For those of you who are new to my writing and gushing and observing and sharing... and there are some... "hi" :waves: I'm happy to see you. You can totally take off your shoes and curl up on the couch, I'm cool like that. We're all friends here. Unless you really get out of line; then we're not. For at least a day.
So, one of the central themes in Wild Horses and Mistakes, and the reason I set out on the trigger-worthy quest that resulted in my writing it... was this little thing that happens to me, and to so many, many good and creative people, called anxiety. I meet tons of folks, women mostly, through my work, who have their own ideas about anxiety. They get their Xanax, their therapy sessions, and that's it. That's what works for them, that's what they're sold. But still, still, they aren't living the lives that they want to. They're simply... medicated and less nervous about things, in general. And that stuck in my head; like it needed a solution.
I learned along the journey of this little book, that anxieties or obstacles or roadblocks or challenges or temptations... are actually necessary for our growth and evolution. We cannot achieve anything that we set out to achieve without obstacles and the chance to overcome temptations. I have this weird saying... don't bail before the fail. It's coming, you know it is. Whatever it is. Small or large, minor or major, it's inevitable. Accept it, and focus more on the getting back up part and the continuing on afterward; wiser.
It's like Jesus in the desert, Buddha and Mara, Joseph Campbell and the threshold guardians... just about every culture and religion and school of thought has a name for it... for our Fear, for our inner demons that try to steer us of course and away from that which we truly seek.
I digress... but I mean to say that my anxiety and everything and everyone that has brought me to it, has been a gift. I don't merely forgive my past, but welcome and thank it, wholeheartedly, for bringing me to right now. Which is... wow... pretty unimaginably great in some ways, and still challenging and 'not there yet' in other ways. But without choosing to face and overcome these triggers, I wouldn't have become a writer. Or tried out podcasting. I wouldn't have developed a love affair with travel and all things new and inspired. I wouldn't have fallen in love with renaissance art and art museums in general. I wouldn't have reconnected with my spiritual side in such a deep way. I wouldn't have become such a conscious parent, aware of my son's development and experiences of life. I wouldn't have had those long, cold nights, where the only thing I could do was scramble in the dead of night for a guitar and a scrap of paper and a pen and sing and play myself calm again, my face pressed hard against the cool wooden and humming body. I wouldn't have had music back in my life in such a solid and healthy way. I wouldn't have fallen so deeply in love with the natural world and sworn to protect it, in my barely significant, but heartfelt way.
Being plunged into the world of anxiety has helped me to learn the tools and ways of being to help me live with it. And anything that comes up is that much more manageable, now that I know how my anxiety works. The techniques, the mindset, is all the same. Learning to face your demons and sit with your troubles and gain insight from them... is a powerful thing.
Case in point... I am a single Mom, but I co-parent. This means that my precious little boy is with his other parent, his Dad, on some weekends and nights. And most times, it's great. I get me-time, I get things done, I travel, I create. But some days, some weekends, are harder. For no real reason. Last night was like that. And I saw how one thought led to another and another and another until I was a cowering little teenager under the bed again, afraid of monsters, on the cusp of a panic attack about... I don't even remember what. I slept it off, thankfully, but when I woke up, my head was right back there. Confusion, grasping, reaching. It's that... who am I if I'm not Mom... thing. And I get to remember that I'm also a woman, with goals and dreams of my own. And that's something that I think all Moms, all women, should have: a passion, a purpose, beyond that of your work or family life.
Anyway. I knew I needed an interrupt: and a quick getaway, a simple road trip, did the trick. I didn't "do" much. I didn't check into a spa, I didn't spend buckets of money, I didn't hike a mountain and take a selfie. I just drove; I put myself in a new environment. I listened to music. I sang. I gazed at scenic mountain views, I watched the sun set over the Croton Falls Reservoir and nearly wept at its beauty. And I felt small and grateful and connected again to something so much bigger and more meaningful... than me and my simple heartaches. We all have them, in some way. And this is the gift that natural spaces can always give us, I feel. Perspective. Awe. Connection. Without the WiFi or TV or radio or any of that. Just the elements. Me. Breathing. Inspiration. Clarity.
It's a good thing to keep in mind... a simple change in scenery, a relocation, to jumpstart your mindset, might be all it takes to skip your brain to another track. One that favors openness, creativity, trust, and caring. There's a lot of beauty out there, it's a great way to reset and kick yourself out of an anxious funk or to just experience something new: a new road traveled, a new little town with different shops and an old gas station with funky old pumps. Or a new country, perhaps, with a different language and ages-old architecture. It's a big world out there. I do intend to see as much of it as I can while I'm here. While I get to be here.
