Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One Thing Plus

Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs. Leo Babauta is a simplicity rock star and I've learned a lot from him. But today, for the first time, I was disappointed in what he had to say. Today he wrote about killing your to-do list. He suggests that instead of having a list, you wake up in the morning and decide what One Thing you're passionate about for the day and get that One Thing done.

I'm not exactly sure what kind of world he lives in. But in my world, someone has to get the kids to school, do the dishes, take out the garbage, pay the bills. There are things that have to be done daily, weekly or monthly that will never, ever be the One Thing that I'm passionate about on any given day. I can come up with all kinds of great metaphors for doing my taxes but tax prep will never be my One Thing. If I followed his suggestion, I might be a little happier but I would get even less done than I already do (which would be amazing considering how little I actually get done most days).

I know that even though he didn't specifically say it, I'm sure he understands that the One Thing system won't work for everyone. (He does say you can keep a list of routine items that you can look at once a day if you "don't feel safe" without it but that's sort of insulting to people, like me, who need reminders to pay bills and stuff). Honestly, I don't think I know any normal person that could successfully use that system. Maybe I'm just surrounded by people who, like me, have relatively complicated lives (or short attention spans and an inability to remember to do boring but necessary stuff). And so the idea of totally doing away with to-do lists is terrifying and not particularly helpful.

Because I don't want to be the kind of person who just shoots down someone else's ideas without offering something of my own, here's my idea for improving on Leo's One Thing. I call it One Thing Plus. What if we kept our to-do lists but made sure to make room in each day for our One Thing? It would be great to know that when you wake up in the morning, you pick One Thing that you're excited about that day and you get to spend some time working on it. Because it's already on your list. And maybe it makes the rest of your list easier to get through if you take some time to do something you're passionate about.

I'd love to hear about your systems and whether you make time for your passions in your day to day life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How important is being important?

While I set up my new business, I'm working part time as a lawyer. An old boss was nice enough to hire me to do some basic work. The work I'm doing (drafting board meeting minutes) was pretty much my least favorite part of my old job but people with no way to pay their mortgages and divorce attorneys can't be too choosy, right?

Really, I'm not complaining. I can work pretty much whenever I want to and they pay me well. I have plenty of time to procrastinate work on my business, do yoga, hang with friends and spend time with my kids. I can work from home most of the time but I do have to go to the office now and then. Lately I've been avoiding the office like the plague and today I realized why. When I first started to work part time, they had me in an extra office. It wasn't as big as my old office (and didn't have a window) but it was a nice, private office. They recently hired a new attorney so they moved me to a cubicle. It doesn't really matter - I'm not at the office all that much anyway. But today was my first day in the cube. And it was harder than I thought it would be because it reminded me of how much things have changed.

I'm still struggling with letting go of my old image of myself. I used to be Vice President, Associate Legal Counsel at a decent-sized, national company. I was becoming "known" within my legal specialty. I jumped ship from there to a large, well-known, national law firm where I was a Partner. (Yes, with a Capital P). Big time, hard driving, rockin' the high heels, briefcase, Blackberry, working mom, having it all, Big. Firm. Partner. I made really good money. I had an office, a secretary, an expense account. I was well-respected. And, while the market fell apart, my life fell apart. I got fired. And suddenly I wasn't a lawyer anymore. I filed for divorce. And suddenly I wasn't a wife anymore.

The past year has brought a raging river of change and growth for me. I'm starting a new life and building a new image of myself - for myself. But being back at my old office - the place where I became the person that I used to be (if that makes any sense), is really hard. I love the people there and everyone is wonderful to me. But - (and I know this sounds awful but in the interest of being honest, I'm going to say it anyway) - I miss being important. When I was a lawyer there, everyone needed me. All the time. Big parts of the business couldn't happen without my involvement. What I said and thought mattered. Clearly, I wasn't irreplaceable but I was an integral part of the business. And now I'm not. They're glad I'm there to do the stuff that no one likes to do (and I'm good at it). I'm glad to be working there so I have a little money while I create my new life. But it isn't the same and it never will be.

That's ok - I don't want to be that person anymore. I paid a steep price in terms of mental health and happiness to be important in that way. I would love to be able to say that I'm over being important. Now that I'm doing all kinds of yoga and meditation and becoming all zen-like, shouldn't I be able to tell my ego to take a hike and get over herself? That would be nice. But that isn't the case. I like being important - I like to be needed. So sue me.

Is there a way I can give my ego just a little bit of what she wants without selling out? Can I allow myself to be needed without (again) becoming something I don't want to be just to stay needed? I think so. I think - I hope - that just by being aware of that desire, by accepting it for what it is, I'll be better able to navigate situations that bring it up.

Now that I think about it, the need to be needed comes up a lot. It pops up with my kids, with other relationships, with my work - new and old. Maybe there are times that I should let my kids struggle and come up with solutions on their own but I insert myself in order to keep them connected to the proverbial apron strings. Maybe I give my friends unsolicited advice as a way to get involved in their lives and feel needed. Maybe I take a job that isn't really my thing because . . . well, you know.

