Saturday, December 28, 2013

Time Ticks On...

photo by Loay Abu-Husein 
I'm in a strange place as the new year approaches. This year has been filled with disappointments and accomplishments, deception and revelation, gains and losses, but then again what year isn't? I've seen a lot of people bemoaning 2013 and wishing for 2014 to get here as if that will magically reset the clock and make all the bad stuff disappear... Wouldn't that be nice?

But would it really? I'm not so sure. I've come to realize the bad stuff is just as important to a full life as the good stuff. Without the struggles, how would we grow? Without the disappointments, how would we discover what we don't want? Without the losses, how would appreciate the gains?

I love my life. I am happy not because my life is perfect, but because I know this is my journey and I get to travel it until the moment I don't. And, frankly, at least for now, I'd rather be travelling it than not. Even when my heart breaks, I know it's temporary. I may never love without the ache of regret, but that's simply a sign of life lived. I live my life the best I can whether it's January or May or December. I make my share of mistakes just like everyone else. Sometimes I even dwell on those mistakes even though I know it's a waste of my time.

I could bemoan missed deadlines and unaccomplished goals right now. I could list my achievements for the year. I could talk about how life interfered with my writing projects and how my writing projects affected my life. Honestly, though I keep thinking about the lessons I've learned about starting where I am and staying in the moment...

So as I reflect on 2013 coming to an end, I look forward to what can be, back at what was, and then ground myself in what is. Today, this moment is the only thing I can effect, so come what may in 2014, I will live this moment and then the one that comes after it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Moments of Merriment (a poem)

I wish for you
Moments of merriment every day
A soft place to land when life feels hard
The happiness of love
The love of family
The understanding of friendship
The compassion of strangers
The unity of cultivating peace
May every day
Hold within it the potential
To share 
Moments of merriment
With all those we love

May today's merriment become a staple in your life...
Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Closure Sails in on a Musical Flow

Recently, while I running errands, Orinoco Flowfrom Enya's Watermark album played on my playlist. I normally don't like to listen to Enya while driving because it relaxes me too much. Her music takes my imagination on journeys that aren't necessarily conducive to driving. As I listened this time though, my heart felt lighter. I couldn't force myself to change the song.

I felt a sudden appreciation for the first time I heard the song. I awakened in a room I didn't recognize with the song playing in the background. I realized it was the first full night of sleep I'd had in a long time. I was alone. While it was morning, it was too early to get up so I went back to sleep. My life was in a bad place at the time, and I struggled to make sense of everything around me. Somehow the simplicity of the song, the message of "sailing away" soothed my chaotic mind and heart.

I often equate the song with the beginning of a relationship, loosely speaking, that wasn't what one would call healthy. I've long considered the relationship in a very negative light for myriad reasons that overshadowed any good moments it brought to my life.

Interestingly, as I listened to Orinoco Flow recently, those good moments came back. It's not that I've forgotten the bad or want to reconnect with the person who introduced me to Orinoco Flow. Simply put, I finally found it in my heart to appreciate the person for being what I needed at a time when I didn't know what I needed. He listened to my story without judgment. He offered me a place to get something in short supply - sleep. He gave me space by not asking me to give what I didn't have to give. He showed me fun even if I stood on the sidelines rather than engaging. He never tried to change me. He came along at a time when I thought love and even friendship were all about pain and betrayal. He never tried to change my thoughts on the matter. He was just there and not there at the same time. And, oddly, thinking back, perhaps that truly is what I needed then.

Even the bad stuff may have been exactly what I needed at the time. He pushed me against my boundaries until I could no longer stand in the shadows and stood up to him. Perhaps intentionally or perhaps he was just a jerk. I've long thought he was just a jerk. He often bordered on being disrespectful but then he'd be very tender and caring. He played games with my emotions, but I was too numb to really notice. He vacillated between being overly attentive and incredibly dismissive. He didn't care that I didn't care.
Somehow this relationship, while incredibly unhealthy, also gave me a relatively safe place to be self-destructive until I discovered a reason to want to live again.

Sometimes we know longer know we're holding on to negativity until that moment when some benign moment, like a song, releases it.

As Orinoco Flow flowed from my speakers, I felt a peace about that time that I'd never felt before and
along with it I felt an appreciation for the role that person played in my life even though it still seems a bit strange to feel that appreciation.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dona Nobis Pacem

Dona Nobis Pacem translated to English is Grant Us Peace. I love the idea. If only it were so easy... Peace isn't a gift another can bestow upon us; however, peace is a gift we can join in bestowing upon the world.

As I think about what peace means to me, I find my heart racing and my breath becoming ragged. Peace isn't as much as about avoiding war and violence as it is about finding connections to one another. Peace comes when we learn to celebrate our differences rather than use them as excuses to hate. Peace breathes when we learn to acknowledge what we have in common with the person we consider the "other" in this world. Peace happens when we reach out helping hands to not only those we love but to those we deem as enemies. Peace spreads when we learn there is no such thing as an "other" because we all inhabit this Earth together.

Peace requires we take action. We can look for ways to resolve our problems without needing to exert our power. We can accept that while different we are all equal. We can judge people based on their actions and not our misconceptions. Or better yet reserve our judgment by realizing we may not know the whole story. We have the power to give others a chance to be their best selves as we strive to be ours. That is the power of cultivating peace.

Cultivating peace may not be especially easy, but we make it harder than it needs to be. Peace culminates when we put love into the world when hate feels easier.

Peace lives in my heart because I love enough to invite it in.

What does peace mean to you?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Transition or Rupture: Which Empowers?

Transition or Rupture?
Yesterday as I read Mama Gena's blog post Immobilized and Falling Apart, I felt uncomfortable when she referred to what she described as "rupturing" because of bad things happening in life in order to come back together stronger. It's not that I haven't experienced traumatic experiences or dealt with heartache, betrayal, and loss. It was that, while at some point in my life, I may have identified with the idea of it being a rupture, I've come to a different place. I now think of these "ruptures" as transitions. They show me the bits of me that remain in my core regardless of what happens while showing me what I need to release. I am connected to the trauma and I feel it deeply, I don't believe it destroys, or somehow defines, me. I  acknowledge it, feel it, search it for possible lessons it holds, but I put my focus on what in my life I can actually heal or change or control.

I don't fall apart, at least not in the screaming, ranting, raving, sobbing uncontrollably sense. What she described felt like a description of someone I used to be until I discovered that way of being just didn't work for me. It tended to make things worse rather than better, at least for me. I'm not saying how anyone else should react because we must each do what works for us.

I don't pretend everything is okay or that what hurts doesn't hurt, and I'm not advocating that anyone pretend as such. I'm simply more interested in moving forward through the pain and anguish to embrace life in all its fullness again. I think this is ultimately what Mama Gena is recommending as well. She just describes the process of rupturing in a way that no longer serves me.We need to understand that what works for one person may not work for another. I feel everything - the good and the bad - deeply and passionately, but I don't allow myself to spiral into a place where I can no longer see the path forward to the life I deserve. I don't dissolve in a heap nor do I rant and rave.

I can't even imagine ranting and raving or dissolving in a heap. It sounds like a tremendous waste of energy. As I recall, those time in my life when I handled trauma in such a way, it was a tremendous waste of energy and often left me needing to clean up a mess that didn't need to exist.

