a dose of excitement and a dash of spice.

2/15/2014

I’ve been struggling with how to experience spice and excitement and a feeling of satisfaction in my dreary-feeling life. I used to rely heavily on food for this; the tastes and colors of food have been one of the most consistent forms of stimulation throughout my life.

I began to explore the culinary arts as a teenager and I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, scheming & creating, chopping & cooking…and joyfully eating and sharing food. Food has been a companion, a reliable source of both inspiration and comfort.

Food has also been a consistent source of frustration. My relationship with food is colored by the way in which I learned to use food for things other than what I believe its primary purpose is: nourishment and occasional pleasure.

Merriam-Webster defines food in these ways:
1. a : material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy.

2: nutriment in solid form

3: something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies <food for thought>

As a child, I came to rely on food as a source of comfort, an escape. I used it as a way to attempt to fill a deep emptiness that I think was actually caused by a fear of intensity, a fear which may have led to an inability to identify and feel my feelings.

It seems that maybe some addictions start when a person turns to a substance to dull pain, to distract from or push down a feeling that they don’t want or know how to handle. What’s different about (my) food addiction is that instead of wanting to numb a pain or avoid a feeling (which, it seems, I had already learned how to do), I wanted to fill an emptiness that was actually caused by an absence of the feeling. Is there a difference? Is emptiness a pain in itself? I’m not sure.

For years I have thought that I was using food as a means to escape feeling my feelings. What I saw recently is that I was actually trying to fill a hole, a lack or an inability to even access my true emotions. This was a revelation. To realize that I actually love to feel emotion move through me. I almost look forward to it. I realized that I have been unknowingly robbing myself of a source of vitality, sometimes sorrow, sometimes joy, but always aliveness.

At the times when I feel empty or disconnected and turn to food out of habit, I am now often able to pause and do my best to give myself a little more time to see if there is a hidden, held-back emotion that wants to emerge. Sometimes I even play around with it, simulating anger or sadness to see if something opens up. Sort of strange, I guess, to try on so-called negative emotions, but after so many years of doing my best to avoid emotions completely, my pump often needs a bit of priming. I have been scared of these shadow emotions for so long; it is a relief to discover that they can be just as satisfying as so-called positive emotions. It is the experience of letting them move through me, and knowing I am alive that seems to count most.

My whole adult life I have experimented with food. I was raised in a household where we didn’t use much traditional medicine, so I came to believe that the “right” food was the key to my health. If ONLY I could figure out what the right food was! Throughout my life, I tried many different ways of eating. I read and experimented and read some more. I talked about food with anyone who was interested. And I read and experimented (ate) some more.

In 2012 I found the blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, written by Mark Sisson, founder of the Primal Blueprint. His ideas about food and eating all resonated with what I had learned and discovered about myself and what felt best for me. I felt relieved to find someone who was writing and teaching about a diet and lifestyle that actually resonated for me. One that was very different from the way of eating that conventional health care recommends. The Primal Blueprint plan is based on how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived and dined.  It is not simply a diet, it is a way of life, with a focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, play, rest, nature, movement, and connection.

A year later, I was introduced to the Human Design System and after getting a reading of my chart, I learned that my body is indeed designed to eat a “cave man” diet. Very simple. Not a lot of added spice. My body digests best, I discovered, when each of my meals consist of a few simply prepared, mild-temperature, “primal” foods. And even more specifically, it actually makes a huge difference for my digestion if each bite I take consists only of one food, and if I alternate between them. My body can absorb and assimilate the food best if I eat in a calm, quite atmosphere, and keep my eyes closed while I chew.

When I first received this information, it seemed a little extreme, too restrictive. How was I going to enjoy food in the same way I had in the past? My friend, the Human Design consultant said I would begin to enjoy the subtle tastes of the food more. I would begin to appreciate the salt and sweet tastes in the food itself. He was right–I have. I do.

At the same time, I have not found a replacement for the experience of adventure, spice and stimulation–emotional, mental and physical–that food used to provide for me.

I love the way I feel when I eat in this manner suggested by Human Design. In fact I love it so much that I feel pretty committed to it. I see how everything begins to degenerate when I don’t make this way of eating a priority. Knowing that, I would love to find a new way of creating excitement and spice in my life.

It’s the middle of an especially snowy winter in New England and I live alone in a small house on an island off an island. Outside my windows are trees–woods. Ground. Sky. A road with the occasional car. Through the woods not too far away are a few friends and family. All with lives of their own. I feel isolated. A lot of the time I love that; Human Design tells me I am a hermit and this rings true. I love tucking into my house, stoking the wood stove, cuddling in with a book, or getting lost in a writing or art project. Feeding myself simple meals, prepared with love.

I am also here to be of service.  I am here to be called out of my isolation and to make a difference in the world.  It feels challenging to wait for this call; on some days I feel like I want so much more than my hermitage provides. I want stimulation, growth, adventure, excitement, passion, spice. I want to be meeting new people, exploring new places, discovering new passions. I have been finding these experiences where I know how, and I am still not feeling satisfied.  It seems maybe it would make a difference for me to be in a place where this is more action.  More external stimulation.  What would it be like to spend some time in a place where I can retreat and feel safe, and where I am also surrounded by activity?

So here are the questions I ask myself: do I want to leave my home? For a day? For a week? For a month? For longer? Do I want to go somewhere warm? Do I want to go somewhere new? Do I want to land somewhere, or do I want to travel? Wander or nest? Would I like to live somewhere else? Would I like to visit a city? Would I like to travel to a different coast? A different island? A different country? Speak a different language? Do I want to visit friends? Or go somewhere no one knows my name? Do I want to travel by airplane? by foot? by train? by bicycle? by car? by boat? Do I need to have a plan?  Or can I just set out?

