Inspiration

Dance To The Muse-ick

The creative process is such a mystery to me.

Many creatives have rituals or props or specific locations they use in order to practice their art.  And I believe all of those things can be very beneficial.  I may or may not use a few myself.

That being said, there is this spiritual component to creating that’s a little more elusive and a lot more necessary.  Call it your Muse, divine inspiration or Being In The Flow, there’s an untouchable, uncontrollable “MYSTERY” that takes the ordinary and turns it into something special when it shows up. And when it’s not there?  Well, anyone who’s ever experienced writer’s block knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Bleck.

Being in that mysterious space seems a lot like what being in Heaven would feel like, as I picture it.  Time stops, the world disappears and everything vibrates with JOY.  And, like Heaven, no one who gets there ever wants to leave!

I’ve been spending a LOT of time in that Heaven in the last couple of weeks.   Even on those mornings when, at 2 a.m., I show up a little blurry eyed and unsure if anything worthwhile will make it’s way to the page, it does.  On some days, the first few sentences of a new chapter are already running through my mind before the coffee is even finished brewing.  Other days, I have to prime the pump a little bit before anything happens.  I might journal awhile, read something inspirational, pray a bit, let the dog in and out a bazillion times, drink more coffee.  And even then I might have just one word to go on when I sit down at the computer…a general “direction” to head.

But something magical begins happen when I sit down and, by faith, start typing just a few words.  Before long, an hour (or two) is gone and another chapter is complete, including whatever extras I’m adding to each chapter.

Being a crafty chick, I’ve made a lot of things over the years, and I’ve written a lot of things for both professional and personal use.  I know what it feels like to be inspired, and to love the finished product. But I have NEVER experienced anything like this before.  It’s as if I’ve been living my entire life preparing for this very moment, and now the appointed time has come for it all to come together.

Time stops.

The world disappears.

Joy fills my soul.

And I am so very very grateful.

“Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life.  And that’s about it!  That’s the human lot.  Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!  God deals out joy in the present, the now.”  –  Ecc. 5:18-20, The Message Translation

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, Relationships, Spirituality, The Wild Pomegranate, Women, Writing

The Write Stuff

20160509_080925_resized

Writers are a strange weird breed unto themselves.

I spent an hour reading and un-privatizing some posts from 2007 on Saturday. Just a few for now.  And don’t ask me why.  It just felt like something I wanted to do, and I plan on doing more as the mood strikes.

2007.  Where has the time gone? This blog used to be called The Wild Pomegranate.   I changed it last summer when I thought to redirect the subject of my posts.  Funny thing is, that didn’t last long.  I keep defaulting to my Self.  Go figure.

But Thank the BlogGods my days of deleting entire blogs on a whim (usually triggered by some emotional or spiritual melt down) are over. I remember two of them – one, “Phoenix Rising” and another, “The 13 Graces”. I had some really good stuff on those pages, too, dammit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked my own ass for “purging” like that.

Now if I’m not feeling it for some reason, I just go private and stop blogging for a while, or start-up a new blog. (Don’t tell WordPress but I have at least 2 dozen in the queue.)

C’est la vie.  Guess you can teach an old blog-dog new tricks after all.

There’s something vastly appealing about a starting new blog, or a new page in a journal, or a new journal all together, for that matter! A blank page – be it a piece of paper or a computer screen – just beckons for something FRESH. Something NEW. Something NOT EXPERIENCED BEFORE. I get giddy of all that possibility.  (Confession: I purge my journals, too. Those books are my “safe space”, where I literally bleed on the pages. Not a word is written with an “audience” in mind, not even a spouse or a child. Besides. Who would want to saddle someone with decades worth of THAT crazy stuff?)

Most blogging “experts” advise picking a single topic for your blog so as to show yourself as an “expert” – you know, for building a brand and a following and all that stuff. The only thing I’m an expert at is myself, and even then it’s a crap shoot.  And while it’s nice to think others like my writing enough to follow along, I got over the numbers game years ago.  I write for the joy.  For the release.  For the healing.  I write because I have to.

And my topics  Well, they’re as eclectic as I am:  Spirituality, family, cooking, sex, relationships, crafts, politics, the whole Breast Cancer thing. I’ve even played around with some fiction, as well.

You name it, I’ve probably penned at least one rant post about it.

In this new season of my life, however, with all this TIME I now have, writing has taken on a new significance.  A week ago, I went to my first writer’s workshop and have more on the calendar. Imagine, all these decades of writing both personally and professionally and I’ve never had any proper training. I’m a pantser, 95% of the time, and 80% of the time, it turns out pretty good.  I keep remembering the people who came out of the woodwork last year to tell me I should write a book.  I’m not sure if I’m there yet, but SOMETHING is happening.

I’m starting a whole new LifeStory, so to speak. I’ve been walking through Unchartered Territory,  being transformed by a paradigm shift of immense proportions. It’s been more than a year year since I left my desk job.  A YEAR! The longest I’ve gone without a place to go to Monday through Friday since I started Kindergarten at age 5! Talk about a WTF realization!

With the diagnosis received in January of 2015, nothing has been Business As Usual.  The way I spend my time is fluid and largely unscheduled, except for my ongoing treatments. My social circle has been morphing.  How I relate to “activities” and people and events is changing.

Mother's Day 2016 With My Grandson
Mother’s Day 2016 With My Grandson
Even the way I look is completely different, with my little gray post-chemo pixie. Almost everything in my life has changed.

Everything except for the writing.

Tomorrow, my life is about to change again. For the first time since the late 90s when I did a lot of volunteering in church (head of Women’s Ministry, co-head of the Food Pantry, Bible Study leader, Prayer Team leader, Den Mother to a couple dozen 7 and 8 year olds boys in the Royal Rangers program), I’ll be spending scheduled time every week volunteering.  Specifically for Habitat For Humanity.

Yep, I got the gig I interviewed for after all! Starting tomorrow, 4 to 5 hours a day on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays, I’ll be the acting Social Media and On Line Marketing administrator for one of the H4H ReStores.  For 4 months, I have the opportunity to do what I love doing for a great cause – everything from keeping their half-dozen Social Media outlets updated, to taking photographs and listing items for sale, to writing blogs to inform and inspire others.

THIS is something unlike anything I’ve never done before. A new beginning. A fresh page.  And I can’t hardly wait!  Who knew that this was the new life promise I’ve been holding onto through surgeries, chemo, radiation, betrayal, job loss, ad naseum?

And who knows what will happen from here?  It feels like I’ve stumbled upon my destiny, and can finally (thankyoujesus) put what I know to good use for something bigger than myself – spending my time in meaningful ways, with like-minded people, for something I believe in.  It is literally a dream come true, the dream I blogged about years ago.  I feel like this is the right thing, at the right time, for all the right reasons – even if I’m not getting paid for it.  Yet. (smiling)

And THAT is something to write about.

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?