There was a point in my life when I would have ranted and raved and screamed and shouted and complained and sobbed to everyone in the world about the injustices in my life. These days, I prefer to spend some time in quiet meditation and perhaps have a quiet conversation with a trusted friend or two that allows me to see the reality of the situation in order to move forward without getting bogged down in how awful the injustice is. I sometimes quietly cry in a hot bath and release my pain and the baggage along with it in order to clear my thoughts and emotions.

Most times, a perspective shift to accept reality and find options is enough to get life moving forward again. That doesn't dull the pain of a betrayal or loss or heartache, but it focuses my energy in a place to do what's best for me. Focusing my energy on the pain tends to deplete me of positive energy, and that doesn't serve me. Focusing my energy on what is within my power to resolve or change about what hurts takes me to a place that allows me to handle my grief over a situation in a way that always brings me back to my center.

I don't feel like any less of a woman for my choice to react in a manner some might view as dispassionate or detached. My reaction is neither. It is simply my choice to response to my circumstances in the way that best serves me. After all, they are my circumstances. It is my reaction. This is my life. This is my choice. I choose to be who I am and handle the devastation that pops up in my life as transitions rather than ruptures.

Transition empowers me; rupture disempowers me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hopscotch Through Life

I loved hopscotch when I was a little girl. My favorite hopscotch didn't follow the usual pattern. It had a

block in the middle with triangles so small they required us to tiptoe even as small children.

I loved it. Throw or roll the stone to the right block and then hop according to the lay of the stone, one square at a time starting at one and going to ten. If time permitted, we returned from ten back down to one. 

We sometimes switched the game up and did a "random roll" where we had to skip whichever square we landed on instead of rolling to the squares in order. Sometimes we played a random roll version where we didn't pick our stones on the return and we had to skip every square with a stone. Or we had to hop the number of times of each square. One hop on square one, two hops on square two, three on three, nine on the four/five combo (or we took these individually and did the number on the square) and so on.

I never bored of hopscotch even when I pretended like I did because my friends decided it was no longer cool.

The other night I watched a commercial (I forget for what product) but the question it asked was what if we designed our lives based on children? One of the examples was a marble hopscotch game built into the floor of a home.The commercial seemed to be pointing out that it wasn't practical to design a home around children, but all I could think was I'd love to have a hopscotch grid built into the floor of my home. I'd hopscotch across it every time I passed it. Imagine you stop, toss the stone, hop across, go do whatever needs doing, and when you return do your return hop picking up the stone. Then wait until the next time, it's time to pass the grid for one's next turn. How cool would that be?

Life often resembles a game of hopscotch. We wake up each morning, look at all the demands on our attention, toss a metaphorical stone or two or ten, decide which thing(s) get skipped, focus on balancing ourselves to accomplish the others, pick up the stone as we retire for the night, and set it aside to toss again the next morning. This idea inspired me to write a poem and now this post.

My perspective shifted when I thought of life as a game of hopscotch. When I wake up in the morning, I keep asking myself what will today's hopscotch bring? Which squares will I skip? Which squares will leave me teetering on tiptoes? Which squares will I land on fully grounded? Which squares will force me out of bounds? Which squares will send me back to the beginning?

As I look at each of life's responsibilities, I see that most of them have their own subset of hopscotch squares... So even as I roll the stone for my major group, each subgroup requires me to decide which item(s) will be skipped within the group leaving me with a whole hopscotch of hopscotch grids to pull my attention this way and that teetering and tottering to balance the important things in life.

How's your game of hopscotch going? Did you skip any squares today? Did you teeter on tiptoes? Did you land fully on any squares?

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Am... Am Not

Remember that childhood argument that always started with an insult and quickly degraded into the exchange "Am not...Are too... Am not...Are too" continuing endlessly and growing louder with each "Am not... Are too..." accompanied by the sticking out of the tongue and other not so kind gestures?

As adults we sometimes have this argument with ourselves. Or at least I know I do. We argue with ourselves about who we are as we look in the mirror. It becomes increasingly clear I'm not alone as I communicate with friends who struggle with the dichotomy of who they are. We argue with the person we think we are, the person we want to be, the person others think we are, and the person others expect us to be.

Far too often we stare in the mirror and the image staring back says something we don't recognize. I've been there a few times in my life. We feel strong, but we see weakness. We feel vulnerable, but we see protective. We feel exhilarated, but we see exhaustion. We feel loving, but we see indifference. We feel acceptable, but we see something unacceptable. And on and on it goes. The argument within our beings that pushes us from knowing who we are to being who we are in any given moment.

Many of us feel we lose ourselves in love, but isn't it better to find ourselves in love? Love should bring us into our best selves rather than make us feel lost in our feelings for someone else. This can only happen when we love ourselves deeply enough to remove ourselves from situations where we aren't loved for who we are. This is rarely easy, but sometimes it must be done.

I find this dilemma appears often in my writing, whether in my poetry, my short stories, or my novels. I suspect I will discover it alive and well in my upcoming book on gratitude as well. It's one of those universal themes I find fascinating to explore.

When we look at the sum total of who we are, we often see things we like and things we hate. Thus begins the "Am not... Am too" game we play with ourselves. Oddly, enough while as children we defended ourselves about insults, as adults we tend to use the "Am not... Am too" game to attack our positive attributes. We've been so conditioned to not embrace all that is glorious and fabulous about ourselves because to do so breaks some rule about being humble. But I say it's time to let our inner children play "Am not... Am too" to attack the negative scripts we so easily embrace and replace them with the positive.

So the next time that little voice tells us we're unacceptable, we need scream "am not" at the top of our lungs. And the next time it tells us we are acceptable, we need to scream "am too" or better yet "you bet I am."

How about it? Ready for a game of "Am too... Am not" - children's style!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Breaking Out of the Writing Box

As  a writer, I'm well aware some people will like it and some people won't. There's a part of me that wants everyone to like everything I write no matter how unreasonable I know that desire to be... I work hard to write words that will speak to my readers and enrich their lives in some way, however large or small.

I often reign in my writing so as to not break some rule or the other, but particularly the "rule" that the prose in fiction shouldn't be noticeable. Without even realizing it, I've let this "rule" stifle my writing progress for far too long trying to fit the idea of writing commercially. I have an unfinished novel, a finished but unedited novel, a nonfiction book about gratitude, and a collection of short stories that are all suffering because I have let this notion that writer's prose shouldn't be noticeable when the reader reads control me. I fear that if I write the way my heart and soul tell me to write, people will accuse me of trying to show off even though that's never my intention when I put words together. I simply enjoy putting together words in creative and inventive ways.

What I've come to realize though is that the more we write with commercialization in mind, the more interchangeable our work is. When I read a book that is so devoid of the author's voice I have to check the front cover to see who wrote the book, I feel cheated. Please understand I'm not laying the blame solely on authors here. Our publishing industry has trained us all to write alike, to follow the rules, to not tackle subjects that make readers uncomfortable or to tackle them in a way that doesn't challenge people's beliefs, to create stereotypical characters, and to write to a formula they know how to sell. This attitude has become ingrained in the psyche of many of us. We have to dig it out and crush it under our heels.

When I come across a book that breaks those molds, I remember why I love reading.

