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Howling and Getting Messy

It’s Sunday and I absolutely hate Sundays. I wake up knowing there are looming responsibilities ahead and blog posts to write and Facebook pages to update. There’s work I stupidly brought home on Friday thinking I’ll get to so I won’t have as much to do the following week, but it somehow stays in my car over the weekend collecting dust. I put a lot of my Sunday chores off until the minute on Monday because I absolutely HATE doing any sort of work on the weekends. So why do I bring work home on the weekend and not write blog posts during the week instead?

My desperate need for balance.

I am, by my genetic disposition, an overachiever and tend to be a workaholic when I can get away with it. As a modern woman I sometimes feel like I have to expertly maintain a balance between work and home, being active and enjoying the fruits of the Pacific Northwest. No one places these expectations on me except me and the hamster in my brain. Maybe I read too many magazines but I keep thinking there’s a magical Pot O’ Balance and if I keep turning over rocks, I just MIGHT find it. I was like that in college when I refused to focus on just one class and let the others go and I’m like that as an adult. Luckily, the Universe had an answer for me this week when this article landed on my Facebook feed and made me stop and re-think the whole idea of balance. For those of you who didn’t click on the link, the author summarizes the act of trying to finding balance by saying, fuck balance! We aren’t meant to find balance! We were born to shift and be selfish and howl and get messy.

Powerful words, huh? I wish I had written them, but I didn’t so I printed them out and put them on my computer. My journal is full of lists on ways in which I “should” be finding the elusive Pot O’ Balance instead of just howling and getting messy. Finding balance is what prevents me from sitting still for too long or just enjoying the moment before moving on to something else. That’s not to say I’m not curious because I will always be curious, but trying to find work/life balance is never going to happen so maybe it’s just time for me to jump head-first into the void and enjoy the ride. Mark Twain once wrote, “What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other.” That Samuel Clemens sure was smart.

What about you, Gentle Reader? Do you keep searching for the Pot O’ Balance or have you learned to “sod it all” and howl and get messy?


Wear your heart on your skin in this life

This weekend I joined the ranks of the Portland hipsters and ultra-cool and got a tattoo. For most people it’s no big deal, but for me it, was a big deal. It was a lesson in keeping my promises and following through when I said was I going to do something.

I had always wanted a tattoo but I never found anything that really spoke to me or that I felt I absolutely HAD to have tattooed on my body. In December of last year the Vegvisir came to me and I honestly don’t remember how I found it. The Vegvisir is an Icelandic symbol meaning guidepost. It is said to be an internal compass and helps the bearer find their way through rough waters. When I found it, I was unemployed and down in the dumps and needing something to grasp on to so I pasted it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget it.

A couple of months later I interviewed for my current job and made a promise to the Universe that if I got the job, I would tattoo the Vegvisir on my arm and we would be even. I got the job, but I waited to get the tattoo. I was nervous and needed to research about the best places so I asked around, talked to random strangers about their tattoos and took mental notes. It wasn’t until I told my friend Tressia I wanted to get a tattoo that the ball was set in motion.

Tressia has two gorgeous tattoos I love and she forced me to get out of my comfort zone and go the tattoo shop and talk to the artist where she got hers done. I figured it wouldn’t kill me and I wasn’t committing to anything. We set a lunch date and visited the shop after our lunch. I walked into the shop feeling like a fish out of water not knowing what to ask or how to ask it. Tressia took control of the situation and explained to the artist that I was looking to get a tattoo. I showed him my design and he told me he really liked it and told me how much it would cost and when I should come back. This particular artist is in high demand and is typically booked out six months in advance. BUT! He did take walk-ins on Sunday. We made a date to come back and Tressia bounced out of the tattoo shop like a giddy school girl while I stood there wondering what I just did.

On the day of reckoning, I awoke to excited texts and messages on my phone from Tressia with plans to meet. I was excited but mostly nervous while Tressia bounced off the walls. As we waited for the artist to set up, we looked around the shop making cracks about horrible tattoos I could be getting. I think it eventually morphed into a half-naked woman riding a phallic-shaped object. The laughter eased the tension and I was ready to go when Dan called me back. I’ll spare you the gory details from here, but I found the whole experience to be very positive from inception to execution. The staff at Atlas Tattoo is incredibly kind and supportive and everything was done quickly and efficiently. Yes, it did hurt.

I came away from the whole experience walking on Cloud 9 feeling very proud of myself.. it could have been the after-tattoo endorphins, but I said I was going to do something and I did it.

I know I am not the first or last person to get a tattoo but the whole thing was an important lesson in keeping my word. I made a promise and I kept it. I could have chickened out, but I didn’t. Yeah, it did hurt but in the end it was worth it. I don’t have a picture to share right now as my arm is bandaged up, but if you’re friend with me on Facebook – you will have seen it.

