Many times in my life I have chosen to cling to a symbol, a piece of jewelry, my dad's old coat, that represents where I'm at on my path in this life. There is something about wearing a special something that serves as a reminder of my intention here and the depth of that particular experience.
Tomorrow I'm going to the city, to my cherished, old neighborhood, to sit for a while in the afternoon.
When I walk out into the warm, Los Angeles night, something will have changed. Something not unlike a butterfly which has spent her due time as a liquefied caterpillar.
This year hit like a hurricane in January, (when I declared that my motif would be self-care) with my children and I becoming sick with something as simple as preschool-contracted sinusitis, but that turned for the worse into acute bronchitis, then gave way to hacking asthmatic symptoms that lasted until the very end of June.
Not being able to cure us was very humbling for me.
I had to keep learning again and again and AGAIN that the children and I were going to be okay.
I had to trust.
Two seasons saw me finding my way, my tools, my wings.
Along the road I picked up more trust, and placed it in my reeded basket. I learned some things about myself, gathered some confidence while I kept asking for help, kept trying new remedies, altered our diets, eliminated, added, detoxed, sweat, slept, said no, asked for more time, canceled commitments.
The things I still felt poorly about deep within myself came waterfalling down, out loud. I was losing all control and had to learn how to go on through six months of days not knowing what I was made of, and six months of nights with a baby gasping for breath. Not knowing when we would get better. Or how much I could continue to surrender.
I am crowning myself for the additional things I've overcome, the generational hurts I've ceremoniously healed this year, one of which is over fifty years old. I am honoring that when I get out of my mind and back into my body, my feet, my heart-I can find the surrender necessary to go on, sometimes even joyfully. Because, while I was in the quagmire of shit, I found a goldmine in the fact that I don't have to know.
Building confidence by feeling proud of what we've overcome is a slippery slope. We are told not to be too full of ourselves, not to be too...too...too. Some of us keep our proud moments secret so no one will think we're bragging. We keep our tongues wrapped when we want to shout out about our triumphs. We feel ashamed if giddiness overcomes us when someone notices our possibilities. As my paws have found the road this year, I am letting go of unnecessary thinking, and embracing that when I recognize my power, it smiles back at me.
In honor of trust...and growth, I've chosen to make an exhibit to myself. Not to the world. (I can't take care of myself properly when I care what someone might think about my choices. This has always been so.)
I don't feel one hundred percent at ease sharing these thoughts out loud. But I'm doing it anyway, because to not share would be to do myself a disservice. I am proud of myself. And of you. We both battle for our own confidence each and every day. I see us.
Maybe my exhibit of love for myself will inspire you to wrap yourself up in your own adoring, that you may own how beautiful you are, claim your self-respect, and stand eyes-up in your divine relevance to this spinning orb I love so deeply.
Aho, and Bless.
And most of all...
I'm stuffed full on media. And Oreos. But mostly on technology and things that cause my eyes and ears to buzz and ache.
Its time to unplug and claim some constructive solitude wherever I can in the next few days. I'm ready to create a clearing for transition to occur in. Often when I'm moving from one focus to another, the answers to my questions sprout up from my unconscious roots and take leaf in the light of my own consciousness. I honor the Equinox and the waning moon by drawing within and down. (insert a little pinky swear here)
When I do this, little ideas and voices can be heard. I am eager to listen to the tiny root hairs again. And to converse in person with my loved ones who welcome the wild and irrational.
My hope is that if I'm as still as can be, and very quiet on the cottage porch of my inner woods, the wolves will come.
The avoidance of the anxiety of solitude by constant, agitated diversion is what Kierkegaard, in a nice simile, likened to the settlers in the early days of America who used to beat on pots and pans at night to keep the wolves away.
-Rollo May, The Courage to Create
Here is a wise little elder helper totem before she was completed for the Spirit Doll class in the online Wishstudio Playgroup, which posts on the 27th of this month. Contact Mindy if you missed the boat on this. Miles and I had SO much fun making them together! The video summary is how we finished up the offering. I think he did very well for his first time as what seemed like gig as a talk show host.
Warriors learn to trust their own judgment about what is harmful and, perhaps most important, they develop the courage to fight for what they want or believe in, even when doing so requires great risk--the loss of a job, a mate, friends, social regard, or even their very lives.
-Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By
I get asked a lot about what this tattoo is a symbol of. Love? Harmony? Trust?
It's sort of all of those things, but I never find it simple to explain.
In 1998 I walked into the local Vermont Ave. tattoo joint with a copy of the Tao Te Ching in my hand and pointed to the symbol. I sat for about forty-five minutes while the artist inked and scratched the moving shapes into my left deltoid. This was a bold move for me, a tattoo on my arm; I'd hid the others below the waistline: the wolf's paw print in 1990 and the Warrior's spear in 1994. Earlier messages to my then self from my further-along self that I am still learning about. Funny how we reach back and teach ourselves from the future, isn't it?
The direct translation of Tao means, literally, the way.
Like so many things I've done, I have no real clue why I'm doing them until it manifests years later. I only know in the moment that it will be significant, though I can't say precisely why or how. Releasing and surrender have been big for me for a very long time, but I'd say that this year has been the token year of letting go. Letting it all go...
This piece, from the essay Surrender Into Mothering, by Chris Pritchard, says much of it for me:
What I know now about parenting is to "surrender." I've learned how childbirth brings with it self-discovery, self-healing, and adaptation to the new selves we become every single day of our lives. No one ever told me that, as an adult, I would keep on changing. I would have to move and flow with changes in myself, as well as all around me, for the rest of my life. No one ever explained that this process never ends, that it is infinite. Learning to surrender means learning to go with change. And change requires surrender.
From the first days of pregnancy, when the beautiful creature inside your body begins to puff out your belly and your breasts, makes you nauseated and tired, makes you have emotional depths and heights, radically affects your relationship with everyone around you, you are asked by this tiny new life to adapt to all these changes, If you resist you will suffer. You must give in. You do let go. You shed your old self. Perhaps pregnancy, more than any other period in a woman's life, enables her to understand the complexity of this requirement in life--to change and to adapt.
Pregnancy enables us to open a multitude of doorways--into ourselves, into our ancestral past, and into our future. Sometimes walking through these doorways can give us insights that can shift old patterns on this planet. The gift of childbirth challenges us to take nothing for granted, and to flow and to move like a great ocean, around any rocky obstacle.
I begin my fortieth year wiring in Coyote's way- to enjoy having without possessing, to revel in loving without boundaries, to delight in surrendering my defenses, to laugh when I might reflexively admonish myself, to freely release all that I create, to dance around the fire which burns up the old, to drink in breath without fear, to trust it all and take nothing for granted. To do less, to want less, to need less. To practice it over and over again.
Whatever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
-Tao Te Ching
I am so totally willing to let go.
I went for a run this evening. I usually go very early in the cool mornings, before my little birds are up and before their daddy rides off to work. A week ago, however, I ran my very first race-a 5K, in which I surprised myself by running three nine minute miles. The fastest I'd ever put paws to pavement.
But this was birthday week, so I skipped Monday, ran on Wednesday and felt completely off my footing. I blew off Friday and Saturday...the long and short of being that I was beginning to spin a story about how undisciplined I'd been-how uncaring I'd been to a part of my life that has fed my soulfeet for months now. And this is the way I was treating it? Ice cream and scotch and pizza and scotch and wine tasting and a donut and a coke?
So today I ran and I ran, pounding the earth and burning up the negative energy, releasing cares and self-judgments with each sweaty mile. Geese flew overhead, dragonflies mated on the water lilies, squirrels lounged, lizards skittered past, herons swooped, turkey vultures soared. I imagined that none of them were spinning such a story about how lackadaisical they'd been with their flying, mating, lounging...skittering.
As I rounded the last bend, something struck me. A concept likely scavenged up from the depths of me where a ratty Eckart Tolle-like book lies open to a marked up, dog-eared page... The idea was this:
It isn't what I do or what happens to me that matters. It is what I think about it that delivers the punch.
So I stopped thinking.
Miles: More Messing in Keri's fantastic book.
