achievement · courage · progress

Dare Up.

11.9.18One of the points Deepak Chopra made during today’s new meditation experience, “Energize Your Life: Secrets to a Youthful Spirit,” was about opening ourselves to receive the nourishment and energy that we need.  Opening myself to receive is a concept I’ve been on about for a little while, and the idea of “starving at the banquet of life” as its antithesis has similarly been on my mind.

While I have made strides to allow myself to admit what it is I want or desire, I know that I must open still more in order to truly hold the kind of health and abundance I want to have and hold in my life.

Opening myself to what I truly need and want requires a few uncomfortable things from me: 1) acknowledging what I want (which presumes that I have gotten quiet and honest enough to be clear about my desires), and 2) telling other people what I want.

Both of these steps require a vulnerability that feels exposing.  But it also leads me to the lyrics, “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine.”  And you know what seems to happen when people “let it shine,” when they share vulnerably and openly who and what they are?  They inspire other people to want to do the same.

Brene Brown wrote about this idea in her book, Daring Greatly, quoting President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the arena” speech.  He dramatized that the people who would criticize us for “daring greatly” are generally the ones who aren’t trying to dare greatly themselves.

So if you’re making strides to improve the quality of your life, in any arena — mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, sexually, financially, healthfully, energetically — keep daring, because there are those of us who are still in the bleacher seats, looking to you for courage, inspiration, strength, and invitation.

Dare on, Readers. Dare on.

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deprivation · finance · progress

Two Nickels.

8.27.18.pngWhen, 7 years ago August, I sat across from two folks who volunteered to help me look at my finances, I went as a ball of anxiety, misery, and defensiveness.  (I’m sure that was great for them!)

But, in truth, every one of us pairs that sits with another person to help organize and plan their spending knows that we’re stepping into a very sensitive place for that person.  If they’ve ended up on the other side of this table, they’re not flying in on the wings of victory, and it’s natural that they may feel all sorts of uncomfortable.

As time has gone on, I have met again with several different pairs of folks to look at my spending and saving, to parse out my goals, to find where there is pressure and help make a plan to relieve that pressure (the groups are called “Pressure Relief Groups,” PRGs, anyway!). And even with all the years of doing this work, I can still feel anxious and defensive, particularly in places I don’t understand that well or feel particularly hopeless about.

As I stall on uploading my numbers spreadsheet to my new financial planner, I notice similar feelings bubbling up.  Thankfully, not the hopeless bit, but the anxiety and defensiveness are up.  It reminds me of those hoarders tv shows where people may have collected a whole bunch of stuff, but the particulars make no difference: it’s the feelings, and fears, that matter.

I feel fear that she won’t understand the spreadsheet I keep for my numbers, so I’ve been stalling uploading it.  I fear that she’ll judge me because it may look like chaos to her, when it looks like order to me (hard-won order, at that).  I also fear she’ll tell me I have to spend less money, to live smaller, which was my overarching fear at that meeting 7 summers ago.

But, frankly, I’m not the worst ever seen, and even if I was, it’s her job to help me sort it out!  My way is not the only way.  And I don’t have to live smaller, ever.

The ultimate message I received at that first PRG was that I was “underspending” in all sorts of categories.  That “underspending” was even a concept was foreign to me!  I’d imagined that because I could not make ends meet on my meager income, it meant these two folks would tell me to spend less, to somehow—even though I was living so close to the bone I was perpetually leaking blood—they would say: less, smaller, tiny, infinitesimal you.

Of course, you may have guessed, they did not say anything of the sort.  In fact, they said I needed to double what I was spending in categories like food, entertainment, clothing.  (Apparently $40 a week on food was cruel, not prudent!)

Deprivation is a place I’ve been uncovering for several years.  Being smaller, hiding who I am, fearing judgment, reprisal, and shame.  Naturally, the path to the origin of these beliefs is clear as hell, but that hasn’t erased their existence and it also doesn’t particularly help me in forging a new path.

