community · progress · receiving

Healthy Help.

6.29.18_2I had a strange occurrence this week: I received help.

Novel, I know.  But as you may have read here, I have a complicated (read: vitriolic) relationship with giving and receiving help, which is informed by my reticence to give and receive goodness to and from my own self.

Therefore, as I sat on two phone calls this week, shared my situation and my questions, was offered guidance, suggestions, encouragement, and a path forward, I felt different.  And that difference is a keystone toward my future.

Because I met with two friends/lay-people last week to discuss my financial situation, one of them offered me the name of a certified financial planner.  It is beginning to look like I truly need professional help when looking at my finances, instead of continuing to wing it or to attempt to wrest all the pennies out of my paycheck and into my savings—an express ticket to Deprivation Land.

Listening to Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins earlier this year, he too suggested that we talk with someone to get a more realistic and educated sense of how to proceed.  But it’s not like I had any clue who or how to find someone, therefore this “to do” item fell down the pages of my calendar for months.

And lo: here I was across a cafe table last week and the gentleman says, “You have to talk to this guy; he’s a success machine.”  Uhh, yes, please!

So I talk to said guy and his associate on Monday.  We have an hour-long free call where I describe my current situation and mushy outlines of my future goals.  Firstly, he is so kind!  They are generous with their questions, their listening, their suggestions.  They listen with a warmth that belies the fact that they would never take my business!

Because their fees are precipitous, they’re not the right group for me and they later suggest a woman who may be.  Nonetheless, despite knowing my financial situation within the first 5 minutes of our call, they talk to me anyway.  Even now, I feel a pressure ease in my chest when I recall it.  (I’d later describe them as “warm, juicy” feelings!)

There is something about help freely given that feels entirely new to me.

Surely, I’ve previously been offered what I’m presently calling “Healthy Help,” but perhaps I was not in a place to become aware of it, or in a place to receive it.

We had our lovely, gentle, informative, equanimous call and they invited me to check in down the line.  I followed their referral immediately, and the next afternoon spoke with a woman whose fees and experience seem just what I’m looking for.

Again, she listened.  She heard, she parsed, she reflected.  And it just felt SO DAMN CALM!  I don’t know what it is about the “calmness” of these phone calls that strikes me as so phenomenal, but it does.  (By contrast, I can point to two weeks earlier when I spoke with a real estate agent and a mortgage broker, and I can assure you that however kind in their being they may be, their help sure didn’t feel “calm.”  It felt pushy, greedy, and patronizing.)

Clearly, I am attracting a different manner of help — or I am finally in a place to receive Healthy Help.  It feels marvelous, expansive, laden with possibility and hope.  And it speaks to an opening in my realm for more.

 

 

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accomplishment · self-love · work

“You’re Fired.”

6.24.18At one of the groups I frequent, we state affirmations for the week (you do know I live in California, right?).  Among the list of suggested affirmations are: “There is enough time,” “I trust that I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” and “G-d is my employer.”

It’s this last one that’s been echoing for me this week.  Because if G-d is my employer, and my life is my job, I am totally fired.

When I began to frame my life as my job, I began to notice the following trends:

  • I don’t show up on time, take breaks whenever I damn well please, and text-bail at the last minute.
  • I promise things I don’t deliver, get lost on the internet, and hang out in the break room eating free cake.
  • I commit to tasks I don’t complete, or procrastinate, or simply drop and justify why I don’t really need to do them anyway.
  • I submit said work eventually and still want full benefits from having completed the shambling work.
  • I want the raise, the rewards, the ladder climbing, and I want it all despite the fact that I don’t listen to my boss, do things my own way, and don’t integrate the feedback that is clearly being given me.

So, yeah, I’m hella fired.

Or I would be, if I took my life as seriously as I take my job.

I don’t enjoy the above characteristics of mine.  I recently found a 2017 goals list that included “Learn Christmas songs on the piano by Christmas” … it’s also on my goals list for THIS year!  (Though I modified it to ONE song.)  And as I reflect that it’s nearly July — when do I think I’m gonna learn this stuff?  The year is half-way done, and I haven’t even brought out the sheet music.

