Category Archives: Books and MORE books

(read … loved … recommended … wished for … all things BOOKS)

A life arrested

Opposite of Loneliness

There’s a theory that a person’s emotional development stops at the age at which one starts taking drugs.

Maybe this same theory can be expounded upon to include the whole of a life halted in its development due to a variety of reasons, whether family dysfunction or other external factors – arrested in a paradigm much like Bill Murray’s character’s was in Groundhog Day, manoeuvring through the same damned day until he finally gets it right, gets to move on to the next step, and the next, and so on. Bill’s protagonist has an antagonist who is also an ally, in whom he has a vested interest that propels him forward.

I have no such character assist. I don’t even know how to get started on the business of procuring one (though a huge chunk of my life was spent flailing around in the process of attempting to achieve just that). I was under the (clearly) erroneous assumption that in order to get to the next step I would absolutely have to find that other character in order to move forward with my own story. None of the varied and sundry ways I tried resulted in the opposite of loneliness, but I’ve come to find that I’ve become comfortable with my aloneness.

In this space, I write.
I write my way into corners.
I chase words in circles.

I follow the tail of an idea, of emotions whose teeth have gently clasped onto me, unwilling to let me go. I don’t know know where they want to take me, but I’ve come to trust the process, whether or not it amounts to a great piece of writing, or simply provides an outlet for a jumble of thoughts so that they may reach coherence.

I’ve begun reading The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. By the end of the introduction (by her professor Anne Fadiman), I was misty-eyed, sorry for fate of the arrested life of someone so promising. Upon reading the first essay (titled the same as the book) tears came anew along with a sense of kinship.

At 52, I can still relate to her words. They were true for a 22 year old, but I’ve come to find that they are just as true now for someone like me, thirty years older. I hold the same hopes, harbour the same feelings of inadequacy. I wonder how much of it is due to the arrested development of my younger self and how much of it is merely a byproduct of the human condition.

The truth is, we are still SO YOUNG, even me, at 52. And in Marina’s words, “…[w]e can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end, it’s all we have.”

I do envy something that Marina had which I have in my 52 years of life been incapable of feeling: “remarkably, unbelievably safe”. Perhaps it is a character flaw, perhaps it’s merely a situational anomaly, that I’ve not for most of the years I’ve lived in this world, felt truly and unequivocally, safe.

It has, however, forced me toward a bravery that I am always astonished to discover that I can muster. I’ve overcome many things simply because I had to get to the other side of them in order to remain intact. I may have at times seemed to be spineless, may have sometimes been graceless, and at times been a downright asshole throughout the process, but I mostly always take something away from each of these experiences, whether immediately or through the distance that the passage of time affords.

It would be foolish of me to say that I have no regrets. I have many, and they multiply with every passing year, with each choice, each road taken (or not), but I release them after I think on them and mourn what could have been, and make more choices.

Whether mistakes or successes, life moves along at an incredible clip. This automated and electronically dense world we live in, it speeds along dizzyingly, doesn’t allow us to dwell on things for too long. I can only hope that the choices I am making now will lead me to where I eventually want to be, and that the vision of where that is becomes clearer as I move closer toward it.

We all need allies, though, and I hope to be as good a one as those who I hope to consort with on this journey. As much as writing is a solitary practice, it can not be done in a vacuum. It needs the eyes and hearts of others to keep it true to course. Onwards, then – bravely.

the anatomy of scarcity

View from Sun Tower

(view of Vancouver from the Sun Tower)

Scarcity. What a compelling topic. It’s been part of my way of life for as long as I can remember, all the way back to childhood. Something was always missing and that feeling of “not enough” an inherent part of every one of my waking moments to a greater or lesser extent.

Now moreso, since I’ve been without work and have not found a replacement job to date.

I thought that somehow I could manage to shift from one industry to another by sheer force of will and transferable skills. Apparently thirty years in one area, despite there being an overlap in skill set and an accumulation of many other (applicable) skills throughout the course of these many years, is not sufficiently convincing enough for someone to hire me into untested areas. The only way I can make the shift is by getting more training and/or going it on my own somehow. Both, I suspect.

I thought all of this free time would enable me to be creative, that I would take advantage of it to get things done that I’ve always wanted to do.

I even warned a co-worker who had been laid-off a few weeks prior to me to stay focused on the gift of time rather than on the state of worry that being without a job invariably puts us into.

Turns out that money really does make the world go round and that I can’t do much without more of it, that worry over finances summarily blocks the places where my creativity lives and that on top of blocking creativity, it also seriously limits my cognitive ability to think outside the box… so creative thinking not just in creative terms but also in practical terms, is also stunted.

I’ve been reading Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.  (If you feel moved to purchase the book, I would be immensely grateful if you use my link to purchase it.. it adds a few pennies into my Amazon Associates fund – thanks in advance.)

The book raises some interesting points on how scarcity in its various forms affects our ability to work through the lack, ostensibly affecting us in all areas of our lives not just the ones where the scarcity occurs. Essentially, if one is experiencing scarcity in one area, it is likely to diminish our cognitive ability to find a workable solution to resolve the lack. So lack perpetuates lack and degrades our ability to figure out a way in which to overcome it.