I hope that as I move along my path to becoming a healer, I'll work with people who benefit from my services. And maybe they'll come back and become regular clients. I'll be important to them as a service provider they respect and like and come back to and maybe even recommend to their friends. I'll continue to build the online community I've started to build here. It's about connections. Wanting to be connected is human. Trying to get people to need me - especially if it involves changing myself - is unhealthy. But making connections and building a community of people who care about me for who I really am - that's healthy. And a lot more fun.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's not always sunny over here and that's ok

If you've been reading here for even a little while, you probably know that I've had a lot going on over the last year or so. I lost my job. I got divorced. I'm starting a new business.

Losing my job was a blessing in disguise. I needed a kick in the ass to get out of the life I was living. I was miserable. I was taking anti-depressants and mood stabilizers and I was still unhappy and mentally unstable (not "kill-your-neighbor" unstable but, you know, really, really moody). The reality was that I made so much damn money and had such a "good" job that I couldn't bring myself to quit. Even though I knew it was literally killing me. Once I got over the shock of being fired for the first time in my life, I realized that I was being given a golden opportunity to finally do something that I was happy doing.

Losing my job - and surviving it without being hospitalized in a straight jacket - finally gave me the courage to file for divorce. (Also, being with him 24/7 was a nightmare). I knew my marriage wasn't working and wasn't ever going to work. We had been to marriage counseling but it actually made things worse. I had wanted to get divorced for years but didn't have the guts to pull the trigger. I was scared. Scared of my husband (for good reason). Sacred to disappoint my kids. But more than that, I was afraid to be on my own. I was so convinced of my inability to take care of myself and so convinced that I was nothing without him, that I couldn't envision a life on my own anymore. (Forget for a moment that I was 31 years old when we got married. I had lived on my own in NYC for years before going to law school. I was perfectly capable of being on my own. I just had gotten so far away from myself that I couldn't remember that independent person anymore).

The hardest part of it all has been the letting go of who I thought I was. I had this image of myself - successful big firm lawyer, happy wife (bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan type, you know?) - that was shattered. And even though the shattering of that image is the best thing that has ever happened to me (with the exception of having my babies), it is still very difficult to go through. It feels kind of like losing a limb. You know how amputees say that they can sometimes still feel an amputated limb? I can still see that woman - she looked so happy and confident. And I admit, I kind of miss her. (And I miss her money. I hate like hell to confess it, but it's true.)

I'm building a new image of myself now. One that I hope is truer to who I am inside. But before I can really do that, I have to let the old image go. I have to mourn the loss of that person, that life - even if it wasn't all that happy or healthy. There were good moments - more than just a few. I have to mourn the loss of my marriage and my job. I have to let the old me go before I can move forward and truly become the new me.

Lately I've been so busy enjoying the growth and energy of my new life that I haven't given proper attention to the dark side of all this change. The sadness and the anger. You can't ignore the dark side - it will come out whether you like it or not. And when it does, you might not recognize it. For me, it's been coming out in annoying rashes on my legs, severe hip pain and moodiness. It's begging for recognition and acceptance. I want so badly to be writing about happy, inspiring goodness (probably for the wrong reasons) but I've had some mega writer's block. And maybe this is why - maybe what you all need to hear is the not-so-good. The sad and mad stuff. You don't need sunflowers and butterflies from me. What you need is something real. And sometimes being real means allowing the dark sides of ourselves to show.

Remember, if it wasn't for the darkness, you wouldn't - couldn't - appreciate the light. And as a friend wrote in a great post the other day: "There is a use for all of it, a way to turn everything into compost and therefore a beautiful garden." So I'm going to allow the darkness its due. I accept the sadness, the anger - everything that isn't necessarily pretty. I'm letting go of the old me and it will be ok.

I'm going to stop trying to pretend everything is sunshine and lattes all the time. It's a perfect day for it, too. It's raining and I'm out of coffee.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Scattered . . .

Lately, I feel like all my best writing is in comments on other people's blogs and in email conversations. I say something and think "Wow, that's good. I should write a blog post." But when I get here, I can't seem to put together a coherent sentence. There seems to be so much going on in my head - so many ideas, thoughts, conversation threads, grocery lists and random song lyrics - that I can't figure out what to say in a post.

I think it's pressure - I'm starting to feel pressure to write here. It's not so much that it turns into a "should" (which, as my readers know, are evil). I love writing. As much as I love talking. And I love talking. Just ask my family. When it gets hard is when I start feeling like the writing has to be more than good (because I always want it to be that), it has to be meaningful. And not just meaningful to me. It has to be meaningful to other people. That's where I get into trouble. Instead of just writing for myself and hoping it helps someone else (which is why I started this blog in the first place), I try to write for recognition. That's when my brain freaks out and freezes. Because my brain knows that getting attached to an outcome is a dangerous thing. It could lead to disappointment. What if I wrote this post that was so full of meaning it could barely stand itself and no one read it? Or worse, people read it and hated it or ignored it. I didn't get the recognition I set out to get. That would mean I failed. Two things I don't particularly like - disappointment and failure. It's not surprising I can't write anything when my brain goes through that analysis.

A bit of this is coming from my new venture. I want to have a writing/web site component to it and I know that in order for that part of it to be successful, the content will need to be meaningful to a certain number of people. And I'll have to come up with new, meaningful content on a regular basis. That's reality. And if I can't deal with that, then maybe the writing part of this business isn't for me. To what extent do I use positive thinking to move forward here ("Of course you'll be able to do it! You're a great writer!") and, if it doesn't work, at what point do I accept that maybe I'm not as good a writer as I hoped? Now we're getting into one of the things I wanted to write about today - my response to Gina's beautiful post over at Embody Grace. But since I don't feel I can do it justice in my current addled state of mind, I'm going to let that percolate until it's ready.