While getting a tattoo is not for everyone, I would recommend keeping this story in mind the next time you make a promise to yourself, the Universe or anyone else. Find someone who will take you to the edge of the cliff and encourage you to jump. Find someone who will jump with you and hold you accountable and make you feel like you’re not in it alone. It’s worth the endorphin rush in the end.

I Tried to Do Handstands For You

This week on the blog, I’m going to do something a different and not make it all about me. I have no pithy experiences or observations to share and I won’t be emptying my thoughts into a bucket for public review. However, I do wonder what would it look like if we COULD empty our thoughts into a storage container like the Pensieve in the Harry Potter books? Would my thoughts be a swirling mass of blue and pink energy waltzing in time? Or would they be a dark, cloudy mass full of anxiety dreams and worries in a mosh pit at a punk concert? I wish I could draw that. Where was I? Oh yes, this week, I am going to let others do the work as I offer you up some interesting morsels of inspiration found during my internet travels.

Our first stop is this blog post I wrote months ago about making your own creative automat. It’s one of my favorite posts and apparently resonated with my friend Neal who was finding his daily routine involved too much time on Facebook and watching Breaking Bad reruns and not enough creative time. Neal is a freelance cartoonist and animator who was inspired by my automat post to change his own creative routine by using the respectful act of bowing taught in Aikido. You can read all about how he did it by clicking here.

The next act of brilliance comes from a writer who wasn’t inspired by anything I wrote but got ME to challenge my own thought processes. The challenge came from a blog post on the website of a literary magazine called Ploughsares in which the author wrote about an important lesson she learned from her yoga teacher when she was too afraid to try a headstand in class. The yoga teacher wisely told the class to do the headstand as if they already knew how. It’s was that whole fake it ‘til you make it thing that retrains your brain into thinking you CAN do something rather than giving in to your fears and quitting before you try.

After I read the post, I thought about my fears and and applied it to my daily routine at work. I jumped into projects and meetings with the mantra: do your headstand and it worked! I displayed confidence in my projects and my co-workers responded positively.

What about you gentle reader? Did you find anything this week that inspired YOU to greatness and to do headstands?

Come On Get Active – Week 1


The Universe can be a fickle little bitch sometimes.

Last week I proclaimed to the world I was on a mission to get active and lose weight! I planted my flag and claimed this journey for Queen Isabella and set off to make great strides.

The Universe, however, had other plans for me.

While was writing the blog post I failed to mention I had hurt my back that week and needed my husband’s help each morning to get my shoes and socks on. Going to the gym after work was impossible because while I could take my shoes off, I could not get my exercise shoes ON. And yesterday I woke up with a scratchy throat and a cold that is thinking about taking up residence in my head or chest.

Exercising vigorously was out of the question so instead I focused on what I ate, why I ate it and just moving more. I took walks during my lunch hour instead of sitting at my desk and made a conscious effort to be more active over the weekend rather than planting myself on a chair or the couch.

I doubt I lost any weight last week, but developing healthier habits and sticking to them is more important right now and I’m happy with my week. I made better food choices and enjoyed the autumn weather while it’s still nice. I took walks with my husband around our neighborhood and spent an hour this morning walking around Vancouver Lake enjoying the sights, sounds and smells.  And that’s all that counts.

Jumping off cliffs and developing wings on the way down

Before I put 40 candles on my birthday cake, I wrote a blog post about getting better consistently, and, like a fine wine, improving with age. The day after I wrote the post, my 10 year old cousin died and I went back to Minnesota for a wedding. When I returned from the whirlwind tour of the Midwest, life took over, work got busy and I found myself coasting again with no plans or benchmarks.

I did have an e-mail waiting for me at work from our HR Director letting everyone know they were starting up another round of Biggest Loser. Much like the reality series, participants gather around the postage scale at work and weigh in each week. Those who lose weight get a dollar back from their entry fee and those who don’t are left talking smack with the other participants. I decided it was time for me to join in on the fun as I wasn’t hitting the gym as much as I should and my body was craving exercise.

My first adventure with the giant postage scale was a bit of a shocker. I knew I had some work to do but the mean, red number was much bigger than I thought. My new job, stress and a long commute were reflected back at me as I stupidly asked if the scale was correct. The shipping manager said it is calibrated every week and yes, it was correct. I left the shipping dock ashamed.

As I walked back to my desk reflecting on the number, I realized I could stop at the vending machine and buy a bag of peanut M&Ms and pout or I could accept it and make plans to do something about it. It also got me thinking about my after work schedule and how I’ve been content to come home, eat, and sit in front of the computer or TV and not take a more active role in my creative life.