“Go easy on yourself, yadda yadda…”  Yes, I know.  Easy does it… BUT DO IT!

It IS easy to accomplish something if you do a little bit at a time.  It IS easy to learn a song in one year, or even 6 months, but how terrible will it feel to come to December and still have this song filed as “Incomplete”?

I’ll tell you: As badly as it feels this year.

I’m a crappy employee of my life.  It’s avoidance, it’s fear, it’s self-abandonment.  AND, yes, I’m working on it.  But sometimes, the truth is you just have to show the F up, put in the work, and then you don’t even have to worry about it!

I have a hard time just showing up.  For myself.

So, I wonder/hope/intone if thinking about showing up “for G-d,” for my “job,” I can begin to shift my mentality?

Because the truth is, I will not be fired.  The consequences of my actions only impact me, my life, and my work.  I don’t want to be Lousiest Employee of the Month.

I really do deserve better.  I want to earn the coveted parking spot close to the entrance.  I want to feel effective and useful and developing.  I want G-d to come by my desk, look over my shoulder, and nod with that half-satisfied, half-impressed up-turn of his mouth, and say:

Keep Up the Good Work.

 

boundaries · codependence · service

The management reserves the right to refuse service.

6.21.18Opening this morning’s Oprah/Deepak meditation, I was sorely tempted to skip right past today’s topic: “How can I serve?”  Nope, nope, nope, I intoned aloud.

Though in the end I listened anyway, I immediately turned “How can I serve?” into “How can I be positive?”

As a recovering and compulsive co-dependent, self-abandoner, let me do for you what I will not do for myself-er… I have a complex relationship with “serving others.”

But during the pre-meditation talk, the point that struck me most as, “Oh, here’s where can I learn,” was when Deepak reminded me that, “Giving and receiving are merely different aspects of the same flow of energy.”  Harumph.

This stings because I have a lot of trouble on the receiving end of things, particularly to and from myself.  It’s difficult and uncomfortable for me to treat myself with care, priority, and love.  This compulsion is better than before, but I know the giving/receiving coin is one relationship that needs healing.

Because when I hear the question, “How can I serve?,” I see The Giving Tree.  More specifically, I see that stump at the end of the story who’s like, “Nah, man, it’s totally cool that I’m nearly dead.  Use what’s left of my husk to park your ass.”

Veysmer.

Turning toward filling someone else’s need is a long-ingrained, long-painful pattern of mine, and so when I hear this question, I recoil from it dramatically.

But I know that’s not truly what Deepak is saying (perhaps it is what some religious or spiritual tenets are saying).  I am not being told to give of myself until there’s nothing left.  I am not being told to give away something against my will that I don’t want to give.  I am not being told to over-ride my “Red Alert!” alarm when a soul-vampire is at my door, and invite them in anyway because “they need me” or “it’s the ‘kind’ thing to do,” or because “that’s what a spiritual person would do.”

But in order to hear what is actually being said, I must replace the word “serve” with the words “be positive.”

I can be a positive force in the world.  I can offer a smile, return a text, share my words here.  I can not be a f*cking drag, even though I feel breakuply shitty right now.

I can get out of my head, meet a friend, go to a museum.  That is how I can be positive today.

But I cannot “serve” you.  It’s self-service here, buddy.  Get with the times.

 

 

abundance · authenticity · deprivation

The Junk Man Cometh

6.17.18

When I moved into this apartment, I was a 28-year old, about-to-be-graduate student.  I came with a free-to-me mattress and boxspring that lived on the floor, and “night tables” that were actually cardboard boxes draped in colorful scarves.

The coffee table (dubbed the “Earthquake Table” for its seismic gyrations everytime you knock into it), the pull-out sofa (from craigslist with cat scratches down to the wood), and the kitchen table (with one sloping leaf) came with me.  Each piece was free.  They were “from the Universe,” they were “manifested”!  And they were junk.

Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, I’ve traded up a bit, but on the whole, much of the broken and battered that came with me is still here.

At one point while still in my SF apartment, a man/boy/living-on-the-floor-in-a-basement-literal-dumpster-diver (don’t ask) reflected as we ate dinner off my curb-find, chipped dishes: “I love how everything you own is in a state of decay.”

Good lord.  What am I doing with my life!?

The man/boy and the dishes had to go.

For a very long time, I’d identified with “Second-Hand Rose.”  I thrived on and cherished the idea that I was “getting away” with not spending money on what I could get for free!  (“The Universe is totally listening!”)  Or extremely cheap at a thrift store.  My thrift store plunges were always post-scripted with a breakdown to friends about how many pieces I got for such little cost!  I even made specific trips into San Francisco just to go to my favorite Good Will.

Now, believe me when I say that I still find nothing wrong with thrift, as an adjective or noun.  However, when a few years ago I was at my women’s new year’s retreat sharing about what my just-glued vision board meant to me, I began to well up at describing how I didn’t want to be Second-Hand Rose in Second-Hand Clothes anymore.  That yes, a core value of mine is still not to add more consumption to the machine, but did everything I own have to be in a state of decay??

It didn’t make me feel powerful or high on thrift anymore.  It made me feel less-than.  It made me feel like I didn’t value myself.  I wasn’t taking pride in the 5 dollar shirt anymore (with just one hole that no one could see).  I was feeling shame.  I was feeling like hiding.

While I am absolutely still a reusable item junkie (I just purchased organic cotton coffee filters that I can rinse & reuse when I’m in Amherst … as there will be NO COFFEE MAKER!  Cue song from How to Succeed.), I do not have to make a sacrifice for everything that I own, consume, or purchase.

Self-deprivation isn’t hot.  And I’m allowing the pendulum to swing a little closer to center, a little closer to balanced.  I can buy something that I’ll use for a long time.  I can buy at the trendier consignment (not thrift) shop.  I can sleep on a bed frame.  I can even continue to grab up street finds, though I am much more judicious in what comes into my home.

Every day I choose to make a purchase that aligns with my values — about the earth and about myself — I feel closer to who I truly am:  Not. A. Hider.

 

insanity · prosperity · trying

An Open Letter

6.14.18.jpgSince my now-ex moved out a bit ago, I’ve been composing letters to him in my head.  Things I would normally text throughout the day, the funny or coincidental, the discoveries or challenges.  But, I know these are not to be shared with him right now.

So, I’m going to share them with you!  Ha!  It’s what my “It’s called a Breakup cuz it’s Broken” book would suggest about calling a friend instead, at least for a little while.

All those things you would share throughout and at the end of the day.  The daily download over dinner, how this or that came out… That’s what feels most difficult: the loss of my closest friend.

It has brought to the fore that my dependence upon that relationship has been a bit lopsided to the neglect of my other relationships.  And so I have reached out to several folks, had a few lady dates, and will need to continue to do so.

But in the meantime, since no particular person I know would want to hear about all of the following, I give them to you, the interweb, a diffuse and “It’s your own choice to click this!” readership.  I here allow all my pent-up updating to be relieved without harm, to him, or to me.

So, Dear Friend, who cares about my minutiae:

