On Community, Creating, and Pushing Past the Fear

This past weekend I was reminded—again—of the essential nature of community, and the vital importance of sharing our true selves. We are wired to seek out others with whom we feel like we “belong.” As Brené Brown says in Braving the Wilderness, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.”

Even those of us who are introverts want to feel that connection with others who get us and support us. Brown also says, “Never underestimate the power of being seen.” And yet, in order to truly feel like we belong, we have to show up as our authentic selves.

In a creative setting, where we’re putting out something we made, it can feel like we’re offering up a piece of our soul. I find that to be so risky emotionally. Brown agrees: “True belonging is not passive. It's not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It's not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it's safer. It's a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.”

But the rewards for that risk are great—when you’re accepted for who you are, or your work touches others, it’s deeply satisfying. I work at home and really miss the camaraderie of coworkers. Online groups fill part of the gap, but I also crave personal connection.

Last weekend I had the chance to go to the opening of an exhibit featuring a painting that includes one of my poems. And although it meant driving eight hours to Houston over on Friday and back again on Sunday—and I was nervous because I’d also have to read my poem aloud at the event (risk!)—I grabbed that chance. What made it even better was that I’d get to stay with one of my dearest friends, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. To be able to spend uninterrupted time catching up with her is a rare treat, and immensely nourishing. (More connection!)

The exhibit was called Color:Story 2019, by amazing artists Leslie Gaworecki and Marlo Saucedo. I met Leslie at Lucky Star Art Camp. Last year she put out a request for words to feature in a collaborative work with Marlo, so I submitted my poem “What If.” I was thrilled when they chose it, and even more so when I saw the finished piece (pic below, and more on my Facebook page).

It felt amazing to be part of a collaboration like that. Then they decided to create more pieces along those lines, and were approved to exhibit them in a show. I figured the opening would be fun, and I knew it would meet my desire for connection, but I didn’t anticipate how very much it would fill my soul.

Their space is a huge warehouse subdivided into studios, and before the opening we were able to wander around and see all the other artists. Being in a place dedicated solely to creativity, I felt a special kind of energy that was inspiring and rejuvenating. (It also made my hands itch with the desire to grab a brush and start painting!!)

It was incredible to see my piece in person, and all the other beautiful pieces in the show. The other writers’ work was amazing. And then hearing that work read aloud, and feeling the appreciation of the crowd, brought a whole new level of energy.

It wasn’t quite enough energy to keep me from being increasingly nervous about my turn. But since my poem actually talks about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I couldn’t possibly back down! I managed to read it all without losing my place or misspeaking—or tripping on the way up—and afterward, several people told me how much they liked it. That meant the world to me. Writers so often send our word babies out into the universe and don’t hear anything back…to get affirmation that our words touched someone makes all the effort, uncertainty, and fear worthwhile.

Seeing such a large group gathered to support the writers and artists was fantastic. It was like getting an infusion of love and appreciation. And seeing all of the artists gathered in that studio space, inspiring and encouraging each other, really brought home to me how important it is for creatives to have a community. Whether it’s “in real life” or virtual, having others who understand the challenges you face and can cheer you on is invaluable.

Especially when we’re starting out, that inner critic can really be loud, and can stop us before we have a chance to get going. Sharing with others who have been there before, who struggle with their own inner critics, really helps us keep going.

And then having others appreciate your work when it’s out there in the world—wow. We create because we have to—because there’s something inside of us that wants to be born, and if we don’t let it out, part of us withers away. We also create to bring joy, or solace, or inspiration to others. Our own pain or happiness, while personal in detail, is universal in feeling. Sharing it heals both the creator and the viewer. Everyone is lifted up. It’s magic, and I’m grateful to have finally gotten to a place in my life where I can experience it for myself.

If you’re feeling that urge to put something out there, remember this. If even one person is touched, it’s worth the vulnerability and the risk. The world needs your voice. Each of us has something unique to share, and someone else needs to hear it because it will benefit them. Don’t let fear keep your voice bottled up inside. Something that can really help you push past fear and doubt is the book The Artist’s Way. Read that, and find your community, and as Rumi says, “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.” The risk is great, but the reward is enormous.

What If


Resolution #4: Be Light

As I’ve discussed in previous posts (here, here, and here), I’ve been thinking about resolutions since I turned 50 last month. Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, I’m compiling a list of intentions that will guide me each day and help me stay on track with the kind of person I want to be and the type of life I want to live.