Where is my next adventure?  Who will call me out of my little, isolated, hermitage home? Do I need to wait to be called out?  Is there something else to respond to?

a call to rest

I began my resting practice while I was recovering from pneumonia a few years ago. I had very little energy stored up and I found that I couldn’t push myself at all without taking steps backward on my road to health. So I began to pay attention to the signs that my body gave me to let me know I needed to rest.

I noticed that my mood was an amazingly accurate indicator of my energy level.  As my need for rest increased, my mood dropped sharply.  I was surprised to find that my feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness were brought on almost exclusibely by exhaustion, and that all I needed to do to relieve them was to rest.  I also discovered that there wasn’t anything else that worked nearly as well as resting to give me relief from feeling overwhelmed.  Resting, turning on my body’s relaxation response and switching off the stress response, also gave me a sense of groundedness and well-being.

At other periods in my life I had tried taking action (ie: doing as much as I could as fast as I could for as long as I could) as a strategy for dealing with feelings of overwhelm. I thought if I could just get everything on my list taken care of, then I would find peace.  Then I would be able to relax.

I remember vividly standing in the middle of the dreary yet spacious kitchen in my third floor apartment in Portland, Maine when I truly understood that there was no way I would ever get it all done.  I realized that if I thought I needed to cross out everything on my (never-ending) “to-do” list in order to be able to stop and relax, to rest and take a break, and to feel satisfied and happy, then I was screwed.  I felt this reality deep in my dog-tired bones.

It was with that awareness that I began the search for a different motivation for my life.  I was 26 at the time, and after living for that long in a culture that operated around the belief that the keys to the kingdom were hard work and productivity, it took a while for me to truly let go of the idea that “getting it all done” was my key to happiness and satisfaction.

One milestone on this journey occurred the day I realized that in any typical 24-hour period, I was only ever truly “on-task”, checking off things on my list, for about three hours.  Usually more like two, and occasionally as many as four or five.  The rest of my waking hours were typically spent taking care of my basic needs and possibly attempting to motivate myself to “get some work done!”, or alternately, distracting myself from what I thought I should be doing with what is sometimes called, “procrastination” (I now call this, “it’s not time yet”, and it causes me much less stress as I sort out why I am not doing the things on my to-do list.  Sometimes it’s because fear.  And sometimes it just “ain’t time yet”).  This discovery, my relative lack of productivity, was a huge eye-opener for me, and at first it was a bit of a let-down. I thought, how will I ever get anywhere in my life if I’m only productive for 2-4 hours a day?

And then I realized that the only thing inherently wrong with the situation was that my expectations did not match my reality.

For years and years I had been putting enough things on my daily to-do list to occupy me for every single waking hour of every day, if not triple that amount of time. And for many years, with high hopes for success (read: productivity and accomplishment), I would jump out of bed most days and “get to work” on my lists.  Or, on the other days, I would stay in bed in a fetal position and try to ignore the voices in my head that were screaming at me about how much there was to do, and how lazy I was, and how I would never get it all done if I didn’t get up right now, and I was already so behind and I was just “making it worse by staying in bed”. Those “fetal position” days would go one of a few ways: Sometimes I would get out of bed with a sinking feeling of dread in my stomach, and haltingly force myself to start taking action.  Though what action to take was always another huge issue for me, as every item on the to-do list called out to me; I often couldn’t decide whether it was more important to cut my toenails, or to do my homework.  I wondered, was I supposed to sit down and pay the bills, or clean my room?  Was it more important to write a thank you note to my aunt for my birthday present, or to go outside and water the garden?  This deliberation was often paralyzing; “what is most important?”, I would shout internally.  Finally I would find myself just doing something, anything, and often it was something not even on the list, but it got me in motion, and then I would continue on into my day.

Or, I would stay in bed and feel numb and try to ignore the voices and the sick feeling in my belly until I finally had to pee, or I got so hungry that I would pop out of bed and roll on into the kitchen where food would take my mind off my hopeless situation.  Or my alarm would go off for the third time and I would concede that if I didn’t get out of bed “right now!”, I would not make it to work on time and I might lose my job.  I would drag myself out of bed, and feeling slightly ill and ungrounded I would dress and feed myself, and head out the door.  On the walk to work I would often find my center, my groundedness. I would re-inhabit my body, and I would get out of my head where all the to-do lists lived, along with the beliefs that I will never be enough, I will never succeed, I am worthless and a failure unless I prove myself in my life by being perfect and productive. Ouch.  My mind was not very kind, and I found that it was not a safe place to spend time alone.

When I began to understand that no matter what good intentions I had for being productive, in my life as a self-employed business woman I was truly only ever “on-task”, working away at my lists, for a few hours a day, I began to get a clue.  Somehow I went from incessantly smacking the whip on myself to looking at what was actually happening, and I realized that it was insane to argue with reality any longer.  Slowly I reigned in my expectations, at least on the days I was home or doing errands with unstructured time.  I still scheduled myself up to five massages a day on some days and then I would find myself exhausted by the end of the day.  If only my revelation at that time had been this:  “Holy Shit!  If I only ever spend 2-4 hours of my day being productive, whether I like it or not, that means I have a helluva lot more time available for playing and resting than I thought!”  I took me a couple more years before I made this leap.  I was no longer beating myself up so much, but I didn’t yet comprehend the joy and freedom that was actually available to me.

In the spring of 2011, at least four years after the kitchen, never-gonna-get-it-all-done revelation, I was healing from a case of pneumonia I’d had in the winter; I was following a strict diet to control the levels of yeast in my body, and I gave up all stimulants in an attempt to help my body to heal on a deeper level.  I hadn’t ever been a big coffee drinker, or stimulant user, or so I thought…until I gave up caffeine and sugar completely and I got to accurately feel my body’s energy levels.  I was shocked to find that I needed so much more rest than I thought a normal person should need.  I felt like a baby.  I needed to nap every afternoon and most mornings as well or else I would find myself falling down the slippery slope of overwhelm, hopelessness, and self-flagellation.

