You’ve landed on the current home of http://www.lilykmorris.com. This is a blog that I started about 10 years ago, and I haven’t posted much recently, but the content here is relevant to the work that I am doing now. As a wellbeing artist, I offer facilitation for those on a healing journey.
If you are interested in knowing more about what it would look like to work together, please feel free to send me an email to lilykmorris @ gmail.com.
When I was younger, I wanted to be shorter, thinner, cuter and smaller. Secretly I thought I was fat. Inside, I felt like a whale. I thought if I looked differently, I would feel differently, and then I would be happier. This feels like the same old story… but the thing is, it’s still where the juice is. Twenty years later, the old, “if only”, refrain, as Geneen Roth puts it, is still rearing its deceitful head. Thankfully, though, some other stories are taking hold.
Today my chiropractor took the shoe off my left foot while I was lying face down on her table. She said, “Oh, are these the expensive clogs everyone says are so comfortable?” “I don’t know”, I mumbled into the cushions squeezing my face, “I got them at Martha’s Closet (our local consignment shop) and I liked the color. I guess they’re pretty comfortable.” I heard her walk across the room holding my red shoe.
My chiropractor wears $3,000 sweaters, and she noticed my shoes. I mentally scanned the rest of my outfit and realized that every other item of clothing I was wearing I had gotten for free, either from a friend or the “dumptique”, or from the black trash bags full of clothes left in front of the Red Cross bins.
Later in the day at the YMCA, wearing my same “free” attire and carrying a big old stained canvas bag full of my gym clothes, I pause to scan my membership card. As I walk past the beautiful, confident women at the front desk, I drop my keys on the floor. I have a tendency to drop things when I think unkind thoughts towards myself—in this case the offensive thought is something like, “wow, those women are so (much) cool(er than me).”
As I stand up, shaken out of the trance of unworthiness, I remember that today I get to be whoever I want. These women don’t know by looking at me that I don’t have enough money in my checking account to pay for next month’s gym membership. They don’t know that the $250 dollars I’ll deposit on Thursday when I get paid, is already committed to last month’s electric and cable bills. And they don’t know that my clothes and my expensive red shoes were all second hand.
I smile as I stand up a little straighter, and I hold my head higher as I walk towards the women’s locker room. If I could talk to little Lily now, my younger self, I’d share with her that happiness comes from being at peace and at ease in our bodies, just the way they are. It comes from the ability to tell a story that feels good, instead of one that makes us feel like crap. I have never in my life had less money and more debt than I do now, I’m the same size I was twenty years ago, and I have never been more often at peace, more often satisfied or content.
In the midst of overhauling the studio, a whole bunch of my favorite things have gathered in one corner of the room. These things seem to tell a story about who I have been, and I find myself wondering, which ones will continue on to tell the story of who I’m yet to be?
This has been a challenging autumn (or year, or life…in fact; I don’t know if there’s a life that exists without a whole lotta challenge, now that I think of it) and I’ve been doing a bunch of healing and growing and wondering what is coming around the bend. Every day is a new adventure, though I am often convinced that it’s definitely going to be the same as yesterday, or last week. As if it could ever be. This has been a time of shedding skins and trying on new clothes.
Today I got the message from my essential, inner dancing girl self that she needed a play day. No fighting inner demons today…just a day to play. So I danced around the studio; I smashed some stuff in my yard with a sledgehammer (that was on my bucket list; totally awesome), and I am now playing with rubber stamps. Not sure what’s next.
I’ve been playing around with the idea that, for me, a treat can often just be the next best-feeling thing. And sometimes the treat is in the looking forward to and the doing (as with watching a favorite show, eating a divine cookie, watching the sunset, or having tea with a friend) and sometimes the treat is maybe in the doing and mostly in the result (cleaning the bathroom, doing my bookkeeping, washing the dishes for what feels like the gazillionth time in a day, or taking out the trash).
Today a treat for me is looking forward to and getting to take photos of a beautiful, dear friend. Another treat is looking forward to watching a new silly TV show I like called “No Tomorrow”. Another treat is making a card for a friend and popping it in the mailbox. And another treat might be getting out on my bicycle…if it feels good.