My PRG said I needed to spend more.  And I replied, “yeah great, how [a**holes].”  At the time, they didn’t say anything.  That wasn’t the point right then (though ultimately it was to earn more, which I have).  They just said, continue keeping track of your numbers and we’ll meet next month.

And so we did.  Again and again, with different pairs until present day when one of my PRG folks said, Hey, here’s a financial advisor’s number.

The road to today is paved with stepping stones that were impossible and invisible until each one was laid down.  The path 5 years hence will look the same to future me — and as impossible and invisible to today me.

As I dicker around on sending my spreadsheet to my advisor, I have to hold myself with compassion, not judgment, for “not knowing how.”  And I also have to consider myself with buckets of pride over how far I’ve come.  Every step, no matter how sporadic, has led me here, and I have to trust that this woman has seen far worse and can help me to far better.

Here goes nothing.

 

kindness · progress · stagnation

It’s okay, boo.

8.15.18In finishing Pamela Druckerman’s new book, There Are No Grown-Ups, I’ve been reflecting on her discussion and research of Widsom.  (Yes! There is scientific inquiry into “wisdom” and what makes someone wise.)  Wisdom, as my summer plane-read tells it, is the combination of experience and reflection with an ability to extrapolate that information forward.

As I take in the state of my physical home and body since I arrived back from my 5 weeks away, I notice several things that are not unusual:  a sinkful of dishes, full-to-burst recycling, and an absolute absence of physical exercise.

What is unusual is that I know that this is temporary.  

I have tended in the past to make such “horrors” mean something about me, and to mean something about the condition of my future.  I extrapolate this state of chaos and sedentariness to be a permanent stagnation that will forever impact the rest of my beating life!

Luckily, today I know that this is not the case.  I know that my physical states reach low periods during transitions or hard emotional times, and I have seen them change!

When several months ago, as my relationship was in devolution and my boyfriend was still living here, I drove home from work, sat on the couch, and read Game of Thrones for 4 hours.  Every day.  For weeks.

I didn’t “want” to be spending my time that way.  I kicked myself for “wasting my life.”  I feared this meant I would never have ambition, never make progress in my life.  But in retrospect, I know that it was my way of coping with the circumstances, and I saw it change very quickly once the parting was imminent.

I have had periods of time where I binge on baking shows, novels, pinterest.  I have also had periods when I walk every afternoon, go to the gym, run regularly…or even do art.  I have even had times when I wash my dishes every evening and arise to a clean kitchen every morning.

So, what I know, and what is bringing me relief at the moment, is that my physical chaos/stagnation is just a blip.  It’s just a manner of self-soothing.  And I get to be kind to it today.  I get to say, “Hey guy, you’re clearly having a lot of feelings right now, but don’t worry, they will pass.”  My home will again be clean, my body will again feel strong.  And my life is and will again feel one of progress, I promise.

I’m so grateful for the chance to use my wisdom—experience, reflection, extrapolation—to offer kindness to myself.  Because I have never once nagged or bad-mouthed myself into or out of a damn thing anyway.

 

 

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.

 

 

balance · progress · time

Even Elizabeth Gilbert took a Break.

4.23.18

The epilogue to Eat, Pray, Love, if I recall (maybe it was an interview) included author Elizabeth Gilbert admitting that in coming back to her regular daily life, she did loosen her adherence to her hours’ long daily meditation.  The demands of everyday life, I believe she wrote, necessitated that she create a new balance that allowed for her present needs and reality.

I take comfort in this idea—not as justification for my own procrastination or avoidance of eaten frogs, but that even “great spiritual masters” (though I’m sure she would never consider herself such!) have to consistently reapportion in and out, effort and rest, play and focus.  I take comfort because it means that I can, too.

As you read in Saturday’s blog, the concept of “Time” is foremost in my mind and plans and creation of my days lately.  In that blog, I shared Dr. Dan Siegel’s 7 types of time one should account for in one’s day, and that did include play time.

I remember when I was healing from cancer treatment, I questioned (rather unceasingly) whether I was still allowed to watch Ben Stiller movies.  (You know, like Zoolander.)  Meaning, with everything that had changed and happened, was it “wasting my life” to take 2 hours to watch something that was funny but shallow?  What was the value of humor?  Of frivolity?