I was flabbergasted at how little energy I had.  I had used up all of my energy reserves living life in the my version of the fast lane, playing the productivity game, and my adrenal glands were shot.

Then summer came and I was beginning to feel better. As I had for the last few years, I booked myself a full schedule of massages. Then I had a reality check.  I couldn’t actually do four or five massages in a day without feeling completely wasted; I literally felt like I wanted to die.  I would say that to myself and I had never remembered hearing that kind of self-talk from me before.  And yet, I continued to book my schedule full because that is what I thought I needed to do to be successful and ultimately to survive.

I found that I couldn’t stick to my healing diet while I was working that much.   I had gone back to eating sugar and chocolate because I couldn’t figure out how to make my life work any other way.  I would get so sleepy in the afternoons, and would take a nap in my car between massages, but I literally felt I would not be able to move, much less give a massage, with out the help of some chocolate or sugar to get me going. I don’t remember if it even occurred to me to work less.  At the end of that summer I realized I had made an admirable attempt to move my life in the direction I knew it needed to go, but I was still “far from home”.

The following summer I felt committed to taking it easier.  I stopped doing as many house calls; I lived near my office so I could walk home for lunch and take a nap between sessions, and I continued to heal my body.  Along with healing my body, I realized that I needed to heal my mind.

I had recently graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a certified holistic health coach, and as I began to work with clients I was able to see how strict I was with myself.  I saw the high ideals that I held myself to, and found there was not much room for self-love.  I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend the year before.  She told me that she was feeling really judged by me; she felt like I judged everything she did and it was making her uncomfortable.  That helped me begin to see that not only was I judging her, I was judging myself…all the time.

I began to pay attention to the way I treated myself.

After watching an interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup, a hero of mine, in which she said that the most important thing anyone can do for their health is to truly love themselves, I posted a reminder on my bathroom mirror and ever day I would tell myself, “I love you and I accept you”.  This practice began to shift my relationship with myself.

I continue to listen and feel for what my body is asking for, and I make choices in my life by noticing what feels good, what makes my body happy.  I have slowed my drive for productivity and loosened my attachment to achievement.  As I learn to love and accept myself, I am able to commit to taking care of myself. I am learning how to rest.

in the morning

Sometimes in the morning, it takes me a long time to get out of bed. Or rather, I find the time of day that I throw back the covers and hop out into the chilly air is later in the day than when many people get out of bed. This may have to do with the fact that sometime last year, I decided that I wouldn’t get out of bed until I was compelled…internally. This may sound like a rather bizarre way to do things, and there are probably some people who would respond that they would NEVER get out of bed if they gave themselves permission to wait until they were ready to rise. To this I would respond: 

Do you truly believe that you wouldn’t ever want to get out of bed if you were allowed to have as much rest as you need?  I have found, for me, that this is not true.  Instead, what I get from resting as much as I need to, is the ability to be joyful and present in my life.  I find that instead of missing out on my life, I get to experience so much more.

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Blueberry Cottage after the first real blizzard of 2014…during which I did A LOT of resting.

 

my choice cold

Do you remember the last time you had a cold?  Were you just a bit miserable? Today I have a cold, or rather I have the symptoms that most people associate with having a cold: I have very little energy, I’m a bit achy, my nose is running and it feels like my head is full of snot.  I can’t taste much and can’t breathe through my nose without a whole lot of effort.  I don’t feel well.  And yet, this may be the “best” cold I’ve ever had.  I’m not suffering.  Even though I have some discomfort, I am, in fact, grateful.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had an insatiable evening appetite.  The kind of “hunger” I have when I am feeling a whole lot of emotional emptiness and not a whole lot of passion about anything. This state is something I am really uncomfortable with.  Along with it goes the feelings of being unsure, and maybe even a little vulnerable.  The evenings found me in my kitchen, creating all sorts of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) culinary concoctions.  Sometimes I was eating because I was hungry.  Mostly I was eating because I couldn’t bear to sit with this feeling of emptiness and not-knowing.  It’s a feeling I’m pretty familiar with, actually.  One I have been alternately doing battle with, or attempting to make friends with, for as long as I can remember.  This month the empty, uncertain feeling has been particularly present for me.

I had gotten to the point last week where I was pretty much resigned to eating anything in my kitchen that was remotely comforting…until it was all gone…and then I just wouldn’t restock it.  Chocolate, nuts, nut butters, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, dried fruit, jam, oatmeal, popcorn, etc.  At the time I didn’t really see any other choice.  I have thought about joining a group like Overeater’s Anonymous but what I know about myself is that I detest being told what to do, and although I am sure that I would probably be introduced to many useful tools, not to mention the support provided in a group like that, I also have the sense that I would rebel.  So, I tried a different tactic. I did an experiment where I simply did my best to love myself…to be with my evening-eating-adventuring self with as much ruthless compassion as I could muster.  I celebrated the interesting eats I created (like Lily’s “3AM North Star” popcorn), and I did NOT beat myself up for this behavior.  I knew that there was a reason it was supposed to be happening…because it was.  Here I was, eating myself full, if not fully sick.  Going to bed with an extended belly, waking up feeling groggy and without an appetite for hours.  And how did I know it was what was supposed to be happening?  Because it was.  How did I know it was OK to simply love myself? Because any other option felt even worse.

In the last few years, I have been playing around with Byron Katie’s simple process inquiry of questioning stressful thoughts.  One of her books is called Loving What Is, and the questions and ideas that she presents have given me a whole different way of looking at and relating to my life.  I was already in doubt of the utility of value judgements such as “right or wrong”, and “good or bad”.  So I was open to the idea that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with what was happening…not matter what it was.  I was willing to consider the possibility that everything that was happening was supposed to be happening.  I began to explore the possibility that I wasn’t necessarily the best judge of what should or shouldn’t be happening to me.  In fact, I also began to question the idea that anything was happening to me at all.  What if, in fact, it was all happening for me?

