Thursday, October 7, 2010

How my left pinky taught me a lesson in humility

So, hi. I know it's been awhile but I'm busy with school and stuff and haven't really taken the time to write. Sorry. Hopefully I'll be back soon with more regular posts. But I learned something today that I felt like sharing.

Yesterday was my first day of Sports Massage technique class. Which is a lot more physically demanding than I thought it would be. I've had two weeks off school and I'm a little out of practice with some techniques. Not surprisingly, I overdid it a bit during class and when I woke up this morning the knuckle of my left pinky was sore. (I have no idea why that was the only sore knuckle I had. It's a bit odd but it is what it is.) I immediately figured that what it need was a good massage. And some movement. Movement is good for joints, right? So I spent a bunch of time this morning massaging my hand and really working that joint. Instead of helping it feel better, the massage and movement made it worse. I was in so much pain by the afternoon that I could barely sit through my Physiology lecture. And I love physiology! (I mean, what's not to love? Cell metabolism? The inner workings of the lymphatic system? Totally cool stuff).

When I got home and finally got an ice pack on it, I thought about how, despite my good intentions, I made a mess of things. And then it hit me - just because I'm a massage therapist (in training), doesn't mean that every ailment that crosses my path can be helped by massage. There are some things, like a sore pinky, that just need to be left alone for awhile. To rest. In my desire to "help," I lost sight of my limits. I'm just thanking my lucky stars that I learned this lesson without hurting anyone but myself.

Our bodies have an incredible ability to heal themselves - if we will just get out of their way and stop expecting too much of them. Sometimes when we have a minor injury or we're feeling not quite right, we don't necessarily need a doctor or a medication. We need to stop doing what injured us in the first place. We need to slow down and let our bodies rest. We need to stop interfering by trying to "make" ourselves feel better - no matter how good our intentions may be. Sometimes what we really need is to "do" nothing and let things be.

This is an especially important lesson for "healers" (I put that in quotes because I don't think I heal anyone, I just facilitate their own healing but "healing facilitator" just sounds silly and clinical. So anyway . , ,). We want to help our clients (and families and friends and random people around the world) to feel better. That's why we became healers, because we're helpers at heart. Which is why it can be hard for us to acknowledge that there may be times when we can't (or shouldn't) try to help. There are times when our clients just have to get themselves through a certain phase on their own. Their current problems may be above our pay grade. We may not be the right healer for them. (My friend, clairvoyant healer Debra Taitel, wrote a great post on this issue.)

The bottom line for me is that I have to learn to let things just be without meddling all the time. I have to learn that sometimes nothing is better than something. And even little pinky fingers have something to teach us.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do as I say, not as I do

The phrase "Do as I say, not as I do" is usually associated with parents and children. But, for those of us who advise other people in some capacity, it takes on a broader meaning. Recently, this has been a theme for me, not only in my role as a mother to two girls but also as a friend and lightworker.

I'm pretty good at telling other people what to do and how to do it when it comes to dealing with issues that pop up in their lives. (Yeah, I'm bossy that way - it probably comes from being the older sister to two brothers.) I think, at least some of the time, I give decent advice. With respect to my kids, it's sort of my job to tell them what to do. And what not to do.

But, truth be told, I take very little of my own advice when it comes to running my life. Which means I haven't been eating well, sleeping enough, keeping myself organized or doing the creative stuff (like writing) that keeps me sane. And because of this, I'm struggling with the fact that - like it or not- I'm a role model for my kids and, to an extent, my clients.

A quick side note about the role model thing . . . I'm currently in school to become a massage therapist. At school, we have those horrible vending machines that sell unhealthy sodas and snacks. Lacking will power and loving Mountain Dew makes it difficult for me to stay away from that particular sugar/caffeine infusion on the days when I'm at school. One day I let it slip in front of my daughter that I was drinking Mountain Dew at school. She knows how bad it is healthwise. We don't keep soda at home. I rarely let the kids drink it - I'm constantly extolling the virtues of water as the preferred beverage. She, rightfully, got ticked off at me. Then I got ticked off because, frankly, sometimes it sucks being a role model. (And because I was stupid for saying something in front of her. I mean, it's ok for parents to have a few secrets from their kids, right?)

It boils down to this: How can I counsel people on how to be healthier, take better care of themselves, be more mindful about how they spend their time and live more passionate lives when I'm not always walking the walk?

Several weeks ago I was whining on Twitter about the fact that I don't follow my own good advice and my very smart friend, Lisa Miles Brady, stopped me in my tracks with this question: What advice would you give me if I was having the same problem?

It took me awhile to figure out a good answer to that question. And here it is: stop trying to do it all on your own. It's not only children who benefit from being part of a village. As adults, we benefit from being part of a tribe. What good is having friends if you can't turn to them in a time of need? And yet, this is so hard for me. I love to help people. With my friends I try to reach out to help even when I'm not asked. But when I need help, I don't always reach out. And I'm really good at pretending everything is hunky dorey (even if I can sometimes admit - at least on this blog - that they're not). My friends don't always know when I need help even though I know some of them would reach out to me if they knew.

There's a reason that we go to healers and life coaches or ask friends for advice. It's not always because we don't know what to do or how to heal ourselves or how to kick our business up a notch. It's because we often need a different perspective to help us choose the right path out of the many before us. When we're stuck, it's usually because we're too emotionally involved in our own lives to see clearly. If you're wandering in the forest, it's great to have someone else with you to rise above the trees and point you in the right direction. Or at least give you an idea of the obstacles you might face if you choose a particular path.

One of the catalysts for this realization came from recent discussions I've had with the lovely and smart Gina Loree' Marks at Embody Grace. (By the way, Gina has been the catalyst for several good things in my life over the past year or so. She's part of the reason I'm in massage school and has helped me along my path in ways big and small. She's one of my heroes. You should all go check her out.) Gina is working on a new business helping healers develop a web presence. She asked for volunteers to help her figure out what healer-types might want and need in this area. Because I love to help and because this is an area where I'm struggling, I volunteered. We chatted on Skype for awhile about what I want to do with my web presence and the issues I'm facing.

Gina noticed during our talk that I need help with something other than my web presence. She sensed that I'm struggling with some of the most basic issues having to do with starting a business as an independent service provider. As a former corporate lawyer, I was comfortable with stuff like forming the corporate entity, getting the paperwork done and hiring an accountant. But I'm floundering with marketing myself, planning a budget on a freelance-type income and coordinating the several different income-generating projects I'm currently working on. Since Gina is a Shiatsu practitioner with her own practice and has been down this road before, she's in a great position to help me through this particular forest.

It isn't that I don't know or can't figure out the nuts and bolts of those things on my own. I could, intellectually at least. But I was stuck in a rut - paralyzed by fear and inertia and a general sense of overwhelm. So Gina offered to help me by being a sort of "accountability partner." She's breaking down the tasks for me into bite sized pieces that I can handle. And she tells me that it's ok if I don't have all the answers now. She reminds me that just putting one foot in front of the other is all I need to do right now. But she also holds me accountable. She reminds me (gently, of course) when I'm not addressing an issue I should be thinking about. We're in the early stages of this partnership and so far it's going great. And once I get a better sense of the services I'm offering, who my "right people" are and, just generally, what I'm all about these days, then we'll work on my web presence. One thing at a time. Or maybe two things.

And because I just love synchronicity, I have to mention that while I was working on this post, I read this great post over at The Complete Flake. LaVonne was talking about hitting a wall and not knowing what to say or do next. Instead of shutting down, she reached out to a friend who helped her move forward. It made her realize the importance of this: "Ask, and allow others to help you, encourage you, love you." That's what it's all about.

We don't have to do everything all by ourselves. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blog, interrupted

I didn't intend to take such a long sabbatical from blogging. It kind of just happened when I stopped writing over the 4th of July holiday and then didn't start again until now, six weeks later. I have a good excuse handy. I started massage therapy school right after the holiday. There's a fair bit of homework and all that. And I'm still working part-time as a lawyer. And I'm a mom. So I'm busy, busy, busy. So, yeah. Sounds good right? Well, it's bullshit. I mean it's true - I'm busy. But it's bullshit that I didn't have time to write. The fact is, I couldn't. Or wouldn't. Or whatever.

I had a bit of a . . . thing . . . with my family over the holiday and it knocked me way off center. Holidays are hard for me generally. Try as I might, I can't seem to get rid of my high expectations for holiday cheer. Even though I've never, ever had a Norman Rockwell family experience, there's a part of me that holds onto the hope that my family can be that loving "together" family of my dreams. Ever since the "thing" on July 3rd (which dashed my holiday hopes yet again) I've been struggling to write. I needed to write about my family but I didn't want to. But I couldn't write about anything else either. When you try to ignore the elephant in the room, it just keeps getting bigger until you can't see or even think about anything else.

