Wednesday, October 29, 2014

1-/29/14—Failing Beautifully

I was recently talking to one of my many gifted friends and she has been hesitating on really dialing up the heat beneath a career transition she's been kinda making for years. She's done the hard part. She quit her job years ago. But the pursuit of her new career and her passion passion has been slow. 

Sounds a lot like me, actually. 

So she says to me, "what if I screw up? What if I fail?" My reply was that screw ups and even failures are guaranteed. In fact, you WANT failure to happen to because failure is what gives shape to your successes. 

I've had the privilege to do what I love for 27 years. All but 10 of those years, I've been self employed. I think there's a fallacy out there that if you do what you love, the course will be smooth. You'll intuitively know what to do. You won't meet up against resistance. All the pieces will fall into place. You just have to get over your initial fears and leap. 

I don't know who feeds people that BS, but that's exactly what it is. 

Building a business is building a business, whether you love what you do, are just doing it because you believe it will be lucrative or are doing it because it's the only thing you feel you good enough at to do. Failure, embarrassments, screw ups and clients that run screaming are how you feel your way to what is right for you and your business. Bad decisions and nightmare projects help you define your target clientele. Doing a bunch of stuff that just. doesn't. work. is how you stumble upon the things that do. 

You could read all the books in the world about how to build, grow and run a business properly and you'll still make mistakes. You could be a successful entrepreneur and still eff up. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs don't even use the word failure. Instead, they call it experience. Or lessons. And if you want to do anything bad enough, you're going to have rack up some experience and education. 

What I know from my own experience is that I have undersold myself and oversold myself. I have failed to say the right thing and failed to say anything at all. I have ignored my inner voice and silenced my best judgment. I have disappointed others and disappointed myself. I have stood up for work that failed and failed to see the merit of work that succeeded. And because of that, I learned how to sell myself better (though this continues to be a weak spot for me,) share more professionally, follow my inner voice, have fewer disappointments and choose my battles more wisely. All of that came from failure. 

And you know what? After 17 years I STILL make mistakes, still make the *same* mistakes and still can't claim to do it right. But I'm mostly successful. There are some things I did right the first time...some lessons I never had to learn. And, even after all these years, there are some things I'm still learning. 

So that's what I mean about failure playing an integral role in shaping your successes and steering you toward the work that is right for you. Successful people don't get that way through success-only journeys. Their success comes more from how they see failure—as experience or education—and how they respond to it—by taking the information in without losing momentum. In a way, you're going to WANT to screw up and fail because, with each little kick in the groin, you get closer and closer to that vision you have in your head of the highly qualified professional who effortlessly handles any contingency. Plus, you may need to fail in order to hear the calling of something slightly different that is even MORE perfect for you. Personally, I'd rather be wrong and find my bliss than white knuckle my way to something I'm convinced will make me happy, only to find out it doesn't. 

And here's another bit of good news about failure. It comes in many flavors and degrees. But there's only one way to completely and bitterly fail at the pursuit of anything you want badly—never do anything about it in the first place. Everything else qualifies as education or dues. So if you've already started in, whether you've just begun researching your new endeavor or have fully hung your shingle, there's no way you can completely fail. All you can do is learn. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

10/27/14—Making Quiche

Today's post is a repost of one I did last March. 

The perfect quiche? Getting there. 
One of the things I rarely mention in these posts is that I like to cook. I might only cook once, maybe twice, a week. But I do enjoy it. And since I'm all about the cooking from scratch, I put a lot of thought and planning into it so I'm fully prepared come "go time".

I'm probably more of a "good cook" than a fabulous or impressive cook. If I have anything to brag about, it's impeccable timing. Everything is ready to serve at the same time. I never gave myself much credit for this until I found out that others have an issue with it. I'm good at multitasking in the kitchen. I get into a zone. 

