just. keep. writing.

Writer’s block is an enigmatic phenomenon. I could be out for a walk, on the bus to work, heck even at work doing my job, and in under a minute I’ll mentally write an entire blog post. The words and ideas stream in so fast I can’t possibly record them, but I promise myself I will later. I’ll remember this, I think. But when I sit down to write – nothing.

Earlier this week, my colleague – an amazing poet and teacher – spoke to a group of high school students visiting our university to learn more about our creative writing program. (A post on ‘worlds colliding’ should follow this one, as the students’ teacher is coincidentally my best friend, who now lives south of the border.)

I attended the session, but didn’t expect to be so personally impacted. When I was in high school, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t a thing. I remember English classes and learning about form, structure, and grammar…and we did do some writing…but for the most part, creative expression wasn’t truly nurtured or celebrated.

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

I can’t help but wonder how different my younger years would’ve looked, had I been encouraged to experiment with all forms and genres in writing. If studying the craft had been presented as a valuable, worthy calling.

Of course, there’s no real point in going there. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘what if’s, thinking we were somehow shortchanged in our past. But we can’t really know how things might’ve otherwise turned out. Maybe in the end it wouldn’t have made much difference.

My poet friend was so inspiring in encouraging the students to express themselves, and I ponder why writing – a process that can literally be a life-saver for some – often remains so elusive for those who love it most.

Is it vulnerability? Putting ourselves ‘out there’ in any capacity can be intimidating…but with writing, it feels heightened. It’s our heart and soul we’re baring, opening ourselves to others’ perceptions and projections. We tell ourselves not to get caught up in likes, follows (or unfollows), and comments…but how can we not be impacted by those things?

Is it perfectionism? We might think we don’t have time, or that we’re too stressed, to write. But maybe it’s fear: fear that our written word will never look as great as we hope and envision. Fear that someone will make a negative comment, or we’ll sound pretentious or get it wrong. Or, maybe worst of all – that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

Blogging breaks are sometimes necessary…but I am feeling the creative muse’s call – no, order – to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be blog posts; it doesn’t have to ‘be’ or look like anything. It can just be for me.

When it comes to nurturing our passions, there is always time. But it is on us to carve it out. Fortunately we now have the world of WordPress, where everyone can express themselves to their heart’s content! It’s not too late.

For all those sensitive people so attuned to the reactions of others, I say… I get it. Express yourself anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re not experienced or published or getting paid for it. If you’ve found something that gives you even the smallest hint of joy, DO IT. Don’t even question why.

It is meaningful, it does matter, and it is making a difference. Just keep writing.

i could get used to this…

Day 3 Diet:
Chocolate croissant, two cappuccinos, spaghetti with pesto, pizzeria pizza, red wine, and pistachio gelato.

Viva Italia!

now i get what she was talking about

now i get what she was talking about

musings on blogging

Is anyone else experiencing time flying by at warp speed?  I haven’t blogged in a while, but a niggling internal voice has been reminding me daily…It’s time for your next post!

Actually, I don’t know if ‘niggling’ is the right word.  Blogging has been an awesome addition to my life these past few months. So maybe it’s time to reflect on this wonderful WordPress world, and muse on the questions it’s raised for me.

First: Why does a private person want to share their innermost thoughts so publicly?  I consider myself quite introverted, so it’s interesting that I’m relatively comfortable expressing myself so openly in this forum. Sure, there is some detachment on the web, in that it’s mostly ‘strangers’ reading my words.  But even this is changing as friends and family discover my blog, and strangers become friends. As my worlds merge, I question why I’m not very forthcoming with those supposedly closest to me. Why have I been resistant to them knowing the ‘real’ me?  I guess I can’t hide for much longer!  The word is spreading.

the blog station

the blog station

Inspiration strikes when I’m not near a computer.  And that’s ok. I like to walk.  Everywhere.  And ideas often stream through me during this time.  I’m not one to whip out my iPhone to take notes (it majorly interrupts my flow), so I’ve come to enjoy the feeling of being inspired, and allowing it to imprint upon me…trusting that I can tap into it when needed.  When I stress about losing ideas, it introduces resistance to the whole blogging process. And then it becomes less enjoyable for me.

