Daring Greatly and Running with the Wolves

I have become the kind of person that reads multiple books at a time. There was a period in my life where I would have believed this to be unthinkable. How do you pick which one to read and when? How will you keep track of what you are doing? How will you ever finish anything if you are doing multiple things?

The first two questions sorted themselves out so easily I am almost embarrassed that they were even concerns. That last one? Now that one is valid. I do find myself leaving books unfinished. For instance, I started reading One Amazing Thing┬áby Chitra Divakaruni over a year ago. It’s not a hard read, at 219 pages it isn’t long, and the story is pretty great. I just finished it last night. However, I have found that I don’t waste a lot of time on books that don’t interest me. In the days of “one book, then another” it was common for me to slog through a work I found less than interesting simply because I already felt pot committed. I felt compelled to close the loop before I moved on. Now, I just don’t pick it back up.

However, the danger of getting distracted is real. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown has easily been one of the most effective books I have ever picked up. I have gone back to this one again and again. I have yet to finish it. I am working on resolving that now.

My multiple reading habit is not what I sat down to tell you about. It just kinda happened that way. I sat down to tell you that I am reading Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I can’t say if it’s the work or the timing, but it has catapulted itself into the top 5 of books that have rocked me at my core. I was only on page eight when I encountered

Wild Woman is the health of all women. Without her, women’s psychology makes no sense…She is what she is and she is whole.

She canalizes through women. If they are suppressed, she struggles upward. If women are free, she is free. Fortunately, no matter how many times she is pushed down, she bounds up again. No matter how many times she is forbidden, quelled, cut back, diluted, tortured, touted as unsafe, dangerous, mad, and other derogations, she emanates upward in women, so that even the most quiet, even the most restrained woman has a secret life, with secret thoughts and secret feelings which are lush and wild, that is, natural. Even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows intuitively that someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will hightail it to escape.

And the whole damn thing just gets better and better.

One of the clearest insights for me, so far, pertains to creativity. I won’t be coy.

Writing lately has been rough. Because it has been hard and I have the ability to distract myself with so many other things, I haven’t done a lot of it. As that creativity gets squashed, it becomes harder to find my center. The weather doesn’t help. I have gotten lost.

You can call it writer’s block. I don’t. I believe in writer’s refusal and I have indulged in a good bit of that lately. I needed focus. I needed something small, manageable, measurable, interesting, productive. I needed a blog series. Wolves is the perfect book for that – later. It is too much right now. I am still curled up with it in my private brain. But the idea is still a good one. Daring Greatly could work.

I sat in the Thinking Chair and opened up my copy. Incidentally, it looks like it has been read a hundred times up to page 157 and exactly zero times anywhere after that. It’ll indeed work.

Again, I don’t know if it’s her work or my personal headspace, but the book feels different in my hands from all the other times before. Instead of starving for the words, looking for some sense of explanation for what goes on in my brain, there is encouragement, understanding, and comfort. There is a sense of not just seeing the map, but knowing you have already, to some degree, successfully traveled this way before.

I’m sitting down with Brene again. I am gonna share those Thinking Chair moments here. If you aren’t familiar with her, may I suggest you find 20 minutes and 13 seconds for this awesomeness.

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Clarity Overwhelming

In the past 72 hours I have touched, in some way, shape, or form, 224 Constant Contact Emails you probably know better as “Turn Around Tuesday.” This was necessary as I only had some of the TATs in my blog database. When I stop using Constant Contact (which will be very soon), I will lose the ones I don’t have elsewhere. Unfortunately for me, I had no idea which ones those were. Ergo, I had to open each one and crosscheck it with my database.

At the onset, I knew it was a big, time consuming task. That’s a lot of opening and crosschecking. What I had not anticipated (maybe I should have) and was not prepared for (not sure that would have even been a possibility) was the overwhelming emotional toll the whole project took.