That’s huge, in my opinion. It also is very much in line with my own experiences, and speaks to the very large epidemic that is sweeping the poor and quickly declining middle classes. We are in a bind and seemingly incapable of coming up with viable solutions. How did the human race manage to survive for millions of years and yet become so paralyzed and incapable of finding a good resolution to its most pressing current issues?

These days basic survival is on my mind. Shelter. Food. Bus fare so that I can travel to interviews or temporary assignments. There is very little wiggle room and it is quickly diminishing to even less. I think it is difficult for those who are not faced with these issues to fully understand their implications.

The book promises to provide “simple suggestions that just might change the way you live”. While I am creeping through the first chapters – the writing style, though informative, is a little stilted – I hope that these suggestions will provide the change that will shift this life-long rut I’ve found myself in.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on the topic and the usefulness of the book.

Love,
Adriane xo

morning pages

Back on the wagon again this morning. After a very long hiatus, I am calling in this morning for some Parallel-Universe time with Jill. Since it’s a long distance cell phone call for me, I can’t afford to stay on the call for the whole hour but I’ve checked in now and will call back just before the top of the hour to check back in at the end.

So I wanted to limber up a little bit here (in these morning pages) before I head over to my short story. I’ve just barely rolled out of bed this morning and made myself a coffee in time for the call. I haven’t been getting up in time most of the mornings that the sessions have been held so I consider this morning a triumph in starting to turn around my very weird body clock back to its usual routines.

My body’s been feeling better. It will be four weeks this Friday since the surgery and I’m finally moving and sleeping a little less gingerly, though some tender spots remain on my belly and right side. After rereading the post-operative instruction pamphlet a couple of days ago, I realized that I could have removed the steri-strips a while ago, but I have to admit that they intimidated me. Much like my reaction to the appendix surgery incision I got in 1971, looking beneath the bandage to see what is under there is always a bit alarming when you realize how many layers of tissue they had to cut through to get inside to where they needed to go. My inside part is always a weird concept for me, because I feel like I *am* inside, inside looking out at the world, and that when sharp objects are poked through my outer layers into my viscera, it is clear that those insides and the ones I think I am inhabiting are not the same. It’s an odd dichotomy.

Yesterday I watched yet another video of Danielle Laporte with a guest speaker, this time Linda Siverstein, discussing their new offering of the Big Beautiful Book Plan. I’m convinced that the reasons that people like Danielle are so successful is multi-fold –clearly without talent and compelling content you will go no where– but the primary aspect of the dissemination of her work is due, I think, to the fact that she enjoys the business end of her work. Downright relishes it, even. ‘Business’ brings up all kinds of stuff for me, notably the fact that while Danielle claims to be able to sell ice to the Inuit, I on the other hand couldn’t sell them a furnace even if I was one of few furnace retailers during a particularly vicious cold snap.

Selling makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that self-assessment during the annual review process does. My idea is that: I serve a purpose, I fulfill that purpose to the best of my ability by doing the work expected of the role I serve. Whether others like the purpose I serve or not is not up for discussion nor for me to justify. I was invited to show up and served that purpose, in whatever concrete or organic way that purpose chose to manifest itself. I don’t keep track of every little thing that I do on the journey of serving. I simply don’t have the attention span for that – I’m not built that way. I’ve tried to keep track, though, because these details and calculations are apparently key to getting a good review and the bonus that invariably goes with one. Writing down the big projects – the end results – isn’t enough to make people understand all of the steps and the value of your contribution – the amazing accomplishment of getting to the end of the line. They need the details, the minutia, in excruciating (and self-aggrandizing) detail.

While I can mechanize some processes that I undertake to get from A to B, oftentimes they end up being a rather flexible (and innate) process. I might take a different route one day just for the sake of variety and I might even discover that instead of B, a new route to C is an even better outcome. I will change and adapt, and the discovery process is an infinite one. Rigid constraints stifle me in a way that I can’t even begin to properly describe without using words like “suffocate” and “airless” and “drowning”. I feel these physically, in my body, when I think of constraints. Apparently more exploration is needed in that area. ::head desk::

So I’m off to my short story now, but I leave you with these thoughts of constraint and restriction and expansion and freedom. In some respects I think constraints are good – having a base structure to work off of is essential to not totally getting lost meandering – but at what point does it stop serving you (and your purpose)? What do they mean to you? How do you work within their parameters? Do constraints feed you or do they pull the air out of your sails?

the anatomy of desire

I love

So tell me… how do you want to feel?

I’ve been reading Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map with great interest the last couple of weeks. I’ve been pondering on what desires are – the difference between the transient yearnings and those at the root of my core operating system. The latest chapter up for discussion speaks to the difference between feelings and emotions, or whether there is a difference in the nuance, and whether it matters in any other way but for our own point of reference.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done some deeper inquiry, well THIS deep anyway (and long is a relative term in my world) but I’ve found this tack particularly useful – I wish I would have come across this earlier – much, much earlier.

Isn’t it simply brilliant to think to come at a result through how we want to feel while in the process, throughout its pursuit? Not just at the assumed end of the journey, when you’ve gotten what you have been wanting but all along it too, because how you feel throughout every moment of it is equally important?