Blogging makes me accountable.  But not too accountable. There’s something about declaring your hopes and dreams to the entire world that makes them more real.  This is a great motivator, but also requires patience and compassion for myself.  If I change my mind, or don’t follow through with something I write, it’s okay. Things are always in flux and, especially as I refine and tweak my desires, I must allow myself that flexibility.

Redefining blogging etiquette.  For example, how often should I blog?  There are lots of great blogging resources out there, many of which stress the importance of regular, frequent posting.  But I need to develop my own protocol (i.e., one with no rules).  Some weeks, the inspiration flows mightily and I have so many ideas I can barely keep up. Other times – I got nothing.  I know this is pretty common amongst bloggers…but I personally don’t have a stockpile of posts ready to draw on when my writing well runs dry (as the experts recommend)!

But there are dry spells, and there’s procrastination.  Even when I have a great idea in mind, and time to write, I’ll sit on it.  Why?  The possibility – the potential – that something amazing is within me is sometimes more preferable than attempting to articulate it, and not properly capturing its essence.    In other words, it’s the fear of failure – a pattern I see operating in other areas of my life.  Thankfully, this tendency is shifting as I shine more light on it (with some help from Abraham-Hicks, of course).  But it prompts me to ask:

Who am I writing for?  I started this blog as an avenue of self-expression.  I’m happy others have discovered, and found resonance with, my words.  But at times I’m very aware that others are reading.  And I have to remind myself of the primary reason for my writing: to authentically express myself.  Not to write what I think will make me likable, not to gain stats, not to make sure the post is the ‘right’ number of words so as to not deter readers.

this has nothing to do with this post; i'm just obsessed with taking pictures of ducks

this has nothing to do with this post; i’m just obsessed with taking pictures of ducks

I sometimes view blogging as a conversation between me and my higher self (something I read on another blog), which has its own value on my journey of self-discovery and speaking my truth.  As soon as I stray from authenticity – when I slip into ego, when I make it about others and not me – I’m not in integrity and alignment.

And yet – it is undeniable that the interaction with others is what makes blogging so great!  Which brings me to…

Why I am I doing this?  Quite simply, because it feels good. And it’s fun.  After years of over-analyzing/processing/questioning, and generally feeling very stuck, I’m learning that life is about cultivating more fun, joy, and lightness whenever and wherever I can.  And when I focus on all the amazing people I’ve ‘met’ all over the world, and the ideas that have been generated and shared, I see blogging as one creative means for achieving these positive states.

***

I imagine Earth as a globe with little points of light everywhere, more being lit every second, with like-minded bloggers connecting and networking and charging up the whole planet.

Consciousness is exciting.  Writing is exciting.  Connection is exciting.  Self-expression is exciting!

I’m so glad I took the plunge and wrote that first post (almost) six months ago.

Thank you for reading!

we are all creative

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend, the awesome Eager Beaver.  She looked at me and said, “So missy, you’re a writer.  Where have you been hiding?” (I had recently told her about my blog, and she’d read the whole thing in one sitting.)

My first instinct was to deflect.  I’m not a writer.  I’m not writing a book.  I have a blog.  A blog does not a writer make.  But instead of saying any of those things, I let her words sink in.  I smiled at the compliment – because, in my opinion, Eager Beaver is a great writer.  For her to consider me in that category was pretty cool.

Later, I thought more about my initial resistance.  Where did that sense of hesitancy and discomfort come from? Why the feeling that, in calling myself a writer, I was somewhat of an imposter?

IMG_0819

When I was a child, the response to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ was always ‘Writer’.  As a teenager, it narrowed down to ‘Magazine Writer’. (Anyone remember Sassy mag? Dream job!)  There wasn’t much else I really wanted to do.

But over time, I absorbed some negative messages: Writing is competitive.  You didn’t go to school for it.  You need connections.  There’s no money there (unless you’re a bestseller).  As a profession, it appeared reserved for a select few.  The joy I derived from writing was replaced with pressure, performing, being judged, and getting paid.  And so, apart from my diary, I buried my words and carried on with more practical matters.

I think there are many of us who feel our deep creative potential, but don’t know how to access or express it.   There is a sense that something profound is missing in our lives; so close, yet so far away.

