Friday, August 9, 2013

8/10/13-8/11/13—Claiming Your Weekend

Weekend Reading: Queen of Wands from the 1969 Tarot. The book for this deck says the Queen of Wands is a little backwards in the world. She puts the fire away for the night. So the message for this weekend is to follow your own muse. Dance to the beat of your own drum. And if that means eating dessert first, well then so be it. Most of the rules we live by are random anyway. As long as nobody's harmed, why hold back? It's YOUR weekend. Claim it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8/9/13—Surviving Your Creativity

Today's Draw: Three of Pentacles from the Art of Life Tarot. Do you create for yourself or others? Can you put your work out in the public and feel good about it, even if people don't like it? What do you really create for?

The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on this card reads, "the reward of a thing well done is to have done it." It's not about the notoriety, compensation or recognition. It's about doing something well. And I would also add, the process of doing it is its own reward. 

As a writer, the work I do is very subjective. You might like it. You might not. And doing it professionally means you hold it up to people with their own styles of writing, ways of wording things and sensitivities. Which means nothing you ever write will end up the way you originally wrote it. 

I'm saying all of this because you can either invest emotionally in what you do and let the fate of your "success" rest in the hands of someone else. Or you can quietly know when you've done your best work, regardless of how others feel. 

There is an artist I'm familiar with (and I'm not going to say whether that artist one from my career, from the tarot world or just an artist I know, so don't go thinking it's YOU) that is incredibly talented. He/she is highly admired. But there are many who appreciate his/her talent, but don't like his/her style. So inevitably, there are those who fall to kiss his/her feet and those who say "he/she ain't all that." 

Well, as you might imagine, this artist responds really well to those who worship them. But they become a whiny little primadonna at the first mention of anything that's less than supportive of their work. They throw a fit. They threaten to abandon projects. Their whole sense of value is wrapped up in being all things to all people. And that just never happens...for any of us. The crappy taste disapproval makes in this person's mouth has made them choose "peace" over art. All because they hang their success and worth on how well their work is received by others. 

Now, this person has survived a long time as an artist with that attitude. But frankly I don't know how. I know that with the work I do, I wouldn't have survived under those conditions. I couldn't keep the passion burning at least. Sure, we all want to be well received, but reality is that not everyone is going to like your "way". But there's plenty of work available among those who do. 

So find your audience, then once you do, learn to make the process and the honest effort you put forth your reward. In that context, people loving you will be gravy. And people not loving you won't rob you of your own self value. From time to time I think creative people all slip into doubt. But if I had one piece of advice to deliver to someone who wants to thrive and find balance in a subjective, creative career, it would be to be self aware enough to know when you've put forth your best and make that your goal. There will always be an audience for you, but don't start counting heads and measuring your audience against the audience of others. Ultimately, the value in creativity comes in the doing, not in the applause. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

8/8/13—Being the Master

Today's Draw: Page of Swords from the Art of Life Tarot. What have you recently been a student of? Who or what was the master that appeared to teach you? If you had to be your own master for a situation going on in your life right now, what would you teach yourself?

The quote on the card says "when the student is ready, the master will appear." I've heard that saying a million times, but only tonight did it first occur to me that "the master" isn't necessarily a person. It could be a situation. Or a realization. Or even yourself. 

Not that long ago, I had an interpersonal conflict. For the most part, the conflict occurred all in my head. It was a situation where I felt taken for granted. And while thinking it all through, I had a moment of clarity in realizing that most of the issue was created by me and my insecurities. So the other person's part wasn't nearly as big as I had made it in my head. 

Because everything happened in my head, "the master" was both the situation and me. Really the other person wasn't even involved. My own idiocy made me ready to learn. And my own wisdom schooled me. Now that I'm more aware of my tendency to do stuff like this, I'll be less likely to let situations go so far in the future. 

Anyway, I thought the idea of being your own sensei was a pretty cool one. What lessons have you taught yourself?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

8/7/13—Seeing Money as Energy

Today's Draw: Stars, Vampire and Eye from the Breath of Night Oracle. How do you view money? Is it evil? Addictive? Elusive? Everything? Do you think having more would make life more enjoyable? Or more complicated? How much more?