Anyway, one of the things I like to do is "perfect" dishes. To my own palate, of course. So for, say, six months, most of what I cook will be risotto. Or garlic mashed potatoes. Or brownies. Or chicken marsala. Basically, I cook something over and over again until I'm using the best ingredients, best proportions and best techniques to satisfy my tastebuds. Then I move on to the next thing. 

If you can't tell by the picture I posted, right now it's quiche. Currently I'm just working on the fillings. As it turns out, you can put too much cheese in quiche. That's what I've learned so far. I'd rather eyeball than measure when I cook, which kind of inhibits the perfection process. But really it's all for fun. When I get the nice custardy filling down, I'll start working on perfecting the crusts. Right now I'm ashamed to admit I use a refrigerated Pillsbury crust. 

A month ago. Ugly overcooked crust and too much cheese. 
Cooking the same thing over and over again is not just a Zen process, it also mirrors our spiritual
pursuits—we'll often cook the same issue over and over again until it's cooked right. Sometimes we put in too much cheese. Sometimes we cheat on the crust until we get the filling just right. Sometimes we can't figure out what we did wrong, so we just do whatever. With cooking I'll generally follow a recipe closely the first time and then start improvising. Same with when I'm working through spiritual lessons. I'll try to do it "the right way" (whatever that is) the first time to get a baseline, then I'll tailor to my individual needs. 

When I first made chicken marsala, it was perfect the first time. I didn't have to work hard on that. Some lessons just come to us and some don't. But then again, sometimes you think you're done exploring a recipe and once you get into the groove with it, you find it's still missing something. Then there are the dishes that give us indigestion or are inedible. If I were to keep following that same recipe over and over again thinking it would eventually taste better, I wouldn't be a very effective cook. And then there's the garlic mashed potatoes. I can't honestly claim I ever quite perfected that (though roasted garlic got me the closest to what I wanted). But I doubt anyone else would complain. Sometimes you just have to accept your limitations and let good enough be good enough. 

Outside of "stretch" and "persist", there really aren't any set ingredients—or even a recipe—for spiritual or personal growth. Pushing past your comfort zone (stretching) and continuing to try different ways (persisting) are like the salt and pepper of the spiritual world. They're good in everything. As long as you remain stocked up on those two, pretty much any dish you want to try will be the better for it. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/23/14—Seeking The Authentic Me

I have this weird thing. I don't seem remember much about who I was in the past. It's like I'm totally detached from previous iterations of myself and I don't even feel like past "mes" were me at all.

There may be something deep and psychological to this. Or maybe everyone feels that way. But when I look into the eyes of the girls in this picture I know they all look like me, but I'm not sure I can say who they were. I just know I'm a very different person now. 

They all liked to write. They all had a sense of humor. And they were all on a journey of self discovery. But to one degree or another, I was always working to leave a part of them behind me where I would never have to look at it again. That's what growth is in many ways...a constant shedding of skin in search of the ever more luminous iterations of "me" hoping to reach the surface. Or maybe that's exfoliation. I'm not sure. :D Because, like exfoliation, the minute your "new skin" reaches the surface, it begins on a course of death and flakiness until it, itself, is shed. Just exposing it to the world to interact with outside forces sends it careening into certain obsolescence. 

The girl in the top row was really just trying to figure out who she was. The woman in the middle row...she's not someone I liked so much. She fell into a superficial trap and cared more about how others viewed her than how she viewed herself. The woman on the bottom row, well she's more like the woman I am today. Still searching. But looking more inside herself for the things she needs to be happy, rather than outside of herself.

Still, it bothers me in some ways that I can't identify with any of those women, not even the most recent—the one in the sparkly fortune teller's turban in the lower right hand corner. None of them seem to have captured the essence of me, not in photos or in reality.

Back in the days of the middle row, I used to feel like there was a "me inside of me" that was curled up in the fetal position, crying. Sad, I know. She would mostly come out at night, in the quiet moments as I lay down to sleep. She used to really bother me, because she felt trapped and I didn't know how to let her out. So I ignored her for years. Pretended she wasn't there. Those last two girls in the top row used to feel like her sometimes. It's like I swallowed them up and contained them within a new, shinier container, thinking it would make the pain go away. And it seemed to. For a while.