Even though we know the creative process should be fun and joyful, it is also marked by ambivalence.  We may fear that others will judge our creations (and ultimately us).  But it’s mostly we who judge ourselves.  Our inner critic (ego) is relentless, comparing us to others, measuring us to impossibly high standards, labelling our creations as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

This can lead to self-sabotage, either through procrastination, or saying we don’t have the time/money/knowledge/skill/whatever to pursue our creative endeavours.   Or we make the assertion that we just ‘aren’t that creative’.  We stop before we even try.

goddess on the rocks

saraswati

A few months ago, I read Wayne Dyer’s definition of creation as ‘bringing non-being into being’.  The truth and simplicity of these words struck me – as though I’d been forever searching for something that was so obvious, and right in front of me all along.

Creativity is totally open-ended.  There are no rules.  It’s not about putting brush to canvas, or pen to paper.  It can be whatever I want it to be, and in any form.

Seth Godin writes: “I don’t believe that you are born to do a certain kind of art, mainly because your genes have no idea what technology is going to be available to you…Our society has reorganized so that the answer to the question ‘where should I do art?’ is now a long booklet, not a simple checklist of a few choices” (Linchpin, p. 77).

I love this notion that our creative potential can express itself with increasing diversity, ever-adapting to social change.  The digital world has transformed much in terms of creation and connection.  There is not necessarily just one thing we were ‘born to do’, and the worlds of ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ become more accessible to everyone. This refines and expands our definitions of who we are, and what we can create.

Our creative spark never disappears.  It sits patiently, latent, watching, waiting to ignite.

Starting this blog was my 21st century response to the timeless creative call within.  I want to cultivate this inner fire, not just with writing, but with other pursuits I’ve shied away from.  We need to nurture our own possibilities, and support each other’s great creations.

I thank the Eager Beaver for this reminder.

coffee detox blues

Dear Coffee,

I miss you.  It’s been five days since we’ve been apart, and my desire for you is stronger than ever. I thought things would be easier by now.  I miss the way you would greet me every morning, without fail.  I miss the way you smell.  You always smelled so good.  Intoxicating, really.  I miss admiring your beautiful hue…so divine.  And your taste.  Always delectable.  You never let me down.

emptiness

emptiness

Coffee, life without you sucks.  I know we had that month-long break last summer, and that was hell too.  I remember those first 72 hours: the screaming headaches, the sore body, the irritability, the almost-nausea.  It’s been the same this time.  But I had forgotten about the constant gnawing in my stomach…the physical, visceral longing for you.  My mind may think you’re no good for me, but try telling that to my body!

I’ve been in a bad mood for five days now. I mean, I don’t want to punch anyone in the face anymore, but I could do without the disgruntlement and bitterness.  It doesn’t help that I’m reminded of you at every turn.  Everywhere I go, I see you…people holding you, caressing you, smiles on their faces.  You make everyone happy, Coffee!  They don’t deserve the poisonous looks I dart them.  It’s not their fault. This was my decision.

Life is so boring without you.  You’re my ever-faithful companion…every morning and sometimes at work too, or on my walks.  How could I forget what fun we have together?  You’ve injected such joy and vitality into my life.   In this mad world, isn’t that really all that matters?  Shouldn’t we hold on like crazy, whenever we find it?

You make my heart beat fast.  And I thought that was a negative thing…but maybe it’s not.  Don’t we all want something that makes our heart go boom-boom?  And maybe my dependence on you simply means that I have to cultivate other connections in my life, so that the onus isn’t always on you.  Maybe I need to better acquaint myself with fruits and veggies and vitamins and yoga and meditation and smoothies.  Maybe all I need is a little balance.  I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Why did I decide we needed a break?  Well, I had my reasons. And I still think it’s for the best, at least for a few more days.  (And I know you will forgive me and understand, because you’re just like that.)  But this won’t be a permanent arrangement.  I’ve seen what else is out there, and tried a few different things in your place, but they don’t hold a candle to you.  (Nettle tea?!  Who was I kidding?)