Yeah, yeah… we’ve seen the whole “the joy is in the journey” spiel, but funnelling it down to how you want to feel throughout the journey is different from deriving joy from the journey in some indefinite, abstract, way, despite the journey oftentimes bucking you in the head many times over for good measure. It’s almost antithetical, that way of looking – like testing to see how many times can you be smacked over the head and still get up with a smile.

I’ve mentioned before how much of a self-help queen I’ve been throughout my life. I mean we might as well make the best of it while we are here, and there is always room for new learning (even Einstein said so : “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”).

I find that through this adjusted perspective I come to know myself a little better. I pay more attention – to myself, to others. Awareness seeps outward like an ink stain on a white shirt, and with it a sense of joy, too. We all desire joy, happiness. It is what drives us onward to seek it out, and yet the ways in which we come to feel it are vastly different. The more insight we can have into that unfolding, the better.

I think about the conversations I could have had with former lovers about desires, which might have led to different choices by virtue of the clarity that this process enables. Well, assuming people engage with the line of inquiry… that engagement or lack of it speaks volumes anyway.

I ponder why it is so difficult for people to communicate on a deeper level. Are we just afraid of risking vulnerability or is it something else? Are we afraid to really delve that deeply into ourselves? Or are we just afraid of what we might find there, much less admitting it to another? Or is it fact that once we see something, whatever it is, we can no longer deny it, and something must be done about it. We must deal with our desires. Maybe we are not equipped to deal with them all. The thing about desires, though, is that when you dig down deep enough, they become simple. It is how we pursue fulfilling them that complicates things, sometimes.

I’m pretty sure my core desires haven’t changed much over the years, only the ways in which I go about filling them. Or perhaps rather in how I’ve come to define them. I’ve come a long way there too, I think. It makes me happy to know that – to really feel it. I suppose it would be easy considering I have only myself to contend with, and that it’s impossible to be externally influenced if one is not sharing one’s life with another. And yet I’d like to think that I’ve become self-aware enough that even if another person were to come into my periphery that I would remain consistent – true to the desires I wish to attend to at my core. I hope so, anyway.

I fully resonate with the sayings that acknowledge that knowing oneself is the greatest freedom, or wisdom. It empowers you to make choices. Any other way would mean that the choices you make end up ruling you, cutting off your freedom to make any due to their very involuntary nature.

Desire has been given such a bad rap. It’s become a dirty word, not because of the more visceral aspects it suggests, the sexual connotations. Rather, because of the complexity of dealing with the underlying urges that push us to act out of our place of desire, it has become something to subjugate or annihilate – it’s supposedly the beast that must be slain, a thing that while alive will always risk injury to self or others. I think perhaps unexamined desire is that way, but when investigated and not left to fester and morph into something horribly formidable, it serves our higher purpose. It becomes our ally. It moves us to create.

morning pages

It’s cold in here. The furnace has been shut off (at least I think it has, because Tyler sent me a text telling me that he would shut it off because, well, it’s supposed to be summer shortly) but this morning it’s fucking cold in here, especially in my blanket skirt, because I just shlepped out of bed in my panties and my Grim “I’ve Come to Reap Your Immortal Soul” tank top and the blanket that I usually wrap around my ass should really just be replaced with a snuggie this morning because my arms and legs are cold.

Coffee is being made, because without coffee the neurons in my brain don’t fire nearly as well at this time of the morning. Seriously, what was I thinking, getting up this early? The cat woke me up at a little after five, and then I got up to pee and then I checked my phone and saw that I had a new Twitter follower and then I fell down the interwebz rabbit hole, all the way to James Franco (how the hell did I get here?!).

So, coffee. And the decision to do morning pages, because I miss Hollywood and California and staying at the Chateau even for a handful of weekends was like a little piece of dream, right there. I realize people are all just as skewed as I am, only in different ways. We all have a dream, and even when we find our way to it, it’s never what we think it is.

Which brings me around to desire. And my continuing saga of Desire Mapping. And.. but wait.. coffee…

Impossible blue sky. At least when it’s not smog filled. California. I ran away from it, tail between my legs. I failed at the one thing that I thought I would succeed at.

Ahhh… coffee (::sip, sip::)

I’m almost out (of coffee, I mean) – will have to walk across the street to Thrifty’s and get some more. Maybe I’ll even splurge and go next door to Starbucks instead because when the Nabob is going for almost ten bucks, seriously why bother with that when you can get a pound of Brezza Blend – that coffee is the shit? Except when you can’t because it’s almost double the cost of the Nabob.

Oh yeah… I was wondering why I’d gotten up so early. Must have been the post Chinese food induced early evening coma that knocked me out earlier than usual. That, and the cat and the bladder and James Franco. Man, I’m so out of the loop on the who’s-who… I’m going to have to run a search because I don’t even really know who he is, except that I read one of his blog posts and I like how he writes – at least how he wrote that one. And that I had some bungalow envy. Seriously – some of those cottages were bigger than the apartment we were renting in Irvine. I suppose if I could afford to regularly pay, per square foot, what I did for a weekend bungalow I’d’ve had a bigger place in Irvine, too.