So why don't I want to write about the "thing" with my family? Because I keep hoping that I can somehow make this blog non-anonymous. It's not really anonymous now, most of my readers know my real name. Hell, most of you are Facebook friends. But most of my off-line friends and family don't really know about it. Not that I would be upset if they stumbled on it but I'm hesitant to write personal stuff about my family and then make the blog more public to people who know them. On the other hand, pretty much everyone who knows me knows at least part of the story. So f**k it.

I was estranged from my dad and my brothers and pretty much most of my family for the past 12 years. Part of it had to do with my family not getting along with my husband and my feeling that I had to choose between them. (I was 7 months pregnant with my first child when we had a big falling out. I chose my husband.) Part of it had to do with everyone being stubborn and no one wanting to admit that they were wrong. For the record - and I've said this to everyone involved - I take responsibility for my own part in the whole mess. Also for the record, no one else in my family has been willing to do the same. But whatever. Life is too short. I'm willing to let it all go and just start fresh. I thought everyone else could do the same.

To the extent that I ever thought about it during those 12 years, I guess I saw myself as a puzzle piece lost under the couch. Once I was "found" I could just fit back into my very own tailor-made spot. But life isn't that neat and orderly. The puzzle changed. I changed. And I don't fit so neatly into the slot I once occupied. I missed a lot of stuff that went on so I wasn't there for various people in my family during some tough times. There are hard feelings. (Never mind that they weren't there for me during my hard times. But, like I said, whatever.)

What happened on the 3rd of July is kind of silly, in retrospect. My kids and I were supposed to go to my dad's and hang out with family. But some of my family members were going through another one of their tough times. And they only wanted "immediate family" around. I'm no longer considered immediate family so my kids and I were uninvited. I was disappointed. And really, really, really hurt. My kids couldn't have cared less. So that's good. I guess.

After six weeks of reflection I'm able to see that this has very little to do with me and a lot to do with them. I can sort of look at it objectively. Sort of. Here's what I've learned:
  • You can go home again. But you can't expect it to be as if you never left in the first place.
  • I've done the right thing - for myself - in forgiving them even if they can't forgive me. Life is too f**king short to hold grudges.
  • If the family you were born into doesn't fill your needs, build one that does. Surround yourself with supportive friends who love you unconditionally. If you look, you'll find them.
  • No matter how hard you try to stay grounded, something will come along to knock you off your feet. The key is to get back up and find a way to get grounded again.
So it has taken me awhile to regain my footing, so to speak. But I'm back and feeling stronger, and happier, than ever. Now that I've gotten the elephant out of the room, maybe I'll even start writing regularly again. Not many things would make me happier.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Happiness Plan

The past few days I haven't been feeling very good about myself and I've been struggling to figure out what to do about it. So this morning when I woke up, a question popped into my head. "When you've felt good about yourself in the past, what's been going on and how can you replicate it?"

I was surprised and dismayed by my answer to the first part of the question. "I feel good about myself when other people are happy with me or when I'm in love (which usually means someone is in love with me)." The fairly obvious problem with that is that my happiness with myself is entirely dependent on other people. So the only way to replicate that feeling is to "make" other people praise me or fall in love with me. Clearly this is not realistic (especially given my lack of a life time supply of Love Potion #9).

So I dug a little deeper. "What was going on the last time you fell in love or when you had the kind of positive connections that you're looking for?" Because those things don't happen in a vacuum. When we're doing what we love to do - when we're happy - we attract positive connections. I guess that's what all the Law of Attraction proponents say. Maybe they're on to something . . . What I need is a Happiness Plan!

Although I don't want to base my self-worth on my interactions with others, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing things to make myself a little happier which will hopefully help to attract the connection that I want and so clearly need in my life. I have to be careful, though, that I don't start doing things that might make me happy in the short-run (instant gratification) but sacrifice my happiness in the long-run. I've never been much good at delayed gratification it seems. So my Happiness Plan has to incorporate things that will make me happy in the long-run even if they might make me whine in the short-run.

I've talked about my tendency to break promises I make to myself. When I do that, it makes me unhappy. And lately, I've been breaking all kinds of promises. On the one hand, I don't want to be too hard on myself but on the other, I worry that I'm too easy. There has to be a happy medium somewhere. I think the key to that is to make sure that I'm making promises (to myself and others) that are doable, consistent with my goals and values and flexible enough to take changed circumstances into consideration.

With my one week on/one week off custody arrangement, I have to schedule my promises with the understanding that when I have the kids, I have less time for things like writing. I simply can't write 2500 words a day when I have custody of the kids. If I expect to be able to do that, my conflicting goals are going to make me crazy. I want to spend time with the kids. I want to write a lot. But they can't both be my highest priority at the same time. If, by trying to do one I sacrifice the other, I will never be happy. But I'm in control of my promises to myself and I'm in control of determining how to meet my goals. Which means that I can wave my magic Glinda wand and say "When I have custody of the kids, I don't have to write 2500 words a day." And it's done. The pressure is off.

Managing my expectations about my ability to do stuff is only part of the Happiness Plan. The other part is to step up my game in areas that can't be waved away with my magic wand. As much as I'd love to make my bills disappear, every month my mortgage lender expects to be paid. And no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that.

It should come as no surprise that I've been slacking off some in the work department. Mainly because I still, technically, have a "day job" that I don't love but that pays the bills for now. I get paid hourly so I can work more hours and make more money. As much as it pains me to say this - if I had more money, I would be happier. It's not ALL about money but I hate worrying about money. I need just enough so that I don't have to worry about making next month's bills. Not worrying as much = happier.

The other slacking off area is organization. (Organization = bane of my existence). This is where short-term happiness vs. long-term happiness becomes a real issue for me. Short-term, few things make me happier than NOT cleaning and organizing (NOT exercising is close, though). Clearly, this is not a good set up for long-term happiness and effectiveness in life. I'm trying lots of different techniques to trick myself into getting stuff done but what I really need to do is JUST DO IT. Seriously, I need to put on some big girl pants and clean my room. It's sort of scary that I'm 45 years old and still need my Mom to yell at me before I will actually clean up the clutter. Sheesh. I know, deep down, that I'll be much happier and more relaxed if my surroundings are less cluttered. Apparently I somehow need to convince the part of my brain that actually controls my actions. Haven't figured out exactly how to do that consistently, though.

No Happiness Plan is complete without fun stuff. If there was no fun stuff, it would just be another to do list. (And if I've learned one thing in this life it's that to do lists suck.) When I'm not happy with myself, I start to feel like I don't deserve fun things. Somehow I figure that if I deny myself fun stuff, I'll get to work on the not-fun stuff so that when the not-fun stuff is done, THEN I'll deserve fun stuff. Not only is that sentence hard to read, that tactic does not work. Ever. Fun stuff has to be a part of every day in the Happiness Plan.

So here's my current Happiness Plan:

1) Think about the promises I've made to myself (and others) and make sure they're doable, flexible and consistent with my values and goals.
2) Step it up by working a few more hours each week and cleaning my freaking room (preferably with a minimum of whining).
3) Spend time outside every day - even when it's raining. (Because I'm always happier when I get out of the house even if I think I want to stay inside.)
4) Listen to my favorite music every day. (When I work at the office, I always play music but when I work at home I sometimes forget to turn it on. Music = fun.)
5) Talk to at least one friend a day. (It's easy for me to just chat on Twitter or read Facebook or email. But I feel so much more connected if I actually talk to someone. Connection = fun.)

The Happiness Plan will evolve over time (just like the dreaded to do list). But so long as the point is seeking happiness and not just getting things done, hopefully I'll be more likely to keep up with it. Now that I've developed the Plan, I'm going to clean my room with my favorite music playing!

Do you have a Happiness Plan? Share it here - I love sharing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Multislacking (or why I love Twitter)

Here's what I asked Twitter today - If I procrastinate on more than one thing at a time, do I get extra points? My favorite answer was from @SquiggleJay - she said "Multislacking". I immediately started following her because that's awesome. (She says she probably heard that term somewhere so I don't know who coined it. If you know who coined it, tell them thanks from me!)

Anyway, a new competitive sport is born. Seriously, I think I could turn Multislacking into a national pastime rivaling baseball. (Mainly because I think baseball is boring unless you're in the bleachers at Wrigley drinking bad beer). I can't tell you how many people are into this sport and probably don't even know it yet.