As a teenager I was introduced to the idea of “pronoia” by a friend of my dad’s.  Pronoia, opposite of paranoia, is the belief that everything in the world is conspiring for your benefit.  Not necessarily that I will always “get what I want”, but that there is a way that everything that happens in my life can be seen as a blessing or a necessary element in the journey of my right life, my destined life.  Sometimes this takes my awhile; sometimes I have a hard time seeing how it could possibly be part of my right life to find myself doing something like stuffing myself sick, night after night.  Sometimes the reason is simply so that I can help other people learn to also love themselves.

I feel pretty clear that life itself has no inherent meaning.  I believe that life has whatever meaning we give it.  While there are many ways to interpret what is happening at any given moment in my life, I like to choose, as often as I can, to apply a meaning that makes me feel…well, good.  There a few different reasons for this, the simplest being the fact that I like to feel this way.  It’s nicer than feeling not-good.  It’s expansive and light and free feeling.  As opposed to heavy and tight and trapped feeling.  So when I remember that I have a choice, I take it.

A few days ago I noticed that I had a bit of a scratchy throat.  There was a time when this would have sent me into a downward spiral, knowing that a cold was coming on.  I would have made myself feel guilty, saying things to myself like, “really, you are getting ANOTHER cold?” “Gosh Lily, why did you eat so much sugar?” “Why have you been pushing yourself so hard?” “You should have taken better care of yourself, then you wouldn’t be sick!” “Will you ever learn? Don’t you know that you will get a cold if you eat sugar and don’t get enough rest?!” “Oh, this is such a bad time for a cold.” “Oh no, I don’t have TIME for a cold right now!”.  Instead, I thought, “THANK THE LORD!”.

Thank you God, for giving me the support I need to shift the habit I had created of stuffing myself full of food late at night.  I had really been feeling like I NEEDED HELP.  And I had been asking for it.  And I had been seriously loving myself at the same time.

The great thing, for me, about having a cold, is that I have a(nother) habit of taking care of myself when I feel this way.  Over the last 20 or so years, with the support of family and friends and information that suggests this course of action, I have developed an attitude about colds that is a little different from many that I observe around me.  Colds are a message from my body.  They are information. They are my body’s way of re-balancing and reminding me to take good care of myself.  When I get these symptoms, I instantly know that I need rest and a really simple, healing diet.  I know that I am a little bit out of wack.  And finally, I have also learned that being “a little bit out of wack” is truly O.K.!  There is nothing wrong with me.  I don’t need to be punished for not being able to live “perfectly” and stay in balance all of the time.  I shouldn’t have “known better”.  I can be responsible for my cold, and at the same time not make myself wrong for its existence.  With this epiphany, this willingness to be kind and love myself even though maybe I “should have known better”, there is also room for seeing the gift in it.  Taking on the pronoia interpretation of having a cold.

When I am willing to love what is, I think just maybe there is the possibility for gratitude and joy and presence in each and every moment of my life.  My choice.

a different path

My dad just gave me a book yesterday that appeared to be a guide to doing exactly what I had decided a few days ago that I am doing: taking a break from working, in order to get a “higher education” from the School of Life. And yet, after thumbing through Blake Boles’ book, Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree, I realized that his model for learning is fashioned using a strategy that I am still exploring alternatives to.

I realize that I am not, in fact, attending a zero-tuition-university, as he calls the process of acquiring a higher education for free, and in a self-directed manner. I’m doing something different. I am on a different path, a different journey. I’m questioning even more truths about how things work. When he talks about creating accountability, setting goals and making action plans, my gut says, “no thanks”; I get that feeling that I get when something is not for me.

This feeling is opposite from the one I get when I press play on the Antje Duvkot station on Pandora that plays artists like Patty Griffin, Deb Talan–singer-songwriters who have provided me with unparalleled support and inspiration in my life. It’s different from the feeling I get when I am typing away, inspired, on the notepad of my phone, or waltzing around my kitchen preparing a feast.

This feeling is, YES, this is RIGHT for me! Martha Beck calls it, “shackles off”. I remember when I first read her book, Steering by Starlight, and discovered the term. I had been exploring the world of living a self-directed life–a life that is organized around listening to the quiet whisperings of my heart. Yet I was still having difficulty actually hearing my heart. I could usually tell when things felt wrong, when they felt yucky and restrictive, and like a divergence from my right life, but I was still feeling around for what the magic opposite was. What did it feel like when my little life-ship was pointed towards her north star? And what was I supposed to do if I felt like I had lost my chart, and wasn’t even sure where my next destination was?

Since then, I have begun to expand upon this idea. I have gathered other sensations and indications for making sure I am on, or moving back towards the path of my right life. This exploration has been possibly the most useful course of study I have ever pursued. This isn’t covered in Blake’s book. Maybe it will be covered in mine.

Sundays

On Sundays
I like to let
the fabric of my being
hang a little loose.
To let it float around
aired out by the autumn breeze.
Puffed and fluffed
along with the milk weed
and skipping dry brown oak leaves.

On Sundays
I like to let
the silence fill me up with its emptiness.
Leaving me almost transparent,
so the bird and bug sounds pass right through me,
along with the wind.

It is as though
the stuff of me wants to match with the outdoors so that I am woven
into the landscape.

My faun colored
silk scarf drapes
and folds itself into the dried milkweed
and grasses by the road side.

The dusty rouge
of my hat meanders
its way through the crimson high bush blueberry leaves
and perches on the smooth, winding branches.

The moss green
of my sweater lays out along the path,
the short pile matching almost exactly the texture
of that cushiony plant.