Hey, I like my place here in PoMo though. It’s bigger, certs – room for all of my freakin’ books. Ahhh books. I seriously have issues. It’s a visual thing; a tactile thing; a sapiophile thing. But the rain… the rain undoes me. I don’t mind it occasionally but when people are dreading drought I silently, in my mind, give it a fist pump. Selfish. I know. How I survived 29 years of northeastern climate I haven’t a clue. Even then I dreamt of California. I remember. We were living in an upper floor triplex on Darveau and it must have been 1971-ish and I remember flipping through the pages of these geographical encyclopedias and looking at the demographics and climate and the GNP and determining that it was either Florida or California, or bust. Less Florida, because there was more humidity, weird critters and less Hollywood. Seriously. Hollywood was always a draw (even though I hadn’t a clue how I could possibly integrate into it whatever it produced-mostly produce, according to the books).

Now… I don’t like to think of it as an entity, Hollywood, at least not the part I’m interested in contributing to, but it probably is to some extent. When I consider what that feels like, I feel it slither through like something out of a Clive Barker novel.

Desire. Maps. Back to the topic. During our Spreecast meet yesterday, our little book group touched on dreams – at this point in the book the discussion touches on how we stifle, stuff and skew our desires, how there is almost a sense of embarrassment around enunciating them even to ourselves (well, the embarrassment is my own – but I don’t think I’m alone in this).

I’d mentioned that when I think about what I desire in my vision of a perfect life, some of the scenarios are so disparate that it would be difficult for them to coexist, or make sense that the same person is conceiving them both. For example: living off the grid, raising goats or alpacas or both (because YARN and CHEESE) and raising a few chickens and growing some veggies and learning how to can stuff and generally being self-sufficient… OR living in a beach house in Malibu or some other coastal (and possibly less prone to landslides) California property where I’d be free to write and create and collect Oscars for my efforts and BEACH.

They are not all that disparate though, since Kim could easily see how they related : freedom. Conveniently, I’d already written it down as one of my words, one of my core desired feeling words.

Freedom.

Of course I picked some other, more obscure words, because I’m a pompous ass, occasionally, and I can use Big Words even if you can’t. So, aside from freedom, they are:

Cohesion : Satiated : Vital : Cogent : Affluent

(I’ll probably change my mind, again, about these words and the ones that follow. I’m nothing if not consistent with my transience.)

The last one was ripped from Danielle’s list, because why not? Affluence brings freedom, even as it can take it away – I suppose it depends. The fluvial aspect of it, the allusion of flow, appeals to me. But perhaps ‘satiated’ covers just about everything, in a nutshell. I want enough, dammit, whatever enough is for me, even as it is prone to constant reassessment on what that might look like at any given time. Enough. MORE even.

I wonder where that comes from, that desire for enough? Weeeeeell… I know *where* it comes from, but examining the why and the how is my point now.

Fun, this, isn’t it? Seriously – I wear myself out sometimes. I’m nothing if not examined. All nooks and crannies get blinded by a flashlight beam, semi-regularly.

But still. (See that? I’ve started multiple sentences with a conjunction. Deal with it.)

I was surprised at the resistance I felt when airing, out loud, what I wanted. Even when I knew that the people I was airing them to would be supportive and uncritical.

Which leads me to…

Why is it that some people just adore going around with a pin just so they can burst people’s balloons? If people were empowered and supported throughout the building process, there isn’t much that they couldn’t accomplish, even their wildest notions. So what is it about those that feel compelled to tear down instead of build up? What is the appeal?

My mom was that person. She always told me to be realistic when I’d start tugging on the constraints of the small picture that she’d painted as my possibility. And the truth is, sometimes reality sucks. Also, though, while sheer escapism doesn’t liberate you from present circumstances, the ability to dream and imagine a more creative outcome, and a way to get there, requires the ability to step out of reality.

For a long time I’d all but lost that ability to step outside. I’m relieved to see that it’s coming back.

And now for some more coffee.

the cult of positivity

heart_hand

I’m sure I’ve blogged about this topic before, or carried on about it on Facebook.

I see constant anecdotes and photos reprimanding us…

…that if we were grateful enough, we would never be lacking for anything

…that while we are blowing hot air about our particular misery du jour, others are taking their last breath

…that were we to count our blessings, we’d realize how damned lucky we are and stop that complaining shit stat

And I get it. Some people never stop complaining, even when every little thing in their lives is the way you or I would wish ours to be – they are still snivelling bags of misery (and that does, in fact, get old).

There are times, though, that even if you are fully cognizant of the fact that people are starving in Africa and you happen to be fortunate enough to have sufficient food in your pantry to feed a whole small third world village for a month, you still feel pretty down about the things that are happening in your life and being reminded of that tidbit of information does nothing to spike up your happy meter.

Instead you feel even shittier for having your “first world problems” in the first place, and feel guilty for being so (apparently) ungrateful for what you have.

Here’s the thing. Inner unrest is almost always a signal that your intuition is trying to tell you something.

Sometimes it’s because you have stopped listening somewhere along the way and are functioning on auto pilot without really paying attention to what you are doing.