I like the idea that anything can be a treat on one day, and that it may not feel so treat-like on the next. I do my best work and have my best feeling life when I trust the treats of today and move towards whichever one tastes the sweetest in this moment. And in the moments when the world seems devoid of treats, when everything seems like a chore or drudge work, then it’s probably time for me to pause and reconnect with my essential self.
I have a few tricks I use to link back up with my inner dancing girl. It might be time to ask myself, “what would feel downright naughty right now?” or maybe,”what is the thing that has been on my to-do list the longest that would make the most difference to complete or let go?” Or it might be time to take a look and see: “is there anything in my schedule coming up, today or any day in the future, that I really and truly do not want to do even though I said I would, or thought I could, or think I should?”
Sometimes when there is stuck energy about something in my life, even the treaty-est sweet treats don’t hold the juice and the joy that I am looking for, and ordinary non-treaty things just seem like the absolute pits. In those times, we can check out and eat or drink or smoke or shop or whatever we do to keep our tough feelings away for awhile, or we can extend the utmost kindness to our wretched-feeling selves and get curious (and honestly, I usually end up doing a bit of both).
“What’s up, honey?”, we can ask ourselves, “I hear you that it seems like nothing would feel good and there’s no way to make it better. Can you say anything else about what you’re feeling right now?”. And often this is the perfect time to call a friend, real (or imaginary if that’s what you’ve got), and find someone to hold our hand, to ask us loving questions and to listen while we unfurl whatever tornado is twisting up our insides. And then go find ourselves a dang good treat.
For my birthday at least 10 years ago, my parents gave me a book for my birthday called “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World”, written by Rita Golden Gelman. I had already done quite a bit of traveling on my own, and I was inspired by Rita’s stories of her adventures in other lands, connecting with people around the world. A few years later she put together a book called “Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World” and I was honored to have a story of mine with an accompanying recipe included in the book. Just a few days ago, I received an email from a woman who had read my story was reaching out to see if I had any advice to give on traveling alone, and life and love in general. When I sat down to write, the following is what came out:
Learn how to trust your instincts. Notice what you’re drawn to, moved to do, interested in. Give up the notion that there’s anything you “should” see or do, and notice what feels good to your body, your heart, and spirit. The universe will always be able to create an adventure or experience for you that will be more fabulous and perfectly designed for you—one that is even better that anything you can dream up yourself. The way to get on the “train” bound towards this delicious, satisfying experience of life is by listening for and noticing what you feel excited about, drawn to, moved to do, see, explore…and also what you aren’t. If you hear yourself using the word, “should” about any of your plans, it might be a good idea to check in with your body and your heart and see whether you’re pushing towards something that just isn’t right for you.
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell
Do your best to give up all expectation of what your adventure should look like. Spend a little time each morning connecting with your inner wisdom, your sacred heart, and then imagine the kind of day you’d like to have. Imagine how you’d like to feel, what kind of interactions you’d like to have, and then give thanks for the day, this life, and anything else that you are grateful for. This will help your energy to start flowing in a positive way, and get you on a good-feeling high vibration where you will be able to receive more of what you are asking for.
If at any point in your day you find yourself feeling unhappy or frustrated, or you find that you are drawing unwanted experiences to you, take a moment to pause and become still–you can do this in your mind if you aren’t able to stop moving your body (for instance if you’re on a bicycle tour, or swimming the English Channel). Begin to listen to your thoughts and see what their “flavor” is. Are they coming from a place of fear? (what if I miss my train? What if my stuff gets stolen? What if I run out of money or I can’t find a place to stay?) And also check in with your body. Are you tired? Are you hungry or thirsty? Are you feeling alone or lonely? Is there some other need you have been ignoring because there is so much to see and do?
Acknowledge that things aren’t alway going to to look the way you think they should, remember back to the way you imagined feeling for the day, and ask the universe for another way to see or look at whatever situation you are in. For example, if you don’t know where you are and you’re feeling upset about being lost, could this be an opportunity to ask for help, and get to speak or connect with a local? If the museum the you had hoped to visit is already closed, maybe there’s a different adventure nearby that is waiting for you that afternoon.