And my azure
jeans float into a pool,
joining with the deep blue of the sky
and at the same time the mysterious dark of the ponds.

It is almost as though I could disappear.

People might say, I wonder
what has happened to Lily…

They wouldn’t know
they were walking by me,
under, over
and around me.

Little would they know that I had become
a part of the day.

That I had joined my voice
with the song of the sea breeze
and I was working on a lullaby for the crows.

Why, write, of course!

What to do, after reading a friend’s fabulously crafted blog posts and finding myself, simultaneously, utterly inspired and also fearful of being incurably incompetent?

Why, write, of course!

Do the thing I fear I cannot do.
Dive into a sea of the thing that I am afraid may some day no longer meet me
when I shed clothes, meet arms above my head, and launch myself
head first into the cold, clear deep blue-green.

Like the sea, though, words have been there
always.

Ever since my first phrase: “horsey eat apple”, I have been friendly with these things that can be spoken or penned, these morsels composed of meaning and letters or sounds, depending on my chosen expression.

Somehow, like the sea, words have always been there
for me.

At times a little chilly or rough.
at times, better to look from ashore, from a far, or just to wade
along the edge, or to poke in a toe, or trail a finger splashingly through.

Sometimes, though, what is called for is a
dive. in.
with reckless abandon. with no care for the slimy seaweed
or stinging sea-going jellies. no care for whether the cold will
shock my bones like an electric fence tested
with full bare hand on a cold, goat-feeding
morning adventure.

No matter.
No mistake.
I have not been mistook.
words are like water. they flow from me, like tears do
towards the sea.
when I am sad,
they
come.
when I am happy,
they come. The words, and the water.
That’s how I know I’m alive. And they flow,
and sometimes they come in gasps, or spurts, or little hiccuping sobs.
and other times their trill
from my pen is like the sweetest joyful giggle

I have ever sung.

Naughty leads to love.

In August, everyone seems to lose their minds. The vacationers leave their minds on the ferry, on the deck in between the uncomfortable aluminum seats or in the crack between the wall and the polyester covered cushions in the snack bar. The summer folk leave their minds in their mainland homes. And the islanders, they let their minds out for a refreshing bath in the ocean, where they are promptly swept away, tumbled into a heap with the eel grass that washes up on the sandy shore.

I held onto my mind this August, maybe a little too tightly. I think I squeezed it a little too hard, inspected it a little more closely than was comfortable. I didn’t lose it the way I usually do the in the summertime, with exhausted dreams of a wintertime of rest and quiet hibernation. Nope, this year I lost my mind the way that I used to lose my sunglasses on the top of my head…too close for me to see.

This spring I set off on an exploration and experiment to see what it would feel like if I slowed down and let the world come to me. With this new way of doing things, my life seems to have gotten very, very small. I feel as though I have been living inside a pressure cooker. Just my mind and me, crammed into a little island cottage. I haven’t had much else to look at, and I like looking at things closely, so my mind has been under 24-hour surveillance, and it’s starting to act the way any living thing might after such close observation…like a crazed monkey who wants to get out of her cage!

I am really good at talking myself into or out of anything. I can almost always see both sides to any story. In the Enneagram, a personality typing system with roots in a few different ancient traditions, I am a type nine, also known as the mediator or the peacemaker. Sometimes I take my peacemaking and powers of mediation a little too far, especially when it comes to conflict between my heart and my mind. And the rational human that I am, living in a time when rationality is celebrated, I often let my heart get talked over by my mind.

I live on a small island off an island, a forty-five minute ferry ride from the southern coast of Massachusetts. This is the place I grew up. I know its roads and woods and beaches by heart. I can walk them with my eyes closed. This can be extremely comforting. It can also feel too small. Too close. Too comforting. A couple of weeks ago, all of a sudden I heard what my heart had been telling me, without my mind having time to talk her out of it. I heard, “I NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”. And I felt it resonate through my being.

No, I didn’t need to MOVE, I just needed to MOVE! To go, to feel the wind in my hair, the road beneath my tires, unfamiliar sights before my eyes and new hearts for mine to connect with. I needed to go, without a plan, wherever my car took me. I threw a bunch of stuff I might need in the car, realizing as I did so with only a plan to head “up island” for the day (not off-island) that I was probably practicing for a bigger trip.

I spent that day following my heart. I heard that she wanted to see this friend who I hadn’t visited all summer, and bike on this beautiful road, and go out and treat herself to dinner in celebration of a successful event I had co-catered a few weeks before. I finally heard my heart telling me that she needed to GO AWAY. To get out of the pressure cooker and find a little freedom.

It took me at least a week to get all my ducks in a row, to clean the house, to make apple sauce and apple pie, to make sure there was someone to feed my goat, and make sure the garden would take care of itself.  One of the ducks that I hadn’t even considered was this idea of MY HOME.  Who was going to take care of my home while I was away?  I realized that for me, my house is like a partner or a best friend.  It’s where I spend a good portion of my time, and we have a relationship.  Last winter, the last time I left the island for more than a day, a blizzard had come, and the door to the house where I was living had blown open.  It had taken me until now to see that part of my hesitancy to leave the island, to get away, was a fear of leaving my home un-protected.  It felt good to notice this, to see that I feel protective of my home.  And then it felt good to let that fear go, to double-check that all the doors were shut tightly and wouldn’t blow open, and to finally, finally, finally, pull my subaru into the stand-by line for the big ferry to Woods Hole.  It was 6PM.  I didn’t know if I would get off the island before the last boat at 9:30, and I had no plan for what I would do once I got to the other side.

There is an amazing freedom in trusting the universe with my life.  One that I think cannot be found in any other way than surrendering to the flow of what wants to happen.  And sometimes in order to be able to hear that call, and get in that flow, it is necessary to do what feels naughty, irresponsible, and completely senselessly irrational to our minds.