Here is my latest one: Be light.

This has two meanings for me. First, I want to be a voice of positivity, and have a beneficial impact on others. My Kundalini yoga teacher talked about this recently, about “Being the lighthouse,” and I thought, “Yes! That’s how I want to be.”

I am a naturally optimistic person, always looking for the bright side of things. As I’ve focused more on increasing the joy in my life, I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. This world can be so tough. We need more “lightworkers.” I want to look for opportunities to help spread happiness whenever I can.

The second meaning is to be light-hearted: to be more playful and silly, and stop taking myself so seriously. In the words of one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs, I want to grow “older but not up.” (Actually, I’d rather just stay this same age for a while, rather than grow older, but given the real alternative I will reluctantly keep aging!)

I became so serious after my son was born. I lost a lot of my lightheartedness. The incredible responsibility of being a parent—of caring for this tiny helpless thing—it overwhelmed me. But I now realize that things can be important, and still be treated as such, without having to be so serious. You can play and still teach—in fact, play is how children learn. I feel like I became so serious because of fear. I’m afraid that if I don’t pay attention, if I don’t work really hard, if I don’t “take this seriously young lady,” something bad might happen.

I have all these rules about what a stable home life looks like and how to keep my son healthy and happy and safe. And those are nothing but, as my friend and excellent life coach Carla Robertson says, SIMU—Shit I Made Up. Sure, some routine is necessary, and some caution is advisable, but I have gone overboard out of fear—and it’s time to lighten up.

This also applies to other parts of my life, not just parenting. I am too serious about work. As I’ve talked about here before, I feel like I must get all my work done before I can relax or play. But here’s the problem with that thinking: The. Work. Is. Never. Done. Ever. So…I’ve been making a real effort to get past that Puritan ethic, and instead find some harmony between work and play. The list doesn’t have to be finished before I take some time to relax.

Luckily, we’re about to take a couple of short trips for our Fall Break, so I will get a chance to reset my work-o-meter to vacation mode. This time, when I come back, I’ll be more mindful about incorporating that balanced approach into everyday life!

Since we’ll be on vacation next week, there won’t be a post; I hope you have a wonderful week and are able to find time to relax as well!

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Sharing the Load Makes it Lighter

This week I feel compelled to share one of my very first posts again. So many people today seem to be struggling and in need of support. The world can be a difficult, overwhelming, and isolating place. We often think that we are the only ones who are having a hard time, but that is definitely not the case. If this post helps you, I’m glad. If you don’t need it today, it’s likely that someone you know does, so feel free to share.

You Are Not the Only One

Your fear, your pain, your secret shame—whatever wakes you up at 2 a.m. or keeps you from falling asleep—you are not the only one to experience it. If you were to share it, someone else would understand. Someone would say, “Me too.” It may not be your spouse, or your parent, or even your best friend—it may be a stranger whom you’ve never met face-to-face. But rest assured, they are out there.

Yes, they, because there’s probably more than one. This burden you carry feels all the heavier because you think you carry it alone. That is not true. If you speak the secret in a safe place, others will speak up too. They will say, “I feel the same way,” or “I’ve done that too, and I’m so ashamed.” The relief you will all feel when you find each other is enormous. Sharing the load makes it easier to carry, and sometimes bringing it into the light makes it disappear.

I witnessed this on a private forum for a class about writing through your pain to the love on the other side. These women—complete strangers at first—gradually began to share their most secret secrets, and the acceptance and understanding is overwhelming. One will post a gut-wrenching admission of something which has smothered her in shame and guilt for years, and within minutes, others are posting. Forgiving, commiserating, sharing their similar experiences. Each one feeling like she alone had done that or felt that way—until the dozens of others spoke up.

It is powerfully uplifting to witness the healing that happens when you share what you think is the worst part of you and it is met with compassion and love. It opens the way for peace and joy. Feeling afraid, ashamed, or guilty blocks joy from entering your life like a clot blocks blood flow—and it can be just as life-threatening. Dissolving that clot by sharing your truth will clear the path for all the goodness that is waiting for you.

If you are suffering, I encourage you to seek out a safe place to lay your burden down. Look for support groups, classes, or organizations that might yield a space for you to share. Your tribe is out there, I promise. Online classes are great because it can be easier to be truthful when you’re not actually in the same room—or city—as the other people.  I have a special love for Martha Beck’s classes because I find they tend to draw people who are either also in pain and seeking to transform, or those who are or want to be healers.

