is your heart while it’s stretching itself and still wobbly in its beliefs and practice. Find safe and sacred spaces with people who have been where you are or are there now, places that hold you and nudge you, but not before you’re ready.

3. Not going deep enough:

Oh this one is sort of a pet peeve (and yes, I DIG IN to that!). I can’t tell you how many people I meet insist they only need to repeat their mantra more, or go to yoga more, or change their diet (again), or latch onto that new shiny Fix-It-All Machine. They keep themselves BUSY so they can avoid the real inner work they need to do. They don’t want to DIG IN (hell, who really does? It’s a mess in there and our survival instinct likes to keep us safe from pain) so they try to Build Out…they ignore what’s happening beneath the surface and pile more answers over it to keep the real stuff really hidden. It usually leads to feeling really manic and scattered and we see the same patterns resurface and the real problem never really, finally heal itself.

The answer: Slow the eff down. Stop latching onto something new. Instead allow most things to drop away. Pick one thing – probably the book or practice or person who calls to you the most but likely freaks you out a bit – and focus all your energy on that. Don’t let yourself stop when it starts to get messy or uncomfortable. Know that that is when the good stuff happens: when you clear out all the yuck keeping you from it.

4. Staying too deep, too long:

You know the difference between Digging Deep and digging yourself a grave? How long you stay down with the muck you’ve dug up. It WILL get messy and there are PLENTY of opportunities to feel like total shit, depressed and hopeless, or not good enough. The difference between feeling like a failure that can’t change your own patterns and the person who finds themselves in freedom and joy and Wide-Open-Arm-ness to Life is the person who at some point STOPS digging and stops swimming around in their head and all the junk that our heads are capable of creating (and making us believe is true), and starts planting and nurturing other seeds.

The answer: Get out of your head! Get moving instead.

And because that’s a catchy little rhyme, I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

On Showing Up and Rocking It (The Ricki Lake Recap)

The whole story is up on the blog in about 5 minutes (link in profile). @ecowomb #rickilakegreenshow

It’s Saturday, two days after the show, and I’m still not totally with it. I’ve slept umteen hours and am still finding my footing, but I wanted to get this whole experience down before I forget it.

To answer the most frequently asked question first: The airdate is April 17th on Fox, and you can signup here or here to get a reminder or watch the video we capture of it.

The overarching vibe of the entire experience: amazeballs.

I realized long before the show that this wasn’t about being on TV, or connecting with the beautiful Ricki (whose work I admire anyway).

This was about me.

It was about making a declaration to myself of self-approval and nonjudgment. About surrendering my desire to control and perfect, and instead forgiving myself my perceived shortcomings and “not enough-ness” by allowing myself to just own Who I Am.

It felt like years of Digging Deep all culminating in front of a live studio audience.

And it was magical.

Of course I did. So did my mom. #rickilakebitches

Ahem. My driver. Armen from Armenia. He was awesome. So was his car. #rickilakebitches!!

Curled up in a bathrobe. #DiggingDeep and swimming in Balance EO. Feeling so ready for this gig. Heart and soul all in. The taping is at 12:30 Pacific but I'm accepting good vibes all morning! #rickilakebitches!!

Continental brekkie, #paleo style. And there's a Lyfe Kitchen and a Chipotle nearby. Perfection. #rickilakebitches!!

 

I knew going into this that my shit – some really old shit, too – would surface. I knew I’d have the opportunity to be nervous, scared, and self-deprecating. I knew I’d hear some old stories in my mind, way too much criticism, and a lot of negativity from my mouth.

Because I knew this as a very real possibility, I made up my mind to go into it full of intention and awareness. I spent an hour or more every day with those stories and voices. I embraced this as the opportunity it was to step into my Self. I turned off the habit of keeping myself outside of things, keeping my focus on the outer, or keeping myself busy in the superficial, and I allowed myself to turn inward completely, to own what surfaced, and to spend the time necessary to make peace with it.

And I’m damn proud of myself for it.

Sometime last week the words came to me: “I am not doing this for anyone else. I am up there for an audience of two – my Spirit and the Spirit. This is for us to celebrate my own ability to love and live. This is a milestone in the agreement we made for this life.

I know it probably makes little sense, but this whole thing was not really about sharing green living or what we do. Those were just the bonuses, the icing on the cake.

This was about me celebrating Life and embracing self-approval.

I had voices rise up, and I chose to answer each one with love and affirmation.