Inner unrest niggles when the situation you are choosing to engage in goes against the grain of your fundamental values and principles, and you are choosing to ignore the little red flags that are popping up as you are going along because you’ve gotten so used to being comfortable in your discomfort.

Then there are times when we go through some major transitions in life, and while we humans are certainly equipped to deal with transitions (seriously… we would have died out millennia ago had we not been an adaptable species), our instant-presto society expects us to pop up like a freshly thawed toaster pastry mere days after something life-altering has occurred.

That can be even the good stuff… a promotion, a newly-tied knot, a long-desired move to a new place, the purchase of a new home… or the obviously less positive stuff… like losing a job, having to move without notice, the end of a relationship, health challenges, children moving out (i.e., an empty nest), the loss of a loved one (whether expected or not).

All change, to some degree, causes an anxiety reflex. Some of it merely heightens our awareness so that while we are in a new situation we adapt as quickly as possible – but it is exhausting, even if it is exhilarating.

The more painful sort of change grinds us into the ground and pulls us along by the ankles through the raw and painful grieving process. There is much out there on the different stages of grieving, so I won’t discuss it in detail here, but what I do want to note is that the process takes inordinately longer than any amount of time typically allotted for it by our western society.

People are patient for a week or two (if that), but after that if your performance isn’t back up to pre-trauma speed, patience with your process starts to dwindle and whatever progress you might have made in the interim is largely interrupted by the added pressure that is now placed upon you to be back to “normal” again. Many people either have never experienced grief before, or have conveniently forgotten what it was like to be in its throes – sort of like the purported denial of remembering childbearing pain.

The key to survival is to seek out qualified support to help you over that hump, because once the funeral is over, and the condolence notes stop coming in, or you are two months in to flying solo after a twenty year marriage, people forget that things were ever different, and that can be hugely difficult to deal with on top of the ongoing grieving.

Whether the life change is big or small (and it’s all individually relative), self-care becomes primordial to the survival of our hurting soul bits. In the end, these very same things are what help me keep my sanity even when shit isn’t hitting the fan.

So… what to do?

1. Schedule in time for your Self.
Learn to gauge to what point you can push yourself before a melt-down is impending. It will change over time, and it will be a trial and error process for a while. If you feel that once a month you need to work in a mental health day just to stay sane, plan it ahead of time. It will be something to look forward to and the break in your normal routine something that will be akin to that light at the end of the tunnel when you start down sliding. The waiting between breaks will help you build up resilience and allow for the incorporation of healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime, which will make everything go more smoothly. Determine what your daily, weekly, monthly needs are, and have an action plan.

2. Practice radical self-compassion.
Like it or not, things will not always go according to plan. Something might happen that will throw you off kilter despite your best efforts. You may not, on a daily basis, be functioning at 100%. One of the best takeaways for me from The Four Agreements (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it) is to do your best, whatever best means on any given day. On some days your best may just be to roll out of bed, get dressed and make it in to the office, while other days it will be to blaze through a week’s worth of work in a single afternoon. It may vary that drastically. Respect the variance. Respect your willingness to show up, in whatever capacity that you are able. Be gentle with yourself. Afford yourself the same compassion as you would extend to another in your situation. You deserve to be treated kindly, even by yourself.

3. Establish good boundaries.
People mean well… they do… but sometimes their “help” does more harm than good. Learn to be specific about your needs, if you ask for help with them, as well as to gracefully express when someone is triggering all of your defence mechanisms. Deftly extricate yourself from the situation or the ministrations and be sure to let them know to be more mindful of the way in which they communicate with you going forward. Relentlessly cut ties if they have a track record of not positively supporting you.

4. Have a support system in place.
Know who you can call on when you are on the verge of a melt-down. Have an escape route in place so that you can go some place private. If you are seeking the help of a professional counsellor, have your appointments set up on a regular basis in accordance with their advised schedule and make additional appointments if you feel you need them. If you need to be assisted chemically to find better balance, explore the most personally comfortable way in which to achieve it.

5. Spend some time, daily, checking in with yourself.
Whether that means doing it while sitting on a meditation cushion, as you move through the asanas in yoga class, during a walk around the block, while soaking in the tub or lathering up in a shower, when putting in miles on the treadmill at the gym, or at the table with your journal or art supplies. Make real or mental notes on how you feel, how you’ve improved in the last while and think about how you want to feel. Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map helps siphon down our focus to what she calls our Core Desired Feelings and keeping those in mind while we do our inventory check can pull us back to center even when we’ve skidded off the road.

6. Nourish yourself.
That means feeding the body, mind and spirit, daily. Plan meals ahead so that you take the guess work out of daily cooking chores – chances are you will be eating more healthfully or regularly. Take vitamins and minerals as recommended by your physician. Spend some down time with a book, crossword puzzle or other mind-feeding endeavour. Honour and connect with your spirit, in whichever way you feel most comfortable.

7. Move.
Spend some time getting physical. I have found that when I’m hurting emotionally my tendency is to avoid being embodied. I become this untethered soul hanging on to my bodily connections by mere shreds. Exercise gets the endorphins pumping and even if my heart is heavy with grief, my body feels lighter after it’s been fully exerted.