There are going to be times when we do something in order to achieve a particular goal. I'm not saying that it's always bad to do something hoping for a particular outcome. But writing - at least for me, in this space - can't be about an outcome. It can't be about what someone else wants because, let's face it, I'm not smart enough to know what you people want. Or what you'll find meaningful. All I can do is share my story with you and hope something resonates. So I guess I am writing for a goal - I'm writing to connect with other people. But it's the process of doing the writing that connects me. It's putting myself out there. So, hi, who ever is out there! I hope I've connected with you in some way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Epiphanies involving Julie Andrews, trampolines and three ring circuses

I've come to realize that some of my best writing comes when I'm commenting on other people's blogs. I'm not sure why. Anyway, was just visiting future-smiling and had an epiphany that I thought I'd share. I'm working just as hard now - if not harder - than I was during my lawyer life. But there's a huge difference. Back then I felt like a slave lugging stone up a pyramid with an overseer lashing at my back. Now I'm more like Julie Andrews dancing up the hill with the sun shining in my face. Or like the Seven Dwarfs - (most likely Sleepy these days) - whistling while I work. Or Jane Banks sipping a Spoonful of Sugar with Mary Poppins (Mmmmm, Rum Punch! My favorite!). Or any of the several other musical theater analogies I'm sure I could come up with. (I do love musical theater.)

Living your passion doesn't mean slacking off (although I'm still really good at that). Living your passion often means working just as hard but with joy instead of obligation. Just because it's work doesn't mean it can't be fun. I'm not saying that there aren't things that I really dislike doing. Filing is one of them. Tax prep is another big one. Probably because those are "shoulds" and rebels like me (ha!) really don't like "shoulds." We like "want tos" but not "shoulds." So my struggle has been how do I turn pumpkin-like "shoulds" into beautiful, sparkly, horse-drawn carriage "want tos"?

Well, first I visited my fairy godmother (and her duck). There I learned about Metaphor Mouse and the Pirate Tax Cave. Metaphor Mouse helps you work through your issues with things like "shoulds" and find a way to deal with them. That's how I got through my tax prep issues (Yeah! Got my tax stuff to the tax dude). But I was still struggling with the wide array of shoulds that pepper my to do list. So I came up with my own metaphor (with help from Bryna and Todd, my financial advisers - yes, even though I have no money I have financial advisers! They're awesome.)

My business is like a trampoline. I can jump around and do flips and spins and seat drops and have all kinds of fun. But if the trampoline mat is sitting on the ground, I won't be able to jump much. And the seat drops will hurt like hell. So doing the paperwork, setting up the systems, getting my ducks in a row - all the shoulds - that's building the framework for my trampoline. That's doing the stuff that's necessary to make the trampoline fun. And also (because I like to beat my metaphors to death), by setting up rainy day savings and insurance and all that stuff, I'm putting up a net around my trampoline to keep me from falling on the ground and hitting my head. Because concussions suck.

I'm off to tend to the elephants. Now that I have a trampoline, I've decided that I want a whole three-ring circus around it. And of course, I'm the Ring Master (Mistress?).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Riding the rapids

Last week I was having a crisis of faith in my abilities as a healer. And the universe, being the show off that it is, gave me just what I needed soon after I published that post. The next day, I went back to the Reiki training center and attended a free Reiki share given by the head of the center. She gave me the encouragement I needed and reminded me that Reiki is a slow and steady kind of healing. It helps the receiver relax and allow his or her body to heal itself at its own pace and in its own way. Reiki is not an immediate miracle kind of bodywork. Instead, the Reiki practitioner provides gentle and loving energy to her clients allowing the client's bodies to access their natural healing abilities.

Armed with my new found faith and strength of purpose, I spent the next few days agonizing over my next steps. The road block I had set up for myself was a common one - I simply couldn't do anything to start my business as a healer until I had a name for the business. You can't organize a corporate entity without a name. (And, of course, being a lawyer for 15 years I can't allow myself to do business without a corporate entity.) And since all the good company names have been taken, I knew I was doomed.

So I whined to my sister as I drove her to work last week about how I was never going to come up with a name that wasn't cheesy or boring. I meditated and tried to still my monkey brain long enough to receive some divine inspiration. All I came up with were names that were already taken or were just too foofy and out there for me. Finally, in desperation, I decided to do something that self-help gurus always say to do in situations like this (I try really hard not to do anything that gurus say to do. It's my way of rebelling against the "shoulds" I guess). I spent an hour or so brainstorming. Just writing down words that came to me when I thought about what I want to be doing. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

That evening I was walking down the street not thinking about anything in particular when it came to me. It just popped into my head. The name of my company. Maybe I should have listened to myself when I talked about the importance of releasing the tension and not striving so hard. I owe thanks (for this and many other things) to the lovely and talented Deb Owen because it was this post of hers that put the idea for the name in my head.

So I have organized the company, reserved the web domain and even got a blog address at (so I can start writing before I get my website set up). And now the real work begins. I feel like I'm shooting the rapids now everything is happening so fast. It's scary! And fun! And terrifying! And exciting! (And it really is amazing how you kind of need money to make money - I just spent hundreds of dollars laying the groundwork for this. Which is good in a weird way. Now I know I have to go out there and get some paying clients. At this point, if I make enough to cover the costs, I'll be ecstatic. And then it will be time to set some bigger goals.