I had fear surface, and I chose to respond with a reminder of my Truth.

I had doubts pop in, and I surrendered each thought that didn’t come from Spirit.

Surrender.

Surrender surrender surrender.

If it hadn’t been the work I’ve been doing with that Guiding Word this year I may not have gotten up there and rocked it so thoroughly and completely.

Surrender didn’t mean giving up, or saying no, or taking the easy way out. I wasn’t surrendering my desire to feel confident and calm and excited on the show. I wasn’t surrendering this wonderful opportunity.

I was surrendering every negative thought or expectation.

I surrendered every idea that I was going to sound like an idiot, every worry that I’d mess something up, every thought that I had to be some conventional idea of perfect (as well as every after-thought that because I can’t possibly be perfect I might as well not even try). I surrendered every idea that I knew what needed to happen, I surrendered every expectation to perform or force it to come together, and I surrendered every temptation to be something or someone I wasn’t.

I showed up fully. Fully in my body, fully in my heart, fully in my spirit. I did so without apology for what I need and without trying to fit a box. I owned Who I Am and what I do without backpedaling or making excuse. I felt confident and comfortable just Being.

And it felt amazing. Which meant I was free to experience some amazing things.

It meant jumping on the bed in excitement.

Again, of course I did.  #rickilakebitches!!

It meant wearing clothes that felt good on me and doing my own makeup, so I could get up there in my own skin.

The hair and makeup crew.  #rickilakebitches!!

Me and the mama. Represent.  #rickilakebitches!!

It meant laughing and being silly with friends backstage.

Chillaxin with the EcoWomb crew! @ecowomb #rickilakebitches !!

It meant dancing behind the stage to get myself ready and doing a little strut-dance as I walked out to greet the audience.

It meant smiling big, and cracking stupid jokes, and not really remembering 90% of what I wanted to emphasize, and still rocking my socks off.

It meant hearing my name from across the restaurant later that evening and looking up to see it was Ricki waving to me, and getting another opportunity to hug her tight and thank her for everything she’s done (and is doing) in this world.

End of the day, me and my mama decided to go have tea while we waited for our car back to the airport, and we hear someone call to me from across the restaurant. The beautiful earthy mama @rickilake was there just when i was lamenting not getting her phot

It meant CELEBRATING and JOYFULNESS and FUN.

It meant being damn proud of myself.

Me and Angela after the show

I had nerves and I surrendered them. I had fears and I released them.

I had self-judgments and I freed myself from them.

I walked-strutted-danced onto that stage in total confidence and self-approval, without any fear or butterflies. I instantly forgave myself for my mistakes and imperfections and I just loved all over myself for having the courage to say Yes to this opportunity and the openness to work through all that Life gave me the opportunity to DIG IN to.

I didn’t share much about green living, really. It was all over too fast.

But I shared the whole of my heart. I allowed my light to shine, and I shared myself.

And that’s what makes this thing a wild success in my book.

That’s why I know I rocked it.

Art Journaling Addiction: Finding Truth Beneath My Fingernails

I don’t know why it’s taking me so long to blog about this, except maybe that I’m still making sense of it myself.

Making sense of how I could miss something I’ve never experienced.

Making sense of how it brings tears to my eyes to think of myself doing it, to recognize it in myself, to finally have given myself “permission to art”.

Making sense of how it’s drawing me closer to a dead father, a man whose artistic ability I never really knew while he was alive.

Making sense of how it’s bringing words – my ingrained and ever-ready art – to life with colors and lines and images.

There are so many of you out there to whom art or art journaling is already a part of your life. And so many more of you who ache for it in the way I ached for it, hungry for an outlet that maybe feels beyond reach. Many of you will understand why I’m feeling so deeply moved and some of you may think I’m just weirdly pre-menstrual to be attaching so much emotion to this experience.

I would’ve agreed if this experience hadn’t been doing this to me all along.

It was my beautiful friend, Heather, that introduced me to art journaling in October.

We had spent a gorgeous week with her and her family in North Carolina, and it wasn’t until the very last night that I asked to sneak a peek at her journal.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

No idea what it even WAS I was asking to see – I had just overheard a mention of it and was curious.

Looking back I can recognize that was the twanging of inspiration vibrating in my ear. And when she pulled out her altered books, my heart broke open with the resonance of it. I want to cry right now thinking of it. How that one friend on that one night put me on a new course.