No one is having more fun letting go of control than me. But as Miles destroyed a Jet Puft marshmallow (his idea, I suggested the Agave syrup-easy, right?) and schmeared it onto the page, (which had instructed him to apply something sticky and then cover it with a powdery substance, then blow off), I could see the magic working on him, too. As the brewer's yeast (his choice) was taking flight, I could see him letting go. Keri's books, and I don't mean to gush here, help our family open up wide.
They open up my ability to parent my children in the way that I want to. Not the way I am biologically/psychologically driven to. Her instructions read like daring commands. So simple and yet many of them trigger a place within me that is always crying out to break the rules.
As we put the entire book into the microwave to melt the marshmallow ("one to eat, and one to melt, mama?"), I totally felt myself fretting. Would the book binding melt? Yes, yes, you can have another marshmallow...Some of the pages were already coming out a little...are we going to mess up... WAIT A MINUTE!
Missing the point, wasn't I? So her plan is working.
Working it's magic on me, from the inside out.
Just like I like it.
Fear keeps me from beginning. It keeps a person from putting one foot in front of the other and walking toward a desired destination.
When Miles was learning to say his first words, I noticed that if he couldn't say it the way he wanted to (the way we were speaking a word), then he would stop trying. As early as eighteen months I could see perfectionism already plaguing him. He didn't want to say it wrong, or in a way that was dissatisfying to him. He still suffers this, but we work a lot on risk taking and enjoying the process with him, and it seems to be letting up a bit. The lovely side to his perfectionism is that he receives a lot of praise from his teachers and the moms who work at school about how concentrated he is when he's cutting with scissors, painting, coloring. What I think gets missed here, though, is that while it brings him great satisfaction to make something that he is pleased with the result of, he seems less free-spirited in the process of creating. I, controlling mother that I am, want him to enjoy the bloody journey!
This may be more important to me than it is to him, so I just sort of let him do his thing until he really begins to suffer, and then I step in with a bit of coaching and "it doesn't have to be perfect... as long as you're having fun" sort of momtalk.
When I begin a new project, especially one that's out of my comfort zone or area of expertise, I can feel trepidation creep in. It requires a lot of trust, even stubborn faith, to face off with it. What it boils down to is that I don't want to screw it up. I don't want my vision to corrupt before my very eyes at my own feeble hands.
There are some of you who have asked me technical questions about printing your own artwork and creating an Etsy store- and I can hear the fear in your voices: you don't want to get it wrong. Maybe if you have a little bit more time, you'll feel more confident. At no point as an artist do I feel like I have everything I need to get started with full confidence. When fear of beginning strikes, I'm wondering if we can try be more persistent at fueling our tanks with pure vision and determination.
That being said, here are a few of my favorite creative business resources:
HP7280 Photosmart PSC: I use the same printer this year as I did last year. Soon it will be due for an upgrade and I do believe I'll buy the Canon 9000 series if I insist on printing hands-on. But this cheapie has allowed me to scan my work at high resolution, print on the heavier artsy papers like Moab and Hahnemuhle, and also use the copier to tweak the drawings and images that I use in my work-with minimal issues. The ink is archival (Vivera 02) and the thing was a steal on Amazon. (It seems like a lot has changed at HP since I bought my printer. I'd recommend making certain that the printer uses ink that's archival quality. I wanted to point you to something that already works for me, but it seems like your own research will be required here. I learned a lot by reading about printers in Etsy forums.)
Moab Entrada Rag 190GSM: I get this paper through Amazon, shipped by Adorama Camera and I love it's weight. There are nicer papers out there, but for some reason, this is the one that my brightly colored work looks and feels best on.
Shipping Supply: I get kraft no-bend mailers here. Love 'em.
Clearbags: I buy the rigid backing board and cello sleeves for prints here. I love their biodegradable options.
Overnight Prints: Business cards and postcards from here are the best. Love the rounded corners option. They have sales about once a month and postcards can be bought for up to 60% less than their list prices.
Don't let fear of doing it all wrong stop you. Be willing to do it anyway and screw it up! In the end, you'll be just fine.
Sometimes being fearless, for me, means letting go of all of my rules and restrictions.
It means embracing the inconvenient, the messy, the time-consuming.
Fearless parenting can sometimes sound like...silence. Where I would otherwise correct, steer or guide.