Oh, yeah - I almost forgot. The name of my new baby: True Horizon Healing and Bodywork. Look for more from me and my baby soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Letting go

Recently I've been trying out some Yin Yoga classes. For those of you who read the wonderful Havi Brooks, you'll know this as "non-sucky yoga." Most yoga classes at health clubs and spas are variations of hatha yoga which basically works to stretch the muscles. (I know, it does a lot more than that but this isn't a yoga theory blog so, whatever). You get in a position for a minute or two and then move to another one. While there is "resting" in poses, it's mostly movement from one pose to another. Some forms, like "power" yoga, are workouts that get your heart rate going. All that stuff = yang yoga. Yin yoga is slower and more deliberate. It works deep in the joints, connective tissues and bones. You get into a stretchy position and stay there. For what seems like for.ever. but is really only like five minutes. There are lots of benefits to it but mainly, depending on the postures you use, it works to open the hips and pelvic muscles and to limber up and protect your spine. Those are the basic physical benefits. But the mental benefits are the most interesting.

Yin yoga is about accepting things the way they are but ever so gently pushing against the status quo. It's not about forcing change but allowing change to happen. Sometimes we get so set on getting things done and making things happen that we don't sit back and evaluate our goals and methods. We could be pushing for the wrong things or in the wrong way and wondering why stuff isn't working. Yin yoga is about changing that mindset.

Here's how it works. You get into a pose - say, laying on your back, pulling your knees up and twisting them to one side. If you aren't very flexible, you could find your knees hovering inches (or in my case, feet) above the ground. Your spine is protesting. Your hips are swearing at you. But you eventually get to a spot where you can more or less comfortably stay for a bit. And you stay there. And you breathe. And breathe some more. And a funny thing happens - a release of sorts - you notice that your knees are closer to the ground, your spine isn't so pissed at you anymore. You feel muscles relaxing that you didn't even realize were tense. You let go. You stop trying to control everything. You let it happen the way it's supposed to happen. Do this with a few different postures for about an hour and you might start to realize all the places in your body - and your life - where you're holding on and not letting things be. Where you're pushing in the wrong direction. It isn't about things staying the same. You accept where things are now and put yourself in the right position to allow change to happen.

Where are you holding on too tightly in your life? Where are you resisting change or pushing for change in the wrong way? Anatomically speaking, we often tense our muscles as a way of protecting ourselves. When we try to hold ourselves together (literally and figuratively), we tense up. Relaxing our muscles can sometimes feel like we're allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. But if we continue to over-stress our bodies and minds, if we never let go of the tension, we're making ourselves vulnerable to poor health.

Pick one thing in your life that you would like to change and try letting go of any resistance or tightness you have as it relates to that issue. See what happens when you allow change to happen in its own way instead of forcing it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In search of a miracle

As a lawyer, I'm used to providing a concrete benefit to my clients. My client needs someone to draft an agreement. I draft an agreement. My client pays me. Easy as pie. (Boring as hell, but easy). I'm moving into a totally different realm now and I'm struggling with the fact that, for the most part, my results won't be tangible or measurable.

I think Reiki is great. The few times I've gotten treatments, I've felt the energy flow and I've felt clearer and calmer afterwards. Usually when I give treatments to other people, I feel energy flow. But, based on the feedback I've gotten, they don't always feel anything. I've been told that's normal - some people feel it, some people don't. To be honest, I haven't had as much practice as I'd like. Several friends have offered to be guinea pigs and I should be taking advantage of that to get more practice. But I've been hesitating because there's a part of me that has lost faith that I'm capable of healing. Because I can't "see" any benefits. Even if I don't charge for my services, I'm afraid of feeling like nothing more than a snake oil salesman.

If you read about Reiki on the Internet, it's usually characterized as a stress reduction and relaxation technique. That's the characterization I feel most comfortable with. But there are lots of claims about what Reiki can do to heal various diseases. Claims of miraculous healing. Part of me is disappointed that I haven't been able to miraculously cure myself of my symptoms of withdrawal from anti-depressants. My 12 year old tells me she doesn't like Reiki even though she's never allowed me to give her a full treatment. She says she likes "real" massages. If Reiki was so great, wouldn't she immediately love it? And if she doesn't love it, maybe that means Reiki isn't real or (more likely), that I'm no good at it. But therein lies the rub (I don't even know what that means but my Dad always used to say it and it seems like it fits here) - I'm afraid to even practice on people because I'm afraid I'm not very good at it. But how am I supposed to get good at it, or even get any level of comfort with my skill level, if I don't practice? (And, of course, maybe it doesn't make sense to base my whole career path on one 12 year old person not liking it.)

I was watching re-runs of Top Chef Masters last week. Last season's winner, Rick Bayless, talked about his favorite mole sauce which has like 8 million different ingredients and is really hard to make. He said that it took him 20 years to learn how to make it right. TWENTY YEARS. That's a lot of practice. And maybe at the beginning he even made something that was inedible. But he kept working on it because he wanted to be good at it. He believed in himself enough to keep trying.