You know that saying, ‘Don’t know what you got till it’s gone’? Well, I get it now.  Nothing fills the void like you do. Nothing lights my fire so brilliantly.  There’s no way I can fight you every day.  You’re far too enticing, and I’m not even going to waste my energy trying.

When our lips meet again, it will be magic.  Come to my place, next Tuesday morning at 6am.  I’ll have the cream and honey ready. You just bring you.

I’ll be counting the minutes.

with or without you…coffee

Maybe it’s all the talk of spring cleaning and new beginnings, but I am feeling the need of a serious physical overhaul.  Or it could be that the many years of sitting at an office desk are finally catching up with me.   In any case, I’ve become so accustomed to living in a state of general fatigue and lack of energy that it hasn’t even felt that unhealthy, till now.

Sadly, I don’t think I have ever felt a prolonged state of vitality, juiciness, and high energy.  And I’m starting to see that if I want my life to be freer, more spontaneous, more joyful, and more loving, then the physical vessel which houses these feelings and experiences must be tended to in a totally new and more conscious manner.

It’s painful to admit, but I think coffee is one substance contributing to my lacklustre energy levels.  Let me first say that I am seriously, seriously addicted to coffee.  I love getting up in the morning and making a cup (or two) in my french press, enjoying the quiet around me as I sip slowly…it’s heaven.  It’s the one constant in a day full of unpredictabilities.  And it smells so freaking good.

lovingmorningcoffee

Having one or two cups a day is not a big deal.  For most people.  Unfortunately, I am torn between my love for coffee, and the total havoc I suspect it wreaks on my body.  My nervous system is so sensitively wired that even one cup throws me out of whack.  But I am addicted, and here’s how I know why.

Last summer I had to give up coffee for two weeks for a detox of sorts; I couldn’t have any stimulants in my body.  I was prepared for a difficult process, but I had no idea how mind-blowingly, body-pummellingly, head-poundingly hard it would be.  For three days I was in a constant state of feeling hungover.  I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open.  I would crash by 7pm.  My muscles were sore and my body felt like it was moving underwater.  I have never been so irritable in all my life.  And the headaches.  Oh, the headaches.

Scary.  Before this, I’d had the vague recognition that my body was addicted, but to physically experience such an intense withdrawal was startling.  It dawned on me that for over 15 years, I’d had coffee every single day.  (And probably some other form of caffeine even longer than that!)

Having somehow made it through the difficult (to say the least) withdrawal period, I remember feeling quite good in the weeks following.  I didn’t have boundless energy, but my reserves were definitely more even and sustained.  I generally felt calmer and less anxious.  And my sleeps were much deeper.  In retrospect, if I’d had a meditation practice during that time, I’m sure that would’ve been a whole lot easier too.

In those early weeks of caffeine-freedom, whenever I remembered a reason coffee was bad for me, I would write it down, to aid me during moments of vulnerability and temptation.  I still have the list:

  • Coffee hurts your body
  • It costs money
  • It interferes with sleep
  • Drains vitamins and minerals
  • Inhibits deep breathing and makes you shaky and anxious
  • Convinces you that none of the above are so bad, or true
  • For most people it’s ok but not you.  Trust your body.  It’s harmful to you.
  • It makes your head sick.
  • It makes your heart beat fast
  • It drains your heart force/energy

Wow.

But alas, as you might have guessed, despite all my hard work (and that formidable list) my coffee-free life did not last long.  I don’t know where and when the thread unravelled…but we live in a coffee culture and my city is particularly coffee-centred.  It’s everywhere, and it’s social, and it’s celebrated, and it’s comforting, and…it tastes so damn good!  (Oh, that first sip after my caffeine hiatus…I’ll never forget it.)   The java beast turned out to be too big too fight, and tea drinking never did hold the same allure.

***

All this is on my mind because I’m doing another coffee detox in a few days.  Given my previous experience, I am little nervous, and a lot dreading…but also teeny bit excited for the challenge, and to reap the positives.  (Ask me again in a week.)  I’ve planned it out as best I can: the first 2-3 days will be during a long weekend, so I’ll have minimal contact with anyone that could potentially irritate me; I’ve armed myself with some great quality chicory root; and I will stock up on some Teeccino tomorrow morning.  (Teeccino is what saved me last time because it actually does taste a bit like coffee.  And I can make it in my french press, so I still get the essential morning coffee ritual.)