  • Since J took back the Wusthof knife he brought to the relationship—and I learned what a 4real improvement a good knife can make—I went online and they were having a sale.  I now have THREE(!) new knives, and practically fainted from the ease with which I sliced my daily bread.
  • I went to 4th Street in Berkeley after graduation last Wednesday and bought: those knives, Kiehl’s eye cream (the men’s version bc it’s cheaper and the clerk says it’s just as good!), and two awesome dessert plates at Anthropologie (since the plates I had at home were freebies that don’t go at all and I’m using the new absence of J’s stuff to question what kind of a home I want for myself).
  • I’m doing research for the month + week I’ll be gone this summer (a month at my professional development in Amherst, MA, a week with my mom in Amsterdam and Copenhagen) about reusable items I’ll need (launderable cotton rounds, cloth coffee filters, collapsable silicon coffee maker and travel mug) and using the gift cards from school parents to pay for them.
  • I emailed school to ask about their covering the cost of the night I have to spend in Boston before my PD starts.  They said of course, so I booked the awesomest (&not crazy pricey) boutique hotel in Beacon Hill… and THEY APPROVED IT!  Omigod.  I’m such a fanatic for these cool, boutique hotels now.  Absolutely a result of being with J and going to several with him.
  • Speaking of, did you know there’s one place in Boston where in order to just attempt to get a reservation THEY HAVE TO CONFIRM HOW MANY INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE?!?!!?  Dude, I love strong design, but … sheesh.  (And no, I did not fill out their “application” form!)
  • OH!  AND, I was at the library reading “O” magazine and there was a photo spread that took place AT PALIHOUSE… IN THE SAME ROOM I stayed with J.  a month ago.  IN THE SAME BED.  So that didn’t make me sad at all…
  • My best friend from NJ and I confirmed we’ll meet in Boston in July for a girl’s weekend, and I’ve been absolutely bananas about searching for a place for us: how much to spend or not spend to spend or not spend to spe– … and then went to a meeting!
  • Speaking of financial insanity:  I spoke about trying to save for a house right now and a woman approached me with a referral for a real estate agent who works particularly with women, which led to:  a flurry of emails… deranged Redfin stalking… talking to a mortgage broker… learning I’d have to pay HALF my income to pay for a mortgage… running my numbers obsessively… not leaving the house so I could run more numbers… composing texts to my mom and brother about going in together… deleting said texts… talking to a trusted friend… and, finally, being reminded that this chaos is not the droid I’m looking for.  This chaos is something called “avoiding feelings.”  Weird.
  • Then I started meditating again.  >.<

So, yeah, that’s how these 10 days have gone for me!  HOW ARE YOU?!?! BWHAHAHA.

Health and illness, courage and fear, community and isolation, abundance and constriction.

Frankly, it all sounds about right.  For now.

Yours in evolution,  M.

 

authenticity · heartbreak · writing

But, it’s scary out there…

6.10.18

When I open a fresh Google tab, it suggests to me my most frequently visited sites.  Nestled between my bank and Netflix is WordPress.  Despite not having written here in nearly a month, the code of my computer remembers—and luckily so do my friends.

Friday on the phone with a friend, she declared that the times when I have been at my best, I have been creating.  Theater, Music, Writing.  Whatever.  It didn’t matter.  When I’ve been my optimal, on fire, most embodied self was when I was creating regularly.

The evening before that, I was standing in the glimmer of San Francisco light with a friend I don’t know all that well, but well enough that she should ask, “How’s your writing?”

I answered, “Actually, I haven’t been doing much lately; I’m sort of stalled out.  But last week at school, I read a graduation poem I’d written [adapted for my 8th grade students from the one I read at my own graduation…for an MFA in poetry], and got incredible feedback.  Several people said they teared up.  My boss even said I did what poetry is supposed to do: say so much in so few words.

I forget sometimes,” I said to my friend, “how much I love it—and that not everyone can do it.”

“Yeah,” she replied, thoughtfully, “I go into anorexia around my writing, too.”

Wait. What?

“I never thought of my not writing as anorexia…”

This idea has been haunting me.  As someone who identifies as an “underbe-er”—not living in my full potential or using my time to support and further my goals—I’ve long been aware of my “anorexia” around self-care.

But I’d never before considered writing an integral part of my self-care.  Or of creative expression as self-care.  I more think of it as washing my dishes or going to bed on time!

Yet, here it was, a lighting-bolt moment: I refrain from or deny engaging in something which brings me to life.  If that’s not anorexic, I don’t know what is.