While it's good for me to remember that it takes practice and work to get proficient at most skills, I still have to get over the desire for objectively measurable results. Whether or not a mole sauce is good is fairly objective. Whether or not a Reiki practitioner is any good is totally subjective. Helping someone relax and de-stress is a good thing. As a trained Reiki practitioner, I can help people do just that. Whether I can cure cancer remains to be seen. But what I can provide is hopefully enough for a few people to be willing to pay me for my services (once I'm ready for that). I just need to believe in myself enough to charge for my services.

Part of my struggle is that I'm still not sure I look like a healer. A true healer doesn't lose her cool when her kids act like crazy idiots. A true healer would never call her children "crazy idiots" either. When those kinds of things happen (when I act like a living, breathing human), I feel like I should give up and going back to "real" life as a lawyer. But I haven't given up yet because I believe in my soul that I've found my calling. I guess I just thought that once I found my calling, Once I acknowledged it, things would fall into place easily. But maybe the problem is that I haven't quite jumped into the water yet. I'm just dipping my toe in, keeping open my option of running away to safety. I don't quite trust in whatever this energy is that's pushing me down this path towards the water. Maybe it's time I just jumped in.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Defining my calling to find my people

As I've said before, I'm trying to figure out what I want to do for a living now that I've acknowledged (grudgingly) that I'm a grown up. I know that I want to do something that involves not just my head (like being a lawyer), but also my hands, my heart and my spirit. Sort of an all-things-to-all-of-me kind of thing. For the last year I've been moving slowly along this path of finding my calling. Last summer I decided to become a massage therapist. Now that my divorce is just about final, I'm ready to start school (hopefully in July! Yay!) and should have my certificate in a year.

Massage therapy is the base on which I'm going to build my practice as a healer. I figure that, at least at first, I will get a part-time gig as a massage therapist at an alternative health care type place and develop my personal practice during my off time. So far so good. The real issue is my who-who-what and finding my right people (or, more accurately, helping my right people find me). But really, I can't find my right people and I can't fully figure out the who-who until I figure out the what.

Ok, in non-favorite-bloggerspeak, what I mean is that now that I've decided I want to be a healer. I have some other things to think about. The big one is figuring out just what kind of healer I want to be. That's a really big one. And the difficulty is that I'm like a kid in a candy store right about now. Although I have my Reiki Level One certification and I'll get Level Two this month, I'm not sure if that's the direction I want to go. Or the only direction I want to go. There are so so so many different kinds of healing (beyond traditional Western mediciney type stuff) such as (in no particular order): Acupuncture, Acupressure, Ayurveda, Shiatsu, Rolfing, Pranic Healing, Chios Energy Healing, Aromatherapy, Aura-Soma Therapy and Past Life Regression, to name just a few. I'm always picking up books and reading articles and websites about all the different modalities. I love Reiki. I love massage. But it seems like maybe there's something more or different that I'm needing to find.

The other thing I need to think about is what kind of people do I want to help. Even though it might seem counter-intuitive, it makes good business sense to specifically define your target market. I could just hang a shingle, so to speak, and announce that I'm a healer. And then try to heal whoever walks through the door. The problem with that is (as the very smart Mark Silver teaches in his who-who-what article) potential clients won't really know what it is I can do for them. And I won't really know who is a potential client. My right people and I could be passing each other like ships in the night. But if I define my services and the types of people it could help, then it's like sending out a beacon to all my right people and letting them know where to find me.

Although I know this will evolve as I learn more about my skills in this area, my gut instinct is that I can help women in life transition situations - going through a divorce, career change, empty nest. I also think I can help women in abusive relationships. This feels like a tough one for me - for reasons that deserve their own post. (Mostly having to do with whether I have the right to call myself an abused wife since it was mostly "just" emotional abuse. More on that crap another time.)

Part of the impetus for this post was having read Havi's latest brilliant piece of writing in which she says that when you commit to a mission stuff starts to happen. That's the way the universe seems to work. When you put your dreams "out there" and make them concrete, the universe takes the blueprint and starts building. So, with this post, I'm committing to my latest mission: Discovering the kind of healer that I am, the people I'm meant to help and how I'm going to help them.

There you go, Universe - do your stuff. Let me know what I can do to move this thing along the path, ok?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honesty sucks when you're on the receiving end

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for honesty most of the time. Especially in our important relationships. I'm also a big fan of white lies. I think they grease the wheels of civilization. For example, what good would it do to be honest with your co-worker who asks you what you think of her ugly hat which she obviously loves? None. Zip. Nada. "It's an interesting hat! Wow!" Best thing you can say. Now, if it was your sister and she was asking what you think of the hideous wedding gown she's about to spend $5,000 on, you'd better be honest. And hopefully your relationship is strong enough to survive if she disagrees with you and buys it anyway.

Can someone explain to me how I manage to digress in my very first paragraph?

Anyway, my point is that I'm feeling like a hypocrite right now. I want my close friends and family to be honest with me if I'm doing something that bothers them. Holding things in and allowing them to fester = bad. Getting things out in the open = good. So now that someone close to me has actually told me that I bug the hell out of him, is it wrong for me to wish he had kept his mouth shut? I mean, can't he just do some passive aggressive counter-moves like normal people? Apparently not. He has to be all adult about it and tell me that he gets anxious at family dinners/brunches/lunches/snacks with me because I'm "manic" and "talk too much" and it's like I'm "on crystal meth." Hmmm. He's "overwhelmed" by my "personality."

