It’s Launch Day! Drawn In by Sioux Trett

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.  Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a friend who is launching her new book today!

Happy birthday, Drawn In, and congratulations, Sioux!

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I’ve been a beta reader for this book and I must say – it’s a lovely book. I can’t wait to see Sioux’s creation out in the world, (March 17 is the date!) and I know people will love her characters as much as I do.

So – without further ado, here’s Sioux!

1. Hi Sioux! I’m going to jump right in with questions.
Do you have a special writing ritual to get you into the world of your story?

Ooo interesting! I think maybe I should more than I do, I think it would helpful to adopt one as I move deeper into sequel-writing! But I do find it helpful to have a quiet environment. I know a lot of writers thrive on creating a soundtrack and having music to write to, but that is definitely not me. My scenes always start as dialogue, and I have to be able to listen to the characters. A cup of tea doesn’t hurt either.]

2. Tell us … are there any major changes in your book from the VERY FIRST version? And how do you feel about those changes?

So very many changes… so so so many. In the very first version I started in the wrong place, I focused on the wrong elements, I had an interesting premise, but very little plot. So I gave it some time to gel, and I passed it through lots of beta readers’ hands, shelved it for a while… it’s been through the wringer. After many re-writes, it’s finally in a place where I’m happy with it, and I’m so proud of the changes that have happened. I think it’s come a long way, and I’m excited to share the final product with the world!
3. Any advice for those of us who are still plugging along on our novels? (I’m deliberately leaving this vague so you can say any old thing that is important to you!) What helped you finally reach completion?

Finishing that first draft is so daunting, it can feel overwhelming at times. I’m diving back into that now with the sequel! But there’s really only one piece of advice that’s worth anything, and that is: Keep Writing. Don’t edit as you go, just write. Get it out, and save that inner critic for the editing phase. What finally made me get to the finishing point for the rough draft was NaNoWriMo, and that’s solely because it forced me out of my head and made me just get the words out. What made me get to the finishing point where I feel I’m ready to publish was hiring an editor for an “outsider’s” perspective, taking those notes, and finally fixing things that I’d been shying away from.

4. Do you have adventures up ahead for your lovable main character, Rennie, do you see an end, or is this ongoing at this point?

The sequel is in the works now, and I know of two novellas that I definitely see happening in Rennie’s world. As far as seeing the end, I’ve known the ending point of her story since I started writing, so I’m just having a great time getting there and I hope that readers will enjoy the journey with me.
5. I love Rennie … she feels like someone I’d love to be friends with. Is she drawn from anyone in life?

Thank you! I’m sure she’d love to hang out with you as well! 🙂 Rennie has a lot of me in her… her sense of humor is mine, and her geek tendencies are all mine. People who know me REALLY well can see the similarities, for sure. But she is her own person. She has some deep insecurities that I don’t share, and she shows some real bravery that I’m not sure I would have in her circumstances. I think she’s probably a good mix of me and several of my nieces.

Thank you for joining me today, Sioux – and congratulations! I’m sure everyone will love Rennie and her world, and I’m excited for them to read your book. 

here’s Sioux:

siouxSioux Trett was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California (the setting of Drawn In). She graduated from college in Oregon, and now makes her home in the beautiful Ozarks. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found traveling, playing with the cutest puppy on the planet, or obsessing over things like Doctor Who, manicures, and Starbucks. Find more at her blog siouxtrett.wordpress.com.

places to find her book:
Amazon Kindle pre-sale

Goodreads

places to find Sioux:

Blog!
Facebook
Twitter

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Coeur-age

The other day, my therapist, Annie, said: “Do you know what ‘courage’ means?”
“Acting in the face of fear?” I faltered.
“It comes from the French – coeur – heart, and Latin: cor. Choosing from the heart in the face of fear. So: good job. You were courageous. You are courageous.”  Deep breath. Relief.

Hey, yeah. I was courageous.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves, eh?
And from a TED talk by Brene Brown : “Courage – telling your story…with your whole heart.”
also this:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
that’s what I’ve got for ya on this lovely wednesday evening.
Courage, friends! Sometimes it is wearing a disguise; it’s dressed like fear. Sometimes it looks like fumbling to speak and saying all the wrong things- but trying anyway. Sometimes it’s simply looking into another person’s eyes, trying to see them, *really* see them, let down your guard, and let them be different than all the ones who hurt you.
Courage. Coeur.