I did eventually make peace with her, though. I had to. She became to pained to ignore. So I nurtured her. I stopped a lot of negative self talk. I got rid of toxic and abusive people in my life. I learned how to handle my fears. And today the me inside of me is uncurled and living peacefully within me. But I still feel like she's captive to a degree...silent, content, but hoping to feel the air on her skin just once before she dies. She hasn't been fully integrated yet. She's just led by a kinder master.

Sometimes I wonder if "the real me" or the "authentic me" is elusive like a Sasquatch. You might catch glimpses of it, but you can never quite meet it head-on and ask it out to tea. No matter how times I've felt like I've finally reached my authentic self, I shed my skin again and that woman is lost to history. But with each layer shed and with each new iteration, I do feel like I understand my true self better. That "me inside of me" seems to fill out my skin more and more over the years. And I come more to peace with what I find inside of me, which brings me more to peace with the people and situation I find outside of me as well. 

I think we've been led to believe that "our true self" or our "authentic self" is a destination that we reach one day when we have amassed a lot of wisdom. But I'm coming more and more to believe that it doesn't exist. I think "authenticity" is more like a continually evolving journey. Sure, there's a core to us that remains constant throughout our lives. But that core is surrounded by a continually changing and evolving ether that, like quicksilver, is difficult to hold or contain. And I'm good with that. It makes life interesting. And I'm certain that if I ever stopped seeking—if there is a destination to ultimately reach—then life would lose its purpose. I've invested too much in this journey to ever be satisfied by reaching its end. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10/20/14—Ditching My Vacation

My stress busting laser star projector
Last week I was on vacation. But less than 36 hours before I packed the car to go to our B&B in the country, I canceled all my plans.

There are two main reasons why I did this. The first has to do with how I've been feeling lately. I'm literally exhausted with being exhausted. I think my hormones have gone all goofy during menopause and my energy levels are debilitatingly low. So as I sat at home going over the list of all the things I had to do before I went on vacation—clean house, plan meals, pack for me and my dogs, etc.—it just felt overwhelming. While we love the place we stay, the amount of work needed for three or four days in the country didn't seem worth it this time around. 

The other reason is that, for months, I had been worried about Mystic. When we go to this place, she has free run of the property, which she loves. But this time I was really stressed about her wandering. What if she got lost? What if it's hunting season and someone shoots at her? What if she wanders off the property and gets herself in trouble—one time she got stuck in a neighbor's (empty) chicken coop and couldn't get out! So either I was having some sort of intuition about what might happen or I was just worried about losing my Mystic. She has been to this same place four times in her life and has successfully wandered and stayed within earshot each time. But this time I was worried. 

So I decided to have a staycation. I'm pretty sure I've had one before, but it wasn't really memorable. This one, however, was. 

Mostly I just did whatever the heck I felt like doing for nine days. I slept generously. I cooked a big casserole so I wouldn't have to worry about what to eat. I watched spiritual movies and TV shows. I went out for coffee or lunch a couple of times. I took the dogs to the dog park or on walks. I treated myself well. I basically did what I wanted, when I wanted, which somehow resulted in the house getting mostly clean along the way. And, perhaps the biggest thing, I wasn't allowed to judge myself at all for how I was spending my time. 

The results of all of this? Probably one of the most refreshing and enlightening vacations I've ever had! I didn't have to expend any energy to get the relaxing, energy-increasing benefits of time off...and let's face it, we usually expend a lot of energy planning, packing and commuting to and from our vacation spot. 

And, for me personally, it was enlightening, because I haven't felt this good emotionally and spiritually for a while because of the physical issues I've been facing. Just when I was starting to wonder if I'd feel miserable for the rest of my life, I had the experience of my spirit feeling good again. And while I still have to figure out what's wrong with me hormonally/physically and get help for that, it doesn't feel so insurmountable anymore. 

