Back on the Wagon

Forgive me for I have sinned. It has been 13 days since my last morning pages. Instead of practicing what I know is good for me, I willfully refused to do my morning pages. When I had an emotional pain in the middle of my heart, I knew I had, once again, waited too long.

The happiest I have ever been has been this year. Why? Because I was writing every day. First, that every day occurrence took place here. Then, it moved into morning pages. The continuity stood for 10 weeks. 10 weeks! That’s a nice long time to have established a habit, wouldn’t you say? But I stopped for a day or two, and then I was lost.

Writing, communicating, getting what I am feeling down on paper, exploring thoughts and feelings, countering my negative beliefs about my self – all these things are crucial to my life. The thing is, they take time.

I am temporarily not working at a place of employment, so I have the time. The time to write morning pages. To blog. To explore. To write stories. To edit and polish them. To share what I have learned and am learning with you all here as I go along. That’s kind of neat.

This morning I learned, yet again, how an incident in kindergarten continues to haunt me and my ability to work. On a report card, Mrs. Lawson wrote: Wendy is very eager to please other people. On that fateful day, I did an assignment out of order: I worked on a painting I wanted to work on first, and then I worked on the assigned painting. The assigned painting had to have clouds, birds, and a sun on it.

I was so involved in painting what I wanted that I forgot the order. When I realized that I had made a mistake, I went up to my teacher to ask if it was OK. Instead of gently chastising me and telling me to listen more carefully, she told me to go sit on a stool in the corner.

I was mortified, publicly humiliated and terribly ashamed of myself. Everyone could see me! Only the “bad” kids got sent to the corner! I must be a bad kid! Now everyone knows, and they will never forget it. I did my best to hold back the tears that fell down my cheeks. When I got home, I told my mother another student got sent to the corner. I wanted to share it with her, but I couldn’t. I was afraid of what she might say.

And all my life, I have been chased by the fear that, if I don’t do things exactly as instructed, I am going to be punished, called out for it, and humiliated. When I was working on The Artist’s Way, I began to get down on myself for not “pushing my creativity limits” with my artist date each week as Julia Cameron urged the reader to do.

So first, I couldn’t get around to an artist date each week. Then I stopped doing the lessons. Then I stopped morning pages. You see? I wasn’t following things exactly, and I keep forgetting to give myself permission to do things the way I want to do them, that Mrs. Lawson is not going to come out of my past, my bosses aren’t going to make me an example of an errant employee, and that I, as a free adult in this world, can do whatever the fuck I want in whatever way I want.

If something doesn’t work for me or I feel intimidated, my answer has to been to give up instead of accepting what I want to do as being valid. Did it really matter that I did things out of order? I don’t think so. Five year olds are notorious for not listening or following directions exactly. Does that mean we punish them publicly for a mistake? That seems a bit harsh to me now.

Regardless of what I think, my amygdala has latched onto this idea that I will be safe from those terrible feelings if I avoid making mistakes. To avoid making mistakes, I have to avoid doing anything. Now that isn’t much of a life to live, is it?

Well, I took some time to try and dismantle this alarm system that I have been for almost the last forty years. If I can be released from its grasp, I will be truly free to be anything I want.

I’m Still Here

Hello, readers! I am back to assure you that I have not abandoned my blog. Yes, it’s been a week. A really really really really really rough week. I’m at an ebb in my journey through writing and creativity, and I have been at a peak of disorganization and illness.

I decided to halt my meanderings through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Frankly, I started falter after week 3. By week 8, I began to repeat weeks. When I “redid” week 10, I did not look at the book. I said I would read through the remaining chapters, but I haven’t.

Is that a failure? In some ways, yes. Part of the issue is that I find it time consuming and difficult to think of an artist date every week. Julia recommends that you push your creative boundaries, but I’m not sure I’m at that level. I’ve even lost the motivation to write morning pages.

On the plus side, I have an appointment with a social worker who uses EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) as part of her treatment work. I worked with a social worker for 2.5 years in the Boston area who used EMDR, and I found it effective. I only stopped after moving to the NYC area in September.

I am in the place where I have always gotten stuck, although I managed to stay motivated for an amazing three months. That may not sound like much. When you are the type of person who’s enthusiasm almost never lasts a week, this is amazing.

Either way, I want to dig in the earth of my primal system and memories and excavate all the terrors and monsters that continue to haunt my life.

I seek nothing less than to open my core up to the world. I seek fearlessness.

From May 31 to June 9, I am participating in the Hay House World Summit 2014 where I will have access to 100 audio lessons, worksheets, movies, and videos, as well as making a donation, all for $7.

As a huge fan of The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, I bought and downloaded two mp3s of the author’s insights on the book, approximately 2 hours in length altogether.