HEART

“YES, LET’S!” Or: When Kyle Cassidy Gave Me a Photo of Myself

First of all,

I gained about ten pounds, just by not living consciously. By feeling like I could eat anything since I boxed so hard about five days a week, not really noticing (except to be very grouchy and unsettled about it) when boxing went down to two days a week. I didn’t accept that boxing, my boxing, the particular boxing I needed which was not drills or punitive, but was joyous, a kind of dance, and also deeply challenging so that I could push myself hard until I got into a beautiful meditative space — MY boxing was gone. I didn’t move on and find something else to fill that need.
I also forgot about eating to feed my body, not my mind.
I developed a kind of inner-kid rebellion about it. There’s definitely a kid in me who wants to eat anything she damned well pleases, and it’s a luxury to her to know she’s in an adult disguise now, so no one can say “no” to her. (I need teach her how to feel good in other ways.)
I chewed things when I was stressed. I chewed when I was avoiding. I chewed things out of rattly plastic bags when I was tired (and really actually needed a nap instead.) I advised my clients about their own compassion and their own habits, and I didn’t notice mine…or when I noticed, I excused. “Well, whatever. I’m tired…it’s just right now.” or, (my favorite excuse) “it’s organic!”
Then, all my health coach training and maggid training and deep work on self-compassion and process and psychology didn’t just fly out the window, it completely imploded in a few hours of utter self-loathing. The battle was still here, and it hit me in the face with its intensity. All of a sudden I *needed*.  I needed reassurance from my boyfriend that he still found me attractive (whaaa??? this goes against everything I’ve spent years saying, about finding strength, empowerment and complete wholeness within ourselves alone.) The more I looked outside myself for words of comfort (which by the way I am blessed in that there were so many friends and a lover so willing to give me those words) the more frantically pulled-apart I felt.  I was coming undone.

This is not a story about ten pounds.

This is a story about being seen.

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A little while ago for my birthday, I did something utterly mad. I asked my Mom to go on a journey with me into the desert to take photos, because it was my birthday, and she is Pooh to my Tigger- she says “yes, let’s!” to the mad adventures I propose.  Also, she was the most important person that kinda made that day (my original birthday) happen. An artist and person I highly admire just magically happened to be there, taking photos of people, on the very day of my birthday. (I’ll have to write another story about this soon, as I can’t cover it all in this one, I seem to be saying “my birthday” a lot.)

This was a meaningful birthday to me – an important number. When I was a little girl, I said to myself, “When I reach THAT number, I’ll know what my life is for.”

So I felt like it needed to be marked. I had thought of getting a tattoo…but somehow, that wasn’t it.

No: I needed to be seen. seen as I am in the world. For a moment, completely just myself with no fears and no hiding.

I didn’t know that was what I needed. I thought I was creating illustrations and covers and things for my books, both to motivate me to work harder and faster, and to bring some joy and play into the book-creating process (which can be a very lonely process.)

Someone I showed these photos to asked me “Does it bother you at all, that your body can be seen, that it could be on the internet?”

“No,” I said, “Because this wasn’t a case of me being nude in some play, feeling weird about it but doing it anyway for pay. I’ve felt terrible in that situation because I was changing my own body to be more what people ‘wanted to see.’
When I saw this dress, chose it and put it on, I felt incredible. I felt for once completely at home in my body. This is on my terms. There is no shame here – there I am, with no hiding, no pretensions, nothing to lift me up, pad me out, make me look more like society would choose (but I wouldn’t), there I am on my own terms in my own skin and feeling more comfortable than I have ever felt.”

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I don’t know if these photos will be reported or taken down or criticized or lewdly remarked on…I don’t know, and I don’t care.

I felt so safe at Kate’s house. I felt seen, heard, and most of all, accepted for exactly who I am. I have never felt so un-judged in my life. I have never felt so free of anyone *wanting* anything from me. Even though no one knew me, I felt welcome … I have never felt this way since I was a little kid, when it was natural.

Remember that? How you’d walk over to join the game, and someone would simply shift over to make room for you? How little kids see other little kids and just … play? At very young ages before society has begun to make kids question whether they’ll be accepted, there is an unspoken and totally unconscious understanding.

It’s very matter-of-fact. It doesn’t seek to bind, hold, cajole or tell anyone who they should be. It simply accepts. Yes, play with us. You are seen here. You also get to change the story, since you’re here.

When I was in England, we played a theater game at RADA called “Yes, Let’s!”  It was simply this: someone would call out anything (within common sense safety rules, of course, keeping it innocent, as adults need those)
such as “Let’s all go pick up the umbrellas!” Then everyone would shout “YES, LET’S!” and we’d all follow suit with the greatest enthusiasm.  At first it was awkward; we were self-conscious and laughing…very quickly, it awakened the most beautiful, unbridled joy.  This was not an exercise of “following” or mob mentality ..this was an exercise of acceptance, of play, and of the beautiful thing that happens when you know if you call out “Let’s go look for the Wizard!” everyone will yell, “YES, LET’S” and they’ll bloody go look for that Wizard. With you.

Kate has a gift. First of all, she gathers people around her who have their own dreams.  Even those (like me) who somehow got a little lost on the way to their fairyland…who lost confidence, or started talking to themselves in stern ways, saying things like “You should grow up.”
She gathers dreamers. She enters into their fairyland and she makes it brighter. If they’ve lost theirs, she shares her own. “Look!” she always seems to be saying, “Isn’t this wonderful! Isn’t it beautiful!”

I had dampened my joy in many ways. I had become “practical,” (well, for me-) I had even stopped creating my Jules Verne bathroom – it sits there incomplete, hastily hung with paintings of Venice, without its porthole and giant cephalopod tentacle mural. I had shelved all ideas for creating my own beautiful, whimsical kingdom – just let them dwindle away in the focus on Making Income.