Fact is, I'm a serial committer - meaning that I commit to a lot of things but I have a problem with follow through because I'm also a Multislacker. I am so good at procrastinating that I can procrastinate on several things at once. And the more things I commit myself to do, the more things I can procrastinate at any given time. I would totally win the Stanley Cup of Multislacking if we had one.

I'm a little concerned that this sport may not be very healthy. It's kind of like rugby only it probably doesn't involve serious physical injury. It could involve incurring financial penalties and a significant rise in the divorce rate. But that didn't stop horse racing did it?

There are just so many things that need to be done that I really dislike doing. And many of them would otherwise interfere with things I love, like long mid-week lunches with friends and movie watching. What's a girl to do?

As much as I'd love to stay at the top of my game, greats in all sports have to scale back or retire at some point. I think it's time for me to break out the kitchen timer and go back to my modified Flylady program that worked for me in the past. The basic premise is that you can do anything for 15 minutes. Pick a project, set a timer and go for it. Flylady has lots of other strategies for recovering Multislackers, too.

I struggle with this because I really don't want to change my essential nature - spontaneous, passionate, fun-loving, creative. And, like other creatives, I fear that any kind of structure will kill my buzz. I think that all my years being a lawyer and trying to live a life that didn't fit makes me extra sensitive to this issue. But I also know that I have to be a grown up and we all have to spend some time doing stuff that isn't fun just because it's a part of life. And also learning to delay gratification is a good thing. Sometimes. (And for a REALLY funny take on this, you have to read Hyperbole and a Half).

Yesterday was a 24-hour procrastination fest. (But I do feel rejuvenated today so maybe that's the silver lining). One of the things I procrastinated on was the Consciousness Cleanse. I kind of did Days 8 and 9 but didn't really have anything interesting to write about them. Like some of the first few days, there just wasn't anything new there for me. Day 8 was the Power of Liberation. (Been there, done that. Liberated from my job and my marriage. Can't get much more liberated . . .). Day 9 was the Power of Responsibility which is where you take responsibility for taking care of yourself. I guess it's relevant to what's going on with me right now. My struggle between needing to be an adult and not wanting to act like a grown up. I'm feeling like this consciousness cleanse might have been more useful to me a year ago.

So today is Day 10 - The Power of Humility. I guess calling myself the Queen of the Multislackers on Twitter this morning wasn't very humble. Sorry. Actually, this day is about realizing that it takes a village. Not only to raise kids. But to really take care of ourselves. We're so afraid to be vulnerable, to admit we don't know everything, that we put up a wall that cuts us off from connection to other people. We need to let our defenses down and let other people in so they can support us on our journey. I clearly used to have that problem, not sure I do anymore. Just in case this isn't already abundantly clear - I hereby admit that I don't know everything and I need all the help I can get. And we already know how much I crave connection. So I think I have this day covered.

Now I am off to an Abundance Meditation workshop led by my friend Debbie Taitel who is awesome. She's part of the growing clan that is supporting me on my journey. Go read her blog and follow her on Twitter @spiritlightmuse.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's about connection! Now what?

I know I'm supposed to be writing about the Consciousness Cleanse that I'm doing and I'm two days behind but I'll get to it, maybe later today. Maybe not. But in the meantime I just had an epiphany walking home from the grocery store listening to Amazing by One EskimO. (Which is really an amazing song. Seriously.) The epiphany is this: It's about connecting to other people! That's it.

For some of you, this may not seem like an earth-shattering epiphany but for me it was and this is why. I'm really independent. Have been since I was a kid [insert sob story about divorced parents, blah, blah]. I had to do a lot of things on my own so I got used to being alone. And sometimes I actually do need to be alone in order to recharge. But really, deep down in places I don't talk about at parties (well, maybe I do), I'm a people person. I need to be around other people. Actually, it's more than that - I need to connect with other people. So it isn't enough to just go out and walk around the city surrounded by other human beings. I need to connect on a personal level.

This is related to my recent realization that I'm afraid that I'll spend the rest of my life alone. It's not that I can't live by myself or go out to dinner alone. It's not that I'm afraid of supporting myself (although if anyone wants to apply for the job of Sugar Daddy, the position is wide open). I'm just figuring out that I have a deep-seated need to share my life - my day-to-day existence - with other people.

It isn't necessarily that I need to get married again or even have a serious romantic relationship - although that would be great. But without a "partner" of some sort, it means I have to work harder to get that connection I need. That's probably one of the reasons I waited so long to get divorced. An unhealthy connection is still a connection. Having someone to come home to, even if all you want to do is avoid them, is still easier (I didn't say better) than having to do the work of finding someone else to spend time with (or ignore, I guess). I never said it was a good reason to put off getting divorced . . .

I would probably be really happy living in a commune. Assuming the other people living there didn't annoy me too much with New Age music and assuming I wouldn't get kicked out for wanting to keep my one pair of Jimmy Choo's. But if I could find the right tribe of people to live with, I'd be great.

The wonderful thing about my new career path of being a massage/Reiki therapist is that when I am working, I can't help but connect with people. Being a healer allows me to use my hands, heart, mind and spirit to work. Being a lawyer - I used my mind (and my hands if you count drafting boring documents using my hands). When I was working at a company, I was in meetings all the time. Most people hate meetings. I hated some of them - when they were pointless and boring. But mainly, I loved that part of my job and now I know why. It was the part of my job that involved connecting to other people. Helping them get stuff done. Helping them work through issues. That's what I love to do.

But right now I'm spending a lot of time alone, writing and trying to set up an online business. So how do I deal with it? Two words: Facebook and Twitter. Isn't the Internet wonderful? On Facebook, I've reconnected with all kinds of new and old friends, near and far. I connect with all kinds of people - sometimes on a deeper level than some in-person relationships - on the Internet. Just a few of my relatively new Internet friends are Gina, Miss Mandie, LaVonne, Peggie, Jesse, Kevin and Tony. These are real people who could totally call me up if they were in Chicago and I would drop everything to meet them for coffee. I might even consider donating a kidney if one of them needed it. Or maybe just offer to edit their eBooks. But I've never met them "in real life" and it doesn't matter. They're just as much friends as many of my other "real life" friends are. Which is why I spend way, way more time on Twitter and Facebook than I really should.

The really important thing this epiphany does is shine the light on the things I do when I get lonely. And I get lonely a lot these days when I don't have custody of my kids and I haven't made the effort to get together with friends. What I end up doing when I'm lonely is eating crap and messing around on the Internet. And it never seems to fill me up because "you can never get enough of the things you don't need." (I don't know who coined this phrase but it's a good one). The point is - as much as I love my tortilla chips, if I'm eating them to assuage the loneliness, I'll never stop eating them. I will never be able to get enough because they will never get rid of the loneliness. The only thing that gets rid of the loneliness is connecting. What do I do when it's late at night, none of my friends are on Twitter or Facebook and I start feeling the need for connection now that I know I shouldn't grab the chips (or start playing computer games)?

I don't know. I guess we'll see tonight. (I really, really wish I had a good answer for this - maybe someday soon I will).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wherein I tell you that it's ok to be a Badass Bitch and show you how Glinda the Good Witch can help you feel powerful

I've made it through six days of my Consciousness Cleanse, can you believe it? I've actually stuck with it for almost a week. Amazing. I know. Day 6 is The Gift of Surrender where we stop resisting our emotions and . . . yes, "surrender" to them. Although I haven't written directly about this, I have written about letting go and being ok with not being happy all the time. So, yeah. I get that it's important to acknowledge and accept ALL of our feelings - good and bad. And feel all of our feelings. Bad feelings don't go away when you ignore them. In fact, they stick around because you ignore them. Because "what you resist, persists." Whether you like it or not.

So let's all quit pretending to be Little Mary Sunshine all the time and let our Badass Bitch have the floor every once in awhile. It's healthy. (Maybe not for the people around you on Badass Bitch Day but if you can't score a little "alone" time when she shows up, Little Mary Sunshine will make nice later. Don't sweat it.) In all seriousness, stop feeling like you have to be happy all the time. Stop denying your dark side. It's ok.

Ok, I said I was going to blog about doing the Cleanse and now that I've gotten that out of the way, I want to talk about something else. I want to tell you about Glinda the Good Witch and how helpful she can be in helping you get free of unhealthy attachments to people and events.

Is there a person in your life who triggers strong negative emotions in you time and again? Is there an event from the past that, whenever you think about it, causes major heartburn? Do you feel powerless to stop your painful reaction to those people and events? With the help of Glinda, you can stop the painful reactions. Or at least diminish the pain.