I've lost a lot of my zeal for reading over the past several years as I read more and more books that sounded just like the last book I read. I've read series in which I can't tell you which book is which because they all read the same. I've read books where one author could have have been interchanged with another, and I wouldn't have known the difference. I've read books that have clearly been labeled with a misleading genre tag that is a blatant attempt to corner a popular genre market. I've read books that follow a formula so strictly I know exactly what is going to happen by the time I reach page three and read on only to see if I'm right. Usually, I am, for the most part. I've become bored by books that fit so easily into one formula or the other.

I've grown weary of authors policing and criticizing other authors for their choices regarding writing, publishing, and/or publicity efforts. Everyone hates something other people do and everyone does something other people hate. It's a never ending battle that keeps writers from finding their own voice, from exploring their own unique writing style, from pursuing that which sets their work apart from everyone else. (Yes, for all you haters of the word unique, I said unique, and I meant it. I'm not one bit sorry.)

Recently, I saw an argument among writers about the "rules" for writing, and I sighed. I've read this argument far too many times, and the one thing I know about it is that it never changes. When I read these arguments that writers should always use proper grammar in every single sentence they write, I can't help but roll my eyes... Don't misunderstand me, I'm a fan of using proper grammar, but can you imagine how stilted a book would read if writers truly followed that rule? Because if you look at the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule that means even conversation would need to be written in proper grammar meaning the characters would end up mostly indistinguishable during conversation. I don't know about you, but my life is populated with people who rarely, if ever, use proper grammar... I know I'm guilty of often using improper grammar in conversation.

And, then there's the whole adverb rule... sighs... Dare I say it? I'm probably about to lose my place at the writers' table. Sometimes you need an adverb. Okay, writing police, there you go. I said it. Not only that I put it in writing. Sometimes you need an adverb or even two. See there's this other rule about avoiding wordiness... Yeah, sometimes an adverb serves that purpose. I have never, ever read a book that was completely adverb free, even those who argue most stridently against adverbs use them, often even in their arguments against adverbs. I agree that overuse of adverbs is lazy writing, but a well placed adverb can ratchet up tension while eliminating wordiness. All words exist for a reason, even the widely maligned adverb.

And, don't even get me started on the whole use of the word said or its lovely siblings and cousins... Again, sometimes necessary and sometimes not... It's a judgment call. Use your best judgment.

And  then there's the whole cliche thing, which I admit is a pet peeve for me, but let's face it there are areas where people communicate in cliches as much as, perhaps more than, in any other way. So there are even times when a writer must use a cliche or two, as much as I hate to admit it...

I've come to believe that if we listen to all the rules someone else has set in place, we would never write a single word. How could we? Depending on the source you read, everything is acceptable and everything is unacceptable...

Recently, while reading Auburn McCanta's lyrical and haunting All the Dancing Birds , I felt a shift in my thinking. I stopped approximately one-third of the way through the book to contact Auburn to thank her for reminding me to write the way I want to write and let my readers judge my work instead of worrying about breaking a bunch of rules I had no say in setting. McCanta used language to her advantage in the writing of her book in a way I rarely see these days. If you want to see more about my reaction to All the Dancing Birds, see my review of it on Reviews with TLC.

The allure of finding an agent, a publisher, and someone to lock in me a little writing box never appealed to me, but I tried to push myself into that box even as every instinct fought it. My writing suffered because I was trying to be something I'm not. 

I'm done trying to fit into the mold of what anyone else tells me a writer should write.

I find it easier to write without worrying about the "rules" when writing poetry... Fiction on the other hand is a whole other book... 

Maybe I'll never have the success of some authors, but at least at the end of the day, I'll be able to say I stayed true to myself, my voice, and the stories my characters want me to tell.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guest Appearance on Potluck with Judy

Visit Potluck with Judy to check out my recipe for TLC’s Frozen Chocolate Banana Almond Cream, a dessert I threw together when I had a major chocolate craving and lacked the ingredients to make my usual chocolate desserts. It felt a little like playing "Chopped" in my own kitchen and with my only judge as my husband, who had to like try my concoction regardless. Hope you enjoy!

Thanks, Judy, for inviting me to guest on Potluck with Judy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Start From Where You Are...

Start from where you are... Such a simple phrase. Such a simple concept. Such a simple action. Or so it sounds. Yet putting it into practice is nearly impossible; however, when we start from where we are, it is so easy to accomplish our goals.

I recently have been bombarded with lessons in the concept of starting from where I am. My life is in major transition mode leaving me with a lot of unknowns. In the past, unknowns would have left me feeling very insecure and even a bit unsafe yet I feel rather excited right now. I have moments of insecurity, but they are fleeting. I know that wherever I'm headed, I will end up in the right place for me. After all, I'll be there...

Everything I hold dear is currently transitioning to a new phase in my life, and there are moments when I cling to yesterday and other moments when I'm trapped in the outcome that hasn't happened yet. In those moments, I forget to be where I'm at in this journey. The problem with starting either from where I was or where I want to be is neither allows me to use this moment to create the momentum I need to move forward.

When I start from where I am, I'm not running to catch up or moving ahead of where I can be. I am actually creating...

For example, I had knee surgery last September. I never fully healed, but I kept trying to get my yoga (and my life and my writing) back to where it was before my surgery and to move past my recovery into recovered... I wasn't paying attention to the moment, at least not very well, until I ended up back at the doctor only to discover I needed to have surgery on the same knee again... So in July I had said surgery. Since then I've actively worked to avoid comparing my strength and flexibility to where I was, but I attempt a simple yoga pose and feel the lack of strength and flexibility in my muscles and joints and can't help but remember when this pose or that stretch was easy to do. In that moment, I have to take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and remind myself to "start from where I am..." 

I am currently editing a collection of short stories and it feels like backtracking because I wrote most of the stories years ago. I get frustrated with the process because I just want to get on with it and move to a new project. So I have to pause, breathe, and remind myself to "start from where I am..."

I have so many projects I'm excited about right now, many of which suffered major setbacks and delays over the past year. I feel my attention being pulled toward another one whenever I work on one. I feel myself  getting frustrated with myself for not working faster, for being behind schedule, or for the details I missed in earlier drafts depending on the project. Again, I have to take that deep breath, let it out slowly and remind myself to "start from where I am..."

Then there's my personal life which is also currently in a transitional place. Frankly, this is incredibly frustrating for me. I just want things settled, so I can focus on what's important to me yet, at the same time, I don't want it settled because I'm not sure what settled will mean. So I find myself drifting into a blanket of memories of what was and then fantasizing about what could be or even could have been instead of inhabiting the moment I stand in. I long to skip ahead to the part where the answers exist yet I know I must travel the path in order to find what I need to discover and even then I'll realize it's only part of the answer because this is my journey, my life. Finding the answers isn't going to free me up to be better at life, travelling the path where the questions exist is the only way to do that. Yet I find myself imagining and remembering instead of living... So I must take a deep breath, exhale, and remind myself yet again to "start from where I am..."

Relationships change, emotions change, thoughts change, priorities change, and life doesn't stop so we can catch up to it when we finish our transitions. Our transitions are our lives. We can't change what happened before, and we can't enjoy our goals until we achieve them; therefore, the only thing we can do to affect the transitions in our lives is to "start from where we are..."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Love Releases Love

Several years back I made a conscious decision to live my life from a place of love. At the time, I struggled with this concept because like many I equated the concept of love with the kind of intimacy that creates romantic relationships. I knew, even then, that love is so much more than that, but I also know saying the words "I love you" can be loaded for many people. All kinds of expectations seem to accompany those words.