Truly, I didn’t know it, but my birthday found me in sad need of shining-up and repair.

Kate’s Place and Kyle Cassidy’s photos crashed through my inner ceiling which was getting lower and lower…

So here’s the thing I have been fumbling to say since then: (well, ONE of the things)

We all really just need to be seen.
Not really by anyone else: by ourselves.
We also need to be Accepted. and ditto.

Not many people have a Kate and a Kyle (and a Ryan and a Michael and a Doriot and a Judy and a Robin…I see you all, and you all Matter…)
So I want to help people do this on their own. We CAN do this on our own. It just takes a bit of waking up.

Standing there in my body that had put on ten pounds, feeling like it was just time I felt good about myself, really good about myself,

I wasn’t conscious of wanting to feel that way. I simply was that way. I was seen, I was safe, I was comfortable, I was completely me, shyness and all – because we aren’t just made up of the parts of ourselves that are Brave; we are also the things that hide, the wild creatures that peek out from behind trees with curiosity and a kind of wild, shy joy- we are the awkward parts, we are the angry parts, we are the wounded parts —

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We are ALL of those things. And if, for even one moment, ALL of those things can come sit in a circle together, just moving aside to let everybody in, and ALL of those things in us can be seen, can count, can be invited to make up part of the game, and all the other things can embrace each one,

then every single bit of ourselves, for once, can join in a joyous shout of “YES, LET’S!”

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all photos by Kyle Cassidy (www.kylecassidy.com)
settings by Kate McKinnon (check out her incredible jewelry. she’s a magic maker)

Another Lesson in Letting Go

A wonderful photographer was going to mail me a photo he took of the Dalai Lama- he’d been invited to photograph His Holiness, a great honor- I won a little contest with a photo of my cat.

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This photo.

…and Kyle’s photograph just never arrived. One of life’s mysteries, I guess. I don’t know why seeing that photo and having it had become so important to me. A talisman, a reminder of a beautiful soul to light the way in a time of deep personal struggle.

I keep dreaming of the photograph. When I open the envelope, there are many photos in sepia, very faded, and they look just like my Grandfather walking away from me. He’s always turned away or walking away — and I always think “Huh. the Dalai Lama looks just like Grandpa.” The places where the sun through the trees is brightest on him are so faded they’ve disappeared.

Monk-Walking-Down-The-Street-

Walk away. Letting go does not require forgetting. We can grow and be grateful and still move on.

Learning to let go. Then let go again. Oh, you thought you let go? Just kidding! Let go some more, goober.

PTSD requires this: I have had a full day now without fight-or-flight, that sickness in the belly that had become my “normal,”

I know how to do it now. I have felt what it is like to live with a soft belly, with safety in my body, it’s mind-blowing. The absence of pain and fear is so beautiful!! – and I’m stunned into sadness that I have not had a day, nor yet a full hour (unless I was boxing or through kirtan) of this peace for years until yesterday. Then : the backlash happened. Nightmares – waking up in the night with fears about my current relationship repeating the past trampling my soul. There’s a quote from Ray Bradbury that says it all:

“Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry. The moon rolls by to look at you down there, with its idiot face. It’s a long way back to sunset, a far way on to dawn, so you summon all the fool things of your life, the stupid lovely things done with people known so very well who are now so very dead…” – Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes

      When we begin to heal, to make changes, the psyche and body will fight to hang onto their “normal,” even if that normal is a place of pain, or overweight, or whatever else has become the “status quo.” If we are used to carrying 40, 50 extra pounds, and have a day of eating healthfully, positive in a conviction to start treating ourselves as though we matter, BAM – that’s when the urge to overeat comes even stronger than before. The thoughts of “I can’t do this so why try,” or the emotional saboteurs that will convince us that we must give up our forward momentum. They’re wily, strong and crafty – they have to be, these “saboteurs,” they are our means of survival–or so the body and subconscious think. Status quo must be preserved at all costs! That’s why it’s so very hard to make significant and lasting change. My “normal” has become a certain tense, fear-laced readiness to fight. at all times. My body and psyche think this is helping me, this is the way I will survive.

Therefore in order to make changes it takes a warrior spirit that persists gently, (I know “gentle” and “warrior” sounds like a paradox but it isn’t) one breath of change at a time, consistent, choosing every day to fight for (or in my case, give in to) the change until the change becomes the new “normal” –

     I know how to do it now; it requires renewing being present every moment. it’s so hard…and so light. it requires letting go . I will let go until letting go becomes the new habit, the new “normal.”