Be open to surprises! Take off your blinders and let your sight and awareness expand and notice what catches your attention. Slow down. If you ever find yourself feeling scared or unsure, and you aren’t in immediate danger from which you need to remove yourself, bring your attention to the present moment. Notice what sensations you are feeling in your body. Notice what is in your surroundings that you can be grateful for. Ask for support and guidance from the universe and then take a little time, and make a little space for an answer to come. Feel the sun or the wind (or the rain) on your face, wiggle your toes, and notice that in this moment, “I am ok”. If you are in a physically uncomfortable situation (as opposed to just having fearful or uncomfortable thoughts), then of course take whatever action is available to change that. Keep asking for support and trusting that you will get it.
We are part of a benevolent universe and I believe that everything that happens in our lives is happening FOR us; we are not victims of our circumstances, we are co-creators with the universe. Whatever we are thinking about and putting our attention on, whether consciously or unconsciously, is affecting our vibration and therefor contributing to the creation of our experience.
If you ever have trouble releasing fear thoughts or other painful patterns or experiences, here are some of my favorite tools that I use to find freedom from fear or other kinds of pain. These are techniques that I use for myself and with clients in my health and life coaching practice. They are simple and straightforward, yet extremely effective and versatile. I find them to be invaluable. I would recommend having at least one of these practices in your traveler’s “toolbox” to use to help with any negative feelings, fears or pain that might come up while traveling alone. [Note: if you have experienced or are experiencing trauma or anxiety, please consider finding a practitioner to support you in doing this work especially in the beginning as it can bring up intense emotions]:
Now that we’ve covered what to do when you’re not having fun, here’s a reminder to enjoy yourself! Let yourself live the good life. Discover “il bel far niente”–the beauty of doing nothing. Step outside your comfort zone when it feels good, and at the same time, respect your boundaries. Don’t push yourself to do things that don’t feel right for you. Make your adventure your own and try new things, but only the ones that draw you in. Give yourself permission to go at whatever speed feels right to you. And don’t be surprised if you don’t end up where you expected… I dare to say you may end up some place even more magnificent.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s mother, from his book, “P.S. I Love You”
(this quote has also been attributed to Mark Twain but it doesn’t appear anywhere in his writings, or anywhere else before 1990)
What does this image bring up for you? Does it resonate? Do you believe this is true? What kind of magic and miracles are happening in your life as a result of stepping out of your comfort zone?
For me, lately stepping out of my comfort zone has been all about acknowledging that I need help, and that it often feels challenging for me to ask for it. So it has been about asking for help, whether from the universe or from someone specific, and then letting go of the outcome and truly trusting that I will be taken care of.
Just this morning I realized that there is an area of my life, having to do with my home and income, where I’m feeling stuck and a loss of power, and it’s because I’m scared, so I’m trying to control and manipulate and manage the situation. And instead of being transparent, authentic and open (TAO, from Martha Beck‘s tools) about it, I am being sneaky and avoiding and ignoring it. Because I’m SCARED. Not because there’s something wrong with me.
Sneakiness and avoidance are two fabulous tools I developed as a child when I was doing the best I could. Now that I have the more powerful tools of communication and curiosity and compassion and investigation and self-love, I probably don’t need those old buggers anymore. But they’re still around, and it’s a habit of mine to use them, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m using them because sneaking and avoiding is like creeping around in the dark with a blanket over my head. No light, and not a lot of insight.
This morning I sat on the hillside in the sunshine overlooking cape pogue and I asked myself, what are the (stressful) thoughts I’m having about this situation? It’s amazing to watch the way my mind now begins to do The Work of Byron Katie even before I finish writing a thought down…already I can see that the thoughts isn’t necessarily true (even though I’ve been relating to it like it is), and I can feel the way I get lighter when I see the possibility of letting it go. I realize I can absolutely see how the opposite of the thought is just as true. There is so much freedom in this. I’m instantly released from some of the fear, and I can see that what is happening is exactly what is supposed to be happening. How do I know? Because that’s what’s happening. What a relief.