Be cautious about the group you choose—speaking up only to be met with judgment can be devastating. I’m not a huge fan of most religious groups because judgment just seems to be built into organized religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful congregations out there.

If you aren’t ready to share yet, you could try reading memoirs by authors who have had similar experiences. Maybe start a journal or write a letter to an author you feel a connection with (you don’t have to send it). Sometimes getting everything on paper helps you release it, and imagining a sympathetic response can help you feel understood.

Whatever you do, know that there are others who feel like you, who have experienced what you have. What I am learning is that none of us is truly alone. We are part of a collective love, if we will only open up and welcome it.

 

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New Resolution: Let Go. No, Seriously, Let Go.

Here is my next resolution:

Let go.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? But for me it's enormously difficult. I might have a little bit of a control issue. I know, though, that trying to control everything just makes me miserable.

Because the truth is, we're never in control. If I can let go of  expectations, my need for things to go a certain way, and anything that bothers or worries me but that I can't change, it will free up a ton of energy and make me a whole lot happier.

This is something I've been contemplating for a while; below is a post I wrote about it back in August of 2017!

***

"The Power of Letting Go"

Recently in my yin yoga class, my teacher read the poem below to us. I felt that instant electric surge of recognition. The entire poem rings so true for me; see what you think:

“She Let Go”

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

by Rev. Safire Rose (as posted on Elephant Journal)

I get goosebumps every time I read it. Every line is what blogger Keri Wilt of FHB&Me calls a “head bob moment”—yep, that’s me! “The committee of indecision”—oh yeah, I’ve got them! “She didn’t read a book on how to let go”—ha! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on pretty much that subject. What, I can just do it without someone telling me how? What a radical, extraordinary concept! And oh, the planning … and the talking about it, and the analysis of pros and cons … that is me all over.

Every time I read those last few lines, I can glimpse the peace that’s available to us if we can actually let go of everything that doesn’t serve us. I can imagine that light, joy-full feeling of truly letting go, and I want it!

I find that I am holding on to quite a few things that are blocking my path to joy. Here are some I could let go of that would really lighten my load:

·         Needing to be perfect/not letting myself make mistakes

·         Needing to always be in control

·         Needing the house to be perfectly neat all the time

·         Needing to be right in arguments—there’s that saying, would you rather be right or happy? Must. Remember. That.

·         Agonizing about mistakes I made and embarrassing moments from my past

·         Worrying about any future event that may or may not happen

·         Worrying about anything that is out of my control

·         Self-consciousness and caring about others’ opinions of me

·         Wondering why I seem to be the only person in the house who can change the toilet paper roll or put clean dishes up. Just kidding---sort of! But there is truth at the heart of this: I can let go of the irritation I feel about these issues, and other ones that are really not worth getting upset over. So much energy wasted on the small stuff!

Is there something—or are there many somethings—that you could let go of? You can always grab them again if it turns out you need them! But perhaps you could experiment with letting go of one need or expectation or fear, and see what happens. I will be doing my very best to let go just like “she” did, and I hope you are able to do the same!

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The Power of Letting Go

Recently in my yin yoga class, my teacher read the poem below to us. I felt that instant electric surge of recognition. The entire poem rings so true for me; see what you think:

“She Let Go”

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

by Rev. Safire Rose (as posted on Elephant Journal)

I get goosebumps every time I read it. Every line is what writer Keri Wilt (author of the blog FHB&Me) calls a “head bob moment”—yep, that’s me! “The committee of indecision”—oh yeah, I’ve got them! “She didn’t read a book on how to let go”—ha! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on pretty much that exact subject. What, I can just do it without someone telling me how? What a radical, extraordinary concept! And oh, the planning … and the talking about it, and the analysis of pros and cons … that is me all over.

Every time I read those last few lines, I can glimpse the peace that’s available to us if we can actually let go of everything that doesn’t serve us. I can imagine that light, joy-full feeling of truly letting go, and I want it!

I find that I am holding on to quite a few things that are blocking my path to joy. Here are some I could let go of that would really lighten my load:

·         Needing to be perfect/not letting myself make mistakes

·         Needing to always be in control

·         Needing the house to be perfectly neat all the time

·         Needing to be right in arguments—there’s that saying, would you rather be right or happy? Must. Remember. That.