If that photograph of the Dalai Lama was meant to teach me this lesson, well, it has been a deep and profound gift. I am incredibly grateful for the loss, the absence. That my talisman never arrived was, I think, exactly how it needed to manifest in my life.

edited: I feel like I should add a few helpful, practical tips here for people who carry PTSD.
1)  Start by noticing. Just slow down and notice the triggers.
When we pause and notice, we are moving things from our reactive brain into our analytical brain. We are distancing a bit. This is the beginning of the way to healing completely. It’s a small step but a HUGE one. (It’s also not always easy when you’re already IN the triggered state.) Just breathe and notice. Don’t judge. “Oh, there you are, clenched stomach. There you are, trembling hands. What triggered you?” notice and name it. “The four teenage boys in that aisle shouting to each other triggered this.”  Don’t name it as the enemy – don’t name yourself as victim – name it as the cure. Throw your closet door open and shine the light on the shadows that lurk in there. That’s how we see that the Tigers are actually our coats…

2) Set aside a time for mindfulness practice every day.  Meditation isn’t some kind of training in being an exalted “zen” person — it’s training in letting go.  When we notice thoughts come up (THEY WILL. There’s nothing wrong with that. the brain is a chattery, busy thing!) we learn to just notice them, then let them go and go back to the breath, rather than follow the thoughts down the rabbit hole.  Sometimes the thoughts are so seductive, we’re chapters into a story of our own writing before we notice that we’ve gotten caught up in thoughts! That’s ok. just notice when you notice, and go back to the breath.  It’s training the brain to notice. it’s training the brain to observe and training the self to have less judgment, more compassion, and release and move on.

3) Self-Care.  Stopping putting myself last. Stopping being a “pleaser.”
Honestly… these days I am taking more time to make sure I exercise. I am being very careful to notice the guilt and defensiveness that comes up around my need to exercise, the excuses I feel I have to make to people to have that time to myself, etc… and then I let it all go. I say “this is what I need to do for myself,” and I do it – with joy and gratitude. If people don’t understand or don’t like you to take time for yourself, that might bear some examining.

4) Sleep.  Just making sure to get enough sleep.  With the nightmares and middle of the night fear attacks, this is a priority now. No more apologizing or saying I have got to “push through.”  Sleep.

This is just the beginning of healing. Just a few small things to do.

Take it one moment at a time. Breathe into the belly. release – Just right now. One moment, one day at a time.

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he does kind of look like my Grandpa; if the Dalai Lama wore plaid shirts and suspenders and played the sax, or my Grandpa had worn robes…they’d be twinsies.

Hope Farm

“Fall has arrived at Hope Farm…”

With these words, something rises in my spirit, just a little. There’s a glimmer like the reflection in a pond of a leaf shifting, caught just in the corner of my eye. Barely noticeable, except that my stillness in this moment is so profound, any shift is enormous.

If I move, will I break, shatter, be consumed with rage or grief or both?

No. I will not break. I have been there before, and this is not like that. This is sadness, yes, but it’s also the deep serene knowledge that I made the right choice.

When I consciously set out to heal, to learn to love myself; when I began to speak up, I also began a relationship.
During that relationship, I kept learning, growing, fighting the old shadows – and he was with me, though he didn’t always understand – he stuck with me. He allowed.
But the growth itself caused it to become apparent that there was a dynamic in our relationship that served neither of us.
It’s so ironic and so horribly sad that the growth itself that I did with him – the lessons his presence in my life sparked – those very lessons meant that eventually this had to end.

I have grown to see that the love I want has to begin with me – that the healing I have to do in order to call that love into my life is healing I have to do alone now.

It is a truth that we will accept harshness from others only equal to that we give ourselves. When the self-talk changes, the level of acceptance changes, too. This is the work, now – having the quiet strength to lovingly say no. No, I will not accept unkindness.

One day what I envision is this: a love that is solid, rooted in honor. Honorable behavior toward the world and toward each other. Trust. There will be no distrust from the beginning – that shattering wondering if my computer was searched or wondering why he’s hiding his phone … there will be no explaining old relationships or constant defending. There will be no asking who he was with- that simply will not exist because Honor will be the foundation of both of our intended energy in this life, a shared core value.

Further, arguments will be in order to reach understanding. They won’t be unpredictable storms out of nowhere with the object to quickly wound – wound first! – they won’t be power struggles or fear-based manipulations. They will be arguments with a solid foundation of knowing we love, knowing we are committed to continuing to nurture a relationship – arguments with the knowledge underneath -always the knowledge – that we love and therefore will not want to say things to hurt. There will be a kind of sparkly glue that holds us together. There will be no question of leaving, no fear of continued harm or deprivation causing doubt; no constant tests. That un-pin-downable, indefinable thing that is enduring, patient, joyful, trust-based, nurtured love.
There will be celebrations of each other’s strengths. Honoring and lifting up the good things- That is what I intend for my future relationship.

I don’t know how it will come about, but I am learning that when I set an intention I must let go of the “how.”  “How” seeks to control— and it limits.  If I let go of the knowing, if I let go of the worry of HOW I will meet this future person, I can focus on nurturing this intention. I can knit up my ragged edges with a lot of self-compassion, I can take responsibility for the ways in which I made choices that weren’t great, or caused harm; I can own my part of things and learn how to do better, and I can love myself as a person who is owning her sh*t and truly growing.