This blog post was inspired by the image at the tope (from Lisa Natoli’s 40 day A Course in Miracles program), illustrating that the magic happens outside of our comfort zone. The key, for me, about this idea is that it doesn’t mean I should go around doing everything that scares me or makes me uncomfortable. It’s about identifying the things that, once faced, will give me access to more freedom, power, joy, connection, full self-expression, etc. There are some things that feel scary because that is my body or spirit’s way of letting me know that they aren’t right for me, or it isn’t the right time. So I go slowly, with awareness, and I ask myself, “of these things that feel scary or uncomfortable to do, which would feel worse to do the opposite or to take no action?” Or, “what is my body drawn to do, even though my mind is resistant?”
I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “do one thing every day that scares you”, and I would like to add, “…the result of which will allow more freedom, power, joy and self-expression in your life.” If you’re not sure whether it will or not, ask your body. Imagine the result of taking the action and see if it feels light and delicious, or heavy and yucky. The path towards the experience of more freedom, power, joy and self-expression includes doing things that help to cultivate feeling that way; things that feel good to our bodies, even if they terrify our mind. Before you leap into the terrifying unknown next time, take a look below you; do you see a pool of cool, clear deliciousness (or something else that feels inviting) or do you see a yucky swamp full of muck? And if you can’t quite tell which is down there…would it feel good to take a bit more time to investigate?
Ha. Well, if you visited my blog before I posted this, you would have found that, according to this blog, exactly nothing “went on in 2015”. I haven’t been posting my writing here and I’m not really sure why. Anyway, here are some highlights from 2015.
January: freezing air, fabulous fireworks! Brunch at the farm – medjool date muffins and good cheer. A walk down to the bay and hanging out on the top of a roof that no longer exists, except in photographs and our memories. A photo shoot of my beloved Frye boots, which my neighbor found at the dumptique. Chillin’ with my kitty friend, Jumper, who stayed with me and my roommate Kendyll for a time. Pond skating and kraut making. Daily dog walks with Darla the dog, who I dog-sat for January and February down a long dirt road. Every day was an adventure. Daily posting of “catch of the day” photos, a practice in persistence and patience. Hauling Mabel out of the water on a mild day in January with a good-natured gang of new friends. Snow, snow, and more snow. Great cross-country skiing. The start of a wonderful class on Arts and Education with a focus on Social Justice with dear friend Lynn Ditchfield (I went to school in her backyard as a kid). Celebrating a year of working as the personal assistant for my dear friend, mentor, acupuncturist and art teacher, Fae Kontje-Gibbs–each day we worked together there was something new to learn or discover.
February:An adventure to Providence to visit Lily Walter (my neighbor, farmer and dear friend) and her pup, Baxley. More dog walks with Darla. Ice, ice and more ice. Studying and reading and writing and learning. Watching endless episodes of One Tree Hill on Netflix and mourning the loss of my dear friend and dancing partner, Ladislav Navratil, who passed away mid-month. Celebrating mom’s 65th birthday with an intimate dance party at the Chappy Community Center. Dancing. Visiting new piggie neighbors at Slip Away Farm. Hanging with my roommate Kendyll, who was holding down the fort at Blueberry Cottage, keeping the home fires burning. Flowers in winter. My brother’s little house continues to take shape in the back yard on my parents’ property. My dear friend Scarlet gives birth to a beautiful baby girl! More snow at Blueberry Cottage. And Ice in the harbor. A weekend visit from dear friend Gaby, with lots of talking and walking and eating.
March: A week spent dog-sitting dear Ms. Belle in a sweet little house in Edgartown. And…they moved the house next to the Edgartown library–quite a sight! My weekly paleo cooking class was a great success, with eight students and lots of yummy food cooked and eaten. My dad was a great assistant and I had so much fun watching our friend Martha and him giggle like school mates, reminiscing of working together forty years earlier in the kitchen of an island non-profit.
April: Spring. A sweet gathering to celebrate the life of my friend Ladi, with dancing and eating and stories to share. Brunch at the farm (again) with good friends, and trip to the greenhouse to water the seedling babies. Daffodils! Simple, delicious food. Kendyll and I cooked our first whole fish! Mom and I prepared the soil at our garden in the pasture by the Knight family horse barn. Chicken pot pie–the best ever. Baby Georgette is a couple months old, and such a blessing.