There is a scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is with Glinda in Munchkinland. The Wicked Witch pops in and threatens Dorothy. Glinda laughs and says "You have no power here. Be gone. Before someone drops a house on you, too." I've tried to find video of this scene because how she says this and the way she laughs is important. Glinda says this line with perfect authority and just a little bit of smug dismissiveness. The Wicked Witch has no choice but to slink off - and without the ruby slippers, too.

This may seem totally weird but I swear it works. Here's what I want you to do. The next time you're with a crazy-making person and he or she starts to do the stuff that drives you insane, I want you to either picture Glinda saying this line to that person or silently say the line yourself. If it's a past event, whenever you start reliving it, have Glinda say the line or you can even say it out loud. (I've tried saying it out loud but the problem is that I can't seem to get the laugh right and it kind of ruins it. So usually I just have Glinda say it.)

The fact is that these people and events only have power over us because we let them. As hard as it sometimes is to see, we really do have a choice in how we react to the actions of other people. Glinda helps us remember that the only person with power over our emotions is us. No one else has any power in our head unless we give it to them. If you've given some of that power away, Glinda helps you regain it.

Try it and let me know how it goes for you. Once you start, you'll find so many places that this can be used to help you stop feeling controlled by situations. Using this trick doesn't mean you'll stop feeling angry at your ex when he does that thing he does that always pisses you off but he does it anyway and probably on purpose because he knows it pisses you off. You may still be angry but it won't eat you up for three days after you see him. And you might even get to the point where it just doesn't bother you anymore. Because he will not have that power over you anymore.

Trust me. This will work. In fact, I'm beginning to think that the sillier and more fun something is, the more powerful its magic. And I find that really exciting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My body is a temple, blah, blah, blah. Pass the chips.

We're on Day 5 of the Consciousness Cleanse and today's focus is reverence for our bodies. We're asked to write a letter of apology to our bodies, keeping in mind the question: "If you knew your body was the Holy container of the Divine, what do you need to say you're sorry for?"

*Sigh* I'm not sure what to think about this issue. On the one hand, I totally owe my body an apology. For lots and lots of things. I have not been very nice to it over the years. But I'm having a weird reaction to the idea of apologizing to my body. To a certain extent, my body is me. I guess I could apologize to myself for a life time of bad eating habits and my refusal to get over my well-known addiction to Hint of Lime Tostitos. (They are the crack cocaine of food. Captain Crunch with Crunchberries is the primo weed. And using the word "primo" probably dates me more than my crow's feet do. But I digress. )

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis that pops up on Twitter all the time: You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

So, my soul is the Divine and my body is the container for my soul. I've known that for a long time. And yet I still often treat my body like a landfill. And I guess I should be hunkering down to write that apology to my divine soul but it just feels . . . weird. I have no problem with recognizing that I only get one go around in this body and if I don't take care of it, my go around could be cut short.

Maybe this is giving me trouble because it's not new to me. There's no revelation for me in today's Cleanse. It's kind of "same old, same old" - my body is a temple, blah, blah, blah. Pass the chips. I'm just not that into it.

I'm exaggerating of course. I do try to take care of myself most of the time. I'm doing non-sucky yoga regularly. I quit smoking and got off anti-depressants. I'm learning to meditate without having to beat my ADD brain into submission. I'm taking better care of my body because it makes sense. Because if I don't, I won't be able to walk my life's path of being a healer. And if I don't, I'm not setting a good example for my kids. The idea that my body is a container for my soul just doesn't do it for me. It doesn't motivate me in the least. I'm not sure why not but there it is.

I'm still working on the outer goal (getting paperwork done) and the inner goal (feeling peaceful) that started with Day 1 of the Cleanse. Today I got some stuff done towards getting my work area more organized. Right now it actually looks worse than it did when I started but I know I've made progress (packed two boxes of books for storage and set aside a bunch of books to sell to the used book store). Oh, and the books I'm selling? They're all self-help books about PMS and PMDD and peri-menopause. I got them because someone told me I had a problem with my hormones. I didn't have a problem with my hormones. I had a problem with the someone. So the books (along with the someone) are outta here. As far as feeling peaceful . . . that's been a little more difficult. Driving in rush hour traffic during the storm of the century didn't really help. But sitting on a friend's porch after the storm and watching the fireflies flicker? Now that felt peaceful.

Technical difficulties make me sad

I thought I'd spiffy up my template but in the process, I seem to have lost all my hyperlinks - including the link to the comments. I'm praying to the technology gods tonight that I will be able to fix this problem because I loooove comments. And I'm very sad that I can't get any right now. So hopefully comments will be up and running again soon.

In the meantime, you can send me mini comment love on Twitter if you're so inclined (@slackermomspeak).

Thanks for your patience :)

And now the problems are fixed! Thank you to the anonymous person on the Blogger Help forums who is also up in the middle of the night and took the time to fix my blog. You are most awesome.

Let the comment rumpus begin!! (Or something like that.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The power of forgiveness and releasing resentment

Today's Consciousness Cleanse is about forgiveness. Debbie Ford says that forgiveness involves "releasing the invisible ties to those who have left you, betrayed you, disappointed you or hurt you" and that if you don't "cut the cords of resentment you continue to be imprisoned by" those people and situations you've presumably been trying to get away from. Hmm, that sounds familiar. I wrote recently about being connected energetically to old, unhealthy relationships and how important it is to cut those cords in order to be truly free. My post was mainly about ex-spouses/lovers but the same principle applies to all old relationships where you were hurt in some way.

One place where this kind of forgiveness and detachment might be useful is with our parents. In some ways, it's easy to detach from an old relationship with someone who isn't around us anymore - like an ex-spouse. Out of sight, out of mind does work in many cases. But what if you still have a relationship with someone who has hurt you or disappointed you? Unless you had really exceptional parents they probably did both at one time or another. No matter how much you love your Mom and Dad, you may find that you're carrying some sort of resentment towards them for something. Unless you release that resentment it has a negative effect on you. It poisons you, your relationship with your parents and maybe even your relationship with your own kids or spouse.

For the longest time, my Mom could get a rise out of me for what seemed like the littlest things. She would make some random comment and I would fly off the handle and get angry. She'd get defensive, I'd get angrier and our relationship suffered. I didn't realize until fairly recently that I was holding a tremendous amount of resentment towards her for things I thought I had long forgotten. But the truth was that although I may have (for the most part) forgotten things, I hadn't forgiven her. That's why I would jump to anger with seemingly little provocation.

Some of the things I was still pissed about were really small. Like the fact that she "wasn't available" to come with me to buy a prom dress until my step-mom offered to go with me. Then she was suddenly available. Seriously, I was still pissed about that 25 years later. Some of the things were pretty big like the fact that when she and my Dad got divorced she moved out of the house while my brothers and I were away at summer camp. Even though we knew she was leaving, it was pretty crappy of her to do it that way. It took me over 20 years to realize that I was angry about it and another 10 or so years to have the courage to actually tell her that I was angry about it. Looking back I feel silly for having held onto that resentment for so long. It was poison for me and everyone around me. And there was no reason for it. When I finally told my Mom that I was upset about those things - big and small - she apologized. I know she was doing the best she could at the time. I still think what she did was wrong. But I forgive her. No amount of telling myself that I shouldn't be angry for what happened so long ago could ever set me free. It wasn't until I accepted the fact that I was angry and truly forgave her that I could be free of the resentment and its effect on my life.

You may be in a situation where you can't talk to the person who has hurt you. Your parents may have passed away. It may be dangerous to talk to an abusive ex. The Cleanse for today recommends that we write a letter detailing all of the pain and hurt we've experienced and in the letter ask our highest selves for release from the prison of resentment. I think that's a great idea for situations where you can't actually confront the person who has hurt you.

If you're not comfortable writing things down or it just doesn't work for you, you can achieve the release another way. Try sitting quietly, with one hand on your heart and one hand on your lower abdomen. Tell yourself your story of hurt and pain as if you were telling a good friend. You can do it out loud or silently, whatever you're comfortable with. I don't think you have to dig deep into the details unless you want to and feel ok doing so. Talk about why you were hurt or disappointed. Don't let your internal critic tell you that your feelings aren't valid! Your internal critic is an idiot - never forget that. Don't judge your feelings - it won't make them go away and it won't help you heal anyway. When you're done with your story, tell yourself "I'm sorry you were so hurt. But it's ok. It's over now. You can let it go. You don't need to carry the hurt anymore." Or you can simply say "I accept that [this thing] happened. I accept and acknowledge my hurt and anger. I now release all resentment, anger and hurt feelings from [this thing]."