After a breakup, however it happens, the ego can get very loud and hungry. It screams at us to blame the other person – to list the ways in which they were wrong, the times they hurt us, the cruel things they said- it will even urge us to twist things around so that we might still appear in the right, no matter what! Memory shifts solidly in our favor – when in truth, everyone remembers things differently – our memories are not real. They only exist in our own minds and can transform, like the refocusing of a lens shifts a photograph. The problem is, if we give in to that, we put ourselves in the “victim” chair.  “That person did this, and this and this! and said this!” then we are in a place of reaction and anger, telling over the old perceived harms like toxic, poisonous little thorny rosary beads.  Each time we go over the cycle of harmful thought, the ego is fed but it wants more; the ego has a bottomless hunger. It makes things worse. If we look for “evidence,” whether for good perceptions or bad, we can always find it.
IN reaction, there is no empowerment.  We are at the mercy of others’ actions and choices – we are basically saying that we did nothing, could do nothing.

In a place of pain, it can feel like the right choice; it can FEEL like self-empowerment to say “I was right, he was wrong.” but if we listen to the ego and actually are tempted to think it’s showing us the “truth,” we are in for a painful road ahead and a longer time spent healing. Some people actually never really heal.

So: here’s a way to find out whether it’s true or not: simply check to see how it feels.
When I am in hurt and anger, remembering perceived harms, I feel small, tense, ready to spring; my stomach hurts, I cannot rest – there is no peace, I feel sick, and my energy drains away.

When I move away from that, distance from the ego and away from focus on whatever anyone else did, and when I focus on my own choices, I feel expanded, powerful, serene, peaceful. Even in the sorrow of loss, of endings, of breaking up — the wish that it didn’t have to be this way — the undeniable longing that somehow I could stay – there is still a kind of peace. We can choose this at any time! We can breathe, tell the ego, “Thanks, but this isn’t helping me,” and re-focus the lens. Refocus the lens to the beautiful memories, or the times in which we felt held and loved. Refocus the lens toward gratitude for those times, and the knowledge that by struggling through the hard things, by engaging in the discipline of saying “no” to toxic things, we are moving TOWARD, not away from, that beautiful feeling of wholeness, peace, love, happiness.

When I focus on the good, on love and continuing with compassion for both myself and him, I feel healthy. The energy returns.

Thus in a “growth” mindset rather than a “fixed” one, the mistakes are not things to hide from or fear to face: they are enormous, beautiful opportunities for growth and learning.

I believe we are here to grow, so I do much of my learning “out loud” in the world these days…it is my gift to my fellow humans.  Look – I have flaws, lots of them. If I can show the process of seeing them, having compassion for myself within that, owning them, learning from them and moving forward,
maybe then I can help others have self- compassion too. I think this is where much of our healing as a society will begin.

We are here to learn. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I am grateful for this relationship, for the companion who held up a mirror and showed me my ego, so i could do battle with it. Ultimately, it does not matter what he did or chose, or whether he can take responsibility or seeks to blame… that is his lesson to either learn or encounter again. That is where the healing comes in. In the distance from someone else and what they choose; the letting go.

I am grateful that I have grown so much in self-love and loving self-talk that my “limit” has raised – that I will no longer tolerate certain energies in my life, but will, with loving compassion, release and build a strong protective wall around my life.

I used to think that being loving meant allowing all – Chesed (in Jewish mysticism, one of the sefirot, a kind of holy chakra) – lovingkindness —
but Chesed must be balanced with, on the other side, Gevurah – discipline/strength.

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This was always my struggle.  I was never able to say a loving “No.”  No, I do not accept that kind of talk toward me. No, I do not accept this kind of arguing for the sake of wounding. No. I love you, but no – this is not the way I intend to spend my life.

And so, with a loving “No,” we both are lifted up, though we cannot maybe see it yet past the pain of change and loss.  My dear friend and companion – so much laughter. Incomparably beautiful times under the stars, the trees, seeing the magic in the world – on a beach sparkling in the moonlight –
painfully, I give us both this gift. with gratitude, I let go.

HopeFarm

this is a real farm, and it’s really called Hope Farm. with thanks to Rebecca Larken

Fall has arrived at Hope Farm. The trees magnificently blaze as they begin to let go… the chlorophyll that masked their true colors has drawn inward, revealing the rich hues of gold, amber, crimson – and so, may drawing inward for a time of healing allow each of our true colors to blaze forth as we release what no longer serves us.
There will follow a time of emptiness – barren branches –

and then: Spring.  Spring will come softly in to Hope Farm, and she will bloom as she has never bloomed, abundant and joyful with fragrant blossoms.

Parting in gratitude now for the loveliness that was you in my life, making space, examining my own stuff, drawing inward, releasing the past, and sitting bravely with the emptiness in prepation for the glorious, rioting Spring.

message from Neil

As I begin day 1 of my own “ice bucket challenge” (details to follow in a future post when it’s not shabbat)

I completed my morning rituals and was brewing spiced coffee, my brain already on the way into writing time,
when a very clear voice popped into my head without so much as knocking or announcing his presence with a polite clearing of the throat- stopping me mid-motion with his impertinence, his tone unmistakable, nagging me, or perhaps cheering me on in his own way- I tell you, his words popped straight into my head from seven years ago, clear and crisply annoying as the day I read them.