·         Agonizing about mistakes I made and embarrassing moments from my past

·         Worrying about any future event that may or may not happen

·         Worrying about anything that is out of my control

·         Self-consciousness and caring about others’ opinions of me

·         Wondering why I seem to be the only person in the house who can change the toilet paper roll or put clean dishes up. Just kidding---sort of! But there is truth at the heart of this: I can let go of the irritation I feel about these issues, and other ones that are really not worth getting upset over. So much energy wasted on the small stuff!

Is there something—or are there many somethings—that you could let go of? You can always grab them again if it turns out you need them! But perhaps you could experiment with letting go of one need or expectation or fear, and see what happens. I will be doing my very best to let go just like “she” did, and I hope you are able to do the same!

Bless and Release

 

I just finished Anita Moorjani’s book “Dying to Be Me,” where she relates her incredible near death experience and subsequent complete recovery from lymphoma. It is an astonishing and powerful story, and her messages really resonated with me and stretched my mind.

One main message is self-acceptance. She makes an interesting point when talking about this—that while she now lives from a place of joy rather than fear, it doesn’t mean she always thinks positive thoughts. She says that we all have negative thoughts, and since they are part of us, they are something we should accept. Rather than resisting or fearing negative thoughts and emotions, we should feel them and let them move through us.

Now I don’t know about you, but I resist my negative emotions very strongly! This was a fascinating idea to me, that I could just accept them and then they would go on, and that was actually healthier than trying to avoid them.  

It seems to echo something my yoga teacher talked about recently, which is the concept of “bless and release”—if something is bothering you, rather than getting caught up in it, give it your blessing and let it go. In other words, accept it, let it move through you, and release it. This feels like a radical approach to me, and I’m really quite thrilled to start playing with it.

There is a poem I love that expresses this concept much more beautifully than I ever could. So I will let the amazing mystical poet Rumi have the floor this week:

The Guest House

--Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

What My Surfing Lesson Actually Taught Me

I surfed! I actually did it! I was nervous and afraid, yet I got myself to the beach and into the water and on that board. And I fell, and I fell, and I fell … in an hour, I was able to get up about four times, and stayed up long enough to ride to shore twice. I probably tried to get up 50 times, so my success rate was pretty low, percentage-wise. But man, did I feel successful afterwards!

Remember how I said the waves here aren’t very big? Well, of course, on that day they were. They were higher than usual, and more haphazard. My instructor apologized in advance for the less-than-optimal conditions. She had just finished running the kids’ surf camp for the day and said it had been pretty nerve-wracking. So, I lowered my already-low expectations. I’d hoped to get up at least once; now I decided that if I didn’t, I would try again another day.

I have to admit, part of me was glad the conditions were rough. My small self thought, “Sweet, now I have an excuse if I totally suck! I can blame the weather.” And after my first fall, an epic sideways collapse that took me deep under and sent saltwater rushing through my sinuses, she thought, “We can always say it’s too rough and go home now!” But I admonished her and explained that I was going to keep trying unless my instructor told me to stop. It wasn’t like the swells were ten feet high; I mean, this isn’t Hawaii or Australia or anything. They just weren’t beginner-friendly.

So I got back on the board (which thankfully was foam, so I wasn’t worried about braining myself and ending up in the hospital—well, OK, I was still worried about ending up in the hospital, but the actual risk was lessened) and I tried again. And again and again … over and over I tried to get up and fell immediately. I’m not a big swimmer, and when we go to the beach I may cool off in the ocean, but I don’t usually spend much time in the water. This was up close and personal with saltwater. In my eyes, up my nose, down my throat…after every fall I was hawking and spitting like a ball player. It stung and burned and I felt vaguely nauseated. But still I persisted!

I was amazed at how physically tiring it was. I know, I should have expected that, but I guess I didn’t realize how much effort it takes to push the board out through the waves, then get on, then try to get up, then fall and flail around—and repeat and repeat. I began to worry that I would wear out before the hour was up—how embarrassing that would be! So I told myself it wasn’t an option, did some deep breathing, prayed for help, and kept going.

Part of it was pride. My instructor was in her mid-twenties, was a soccer player, and had been surfing for 10 years. This 40-something non-athlete wasn’t going to show weakness in front of her, and I wasn’t going to quit if I could help it. And part of it was determination. I had been wanting to do this for so long; I was finally out there, and I was damned if it was going to be a bust. I wanted to be able to say I gave it my all.