May: A trip to the west coast! Finally. First to Seattle to see my cousin Gabrielle, with a stunning adventure on the Olympic Peninsula, and then down to Cali–the Bay area to see cousin Miranda and her kiddos and the Rogers-Patterson gang of cousins. Then L.A. with Aunt Ginio, cousin Josh and Uncle Tony. Such a joy to be with these dear ones, and fun to travel with my Pops. It has been so long since I’ve gotten to spend time with my dad and his brother and sister all together and it was priceless. Dorothy, my goat, grows up, gets a beard, and I give her to my parents, realizing I am not quite ready for kids (of any species). Elliot’s house project continues along. Slip Away Farm has their annual pig roast next door, only this year they are in charge of cooking the pig. My friend Gaby and I whip up a whole slew of frittatas, and other event preparations include a midnight “pig pulling” session by the light of headlamps. The event is a success with at least 300 friends and neighbors coming to partake in the festivities. I take some photos to accompany an article written by my mom about our local “conch trees”. Dear sailing friend Krista comes for a visit and we hike out to the newly formed beach at Wasque, connecting Chappy to the big island again, and requiring the use of tickets in both directions on the ferry again–for the first time since the patriot’s day storm in 2006 when the breach broke through our barrier beach “bridge”.
June: Dad’s birthday celebration with family and farmer friends at the new bowling alley in Oak Bluffs (the food is mediocre and the bowling is awesome). Mom gets really friendly with one of her chickens after an attack on the flock and the chicken insists on living inside under the telephone table for a few days. L-wa (neighbor Lily) and L-mo (me) and Baxley have an exquisite evening beach picnic at Lambert’s Cove. It usually doesn’t occur to us to drive all the way to the other side of the island to go to the beach, when we have plenty of our own sand, but all the beaches on MV have their own particular flavor, and Lamberts Cove is one of our favorites. Hanging with the girls at Menemsha–Kyla and Ava are the youngest of the current gang. Taking photos for an article my mom wrote about the new sailing camp park trails, and the work that is being done to keep the sandy cliffs from continuing to erode. Oh, and I turn 33 and L-wa and Kendyll make for me the most beautiful set of floral adornments. Yippeee!
July: Prize-winning garlic. Self portraits. Mom loves her kayak. Photo shoot with Kendyll featuring her beautiful hand-made clothing (KendyllGage-Ripa.com). Slip Away Farm mama, Jan Pogue, retires and I have fun taking photos at the celebration of her birthday and all the books she’s published. A lot of books and a lot of island authors she worked with through her publishing company, Vineyard Stories. A mid-summer adventure to New Hampshire and Maine. CHICKENS! I finally have the opportunity to try out having chickens of my own when my friend Scarlet is looking for a home for a mama and seven bantam chicks. Such an amazing experience to care for this flock of tiny fragile beings. Baby Georgette and her beautiful mama come for a visit to Blueberry Cottage.
August: According to my bank account, I did not do what most Vineyard residents do during this summer month. Instead of working like a crazy person, squirreling away cash for the skinny winter months, I played. Such a wonderful month spent with friends and family. A little bit of work here and there, but also lots of time at the beach. And a sweet trip with the family up to Vermont to see our gang of cousins in Barnard, and stay at Uncle Dick’s cabin in South Woodstock. So peaceful and quiet up there on the mountainside. Beach time with mom and her friend Judy. Blueberry Cottage full of vibrant flowers and veggies. Wednesday afternoons spent on the porch at the Chappaquiddick Community Center with mom and Kendyll, them selling veggies and herbs, and me with my photo cards (I recently found one of the first photo cards I made…when I was fourteen, which means I’ve had my photo card business for almost twenty years! Slowest growing business EVER.) A second batch of little bantam chicks joins the flock at Blueberry Cottage and I learn the joys and sorrows of chicken ownership. Built on Stilts dance festival brings friends to the island. and…I play with self-portraits.
September: cooking. catering. beach. Mom and I made it a mission to get to the beach as often as possible and it was totally divine and worth it. Kendyll’s last month at Blueberry Cottage–bittersweet. Harvesting the bounty of the fruit. Taking pictures of finely crafted wood furniture by Collins from the farm next door. A special visit from friends Noli, Emmett and Tillie Taylor…all the way from Aquinnah. Dancing in an african dance piece at The Yard with traditional Ugandan costume. And walks with friends.
