Inspiration

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17

Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, Women, Writing

A Pocket Full Of Feathers

They’ve been popping up everywhere.  Slightly curled and snow-white, some small and downy, others larger and a bit more robust.  I find them laying in our yards, and scattered all along the walking trail, like angelic bread crumbs.

White Heron feathers.

It’s my habit to put things in my pocket when I walk, and the feathers are no different.  A small handful in a dish sits in my living room where I can see it regularly.  These feathers are a reminder.  An affirmation.

Having walked this neighborhood for three years, finding an abundance of these particular feathers everywhere is unusual although seeing the birds themselves isn’t.  There are several waterways nearby and herons fly over head regularly.  I caught this big guy – a Blue Heron – hanging out with a couple of buddies a few months back.

Herons are rich in symbolism and no one does Animal Speak better than Avia over at What’s Your Sign.  If you have a moment, hitch a ride over to her place on this LINK and check out the full spectrum of Heron Symbolism.  You’ll understand why finding so many of these feathers is nothing less than supercalifragilistic during this season in my life.

Today I wrap up my first week at Habitat For Humanity, and – in a word –  it’s been AWESOME.  The work itself is rewarding and fun.  But more than that, it’s the people I’m working with that is so exciting.  I’m still getting to know everyone but I can already tell these are some great folks.  Most of them are volunteers, under 30, and really love what they are doing.  After a decade working in a toxic waste dump, this is like heaven!

I also attended the first of The Write Page writer’s group meetings.  Held 20160511_200607_resizedat the Katie Wheeler Library, an old Victorian built by an Irish immigrant who turned out to be the grand daddy of our county, it’s a combination of so many things I just love! About 30 of us ranging from 18 to 80….newbie college kids to old-time journalists and representing at least a half-dozen nationalities…all share the common bond of loving the written word.  I’m already learning so much and can’t wait for the next meeting!

My tribe – my NEW tribe – is coming together.  My new life is coming together, too.  The feeling is indescrible after such a long, solitary and difficult season.  Sure, there are still bits to add to the picture – a great paying part-time job, for one – but I know it’s coming.  I know.  Grace is surrounding me.

My peeps and a pocket full of feathers.  What a great day to be alive.  Think I’ll go for a walk before work.

Who knows what I might find.

Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Self Esteem, Women, Writing

Magic Made Easy

20150619_144216_resizedA long time ago, there was a young girl – aged 10 or so – who spent hour upon hour alone in her room . This wasn’t a bad thing, really.  Alone was a comfortable way for her to be, even though she sometimes wondered what the other little girls in the neighborhood were doing.

Were they playing “house” or dolls or swimming at the beach?  Were their heads bent close together, conspirators sharing secrets about boys and their changing bodies and their common dislike of the new girl?

Sometimes, thinking about the other girls made her sad.  But mostly, she didn’t mind being alone in her room at all, for it was there that something quite magical happened

She became Someone Else

The Magic started the minute she carefully gathered all of her dolls and stuffed animals, and put them in a circle.  Once they were seated just so, she gave each of them a name.  There was Sally and Mark, Kathy and Susan, Brian and Diane.  Each had their own name, with their own “desk”, and their own writing paper with their names written on it in big, bold crayon letters.

The girl spoke their names often to the dolls and animals.  She wanted them to know that they were important to her, and acknowledge that she saw them.  Being “seen” is a very special gift to receive.  Maybe the best ever   When someone sees you, you know that you exist.  You know that people want you around and that they like you.  It makes you feel special, and maybe even a little bit taller.

Oh, and having someone call you by your name was extra special – especially when it was pronounced right! She knew this because, more often than not, people called her by the wrong name – sometimes over and over and over again, no matter how long she had been in their class or heard it pronounced correctly.

And whenever she was called by something other than her own name, her heart dropped.  She imagined it happened because she wasn’t important enough for the person to remember to spell it right and to say it right.

This it made her feel very small, like there was something wrong with her.  Something Weird.  And being Weird was awful.  Weird kids didn’t have many friends, and were picked last for the handball teams.

So when she was alone in her room, she would give herself a new name.  One that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other girls.  It was a name that would get her invited to slumber parties, or asked to play.  It was a powerful name because it

Made

Her

Fit

In

She called herself  “Jane”.

Miss Jane was the best teacher in the whole world!  Not only did she remember the names of each of her students correctly, she carefully prepared papers with dashed lines and math problems so they could practice drawing their letters and adding numbers.

Sure, she might scold one for talking too much in class, but she hugged the children a lot and carefully glued innumerable stars – red and green and gold – on their school work so they knew how special they were.  Stars told them what a good job they were doing.

Naturally, all of her students loved her, and knew her name, too.  Miss Jane was their favorite person in the whole world!  It wasn’t until after those magical hours came to an end, when she left the safety of her bedroom to go to school, that the little girl was reminded – over and over again – how different she was. How weird.  How she didn’t fit in.

She was reminded by the snickers when the teacher would stumble over her name for the millionth time.  She was reminded when all the other little girls, save for her and “retarded Kim”, were invited to an after-school party just down the street.