So I did something a little different today. Something in my subconscious brought up the Breath of Night Oracle and a card with a dark sky and stars along with a dark card with a splash of red. So I looked through the deck and chose these three cards:

Stars: prosperity, fortune, progress, plurality
Vampire: addiction, vampirism
Eye: observation, vision, intuition

We've been talking about money and difficult choices regarding the cost of things in our lives the last couple of days. These three cards can be read as a warning to be careful not to fall into the lure of money. It can also be read to use your intuition or guidance to spot those who may want to suck you dry...or things like groups that attach to people with money. It could also be read to be careful of the cost of being prosperous—stuff like we discussed yesterday about neglecting your family or dreams in the pursuit of money. 

Growing up I learned that talking about money was crass and rude. As an adult, I do talk about money, but I'm careful where, when and to whom. But, of course, you never ask anyone how much something cost or what they earn. There are a lot of restrictions around the topic, societally speaking. Yet here I am, three days this week, in one regard or another. 

One thing people get wrong all the time is that "money is the root of all evil". That's not true. It's "the LOVE of money" that's the root of all evil. I say this because that misquote of the Bible has really given money a bad rap. Thinking money is bad leads to people undervaluing their work, distrusting rich people and forming unhealthy relationships with money. 

In my mind, money is an energy exchange. You trade your energy for money, which you can, in turn, trade for the fruits of someone else's energy (like all the crap you buy). The amount of money you have is not necessarily related the amount of energy you give out. It's related to how much you value your energy (how much you're willing to work for), the demand for the kind of energy you put forth (the skills you have and what people are willing to pay) and what you've invested in your energy (your experience and education).

So maybe today's trio is talking about taking a look at the energy you bring in and put out (money earned and spent) and see where it might be being sucked away by something that doesn't pay dividends—something that doesn't give enjoyment or creates more work or whatever—or where it might be fueling an unhealthy energy pattern, like overshopping or some other addictive behavior. 

Seeing money as an energy exchange can give you a different perspective on how you spend. You know hard you worked for it, is what you have to show for it worth it? And if not, what are you going to do about it?

Monday, August 5, 2013

8/6/13—Making the Tough Decisions

Today's Draw Classic*: Seven of Bows from the Wildwood Tarot. Is there something you want to do, but you've never gotten around to doing it? Does life keep getting the way of your dreams? What would you be willing to do to have the thing you've always wanted?

I recently had a discussion about life dreams with a friend of mine. She's a single mom and a spiritual leader/teacher and she earns her living in a spiritual profession. She's also itching to write a book. She knows everything the book is going to say, she just has to write it. But she can't find the time. 

We all know that, right? And if you make your living in a spiritual profession, then you know that the psychics, mediums, spiritual teachers, healers and other light workers who are showered with riches are few and far between. One of the ways to become one of those fortunate few is to write a book. But if you're mired in the details of paying a mortgage, raising children, promoting your business, keeping your home clean, maintaining friendships and all the other necessities of life, when do you write that book (or go back to school or hike the Himalayas or whatever your dream is)?

The Seven of Bows is about making priorities and choices in life. It's about clearing space for the things we want out of life. There comes a time when we have to make some tough decisions if we're ever going to live our dreams. And we also have to take a good hard look at what is really standing in our way. Even the busiest of moms is probably saying yes to at least one time-sucking thing that they could just say no to...being a Girl Scouts troop leader, working on the PTA, being the home all the kids go to after school. You may not WANT to give those things up, you may have reasons why you can't, but in reality, they're optional. Plenty of moms aren't doing them and you could be one of them. 

What it all really comes down to is this: the biggest thing standing between us and what we want is excuses. And the excuses usually only hold water if you're the kind of person who is never going to achieve your goal. J.K. Rowling, for example, had tons of excuses why she couldn't write Harry Potter. She was a single mom living at poverty level, recovering from a failed marriage and the death of her mother, and battling depression. Rather than indulge the momentum of all those things, she wrote anyway. Everyone has excuses. And for every excuse, there's both a fear-based reason for it and a way around it.  