I've been thinking about the concept of love again lately because I'm in the middle of one of life's little transitions. I am reminded how much love changes as we transition through life. It sometimes morphs into something we barely recognize based on what we thought we knew. Even then it holds a comfortable familiarity that allows us to embrace hope.

My decision to live from a place of love transformed my life. I let go of tremendous anger and confusion and hurt meaning I freed myself from living in constant drama. I saw my relationships in a different way. I saw my interactions in a different way. I felt more positive even when life got rough. I felt hopeful even when my foundation was ripped out from under me. See, I still had love, and with love in my heart I knew I could not only survive but thrive.

Recently, I felt the need to reconnect with my resolve to live life from a place of love, so I signed up for the Oprah and Deepak Miraculous Relationships 21-Day Meditation Challenge offered online via The Chopra Center (free at the time). I hadn't stopped living from a place of love, but I feared I wasn't loving myself enough based on my reaction a couple of situations in my life where my reaction felt right to me but my logical self told me my reaction wasn't normal by societal norms. How can one act with love when one learns someone who supposedly loves them has deceived them for their entire relationship? Shouldn't deception warrant anger, hatred, and vengeance? My heart said no. My brain said yes. I began to fear I was suppressing my true feelings, so I signed up for the challenge expecting to either discover I was deceiving myself with my reaction or I'd discover my reaction was just my new norm. Maturity, perhaps? Who knows? I always hate to declare myself mature because it seems something inevitably  comes along to remind me I'm not nearly as mature as I'd like to think.

So, I started the challenge confident the process would help me quiet the chaos in my mind over one or possibly two particular current life situations and help me find the answers I wanted, dare I say needed. After all, I was convinced my problem lay in discovering whether my reaction was real or suppression of my truth... I am prone to the kind of willful blindness that makes the day go smoother...

As I began the process, my thoughts surprised me when they turned away from the situation I struggled with to a whole host of relationships and situations I had long thought resolved... Wow! I began to see many relationships with new eyes and to feel the heartache of recognizing my mistakes as well as seeing where I needed to step back and just let some relationships fall to the periphery of my life while embracing those that truly bring to me what I give to them. See, I have a tendency to be a "fixer" leading me to try to make things right even when I'm not responsible for the problem and/or don't have the ability to fix it anyway.

The challenge started off with a week of focusing on loving one's self. As I started it, I thought, I got this one. No problem. I love myself, imperfections and all...

Yet, I discovered I wasn't actively loving myself because I was making excuses for people whose behavior hurt me. That's not loving one's self. I was blaming myself for other people's behavior rather than holding them accountable. I'm not talking about anger or blame. I'm talking about recognizing when someone treats you as less than you deserve to be treated and not allowing it. There can be a fine line between the two, but the distinction is important. Not allowing someone to disrespect you is setting a healthy and loving boundary and allows you to approach the person in a loving manner about the behavior that hurts allowing room to mend the situation. Blame and anger on the other hand tend to be destructive. I already knew all of this, but I had forgotten it. How often do we forget what we know is good for us? Sometimes you discover the most loving thing you can do for yourself and/or for others is to simply do nothing.

When my attention finally worked its way back around to my initial intention for this meditation, I discovered my major source of support, understanding, and love outside myself came from the person who had deceived me. I finally understood the source of my confusion. How could this be?

As I moved through the process of meditating with a focus on Miraculous Relationships, my thoughts turned more and more to the idea of letting go. As I cleared the chaos to find those empty spaces between thoughts and emotions, the little voice whispering to me just kept telling me that I had to love myself enough to let go of that which doesn't make my life better in some way, including relationships. It's strange how I've let relationships that do improve my life go because I felt it best for the other person, but I find it extremely difficult to let relationships that no longer meet my needs... And, once again, this brought me back to the idea that loving myself is more than accepting myself for all I am and searching out ways to grow into a better me. It is also about setting boundaries and respecting the boundaries I set - an old issue for me, as those who are long time readers probably remember since I've posted about it a few times.

I finished the challenge with a sense of calmness in remembering that regardless of how other people react I am only loving myself when I set healthy boundaries and when I make decisions based on what is right for my life. When I love myself actively, I am better able to live from a place of love and offer love to others. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, but at least I'm aware of it now... Hopefully, my new found awareness will be lasting...

I can let people in with love, and I can release people with love.

And, yet, I'm still unsure the best way to handle the current transition in my life; however, I've decided to live in the moment, face each moment from a place of love, and see what happens...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dead Doesn't Heal

Ever since the news hit the airwaves of George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin, the same questions have reverberated through my mind. A lot of speculation has been bandied about as fact though little of it has been proven. I can attribute any words I want to either one of them and without a recording or a written record no one will know if they're true. Even eye witnesses hear things differently. Hell, two people in an argument hear things differently. Recordings prove unreliable. Writing can be forged.  I can scour the Internet for photos and assign them to those involved. I can play games to manipulate the public sentiment. And all this has been done repeatedly and without shame, mostly to malign a teenage boy being a teenager.

Trayvon's actions earlier that day or the week before or the month before or the year before have no bearing on this event or how we should view it because Zimmerman didn't know any of that when he shot Trayvon. Based on the events of the evening, what we know is Zimmerman followed, chased, and confronted Martin even after the 911 operator (and therefore the police) suggested he not. The two exchanged words, likely unpleasant ones. Zimmerman ended up with superficial injuries. Martin ended up dead. Injuries heal. Dead doesn't.

As coverage continued and people weighed in, my thoughts kept returning to Jake Brigance's closing argument in A Time Kill by John Grisham. I won't quote it as that would be a spoiler for those who haven't read the book or seen the movie. I will however mention that he provides an argument that shatters the lens through which the jury sees the crime. That closing argument, that book, forced me to examine the way I saw events around me and continues to influence me today as I think about whether or not my reaction would be different if the victim or the perpetrator looks more or less like me in any given situation.

Before you defend George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, I implore you to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Would you feel the same way if it had been your child walking home from a convenience store carrying an iced tea, a bag of Skittles (or whatever his/her snack of choice is), talking on the phone and wearing a hoodie? This is an incredibly likely scenario, so think about it. Really think about it.

When you jump to Zimmerman’s defense, you are saying it is okay for a grown man to shoot a teenage boy (or girl) based on suspicion, period. And that could very well be your child.

If you are tempted to point out that Trayvon defended himself against Zimmerman's confrontation, would you feel your child had no right to defend him/herself under the same circumstances… followed, chased, stopped, and confronted by a strange adult man on a street he/she had every right to be on?

 A grown man shot a teenage boy for walking on a street in the neighborhood where the boy lived.

Of course no one wants to believe it could happen to their child, which adds to the temptation to make Trayvon somehow different from every other child on Earth; however, unless you never allow your child or teenager to step outside your home by him/herself, it could happen to your child. My guess is your child even wears a hoodie on occasion. You probably do, too. I know I do. I think I own at least ten, and I wear them regularly when the weather is cool.

Of course it’s possible you don’t have a child… In that case, ask yourself if it would be okay if it was your nephew or niece or family friend. Or for those of you with grandchildren, your grandchild.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It So Is About the Nail...