So she gave me a book, one that I wouldn’t mind destroying, and she gave me some tips to get started and we plopped down on her living room floor and I began to run my fingers through my heart and soul and smear it across the page. {I won’t even show you those first few pages. They are ugly and personal. They are all breakthrough and permission to fuck it up and space to just allow. Less self-expression and more cutting through the barriers that held me back from dipping my fingers in the paint and wipe it across a page.}

I haven’t stopped since that night.

The longest I’ve gone with my hands in my journal was 4 days – 4 long and uncomfortable days with an ache under my ribcage. The stint ended when I realized why I ached and found my way back to the page.

What has art journaling become to me?

It’s become a part of Digging Deep for me, a way to touch and see the places I’ve been holding, the barriers I’ve been hiding behind. Process, examine, heal…to get the Truth of it under my fingernails or up to my elbows or wiped across my nose by accident. To spend time with the intangible, the ethereal in a way that I can smell, with texture and color.

Sometimes the places within us don’t come with words and in those times I use to bang my head against the desk and growl at the sky wanting to know why I couldn’t access that thing that was just beyond the use of my tongue and the scribble of my pen.

But now I know. I get it, in ways I thought I understood about you “arty folk” before but really grasp within my own self now.

There are things that even us word junkies have no words for.

And that’s when the colors get to speak.

Art journaling has also been my permission slip.

Permission to try, permission to mess up, to scribble, to be imperfect, to play around…Permission to fail. Permission to express. Permission to discover more of myself. Permission to be an “artist” in the more traditional sense of the word.

All the things I logically knew have always been there but never really embraced for myself.

I never even realized I too had fallen victim to the public school art teacher and the rules and should’s and fear of messing it up so often unknowingly taught. I never realized I was keeping art out of my Realm of Possibilities, in the same way traveling was once outside that Realm, in the same way dreads or a shaved head or being in love was outside that Realm.

I was “a writer, not an artist”.

But now I know that’s bullshit.

I know it’s bullshit by the ache in my chest that I would ignore whenever I said those words.

I know it’s bullshit by the smudges of paint across my dining room table.

I know it’s bullshit by the tears in my eyes as I write.

I know it’s bullshit by the way my heart skipped a beat when a beautiful woman at the restaurant saw my doodling and asked if I was an artist, and the way my breath caught in my throat when I tried to answer through my smile and we ended up talking for 20 minutes about art journals and techniques and deep-in-your-bones joy.

And there’s one other thing I know.

This is mine.

Only mine. Not something I feel drawn to share. Not something I feel drawn to turn into a business or even use within my work now. {In fact that idea makes my skin crawl. Like a dirty betrayal to what my spirit is telling me she’s here for now. I’m not the beautiful artist who shares her work with the world. I’m the beautiful artist who shares her soul with the page.}

I feel at peace with it being only for me, a whispered secret I pull out of my cabinet and curl up on the couch with and hold my very heart within. A spiritual practice of Connection and stillness and depth and healing. A prayer to the Universe, the one that lies within me and around me.

Fucking. Breathtaking. this practice I’m discovering.

Heart-wrenching and tear-inducing in the very best of ways.

Like a long lost twin I unconsciously always knew was out there, finally come home to squeeze me.

Or an entire segment of myself that had been missing, had left a gaping hole – I could feel the wind whistling through it but hadn’t a clue it didn’t have to be that way.

Okay, Okay, The Practical Bits To Answer Your Qs

I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how to get started. What to use. How to use it.

The short answer: I haven’t a clue. Just dive in and figure it out. That’s part of the joy.

But I know how answers like that get received. Flatly and with that voice that says “I can’t” drowning out the permission slip.

So I’ll tell you what I did and what you might do too:

  • Get “permission” from a friend: It’s always easier to step into something new with a sister to guide us the first few steps. Call your girl, invite her over, make plans to be messy. There is a special place in my heart forever to Heather for showing me how to open this door.
  • Grab a hardcover book: One that you don’t hate – you won’t want to look at those words every time you crack it open…or maybe the healing will be in destroying them? – but one you don’t mind upgrading. {My little cousin just about shit a brick when she saw I had “destroyed a book”. But I take pride in breaking silly rules.}
  • You’ll want gesso: If there is one thing I’ve found it’s that gesso is on the Most Used Supplies of every art journaler out there. It preps your page and covers those words if you don’t want them showing through.
  • Stop overthinking it: Just get your hands in there. No way to make a mistake; if you really don’t like it you can pull the page out or cover it up or call it an expression of frustration. Permission to art, people.
  • Learn to forgive yourself: This is one the journal has taught me. I will mess it up. It won’t turn out like my head envisions. I have no idea any techniques and even if I did, my mind is on a whole ‘nother plane than my hands. That’s okay. I can forgive myself the outcome and still love up on the attempt.