There is a list on my fridge that I wrote this winter.  It is a list I made to keep me on track towards my right life.  Near the end of the list is this:  “Naughty leads to play, play leads to love.”  Sometimes when I feel like I have lost the path of love in my life, my first step is to figure out, and DO, what feels downright naughty.

a Mind with Joy

She wears my name and it’s a tug of war.

She’s as tough as they come…

I know this for sure.

She’s the guest I can’t ask to leave,

I can only tell her, “It’s all right. Stay.”,

even when we’re in a quarrel.

Even then, with tight chest, fists up and tears coming down,

I retreat to a far corner of our tiny home

hiding my face in my shaking hands.

And then I find out she is scared, just like me,

and not like me,

she doesn’t know about joy.

She doesn’t know about waking up

early to make pictures of friends harvesting

food from their fields at dawn,

or about the satisfaction

of sharing my pictures in a

paper that is delivered to every postal

box in our little town.

For her, there is only fear.

Only fear of being found out as a fraud.

Only fear of being caught out in the cold

with out a coat, locked out of her house

because I have found a new partner,

a new wife called joy.

Joy, who is a little more kind, who wraps me up in her arms and

with a big sloppy kiss, she says, “Go on.

You can do it. You are, in fact,

fabulous, and nobody does

being you

better than you can.”

“If the things you do bring you joy,” she says,

“than you can be sure

you are the woman for the job–

the best one

to get the thing

done.”

Rain pattered just a few drops

last night. Plants in their pots

still dry as bone this morning

even with a pattern of small

circles on the sand.

The sun was shining when I woke, groggy

from an early morning visit by the girl

called inspiration.  I invited her to come

before shutting off the light

last night.

I never know with this wild woman–

I just never know when

she will show

me

up.

The Year of the Nap.

December 27th, 2012

Hello All,

I hear-by dub 2012 as “the year of the nap”.  Oh what wonderful times I have spent this year, laying on my back with a bolster under my knees, an eye pillow relaxing my peepers, and a warm and cozy blanket tucked around me–in pursuit of the perfect nap.  It’s been a good year, and all the more so for having such fabulous clients and friends and family like you.  I have learned so much this year, and I know that you all were an absolutely essential component.  Each relationship in my life, each interaction with another, each connection with a fellow human being gives me the opportunity for growth and expansion, and for this I am so appreciative.  I think it was June the last time I wrote, and I was soon to turn 30.  My fantastic and joyful birthday celebration came and went, and I have realized that perhaps life really only gets going at 30.

In addition to the pursuit of the perfect nap (my mom now calls me the “napping queen”), the second half of 2012, for me, has been about finding balance.  For the first time in my adult life, I really relaxed into the experience of summer on the Vineyard.  I frequented more beaches, took more swims, cooked more yummy food than I can recall having done before.  Don’t get me wrong, there were still a few insane stretches of working long days back to back, but what really showed me that I had changed my ways was that I arrived at the end of August feeling fabulous.  Instead of a wrung-out wash cloth, I felt alive and vibrant and thriving.  After spending so many years working as hard as possible to squeeze the most money as possible from the three months of summer, I changed tactics a bit.  Joy was my goal for the summer of 2012, and I got me some for sure!

My dad recently brought home a book from the library called How Will You Measure Your Life?  This question has been on my mind a whole lot lately.  Two years ago, after being ill for a couple of months, it came to me that perhaps there were other ways to measure success besides my productivity level.  I had just spent hours and hours on the couch or in bed with very little energy for accomplishing any task, and then it came to me–what if I were to measure my success, not by how much I got done each day, but by the amount of joy I cultivated and experienced.  I saw people around me in the world working very hard and experiencing little joy, and I also saw the opposite: folks who didn’t seem to be accomplishing much, yet appeared supremely joyful.  What if, I thought, the secret to a successful life was not, in fact, about how much I got done each day, but rather about how happy I was at the end of the day?  This felt like an interesting idea to explore, and now a few years later, I find myself becoming more and more sure that measuring my life by the amount of joy I  cultivate each day is the way to go–immensely satisfying and a whole lot more fun!

At the beginning of 2012, I read a book called Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, by Martha Beck.   In this book I was introduced to another outlandish idea–the possibility that a really effective and successful way to do life, especially in a life where I am choosing to measure success in increments of joy, is to play until I feel like resting, and then rest until I fee like playing.  This suggestion was something that I was already sort of exploring, but to have America’s favorite life coach tell me that it really works sort of sealed the deal for me.  I discovered, though, that I must have done a whole lot of playing so far in my life, because for a bunch of months, it felt like all I wanted to do was rest.  And in our culture obsessed with action and results and productivity, allowing oneself to do a whole lot of resting can be really a challenge.  I persevered, though, and as I mentioned earlier, I have become an avid napper.  Still an amateur (“lover of”) at this point, but who knows what lies ahead.

Speaking of what lies ahead, and not knowing about it, here are a few things that lie (lay?) behind me, from the year of 2012:

January - Chillin' at the shack...workin to stay warm!

January: I started the year off by myself, staying warm and cozy in “the shack”, belonging to dear friends, Myles and Laura and baby Armen (not so much of a baby anymore – tonight he was turning the lights on and off and showing me his toy trucks).  A week later I moved into my home for the winter, another cozy casa belonging to oldest friend Nisa and her family (Tim, Casey, Theo and Kyla Rose–who was still hanging out “in-belly” til June) while they spent some QT on the beach in Hawaii.  This month was an awesome time of reflection, healing, connection and exploration.  I took daily walks on the beach at Great Rock Bight, and experienced having a home of my own for really the first time ever.  It is divine, that own-home-having experience. (I look forward to it again sometime soon!)

February - a REAL vacation in Florida with family.