Like many writers, I tend to go after the shiny object and abandon them when I’m stuck, it gets hard, or when the next shiny object presents itself. I have a hard drive with too many projects collecting dust and people waiting for me to deliver. I have written in the past about my Unfinished Symphony which I never really completed, and I have written about benchmarks and never really set them. Now that 40 has come and gone, it’s time for me to get working and start clearing things off my plate and dropping weight. It’s time for me to start setting micro goals rather than trying to eat the whole whale in one bite.

So, the first micro goal on my list is to adapt a more active lifestyle. One hour at the gym after work is a good start, but it’s not specific enough. I really need to be more active on the weekend which means more walks with my husband or finding a group that meets and goes on walks, rides, hikes, etc. I find doing things in groups is a better motivator and holds me more accountable.

I don’t have benchmarks yet on my weight, but I will work on that next week. How it feels, what it looks like, where I want to be at a particular date. Each week as I beg the shipping scale to be kind, I will check in on this here blog and write about my exercise and creative processes in addition to my regular blog posts. My goal is to make it interesting so you’ll come back or join in on the conversation and not make it a blog of me whining about how hard it is.

As for my creative projects, I expressed my lack of word count to my friend Jaymi who told me about a writing group that meets once a week to write. I now have a date this Tuesday to write with the group and will talk with them about writing goals and word counts and projects I’ve been ignoring for too long.

What about you Gentle Reader? What micro goals can you set to achieve greatness or make friends with the bathroom scale? Drop me a line. We’re all in this together.

Midnight Conversations

At some point during my internet travels I wrote down the phrase taking action on a midnight conversation with yourself in my journal to reflect on save for later. I don’t know who wrote it or where I found it so I can’t give that person credit but the phrase recently made appearance in my life again when I was paging through my journal reading old entries. I thought about all those nights when the gerbil in my head is running at full speed reviewing unfinished projects, work demands and whatever else I didn’t accomplish that week. When the gerbil wakes me up with her mantra, I vow to take action to be a better person, grow 4 inches and lose weight immediately. Then I go back to sleep and hit snooze until the next night when the gerbil jumps back onto the wheel and begins her workout again.

Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s easy to make Grand Plans in the middle of the night to get yourself back to sleep or during quiet times of reflection but why is it so hard to follow through? Inertia? Comfort? Laziness?

The answer came to me in the form of my friend Pam’s online talk show. As many of you know, I have been working as the Content Editor for A Closer Look Radio for many years. My blog started as a way to provide content for the show and get people interested in the guests and interviews. It has since evolved into a forum for me to sort out my creative and professional life and get the gerbil in my brain to slow down for a few hours. Last week Pam interviewed Jen Sincero the author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life and the conversation struck a chord with me. They talked about how we “learn” our fears and how to un-learn them and focus on the words and stories we tell ourselves. I mean, we can only tell ourselves we are losers for so long until we start believing it. Jen also recommended writing letters to things like money and food as if they were a real person telling them how we really feel. It’s an interesting exercise and I certainly learned a thing or two.

Go take a listen to the conversation and let me know how it can help YOU can take action with those midnight (or in my case 3 a.m.) conversations with yourself and how you can invoke your inner badass. I’ll be here having a conversation with my inner gerbil telling her to slow down and enjoy the process.

I am not young enough to know everything

Last year when I turned 39 I vowed this would be the year I would take on Herculean tasks and become a Better Person™. I had no plan or benchmarks set in place just a proclamation to the Universe and a written submission in my journal.

Well, shortly after my 39th birthday I lost a job I never liked and stumbled through 6 months of unemployment until I found a job I did like. I hiked and biked and learned new things and met some interesting people. Some people were temporary blips and others stayed and helped me grow out of my comfort zone.

My 30s were all about learning what I really wanted and who I really am. It wasn’t the easiest decade as a deployment was thrown in halfway through and I learned new acronyms like PTSD. I also lost a couple of grandparents and a close friend or two but I gained many new friends and learned important lessons.

If Hallmark is to be believed ones 40th Anniversary is the “ruby anniversary.” Rubies have many regal qualities and, according to one website, stimulate the base chakra and increase vitality and life-force energy. Rubies also banish fear and improve concentration.

Instead of looking at my 40th birthday with dread (as I have been doing) I plan to take on qualities of the ruby: Banish my fear of crossing off another decade and embrace this life force energy. Appreciate that I’m in good health, have amazing friends and family and an excellent support system that doesn’t care how old I am.

Before sat down to write this post, I was reading something an acquaintance wrote about why he runs. He didn’t make any lofty goals or proclamations about why he runs or the goals he sets, he simply said he wants to get better consistently.

As I enter into my fourth decade, my goal for next year is to get better consistently. Set benchmarks, explore how things will look and feel, and shave time off my mile.

Happy early birthday to me.