Remember that you can forgive someone without telling them (or yourself) that what they did was ok. Forgiveness is the simple act of letting go of the anger and hurt and sadness that is attached to whatever or whoever hurt you. For really big stuff, you may need to do this exercise more than once or twice. There's no magic pill to make these toxic feelings go away - there's only acceptance and release. And however long it takes you to get there is perfectly fine. The important thing is to keep working at it a little at a time.

My Mom recently said to me (right after I signed up for massage school), "You know there's probably lots more jobs for lawyers than there are for massage therapists." That's the kind of thing that would have sent me into a tizzy before. Partly because she was totally and completely wrong. But really because she wasn't supporting me in my attempt to make a happier life for myself. She was being selfish because she liked saying "My daughter, the lawyer" and didn't want to have a daughter who was "just" a massage therapist. She was the one with money issues, not me. And on and on. But none of that came up for me in the moment. Instead, I smiled and hugged her and said "I know you're worried about my financial well-being and I love you for that. But I don't want you to worry. I just want you to be happy for me."

That's when I knew that the resentment was gone for good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My consciousness is getting cleaner by the day . . .

So yesterday (or was it the day before?) was Day 2 of the Consciousness Cleanse. Now that I'm not working at a 9 to 5 job, I sometimes find it hard to keep track of what day it is. Especially when the kids are out of school.

My flakiness aside, I did Day 2 but found it surprisingly difficult. Day 2 is the day of self-awareness. We're counseled to "invoke the agent of change called self-awareness" and begin to "digest" some toxic stuff or something. I have to be honest. That's the kind of self-help mumbo jumbo that turns me off. I get it - we can't begin to change unless we know who we are and what we want to change. Right? If you know you want to get to Point B, you need good directions. But the directions will be different depending on whether you're on Point A, Point C or Point Z. And that's where self-awareness comes in.

Day 2 also involves changing our perspective on our lives and the decisions we've made along the way. We're supposed to pretend that our lives are movies that we're watching without judgment. And once we stop judging things to be good or bad we can, presumably, release the emotional attachments to those events that are holding us back. See - I can totally talk the talk. I read this stuff, I can explain it to other people in words that (I think) sound pretty good and I really do understand what these exercises are supposed to accomplish. But it doesn't seem to work for me.

There's really only one thing I regret in my life and that's the fact that I wasted a lot of energy in my late 20s/early 30s worrying about the future. Two things in particular - getting the right job/career and finding a husband - a father for the children I wanted so desperately to have before it was "too late." But I don't judge myself poorly for that. I think. I bought into the cultural party line that was, and is, so powerful. I wasn't alone. I feel kind of sorry for younger me in fact. She missed out on a lot of amazing adventures because she wasn't focused enough in the "now." She made decisions she thought she had to make in order to have the future she thought she wanted. She was somewhat delusional. All the other stuff - the little and big things I would have done differently - it all comes from excessive worrying about the future.

So Day 2, for me, didn't really lead to any epiphanies because I'm already fairly self-aware. I already know what things limit me and I'm working on changing those things. In fact, I think my problem with getting paperwork done stems from living too much in the "now." I'm not thinking enough about the future and the work that needs to be done today in order to have a more peaceful and happy tomorrow. So I guess I just didn't get much out of Day 2. I did make a little more progress on my paperwork monster (a little, tiny bit) and I reminded myself - several times - of the Reiki principles to try to keep myself in a peaceful mood. So it wasn't a complete bust.

On to Day 3 which is the Gift of Release. This is where we take the limiting and toxic beliefs and behaviors and release them so that we can move forward. One of the concepts Ford talks about is that all the negative things that happened to us and all the negative self-talk, release toxins into our psyche. By the way, that's the same principle that Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in Toltec wisdom book (also known as The Four Agreements). (I highly recommend this book, by the way. My friend, the fabulous Judah Kurtz at Judah Buddha, recommends it to all his clients. If I had money, I would be a client but I don't so I just take advantage of his good advice as a friend!)

The Four Agreements resonates more with me because although the book is totally woo woo, the agreements themselves are very down to earth and easy to follow. I won't go into all of them (that's a post for another day) but the one that's relevant to today's Cleanse is "Be impeccable with your word." I think most people read that initially as meaning "don't lie." And it does mean that. But it really means to be very careful about what you say. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Do not speak poorly about yourself (even in your head). Don't gossip or be mean to others. "Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love." I don't know about you but I think that the world would be a much better place if more people did just that.

So I'm already working on being nicer to myself (and everyone around me). I already know that the only thing standing between me and the life I want to live is fear. I have a daily wrestling match with fear. I stopped keeping score awhile ago because you know how much I hate keeping track of details like that. Fear is pretty strong and he's had the best of me for a long time. But the daily wrestling is making me stronger and I'm gaining ground. Haven't found his Achilles heal yet but I'll keep trying. Now I'm going to do some more paperwork stuff - baby steps. And then I'm going to do some yoga to help me feel more peaceful.

Now I'm curious about you. What are your self-limiting beliefs? What can you do today to start getting out of your own way?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Seeking that peaceful, easy feeling

The other day I mentioned that I "found" Debbie Ford. I haven't read any of her books but some of the articles she's written really resonate with me. She wrote a book called The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: A Breakthrough Program for Connecting with Your Soul's Deepest Purpose* (affiliate link). It's not a new book but on her Facebook page yesterday she mentioned that she is going to do the Cleanse over the next 21 days and blog about it. So, because I'm a sucker for self-help programs, I thought I would do it too. Also, my consciousness could use a good cleaning. I don't have the book but it just so happens that she has some exercises from the book on starting with Day 1. I've been kind of bored with the stream of consciousness writing that's been helping me meet the 2500 word challenge and I'm hoping that this will give me more interesting stuff to write about.

Day One is The Gift of Desire. For today, the exercise involved writing down two things - an outer goal and an inner goal. To figure out the outer goal, I needed to choose the area of my life that most needs my attention right now. For the inner goal I needed to choose one feeling that I desire to feel the most this year. Then I write a bunch of stuff about what my life would look like, how it would be different and how it would impact other people if I achieved my outer goal. And I write about how I would act if I was feeling my desired feeling and how that would impact my life and the people in it. They say you're more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

I didn't have to think very hard about the outer goal. The area that most needs my attention right now is paperwork organization. Ack! Iguanas! (Iguanas - as defined by the wonderful Havi at Fluent Self - are annoying things that we avoid because we really don't want to do them for whatever reason). Paperwork is a big, fat iguana for me. I've tried to come up with a metaphor for paperwork to help me get around my stuckness and general inability to organize the paper in my life but it hasn't really worked. I'm not even sure where to begin to explain why my paperwork is in such disarray. I could so easily blame my ADD but that's not the entire problem. It's just a convenient excuse. I could also blame my fear that if I were to get my paperwork organized, it would represent such a massive change that it might actually cause a tear in the space/time continuum. Which I'm pretty sure would be bad. I imagine that I could write a really long, boring and whiny book about why I don't like to do paperwork. But I'll spare you. Let's just say I have issues when it comes to paperwork.

When I get a handle on the paper in my life, I won't randomly panic about money because I will know where I am financially. In the old days when I made lots of money, I didn't really worry about it because, well, I made lots of money. And because my ex-husband did enough worrying about money for the both of us. Now I make not a lot of money. I'm about to spend a chunk of the money I don't really have to pay for massage school. And I don't work as much at my part-time job as I could (or should) because I dislike it so much and would much rather do pretty much anything else (except personal paperwork). But it does pay the bills for now so . . . anyway. When I get my paperwork in order, I won't fear that things are falling through the cracks. I won't have to pay late fees or penalties or overdraft charges. (I haven't gotten to that point but it will happen if I don't start fixing this).

When I get a handle on the paper in my life, I will feel like a responsible adult instead of the irresponsible teenager I feel like right now. I swear, I hear my mother's voice in my head telling me to clean up my room. And I react to that imaginary voice the way I reacted to the real voice when I was 14. "Oh, yeah? Make me." I'm real mature like that. I guess I have to remind myself that if I become a responsible adult, it doesn't mean I can't have fun and do goofy stuff and embarrass my kids. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. Organized people have fun all the time. In fact, they probably have more fun because they don't have the voices in their head telling them they should be cleaning their room instead of being out having fun.