To his credit he said that he wanted to tell me this because he wants us to have a good relationship. He said that I can feel free to tell him all the annoying things about his personality whenever I want to. He kind of said all the right things and I think he was coming from a good place. I think. But I have to tell you. It hurt like hell to hear all that and it still hurts over two hours later. (The crystal meth reference really got to me and to my nine year old's credit, she said "It's not very nice to tell someone that they act like they're on drugs. If he was trying to be nice about it, he should have said it nicer." Damn she's a smart kid.)

Normally, something like this would knock me off of my feet and I'd be a wreck for days. I don't have time for that crap right now. So I'm trying to process it and figure out what to do with it. Here are some facts about me: I talk a lot. I talk fast. I have kind of a big personality (or so I've been told.) I'm not a shrinking violet for sure. When I'm excited about something, I suppose I could appear a bit manic. And this isn't the first time someone has told me I was overwhelming. Or the second . . . But it is the first time that someone in my family has said that. And that's what has me twisted in knots.

I've been estranged from most of my family for the past 12 years. Now that my divorce is nearly final, I found the strength to "go back home." And it's been great for me and my girls. I know my family is happy to have us around. But 12 years is a long time to be gone and my place in the family isn't the same as it was. Maybe I thought I was like a lost puzzle piece that was found under the couch. You take the puzzle out and I fit back in right where I was supposed to fit. Not to state the obvious but a puzzle is a static thing and a family isn't. Families are dynamic and everyone's role within the system changes over time. It's not that there isn't a place for me. I think that no one is quite sure what that place is exactly. Least of all me. So there are growing pains I didn't expect to experience at 45.

On the one hand, it's good that he expressed his feelings. On the other hand, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with them. If I'm being rude and talking over everyone, I need to cut it out. But I'm also never going to be the kind of person who sits on her hands and doesn't participate in the conversation. He's not asking for that extreme but where in the middle is the right place? Of course I'm replaying all the recent family meals in my head and trying to figure out if I've been rude by some objective measure or if he's just throwing some shoes my way. (Which is Havi-speak for when someone is mean to you but it's really just because he has his own issues that are about him and aren't about you really at all).

The question is: How much do I need/want to change in order to make him happy?

My first reaction was to feel like I should avoid going to big family gatherings. Again. Which doesn't seem like the right answer. My second reaction was that I just got out of a relationship with a control freak and who the hell is this joker to try to control me now? My third reaction was that I should be more enlightened about it and at least think about his criticisms as unemotionally as I can because he's my family member and I love him. My fourth reaction was to cry. Because really, I don't need this right now. And ouch.

I don't really know how to figure this out so I guess I'll let it percolate some more. I'll have to decide how much I want to change in order to help him feel comfortable around me. Hopefully, he'll get used to me again and maybe I won't seem so overwhelming after awhile. Maybe once I've been back in the family for more than a month I'll calm down a little and it won't be an issue anymore. Or maybe I'll continue to overwhelm him - even when I try to tone it down - and he'll just have to leave the room every once in awhile when I'm around. And I'll have to be ok with the fact that not everyone loves to be around me all the time.

I think the important lesson that I appear to have learned (or at least started to learn) is that just because someone doesn't like what you're doing or how you're doing it doesn't mean you automatically have to change what you're doing to make them happy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I often believe six impossible things before breakfast

I took the girls to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D last night. It is the best movie I have ever seen. Ever. It really was magnificent for lots of reasons that I'm sure I'll be writing about for days and probably longer. I promised my Facebook friends that I would post the impossible things I believed today. Here's what I posted:

Here are a few of the impossible things I believed this morning: It's never too late to repair broken relationships. Age 45 is not too old to start a new career and a new life. I can get my kids to school on time. One act of kindness can change the world. We're all connected - if I harm someone, I am harming myself and those I love. Exercise is good for you.

What impossible things did you believe today?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Do I look like a lawyer?

Last week I attended a presentation on diversity in the legal profession and had an interesting conversation with the woman seated next to me. She said that, growing up, she didn't personally know any lawyers. It never occurred to her that she could become a lawyer until a woman - a lawyer - spoke to her high school class about the legal profession. She couldn't picture herself as a lawyer until she had an example she thought she could emulate. Maybe she thought that as a woman she couldn't be a lawyer. Or maybe she thought that she wasn't smart enough. Or tough enough. She had a picture in her mind of what a lawyer was like and it didn't match her picture of herself.

My experience was very different. My father was a lawyer. Many of my friends' parents were lawyers or doctors or "business people." Until I was in high school, I didn't know that not everyone went to college. It was a given that I would go to college - I thought it was a given for everyone else too. I knew - with a certainty that I didn't realize was somewhat rare in the world - that I could become a lawyer. Or a doctor. Or go to business school and do whatever it is that "business people" do (it was never obvious to me as a kid). I went to college and was pre-Med for two years until I realized that I hate hospitals and couldn't stand the higher level science classes I needed to take. It was a big crisis for me. I couldn't be a doctor. I didn't want to be a lawyer. I didn't know what I would do with an MBA. I didn't really see a lot of other choices.

I ended up going to New York and working in the entertainment industry (television commercial production mostly). But after a couple years of struggling in entry level jobs and feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere, I went to law school. Plan B.