She was reminded when her mother and father asked her to be quiet, to go play in the other room, and to leave them alone talk and to drink.  Or when she had a bad dream, and no one came to comfort her.

When she grew older, the woman used a made up name – one easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other women – when she met new men in bars.  At least the ones she knew she wouldn’t spend more than just the night with.

When she grew older still, and married a man with a weird, unusual last name, she had children.  The woman gave those children names that were easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other kids.  There wasn’t much she could do about the last name, although she hoped her daughter could eventually change hers through marriage.

When she grew old,  the woman grew to appreciate her name and to cherish it’s uniqueness – correcting or ignoring the mispronouncing of it, depending on her mood.  And even though she’d spent innumerable hours alone in her room reading and writing, learning and  healing her broken bits (you know the ones…the ones that make you feel unwanted and unimportant), she still found herself making that certain magic at times.

It happened every time the barista asked for a name to write on the paper cup, or when the saleswoman asked her name so she could write it on the dressing room door – to make her shopping experience more personal…to make her feel special.

It happened every time she placed a fast food order, created a user name, or was in some situation where it was just easier to be someone else.  To be more common.  To be more like others.

She told them, “Jane”.

Grace Upside Down, Inspiration, Life, Love, Self Esteem, Spirituality, Women, Writing

The Voices In My Head

voices“You’ll never publish a book!”

“Your idea isn’t anything good.”

“Starting your own business is too hard.  The economy is bad.”

“You’re too old to do this.”

Sound familiar?

That’s the voice of an Inner Critic.  Specifically, mine.

Are you acquainted with the Inner Critic? It’s that niggling little voice in your head that brings discouragement, disappointment and defeat every chance it gets.

There isn’t a person I know that hasn’t done some hard time with their I.C.  Even the most beautiful, accomplished, intelligent people battle negative thinking that threatens to undermine their self-confidence.  And while it’s not my intent to analyze where that Voice comes from or who it sounds like (Moms already get blamed for more than their fair share), I do know a few things about it:

Inner Critics (ICs) don’t fight fair!  They practice Guerrilla Warfare, pouncing on us when we least expect it and are most vulnerable, like at the start of an important project, a healthy habit, or a new relationship.  ICs are Thought Terrorists, and 72 virgins mean nothing to them!  They get off by sabotaging our success.

Inner Critics try to convince us that we’ll never be any good, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary.  Ever just post a great piece of writing and the rave reviews are pouring in, but you find yourself thinking, “Oh, they’re just being nice to me.  I’m not that good.”?

Not only is negative self talk illogical, it shows no mercy.  It’s primary objective is to create feelings of shame and guilt, so it attacks our underbelly:  who we are.   Attacking what we do is secondary.

Inner Critics prey upon our vulnerabilities.  They know all about those sensitive areas we try to keep hidden from the rest of the world (and, at times, ourselves):  Insecurities about our skills.  Embarrassment over our weight or age.  Fear about our lack of experience. And the Mother of All Weak Spots : Our past.

The Inner Critic is the Queen of Mean and she has a very long memory.  Those 10 unfinished projects staring you in the face?  She’ll bring them up.  How about the scathing critique you received on your new book?  Uh huh.  Or what about when that person you really liked, maybe even loved, rejected you?  She’ll throw THAT crap up in your face like a handful of napalm!

Inner criticism is relentless at using real or imagined “failures” to try to accomplish its main objective: to kill our dreams and stop our progress.

So what can we do to protect ourselves from these painful thoughts?  We can

H.A.L.T. THE ASSAULT!

HONOR your journey thus far.  One of the best – and kindest – things we can do for ourselves is to stop feeding the beast inside of us by rehearsing the failures of the past.  Forgive yourself for any mistakes and missteps you’ve made.  EVERYONE screws up. Remember:  You may not be perfect but you are unique and exceptional and of great value.  Don’t fall into the comparison trap by measuring yourself against others.  Everything about you – the good, the bad, and the fugly – make you the person you are today.  The past doesn’t exist anymore.  Why carry yesterdays trash into fresh field of potential called Today?

ACCEPT that the inner critic is there.  Granted, there are a few unusual people out there that appear to be free from  tormenting self-criticism.  I say unusual because the vast majority of us ordinary folk have to deal with this thing. Trying to ignore it, and hoping it will go away, is a recipe for disaster.  Remember, whatever we reject about ourselves, we end up projecting onto others.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
you cannot tell it about other people.
~ Virginia Woolf ~

So embrace your Inner Critic.  Invite it to lunch, and acknowledge its existence.  Accepting is half the battle and gives us the power to change it.  Denial is a dead-end street.

LET it go.   Seriously!  Just let those thoughts go right on through!  We are not our thoughts.  Our thoughts are like birds flying across the sky of our awareness.  Sure, they may stop momentarily. But we don’t have to let them build nests in our hair.  When the thought, “I’m a terrible writer” flies in, shoo it away!  If you latch onto it, then replay it over and over and over again, it will hunker down and embed itself.  Show it the door as soon as it appears.  It takes some practice to do this, but practice makes… well, you know.