I can't wait to share this book with you. One way or another, you'll get a chance to read it. xoxo
This was the short poem that inspired my year of chasing wild horses.
As I sort out agents and publishers, get small and ground into the dirt and do the dirty-work, like any other writer... and try to get over myself enough to actually send out these letters and pieces of what was both: a gnarly mess of the tangled bits of a broken and lost and lonely soul plunged into Dark, and simultaneously a chronicle of adventure, travel, faith, hope, acceptance, connection, self-love, nature-loving, and crazy-beautiful magic and Light.
Despite the burning urge to destroy every page and take up some safe and cozy knitting...
I can only say that it was all worth it. Every moment. I can say, for those artists with anxiety -- trigger-divers, fear-pushers, dream-chasers -- that it never really goes away, does it? That niggling feeling, inside, the trepidation. The initial rumble inside. The part that paints the world in much more colorful and whimsical brush strokes. As artists, we just see the world differently, and that must be understood, accepted, nurtured, and honored for the gift that it is... if we're to live and move in this world, successfully. But we grow stronger and more resilient, more curious and less guarded, as we move forward through Life.
See, the scales begin to level out, if you let them... where Fear was always way too heavy on one side... never giving that Love side a shot... if we pile on enough Love, consciously, heaps and heaps and heaps of it, from within, from without, from wherever... it comes back to center. Love rises up to meet Fear, head-on. To look it in the eye. Love, well, she has her own ferocity and her own strength, doesn't she, though she may present it differently, at times. Love is actually much more powerful than Fear. And dismantling anxiety gives it a chance, that's all. A fair chance. And experience then becomes a bit more neutral, like a blank canvas.
So, rather than seeing the potential of a falling sky at every turn, always ready to flinch and defend, we can learn to lower our shoulders out of our ears and gaze up long enough to know... that it's all still up there. Steady. Safe and sound. We begin to realize that the projection of the outside world echoes the Fear we feel, inside. And that we can tackle the Fear, there, at its root, and re-create the world that we see and live in, out here on the ground. And once we let that Fear lessen, we start to see... waves of birds in flight. Inspired formations of clouds. That Sun, that life-giving, warming, healing Sun. Rainbows. Sunsets. Sunrises. Blue skies and endless horizons and buds and blooms and kind eyes and helping hands.
With an open and healing heart, with the gift of forgiveness, the world, our own little sacred worlds, can become works of Art. Our own living stories. The journey that's worth taking.
I think that journeying brings needed perspective -- both physical travel and spiritual journeying -- we get to see Life from all sides of experience (and this can go very, very deep) as we look into Life's mirror, without flinching. We've got to see the deep, dark bottom and the ugliest and cruelest parts of ourselves, to find Grace and to be lifted into the place that we're meant to be. To see the worst and make peace with it. Forgiving the Self builds empathy, in an outward way. Then, such a sacred perspective brings gratitude and wit. Gratitude lightens the weight of whatever we're carrying, enough to open our arms for more. Wit and presence arm us with a grounded common sense and the knowing that we also need to protect ourselves from those things that don't wish us well, which really, is more rare than we imagine. And in that sweet spot of intelligent boundary setting, and faith and self-love in our open-armed and steady stance, comes Love. That sacred chest of goodies, that's been inside, all along. It's in our own hearts.
I sat with my inner William Blake, this morning. I spoke of my dire need to hide this work, this little inconsequential book of nothings, really, that also, coincidentally, bore my utmost vulnerability and questioning and seeking and healing and serendipity and insight. And he said that I had to let it out. That it was imperative. That those right here, next to and close to me, won't understand it, for sure, but that it's not for them. That it's for the others: the seekers, the wanderers, the feelers, the questioners and dreamers, the lovers and healers, the deep-feeling artists, out there... the kindred, he said, the kindred. That it was for them. Those special and dear ones that are so much like me that they are whispers away. That my little, tiny piece of experience and meaning, this bit of so-called nothing, could be one tiny little puzzle piece along the road in getting to their little bit of oh-my-God everything. Because we -- us seeking, wandering, creating, magical folk, well -- we need each other. He said. We are those wild things... he said.
** And moments after writing this, my inner Stephen King said... "let the reader decide if they get it. Just do your job, do the work. And then leave it alone." **
...why does it feel so inviting?