Given the number of women who have posted the You Tube video, "It's Not About the Nail", to Facebook, I'm fairly certain my reaction to it will be in the minority.

I found the video ludicrous. I understand that's it's a metaphor, but it's like comparing horses to fish.

I will concede the point that there are many times when people, women in particular, just want to be heard and don't want someone else to solve the problem for them; however, let's be realistic, any woman with any sense whatsoever isn't going to want to talk about how having a nail in her head makes her feel.

As I watched it, I remembered an incident in my house a few days prior. Meme, my gray cat, jumped off my lap when my husband made a loud noise. As she jumped she scratched my thigh deeply enough it bled and bruised. My husband asked me in a very caring way how I felt about her scratching me. I replied "Like I need a band-aid." as I left the room to find one. Seriously, I didn't need to have a heart-to-heart. I needed a band-aid, so I wouldn't get blood on my clothes or the floor or the furniture.

If I had a frigging nail in my head, the only thing I feel the need for is an emergency room filled with competent medical professionals to safely remove the nail. What the hell is talking about how I feel about the stupid nail in my head going to accomplish? Seriously?

There are times in life when talking about feelings and seeking validation make perfect sense. If someone hurts another person's feelings, being heard and validated makes sense. There's not really anything else one can do. In the case of an "unfixable" situation, being heard and validated can serve to make one feel better. In the case where one is trying to figure out how to handle a situation, often being heard brings clarity even if the person to whom one is talking can't offer any solutions. This is called venting... And guess what, folks, not only women vent. Men do, too. Sometimes in different ways, but it's a human thing, not a gender thing.

The point is there are times when we need to vent, and times when we need action taken... Nail in the head - ACTION time, folks.

So, guys, if your wife or girlfriend or female friend or any woman comes to you with a nail sticking out of her head, take her to the emergency room.Seriously, I promise you she will know you care about her if you do. Don't sit her down for a heart to heart.  She's not going to wonder why you didn't sit her down on the couch to ask how she felt about having a nail in her head.

My primary thought as I watched it was that no woman is that stupid.

In crime fiction, there's a character, far too often a woman, who is known as the "too stupid to live" character... The woman character in this short film fit that description perfectly.

Let me reiterate, I do understand that it's a metaphor. It's just a bad and offensive one that makes women look like they're too stupid to know what's good for them.

Women possess logic and reason whether or not the world wants to believe it.

NOTE: I'm not sharing the video because I really don't want to promote it. If you really want to watch it, go to You Tube and search for it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lean In to Strength

When I started reading Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, I was preparing my book, Strength in Silhouette: Poems , for publication. As I read my poems juxtaposed to Lean In, my heart ached and my soul cried out for the women who have struggled as I have to embrace being in relationships without sacrificing themselves and their goals. I felt a new sense of purpose for my work to share the idea that women don't have to give up femininity to be strong or sacrifice marriage to be successful or deny our place in the world because it makes someone else uncomfortable.

Lean In begged me to examine my life. I took quite a long time to read the book, probably twice as long as it normally would have. I read a few pages, took some time to think about what I read, read some more, and sometimes went back and re-read passages. As I read through the poems under consideration for Strength in Silhouette, my thoughts repeatedly drifted back to Sandberg's words.

The ease with which we become complacent with where we are struck me hard. I pondered how often I've bitten my lip rather than ask for what I want. I winced as I remembered times I deflected praise from me to my husband or other men - or even other women - in my life because I felt somehow less deserving. I cringed at the fact that I put my husband's career ahead of mine time and again. I regretted that I turned away from everything I believed in college in order to keep peace. I hated that I gave up on the idea of equality for my own life even while believing other women deserved it. I excused it away as my choice, but that was never entirely true. I blinded myself to reality as I made compromise after compromise because I was "the woman" leading me to take on more and more of the traditional female role in my life. I ceased to feel authentic.

I subconsciously sabotaged my efforts at achieving my professional goals because I feared how my success would be received, how it would make my husband feel, how it would make my husband look. I took a backseat in my own life applauding his accomplishments and downplaying mine. I forced myself to appear and act weaker than I am more times than I can count in order to boost his ego or to look like a "good wife" in front of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances... hell, even strangers.

For a while I was one of those women who thought I had to do it all. I had a job - not a career - but a job outside the home, I wrote as much as I could - the career I wanted, I handled the housework, the errands, and the cooking, and I managed our finances including my husband's 401(k), etc. I was exhausted, but I thought I had no right to say no. He made more money than I did.

Eventually, I quit working outside the home and turned my attention to my writing career, but I kept doing everything else including managing an active trading account. I took on even more responsibility. Every time he asked me to do something, I simply added it to my task list. Every time a friend or family member asked me to do something, I added it to my task list. I felt like I owed everyone around me. I was "the woman", so it was my "job" to nurture and support and help and encourage and... Well, you get the idea. So what if that meant I rarely had the time or energy left to dedicate to the things that mattered to me? So what if the longer this went on, the weaker I felt? So what if I no longer recognized myself when I looked in the mirror? So what if...

And, besides what right did I have to say no? After all, he was "letting" me write.

I remained terrified that if I was successful, it would cost me everything, no one would like me, I'd be considered selfish. I sold myself, even before I married, the idea that a successful career and a successful marriage were incompatible. I believed that if I had one I had to sacrifice the other. I tried to convince myself otherwise but never quite arrived there. Once I decided to get married, I put everything into making the marriage work at the expense of being the woman I wanted to be.

Eventually, a time came when I just didn't care about any of it. I had truly relinquished my strength, my power, my life. I'm not blaming anyone. I bought into the gender roles. A part of me found it easier to accept the role I thought society expected of me than to fight to be who I was at my core. Again, I felt inauthentic.

From time to time, I'd try on the "me" I felt inside. I'd embrace my inner strength and my ambition and all the things I knew I could be. I'd push hard to inhabit that woman. I'd fight for her until I felt pushed back into the role expected of me. I discovered the people around me weren't all that receptive when I tried to change my life in a way that made me less available in the way they expected me to be. I'd back off if I even caught a whiff of criticism or complaint.

I leaned back and right out of my own life far too many times because I didn't want to let other people down, because I thought I didn't deserve success, because I feared what I'd lose if I embraced the life I wanted.

I used to think it was just me, but in recent years I've come to think far too many women fall into this trap.

A couple of years ago, I'd had enough of feeling weak and less than. I started to remember a time in my life when I didn't feel like I "couldn't" do things. Over the years I'd come to doubt my ability to do even the simplest things as well as other people, especially my husband. I went on a quest to figure out when and how I lost my strength, my power, my sense of equality.

I remembered a time early in my marriage when my Mom told me I needed to stop being so independent and let him feel like a man. At the time (a very brief period of time) I made more money than him, and she blamed our marital problems on that. Her words haunted me for years thereafter. Note, it wasn't something he said. It was something my Mom said but not just my Mom. I heard the same idea from many of the women in my life I respected, the women I looked to to learn how to be a woman.

Relinquishing my power in order to boost his caused its own set of problems mostly stemming from resentment and in-authenticity.

When I started embracing my strength again and not hiding behind my husband, I really had no idea how to handle it. I poured my struggle into my writing. I wrote blog posts and poetry about the struggle to be the strong woman I always wanted to be, that I thought myself to be even when I was at my weakest. As I inhabited the strength hiding inside of me and finally decided to wear it loud and proud, my vulnerabilities poured out. I had to face much about myself and grow into the woman I'd struggled to be even as I fought being her.