I seek radical, life-changing transformation in a positive direction where I am able to consistently work towards my goals.

Universe, gimme all ya got. I stand ready to receive your guidance.

Namaste.

Risks and Parachutes

This morning, I did one of the scariest (and dumbest) things that I have ever done: I walked over half a mile next to a road with no sidewalk and a tiny to non-existent shoulder alongside fast-moving traffic. I’m not sure whether having my mother and husband with me makes me feel better or worse. Instead of one idiot, there were three.

On our way back, I began to notice all the car crash debris on the side of the road. I thought of drunk drivers who careen off the road and kill people. While working as a NYS trooper in his 20’s, one of my elementary and high school classmates, Rob Ambrose, was killed when a drunk driver careened into the car he had pulled over and was ticketing. I feel beyond blessed to have escaped unharmed on my morning walk despite my own poor decision.

When I was growing up, my mother used to scare the shit out of me because all my plans were greeted with tales and questions about terrible things that were going to happen to me if I dared wanted to go anywhere outside the house except for my backyard. After we returned, I couldn’t believe that my mom didn’t think it was too risky to chance to go for a 2 mile walk yesterday along that same road.

It must be the purview of parents to terrify their children out of doing the things that they themselves wouldn’t think twice about doing. The more time I spend with my mother, the more I understand why she drives my sister M mildly crazy with her poor decisions. God watches over fools and babies (and other idiots).

Taking risks is an interesting subject. Today’s walk opened my eyes to the difficulties that parents must face in trying to teach their children what’s a “good” risk to take and what’s a “bad” risk. This kind of fear/excitement that I felt while walking on the road is like jumping out of an airplane in a parachute. Some might call the risk of dying unacceptable (like me) while others acknowledge it, take precautions (parachutes), and jump anyway (like friends of mine).

Now I have a new perspective on the title of the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. When we choose a path for ourselves, we are moving forward into the unknown, much like jumping out of an airplane. The parachute, aka our professional lives, might take the form of education, training, internships, volunteering, recommendations, and a clean background check. We dye the silk cloths with our interests, best skills, and preferences. With the job application, we leap out of our plane and pull the parachute strings hoping to land safely on a job.

Taking the “bad” risk, making it through, and sitting down to write about it illustrated the book’s meaning in a major way. The mental experience of my breakthrough felt like the pieces of a magnetic puzzle pulling together in perfect form. Afterwards, I have the feeling of having been pulled into a new dimension of understanding. There was the Before, and Now is the After.

In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she recommends twice weekly brisk walks for 20 minutes. I am wondering if a pre-breakfast walk each day might make my morning pages a more interesting place to explore things after I explore the outside. I might consider giving this an experiment next week. That might mean I get up earlier (heaven forbid) or end up writing my morning pages. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I guess I will have to experiment.

But I’m pretty sure that this idea is one of those good risks to take.

Creativity Conference Recap

On Friday night and all day Saturday, I attended the first New York City Publishing & Creativity Conference for Writers hosted by Tarcher LIVE, Tarcher Penguin, and True Directions.

Scheduled events included:

  • Panel: An Inside Look at Publishing, which included an agent, editor, publisher, publicity/marketing director, and author;
  • Talk by Tama Kieves on being and staying inspired;
  • Talk by Laurie Lamson. Top Tips from the Now Write! Experts;
  • Talk by Keith Ogorek: Four Words to Put Your Creativity to Work;
  • Panel: Building Your Platform/The Path to Publishing
  • Talk by Barbara Diane Barry: Painting Your Way Out of a Corner; and
  • Talk by Julia Cameron: Cultivating Your Creativity the Artist’s Way.

Both panels also included Mari Manusi, author of The Blood Coven series. She talked so fast, trying to give us as much information as possible. I appreciated her input on the panels. Not only did she give a lot of vital information, but she did it with enthusiasm.

We got plenty of breaks so we could buy books and get them signed. The swag bag included three books. I bought two books by Tama Kieves, The Artist’s Way Creativity Cards, and the Painting book by Barry.

During lunch break, I invited a fellow participant to lunch. She was meeting a friend but invited me along anyway. On our way outside, another participant met us on the way so we became a lunchtime foursome, which was great.

Interesting side note: One of the speakers said to me at my book signing: “I love your energy. I saw you sitting there at the back of the room.” This is not the first time strangers have said that to me when they meet me. I think part of it is that I smile and make eye contact. My unusual eyeglasses and jewelry, as well as my style, tend to set me apart and/or catch other people’s eye in a good way. I was thrilled to have my energy level validated like that.

By the time I took the subway to Penn Station, I was exhausted. I am not used to going all day, going through a lot of ups and downs, meeting new people, and putting myself out there in a professional way. Allergies were also a killer.