Quitting coffee is just one step, but it’s enormous for me.  And now I know the challenge is not just in those excruciating first 72 hours, but in the weeks and months that follow.  But I’m not going to think too much about the long-term right now.  All I know is that for the next few days, I’m going to savour each sip more than I ever have before.  If that’s even possible.

an accidental smile

lately i have found myself accidentally smiling at people.  i’ll be walking down the street, lost in my own reverie, and when i look up my automatic reaction is to smile at the person walking past.  on these occasions my response surprises even me, as the smile seems to bypass any mental thought process…and anything that bypasses my hyperactive mind is quite the feat indeed.

however, even more pleasantly surprising is the reaction i get.  most of the time…people actually smile back!

whenever this seemingly small exchange occurs, my heart smiles too.  it never fails to amaze me how such a fleeting interaction between two complete strangers can  so genuinely and swiftly energize my spirit.

so i ask myself: why don’t i do it more often?

some people have a naturally sunny disposition and walking around with a smile is usual for them.  i, however, lean toward the more pensive, and having a big grin plastered across my face seems not only unnatural but kind of silly.  also, i live in a city where people are generally regarded as reserved and (especially this time of year) tend to huddle to themselves.  this does make the whole smiling-at-people thing a little more challenging.

but these are cop-outs and i know it and there’s more to it than that.

i sometimes go about my day in an almost-defensive mode, seizing up those around me, on the lookout for any perceived danger.  most of the time this is unconscious, and a means of protecting my heart.  but protecting it from what, exactly?  what am i afraid will happen if i let the armour down?

am i scared that if i smile at someone, they won’t smile back?   is the possibly of rejection so painful that i (we) shut myself off from anything that could trigger it?  i won’t go into old rejection wounds here; i’m kinda done with that.  suffice it to say that this MO is really just my lizard brain on autopilot, and it’s time for me to consciously take the wheel (or whatever it is that pilots use to fly).  it’s time to actively create the society i want to live in. even if others don’t seem to be on the same page.

dramatic as it sounds…a smile from a stranger, if only for a second, gives me hope in my fellow neighbor, and thus in humanity.  and seconds add up.

i accidentally smiled at someone today.  and i made it an experiment to smile at whoever passed me by after that.  guess what?  it was amazing.  pretty much everyone smiled back! i even got a couple of hello’s!

just thinking about it puts a silly grin on my face.

year of the jellyfish

 

jellyfish

a few years ago a relative told me i reminded her of a jellyfish.  i was confused and she explained: she saw me as translucent, a pearly bubble ready to burst with all the colour and potential and goodness inside me.  she said i couldn’t see it, but she could.  it was a sweet conversation and one i remember once in a while.

maybe it’s all the end-of-2012 talk, but lately i’m beginning to feel those colours emerging.

something has shifted. like i’m breathing a sigh of relief. like i made it to the other side of something. i don’t feel quite so intensely compressed, like i’m a tube of toothpaste and someone is trying squeeze every last bit out.   although everything looks the same, something unseen and profound feels to have taken place.

i can’t hold onto anything anymore. i can’t blame anyone anymore. i can’t make excuses.  i can’t tell the same old stories.

but instead of feeling ungrounded or anxious, i feel peace.

i know that:

-i’m not powerless.

-i don’t have ‘bad karma’.

-i’m not being punished.

-there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

-i’m not unworthy.

-it’s not about the money.

(to name a few.)

whatever i used to say to myself that stopped me from doing what i really love to do, does not work anymore.

and saying that ‘i still don’t know what i really love to do’ (my usual fallback) is also an excuse, of sorts.  maybe i don’t consciously know, but it’s there nonetheless, and moving within me.  something inside has cracked and there’s an opening…to something that’s been closed a very long time.  the hope that maybe i can create whatever i want.  maybe, just maybe, everything i’ve believed for 30+ years no longer has power over me.  it’s subtle yet undeniable.

just the act of putting pen to paper (or fingertip to key) shows that something has shifted.  why today?  why after years and years, did some part of me decide that yes, today is the day to write?

my story that’s not a story. 🙂