Indeed, that question of allotting time for mental candy plagued me and can still rear its snarky head.  But, I’ve come to the other side of it.

My own answer, at least, is YES.  Yes, frivolity.  Yes, silliness.  Yes, “stupidity.”  Because it’s FUN.

And truly, what is the purpose, ultimately, of life if we’re not having any fun?

Now.  I can go too far, as you’ve seen me lament here, too, spending copious hours clicking next episode or reading the next chapter.  And therefore, balance is required among the rest of those 7 time allotments so that I can feel at ease engaging in play because I’ve engaged in work or connection or physicality.

The more I grow, the more I realize that balance in all things (though not necessarily equality) is the essence of contentment, self-esteem, and joy.

 

action · avoidance · progress

Eating Frogs.

4.21.18

(I was sick yesterday, so this is Friday’s blog!)  

With the last meditation challenge complete, I’m re-listening to the 21-day audio meditation Manifesting True Success from Oprah and Deepak.  Yesterday’s was focused on “T” in the acronym SMART: Time.

On the phone with my new goals group this past Sunday, I told them that, while my larger goal is to write a book (details emerging), my relationship with Time must needs be my other focal point for our 6 months together.

“I cram,” I told the ladies.  In the last goals group, I would do all the writing the hour before the call and felt like I didn’t get out of the group all I might have.  Perhaps by writing a little throughout the week, I could have more time to reflect and therefore more time to evolve.

And, wouldn’t you know, the meditation this week was, “Timing for Success.”

I really liked the reference Deepak made to this categorizing of our daily lives:

  • Sleep time: Getting a full night’s restful sleep
  • Physical time: Time to move and let my body be active
  • Focus time: Being alone for a while to concentrate on what matters to me
  • Time in: Time for meditation, prayer, self-reflection
  • Time out: Time to simply be here, and rest into existence (How do you like that phrase?!)
  • Play time: Time to have fun and enjoy myself
  • Connecting time: Intimate private time between me and those I care about.

What strikes me immediately, and pointed out by my therapist many months ago, is that I make little time for Play.  What happens in that structure is that I avoid or procrastinate Focus time (and Physical time) because I feel deprived:

If I haven’t done anything fun or creative, I have less in the well.  If I have less in the well, large tasks become insurmountable.  And so the cycle continues.

“Fun leads to productivity” seems like a strange concept, but for the deprivation addict that I am/have been, it’s key.  Because the reverse is true, too: “Productivity leads to fun.”  If I don’t put off what must be done, then I don’t feel guilty doing something fun.

When I feel guilty, I procrastinate even my fun!  It’s a terrible cycle.  So I have to shift to feeding all the parts of my day, and therefore myself.  If I want to focus more, I have to play more.  If I want to play more, I actually have to focus!

“Eat the frog first,” as they say.

With the new goals group, I hope to have a bit more accountability for my time—for my play time and therefore my accomplishy time.

progress · self-doubt · vision · work

Living Out Cliches

Last Friday morning, I received a phone call from the temp agency I’d been working with, telling me, in excited “what a great gig is this” tones, about a possible receptionist job.

On Saturday morning, as is not unusual for Bay Area Rapid Transit, I got onto a train car with a homeless man sprawled out in a blanket by the doorway, and turned right to walk through to the next car.  There, I was pleasantly surprised to see a former co-worker (the only one I really befriended) from my retail job this past winter and I sat down next to her.

I got to tell the temp agency and my former coworker the same thing: “I just accepted a teaching job for the upcoming school year.”

It felt as though The Spirit of Jobs Past had come to call on me, showing me how my life could have been.  I get a call for a crummy temp job–that only days before I would have actually had to consider–just 24 hours after accepting a position teaching 3rd grade at a local Jewish private school.  And only a day after that, I run into someone who holds up a vision into what my winter was and what my present still could be:  long, hard, meaningless, monetarily and spiritually rewardless hours.