October: more swimming. a totally delicious autumn. My first month of living alone at Blueberry Cottage in a year and a half and it feels good to be able to stretch out a little bit more. A super special day spend with my goddaughter Stella–painting, playing soccer, skipping rocks, renovating fairy houses and adventuring in the woods.
November: Last view of the old Self house at Cove Meadow before it is burned down. Wonderful beach walks with Scarlet and Georgette, and beautiful leaves in the woods. Calendula blossoms! Blueberry Cottage gets a new coat of paint. Annual Thanksgiving craft fair at the Chappy Community Center. Swimming and fall foliage. Oh, and my brother turned 29. HOLY COW!
December: New photo card sets and calendars. Made a new doggie friend called Minnie. Took photos at Roberta’s annual concert, songs of peace, hope and light. Paid a visit to dad and El roofing Elliot’s porch. Pop-up shop as part of Fae’s show at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Card-making. Cake-baking. Gift-giving. Christmas adventures with my family on such a gorgeous day. Goat walk with the girls. Blossoms in December. Wintertime fields at Slip Away Farm. Mom’s chickens and my chickens. More walks with my girls. Stamp carving. New years eve…dancing to Johnny Hoy and then toasting the new year with sparkling cider in my sweet little home.
And I did some more swimming. I think maybe 2015 was the year of swimming.
tough morning at BC
beauty in the winter fields
My apologies for forgetting to mention any really important adventures that we had together this year. It probably just means we were having so much fun, being in the moment, that we forgot to take a picture of it. Trust that it was just as important, I simply have a hilariously selective memory, and the reason I knew to write about any of this stuff was that I had visual cues. Here’s to another great year! xo
You are only responsible for
the placement of the heel
that is part of the foot that is
on the end of your leg.
You are not responsible for
knowing that this seat is
You are only responsible for
moving your coat to the back
of a different chair or possibly even
waiting, with your coat over your
arm until it is your turn to sit.
You are not responsible for
knowing that I am next
in line when you have
just walked in the door.
You are only responsible for
stopping, mid-sentence, when you
realize, because I told you,
that you have jumped the queue.
originally posted on April 1, 2014
Note: I wrote this poem during I time when I was working on figuring out what it meant to stick up for myself. Not to make someone else wrong for their impact on me, but simply to acknowledge that there was an impact, and without acknowledgement, there was a shutting down of my own voice.
I just realized, for the millionth time, that I have been waiting until I feel like I have it all together, like I really get “what’s going on”, like I have a solid, poured-concrete foundation, before I will feel like it’s time to share my story.
My ego really does not like the idea that I might share something that feels true now, only to find out later that something different is “true”. I see, though, that I will be waiting for the rest of my life if surety is a pre-requisite for feeling comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas about life. I am constantly changing, as I guess all human beings are, and it is not something to feel ashamed of. To the contrary–it seems instead something that I could celebrate wildly. The opposite–no change at all–would make life very, very boring.
I have been waiting to share my ideas because I am scared of being judged when you or I find out, down the road, that the things I thought were true or valuable are no longer relevant. This is sort of hilarious because both of those things are almost certain to occur.
I am scared of finding out a year from now that I was wrong about myself or the world…which is also pretty frickin’ likely.
I am scared of realizing a month from now that my old perspective was narrow(er) than my current one, and then “Oh God”, what will people think of me? What if they judge me based on who I have been?
What if people think, “oh, wow, she still has a lot to learn”, when they read what I wrote. What if they notice that I used the wrong word or incorrectly stated a fact.
What if I only proof-read my piece ninety-nine times instead of one hundred, and I dont notice that I forgot an apostrophe, or added an extra, comma?
What if they think that I think I am presenting a work of perfection…and then it turns out that it isn’t perfect after all? And then, what if I make that mean that I am not perfect either…all the while still believing that I am supposed to be.
Or what if, to the contrary, I share something that I know isn’t perfect, and people judge me. What if they think I am stupid. “Oh wow, if she thinks this is presentable, she must really be blind.” It’s like I need to clarify either that I am a work in progress, or that it’s a work in progress. Is it a given that my focus is on getting my words out into the world where they might make a difference, expressing myself as opposed to focusing on my editorial skills? Do I need to wait to share until I am sure that it is perfect, therefor avoiding the possibility of attack?