Look at it this way—what, other than supplying the basic needs of food, shelter and love to your family, is more important than using this one chance at life to pursue your dreams? You want to be there to see every single one of your daughter's dance classes? Then you're making a choice to watch dance classes rather than pursue your goal. Your daughter may feel like you're an attentive mom and that's great. And maybe one day she'll even give up her own dreams to watch her daughter's dance classes, because that's what mother's do. Or you could use that time to pursue your dream and focus instead on the quality time when you can actually interact with her. The choices you make for your dreams are not always easy. But the people who have what you want to have made difficult choices of their own. 

My pathetic excuse is that I write all day for a living. When that's done, I write a blog (waving hello to all my readers!) And when all of that is done, I frankly don't feel like writing. That's my excuse. Beneath that is, admittedly, a fear of failure/success that keeps my butt dragging, but I continue to move forward despite it. Anyway, back in January I shared my excuse with a wise woman who suggested that I write a chapter of my book a week as part of my blog. I did that in January and February and got enough of those entries to put into a book proposal. I also got a lot of positive feedback that reinforced my desire to write this book.

See, you don't have to do the whole dream at once. It helps to remind yourself of that. With book writing, you just have to write a proposal. And if a publisher says they want to publish your book, then you'll get deadlines you have to meet. And you'll meet them, because you have to.

Same thing goes with hiking the Himalayas. You don't have to hike them today. But you can start making your body, getting the money together, mapping course, making lists of things you'll need, scouting out hostles, shopping for sherpas. By the time the reality of living the dream hits, you won't have a choice but to pursue it! 

But the first thing you have to do is start clearing the space for this thing in your life, whether literally or figuratively. All it took was for me to ask my single-mom friend a simple question, "is there something in your life that is taking more time and effort than it's worth...something that once used to hold value, but no longer does?" She immediately knew where to clear space. She'll probably need more space than that, but it's a start. And she'll need the discipline to use that cleared space for its intended purpose. But once that space is cleared, it will be easier to weed out some of the things that may be more difficult to let go of. Before she knows it, writing will be just as automatic as the other priorities in her life.

Clearing is a pivotal choice we make where we decide whether to walk toward our dreams or put them off. Again. Whichever choice you make is up to you and can really only be judged by you. But Clearing gives you the opportunity to really decide how important those dreams really are....or if they've changed over years and become about something else. Like making sure you're there for all your daughter's dance classes.

Whatever your choice, choose it with confidence and move forward with confidence. The only thing more painful than making a difficult choice is to spend your life looking over your shoulder at all the choices you didn't make and wish you had.

*Reposted from 6/20/12

Sunday, August 4, 2013

8/5/13—Building a Healthy Relationship With Money

Today's Draw: Pig from the Breath of Night Oracle in the Finances position from the Deck of 1000 Spreads. Would you characterize your relationship with money as "healthy"? Do you put too much unproductive thought into the topic, and too little productive thought? What are you willing to give up in order to have what you want?

Money is one of those things in life that I think we can tend to both think about too much and too little. In the too much column, for example, it's something we worry about having enough of, something we fool ourselves that we have more of than we do and/or something we're consumed with having more of—primarily unproductive thought, imo, in that it's not furthering the relationship along. In something we think too little about column is its function as an energy exchange, the relationship we have with it and what we really want it to do for us—what I consider productive thought.  

From time to time I do have a tendency to think too much about money. But this is an issue I've really worked on in my life. It's rare for me to worry about money...even rarer for me to spend beyond my means. In some regards you'd say I have a healthier than normal relationship with money, complete with certain boundaries, such as "do not spend beyond your means". In some regards, I have a less healthy than normal relationship, because I'm relying heavily on Social Security for my retirement, which I don't think is the most responsible fiscal approach given the health of our nation's finances. In essence, I spend what I earn freely, neither creating debt nor saving on the scale needed for a cushy retirement. 

I think a lot of people put thought into the stuff I just mentioned. But I wonder who thinks of money as an "energy exchange", for example. As a consultant, I put thought in that because I have to determine an hourly rate. Some raise their eyebrows at my hourly rate. Some think I undersell myself. My goal is to hit a sweet spot between the two where I'm expensive enough for you understand the value of my expertise, but affordable enough that mid-size clients appreciate the value I offer in adding to their competitiveness. 