Moreover, I got the chance to see where I needlessly stress myself out over things. I kept much the same sleep schedule over vacation, but with a little more sleep perhaps. Normally I beat myself up for going to bed late, but while on vacation I didn't. And there's really no need to beat myself up over it. While I know it's better to go to bed earlier, I make my choices. It is what it is. I also found myself doing more in a day on some days. Normally I would tell myself there wasn't time to get A, B and C all done in a day, but without deadlines or appointments to worry about, I saw how efficient and effortless running errands could be, for example. 

Whether during my normal routine or on vacation I always feel like I'm working against the clock. It's nice to remember the clock doesn't always have to be ticking. Many of the things that made me start to feel like I'm getting back in groove are things that don't take extra time or effort to do. Like one night I just listened to New Age music and put on my laser star generator and blissed out. I don't have to wait for a vacation to do stuff like that. I just have to remember how to take care of myself and treat myself kindly. Somehow I'd forgotten that. It was nice to get the reminder. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10/13/14—Judging Yourself

There's this thing I hear people say all the time, though fortunately not to me. But they say it about others. I even used to say it myself. But now when I hear people say it, I kinda cringe. It goes something like this:

"If she's so spiritual/religious/Christian, then how come she _____?"

The reason I cringe is because when we call out people for their own hypocrisy, we're being hypocrites. Especially when it comes to calling others out for their levels of morality, judgment, belief, loyalty or faith. 

I have yet to meet the perfect person. I have yet to meet anyone without a shadow, secret shame, unwise habit or otherwise unhealthy behavior hiding in the closet. And the degree to which we judge others for these things is equivalent to the degree to which we're in denial about our own behaviors...the degree to which we are being a hypocrite. It stings, but it's true. And this goes for pretty much everything, not just for someone's spirituality. 

Of course there have been many times in my life where I've gotten small lessons in this, but my first big lesson in it came when I quit smoking cigarettes. I had known on some level for years that I was addicted to nicotine, but I didn't understand that my need to introduce the drug into my system every 15-30 minutes was the same as "getting a fix". And that the desperate cravings I had and the depths to which I would go to relieve them (like smoking butts) on unsuccessful quit attempts made me a "junkie." 

In my journey with quitting, I learned that an addict is an addict and the thing you're addicted to is just a detail. So a lot of the judgments I had about drug addicts, alcoholics, compulsive people, gamblers and others who exhibited addictive and compulsive behavior subsided. And when it comes bubbling up again, I just have to look at the number on my bathroom scale to put myself right. 

There are a lot of ways to express addictive and compulsive behavior, from being a neat freak who just can't bear to see something out of place to being me who just can't bear to see any chocolate left in the wrapper. We both have the same urges pulling us to get our fix. And you can argue that the neat freak is healthier and therefore better than the overeater, but you'd be wrong. They've both got issues that cause stress inside their bodies and cause concern with others in their lives. A junkie is a junkie. It's like saying the murderer is better than the pedophile because the murderer doesn't harm children. The fact is, you don't want either of them living next door to you. And if you had to make a choice between the two, you'd probably move. 

This whole thing about "if she's so spiritual..." subsided when I realized that, no matter how spiritual I was, I wasn't perfect. I made mistakes. My behavior didn't always align with my beliefs. And my beliefs didn't necessarily drive all my behaviors. When I realized I was a human on an imperfect journey, working on things in one room, while ignoring things in another room, it occurred to me that others may be doing the same thing. When I realized that I couldn't always keep the 10,000 balls up in the air that you need to keep up in the air in order to be perfectly pious and servile to my higher power, I started giving others a break. And when I saw how, after I grew, I could look back and see how silly or misguided my previous ways were, I just let other be. 