I started Turn Around Tuesday in April 2007. My life, myself as a person, has changed so much in the last 18 months; the last ten years was a lot to digest in three days. There was so much there, even just skimming the pieces to figure out what I had and what I didn’t. Friends who are no longer with me, thoughts that needed revisiting, ideas that have changed, my ex-husband, former professions, forgotten dreams, misplaced pieces of me.

About halfway through I considered maybe I had taken too much on. But, at halfway through, I could see the end in sight and I just kept pushing on. Actually, at that point, I was so emotionally overwhelmed I couldn’t imagine what other productive thing I could do instead. The systematic open, verify, process, repeat was the only real thing I was capable of at that point. I couldn’t even begin to think about what I was going to do with all that when I finished.

Then this morning, as I was down to the last 6, I opened a TAT from August 2011. In some weird, wonderful, beautiful way, it gelled all my fragmented pieces from the last 72 hours.

Everything was kind of right there. A lost friend, funky juxtaposition of thought, desire to accept self, shit I wish I would have paid better attention to for my own well being but wouldn’t until years later, and permission from my 34 year old self to just be okay with all that.

TATs are almost always written real time, meaning, the TAT you get is often very reflective of some process in my current life. When the last piece was processed, I went looking for a reference for what was moving around in August 2011. Say what you want about Facebook, it has been instrumental in reminding me of where I am going and where I have been when my brain doesn’t quite cooperate. Sure enough, I found this blog post that I had written the day before.

Again, there it was. The seeds of me. The beginnings of a real woman trying to find her way out of some crazy ass confinement she had put herself in. The acknowledgement that there was more, even if I couldn’t come right out and say it. The need to be open and honest even while I wasn’t in the position to be.

There is also the reminder that so much time is lost and wasted due to fear. I was afraid a good bit of the time. I still have a healthy dose of residual scaredy cat lurking around. But it is just a little feline now – not the starving tiger it once was.

Ok, so that last sentence right there isn’t entirely true. I want it to be, but I have found that most often when I end a sentence like that and then have no idea what to follow it up with, I have hit on a bit of falseness. Fear for me now is an extreme shape shifter. It is always there and is either a big fucking tiger or a sweet little kitten. While I control it better now, the the last three days have found the bounce back and forth to be the main source of the overwhelming nature of it all.

Going back through random snapshots of the last 10 years of ones life is staggering. At least it was for me. The compounding fact was the self insistence that all these snippets were going to, at some point in the future, need to be processed with full acknowledgement of all the untold backstories and my new perspective while resisting the urge to kick myself in the ass over and over again.

There is a tiger fear that moving through this process – a process that I have already decided will be transparent here – will open me up to a vulnerability I am not comfortable with. It will be proof positive that I am not perfect and there are a ton of reasons for you to distrust and not like me. I want to delete that sentence so bad, I can’t even begin to tell you. But there it is. And I leave it there to remind both of us that the fear is an irrational one. I am who I am and you are who you are. We are either tribe or we are not. There is no judgement there, no right or wrong, it just is and that is okay. At the end of the day, it is honest, and whatever results that produces, I am comfortable in the fact that the realness is worth it.

There is also the simple fact that my perspective, recollections, assumptions, conclusions are different than those held by others. That is a big challenge for me. I have spent an unhealthy amount of time focusing on the “what ifs” of those occurrences. I detest being unfair. I have conceded ideas more often than I ought in an effort to reconcile. I will question my position more harshly than I expect others to question theirs. I defer to the intelligence of others because I lack confidence in my own. That practice has stunted more personal growth and happiness than any other one thing I can think of in my life. To that end, I have concluded that functioning that way is unacceptable. Instead, I will, as always, remain open to the ideas of others, discussion, connection. I will continue to encourage others to find their truth and tell their stories. And, I will unapologetically share mine.

Photo credits to Wild Woman Sisterhood and JM Storm

A Letter to My Senior

This was not my idea.


Dear Bear,

You are such a beautiful soul that I am always cautious when I impart advice to you. But, I am your Giver of Life. As such, I invoke the right that all Givers of Life have to dispense advice whether needed or not, requested or not, right or not, wanted or not. (In this particular instance, I also note that YOU required it of me at the bequest of your teacher; this is not to be used against me in any later therapy that you may or may not need.)