Finally, I managed to stay up and ride for a few seconds. It was glorious! I was so proud. (And I think my instructor was very relieved.) I was able to do it again, and rode almost all the way to shore before the wave gave out. It felt incredible—I had time to think about what I was doing, and when I almost lost balance I willed myself to stay upright. That was my shining moment. I was able to get up a couple more times, but the waves petered out quickly so the rides weren’t as long.

When the hour was over, I was tired but triumphant. I sat on the sand and guzzled water, catching my breath and watching those waves. I realized that I had once again shown myself that I am much stronger than I give myself credit for. I have more stamina—both mentally and physically—than I think. I tend to forget that, and doubt my own power. I may never surf again—or I might, who knows—but I will always treasure that feeling of triumph and that reminder.

So, here’s my takeaway: first, it feels amazing to accomplish something you’ve been dreaming of, especially if it turns out to be harder than you imagined and pushes you physically and mentally. Second, it’s always rewarding to break through fear and insecurity to try something new. Even if I had never gotten up on that board, I would have been proud of myself for trying. (Whether or not I would have tried again, we will never know. ;-) )

But to succeed—that really did boost my self-esteem. I feel stronger, more adventurous, and more confident. And as we get older, those feelings don’t come as easily. If we want to continue to grow and live a rich and joyful life, we have to consciously cultivate them.

That’s one of the reasons I decided to try something new every month this year, and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t matter what we want to do. What matters is pushing past our fear or anxiety, going outside our usual bubble of comfort, and feeling that gleeful oomph of “I did it!”

Success is not found in how we do it, but rather in that we try. Just the act of stepping out onto the limb—of striving for the branch just beyond our reach even though we’re scared—gets us out of our rut. Regularly challenging ourselves and experiencing new things keeps us engaged and enthusiastic. So now my challenge is—what in the world shall I try in July??

The Joy of Novelty

I watched “Breakfast at Tiffany's” again recently. (I love that movie!) This time, I was struck by the part when Paul sells his story and Holly says, “We should celebrate! I think there's a bottle of champagne in the icebox; you open it and I'll get dressed.” He says (while opening the bottle) that he's never had champagne before breakfast before, and she says they should spend the day taking turns doing things they've never done. She takes him to Tiffany's; he takes her to the public library; she takes him shoplifting! I thought, what a wonderful idea! Not the shoplifting—but to spend an entire day doing new things. Doesn’t it sound invigorating and adventurous?

Of course in New York City it would be easy to fill the day with new activities, but in a smaller town, is it more difficult? You might have to try a little harder, but I think it’s possible. There are plenty of places here that I've never been. I bet we all have those spots we drive by and think, "one day I'm going to check that out,” but we’re always too busy, and then we forget.

Now, an entire day might be asking a little much in my current world—and probably in yours too—but we could certainly take an occasional morning or afternoon to have one or two new experiences. Hmmm … I just tried to make a list and I could only come up with three things. Wow, I am definitely stuck in my old habits! There are probably dozens of activities I haven't tried and places I haven’t visited around here, yet I can only think of three.

When you're in a rut, it's hard to turn the wheel and get out. That's why I love traveling--new places force us to do things differently and expose us to fresh experiences, which inspire growth and novel ideas. Keri Wilt, author of the beautiful blog FHB&Me, just wrote a post about that very thing. She related how her young son would make huge leaps in development whenever they would take a trip. She says, "Despite all of my encouraging and nurturing at home, it was only when he left our home base, that he grew and changed by leaps and bounds. Now, I am not discounting what he learned at home, but I made a mental note at the time about the power that new people, views, and experiences can do for a developing mind. And guess what? It's true for my developing mind too! Yes, my 43 year old mind is still changing and learning and growing. And just like my son, when I confine myself to living the same days over and over again: wake up, breakfast, work, lunch, home, tv, dinner, bed...I get stuck and my growth slows to a crawl."

Yes! She hits the nail on the head. Novelty is good for us. It wakes us up, stretches our mind, gives us a different vantage point from which to examine our lives. It opens us to new possibilities. Research shows that learning new things keeps our brain changing and growing as we age, and can help prevent cognitive decline. So not only is it fun, it's beneficial to our health.