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silly 60-second illustration of my Ghost this morning. altered (fixed) with iPhone app to make it look a bit more interesting –

neil gaiman wrote to me once. I was working on a novel at the time.  I buried the novel so quickly and so deeply after receiving this message, I completely forgot its existence until this morning.  I was working on the novel in semi-public fashion, on “live journal.” He stumbled across  it and wrote to me. I didn’t know these things could happen.

I guess people’s favorite, morris-dancing-on-a-once-gilded-and-now-blackened-sooty-pedestal, ridiculously hero-worshipped writers
read things on the internet too. I would have thought him above such time-wasting behavior in which we lowly humans indulge. In my head, he was off brooding on ragged coastlines in solitude, fermenting new and rib-breaking, lung-squeezing, heart-shredding genius in that maddeningly beautiful brain of his.

the message triggered me into anger, and i buried it along with the novel, almost made a resolution to stop reading his books (that didn’t happen. i am not that stupid even in my most volatile, abandon-y, teenager moments) and actually completely forgot about it until today.

today, seven years later, his voice popped into my head (his deep voice that has a hint of nasal kazoo-ness about it, which is oddly beautiful and also oddly professor Snape-like,)

saying:

“I shouldn’t worry about it.”
at the time, the response in my head was, Of course YOU wouldn’t worry about it, Neil – you are Neil Gaiman, damn you.”
I will not quote any more of the message but that is the important bit-
the part that comes back to my head and resonates differently.
Like all his writing the entire message is so very simple and cuts right to the bone.

I shouldn’t worry about it.

Of course. Of course.

(duh.)

Courage

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Soapbox Alert: let me drag out this old, worn box and climb up on it for a minute (or two).

People who are slinging around the words “cowardly” and “selfish” when it comes to suicide…those people lack courage in my eyes. They lack the courage of heart that is also called compassion. Deep compassion can be painful; to face that we don’t understand but can still allow – to say “I don’t know,” and really understand that we do NOT know what someone else’s experience is, and therefore cannot label it and make ourselves more comfortable. Because, let’s face it, we want to KNOW. We write stories about others – we project – because we want the illusion of understanding and control. When really, we have no control in this life. Everything is impermanent, we are going to suffer, we are going to experience loss and sometimes things are not going to be tidy or make sense – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this beautiful, painful, messy world.
What do we have control over? Only ourselves. Our actions, our thoughts, our choices, our speech. These things add up to: our learning; the evolution of our own soul during our own journey here in this place, together and alone.

So what is Courage?

Compassion is courage , in my eyes.
Forgiving someone else, truly forgiving (and having the strength to either wipe the slate clean if called for, or maintain any boundaries necessary to protect and honor ourselves) – that is Courage.
Saying “no” with loving energy when we need to honor ourselves and honor another with honesty- that is Courage.
Choosing to live our truth – Courage
Choosing to be honest in word and action, and that means even speaking when we’ve done something hurtful and could avoid conflict by being silent – Courage.
Sticking with a relationship and learning from it, or leaving when it’s truly time to leave – Courage
Remaining sensitive in a world that batters the heart – fighting to keep that sensitive heart open – that’s courage too.

Staying loving and open … the deepest courage there is.

Therefore: whether he lost the battle with despair & bipolar disorder or whether he didn’t and we are jumping to conclusions (because we can’t really know what happened)
Robin Williams was an example of courage, in my eyes. We tend to deify a celebrity when they die – we also tend to vilify them. Why don’t we let a person be a person, and honor their journey & struggle? He was a person who gave other people a lot of himself. Let’s leave it at that. I hope kids and adults alike will learn from how he lived. I hope we will all learn from our own responses, here. While we are still alive, we can learn; it is never too late to make a different choice. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and choosing to learn – that’s what we are here for.

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Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish

“Believe in the possible . . . with this brilliantly quirky, thought-provoking novel from New   York Times bestseller, three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.

Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?” 

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The Fourteenth Goldfish is a delightful and thought-provoking middle-grade novel, but not just for kids – the book brought me to tears. It’s well crafted; it moves fast, and keeps the reader intrigued with well-drawn and lovable characters and a plot that has the reader evolving right along with the protagonist. She’s never a step behind us; as her eyes open to a new truth, so do ours … and the growth of her relationship with her grandfather is heartwarming.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read, very sweet and enjoyable – for kids and adults alike. Also contains some wonderful intriguing science lessons presented very entertainingly, like wonderful little tidbits along the way — beautifully done in a way guaranteed to whet kids’ appetite and curiosity for several different subjects in science! Not an easy feat – the author manages it impressively.

I’m grateful for books like this out there, that will give kids an idea of the excitement and wonder of learning, when they allow their minds to roam beyond the dry textbooks. Well done!

 

note: I received an advance copy of this novel for review.

Book Review: The Glassblower’s Daughter

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     I’m not sure how to categorize this- historical fiction? suspense? Mystery? all of the above.