8. Rest.
Fatigue is a by-product of depression and the carrying of the burden of stress. Without adequate rest the body simply can’t perform its regenerative functions, whether for the physical body, the mental body or the emotional body. Eight hours of sleep is the generally established minimum, but more may be required during more taxing times. Honour your body’s signals and allow it the rest that it needs to heal itself.

Enacting these things may take some effort, especially at first. I know that when I’m newly grieving, I’m like a dazed zombie and barely functioning. If you have someone close to you (a spouse or a partner) who can help you over the hump, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise you may well have to wait until the fog lifts before you will be able to begin fully implementing these self-care steps.

But for the love of all things holy, don’t let the bastards get you down… you are worthy… you are worthy… you are worthy.

Adriane xo

finding meaning

dbl choc banana bread

Today was the first most ab-so-lute-ly gorgeous day of the year. I’ve been leaving the door open for the cat so that she can venture outside at will.

Earlier a bee had come in through a small cracked window (we don’t have window screens on any but one window upstairs) and was buzzing frantically as it bounced between blind slats and glass, trying to crash its way out. I wasn’t sure how to get it outside – the window, as a safety measure, has a locking device that allows it to only slide open so much, which must be unscrewed and pushed along the window rail to allow for a wider opening. With a frustrated bee buzzing around, I wasn’t sure how I would manage to get the window open enough, and I didn’t want to squish it. Somehow I managed to push it open enough for there to be a good gap for the bee to make its escape but it was not moving toward the opening. I utilized my trusty plastic glass and index card method of catch-and-release. As soon as I tipped the cup toward the opening and removed the card it zipped out the window.

After enjoying the quiet of the house until mid-afternoon, a lot of that time spent perusing Pintrest, I stepped outside. With book tucked under my arm, I unfolded my picnic quilt and spread it out on the back balcony. In full afternoon sunlight splendour, I read and sunned for a couple of hours. The cat joined me for a spell, nudging my hand for a rub as I sat with my eyes closed, head and back leaning against the warm sun soaked wall. The sky was an impossible blue, clear and cloudless. Although comfortable because of the sunshine, the wind was blowing softly and required intermittent covering when I felt chilled in my short sleeved tee shirt. I breathed in air to my lungs and light through my pores. I can understand why the bees are gathering around the yard these days. The bushes in the back ooze the sweetest honey scent and drifted all the way upstairs without much effort.

I’ve been reading “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up” by James Hollis, Ph.D. Earlier this week I read a blog post from Danielle Laporte, and on my Facebook share of this same link I had zeroed in on this excerpt:

The point is: I was tired of being my version of good.

Because I’ve been good. Let me tell you. I’ve meditated. I’ve prayed. I’ve cleared my chakras and my ancestral ties. I’ve sent positive thoughts, white light, and handwritten thank you notes. And I have purified—my oh my, have I purified. Cleanses and sweats, colonics and karmic cord-cutting. I got rid of my microwave. I feng shui’d my shit into a transcendental temple. You see, I am a pro at better-fying. For the love of God and Buddha and The Goddess, I am a self-help author.”

I commented with the following:

“I’m with ya, sistah.

Yeah… not a self-help author, but I’ve spent so much time, money and energy on “self-help” (and, mind you, helping others self-help, because I’ve done everything from psychic readings – very briefly, online – to carving my own set of futhark runes (in stone, no less, that I gathered along the shores of the ocean, asking for permission from the earth for each reaping of stone), aromatherapy, energy healing, SoulCollage facilitation, body work encompassing everything from lymphatic drainage to deep tissue massage, and shamanic journeying and soul retrieval, not to mention forays into christianity via the Catholic, United, Methodist, Lutheran, LDS churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a six-month stint in a ISKCON -that’s the International Society of Krishna Consciousness- ashram, reading scripture from the Bah’ai, Buddhist and Islamic faiths, and soulful searches into heathen, pagan and occult paths (including those that think we’ve been “seeded” with extraterrestrial genomes, and/or the product of nephilim but those perhaps circle back to judeo-christianity, in some weird, convoluted way). My self-help library probably rivals the local public library’s. Oh… and I didn’t have a microwave for a while, but my son was happy when someone donated the behemoth of a nuke-tastic dinosaur microwave because he was once again able to make popcorn, and I, with equal thanks, can nuke my herbal and buckwheat heat pack for when the body aches.

And essentially, it’s true. I’ve tried all the usual (and unusual) ways to make peace with myself and somehow the peace of mind that I have been reaching for is still eluding me. This signals to me that throughout all of my previous efforts, I have merely managed to placate a part rather than the whole of my spirit, and once I’d calmed down enough to allow my ego to regain control, I resumed my old ways of being in the world.

As I’m reading Dr. Hollis’ book, which I recommend to ANYone (everyone?) who is on a journey toward better understanding of self, I am discovering that no matter how well informed I have thought myself to be about myself, I am still very far from being self-aware, and further still from possessing self-mastery, no matter how much my ego wishes it were so (or thought it was so, ever).