When I get a handle on the paper in my life, I will be a better role model for my kids. First of all, I will be taking better care of myself. Second of all, I'll be setting a good example. Kids learn by watching us. They don't listen to what we say, especially when what we say is inconsistent with our actions (do you blame them?) So if I talk to my daughter right now about how important it is for her to keep her school work organized, she would have every right to tell me to stick it. I gotta walk the walk if I want my kids to listen to me.

When I get a handle on the paper in my life, it will make room for more creativity and growth in my business and my personal development. I think I'll feel more confident if I'm more "together" on this issue. I have an accountant, I have a financial planner even. But neither of them can help me until I do the work of getting crap organized. I owe them both information and documents but I've been procrastinating. Because I don't really know where the stuff is and I don't have it organized enough for anyone else to look at anything. It's embarrassing. I'll have better follow-through because I won't be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of finding stuff like my retirement account statements. I'll be able to send my accountant reports at tax time that will make his job easier and might mean that I actually file my returns on time. And because my accounts will be organized, I won't stress out for months on end about getting my tax stuff done. My part of getting the taxes done will already be complete! That's the beauty of being organized. That's what I want. That's what I need.

For my inner goal I decided that what I want to feel more is peace. When I feel peaceful, I am less reactive and more thoughtful. I am grounded and strong. Day to day events don't knock me off my feet. I can bend but I won't break. This will benefit the people around me because I'll be less sensitive. Less likely to bite someones head off. (I don't do that all the time but it happens. On occasion. Sometimes. Ok, more often than it should.) I guess approaching life from a place of peace is kind of a touchstone for me. I will be a more effective healer because I'll be exuding peace. This world needs more peace and so do I.

Of course the Consciousness Cleanse requires more than just thinking about these goals. I'm supposed to choose one action I can do today to move me one step closer to my goal of getting my paperwork organized. That step is to gather all my piles of paper and get it all into two piles - urgent and not-so-urgent. And because some traditional paperwork isn't really on paper anymore (i.e. some of my receipts for my business are electronic), I'll also pull together in an electronic file or write down on a list all the information that I need to organize as well. Pulling everything together doesn't seem so scary. That's one thing I can do today without too much pain.

For my inner goal I need to come up with an action or a thought I can think to support me in feeling more peaceful. One thing that helps me feel peaceful is reciting the Reiki principles. I try to briefly meditate on them once or twice a day but lately I've been skipping it which isn't good for me. Here are the Reiki principles as I recite them (there are several different iterations - this is my personal adaptation): "Just for today I will not worry; I will not be angry; I will be mindful and diligent in my work; I will be grateful for all that I have, all that I am and all that I can be and I will be kind and compassionate to every living creature - including myself." So my action for today is to recite the Reiki principles.

I hope this isn't just another thing I flake out on after a few days. I think it's a good exercise for me to do. There is a lot of junk still hanging around in my consciousness that needs to go. I'm starting school in about a month so getting this going now will help clear the decks and make room for all the information about anatomy, physiology and massage technique that I'll be learning. And will hopefully help me deal more effectively with the stress of balancing school, working part-time for "the man", running my own business and - most importantly - being a mom.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shower the people you love with love

This morning I helped serve breakfast at my kids' school to a gathering for the whole middle school to celebrate the graduating eighth graders. I have a seventh grader and I don't know most of the older kids. I wasn't thinking about graduation because I'm just so focused (or not) on the million other things going on in my life right now. One of the other seventh grade moms was talking about how emotional she was feeling even though her daughter wasn't even graduating. I laughed thinking that I'm usually the emotional one and wasn't it funny how I wasn't feeling it.

And then they played a slide show created by two of the eighth graders featuring pictures of themselves and their classmates from the time they were babies until now. I think it was the music that did me in. As soon as the first baby picture came up and they started playing Seasons of Love from Rent, the tears started falling. It wasn't until I started crying that I realized how I was actually feeling. I'm kind of weird that way - the physical reaction comes before I recognize the feeling. Or maybe that's not strange at all. In any case, I was realizing the obvious - it all goes so damn fast. Watching those baby pictures fade into pictures of the young adults they are becoming brought it all home for me. My babies are growing up. And I haven't enjoyed my time with them near as much as I now wish I had. (This would be a whole lot easier to write if the tears didn't keep blurring my vision).

So here's what I wrote on Facebook and Twitter: Cherish the ones you love. Some will be in your life forever and some only for a season. You don't always know whether your time with them will be short or long. So while it lasts enjoy it. Savor it. Make it count.

Then, somehow, following the crumbs of Twitter click-throughs, I ended up at Debbie Ford's site and read this article called "Self-love: The Key to Being an Extraordinary Parent." It made me realize that in order to be the kind of parent I want to be, I need to love myself the way I love my kids. With no reservations or judgment. With a full heart. And if I want them to believe in themselves, I have to believe in myself. If I want them to treat themselves with loving kindness, I have to treat myself that way too. Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, our kids learn far more from what we do than anything we ever say.

In the article, Ford talks about our two internal maps - our Vision Map and our Default Map. Our Vision Map represents the kind of person and parent that we want to be. The Default Map is, well, what we default to when we're tired and stressed. It's what we learned from our parents and the other adults around us but isn't necessarily what we've chosen for ourselves - or what we want to teach our kids. The Default Map is reactionary - it's how we operate when we're not being proactive about our own behavior and habits.

I'm the Queen of reactionary behavior. It's probably because of my well-documented scatterbrain tendency. I am "focusing" on so many things at one time, it's hard to be proactive about things that are not in front of my face (or tabbed on my browser). Being proactive requires time and space for quiet thinking. It requires contemplation and self-knowledge. At the very least, it requires forethought. I am not the Queen of forethought.

I would do anything for my kids. Most parents will tell you the same thing and we all mean it sincerely. We run around like banshees taking them to activities, we scold and cajole them into finishing their homework, we feed and clothe and hug and kiss them goodnight. We do so much for our kids (some of us, too much). But what we often don't do for them, is take care of ourselves. What they tell you on the airplane (during the speech you've heard so many times you don't even listen any more) is true - put your oxygen mask on before you help anyone else with theirs. Take care of yourself and your kids will learn how to care for themselves. Isn't that what we want to accomplish as parents?

I guess I'm trying to make two points here and they're getting kind of muddled in my mushy emotional state:

First of all, cherish your children (and if you don't have your own kids - cherish the people you love young or old). You will not be around forever. They will not be around forever. Make your time together count.

And second, the greatest gift you can give your children is to teach them to love themselves. The only way to do that is to show them by loving yourself. Give yourself time, space and freedom to be proactive about your life. Show them how to live a life of passion and devotion to the people and activities and causes that they love. Be the kind of person you want your children to grow up to be.

"Father and mother, sister and brother if it feels nice, don't think twice. Just shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will." James Taylor - Shower the People

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scatterbrain - treatable illness or personality quirk?

If you're a regular reader, you know that I was recently diagnosed with ADD. I've been somewhat flaky and scattered my whole life but it wasn't until I was working in a large law firm that was not the right place for me culturally that it became a huge problem for me. Until then I had always managed to keep things together enough to get the job done. I was pretty good at what I did. Also, the fact that I'm a nice person who gets along with pretty much everyone helped a lot when I needed people to cut me slack for my lack of organization.

I was taking medication to "control" the ADD but frankly, it didn't work all that well and it's expensive especially when you include having to pay to see a psychiatrist every month just to have them write the prescription. Once I got my Reiki attunement, I felt that I no longer could tolerate taking medication for my ADD. I needed to figure out if this is really an illness that should be treated or if it's just part of the weirdness that makes me who I am. For better or for worse. If I were to get a full-time office job again, I would need to be medicated in order to function sufficiently. Does that mean there is something wrong with me or does it mean that I probably shouldn't have an office job? For now, I'm going with not getting an office job.

It's all well and good for me to accept myself for who I am. I'm cool with not having an office job. However, I need to pay the bills somehow. With no sugar daddy in sight, I have to do something that people will pay me for. I'm thrilled to be trained as a Reiki practitioner. I love the essential oil products that I'm starting to sell (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: In fact, check out my website here if you're interested in buying some fabulous oils and aromatherapy products!) I'm enrolled in massage therapy school that starts next month. So I've been moving - slowly - in the right direction in terms of giving myself a way to make a living that doesn't involve an office job. However, I'm finding - much to my dismay - that if I'm going to be successful as my own boss, I still need some semblance of organization and structure. Currently, my days are rather unstructured and to say my stuff is disorganized would be a HUGE understatement. Clearly, something needs to be done.