This book reads like a single sentence, in that it is so seamlessly, exquisitely woven, it flows like a completely natural and unstoppable expression of a life from the moment the reader begins it. It is like picking up a life- between its covers, the events of this life are occurring, and when one picks up the book one simply hops on the train and is completely involved. It left me breathless; I stayed up until almost 3 am finishing it, feeling like I hadn’t blinked from the moment I picked it up.
It unfurls before the reader in sumptuous language, in exquisite detail, in breathtakingly, impeccably, REAL imagery.

There are moments of poetic, Virginia Woolf-esque language which capture the essence of the main character’s experience so completely, one can feel, see, hear along with her. There are moments of down-to-earth, commonsense rationality which serve as a beautiful counterpoint, thus ensuring that the novel never falls into maudlin dramatics (which, given the subject matter, it very well could have.)

The author handles the subject matter with genius. It would have been easy to distance from it by focusing on the emotions evoked, thus creating a more predictable piece of work…this never happens.

Oh, the emotions are there, and they are real, but that’s just it- they are real. They are shown, not told. We, the reader, get to figure things out…

If I had been told what this book was about, I would never have picked it up. I would have wanted to spare myself the pain. I am SO GLAD to be, in this case, utterly proven wrong in my assumption that authors can’t deal with tricky subject matter in a way that leaves a reader intrigued, warmed, fascinated, and healed, rather than stressed or drained.

This book is utterly beautiful. It’s not a light, easy, vacation read, in that it is an absolute work of art; but it is not stressful- it is simply true and honest, witty, warm, and the reader becomes an active participant and will grow right along with the protagonist.

I highly, highly, most highly recommend this book….It is one I will read again, no hesitation.

The characters are beautifully developed, faceted, none of them perfect and all of them utterly human and interesting. The setting is meticulously researched, with not a jarring note to be found.

The writing is exquisite. I am extremely picky on that score and I found not one thing (a couple of typos here and there, but nothing to quibble at) to distract me from this book.

Who will enjoy this: fans of John Irving, Virginia Woolf, Ruth Rendell, D.L. Smith, Barbara Vine… yes, this is an eclectic group of authors, because this author’s voice is entirely their own. I very much look forward to reading more of the author’s work.

On “Fatness” (and the Words We are Feeding Ourselves)

A little backstory: I was an actress, long, longlong ago. I constantly battled with bad body image – I got to the point where I would allow myself a little milk in my breakfast of coffee, because that was the protein for the day…
I never ever got thin; this is not a story of anorexia…it’s a story of wasting time and energy with self-hatred and REALLY bad self-talk.

I got in a car accident. I stopped acting. I was in a toxic relationship. With these factors at play, I gained 30lbs. for the first time in my life, I was not muscular or fit…and for the first time since I was 10 years old, I felt really good in my body.

…what? Yeah. I know. crazy. As soon as the toxic partner left my life, I began to cook simple meals of salmon, kale, rice. I began to make smoothies. I bought a juicer and learned about juicing. I began to simply nourish myself as a way to heal the broken emotions. I was still 30lbs heavier than my usual weight, but I felt absolutely incredible. I felt beautiful, sensual, accepting of myself.

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I began to box, which made me stronger and healed me emotionally and physically. I lost 30lbs (or some weeks, 25.) my former “thin” clothes are baggy. I am strong, which feels good.

I was asked to act again, and this time I agreed without even thinking twice about it – for sentimental reasons. It’s a show which is not a big deal in the world of performing, but it’s an awesome project and it was a big deal to me, because I’d been talking to the producer for about seven years, and it’s a return to something I said I would never do again. It turned out to be an extremely beautiful experience. Acting. I had forgotten why I loved it so much all those years. I felt very much in my power and whole, doing something that makes me come alive, and working with incredible people.

And here’s the thing…with the acting, the body-hating has come rushing back, like an old, familiar, dysfunctional relative that I just can’t shake.

I am the same measurements as Jennifer Lawrence, whom I read is “obese” by Hollywood standards. This has made me spin out quite a bit. “Obese.”

I notice the softness of my belly when I sit up in bed, and I think, “that’s going to go.” I see photos of myself from the shoot, and I think “wow, I look fat. If I’m going to continue, I need to lose 15-20lbs.” I notice my arms when they aren’t boxing, and I think “Body, we are going to be eradicating this excess gunk.” I look at myself in the mirror at boxing class, and I think, “I am the biggest girl in here.”

These thoughts are as bad for me as a huge serving of McDonald’s.

My self-talk has become militant, grim, almost violent. This is SUCH a huge change…when I look back at my year of healing from The Most Unbelievably Awful Relationship, the energy I had back then was allowing. nurturing. forgiving. calm. serene.

So the Inner Health Coach has to step up now and coach herself…and because I want to help my clients, I’m doing this publicly.

First of all, let’s talk about Obesity. It dismays me to see an actress like Jennifer Lawrence called “Obese.” There are comments by people who say she’s “fatter,” or the supporters who seem to think they’re being very generous, saying “she’s just a little soft and feminine, that’s all.” When I look at her, I see a person who is in a very healthy place and shape for her own body. Different bodies are going to have different versions of “healthy,” and it can be a heck of a lot of work to maintain the fighting-fit, very trim version that Ms. Lawrence has, that is still somehow considered “obese” in Hollyweird.