This morning I pulled out my “morning pages” notebook thinking to write about what’s happening now, and I flipped it open.  It fell open to a page from February, when I was still at that retail job, and I had just decided I was going to be a school teacher.  I have all these “law of attraction”-style invocations written down over that month:

  • I’ve made a decision.  I am going to teach physics.  And math.  In high schools. & later college(?)
  • I’ve decided: I’ll get a private school job & they’ll sponsor my credential program.
  • The future. My legacy.  Middle schoolers, I love them! Real holidays.  Real breaks. Stable. Stability First.
  • I want a job like Jess’s or Chris’s – a cush public or a great private.
  • I need a regular job. I need a regular, benefitted, well-paying job.
  • I wanna fly a plane for tourists.
There were all the questions, too:

  • This will take a lot of work & more schooling.  How is this gonna work?
  • Will I be able to do a normal job AND the acting thing? Dreams change, right?
  • How the heck to I teach this stuff?
  • How is this gonna work at all??
  • Where do you (inner core) need me? What needs to happen to get there?

I also wrote about the other things that I was struggling with:

  • I broke down yesterday – I shared & cried & said how it really is for me right now. I feel ancient, I feel tired, and – not lost actually – just temporarily very, very stuck.
  • I am a mess, and I need help to clean and slow things down.  I can’t do it all at once and I’m trying to.
And finally:

  • 2015, the year I taught at a private school, was in a musical & play, learned calculus and physics.  Right? Oh, and got counseling for cancer. Oh right, that.  I need help on that.  This isn’t okay.  I wanna hear from cancer survivors.

It was the entry after the day I “broke down” to my friends and let them know how much that winter was weighing on me…  How broken and tired and hopeless and directionless I felt…  The day after I admitted that what it looks like on the outside can kill you if you don’t admit what it feels like on the inside…

It was after that entry, the very next one, that I received the call that I’d gotten the temp job as an executive assistant and would be leaving my retail floor behind me.

It was at that temp job that I made a friend who ended up gifting me funds so that I could afford to accept the part-time summer school job at the cushy private school (and take a physics class at night).

It was the experience and resume-fodder of that private school job that enabled me to speak with recent enthusiasm to the cushy private school interviewers where I got hired last week.

And, true to the last bullet point above, I have, in 2015, taught at a private school, been in a musical, learned physics, and gotten counseling for cancer & discovered a community of young adult cancer survivors whom I cherish.

Oh, and I flew in a plane with a friend and was able to take the wheel for a while.

So, what?  What is the take-away from all of this “what it was like & what’s it’s like now” reflection?

Firstly, and I believe most importantly, I admitted the truth to my friends about how broken I was feeling – and I will not be exaggerating here when I say things were as black as they can get for a person like me, a person who will actively hide behind her shiny exterior while gently suggesting suicide to myself like a lover whispering nothings in my ear.

This was not okay. And I didn’t know how to change or fix it.  I put on the armor of the Look-Good every day.  Until finally, one very lucky day for me indeed, I told the truth to people who could hear it, and, importantly, help me change it.

It was because of this admission of my truth that I got help: I began to work in earnest on my recovery.  I “happened to” read the back panel of the Cancer Support Community newsletter, where they offered free one-on-one counseling for cancer patients and survivors. I was accepted into a climbing trip with survivors like me where I was able to tell them the truth about how much I missed them in my life without knowing what it was that I’d been missing — like breathing fresh oxygen when you’ve lived in LA your whole life with a 100lb pack on your back.

So, I suppose the take away is mainly for me to say that.  To say that this was a hard fucking year.  It was a hard fucking winter and it nearly killed me “for realz.” And so, all these cash and prizes now, all the fulfillment of these “manifestations,” all the rewards that seem to be piling in on me now and making me spin with their accuracy of help… they have not been granted by a fairy godmother, magically and suddenly.  They have been fought for with the truth, with action, and yes, with the childish hope that what dreams I put out into the world might actually come true.

My coworker asked me on the train car last Saturday, “When did you quit?”  “February.”  She thought for a moment, and replied, “So six months.  You’ve done what you said you were going to do in six months.”

Indeed.

And wow.

And thanks.