I realized as I worked on Strength in Silhouette and read Lean In, I had allowed my strength to become a silhouette in my own life because I stopped leaning in. Never again.

From this day forward I vow to lean in to my own strength... I vow to lean in to my own life... I vow to lean in...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strength in Silhouette: Poems is Now Available!

When I started tapping into my inner strength to deal with some challenges in my life, it reawakened a need in me to not only be strong but to empower others to embrace their inner strength. I blogged about strength quite often during this time period, but I found my struggle with inner strength pouring into my poems. Poems filled page after page. Pretty soon I realized I had written enough about inner strength, empowerment, and women's innate struggle to be strong without losing their femininity to fill a book. That book is not now complete and available for purchase in both trade paperback and Kindle!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

If Girls Must... What Must Boys?

Recently, a friend posted a link to Just Yell Fire, an organization that purports to address the widespread violence against women in our world by teaching girls to stand up for themselves...

At first I felt intrigued. As I read, I realized there it was... That same pervasive idea that girls are responsible for the actions of others. Girls must change their lives to stay safe. Girls must act differently to not be assaulted. Girls must limit themselves to not be targeted. Girls must...

Here we go again...

When do we begin to teach boys to not rape? To not abuse? To not commit violence against women? To take no for an answer? To respect girls’ right to say no? To listen for an explicit yes? To respect boundaries? When do we say boys must be responsible for doing the right thing?

It is all good and well to teach girls to stand up for themselves, to empower themselves, to be safe, to create boundaries, etc., but it only goes so far.

Until we move the message to the whole of society and begin to teach both boys and girls they are equal and to respect one another’s boundaries, we are only fixing part of the problem.

Girls sometimes, far too often, do everything right and still get raped. Often those girls then feel like they didn’t do enough to keep from getting raped. They are even less likely to report because they feel they failed not only themselves but women in general.

Just Yell Fire's efforts, as holds true with many other organizations, to empower girls come from good intentions, but we have to move away from a place where we only address part of the issue.

I am deeply troubled that society continues to teach girls to not get raped without ever bothering to at least attempt to teach boys not to rape. And, then questions the girls when their efforts to not get raped don’t work thereby reinforcing the idea that girls get raped because they didn’t stop the rape while excusing the rapists for their behavior.

Jackson Katz addresses the idea of bringing men into the equation when discussing violence against women quite well in his TedX Talk, Violence Against Women - It's a Men's Issue. Even Katz's words are only a start, but they show us what is possible if we are willing to see it. We have the power to change the paradigms that perpetuate the roles we currently inhabit. It is our choice...

Recently in the course of a conversation about rape, the person I was speaking with said "I would never let that happen to me." My hackles rose immediately. Shame statements come in many forms. This statement implies that others do let it happen. The person to whom I was speaking went to great lengths to convince me that's not what the statement means. But, if a person thinks he/she can somehow keep rape from happening to him/her, he/she either thinks he/she somehow has special powers or strength or intelligence that the victims of rape don't have or he/she thinks the victims somehow let it happen. Bringing me the point, no rape victim lets rape happen. By definition, rape is a forcible act. There is no "letting" it happen.

As long as we keep teaching girls how to not get raped, we also send the message that if their efforts fail, they somehow let it happen. That is unacceptable.

We have to stop putting girls and women in a position to feel like they are responsible for being raped even in the course of attempting to empower them. There is only so much one can do to stop a rape. The time has come - is past due actually - when we must recognize the rapist is responsible for committing the rape. Period.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... Surviving Rape is not a crime...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Respect for Boundaries

My boundaries tend to stretch and bend and break and disappear far too often. I make an exception here and an allowance there. I give in when I should stand firm and I stand too firm when I should be flexible. Still they are my boundaries to set. They are my boundaries to break or bend or erase. No one else has the right to interfere with my boundaries... No one...

Right now a lot of attention highlights what appears to be a worldwide epidemic of rape. As I think about it, I wonder if perhaps it's more of the world coming out of a deep slumber that blinded us to the truth of the pervasiveness of violence against women.

I hear a lot of excuses for rapists and a lot of blame cast on the victims  aka survivors. Talk has turned to prevention with the usual camp of people telling us how women can avoid getting raped and very little discussion about teaching boys/men not to rape...

And, yet, I find myself pondering the idea that perhaps the real problem lies someplace deeper and more insidious in our society. Perhaps the real problem is we don't teach respect for boundaries. We don't teach humanity. We don't teach equality. We don't teach basic respect.

The reality is rape doesn't happen because a girl wears the wrong clothes, goes to a party, has a drink, or makes the wrong friends. Rape happens because a boy/man uses sex as a weapon to assert his control over a girl/woman. Rape isn't about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. Rape is about control. Rape is about an unearned sense of entitlement. Rape is about a culture that teaches that girls should be "a little weak when they speak" to paraphrase Madonna's What It Feels Like for a Girl and that real men "take what they want" no matter what. And, still, it all comes back to a total lack of respect for boundaries and other people.

If we teach boys to see girls as people rather than something to conquer or a quest to complete, we teach boys to accept no for an answer without the implication their manhood is somehow in question.Seriously, let's be really clear here, real men take "no" for an answer with pride.

When the news bemoaned the ruination of the futures of the boys who committed the Stuebenville rape, I sat agape. Seriously? They ruined their victim's life and in the process ruined their own lives. They must take responsibility for that. They are not victims. They are rapists aka criminals. Rapists are criminals. We need to be clear on this.

I realize that men and boys are also victims of rape, but men are the more often than not those committing this crime even against one another.

So what if we changed what we teach? What happens if we teach boys to respect boundaries? What happens if we teach boys that being a man isn't about conquest and control? What happens if we teach boys that girls are their equals?

What happens if we teach girls to respect boundaries including their own? What happens if we teach girls that being a woman doesn't mean making men happy? What happens if we teach girls they are equal to boys?

What happens if we teach boys and girls alike that "no" is a perfectly acceptable response that should always be honored, that a lack of response doesn't mean "yes", and that only an explicit "yes" means "yes"?

What happens if we treat people as people first and as their gender second? What happens if we decide the roles of yesterday don't have to be the roles of today? What happens if we teach the importance of boundaries and limitations to boys and girls?

Yet, I find myself pondering how women and men who don't understand how to manage their own boundaries can teach boys and girls to set and control theirs. Yet, all we can do is our very best to teach what we're still learning ourselves.

If challenging our current attitudes leads us to a society where rape and violence declines, I can't see how that's a bad thing...

Here are my boundaries... If I decide to move them, that's my decision, not yours...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Exploring Inner Strength

As I look through my poetry, I'm amazed at how often the theme of strength threads through my poems. I'm constantly reminded that I am, in fact, stronger than I realize. In the course of my life, I've faced my weaknesses and hid from my weaknesses. I've faced my strengths and hid from my strengths
I've been blind to both my strengths and my weaknesses. I've allowed others to commandeer my strength and take advantage of my weaknesses. I've willingly given up my strength because I thought it better for others. I've hidden my strength in the depths of my mind and the recesses of my heart.