I also, as I read deeper into the book (I’m at page 95 of 260, not including the bibliography and index), I wonder whether there is such a thing. We spend so much of our early lives becoming conditioned and then the rest of it running the auto-pilot programs (mostly without noticing them initialize) that even once we become aware of the fact that we are reacting (drawing from previous experience) in a specific way, we seem incapable of creating a newer path. The reaction is instantaneous. It has a physical and emotional component to it that is familiar; it floods our neurobiology and we react. At least that is what I do; I’m sure I’m not alone.

I’m hoping that as I read through this book, tools will be revealed on how to counter these (for the lack of a better, though sadly overused, term) triggers and replace the subsequent reactions with more favourable ones. I wish that I had access to a therapist. Therapy is costly, and, let’s face it, not all therapists are made equal, but I believe that someone outside of ourselves (who is trained to objectively observe, assess and guide) is a crucial element in the making of headway in this area… and man, am I ever ready to make some headway. Seriously. If not now, when?

It is mindbogglingly humbling to realize that every.single.human.interaction. is filtered through this process, bar none. We learn to behave and manipulate our way into accustomed dynamics. I can see it in each and every relationship I’ve ever had, each disconcerting interaction, each unsatisfying work experience, each unfinished project and each yearning for something other than what I’ve had.

So, to return to Danielle’s piece, and my comments to it, yes, I am tired of being on the self-improvement road, and all of the ways in which I’ve endeavoured to discover it from external sources. Clearly, always focusing on what is wrong and ails isn’t where the joy is. But without knowing, truly knowing, what lies beneath the stuff that drives us, the joy can never be found.

Onward, ho…

Oh… and this (whose smell is permeating the whole room and has ten more minutes of cooling, before I can cut into it and sample).

(P.S. The banana bread? Utterly divine….)

an unfinished human

I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral lately, and though there are some specific reasons for it, I don’t really feel that I should address them here. I will, however, talk about what I am (and have, for many, many years been) doing to get through to the other side.

Caveat: this works for me; I am an individual and we all have different ways of processing things. Take what resonates with you, and leave the rest; offer insight if you think it might be helpful, to me or anyone else.

Double-edged sword: I’ve been feeling creative lately, and writing more. What that means is that I am having to go into vulnerable places in order to access the meaty stuff that makes for good writing. On the flip side of that, things have been happening in my exterior world that are directly affecting my interior one. Things like news of possible lay-offs and general unrest at the workplace; financial issues with potential court room drama that come at a time when I am still in a tenuous financial situation; increased expenses without an increase in salary (for instance my rent went from $1100 a month to $1665 a month with utilities; that’s a slightly more than a 50% increase in rental costs alone); an old relationship resurfacing when the healing process had still not yet been completed. I could go on.

This is a small sampling, but there is an added amount of stress, real or imagined, that is pushing me into a kind of frantic state that I have a hard time dealing with, especially on my own. If you ask me about a support system (the kind that we normally look to: family, friends, etc.), I can say that I can’t really rely on any since I don’t have one in place, not really. This is, however, something I’m quite used to, so I have learnt that I have to reach out and find solutions because, contrary to popular believe, “going it alone” doesn’t ever work very well, and “sucking it up” doesn’t resolve the issues nor does it provide any relief for the anxiety. I’ve tried both, even recently, and it only ends up manifesting in physical ailment. Hint: it’s not a good course of action.

So enter the “self-help queen” – I must have one of the most extensive motivational, inspirational and self-help libraries around, but there are always new books (i.e., tools) that come out that I am (until the moment when I’m having a quasi-meltdown) unaware of. So I purchase more, because over the long haul, even a handful of books costs less than sitting through weeks and months of therapy. I’m not saying that therapy isn’t helpful, with the right counsellor, but the costs are quite prohibitive and it would behoove me to become proactive in my own getting out of my mire process. If all else fails and I’m still not able to find some mending, I would of course get some external assistance.

At the moment I’ve begun reading a couple of books:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown; and
The Muse Is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity by Jill Badonsky

I was already reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; and
Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

So… I read slowly, bits of whichever of these happen to resonate at any given moment, over a period of time.

Well, that’s not quite true. I am reading Women Who Run With The Wolves with an online group and we are reading through a chapter every couple weeks, which, since the content is really dense and the exercises we are working through quite deep, it’s a bit of a crawling along (though rewarding) process.

The Gifts of Imperfection will be needed for an online workshop I signed up for with Brené, and similarly, I signed up for an online month-long teleconference/remote coaching group session with Jill Badonsky to help deal with some of my creativity issues, which essentially just boil down to the more basic issues that are the foundation of many of the other things that keep me from living as someone who is (as Brené calls it) Wholehearted.

I have moments of being in this state, so I know what I’m missing out on when I’m not. And I can tell you that it is wonderful. But like anything that’s worth working for, it takes some effort to maintain, and (clearly) I have many times that I downright fall right off the wagon.

So I’ve come to the meat of this post; the reason I wanted to write about this in the first place.

I know I am not alone.

YOU are not alone.

If there is ever a moment of inquiry that you pause in and wonder how you could be doing ‘this’ better, not because you are inadequate at doing whatever it is that you are doing, but because there is perhaps another way that might yield better results, you are drawing on your courage, and that is remarkable.