It seems I have been waiting to share my words until I can be sure to avoid criticism or judgement. I have been waiting to share myself until I can be sure that I will not experience pain. I have been waiting until my fortress of perfection is unshakable, and therefore I will be safe. The only problem with this plan is that the kind of perfection I am attempting doesn’t actually exist, neither is it the vaccination against criticism, judgement or pain.
In the past, the plan has gone like this: If I share something that is impeccable, then I will be untouchable. And I will finally have proved that I am worthy, that I am good enough, that I deserve to exist. And I will not be vulnerable to criticism or judgement. No one will be able to harm me or hurt me. No one will be able to tell me that I am not good enough, that I am a failure or that I don’t have what it takes, because I know that I am perfect. That is where this endless search for material perfection as access to safety, security and success trips and falls flat on its face.
There is something that I mistakenly adopted as the truth at some point in my life. I collapsed my own innate divine (im)perfection with the quality of the things that I produce in the world. Somehow I learned, incorrectly, that my success as a human would be judged on the level of perfection I achieved in my “production”. I decided that if I created perfect products, it would prove that I was good enough. That I was worthy of love and attention. If I wrote the perfect paper, or played the sonata perfectly on the piano, or did the math sheet with no errors, then I would finally be able to relax, and rest assured that I would be kept around, at least for now. That my place in the tribe was secure for the moment. That I would be loved and respected.
There are a few major issues with this strategy as a way of life. The first is that perfection doesn’t exist. At least not the kind that I was striving for. Now, I don’t actually have proof that this is true, and a month from now, I may have found out that I was mistaken. It may be the breaking story on the daily news: “Hundred year-old author writes the perfect blog post; achieves perfection; is assured life-long love, acceptance and respect.” (what she’s got left of it) But as of this moment, in my reality, perfection is unattainable as an end goal.
The other issue with putting my eye on the golden key of perfection is that it means I miss out on the glorious mess called process. And process is where the good stuff lives. I also miss out on sharing myself with the world, and making connections. I miss out on the opportunity to be of service, to add value to the world and to my communities. When I put the goal back into the realm of love, removing it from the fear-based kingdom of perfection, not only do I give myself a gift, I also am able to contribute to the lives of others.
I carry five plastic sacs of groceries in from the car and leave them on the large wooden table in my small kitchen, stopping for a moment to appreciate how tidy the space is before I head upstairs to my chilly bedroom and plug in the electric radiator.
Back in the kitchen, I put away a head of broccoli, a half-off package of sliced baby bella mushrooms, and two bags of organic carrots in my tiny, dorm-sized fridge. I take a swig of pomegranate juice from the almost empty bottle on the fridge door, and then I remember that I have left the car running with the heat on full blast. Just in case.
I snag a torn-open plastic bag of mini bananas, shut off the light and head outside. I tuck myself into the driver’s seat of my warm Subaru, appreciating the heated sheepskin-covered seat. I shut off the engine and eat a mini banana.
I open my book. It starts to rain.
I’m sitting in my car in the dark, the rain pinging on the hood, the windshield, the roof. That rain sound, a symphony of droplets, is comforting to me; it’s a sound I am sure of. Any human who has lived for 31 years on the earth knows the sound of rain.
Does any other human also know
what it feels like to be scared
to go inside their own house
because it is after ten p.m., and
there is food in the kitchen?
Scared because I’m not in bed, which
means there is a 97% chance that
even if I spend a number of minutes sitting here in the dark,
listening to the rain, cozy on the sheepskin seat cover,
noticing the way my stomach feels full,
and how there is no way that
the feeling I have right now
could ever be called physical hunger,
acknowledging that I do not
need to eat right now,
that I could walk into the house
and upstairs to my bedroom,
and avoid the kitchen all together,
even with all this being so,
moments later, I still find myself
in the kitchen eating
roasted almonds with sea salt,
and then macadamia nuts,
and then some apricot jam, straight
from the jar with a spoon.
And then a banana,
first one half, and then
the other half,
alternating bites with a small bowl of
millet rice flakes in goat milk.