So what concerns me is this: when I have a client who is struggling with weight gain, or wants to make a big change and is carrying around a lot of excess; when that client is needing to start small (thus building sustainable change by creating good habits!), how do they continue if they are bombarded with this crap about a very fit person being “obese”?

One of the reasons people need health coaches is that what can happen in the beginning (and sometimes creeps back in from time to time, though it gets easier to work through it) is hopelessness and giving up. Our mind “gremlins” (the harmful “voices” or self-talk) want us to stay where we are. There is a big part of us that resists change, even if that change is a huge improvement to our lives. So the self-sabotage begins.

A person may get up to go for their 15-minute walk, and say to themselves, “I just feel so tired. The weight isn’t coming off. This is useless.” …and BAM, they sit on the couch, grab the chips, and push down the feelings of hopelessness with food. They give up.

This cycle takes time to break – a little change, and sticking with it every day until it becomes a habit. That creates the positive momentum. The cycle is a powerful gravitational force, and The ONLY way to beat it is with self-talk, with affirmations.

Because before we feed our bodies, we need to feed our minds.

Every time I pick up on a flaw and say “THAT is going to go,” I am keeping myself stuck in a place of victimhood and health-lessness. I feel the energy drain, and I feel the dragging sadness set in. Without the energy, how can I prepare healthy meals? How can I exercise?

So the shift that needs to happen is this. First, a big shift in self-talk.

Notice the harmful thought, “My belly is too soft.” “I am fat.” and tell yourself, “You know what, that thought isn’t helping me.”
Then feed your body and mind a good thought to counteract it. “I am strong.” “I feel good after that workout.” Don’t use negating words or try to do something like “I am not fat,” because the focus in that statement is still on the harmful word “fat,” and you’ll just get into a pointless argument with your gremlin. Use positive language that builds. Focus on the things that feel deeply true; the things you feel grateful for.

Gratitude is a HUGE antidote to toxic self-talk poison. “I am grateful to you, body, for getting through that workout. I am grateful you are strong.”

or even start very small: “I am grateful to be able to walk.” I had a therapist tell me once to start really REALLY small…to go for a walk and start with my feet. “thanks, feet, for carrying me.”

Seriously- how much do we take for granted? Our feet…The ability to breathe…

Then it’s time to begin again, to revise the vision.

If I look too far ahead and create goals like “I need to lose 20 lbs and be thinner,” I will look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I’ll just feel overwhelmed.

So what I do is shift the thinking. The goal is now “Today, I will drink more water, do my best in boxing class, and make some healthy meals.” I will plan the meals- miso soup, kale stir fry, isagenix shake… I have a few standbys I have learned how to make quickly, so I never get into that I-don’t-know-what-to-eat,-I-guess-I’ll-just-grab-processed-food rut.

THEN, (and here’s the huge thing that this entire article is about)
I learn once again to love myself as I am, in this moment, right NOW.

That’s the thing that concerns me about all this Hollyweird stuff people are reading. If we are comparing ourselves to someone else and reading criticisms given to that person and taking those criticisms, multiplying them by whatever our differences might be and then applying them to our own bodies,
how can we love ourselves as we are?

Hilda

this is Hilda, the first illustrated “plus-size” pinup. She’s by Baron von Lind.

Sustainable, long-term change begins with acceptance right NOW.

I have experienced this firsthand, and know it to be so so so deeply true. If I could only tell ONE thing to everyone in this world who feels they want to work their way to a more healthy body, mind, and spirit, I would say just this one thing —
First, love yourself as you are right now.

Because what happens then is that the Grim, battling, self-hating, rigid, angry determination to CHANGE goes away.

What comes in its place is peace, allowing, the feeling that you CAN, patience, and steady perseverance.

What comes in when you take deep breaths and love yourself as you are right NOW, is that the body feels safe, no longer chastised, and it’s more ready to listen.

It’s more able to release the unwanted weight when it is being treated with kindness.

This is the foundation for lasting, sustainable, non-painful, joyful change.

It takes a lot of work to love ourselves as we are right NOW and to silence the self-hating thoughts; if those thoughts have become deeply ingrained habits, carving new thought pathways will be like trying to get the deer to walk along a different track so your grass can grow back…it might feel impossible.

Just breathe deeply, and take it slow. Take it with a sense of humor and self-love. Approach it with a sense of adventure. This can actually be fun!
Think some good and loving thoughts; wake up in the morning and think of three things you are grateful for, create an affirmation for the morning or the whole day, and watch as the self-hating thoughts dwindle and eventually grow silent.

And then, do what needs to be done to feel good TODAY. learn to massage kale, and make a stir fry. Tell yourself when you prepare it and when you eat it, that you are feeding yourself nutrients because you are worth it!

Will I continue to act? I do not know. But I do know that whatever work I do, I want to have a solid foundation of self-confidence and I want to celebrate my life! Let’s do this!

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Hilda lighting the way…