Yesterday, a Tweet from @starbucker caught my eye. He linked to this article in the NY Times about the over-use of technology and how it's affecting our brains. Multi-taskers (like me) will argue strenuously that multi-tasking helps them get more done in a day. But studies clearly show that when we try to do more than one thing at a time, our performance suffers. In addition, some of us are simply addicted to the stimulation that our gadgets provide us. The more we try to do with our gadgets, the less we're able to concentrate on getting things done.

This is really embarrassing but I'm going to tell you anyway: right now I have two browser windows open. One of them has 15 tabs up and the other has 14 tabs. I also have two Word documents, a PDF and Outlook open. Oh, and Tweetdeck which supplies me with a pop up every time one of the 163 people I'm following has something to say. God forbid I should be without my constant Twitter chatter. Of the browser tabs, four are Facebook pages, two are email accounts I check regularly and three are Blogger so I can write this post. All the others are basically stuff I started to read but didn't finish or want to read later or opened when I clicked on a Tweet I don't remember clicking. One of the Word documents is the flyer that I need to finish so I have something to hand out at my Reiki presentation thingy on Sunday (if you're in Chicago you should totally stop by!) The PDF is one of the worksheets from Awesome Fear Wrangling. I started reading it the other day and never finished it. I really, really want to finish it. I want to jump into all of it. And the Question the Rules. And the Firestarter stuff that I bought but haven't started. I still have legal documentation for my business the needs to get finished. Plus I have to get my accounting records straight so I can make sure to pay the right amount of taxes. Do you see a pattern here? I actually tried to write this post yesterday but I was too scattered to get it done. Funny, but I'm totally not kidding.

Now I could give you all kinds of excuses. Even though it isn't my custody week, I'm staying with my ex and the kids because he's out of commission with a severe calf muscle injury. I had to get the kids to and from school. I had to make sure my ex got food and stuff. And I spent hours in the car yesterday taking him to Costco to buy fruit for his store. (Yes, I just happen to be a really nice ex wife). And we had to spend some time arguing because that's what we do best. But if I'm being honest with myself (and you), I could get a lot more done if I wasn't so scattered. I check my email wayyyy too many times during the day. I spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter. I read a lot of blogs and other websites (which I really enjoy doing and learn a lot from but still, too much time). But like the guy in the NY Times article, I get distracted by random headlines and Tweets that are of no use to me. I tend to significantly underestimate the amount of time I spend playing games and goofing around on the Internet. And in times of stress, I'm also drawn to computer games when that is the last thing I should be doing.

I am trying to write 2500 words a day which takes a chunk of time but some days I feel like it's a waste if I'm just writing stream of consciousness stuff. If I'm spending that kind of time to write, shouldn't that writing be somewhat useful? Every once in awhile stream of consciousness is good because it can unveil thoughts and feelings that were otherwise kind of hidden. But usually it's just crap. Because part of my business is online (or at least I want to be able to make some money online), I need to write and be connected through social media. And I like doing that. So some balance is necessary between just writing anything to get 2500 words so I can say I did it and actually writing something that's worth publishing. As important as the online writing and connecting is, there are still "real world" things that need to get done and the online stuff can't always take precedence. (Ok, just got distracted by an email that popped up that I didn't need to read right now but I did because "Ooooh, look - shiny things!")

After all this, I would love to say I have the answer for how to keep myself from getting distracted from the task at hand. I don't. But I guess I'm hoping that by recognizing it, and writing about it, I've acknowledged that it's an issue. And I can start to figure out what I need to do - short of medicating myself again - to bring a little more focus and organization into my days without crushing my very fragile creative spirit. I do have some ideas of things to try which have worked with varying degrees of success in the past. To give myself a little structure for this blog for the next week or so, I'm going to try a few things and let you know how they work.

What about you? Do you ever have trouble focusing? What do you do to help get things done when you're feeling scattered and pulled in a thousand directions? I'd love to hear your strategies and your advice!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grounding Color Chakra meditation

This is a departure from my usual type of post but I've been working with some meditations lately and really wanted to share one with my readers. This one is designed to help you feel more grounded and replenish your energy. So if this kind of thing interests you, read on!

I want to help other people heal their pain, learn to care for themselves using natural methods and just generally be happy and healthy. That's my passion and what I hope to be my life's work. Most of the time I feel more energized after I work with someone. But sometimes, if I'm not careful, my own energy stores get depleted. This tends to happen when I'm working more with family and close friends. I'm learning that this is something that happens to healers so I'm learning how to protect my own energy.

In addition to protecting my energy, I'm also learning how to replenish it. This is something that I think everyone could benefit from. Most people lead fairly busy lives doing lots of things that can drain energy. The easiest way to replenish energy is to get plenty of good sleep and eat well. But most of us don't do as well as we should in either category. And even if we do get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet, we can still feel like our energy is low if we aren't engaging in activities that energize us. As much as I love watching television, and I'll swear to you how much it relaxes me, I know that it does nothing to replenish my energy and may in fact do the exact opposite.

Meditation is a great way to build up energy. But a lot of people - myself included - find it difficult to do. For some of us, it's hard to sit still for long periods of time. Others feel uncomfortable sitting quietly or they don't know what to do and feel bad because they think they're doing it wrong. I'm finding that there are as many styles of meditation as there are human beings who meditate. There is no one right way - there's only a right way for you at any given moment. And what works one day, might not work another day. So I recommend to people that they try meditating different ways and find a few that work for them.

This meditation can be as long or as short as you want it to be (but I think it would take at least five minutes to really go through each step). You just need to have a place to sit comfortably. It doesn't even need to be quiet in the room - you can have music on or you can be sitting in Starbucks. The only requirement is that you be able to concentrate on the meditation. Sometimes it's easier for me to concentrate on the meditation if there is music playing - it distracts my ADD brain just enough that it lets me sit still. But other people will need a totally silent room. Also, this meditation requires visualization. The better you are at visualizing things, the more effective it will be. So really try to picture these things as best you can.

Finally, not only is it ok to have a sense of humor while you're doing this, a sense of humor is required. If this isn't fun or at least pleasant, it won't do much good. If I tell you to picture a golden cord and you'd rather picture a candy cane or an oak tree, then do that. This may feel strange at first. It may feel totally "woo woo" and out there. But give it a try anyway. If you really put yourself into it and have fun with it, I guarantee you will feel more energized when you finish.

Ok, enough introduction - here's the meditation:

  • Sit comfortably. If you're sitting in a chair, put your feet flat on the ground. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Keep breathing calmly (but not super deep) throughout.
  • Imagine yourself in a clear bubble that extends about three feet all around you. Imagine that the bubble is attached to the center of the Earth with a golden cord. Really try to picture the cord. It is thick and solid and strong.
  • Now you're going to start filling the bubble with various colors, starting with crisp, clear white. Imagine that the color comes up the cord and into the bubble. Once the bubble is filled, feel the color infusing into your body. When you feel ready, move on to the next color. The colors are in the order of the rainbow (remember ROY G BIV?). Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. You don't really need both indigo and violet, you can just pick your favorite shade of purple and go with it.
  • Pick your favorite shade of each color - the more vibrant the better. It sometimes helps to picture a "thing" to represent the color for you. So for red you can picture rose petals or the very last rays of sunset on the beach or your favorite red dress. I shouldn't be admitting this but for orange I picture a tequila sunrise drink. I love that color orange!
  • Take as much or as little time with each color as you feel like. When you're done with indigo/violet, finish with bright golden sunlight energy.
  • Imagine a golden sun above you and fill the bubble with as much of that light as you can. Breathe it into your body for as long as you want. When you're ready, get up and get on with your day!
That's it. Easy. You should feel relaxed but energized when you're done. Remember, there is no way to do this wrong. You may need to play around with it a little to make it more effective but that's the fun part.

Let me know if you try this and how it works for you. Also let me know if you're having any kind of trouble with it - maybe I can help!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Promises, promises

Yesterday I read this post at Fierce and Mighty. In it, Kevin talked about being upset with himself for not being as organized as he felt he should have been and missing out on something as a consequence. True to my nature, my knee-jerk reaction was to tell him he was being too hard on himself and I said as much in the comments. But then I thought about it last night and I realized that my reaction had very little to do with him and everything to do with me.

There are times when I am clearly too hard on myself - fatalistic, even. It goes something like this - "I forgot to pay that bill on time and I have to pay a late fee. I am the biggest flake in the entire universe and I'll never be good at anything. Ever." In other words, I engage in a total waste of mental energy that leads me nowhere. Having been in an emotionally abusive marriage, it's not surprising that I would get to that place sometimes. But I'm not making excuses. I'm an adult and I know how silly and over-dramatic it is to say those kinds of things to myself.