Trust yourself. You are wondrously made. If all people had the heart you possess, the world would be a better place. There will be many times you feel unsure, doubtful, fearful. That’s okay. We all feel that way. Know that you are more right than you are wrong most of time. Yes, this is true regardless of what other people may want you to believe.

Consume at least 64 ounces of water a day. (Water in your Starbucks lattes only count on Sunday.)

You will get it wrong. We all do. When it happens – and trust me sweet girl, it will happen – own it, fix what you can, leave what you can’t, and suck every piece of education you can from it. Failure is not something you are, it is something you do. It does not define you. It does not define them. Grace is a gift I hope you freely give to yourself and others. This is not a trait of the lax or the pushover. It takes strength and courage. Do not believe those that tell you otherwise.

Banana splits are occasionally acceptable for dinner.

Sometimes you just have to say “F(edited out of courtesy to your English teacher)k it” and move forward. Not all choices feel good and safe. Not all choices are fun and desirable. Some things just have to get done, left behind, cleaned up, walked over, turned out, wrapped up, thrown away. This is where life just is what it is. These things, being left to their own devices, only get worse. I promise you, what smells bad today only reeks worse tomorrow. Just bulldog it and move on.

Drink with people who love you. Be the designated driver for those who don’t.

Be real careful what “they” you listen to. There is a whole world filled with the ominous “they.” We aren’t really sure who they are, what type of training they have, what their agenda is, but we are pretty sure they live in their parents’ basement nomming on cheesy poofs playing Dungeon and Dragons. “They” have big mouths and are currently trying to figure out how to make a living trolling the internet. They do not have girlfriends. Easy filter – if “they” insists that everything sucks and nothing you do is right and the entire existence of the world is a big conspiracy meant to create entire subcultures of GMO tolerant, gluten adverse, non vaccinated, obese fast food consumers, breastfed gym rats that poo granola Oreos, you are probably dealing with a “they.” Abraham Lincoln said it best – “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Semicolons are sexy. Learn how to use them.

There are assholes everywhere; that doesn’t define the “everywhere.” (Sorry, the edit just didn’t do the thought justice. Besides, you’re a senior, you can handle it.) Every sect – professions, neighborhoods, races, religions, clubs, cults, PTOs, opinion groups – is just a microcosm of society. A bad cop, teacher, solider, sailor, politician, mommy, doctor, teenager, old person does not provide reason to assume that all folks in that particular demographic are idiots. Quite frankly, it doesn’t necessarily mean the offender is an idiot. We all have bad days. And we all have folks in our groups that we would rather we didn’t. Boxes are for shoes, not people. Everyone is created as an individual and deserves the consideration of an individual. Of course, if they prove themselves individually to be the designated asshole, take them at their word that’s who they are and move on.

Don’t be afraid of profanity. It is not a sign of weak vocabulary any more than a love of chocolate is a sign of a weak diet. Sometimes, they both just taste good.

Different is not wrong – it’s just different. Your dad likes to cut up his steak as he eats it. I like to cut up mine all at one time. You like to have your dad cut up yours. None of those things are wrong – they are just different. Be wary of people who try to make “different” = “wrong” as they are usually covering up for some feeling of personal inadequacies that I can bet money you don’t want any part of.

Be a rebel. End sentences with prepositions. Unless you are speaking Latin. Or honoring Yoda.

If you realize one day that all your friends are alike, get new friends. I’m not saying cut the old ones loose. I’m just saying you need to grow your circle. There is no better way to become an asshole than to surround yourself with people who always think like you, agree with you, and are a whole lot like you. Nature shows us this. If we plant the same crop over and over in the same field, eventually the ground dries up and produces trash. Diversity in relationship is the single best thing you can do to ensure you do not become stale as a person. It also makes coffee shop conversation much more interesting.

Disregard that thing I said about profanity around your great grandmother. Thanks.