February: I found myself in sunny but rather chilly Florida, spending a restful, pleasant week with the Knight family–my mom’s brothers and sisters and their families. It felt like possibly the first “real” vacation I have ever had…no connecting flights, no big back-pack, no roughing it.  So fun and fabulous.  I also attended the Millionaire Mind Intensive, spending a weekend in a hotel outside of Boston, beginning to transform my relationship with money and wealth.  Hmmm.  Oh, and I decided not to move back to Portland, ME during one of my beach walks.  All of a sudden it hit me, THIS IS MY HOME ( Martha’s Vineyard); this is where I belong.  It felt wonderful to get clear about that.  To finally really choose this island as the place where I want to establish my life.

March - a visit to Arizona, massage school stomping grounds

March: I found myself a next sweet spot to call home, a wee apartment in a beautiful home in downtown Vineyard Haven.  The kitchen was the size of a postage stamp, but it had lots of light and a wonderful claw foot tub, and it would be mine-all-mine.  I had a week-long adventure out to Arizona where I visited with old friends, and attended an amazing craniosacral and polarity therapy workshop.  I also had a massage from a current student at my massage school – it was almost five years to the day from when I graduated.  The end of the month was all about moving – fitting myself into a new tiny apartment and back into my storage locker.  It took me awhile to figure out what would fit in my apartment, and there was a bit more carrying of boxes up and down the stairs then I think my landlords expected.

April - the magical beach at Great Rock Bite

April: More moving, and some more great walks at Great Rock Bight.  There is something entirely magical about that place.  I think I may have also graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at the end of April–slightly anti-climactic, but fun to be a certified health coach! I started working with a few coaching clients, held a couple of “Sugar Blues” workshops and launched my practice as BodySong Wellness. I wonder what else happened that month…  Probably a whole bunch more carrying stuff back down the stairs that wouldn’t fit in my apartment.

May - Mabel is just getting in from an exciting sail

May: The month started off joyfully when dear friend, sailing buddy, mother of my god daughter and roommate from Portland, Charity, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy–Quinn.  It was such fun to see my five year old goddaughter, Stella, get to take on the role of big sister!  When I got back from visiting the new babe, I completed a splicing job for an interior decorator friend and installed a lovely rope handrail for a stairway in her client’s home.  This was the kind of job that sounds like the possibility for a new business venture– “yeah, I know how to do that. Sure, that would be fun”–and instead made it clear to me that I do NOT, in fact, need another business venture; I have my hands quite full already.  The end of the month found me sailing as captain of the 28′ Noman’s Land boat, Mabel, for the seventh annual Vineyard Vision Fellow’s orientation – an exciting sail from Vineyard Haven to Cape Pogue, arriving by moonlight, and a similarly exciting sail home with quite a bit of wind and fog to start, but some really fabulous sailing over all.

June - reflections at Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary

June:  June began with a lovely walk at Cedar Tree Neck, a sanctuary I used to frequent as a child, but haven’t been to lately.  What an amazingly beautiful Island I live on!  I spent a bunch of the month preparing to turn 30, and then at the end of the month I did just that!  I had a wonderful week of celebrations, made even more special by the arrival of friend Nisa’s third child, the affore-mentioned Kyla Rose, born on June 25th, just two days before I turned 30!  It was definitely one of my best birthdays, and I was thrilled to have some dear friends from off the island come visit and join in the festivities.  There was lots of dancing, good food cooking and eating, swimming and even a little sailing in the mix.  I also started bartering with a new farmer friend, and began receiving weekly bags of fresh, delicious, beautiful veggies, and she got massage for her hard-working body.  What a fabulous trade!

July - Mabel with a shiny new coat of paint

July: A busy month! Summer on the Vineyard had begun with massage therapy in full swing. I also had the pleasure of attending weddings of a couple of dear friends, AND my family and I took on the delightfully tiring task of giving Ms. Mabel a new coat of paint.  She turned 10 years old this year, and I wanted to give her the gift of a beautiful new birthday suit.  “Haul out” as it’s often called in the boat business is one of those times when self-care and common sense sort of get thrown out the window; with an eye on the ticking clock, a hand on a paint brush, and the “splash” date imminent, it is a race for sure.  Mabel, built by my friend Myles when he was 19, has been like a sister to me in some ways (the “brain child” of my dad, built for the non-profit Vineyard Voyagers, to give island kids an opportunity to have significant encounters with the sea).  I feel a very close connection with this dear boat, and often wish I had more time and attention to devote to her care, operation and promotion.  Maybe someday this will shift, and in the meantime, I gaze at her with love and admiration each time I pass her by.

August - a summer of beautiful bountiful food

August: The bounty of good food was overflowing!!!  We had a fun visit from my Swiss cousin and her boyfriend, and got to share a few meals around the table on the back porch – one of my absolute favorite parts of summer. It was another full summer month, but with some great adventuring off the island.  I spent a few days in Provincetown by myself, and then joined my parents and brother to head up to Barnard, Vermont to visit with family from my dad’s side.  It was so wonderful to spend time with all those cousins, many of whom live in California and we don’t often get to see.  On my return to the Island, I decided to re-commit to my self-care, and for a couple of weeks, I received massage and other bodywork as often as possible.  This was an amazing gift to give myself, and left me feeling nourished and balanced and healthy.  I attended the Oak Bluffs fireworks for the first time in a bunch of years and had a blast dancing to big band music on the grass afterwards.  Dancing was a somewhat sporadic and absolutely essential part of summer…

September - double rainbow over Vineyard Sound

September: The month of the infamous double rainbow, and my last month of downtown living…. It was such a gift to spend the summer living TWO BLOCKS from my office.  To be able to jaunt home for lunch or a quick snooze.  And at the same time, I am a country girl at heart, and living in the “big city” (of Vineyard Haven) just wasn’t for me.  September was gorgeous month.  I had lovely meals on my stately porch, and that was also where I read a small book on photography that I picked up at the library. It inspired me to put some time and attention back on this art form that I love so much.  I finally acknowledged that I have dreams of showing my photos, not just on the note cards that I sell, but in large format, where they can really express themselves.  I took the first step in that direction and ordered a number of enlarged prints of my photos.  When they arrived, I felt almost giddy; finally I had taken the first step towards my dream of sharing my photography with the world.  At the end of the month, I packed up and moved out of my apartment, attended my dear friend Amanda’s wedding (I had the special privilege of living with her and her fiancé last summer, and I’m pretty sure they are gonna live happily ever after) and once again moved my stuff into storage.