I've been conquered and I've conquered. I've been victim and victor. I've been weak and strong.
As I read my poems, I often discover things I've forgotten or denied about myself.

It wasn't until I decided to embrace my own strength and stop looking for strength from outside sources that I discovered true strength.

I don't need to be saved from myself. I don't need to be saved at all. I am enough as I am. I am not perfect, but perfection is overrated anyway. I'd rather be scarred and bruised than weak.

I've learned there's more strength in vulnerability than there is in a facade of toughness.

As I explore my journey to find and secure my inner strength, I'm reminded how many people, especially women, follow a similar journey. As women we're often taught that our strength needs to be tempered in order to not offend the men in our lives. In tempering our strength, we learn to accept behavior and attitudes from others that is less than we deserve. We are taught to not voice our opinions, needs, desires, thoughts with authority in order to make the men in our lives feel better about themselves. We're taught to bolster the egos of others even if they beat us into the ground. We're taught that we're responsible when others mistreat us. We're taught it's better to be weak than to offend someone else.

If we're lucky there comes a times in life when we learn those teachings are wrong, and we refuse to be less than we are for anyone or any reason.

When we embrace our inner strength, we learn to be responsible for our own behavior and hold others accountable for theirs without sacrificing ourselves. In the process, we learn that to survive is not enough, and we seek to thrive.

Amazing how the words we write reveal us to ourselves...

My forthcoming collection of poetry, Strength in Silhouette explores my journey away from and back to my inner strength.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reading During Poets at the Playhouse

I recently read four of my poems during Poets at the Playhouse Hosted by Ariel at Brush Creek Playhouse in  Silverton, Oregon. You can watch me read any or all four poems, The Bird Judges Not, Bleeds, Music in My Heart, and Our Game.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Take To the Dance Floor on Dear Teen Me

My Freshman
Snowball Dance
Some time ago I read a letter on Dear Teen Me posted by an author friend. Then I read some of the other letters on the page. I loved the idea of Dear Teen Me, and I wanted to participate; however, I had no idea what to say. I asked myself repeatedly what I would say to my teenage self if given the chance. Nothing felt quite right, so I kept procrastinating contacting Dear Teen Me to participate. I wrote a poem to my nieces, but it didn't fit the vibe I felt at Dear Teen Me. Finally, in March, I wrote a poem called "To My Teenage Self" and decided maybe writing a letter just wasn't the way to go for me. Perhaps the letter needed to be in form of a poem. I contacted Dear Teen Me, and they offered me a slot for today. I wasn't happy with "To My Teenage Self" but one line in it stood out to me. I used that line to write a new poem based on an actual experience. That poem appears on Dear Teen Me today, April 22, 2013.
So please check out Take To the Dance Floor on Dear Teen Me! Then take a moment to check out some of the other letters!
I'm so honored to be included in this project!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trashing Other Authors

There's a reason I don't trash other authors' work. Actually, there are many reasons, but they build out of the one. The only point I can see to trashing another author's work is to make one seem superior whether to one's self or others or both.

Today I witnessed an exchange that bothered me immensely. A published author trashed another author's work on Facebook. Now, the "trasher" didn't name names or give a title, but he used an excerpt from the book. Here's the problem with that. I could go through just about any book I've ever read and carefully select a few passages to make the author sound like a dolt, a hack, or someone trying too hard. It really isn't that hard to do. Conversely, I could go just about any book and hand pick a few passages to the make the author sound like a genius. That's the nature of writing. People have different styles. That doesn't make one style better than another.

The conversation took the inevitable turn where someone suggested it must have been a self-published book. It wasn't. The book was published by Ballantine, a well known traditional publisher. Upon my last check, neither the "trasher" nor anyone else participating in the conversation had bothered to point this out. I guess those who looked it up thought it better to let the "must have been" linger out there than to clear up the misconception. Sure, I could've posted the information, and perhaps I should have. I excused myself from doing so with the excuse, perhaps lame, that I didn't want embroiled in the conversation because I found the entire exchange distasteful.

When an author trashes another author's work, the "trasher" is fairly akin to being a gossiper. I'm not talking about giving a book a fair review, but just trashing other authors' work based on what appears to be a passage or two. Let's be clear, this wasn't a book review by any means. It was posted as an example of bad writing.

People have different tastes, and an author can alienate a reader when they vehemently trash an author the reader enjoys reading. That reader may never try the trasher's work after reading his/her disdain for another author's work. Perhaps the trasher doesn't care...

As a reviewer I find this a fine line to walk. I like to review books I enjoy to share them with potential readers, and I rarely post truly bad reviews. I may post a less enthusiastic review for a book I didn't particularly enjoy than for one I loved, but to out and out trash a book or an author just isn't my style. In writing a review, I will point out what I see as flaws with the book while being careful to acknowledge things that are about my taste preferences rather than factual flaws. The reader reading my review may genuinely like the thing that annoys me. It's not my place to judge the reader for his/her taste or the author for his/her style.

As an author, I accept the fact that not everyone is going to like my work and some will hate it. Others will judge it before they ever read a word. I also know my work is never perfect. Even when I release it, I'm wondering if maybe just maybe that other word might have worked better in that one passage or if maybe I should do just one more read through just in case. No matter how many people tell me it's ready, it's good enough, there's always a sentence, a word, a comma, a period I could change.

As a reader, I've never read a perfect book no matter who wrote it or published it. I always find some small phrase that doesn't quite work or reads a bit pretentious or a bit passive in a book. Sometimes the flaw lies in punctuation or spacing. There's always something somewhere in the book that is just slightly imperfect.

At the end of the day, as soon as we pass judgment on another person, we invite judgment to be passed on us. So I have to wonder if the authors participating in the conversation feel their work is above such reproach and judgment. I've now lost interest in reading the books by the authors involved in the conversation, so I guess I'll never know if their work is above the judgment and reproach they leveled on the other author...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Me to Tell Me

Comment: "What I like matters, too."
Question "Did you really need me to tell you that?"
Reply "Nope, I needed me to tell me that."

The words rolled off my tongue easily, but I felt strange saying them. I'd prepared myself to declare the importance of what I like, but I hadn't anticipated the response or my response to the response. And, I realized it was true.

As the words left my mouth and lingered in the air - and were answered with silence, I stood and reflected on them for a minute. As a matter of fact, they stayed with me the rest of the night. I ended up writing the following poem.

“I needed me to tell me”
The words surprised me
When I heard them come from my mouth
The truth of them
Stopped me mid-step
Threw me off-balance
Left me speechless
For a second
I stood still in my thoughts
Realized I announced aloud
That I refuse to need permission
From anyone but me
For my likes
For my wants
For my needs
For my desires
For my loves
For my likes
For my life
In that moment I embraced
That I don’t need nor do I want
External permission or approval
I really only need
Me to tell me

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how often I've relegated my life to others, not intentionally, of course, but as an attempt to keep peace or find a compromise.

When we stop granting ourselves permission to live, we stop living. When we stop granting ourselves permission to play, we stop playing. When we stop granting ourselves permission to have pleasure, pleasure disappears and takes desire right along with it. When we stop granting ourselves permission to like the things we like because someone else might not, we stop liking anything.

At some point, my desire to create harmony silenced my voice as I became confused about what I liked because I was always worried about whether or not someone else would like the same things I liked. I didn't want to be judged for my choices either way, so I kept my opinions to myself about many things. I forgot that my likes and dislikes matter, too.