Don’t ever make one decision out of fear. It is my belief that there are only two true emotions in life – love and fear. I don’t have to tell you that one is exponentially more productive than the other. There are times you will find yourself afraid or feeling one of its offspring emotions – hate, anger, depression, spite, resentment. Don’t beat yourself up about that as it is natural and human. It is in those human places that we are able to work through and find those ways to be more human. That is where we find grace, compassion, courage. Make decisions in that space. It is worth the work.

Do not make a habit of eating food that comes out of a window.

Make the commitment to love forever. There are so many obstacles and story spinners out there trying to convince you that love is not the answer. They need your love most of all. Love animals, love people, love babies, love criminals, love saints, love the broken, love the healed, love yourself…always love yourself. This is not always easy and sometimes it can only be done in a detached, acknowledged only in a broad sense type of way. There are atrocities in this world that will bend your heart to the point you think it will break. People will be careless with your emotions and you will hurt. You will look at yourself in the mirror and find an imaginary million and one ways in which you don’t measure up. Don’t be surprised when it happens and don’t let it define who you are. Your heart is the most beautiful thing ever created. Share it, be prepared to nurse it, do not hold fear in it.

My baby girl, there are so many more things I want to tell you…

  • Never go on a second date with someone who is mean to the wait staff
  • Live your passion
  • Never leave home without your sketchbook
  • Sometimes going to the store in pajama pants is necessary
  • Exercise
  • Volunteer
  • Always have a book to read
  • Compliment others
  • You can always come home
  • I am never further than a phone call
  • Diet soda is for crazy people – just drink the regular stuff

But most of all I want you to know that when you feel like it doesn’t matter, you don’t make a difference, you aren’t capable of being in this adult world – you are wrong. You have been changing lives since the day you were born. Who I am now is so much because of you. It scares me to think who I would have become without you. Thank you for growing up with me. I am so glad you are my kid.




Creating Rich Places to Grow

In my skin, I am not a checklist.
I am a holistic being with more facets
than I even know about.
And light from one may create
a shadow on the other.
And just because our shadows are different
doesn’t make us less than the other.
~ Me

Alrighty Jack. There you go. He has been looking for one of these to start with a quote from yours truly and he’s got it – although I am of the opinion the large majority of it is nothing but my quotes. But, hey, I can compromise.

I have been writing this column for a pretty long time. I was asked yesterday if I had written this week’s yet. Nope, I hardly ever write it until it is time. I was asked where the ideas come from. Honestly, who knows. It kinda depends on what is going on at the time. The topics range all over the place often led by whatever wind is blowing through my own hair.

Sometimes it gets preachy. Other times it is a bit snarky. Some days I feel like a cheerleader – others, a warden. There are days when I am afraid to hit send. Wildly, more often than not, positive responses often show up tagged with, “It was like you were talking to me.”

I appreciate all of that, even when we don’t agree, I am thankful. But I want you know, I never intend to condescend – I am almost always talking to me. I feel, at the core, that most people are wonderful people with a few less than stellar challenges. I most certainly consider myself a part of that group – yes, both wonderful and challenged.

In truth, we are fairly eclectic beings. We all have our histories, influences, biases, desires, disgusts, causes, beliefs, priorities, vices, challenges. As we change and grow, we each seek to know and be known. The vulnerability in that is astounding and can intimidate the thickest of skins. Let that vulnerability be met with harsh judgement or condescension once or twice and a problem bigger than differences will start to arise.

Today, I encourage you to applaud all the different aspects of you, even those things that could use some work. Appreciate your different facets. Enjoy the eclectic nature of your likes and dislikes. Once we begin to appreciate these things in ourselves, we will be better capable of appreciating them in others. That type of support and genuine affection for others and from others is a powerful tool. Grow it. Wield it. Protect the goodness it is created from. It’s easy to stand aside, puff your chest and point accusing fingers. It is something else entirely to watch the goodness of a person unfurl because you created a rich place to grow.

Featured Image from The Wild Woman Sisterhood