It was easy to see myself as a lawyer or doctor. I had so many varied pictures of lawyers and doctors that it was easy to match them to my picture of myself. It was a path for which I had a good road map. I couldn't see myself as a film producer - which is what I really wanted to do at the time. I was scared that I didn't have what it takes to be successful in that business. For me, following that dream meant going without a map and at the time I didn't have the courage to do that.

Now I find myself in a similar predicament to the one I found myself in sophomore year of college. I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. I don't want to be a doctor. I don't really want to be a film producer anymore - it's kind of a thankless job and now that I'm a mom to a pre-teen, I have enough of that. (Although I still have a fantasy about winning an Oscar for Best Picture . . .).
My new dream is to be a healer. I don't really know what a healer looks like and I sure don't have a map for that particular path. I have a picture in my mind of what a healer acts like which is based mostly on assumptions rather than observation of reality. Whenever I don't behave in ways that are congruent with that picture, it makes me question whether I am capable of becoming a healer.

For example, this morning I totally over-reacted when my older daughter got pissy and obnoxious in the way that only 12-year-old girls can. I was over tired. I was anxious and feeling guilty because we were running late - again. I'm going through nicotine and anti-depressant withdrawal. She hurt my feelings. So I blew up. And yelled at her for way too long. And then she yelled at me. And we cried. And she refused to eat breakfast. So I said "You're not going to school until you eat breakfast." She called my bluff. "Fine. Take Meredith to school. I'll stay home." And I yelled at her again.

That is definitely NOT how a healer acts, right? A true healer gets all Zen and stuff. A real healer stays calm and says "Abby, I appreciate that you are exerting your independence but if I wasn't so Zen and stuff, you would have hurt my feelings. Please be nicer next time." Or something like that. A real healer would get enough sleep and would wake up on time with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. No bags under her eyes. No going on Facebook to tend to her farm before she makes breakfast for her kids. A true healer never loses her cool. Right?

Just like doctors and lawyers, I imagine that healers come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of mental stability. I think I need to stop looking for a road map outside of myself and make my own path. I need to look in the mirror and remind myself that I'm looking at a healer. Visualization is a strong tool for achieving dreams but only if it's used in the right way. Until now, my mental pictures have limited me in ways I didn't realize.

In what ways do you let your mental pictures limit you?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Home sweet home

I'm sitting here crying and I'm not really sure why. I just read this post over at Fluent Self. One of my all-time favorite places to hang out. Because Havi and Selma the duck are amazing.

So the post that made me cry is about doing tax prep. The "have to" that I've been procrastinating on for months. It's a task that is now smoldering and about to turn into a huge fire. I didn't do last year's tax prep until October. Yes, October (after a bunch of extensions and all that). I don't want to do that again and my soon-to-be-ex will be (rightfully) pissed if that happens again. (He does the kids taxes and I do ours. It's an arrangement that works and I really am ok with it).

What is it about doing the damn tax prep that makes me so crazy? It has to do with money, numbers and paperwork. It's a thing adults have to do and, frankly, I'm sick and tired of being an adult. I hate being responsible for everyone and everything. I hate being responsible for paying for everything. I've been the sole financial support for this family for the last six years and I don't want to do it anymore. But now that I'm getting a divorce, there isn't anyone else around here to support me and the kids. So it's me. And these are the last taxes (I think) that my ex and I will file jointly. So getting the work done means finalizing the divorce. I want the divorce. I need the divorce. It's a good thing. But that doesn't make it easy. And that doesn't mean that I'm not sad as hell that that my marriage ended.

And here come the tears again. How can I be so happy about the divorce but be scared to death and crying about doing the final bits of work that will allow us to finalize it? I guess finalizing it means that I really am alone. I'm scared of being alone. And of having to do everything myself. I'm scared not knowing where I'll be and how I'll pay the bills. I want so badly to trust that if I follow my inner guidance, everything will be ok. If I'm crying and I'm scared does it mean that I don't trust the Universe? Does it mean that I won't be able build the life I want to live? Or does the fact that I can admit how terrified I am mean that I'm more likely to be able to let go of the fear and do what needs to be done?

No wonder I haven't been able to do the taxes. Because it's so much more than just taxes. I'm still tied to the dock right now but doing the tax prep will mean cutting another rope that holds me there. When all the ropes are cut, I'll be adrift. I'm not sure I have all the provisions on board yet. Do I have a motor? A sail? I don't even know how to sail. I don't know where I'm going. All I can see is open sea.

While I was writing that last paragraph, having my good cry, the song Home Sweet Home by Carrie Underwood started playing. And these lyrics made me cry even harder:

Just take this song and you'll never feel left all alone.
Take me to your heart, feel me in your bones.
Just one more night and I'm coming off this long and winding road.
I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home

I'm on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home

The picture I got may seem backwards but it was of me sailing off in the sunset, on my way home. Wherever that might be. The long and winding road that I'm getting off is the familiar road. Now I'm taking a different path but it's the path home. Home to my true, sweet home.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring cleaning

Yes, it's spring cleaning time. For most people that means dusting, window washing and cleaning the carpets in their house. I hate cleaning my house. I avoid it as much as I can without allowing it to get so bad that my friends call an intervention and try to get me on Hoarders. I'm talking about a different sort of spring cleaning. I'm cleaning out my body, sort of. No high colonics or anything gross like that. It's more of a physical, emotional and spiritual purification of sorts. And I have a lot of purifying to do . . .