Things I’ve found I love:

  • I usually do some regular journaling or Digging Deep first. I get to the core of what’s happening with words still; that’s Who I Am and how I work. But I work through that core now with the art journal. So the Digging Deep is my examination and my journal prompt, and the art is my release, my affirmation, my breakthrough, and my healing.
  • I love acrylic and watercolor and doodles the most so far. I’m drawn by the complexity and frustration of mixed media. I have no idea what I’m doing in any of those but I keep trying anyway.
  • I like dark and rich colors that contrast. I like simple designs. {Maybe that’ll change as I learn more complex techniques.} I like trying to put images to my words.

My inspiration:

  • Pinterest is king and queen of inspiration for me. It’s like Art Journal Foreplay for me. All I do is meander through, pin what grabs me and then set off to create something similar or completely different. Almost 400 pins in 7 weeks. Boom.
  • Instagram is also great, although I can’t easily save the inspiration for later. But it is where I share my images (the ones I care to share publicly). And anytime I see an image that inspires me, I just pick the Instagrammers brain on how they did it. 😉
  • Some inspiration I’ve enjoyed: One Minute Muse // Balzer Designs {especially here, here, here, and this recent one} // Art Journaling on Ning // Doodle Diem // @EmilyLagore // But mostly it’s Pinterest and a healthy dose of putting on blinders to anything but my own page and my own messy, unpredictable process.

Seriously though? If this is something that piques yours interest?

Be all like Nike and just do that shit.

Use cardboard and bind your own book. Use the children’s book your toddler has already taken upon themselves to liberate with crayon. Break out the old scrapbooking kit and go to town. Try paint-by-numbers, for goodness sakes. Just do it.

There’s a reason you’re aching for it. A reason you’re mildly interested. A reason why you think you can’t that deserves to be shown otherwise.

Stop judging yourself. Stop limiting yourself.

You make the rules.

You don’t get permission from anyone but yourself. Just grab an old book (or pick one up for .50 at the library) and give yourself authority to scribble out a page. To give your school librarian hives, and your old art teacher who always told you what you were doing wrong the middle finger.

To give yourself the space to play and the means to touch and smell and see what you don’t have words for.

There and Back Again {A Tale of Thanksgiving and Spiritual Failure}

I'm not sure how we chose a flight with a four hour layover with this red eye but at least the floor looks comfortable. #travel #airport #exhausted

We just arrived home from a 9 day trip back to Las Vegas.

Let me warn you now, this post may be long, meandering, and senseless to anyone but me while I try to make sense of the many things going on in my head and my heart.

{I’m also going to talk somewhat candidly here and do so mindfully and in my never-freaking-ending practice to keep my focus on my own heart, without projecting or losing sight of my own accountability. None of this is “about” anyone, hold my experience with Life and how the hell we make sense of the seemingly senseless hurt it can deliver.}

Leaving #lasvegas

Ascending on my hometown
Feeling more like a visitor this time
{than the escapee of before}
I haven’t missed this place
Haven’t missed “home”
Although I know that’s not the story for all

Those were the words I quickly penned as our plane descended on the Vegas lights. For once, I didn’t feel that impending sense of entrapment – like I wouldn’t be able to leave without getting stuck – that I felt that last time. {That was big for me, to not feel stuck or constantly pulled back to a place with which I don’t resonate.}

I felt at peace, centered, excited for the week.

Excited to watch my little sister walk down the aisle (so moving!).
Excited to see the brother and nephew and niece I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
Excited to just BE – cooking and painting and watching movies with family.

Nephews.
afternoons with nephews

And my mama joined in!  #art #artjournal
art with my mom

Art journaling with my niece.  #artjournal #alteredbook #art #paint
art with my niece

He loves her so. #thompsonwedding2012
Their love = tears of joy.

Do we ever stop romanticizing those ideas of how things will be?

I have memories in my head of a house full of laughter and food and playfulness. Of huge family camping trips with everyone in attendance and giant games of hide and seek – kids and adults. Monthly family dinners. And holidays that stick to your heart.