October - ready to roll...on up to Cananda

October:  ROAD TRIP! It took me about five days  of laying around at my family’s house on chappy to recover from my very full week of moving, etc. and finally I was packed and ready to go… to CANADA!  I had always wanted to visit Cape Breton, and it turned out that my Aunt Ginio was going to be staying up there for a few month.  I was really feeling the need to get off the island of MV, so I headed north…  Nova Scotia is one of my favorite places and it had been awhile since I’d been there.  I spent a fun week in Cape Breton, visiting with Ginio and being introduced to everyone in the small town where she was staying.  Then I drove across to the other side of Cape Breton and spent a couple of nights with an old friend of my dad’s from one of his sailing adventures–even got to ride a norwegian fjord pony bareback and remembered why I used to love riding horses so much.  I headed south through the lower part of Nova Scotia, visiting sailing buddy Steve MacKay in Halifax, and then meeting (finally) and staying with his mom before taking the ferry across the Bay of Fundy, and heading south back down through Maine.  Stopped in Brooklin, ME and spent a few magical days at friends Nat and Pam Benjamin’s cabin…magical even after I ran over a nail and ruined my tire and had to organize getting a whole new set of tires.  NOTE to all-wheel-drive car owners:  In order not to ruin your car, you must replace all four tires at once – OUCH.  In the process of figuring this out, I stopped at the local winter farmers market and happened to connect with the sister of a friend from the island who invited me to come and stay with her and family at their home on Deer Isle for the night.  What a generous offer, and a beautiful surprise connection.  There is definitely something magic about Maine!  After a fun visit in Portland, and a spontaneous boating adventure in Amesbury, MA, I finally made it home to MV!

November - making food with veggies from the garden

November:  I left for my road trip thinking, “there is no WAY I could live with my parents!”, and when I got home, I realized it was the only place I could imagine living.  My desire for a home, a real home of my own has gotten rather strong this year, and this house on chappy where I grew up is one place that really feels like home for me.  I love it here.  I love my huge room with lots of windows that looks out over the garden, through the sassafras threes to the swamp.  I love being able to pick kale and spinach fresh from the greenhouse for a morning smoothie.  I don’t always love the goat girls when they are moaning about being in heat, but I do love having them and the chickens around.  So, here I am.  Back where I began.  It is fun living with my family now that we are all “grown up”.  It is an amazing gift to have a bit of financial pressure lifted by sharing this home, and being able to spend more time exploring how I want to be showing up in the world.  My massage practice feels healthy and strong  and I am enjoying that work. I haven’t had a super busy schedule, so I have had time to play with my photos and explore that avenue as a business venture.  I have settled on the name, Fleur de Lis Studios, for my artistic endeavors and have really been having a blast experimenting with how my photos want to show up in the world.  With my light massage schedule, I was able to convert my office into a temporary studio/gallery and it has been a new adventure to have a place to share my photographs.

December - images from my Martha's Vineayard Calendar for 2013

December: After much back and forth, I finally settled on a collection of MV images for next year’s calendar, and it has been a fun way to be able to share my work with people.  I participated in a Ladies’ Trunk Show with some other entrepreneurs and found it to be a good way to let people know that I am a photographer, and at the same time, not the venue that I feel most comfortable in.  I tried out a different venue, and found that I felt more at home sharing my work at the LovingKindness Holiday Show at my friend Patricia’s home.  She cooks food for Hospice families, and this December she invited a group of island artisans and craftspeople to show and sell their work at her home, with a portion of the proceeds going to fund her Hospice cooking ventures.  What a wonderful thing to be a part of.  I set out to go gift shopping a few days before Christmas, and I found that her show was really the only place I wanted to show my appreciation for goods (in the form of money :-).  Christmas has come and gone, now, and I got to spend a lovely, mellow day with my family.  It is such a joy to have finally reached a part of my family’s evolution where holidays are actually pleasant instead of the traumatic roller-coaster ride of emotions that they were previously.  Thank goodness for the passage of time.  It is so much fun to be living over here on Chappy, taking photos, cooking yummy food, spending time with family, and wondering if the ferry will be running.  I am excited to have a fresh crop of twenty-somethings here on the wee island, with new friends at the Slip Away farm just a walk through the woods, and I look forward to connecting with this community again.

As I look ahead to the quickly approaching new year, I feel excited about what is yet to come.  I am realizing that the usefulness of making plans these days is not so great, and I am thrilled, most of the time, to just let life roll on in–breakers crashing over me with joy and sorrow and the glorious experience of life.  I am finally getting clear that this journey called life is probably not something that I will ever figure out.  I will never learn how to “do it right”, and I could waste my time and die trying… So, instead, I will do my best to take each day as it comes, feeling around for the things I have yet to experience, and not letting myself get too down when I forget that it’s just a game, and I find myself crying over spilled milk. (Am I having deja vu, or did I write that line in some previous holiday letter?)  I love taking this time to sit down and share about the past year, imagining all of you wonderful people out there who I know, but don’t often connect with. What are you up to??  Wherever you are, I wish for you the experience of peace, freedom and joy in 2013.

In love,

Lily

www.lilykmorris.com  ~  www.fleur-de-lis-studios.com