It is often said that happiness is a state of mind; I believe this to be true – it *is* a state of mind, and not dependent upon many of the things that we associate with happiness – money, success, love, sex, material acquisitions – because I have seen so many people with so much and yet they are not happy.

Truthfully, we all long for connection, and how we individually interpret that differs tremendously, but the more we can come to understand ourselves and what connection really means to us, the further along the path we can move to becoming a slightly less unfinished human.

first step to joy: (doing) nothing

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The title prompt is what Martha Beck suggests as the first of ten daily practices for a happier life (as outlined in The Joy Diet). I have been doing a whole lot of nothing for a while now, and feeling guilty about the lack of productivity. I do “guilt” well.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t drawn or pulled out my art supplies for quite some time. I think it has to do with the emotional/head space I must be in to create – I must be quiet and still to hear where the medium wishes to take me, or to write out what my internal dialog is saying, neither of which seems to be my natural (or indeed self-induced) state lately. Frenetic, maybe. Despondent, maybe. Hugely dissatisfied, maybe. Listless, maybe. But definitely not quiet nor still. Certainly not both at the same time.

Lately I have been embarrassed by my inner dialog, as it touches on things that I haven’t wanted to consciously address, contenting myself with acknowledging that things were not right and good yet not yet prepared to attend to righting them. Somehow those things have a way of catching up to you, and if you don’t make the choices that very obviously need to be made, the universe urges them along on your behalf. More than once in the recent months I have asked It to be gentle with me; to bring change but in a gentle and less painful manner than in the past.

Hence the unexpected (though perhaps largely overdue) boot out of our old place into a new one (which, though more costly, is also a much better space in more ways than I can enumerate – feeling extreme gratitude for this) and a small claims court notice that arrived this week from someone who I had buried deep within myself in an attempt to heal myself from the sharpness of what transpired between us, much like an oyster does with the grain of sand that eventually becomes a pearl.

Unfortunately his patience with my process was not as generous as my own need for it was, and so I am having to look at finding a resolution to something I had not yet been prepared to address.

Such is life, and here I am, examining the wound and finding a way to heal myself of its cause. While I understand that the wounding and how I chose to participate was of my own doing, I also feel that acknowledging that another person’s actions did not have my best interests at heart even while holding their own interest out for my consideration. While what occurred was done with my consent, it was still inconsistent with right and honourable action, even within his own paradigm. My lesson here is in my choosing and accepting terms which did not sit well with my deepest self, the resulting fallout being a feeling of self-betrayal – so not once but twice betrayed.

This is one story of many other stories which have collectively shaped who I am today, and many more will come before the last and final story comes. I know I am not alone in the making of poor choices, and while they are uncomfortable and make us squirm they also sharpen and hone who we become (for the better) once all is said and done. If nothing else, they certainly provide much in the way of creative fodder for my written endeavours.

All this also happens to coincide with my taking part in a group reading (rereading, in my case) of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves, which is facilitating this self-examination in what will hopefully be a gentle and supportive manner. After listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability this weekend, I realize that I am not alone in my struggles; that what I wish for most from those I reach out to during my most difficult moments is empathy vs. sympathy and that should the same be expected of me, that I am wise enough to extend the same in kind.

leaning in

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This evening I attended a Lean In get-together at work. They fed us delicious scoobie snacks, plied us with lovely wine and gifted us with swag (the book by Sheryl Sandberg and a tee shirt).

It was interesting. It made me realize all the more that while I immensely value the firm and all its fixings (kind of like a big Thanksgiving dinner), it is time for me to move on to something that will enable me to be that much closer to my own delight. To dream (and thus forcing me to also focus on clarifying what that is, exactly) a bigger dream.

I think with any kind of mentorship (from either perspective) there must be some sort of mutual sharing; we learn from our teachers who in turn learn from their teaching, from their pupils as much as of themselves by virtue of self-observation, in a sort of symbiotic exchange. At least that is what the highest striving would be, for me personally.

What struck me the most this evening was something one of our litigators said during a segment when people were sharing their own experiences on how they “leaned in” during their careers. She said that we (women, because we were largely a female gathering, but I think it applies universally) must learn to become our own advocates. That is something I’ve had many challenges with, partly out of not having enough confidence in my own sense of expertise and skill, or if I felt it was there, uncomfortable with (what essentially feels like) flaunting it to my advantage.

Another said that we must learn to be vocal about and point out our accomplishments, and not to expect others to notice them on their own.

That whole horn tooting thing is something that is difficult to embrace when we (read: I) have a natural tendency toward self deprecation. I’ve been taught to be humble and not to boast. That pride in one’s work is acceptable but not so that it is off-putting or belittles others in the process. And that, despite my accomplishments, there is always room for improvement, and that one ought not to sit on one’s laurels lest we become complacent and lazy.

I think many times I’ve stood down from exploring an opportunity simply based on the fact that I think the person hiring would look at me (and my resume) and question why I was applying for something that was clearly out of my league.

The truth of the matter is, though, as many men realized long before women ever did, that the thrill is had when one is on that fine edge between knowing and stretching, where finesse and expertise are just there, within view but only just out of reach, a prize to strive toward on the journey to the next one.