But, like most things denied, my likes and dislikes demanded to be heard and acknowledged. People may not like what I like and they may like what I don't, but that's okay. We don't all need to like the same things, and nothing makes one person's like or dislikes more or less valid than another person's. I now stand ready to say "I like it, and I don't have to defend my preferences to you or anyone else." What a fabulously liberating feeling!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reading Poetry on Thunderous Thursday!!

I recently read my poetry on Thunderous Thursdays with DJ Maureen. I had a great time! You can listen to the reading and interview here:

Reading Poetry on Thunderous Thursdays

Monday, March 18, 2013

Asking for Help Equals Vulnerability

"Asking makes you vulnerable." This statement grabbed my attention and shook me until my teeth rattled when Amanda Palmer said it in her TED Talk. I whispered it to myself. I said it aloud in the room. I went back and listened to the talk again days later to think about this one statement again.

Vulnerability and I have never been best friends. We've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship. Friends have complained "You never ask for help." and I don't know what they're talking about. I think I ask for help. I have an overwhelming fear of being overly needy and pushing people away with my neediness. But I really do think I ask for help; however, I don't like feeling vulnerable. I've written about my struggle with vulnerability a few times before. Most recently in Finding Strength in Vulnerability, but perhaps more on target in Self-destruction Masquerades as Strength.

I like to think I'm strong, and I learned early in life that asking for help has a tendency to expose weaknesses. I don't want to be seen as weak even when I feel weak because someone might decide to use my weakness against me. It's happened before...

I always try to do things myself before I ask for help. It's the way I think. Why should I ask anyone to do what I can do for myself? My Daddy always said "If you want something done right, do it yourself." I've come to realize that should be interpreted as "If you want something done your way, do it yourself." Yet, every time I start to ask someone else for help, I hesitate, not because I don't think others will do it right but because I don't see why I should ask someone else to do what I can do myself. This leads me to sometimes take on far more than I can do in the amount of time given, and then I find myself wondering why no one is helping me. Then I have to admit it's because I never asked anyone to help.

There are some things I really can't do for myself. For example, I am reliant on an audience to buy my books in order to have a career as an author.

In the talk, Palmer talks about giving her music away and letting people pay for it instead of making them. This may sound like simply playing a semantics game, but as I understand it, her music is actually free. In fact, I went to her website, and there is music available for free and a request to "support my mission" by entering an amount to pay. Apparently, people do pay voluntarily.

I run offers to download the Kindle versions of my books from time to time. Every time I have to tell people it's available for free, and every time I struggle with the part where I actually have to ask people to download it for free. Intellectually, I know I'm offering them a special deal, but I'm still asking them to download it. What if they say "no"? What if absolutely no one downloads even a single copy when it's available for free? My vulnerabilities kick in. The fear of rejection that I think I don't possess shows up uninvited. I give myself a little pep talk and promise myself I won't take it personally if no one shows up.

I've downloaded free Kindle books when other authors have offered them, and I have a lot of them to read right now. I will read them, and I will review them. I actually feel more of an obligation to review the free copies I receive than I do books I buy. I feel like it's the least I can do to show my support for the authors. Not that I'm going to stop reviewing books I buy. I just don't feel a stronger sense of wanting to pay it forward.

I have no problem asking others to buy the books of my friends, but to ask them to buy mine feels too much like begging or boasting or some weird combination of the two. But, I'm not different than any other writer, I need to sell books in order to keep writing, in order to keep sharing my work. So, maybe, just maybe, you'd like to buy one of my books now. Don't worry, I'll let you pay me for it. You might even like what you read...

Oh, and to make it easy for you, here are two links:

My Amazon Central Author Page (feel free to "like" me while you're there.)
My Website (where you can order signed copies

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

High Horses

Kentucky Horse Park - May 2012
Recently in the course of a conversation with a friend, we were discussing anger and I mentioned how much easier I find facing life's challenges since I've let go of anger. I went on to explain that it felt like letting go of anger invited opportunities to anger me into my life. In illustrating how I recently faced a moment of anger that lead to a moment of hate that inspired my blog post, Humbled by a Moment of Hate, I mentioned, in a very cliched moment, that the moment of hate "knocked me off my high horse" to which my friend interrupted with something along the lines of "So you know you get on your high horse." much to my surprise. But perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. All I could think in the moment, though, was that we all have moments when we climb on our high horses...

Still, over the next week or so, my thoughts went back to the comment multiple times. To the point, I Googled the phrase just to verify it meant what I thought it meant. It does, essentially. And, here's the thing, I'm befuddled. I truly am. I don't see myself as morally superior to other people, but I began to wonder if other people think that's what I think.

I'm really not sure what to do with this criticism. In all fairness, my friend did seek to soften the blow by telling me the comment wasn't intended to be critical; however, I'm really not sure what else it could be.
Here's the thing, I'm very confident in my moral standards; however, I don't expect anyone else to live by my moral standards. I don't think I have all the answers or that people who live lives different from mine are any less moral than me. I seek to not judge others just as I hope others won't judge me.

I often write about, or otherwise share, what I've learned through my life experience, but I'm fully aware that I'm still learning and growing into my best self. I refuse to give up the confidence I've gained through my struggles with life and finding the balance between the life I live and the life I dream of living.

Many years ago, anger ruled my life. Anger was my go-to emotion. Righteous indignation was my best friend. When anger ruled, I found it easier to ignore what I really felt- disappointed, hurt, abandoned, vulnerable, etc. When I let go of anger, I had to dig deeper and feel what I really felt. It was hard work, and it felt like torture. Anger was easy by comparison. In anger, I could scream and yell whatever I wanted and be as irrational as I wanted to be. I could hold grudges and refuse to see anyone else's side of a situation. I could push people away and blame them for it. After all, when anger was my go-to emotion, I always had someone else to blame because it was always about whom or what made me angry, not about what role I played or what different choices I could've made.

Then one day I realized anger made me the victim. Anger took away my power. Anger left me at the mercy of others. That's when I decided to take control of my life. The first step was to admit that I played a leading role in my own life instead of a supporting role. I found that revelation quite empowering.

Immediately after I started trying to live from a place of anything other than anger, I felt like I was more angry than ever. It took me a while to realize that I kept attracting anger to me because it was what I was used to as well as because part of releasing anger was recognizing it when it arrived. Anger is a natural emotion and is even appropriate at times. When anger becomes a way of life, everything else gets snuffed out. Anger itself can become addictive. I soon discovered that when I look behind anger and find the truth of what I feel, I can move on more quickly, forgive more readily, and find solutions more easily.

As I let go of anger, I began to feel less negative about life. Positivity began to find its way into my life. I started to see possibilities and the good that surrounded me. I began to feel grateful for everything life brought into my life including the lessons I learned from the bad things in my life.

Eventually, I discovered I could live my life from a place of love. It isn't always easy. There are times when I still struggle with anger, negativity, love, and positivity; however, I find life is so much better now that I don't allow anger to rule my life.

Kentucky Horse Park - May 2012
I've never claimed, nor even thought, that I have it all figured out. I just like to share what I learn about life in hopes it will help someone else. To me that's what life is all about... Is that putting myself on a high horse? I don't think so, but I guess I just have to accept that other people might see it that way...