There's a certain snobbery that people have over religion and spirituality. We'll say we respect other religions while we mock their gods and criticize their "stupid" beliefs. We'll question "how Christian" another person is being while we, ourselves, are refusing to let another car into traffic on the highway. We'll expect our odd little corner of belief to be respected while we criticize anyone who doesn't believe the same way we do. 

But the thing is, if we believe in being kind to others...if we believe in building community...if we believe in lifting ourselves up higher and leaving this earth a better person, then every time we make a judgment against another person, we're being a hypocrite. Because judgment is not kind, inclusive or high minded. And most of the time we're judging, we're guilty of the same or very similar sins. I know this because I find myself judging others. And then I find myself turning within and seeing that the same thing I claim to hate in others is also true about me. 

I think a lot of times when we judge or criticize others, we feel a little superior afterward. If we're honest with ourselves, we do. Because we may have a lot of issues, but we don't have THEIR issues. But as people raise their consciousness higher and as they understand more about what drives them, when they hear you criticize other people, all they hear is your own denial and hypocrisy. They don't even have to know you to know it's true. It's that universal a kind of thing. Because when we've truly recognized and healed something within us that's broken, we have compassion and understanding for those who haven't yet made that journey, not judgment. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

10/6/2014—Taking Time Out to Let Go

After a lifetime of living primarily in my head, I've been living more in my body—more here on earth—lately. Just a little more. 

Which is why I haven't been writing as much. Part of it is that I need to use my energy toward some health issues I've been having for quite some time. I don't think I'm going to die or anything, but while I'm trying to raise my status to "not completely preoccupied by debilitating physical and mental exhaustion", I'm having a hard time being too deep. And I'm giving myself a break from all the pressure I put myself under in the non-work parts of my life, so I'm ignoring my "schedule" of writing. 

While I've been looking for answers and trying to dig myself out of that hole, I've noticed a couple of changes in my attitude. I have no idea if or how much they're tied to what I'm going through, but they're worth sharing. 

The first is that I'm doubting myself less. I have a long history of self doubt. And it's remarkable because, when I have a feeling about something or when I perceive manipulative or toxic kinds of behaviors, I'm usually always right. But still I doubt myself. Which will frequently make me want to bounce the situation off another person so I can determine "am I being defensive or is the other person being an ass?" and other such weighty questions. 

When I trust myself and call the other person out, then there's another layer of self doubt..."should I have let it slide? Was I too hard on the person? etc." This kind of self doubt completely ruins any trace of satisfaction I might have gotten from speaking my mind to someone who is taking advantage of me or taking their insecurities out on me or whatever. 

Now, normally I would be preaching to just let these things slide and that's what I do 95% of the time.  But sometimes I succumb to the temptation to give as good as I get when smug and condescending bastards come around. Then usually I feel bad about lowering myself to their level. And if I don't lower myself to their level, then I go over what I wish I'd said in my head. So no matter what I do in situations like this, my brain is hardwired to stress myself out and drive myself crazy. 

So lately I've decided to stop second-guessing myself and relying on the opinions of others. And I've decided not to hold back on those occasions that I determine are worthy of engaging in. And, most importantly, I've decided to just speak my part calmly and decisively without doubting whether I should have engaged or if I'm being unreasonable or worrying about what others think or any of that BS. Not to engage in a war of words, but put their crap right back in their face and walk away without another thought. 

In one way, it's not my most evolved self. That person would have looked compassionately at the deep, childhood wounding that caused the other person to lash out. But I'm not in a place where I can be that person all the time right now. Maybe not ever. And while being that person in difficult times is a way to stretch and grow, it's also a way to cause myself additional stress. And then I usually end up blowing up at a salesperson who doesn't deserve my wrath, causing more guilt and self flagellation. So I'm learning to both stretch and grow in the compassionate way, but also to stretch and grow in the allowing and forgiving of myself when I'm not being my highest self. I'm learning to trust my choices in those situations. 