But more often, I cut myself a hell of a lot of slack. When I flake out on something, I tell myself it's ok. Tomorrow is another day. You'll do better next time. Blah, blah, blah. It's true that I've been through some hard times over the past couple of years. And there were times when - for the sake of my mental health - it was necessary to cut myself slack. But I'm at the point now where it's time to buck up a little (or a lot). It's time for me to really and truly stop thinking (and acting) like a victim of my circumstances and get a move on.

As I've written about recently, I'm participating in The Complete Flake's 2500 word challenge. I've committed to write 2500 words a day, every day, for at least a month. Yesterday was the seventh day for me and I hadn't written anything as of 11:30 pm. And I was falling-asleep-at-the-computer exhausted. So I started telling myself it was ok to skip it. It had been a long day. The girls had friends over early in the day and we went to the movies. Then I spent the afternoon and evening at a Memorial Day party at my Dad's. By the time I got the girls into bed, it was very late. No one would have blamed me if I didn't write my 2500 words. The other challengers would have been very supportive. It would have been so easy to slack off and just not do it. That's what I've done a lot of times in my life. In a lot of different scenarios. But last night I decided it was time to do something different.

Living with integrity involves keeping the promises we make - not just to others but to ourselves. It's important that we be mindful when making promises so that we're not over-burdening ourselves or doing things that aren't in line with our values or goals. But once we make a promise, we need to keep it - even when (maybe especially when) it's difficult or inconvenient to do so. I'm not saying that there aren't times when keeping a promise is impossible or is so difficult or inconvenient that it might as well be impossible. And I'm not suggesting that we beat ourselves mercilessly if we fail to keep a promise. But what I'm saying is that we (I) should be as mindful about breaking promises as we should be about making them.

All this is to say that I wrote 2500 words last night. It was complete and utter crap - mostly things like "I am never going to be able to write 2500 words tonight because I am falling asleep" and "why the hell didn't I start this writing crap earlier so I wouldn't be doing this in the middle of the freaking night." So it wasn't great literature or even great blog post material. The point was that I made a promise to myself and I kept it. And I feel pretty good about that. (Oh, and you can bet your sweet boopie that every one of the 889 words I've written here will count towards my 2500 words for tonight.)

What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to apply this in other situations. I'd like to be eating better but sometimes when I get tired and cranky, I turn to Hint of Lime Tostitos for comfort (those things are awesome, by the way) instead of doing something healthy. Like getting enough sleep. Or taking a walk. All that means is that there are times (when I'm tired and cranky) that keeping my promise to myself (eating better) becomes hard and inconvenient. If I can write 2500 words when I'm exhausted simply because I promised that I would, then I can turn away from the chips for the same reason. Now, if I can apply this to getting my files organized, I will officially be in love with myself.

What about you? What promises have you made yourself and how are you about keeping them? Do tell.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How my devil and my angel make me crazy and what I'm doing about it

I've been keeping up with the 2500 word per day challenge and I have to say, some weird stuff seems to be coming out as I pour out enough words to get to the daily goal. I write as if I'm journaling so it's mostly stream of consciousness with a little bit of editing.

Yesterday I had a whole conversation with myself about my life. I would post it but it's really embarrassing. But one of the things I discussed with myself is the fact that I want to be a fun person. And to be a fun person, I have to do fun things. I'm usually up for stuff if someone else makes the plans but that's kind of a problem now that I'm divorced from the person who used to make the fun plans. So I reminded myself that if I want something in my life, I'm responsible for figuring out how to make it happen. So thanks to myself (with a little nudging from a friend), I rented a guitar today. I have two months to try it out and decide if I want to continue learning. At that point I'll either buy a guitar or move on to my next hobby (or back to one of the million hobbies I've already started).

Today I started writing about why I sometimes feel like I have multiple personalities. For a long time, I've felt that I have a devil who hangs out on my left shoulder and an angel who hangs out on my right shoulder. The devil isn't evil – just mischievous. When I think back on the times I've gotten myself in trouble, I can usually trace it back to something he said or suggested. He’s the one that dares me to do stuff that my angel thinks is a bad idea. He’s the one that says that everything will be okay while the angel worries about the consequences. Usually I listen to the angel. But not always. Sometimes the devil can convince the angel that something she doesn't want is okay. And sometimes I just tell them to shut up so I can figure out what’s right.

The problem with the devil is that he doesn't really think about other people or the consequences of various things. He thinks of stuff that would be fun or exciting. He wants adventure. But he forgets that I’m a mom. He forgets that I have a job. He likes music and reading and eating and drinking. He likes hanging out with friends and watching movies and tv. He likes being lazy, lazy, lazy. He hates paperwork. He hates cleaning. He hates order and efficiency. Loves chaos and mayhem. He likes to dance like a madman. He’s the one that wants the tattoo.

My angel thinks about other people constantly. She’s the responsible one who pays the bills. And tries hard to get the kids to school on time. She likes it when things are organized and orderly. She completely freaks out when I don’t keep my promises but she’s the one who gets me to over-promise in the first place. Because she wants everyone to love me. She wants me to be a good girl who never lets anyone down. She doesn't want me getting into trouble. Or making trouble. She thinks a tattoo is a horrible idea because some people might not like it. Some people might think it’s silly or weird. People might think I’m not acting my age. Like I said, she wants everyone to love me. Or at least like me. She wants to fit in so badly. My devil doesn't give a rat's ass about that crap.

It's no wonder I feel nuts. Sometimes they yell at each other so loud I can't hear myself think. And sometimes they refuse to speak at all and I feel lost. Lately I've been listening to my devil more often. First of all, he's a lot more fun. But also I'm kind of pissed at my angel because she sort of fucked up my life. If I hadn't listened to her I probably would have gotten out of my marriage sooner. Then again, maybe this is all just a neat trick so that I don't have to take responsibility for my own decisions.

One of the problems is that the devil and the angel each have their own agendas. They aren't always thinking about what's in my long-term best interest. If I listen to one or the other of them too much, my life gets out of balance and I get off track. I think the key for me is to develop a set of values - touchstones - that I can refer to whenever I'm feeling stuck about a decision. The devil and the angel can debate all they want. I can feel better about whatever decision I make if it stands up against my touchstone values.

It isn't that I don't have any values. I do. But I've been so ungrounded (for lack of a better word) for so long that I've lost touch with the core of who I am and who I want to be. When I'm not grounded, I'm almost at the mercy of whoever talks loudest - whether it's my angel, my devil, my kids, my boss or my ex-husband. For years I felt like I was standing chest deep in the ocean, struggling to keep my footing. I was constantly buffeted by the waves with the tide pulling at me. At my lowest, I thought about giving in and floating away - or worse. When I felt strong, I would tread water, fighting to stay in what I hoped was the right spot. I finally feel like I'm on solid ground but still somewhat subject to the wind and shifting sands.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered why I started reading one of my new favorite blogs - Fierce and Mighty. It was this post that hooked me. Specifically, it was this:

"I am the sort of person who believes that in order to have a successful and fulfilling life, it’s important to have a set of principles on which to ground yourself. I think that’s a lot of what helped me through some of my rougher times – that foundation of knowing who I was and who I wanted to be.

I want to be the guy who treats people the way I want to be treated… even if that other person is a douchebag. I want to live with honor. I want to live with integrity. I want to live with determination. I want to never be afraid to risk getting my heart broken because if I hold back, I’ll never get the chance at experiencing great love. I want to live in balance (this one is hard for me). I want to never forget how much of this life is a gift and I should never, ever, EVER take that for granted… because I've seen how life can jump up and kick some amazing people in the teeth without any provocation or sense of it being deserved. Anyone can suffer that fate… so embrace the good and the opportunities you see now."

I'm always impressed with people who know who they are. And knowing your own core values is essential to knowing who you really are. So what are my touchstones? I haven't quite figured that out yet. (I thought about waiting to publish this post until I figured it all out. But that would certainly mean that this post would never get published. And I'd probably stop thinking about my touchstones all together and go back to treading water).

It would be easy for me to just adopt Fierce and Mighty's values as my own - they're great. They sound good and seem like values I "should" live by. But that would be cheating. And really won't get me on solid ground because they won't be mine really. I'll always know that they're his so I'll wonder if I'm applying them right or something. So I'll have to think about it for awhile. Sit in Remembrance and see what my heart says. I know that I'll come up with a few things eventually. And I'll be on my way to solid ground in no time.

What are your Touchstone values? Please share - I could use some ideas!