As I’ve written before, I had the extraordinary privilege of growing up in a house that never used food as a weapon, a reward, an analgesic or a shaming vehicle.  Food was food.  It was enjoyed, or just eaten; around a table, or before a t.v.  But it was never much more than a nice thing or an ordinary thing.  And I am so grateful for that, as I know many people suffer(ed) from painful relationships with food.

But, anorexia for me has been about denying myself experiences or expressions of life.  Months without a forest, years without a museum.  Weeks without a song, days without laughter.

My friend on the phone Friday put me to the task of writing for 30 minutes every day for a week.  One week, just to see how it feels.  Whether that’s blog writing or personal writing or book writing–anything, just as long as I’m creating.

The truth is, I know why things have gone into a period of retraction lately.  The last time I wrote in my journal was a month ago, just two days before J. and I broke up for the truly final time, just eight days before he handed me the keys to my apartment where we’ve shared a home for 6 months, and a bed for 2 years.

The sadness, grief, guilt, hope, the cycle of them again and again.  The molasses way I walk to and from my car at work.  I know this is why I’ve distanced myself from creating.

But, here’s the stupid rub of emotional anorexia: I will never feel better by retraction.  I will never get fed by sealing myself off from experiences that feed me.  The healing that I seek from withdrawing is a lie and a delusion.

That doesn’t mean it’s still not my go-to.  But I am only to get a crow-bar’s worth of light in there if I acknowledge its falseness… and put pen to paper again.

 

excellence · expansion · TEACHING

Hungry Hippos.

5.2.18

As the school year draws to a close, I find that I feel a little stale in my teaching practices.  I have a toolbox with many drawers, but I tend to reach for the uppermost because it’s convenient, familiar, and reflexive.  Therefore, I’m not alone in my classroom feeling a little bored!

So, yesterday, I reached into my classroom bookshelf for my thumbed-through copy of Teach Like a Champion to remind myself of other techniques that are available to me.  OH MY GOD, what a relief!  I forget how many tools are literally (yes, literally!) at my fingertips.  I’m so grateful that my boss at my first school handed me a copy from her stores when I began my career and was drowning in novice-hood, sore-throated and haggard.

As I thumb again through the book, I see a handful of pages dogeared, but for the most part not touched.  The few techniques I recall (Vegas Moment, Exit Ticket, No Opt Out)… well, I recall them, but I can’t always say I use them.  Or say I always use them!

Of course, it’s not to use every tool every time, but to refamiliarize myself with all the drawers in my toolbox is like a draught of water on a hot day.  I feel relief.

Therefore, as I sat in meditation this morning, the idea struck me that I wonder if other teachers at my school might be feeling similar stagnation and welcome the chance to get together to read/re-read and discuss one or two tools a week and spitball some ideas for how to literally 😛 implement the techniques in their own classroom (since theoretical professional development is the WORST).

After dismissal, we’re still contracted to be on-site for another 30 minutes.  Well, what if I hosted a “Drop-in PD” in my classroom for 20 of those minutes?  We’d read a tool, refresh and head on our way.

Charged up with this idea and already composing an email to the faculty in my head (yes, during meditation!), I figured I should probably square this with the head honcho, in case there was a conflict or even an existing opportunity that I didn’t know about, and also to gain her ideas on the subject.

Therefore, at 6am today, there I am composing an email to my boss about how to improve my teaching, and perhaps the teaching of my peers.

Hungry.  That’s what I imagine she’ll think when she reads that email!

Because it’s not the first talk we’ve had recently on what I could do to increase my value (and compensation) at the school.  I met with her a few weeks ago to bandy about ideas and, through my supervisor, I heard that there may be one option on the horizon.  One that will be HOLY COW a lot of work, but it’s mostly initial set-up that can then be replicated with somewhat lesser effort in subsequent years.

I haven’t heard from the big boss on that yet, so I’m waiting for our monthly meeting next week.

But, in the meantime, can’t hurt to say I wanna host a klatch of teachers to improve our professional excellence, now can it?;)