As I eat, I organize the groceries
on the kitchen table.
I’ve noticed I do a thing when I’m scared. If I’m not sure I can go the distance or if my reserves appear to be low, I get smaller and hold on tight. I hold my breath. I put blinders on and I try not to move very much.
I think, “it’s almost gone, the money, food, love, energy (or whatever it is), and I better ration what I have.”
One major problem with this tactic is that what I am then putting out to the universe is this: I don’t trust that everything will turn out ok.
I’m basically saying I believe in scarcity; I don’t believe in an abundant universe. And then this is the vibration I am putting out, and then this is what I get back.
And then I find evidence everywhere that it’s a finite reality we live in. “See, I’m overdrawn”, I say. “It’s true I don’t have enough money.”
“See”, I sigh, “my friend canceled our date to go to the movies. Nobody loves me.”
And, did I mention? I also stop breathing.
Today I have a little more energy than I have been having in the morning, so I decide to go for a run. In the rain.
I pull on my workout clothes, and my seemingly inappropriate footwear: vibram’s FiveFingers toe shoes. I gingerly prance my way down the driveway, slipping only mildly on the slushy ice and snow.
My feet are cold, and my legs too. Silly me, I have cotton leggings on. After making it about five minutes down the road, I stop to take a picture of this telephone pole and then I turn around.
The wind is in my face now. Since I have decided not to “go the distance” today, I choose to make up for it in speed.
I set off at a sprint. Usually I last about 26 seconds on my first sprint. Today, I pass one telephone pole and as I reach for the second, I feel my body start to contract. My brain says, “this might be a stretch”, and my habitual reaction to this thought is to hunker down, make myself smaller, “conserve energy”, and basically stop breathing.
Whoa, I think. This is exactly what I was talking about with a friend last night. I was sharing with her about how I am taking a sabbatical, and as the money runs out, I notice myself start to hunker down and stop moving. She mentioned a neighbor of hers who lives in a house basically for free, just paying the taxes, and otherwise he doesn’t work much. She joked about how he mostly does nothing (or so it appears). “If I just stay very still, I won’t use much energy, and then I won’t have to buy much food to eat”, and so on.
I laughed at the truth in her playful banter. I laughed because I could see that in myself. I could see that there is a part of me that thinks the way to survive a “drought” in my life is to stop moving so I won’t get thirsty and then I won’t need to drink water.
I walk for a couple of minutes, letting my heart rate return to normal. “Don’t care about the money, money, money”, I sing along with the Barden Bellas.
I check in with my body about another sprint, and the energy seems available, so I set off. This time, as I get going, my mom’s voice pops into my head. “You don’t need to work harder to run faster, you just need to let go faster”, she says.
I’m momentarily transported to Steps beach on Nantucket when we were there for an overnight last August. I asked her for some feedback about my running. She is an Alexander Technique (AT) teacher, and I find her observations about movement so useful. She explained that in the model of moving with ease that the AT is based on, running faster isn’t about working harder, it is actually about releasing more, and more quickly.
As I pass the first telephone pole of my second sprint, I do my best to release more instead of working harder. I have some success, and feel a bit lighter. Still, I can tell that I am not using my breath fully, and there is a part of me that is scared to go for it, to really let go.
What if it doesn’t work? What if I don’t make it?
The thing is that this “letting go” business doesn’t really work when done half-assedly. I can’t let go part way and expect to feel the effects. Hanging on with one hand is SO MUCH MORE WORK!
Now I’m almost home and I feel like I’ve got one more sprint in me. This time, I really go for it. I release into the movement. I let my chest expand with great, full breaths. As I run, I can feel muscles working in my legs that I don’t usually notice, and probably don’t often engage either. It is as if I fully inhabit my body…all-wheel drive, in fifth gear–what power!
“The only way…to live peacefully and abundantly in our wild new world is to let go of old models of thinking, working, decision making, and relating to others. If that doesn’t work, the only option is to let go even more. Surrender to the way things want to happen next, even though this often involves a vast and terrifying loss of control. Trust the magic that was born into your soul…so that the nature of your true self can emerge.”
The difference is incredible. I want more of this in my life–this power, this freedom. I want to let go…and expand into abundance.