As a result of this, I earn enough to live a comfortable life, but not enough splurge on, for example, a little weekend home in the mountains—something I would really enjoy. Or hiring a maid—something I probably really need. It might be possible to swing one of those things, but not with me spending the way I do and working short days. So the energy exchange thing is about "how much are you worth, what do you want your money most to do, and what are you willing to do to get there—raise rates, work harder, spend less time with family, what?"

Years back I learned a valuable lesson about what I'm willing to do. I had a client that was not treating me well. He was about a third or more of my income, so he was a big presence in my business. I really stressed over whether I should keep him or let him go. The "keep him" side of me was fueled entirely by fear—how would I replace the business if I fired him? Finally I remembered that I had written a vision statement for my business, so I looked it. It included phrases like "doing creative work" and "pursuing my passion" and "being happy at what I do". What it didn't include was anything about money. So I took money out of the decision and the choice became clear. I fired the client. The same week a new client appeared out of nowhere to replace the business. 

I've done this more than once in my 17 years as a freelancer and have never regretted or sweated the choice. I believe the universe rewards those who are constant and true to their vision. I highly recommend writing down a vision statement for your life, your career and your money. Even your relationships. It makes difficult choices much easier. 

Looking around me, I'm not sure many people understand what a powerful force money is. It can be intoxicating. The lure of it can cause you to compromise dreams. And following it can lock you into big mortgages and debt that keep you tied to jobs that suck your soul dry. In American Capitalist society, it's common for people to think this is ok or "just the way things are". As a result, making choices based on dreams is labeled impractical and making choices based on money is labeled practical. And then there's the danger zone where you make choices based on dreams and live like you've made choices based on money. Which isn't to say the two are mutually exclusive—you can absolutely have both—but we all know people who really shouldn't be allowed to make adult decisions...haha. 

Anyway, I tell you all of this because this weekend I was offered what really could be a terribly lucrative partnership. It could parlay into a vacation home and some retirement cash and all of that. I don't even think the risk is all that big, but it would niche me and tie me into a partnership with another (someone I could easily partner with). But I'd have to focus my energies into a direction I'm trying to move my energies slowly away from. And it would mean giving up my practice as I know it, which has a lot of variety and is easy for me, and switch to something with less variety that challenged me more. And paid me more. 

I've been daydreaming about how I could live....and what I would have to sacrifice in order to have it. I've already said no to the situation. Fortunately it's a situation where even saying no is going to result in  more money for me, because my would-be partner is absolutely going to hire me to work for her. I just won't get "a cut of the business"...I'll get my consulting fee. So it's a win-win situation for me if she proceeds. But it did get me thinking. And when I saw the Pig in the Finances position, I thought maybe you might want to think, too. 

The Pig is about abundance, but he's also about uncleanliness. So what is your relationship to money and abundance? And what aspects of uncleanliness or incongruity can you find in the relationship? What do you want from your money and what are you willing to do to get it? Beyond putting a roof over your head and food in your belly, money is only as important as you make it. 

P.S. After writing all of this, I had another thought. There is this idea in the world that you can "have it all". And it's a very dangerous belief, depending on how you define it. People mostly define it as having a great career, making lots of money, raising children, having a full social life, etc. The TRUTH of having it all is that everything you bring into your life means compromising something else. You only have so much capacity of time and energy to devote to things. A dual-income home means less involvement in the life of your children. A career that's a passion or a high-earning job can mean less time devoted to a social life. Anything you give MORE to, comes at the cost of something else that's getting LESS. And, of course, trying to "have it all" usually costs you in terms of the stress it places on you and your family. Non of that is a bad thing, just so long as you're conscious of the tradeoff and fine with it. 

What "having it all" really means is finding the tradeoffs that are the best for you. So what are those for you? For me, my mental state is a priority. So having it all for me has to include heavily weighing the cost of something to my peace of mind. I like to daydream a lot and have a lot of free time. So anything that requires more of my energy comes at a cost to free time. I have to weigh how much that will cost me emotionally, physically and in terms of the things I want to accomplish. So maybe thinking in these terms this week could lead to a life-changing epiphany or reaffirm you're making all the right choices. If you're moved by what a beautiful and fortunate life you have on a regular basis, it may be time for a change.