And I haven’t experienced one of those romanticized holidays in almost 10 years.

Is it that as we grow up our perceptions are sharpened, picking up on things we can miss in youth and that amazing ability to remain in the moment? Or are we simply jaded by age and expectations? Or maybe things really do change that drastically and for no apparent reason than we all grew up and in separate, incomprehensible directions to one another.

It’s not that anything major happened this Thanksgiving. It’s that my heart and my head just couldn’t let go.

I’m not proud of that.

We all know family, even family we adore, can be a lot to take in all at once. And for those of you HSP’s out there, you know how compounded the situation can be when you’re sleeping in a room with two other families, four running dialogues, at least three noisy electronics going at all times, random bouts of stress and rush, and a dozen personalities and sets of needs.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. But it’s still disheartening when every tool I want to lean into seems so far away from my conscious mind as I slip back into a role I have carefully been working myself out of for most of my adult life.

Do we ever stop reverting to what other people expect to see?

Do we ever feel and respond like the adults we are when we hear the criticism or triggers of our childhood?

They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong…

That’s a Rascal Flatts song that makes me cry with heartache. Those words almost describe it except for one thing:

I don’t believe that anyone won’t allow me to change. I just believe it’s so damn hard to show them I already have.

All my best intentions for a wonderful week lead to all my expectations breaking my heart.

No one else is responsible but me.

I didn’t meet my needs. I didn’t express my emotions {until they were boiling incomprehensibly…and loudly}. I didn’t pay attention to the patterns that trigger me, patterns of teasing and sarcasm and my holding back {anything from my opinion to my own sense of style for fear of the feedback I assume I’ll receive}. Patterns of expectations, ideas in my own mind of how anyone else should be.

I placed the responsibility for my own peace and joy on what others were able to do and that wasn’t fair or responsible. It made us all unhappy.

By the time I realized it I had already excused myself from the meal, driven away – the very best I could manage. I missed Thanksgiving because I had missed my own patterns of expectations and hurt and burying the truth to keep the peace, to try to support others instead of leaning into open honesty.

Hanging with one of my very best girlfriends in the sun. Kids running around the park. Good times.  @elizabethlowery
sweet, reflective, wonderful friend

My sweet wonderful girlfriend and I had a couple long talks, and as they often do, they centered around our role in our own lives and the lives of others. And the message was the same I had been grappling with: Every time I place an expectation on someone I love, I miss the opportunity to be at peace with what is. I miss the opportunity to love them. To practice surrendering to what Spirit is showing me.

It breaks my heart to read those words. It’s the same message I’ve been receiving for the last several months, the same message I think I’ve gotten right before I realize I haven’t: Stop pushing, stop micro-managing, stop thinking it’s all your job. Let go. Surrender to the direction of where Life is flowing. Surrender to peace and love within that moment, exactly as it is, without your thoughts that it needs to change for you.

It breaks my heart because I know it. I’ve been practicing it. And I’ve been failing, again and again.

It’s fucking hard.

Hard not to offer advice, instead of holding space.

Hard not to want to “fix” it – whether it’s an actual problem, or just a bad mood – instead of extending empathy first.

Hard sometimes to WANT to do anything from love: want to DIG IN, want to speak nonviolently, want to listen, want to reach out when you have nothing to reach out with.

So I did the very best I could do…I took space for myself.

I walked out when I couldn’t find that space to listen over the screaming of my own head. I hiked a mountain and lay on the rocks and turned my face to the warmth of the sun. And I said goodbye, or even missed opportunities to say goodbye, flying home without resolve.

Sitting on the hillside talking life, plans, culture and conformity with @justinplayswithballs and looking forward to flying "home" #lifeatthismoment #lasvegas
from the hillside with my lover

As Justin and I walked and hiked he asked me the same question I’ve asked myself for almost 8 years, since my dad died before we got the opportunity to have the talk that was on the horizon. It’s the question I asked myself multiple times over the past week as I did the very best I could {which didn’t seem like much}:

If the worst happened, would you regret this choice?

And I answered him honestly.

No.

I wouldn’t regret the choices I made to let things go, or not have conversations that I didn’t feel ready for. I wouldn’t regret walking out when I couldn’t find love or patience to respond with instead. I can’t regret doing the very best I could do, listening to my intuition and my heart when it says, “This is not going to help; you’ll only cause more pain right now.” I don’t ever regret the choices to surrender, to lay down my Ego-fear that tells me to judge or fix or change or fight or expect or even help, to “save” others or even see them as someone who needs saving.