I'm embarrassed to say that last year I started smoking. Okay, the truth is that I started smoking two years ago with a few months of not smoking in between. Disgusting and expensive habit. I think smoking was one of the ways I beat myself up for "failing" as a wife. For hating - and then losing - my very lucrative job as a lawyer. And feeling like I failed my kids because I couldn't keep my marriage together. I didn't deserve to be healthy.

I've been on anti-depressants for about 10 years. I think. I can't even remember when I started taking them. I've been on several different kinds. Sometimes more than one at a time. I couldn't even tell you if they helped at all. I sure wasn't happy during all those years I took them. I finally got myself down to one small daily dose of one anti-depressant. And one or two daily doses of Adderall to treat my ADD symptoms. I've wanted to get off of the anti-depressants for awhile but every time I tried to stop, the withdrawal symptoms would get so bad I couldn't deal with them and I'd start taking the drugs again. And my anxiety would skyrocket. I didn't know whether I was anxious because I couldn't seem to get off of the drugs or whether I had an anxiety disorder that needed to be treated by the drugs. I was confused. And I'm sure the Adderall - which is an amphetamine - didn't really help the anxiety much. It helped me think a bit more clearly but that's it. I was still a confused, depressed mess. I felt like crap. Looked like crap. I knew it was time for a change but I didn't know what to do. Then I found Reiki.

Reiki is a form of energy healing and balancing that anyone can easily learn to perform on themselves and others. I had heard about Reiki over the years but had never had a treatment. I was skeptical about whether the simple "laying on of hands" could actually do anything worthwhile. The fact that Reiki practitioners can provide distant healing was something that sounded like bunk. Even more difficult for me to understand was the idea that in order to learn Reiki, you had to be "attuned" by a Reiki Master. You can't just read a book to learn it. You have to pay over $100 to take a class. I thought that all seemed fishy at best; a moderately expensive hoax at worst. But despite my reservations, Reiki kept popping up in my life. People would talk about it. I'd stumble on articles and websites. I'd randomly think about it for seemingly no reason at all. But still I resisted it. I figured that I would learn about it during my studies to become a massage therapist. It was something that I would maybe do later. The universe apparently had other plans.

A few months ago, my father got sick. And then he got sicker. One morning I woke up after a dream in which I saw my father as a shaman - a healer. He was crying and reaching out to me. He asked why I hadn't learned the "lessons" yet. He needed me and I hadn't done what I was supposed to do in order to help him. I jumped out of bed and immediately started searching for Reiki lessons. It just so happened that there was a "Reiki share" that night where I could learn about Reiki and get a free mini treatment. I was hooked as soon as the practitioner placed her hands on my head. I could feel the energy transfer between us. That night, I signed up for the Level One certification class being held later that week. The next day my father found out he would need open heart surgery. I knew I was doing the right thing.

I got my Level One certification* the week before my Dad's surgery. I gave him treatments every day that he was in the hospital. I really have no idea whether the treatments provided any measurable benefit from a physical standpoint. (The surgery went great and he was out of the hospital 5 days later. He's at home and recovering well.) I know the treatments relaxed him and he enjoyed it. Giving him those treatments allowed me to feel as if I was doing something concrete to help him. And it let him know how much I care about him. Now I'm practicing on my kids (when they let me) and my friends. I plan to get my Level Two certification at the end of the month and hopefully start getting some paying clients.

I knew that giving myself Reiki treatments would probably help me reduce my stress levels and maybe help me get rid of headaches or other aches and pains. But it had an unexpected effect. Almost immediately after my attunement, smoking made me a little sick. It wasn't bad enough to make me quit but I was smoking less. And then a few days ago - about two weeks after my attunement - I started smoking a cigarette, took two puffs and put it out. The same thing happened the next day. And I haven't had a cigarette since. No cravings. My body just won't allow me to smoke any more. At the same time I decided it was time to give up the anti-depressants and the Adderall. I won't lie - the withdrawal symptoms from giving up the anti-depressants are kicking my butt a little. But I found a technique for dealing with that (which will have to wait for another post).

I just know - on something other than an intellectual level - that I need to be a clear channel for healing energy. And with the nicotine and the other drugs coursing through my system all the time, I was anything but a clear channel. Hence the spring cleaning. (Except for allergy medicine. This time of year, without a little Claritin, I'm not a clear channel for anything except mucous). I'm not following any sort of well-thought out plan here. I'm simply listening to my inner guidance which is telling me - loud and clear - that I need to clean house. So I am. And I'm feeling better every day.

Last year I decided that I want to become a massage therapist and get involved in alternative health care strategies. I'll be starting school in July (hopefully). But I've realized recently that my real calling - what I know in my heart of hearts that I need to do - is to be a healer. Becoming a massage therapist - without any of the spiritual healing, "woo woo" stuff - would have been a big change in my life. Add in the idea of being a "healer" - with all the "woo woo" crystals and auras and stuff - and you're talking about a HUGE change from my old life. I have no clue what my life will look like when this transition is over. Not. One. Clue. And it's scary. And incredibly exciting. Just writing that made my heart beat a little bit faster. But I've never been happier in my life.

*There are three levels of certification in Reiki. After Level One, you can perform it on yourself and others but you aren't authorized to charge money for treatments. After Level Two, you are authorized (but not required) to charge for treatments. You also learn how to do distant healing. At Level Three, you become a Reiki Master. At that point you can teach classes and attune others.