Sometimes it looks like me standing nearby, laughing and encouraging-like, while she paints both of her hands. And watching without reaching in while she plops her thumb squarely into her sweet little cherub's mouth.
I only seem to have one thing on my mind these past few months, causing me to be a very boring blogger, conversationalist, and possibly a terrible listener, as well. It was bound to leak out here at some point. Brace yourself. This ride may be bumpy, and with plentiful cursing.
Each time I write about fear, people come bounding up out between the floorboards like brownies who've been kept prisoner by an evil, brownie-eating witch. Fear is the cause of every single thing we aren't doing or saying, but would like to be. It is the reason we judge ourselves and others harshly.
It is the obstacle we cannot flow around.
I know! Am I still prattling on about this after five plus years here? ...As long as it keeps coming up for me and those around me, I can't stop. It creeps out in each discussion I have because it's like...the silent killer. Worse than cancer. Fear lurks around every psychic corner.
When it comes up in the context of social rules or religion lately, it's really getting me feverish within seconds. Zero to sixty, man. For example, a friend told me about a tattoo of a Psalm that he wanted to have inked on his forearm last week. I'll keep the actual words private, but it had the word "fearfully" in it, (you may know this one), and I almost hit the roof. I got so inflamed and indignant at the idea that God must be feared, and that humans naturally oblige to fear because they "sin" (his words), that I just about flipped out of my fucking skin right there at the patio table! The notion that fear is something that is an intrinsic and (heave) necessary part of us, makes me feel extremely rebellious. There was eye rolling. There was heavy sighing. There was, just for a moment, a precious friendship on the line.
Clearly, this is a hot button for me.
And so here I am, feeling my own fears and listening to those of others. Here are some ways that fear is showing up for me and for you:
Fear of doing it wrong
Fear of doing it right
Fear of losing oneself
Fear of the past
Fear of the future
Fear of not enough
Fear of not leaving one's mark or message
Fear of looking at oneself
Fear of What If
Fear of being honest with others
Fear of one's own truth
Fear of screwing up one's children
Fear of turning out to be just like one's parent(s)
Fear of the earth being destroyed
Fear of inhumanity
Fear of predators
Fear of getting hurt
Fear of hurting someone
Fear of making the same mistake twice
Fear of dark water in which scary things feed at night
Fear of one's airplane crashing
Fear of being too big for one's britches
Fear of not living life to the fullest
Fear of not honoring one's soul purpose
Fear of being perceived a fake
Fear of dying
Fear of being alone
Just to name a few.
When I write or talk about how fear stops us from living and loving in this moment, it makes my hands and arms shake, my belly ache and my soul cry out. I know that this parasite is just asking for me to kick it in the face. It's a battle I will not surrender. One which feels like an eternal game of Whack-A-Mole.
I have had the distinct pleasure of witnessing babies exploring his and her amazing new world, and I'm here to report that in my experience, fear is not inborn. Fear is created when we are constantly told to, "Be Careful". When we are trained to listen to someone else instead of our own intuitive guidance. Fear is born when we learn by being told, instead of by the natural consequences of our actions. There is no shame in stumbling and falling down when learning to walk until someone puts that idea into our minds. That we are not walking fast enough, or steadily enough, or keeping up with the others in our category. Not measuring up to the expected percentile.
And then, the thinking. The thinking. The thoughts that plague us into the night-the ones which entire shelves of anxiety remedies are created to quell. The thinking, that, when turned completely upside down, cannot remain, and must be seen from the other side-the courageous side that got buried when we secretly agreed to think such terrible things, but now floats on top like a mysterious and sensual oil.
This is not the last I will say about fear. As each of us sheds another skin this changing of the seasons and is reborn silky and ready to fly valiantly again, my mind drifts to what frightful boulders may roll across our paths.
I imagine traversing the circular road again, this time pounding harder to break down the sidewalls of the box, climbing the walls of the triangle, leaving the "circle", in order to be my own unique shape and size without criticism or shame. I imagine that love can be given and received without expectation or conditions, without guarantees, and that free is something each mind is entitled to be and feel. That trust can prevail without the tight concrete fences of outmoded conventional restrictions bearing down on it. That the cage we don't see dropping upon us when we become wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, students, employees, -will lift up of our own strong wills. And THEN, fear...well,