I have to address my own heartache and hurt first. I have to unpack my own stories and triggers before I can bring my authentic love into a conversation with anyone else.

It’s no one’s job to apologize or change or fix anything for me, anymore than it’s my job to do the same for someone else.

It’s my job to examine what came up for me, and why. It’s my job to find my center before I try to find a solution. It’s my job to bring my real self into challenges like these, instead of compounding them by bringing my baggage. It’s my job to find what only I am accountable for {my emotions, my reactions, my choices} and release everything else {my expectations, my assumptions, my sense of obligation} so that I can walk in with nothing left but love.

Moments like this hold me perfectly still. #manchild
melt-worthy airport moments with the man-child

I can leave without regret,
With peace that I made the best choices I could,
but being void of regret
doesn’t mean being void of hurt.

{penned from the plane home}

It’s an unconventional, even controversial, viewpoint, that I believe it’s okay to say goodbye without first making amends. {Caveat: And it’s not always the right choice. As a daughter whose lost a father during an argument, I can attest to the anguish that comes from holding grudges, instead of taking mindful space.}

But the difference is in the mindfulness and the space {as opposed to the unconscious distance we tend to put between us instead}.

Are you paying attention? #artjournal
full attention slows the current

I’m experiencing hurt and frustration and sadness. And I’m allowing myself to experience it. No under-the-rug sweeps. No grudges held. But no feeding it or burying it either. No allowing it to overcome me, or to own me.

Some serious shit came up for me {and yes, I’m totally okay admitting that – why shouldn’t I be?} and I’m opening my heart up to what Spirit is trying to show me. I’m doing the inner work that’s being asked of me. I’m learning to stop projecting {hard} and stop blaming {harder} and meet my own needs so I can actually stand in the Truth that allows me to be – fully and unapologetically and compassionately – ME.

Hardest.

And even though there is a big part of me wanting to resist this next statement 😉 I can feel it nudging me to be experienced too:

I’m thankful for this. Thankful that I lost sight of myself and damn near lost my shit. Thankful that I felt hurt and frustrated. Thankful that I screwed up. Thankful that it’s so deeply triggered and challenged me. Thankful that it’s bringing up in me the bullshit that was hiding there, because I know full well it only comes up when the timing is perfect for it to be addressed {even if I don’t like that fact}. I’m thankful for the comments that were made, the stories that were dredged, the triggers that were found. Thankful for failure in how I handled it all {or didn’t}.

I’m thankful for the nudges that keep telling me when I’m trying to do something or say something here that isn’t focused on my authentic heart, too. 🙂

I love them all. They – like me – are doing the best they can as well. That I don’t feel at home says nothing about them, and everything about me – where I am and what I’m moving through with Life as my guide.

Why am I sharing all this?

Why am I “airing dirty laundry”, as culture has taught us to see it?

Because I got the most amazing messages of gratitude over the week: messages from incredible women who totally nailed it and stood in compassion and authenticity in a challenging family situation, messages from heartfelt women who struggle{d} to do the same and are thankful to be reminded they aren’t asshats for being human and unable to access that place of compassion and authenticity at the same time,or even separately.

Because I’d rather dismember the monster that tells us we can’t be honest about having a hard go of something, the monster that tells us it’s not okay to be imperfect, that tells us our lives “should” be perfect and by the book or else we’re going to hell. {Shit, I wrote a book on dealing with triggers, and my experiences still aren’t by the book.}

Welcome to being human. Welcome to trying to be that human with over 7 billion other people, many of which are our greatest, most wonderful, most frustrating teachers.

We love our families. But we mess it up. We do. I do. Again and again. And hopefully, again and again, we do the best we can to get through that moment, to get through the challenge, to learn and grow and try to love ourselves and others a little better each time. Sometimes we nail it. At least the same number of times we don’t.

My declaration is this: I’m okay with these facts. Okay with Life sometimes being messy. Okay with the fact that I’m going to make mistakes at it. Okay being open and honest and authentic about it. Finally okay with the choices I make. {And learning to be okay if others aren’t okay with it.}

Some wisdom from my mama's wall. #bestill
wisdom on the wall

This get you thinking too?
Some questions that may support you: What do I need to get still with? What parts of myself am I bringing into similar challenges with those I love? If I was fully centered and grounded first, what would I do/say differently?