Today will be a take it easier day, although the beautiful, sunny, warm spring weather is calling me to get out of the house.

Wendyyyyyyyyy….. go to the beeeeeeeeach……

 

Week 6 Artist Date: Lido Beach

My favorite place is to go is the beach. I have not been to a beach on the south shore of Long Island, NY since some time in high school in the late 1980’s. I regularly went to any Jones Beach or, when I went on vacation with my family, nearby beaches in the Hamptons.

One of my cousins regularly goes to Long Beach, so I thought I would drive to Long Beach and see what it was like. I printed travel directions to and from Long Beach on different routes using Google Maps, which point me into the middle of Long Beach instead of the beach area itself.

I saw signs for Point Lookout at Lido Beach so I changed my plans and decided to go there instead. I wondered what I would see and how far I would be able to see the ocean from there.

I passed the Malibu, an oceanside nightclub. I used to listen to a local alternative New Wave station in the 80’s called WLIR (later WDRE) that used to frequently air commercials for the Malibu.

I was so excited! I actually go to see the ‘Malibu at Lido Beach’! I was there! I thought about stopping to take a photo, but was feeling uncertain. I did not know how long I was going to be driving on East Park Avenue, and I decided to keep driving.  When I came to a light, I realized I saw a sign for Point Lookout on the right.

I turned into the parking lot, and drove as close as I could to the beach. I parked next to a truck. Construction vehicles were moving large mounds of sand in the distance to my right.

I walked past the closed bathrooms and turned left to walk onto the beach. Mounds of sand collected against the building in drifts. I walked on the fine sand and, after a crest, walked near the water. I saw two piping plovers walking along the water’s edge, pecking the sand just after the water would go out. Their little legs flickered as they scattered around looking for food. They were also trying to avoid me, and I kept my distance.

Point lookout Views

I saw a promontory of rock, which I assumed was Point Lookout. No signs were around. Because I was by myself and I have poor balance, I only went as far as I felt comfortable, which was only 1/3 of the way from the beginning of the stones.

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Point Lookout Ocean View

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Point Lookout Shore View

I turned around and took pictures so I could get a 360 degree panorama.

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Point Lookout Right View

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More Shore on the Right

This next shot is a larger shot of the shore. Interestingly, the clouds that darken the ocean do not reach the shore. This gives the effect I went on two different days, but all these photos were taken at the same time of day from the same spot.

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Point Lookout Larger Shore View

To the left, a large stretch of land arcs around and farther out into the ocean.

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Point Lookout Left View

A little ways off to the left from the Point Lookup was some wood debris. The foot tracks leading away to the lookout looked cool, so I took a shot.

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Wood Debris

I took a closeup of the branch of wood because it looked creepy and cool with its twisting and turning branches.

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Debris Closeup

As I kept walking, I saw two additional lookouts that I explored. On my way back to my car an hour later, I came across a mess of piping plover tracks. In addition to the first pair I saw, I saw a family of five hovering close to one of the other lookouts.

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Piping Plover Sand Tracks

I decided to start picking up shells as you can see from the featured image. The interesting difference between the north shores of Massachusetts and southern Long Island beaches: Massachusetts has a lot of rocks on their shores, whereas Long Island has finer sand, black oyster shells, and almost no rocks.

I looked for rocks everywhere because one of the exercises in The Artist’s Way this week says to collect five small rocks. I could only find one. I will have to keep searching.

All in all, I experienced an amazing artist date. I see more trips to beaches as artist dates in my future.

The Artist’s Way: Week 5 Retrospective

Today marks the beginning of Week 6 in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which I am following in order to encourage creativity in my life. Denial of my feelings and desires has been a way of life for me. I am using this book as a way to help me open up to creativity in a way that I have always desired.

For the first three weeks, I was excited, I had ideas, and I found it relatively easy to implement them. Starting in week 4 and through last week, I felt as if my mind were returning to the same dull state I experienced before I embarked on my writing journey through The Artist’s Way. 

This is always the spot where I seem to crash and burn in my dreams. Past the initial honeymoon period, I return to feeling less pumped and less inspired. Creating ideas becomes more difficult. I start to feel sad and then become depressed. I stop doing the things I enjoyed. I become bored and claim that I don’t know what to do.

This is the cycle I have struggled with my whole life and the one that I am trying to break. I think there is a natural settling down after initial enthusiasm, the low that results because of the high. My issue is that I let myself stay there in the lows.

In my morning writing, I realized that I need to raise my awareness when I am in a low period. The solution is to take steps to bring myself back to center like jumping jacks, dancing, a brisk walk – anything! I can read inspirational quotes, call a creative and supportive friend, or play with my cats. That way, I lift myself out of the seriousness of depression and back towards the lighthearted play of creativity and growth.