So there's that. And the other thing that has changed lately is that I've been noticing and taking joy in the ordinary little moments of life. I've been finding myself becoming conscious in the midst of things I'm doing and appreciating that moment...appreciating the enjoyment...the love...the satisfaction...whatever I'm experiencing in the moment. 

It feels like life has been a struggle for years while I've been battling this exhaustion. Right now, thanks to some herbs and the willingness to allow the exhaustion to just "be", without judgment, I'm feeling better than I have in years. I won't say things are easy or that I'm out of the woods, but things are not as hard as they have been. And, instead of worrying about myself, I can just let some of the light shine through and appreciate the life and health I *do* have. 

Both of these changes in me have come from letting go...letting go of the mindfuck I do on myself every time I speak up for myself (or don't speak up for myself) and letting go of the resistance to whatever is going on with me (yes, I visit my doctor regularly and am seeing a specialist.) And also, in letting go of my (non-work) schedules and "must-dos", I've found that I'm getting more things done. The stress of holding on and resisting has really been doing a number on me—more than I ever would have imagined. It depletes me body, mind and soul. 

I had recently done a meditation that communicated the message that "I am my own most powerful shaman." So many of the emotional, spiritual, social and even physical issues that plague us are completely within in our own power to heal. And it all starts by letting go. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

9/29/14—Getting Out Of The Weeds

A few nights ago when I was meditating, I asked for some insight. What I heard was very relevant and something I thought I'd share, because I'm certain I'm not alone. 

"You've gotten yourself too far down into the weeds." That's what I heard. And it sounded kind of like my father saying it. Regardless of where it came from, though, I knew what it meant. I'm putting too much thought and energy into things that have no bearing on my purpose and goals in life. I'm wasting my water and sunlight on things that won't grow and I don't want to grow. 

The more I thought of it, the more I saw all the ways I do this. I: 
  • Engage in issues with people who have no bearing on my life.
  • Ruminate over things I don't do as well I've done in the past.
  • Think about things I wish I could have done better. 
  • Think about things I wish I could have said, but didn't.
  • Linger over things that have already been dealt with. 
  • Worry about things that haven't happened yet. 
  • Think about things rather than just do them. 
  • Fear doing things that haven't been done yet. 

None of that stuff is moving me toward my goals. Meanwhile, seemingly unrelated things do, in my opinion. Like a retail therapy trip took earlier in the week. It distracted me from energy-sucking thoughts and refueled my energy. In fact, I've done a number of things in the past week that have helped me push my reset button. 

I think I've probably been in the weeds for a long time. I mean, the goals and the move toward them is ever-present, if not always successful. But they're wrapped in a fog of insignificance and distraction, which, frankly has just added stress to the situation. While distraction can lighten the load, especially if you're overly focused, some types of distraction just add weight to your backpack that is not needed. 

The first step toward recovery is recognizing there's a problem. While I knew I wasn't as focused as I could be, I never saw it this way before. If you imagine a cross section of earth, you don't want to be stuck in the thatch of weeds. You want to be up above them where you can navigate the big picture. But then you don't want to be so high that integral parts of the picture are out of sight. 

Now that I recognize this, I need to retrain myself to slough what doesn't matter and not let it distract me. It's a habit that needs to be broken. I think it's important to balance things, so nothing of value gets neglected along the way. When you consider that most of our goals touch many areas of our life, we have to pay attention to the whole tamale. 

So we have to think about where we want to be. What does life look like with your goal met? What does it look like spiritually? How does it impact your health and relationships? If an activity or relationship or way of thinking doesn't align with that vision, part of reaching your goal will have to be letting that go. 

And while you're getting yourself out of the weeds and moving toward your goal, surround yourself with people who not only support your path, but can handle your success. I learned a long time ago that there are people who, for whatever reason, hold a smaller vision for you and your world than you have for yourself. That is their issue. Don't make it yours. Anything you try to pull out of the weeds with you will just weigh you down.