My husband and I try to have a date night every week. We’re in a rut on this too, usually heading to our favorite bar for cocktails and then to dinner. Recently, we shook it up a little by trying a new restaurant. It was amazing—incredible ambience, excellent service, to-die-for food. We felt like we were in a different city altogether. It was so much more memorable and fun than going to the same old place.

Last year I read the book “The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery” by Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin. It was a fascinating read. These two 40-something friends felt like they had lost momentum in their lives. They were griping to each other over drinks, and came up with a plan to “face our fears, rediscover our interests, try new things, and renew our relationships” by doing something different each week for a year. They started a blog to chronicle their year and ended up publishing the book—how’s that for shaking up your life? After I read it, I was quite inspired. But the thought of trying to do something EVERY WEEK was a bit overwhelming, I admit. So I adjusted that to every month—which still felt a little intimidating, but much more manageable—and decided I would start in January of this year.

So far, here’s what I’ve done:

·         January: took piano lessons for the first time

·         February: made marbled paper on my own and taught a friend how to do it at our first “art party”

·         March: performed a song on piano, in a band, at a showcase—in front of actual people! (Eeeek! I was terrified but I did it!)

·         April: started writing my first book

·         May: launched this blog!

Each of these took me out of my comfort zone, and everything except the art in February scared me silly! But I find that I’m now feeling more excited, engaged, and energized than I have in years.

For June, I’m REALLY stretching my boundaries. I’ve got a surfing lesson scheduled this afternoon! I have never tried to surf and am not particularly athletic; luckily, the waves here are not that big. Surfing is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, but I’ve always been too afraid of looking like a fool. I got tired of moving the Post-it note that said “book surfing lesson” from calendar to calendar year after year, so when I decided devote 2017 to new activities, I knew surfing would be one of them. I am both excited and anxious; I will let you know how it goes!

What have you always wanted to try? Which interesting spot in your hometown is crying to be checked out? I hope you get to have an adventure of your own soon, and that it brings you joy!

You Are Not the Only One

Your fear, your pain, your secret shame—whatever wakes you up at 2 a.m. or keeps you from falling asleep—you are not the only one to experience it. If you were to share it, someone else would understand. Someone would say, “Me too.” It may not be your spouse, or your parent, or even your best friend—it may be a stranger whom you’ve never met face-to-face. But rest assured, they are out there.

Yes, they, because there’s probably more than one. This burden you carry feels all the heavier because you think you carry it alone. That is not true. If you speak the secret in a safe place, others will speak up too. They will say, “I feel the same way,” or “I’ve done that too, and I’m so ashamed.” The relief you will all feel when you find each other is enormous. Sharing the load makes it easier to carry, and sometimes bringing it into the light makes it disappear.

I’ve witnessed this recently on a private forum for a class about writing through your pain to the love on the other side. These women—complete strangers at first—have gradually begun to share their most secret secrets, and the acceptance and understanding is overwhelming. One will post a gut-wrenching admission of something which has smothered her in shame and guilt for years, and within minutes, others are posting. Forgiving, commiserating, sharing their similar experiences. Each one feeling like she alone had done that or felt that way—until the dozens of others spoke up.

It is powerfully uplifting to witness the healing that happens when you share what you think is the worst part of you and it is met with compassion and love. It opens the way for peace and joy. Feeling afraid, ashamed, or guilty blocks joy from entering your life like a clot blocks blood flow—and it can be just as life-threatening. Dissolving that clot by sharing your truth will clear the path for all the goodness that is waiting for you.

If you are suffering, I encourage you to seek out a safe place to lay your burden down. Look for support groups, classes, or organizations that might yield a space for you to share. Your tribe is out there, I promise. Online classes are great because it can be easier to be truthful when you’re not actually in the same room—or city—as the other people.  I have a special love for Martha Beck’s classes because I find they tend to draw people who are either also in pain and seeking to transform, or those who are or want to be healers. Be cautious about the group you choose—speaking up only to be met with judgment can be devastating. I’m not a huge fan of most religious groups because judgment just seems to be built into organized religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful congregations out there.

If you aren’t ready to share yet, you could try reading memoirs by authors who have had similar experiences. Maybe start a journal or write a letter to an author you feel a connection with (you don’t have to send it). Sometimes getting everything on paper helps you release it, and imagining a sympathetic response can help you feel understood.

Whatever you do, know that there are others who feel like you, who have experienced what you have. What I am learning is that none of us is truly alone. We are part of a collective love, if we will only open up and welcome it.