A sign that should have signaled to me that I need to shake things up was that I did not add anything new to my Pinspiration Board last week. I was so excited in week 4 to think of the board, put it up, add a couple of inspirational quotes to it and around the house, and then have a clear desk in front of me.

So what happened? It became the thing that you sit right in front of every day but yet fail to see. On my Pin Board, I copied two sets of reminders from The Artist’s Way – The Basic Principles and the Rules of the Road. As of week 3, I should be reading them twice a day. I decided to read only once a day, and then I forgot to read them at all this past week.

Raising awareness of things that have moved out of your conscious eye and back into your consciousness is one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans. Often, it is not until much too late that we look back and see that we stopped doing something meaningful, which lead us to stop doing other meaningful activities, until we are in a place of doing nothing.

My parents were born and raised in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They worked hard on farms, at their jobs or in their home, and in the vegetable garden. The greatest thing that my parents ever aspired for me to do was the freedom to do nothing.

Until recently, I did not understand how their lifestyle has made it difficult for them to understand the physically easier, knowledge- and creativity-oriented lifestyles that they made possible for their own children.

Yesterday I signed up for a Publishing and Creativity Conference to be held in the Lower West Side of NYC on April 11-12. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is going to be there. When I told my mom about it, she said, “Well, it’s good to have something to keep you occupied.”

With this comment, I started to understand that what I see as an essential life activity, she sees as a hobby. The need for creativity or writing to be fluff to her. Her accomplishments were so much more concrete – raising family, growing vegetable, or cleaning.

But ideas and creativity could not be fluff to me anymore than being able to raise her family was to her. I guess that shows me I will have to be patient and continue to explain to her, as I have been doing lately, what I want to do with my life and why it is important. I am OK with that.

Writing about it in my morning pages and here on my blog seem to help me continue forward in personal growth. Please share how you get yourself back on track when you find yourself derailed.

Morning Pages as Therapy

As I enter my fourth week in following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, writing for 30 minutes every day (morning pages) has helped me grow tremendously. I have been inspired to try new things, revived dormant interests, and explored what I am thinking, doing, feeling, and why. The wonderful thing about morning pages is that lessons you learn elsewhere get further explored and/or stimulated in the morning pages.

Recently, I borrowed Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, PhD., from my local library. I read the first chapter, and wanted to immediately reread it again. Last night, I put the book by my bedside and reread chapter 1. Its essential message is that all our fears boil down to the fear that we can’t handle it. The solution is to use the tools in the book to help us retrain our thoughts into realizing that, yes, we can handle it, whatever it may be.

I noted several times yesterday that I seemed to be having a concentrated feeling of anxiety in my chest. The feelings were not as strong as a panic attack, but there they were. Whereas I used to have chronic anxiety, I have been feeling relatively confident and peaceful since I began following the The Artist’s Way and building a new routine around building my writing career.

During my morning meditation, my thoughts kept going towards thoughts and movie scenes that produced anxiety and anger in me. In the movie The Blindside, the adoptive mother goes to look for Michael in his old, gang-ridden neighborhood. In a confrontation with gang members, she tells the gang that she carries a Saturday Night Special and that it works every other day of the week, too.

That scene evokes an I’m-ready-to-fight and Go get ’em! feelings in my chest and stomach. I kept releasing the thoughts, but realized that the thoughts invading my meditation needed to be explored. Since Susan Jeffers book was on my mind, I decided to explore how the basis of my fears might be related to the I can’t handle it lesson that Jeffers says we all learned.

By asking Where have I felt this anxiety before?, I realized that the anxiety is one I have had all my life: that I won’t be good enough (at something) fast enough. Even when I worked harder, the anxiety kept me pushing me forward saying, That’s still not good enough. I remembered how the child Me used to look up to adults, especially my mother and father, to handle things. When they couldn’t or didn’t, I felt helpless. When I faced my own challenges, I was terrified and felt like I couldn’t handle it. Subconsciously, I think that I kept expecting adults to show me how. This is just the nature of being a child who is dependent upon others.

I woke up to the fact that I have been keeping to this pattern ever since. Whatever I observed that my family didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t do, I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t do, either. I asked myself, “What other areas in my life have I modeled on my family instead of doing what I honestly should have been doing all along?” Relationships? Sex? Money? I will have to examine each area of my life to recover my own sense of what it is that I want and need to get done.

Every time I ask myself what I should be doing, I get the same answer: Look and listen for the answers inside myself. As Jeffers points out, the truth is that I can handle it. I can only accept what happens to me and what I choose to do because it is the way I want to live. Life is lovely because it is all I will ever really have as I experience my life in this body until my end. So many wonderful things are here, and I am ready to experience them all.