And finally:

TALK to yourselfNo, not in that “Crazy Aunt Martha” sort of way.  Practice affirmations.  Say nice, uplifting things about yourself and about where you want to go in life.  Put little Post-it Notes around that say things like “I know I can accomplish my goals” or “I am a creative person who enjoys great success” or my personal favorite, “I am equipped with everything I need to fulfill my destiny!”

Nothing shuts up the Inner Critic faster than a well-rehearsed Love Fest.  It’s like a force field of positive energy surrounding us.  I like to write my affirmations on the bathroom mirror in lipstick.  How many times a day do you look in the mirror? Turns out it’s actually a pretty terrific place to remind myself of my worth and potential – right there where I can look myself in the eye and sweet talk that b**** into submission.  It’s something I’ve done for years and, since this seems to be an ongoing battle, will continue to do.  Even my daughter does it now!

It’s my belief those negative voices in our heads can be silenced (or seriously stifled) with a little practice and lots of Self Love.   We can HALT THE ASSAULT, and turn the Queen of Mean into our very own Fairy Godmother.  Hers can be the voice that inspires and motivates us to do our best work, to keep pushing forward, and to achieve our goals.

So how about it?  Do YOU have an Inner Critic that needs to be silenced?

Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Self Esteem, Spirituality, Women, Writing

I Chose Me

il_570xN.557874558_aln1When I walked into The Boss’ office yesterday morning to pick up my pay, I could see he was down. I had called him Tuesday morning, after much angst, deliberation and a quick phone call to the Husband, and told him I wouldn’t be back.

So much for The New Job.

Turns out, after everything I’ve been through – after all of those months of seeking Divine Guidance and Strength –  I really just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this New Job was where I was supposed to be.  The Old Woman had convinced me – by her very presence, if not by her words – that there was something more….something better….waiting for me.

Had I forgotten everything I went through last year?  Everything I learned? One of the main issues in my life – the one that manifested itself as a breast cancer last year – was my life long tendency to sacrifice myself to make others more comfortable, to make others feel good.  To make things easier for them.

I’ll never forget one morning shortly after the diagnosis.  I was sitting in bed reading “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr. Christiane Northrup when I read that as far back as the 1800s, the medical literature has noted associations between breast cancer and women with an “overdeveloped nurturance gland”.  (check!)  They have a tendency toward self sacrifice (check!), and are more apt to have a coping strategy characterized by engaging with the problem, confronting it, focusing on it, working on a plan, and lobbying for emotional support in the process. (check! check! CHECK!)

In other words…ME!

It was a huge ass Aha! Moment, and I broke down wept.  Like the woman in the book, I realized that I didn’t have to “get sick or to die in order to rest”.  Right then and there, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that again.  I would live in balance.  I would take care of me…REALLY care for me.  And I would stop trying to Save The World.

And yet, here I was!  Faced with a job that was FAR from something  soul satisfying and fulfilling, it did meet my financial needs but that was it.  Sure, I could go in and  Save The Day.  I could see that I could have a huge impact for the better, and alleviate a lot of The Boss’ problems (if the Old Woman “let” me.)  But at what cost to me?

So HAD I really gotten it? Or this was a test to see if I had actually made the internal shift needed to so I could go to the next level of my destiny?

Isn’t that what I had been promised over and over again this past year?

I just couldn’t do it.  My head, my heart and my gut wouldn’t let me. So I picked up the phone and called my husband, telling him what was on my heart.  If it were just about money – I would go.  But not for long and not because I wanted to.  That seemed unfair to The Boss, as well, paying me to be a short timer.

He totally got it.  So I hung up, made one more call and chose ME.

When I went to see The Boss yesterday to pick up my pay, The Old Woman wasn’t there and we had a chance to talk.  It sounds like my decision was a disappointment to her as well, and maybe – just maybe – she’s feeling guilty about things.  The Boss admitted he didn’t tell his mom all the reasons why I wasn’t coming back, so I encouraged him to do so – in a nice way, at the right time.  She needs to know that her actions and her words were not only why I didn’t want to come back, but  were jeopardizing her son’s business as well.

Speaking our truth, in a loving manner, may hurt someone’s feelings but we can’t let that stop us.  Not when we know deep in our heart that a change for the good must be made.  I feel for him.  She’s his Mom.  But she is also an employee – one that really isn’t doing her job the way it needs to be done, and it’s taking him down. She’s 80.  It should be okay for him to ‘retire’ her.

We agreed that we would keep the communication lines open,  and who knows? There might be something there for me down the road AFTER The Old Woman has her moment of enlightenment. And maybe – just maybe – The Boss will chose himself and the welfare of his business over protecting his mother’s feelings.

I’ve felt good – GREAT – ever since.  I feel energized again.  Full of hope and anticipation.  I let go of What Was – and an entire old way of being in the world –  so that Something New has space in my life.  And it’s possible that by deciding not to sacrifice myself and my dreams, by putting my well-being at the front of the line, I actually did fulfill my purpose there.

I chose me.

Now, maybe the nice Boss Man will to do the same.