I love Autumn. I'm enjoying tidying up some extra sections for WHM while I learn all about query letters and research agents. And in the space, there... without an urgent project calling for me everyday, sure enough, all the loose ends of creative ideas started to scream and jump up and down for my attention:
- that Tucker novel
- those old micro-romance novels I started a few years back
- 4 or 5 other writing ideas from years back, left neglected, including a post-apocalyptic dystopia
"Me, me, me, me next!!"
Zip it, guys. I'm just not listening. I'm tired.
Those ideas all seem to fly right past me. And it dawned on me that I didn't have to jump right into bed with something new. That I could enjoy the pause and come back down to earth for a while and enjoy the lovely life that I have here... which is already quite full... without having the pressure of another big project looming.
I'd been working on this project, Wild Horses and Mistakes, in different ways, since December of 2016. A year of exploring and seeking, feeling and healing, forgiving and resting. Replenishing. Learning to take care of and sincerely love myself and what I'd gone through; and all that I chose to become and push toward, rather than crumbling into someone that I knew wouldn't really be me. Chasing down faith and meaning and hope with nets, left with only moments of perspective, bliss, awe, peace, or new-found wisdom. And I loved all of it, I am different on the other side. I can only feel grateful for all of it.
And then, there's been nearly a year now of the actual writing: crafting a narrative and diving into all the tedious editing and re-reading, again and again and again. And it still doesn't feel quite done, but I don't think it ever does. Because as artists and writers, well...we are constantly evolving and seeing the world in new and different ways. And I think, I just want to keep the work as current as possible, you know, as current to "me" as I can. But it's got to get out there, as it is, for what it is, and I'll start something new, when the time is right.
I think that's what artists do.
We're never quite done, are we? Always moving and growing and absorbing and wondering and boiling down these intricate and awe-inspiring versions of our respective realities... for the world's consumption. Hoping against all hope that someone, somewhere, will be moved. Touched. Affected. Will get it, will get us, appreciate us and all that we have to say. That our words and rambling nonsense and hopefully poetic and artful sentiments might make a positive impact on someone's experience of life.
That's why I do it, anyway.
So, with the cooler breeze that autumn brings, I find myself curling up and in. Slowing down and taking stock. Like the squirrels and chipmunks and birds outside my window, I'm going through my nest-space, tidying up, and making preparations for winter. Relishing in the downtime. In the rebuild, the reconstruction, the reinvention.
I can only say that it will be a very grounded and physical year: tending to the tangible. Home-life, schedules, school-year stuff, fitness and health, practicing instruments, including my voice. Since ditching cigarettes in the summer of 2016, my voice went through a metamorphic change. And I rather enjoy singing, now, much more than I used to. It hasn't felt this... clear... since adolescence.
2015 - 2016 brought a big life-change for me.
2016 - 2017 brought a focus on mental health and damaging habits.
2017 - 2018 brought a focus on spiritual understanding and deep healing.
2018 - 2019 brings a focus on the physical, tangible, on the ground, in my face stuff of life.
So, autumn is dedicated to... me. For the next few months, I'm letting go of the need to immediately produce something new. I'm taking back my extra time and energy for my more grounded and very physical goals, and giving my seeking, searching, contemplating mind a good, long rest. Turning inward and getting all cozy and warm with myself. Preparing for the other side of this book, in earnest. Fitness goals and publishing and loving on my music. Good and deep rest.
Yes, it's another year of focused self-love... but I'll be working on the outside of the house, now that I know the guts inside are good and stable. Now that I know how to walk... through just about anything. Now that I know, so much more, who I am and what I believe.
And of course, I still keep a journal. So. Maybe I'll write about it all... afterward. Here we go again.
Let's get physical. xoxo
Hello again, my friends.
My favorite astrology people keep telling me that the times are ripe for quiet contemplation, humility, new beginnings, and releasing the old. It is autumn, after all. Let leaves fall...
So... have you heard of sand mandalas? Tibetan Buddhist monks have these intense rituals for designing and completing their intricate and beautiful works of art...made with colored sand. One sacred piece takes them weeks to finish. And when it's complete, after all that work and all of their time, they take it apart. Intentionally and purposefully, they release all the sand back into nature, usually depositing it into a nearby river, to be carried away, downstream. There is great meaning in this: it signifies the idea that energy never dies and the impermanence of all physical things.
I'm talking about it, here, because that's what I've done with my old blog posts. It was a sacred thing, for me, the wide-open and vulnerable sharing that brought me to this point. Three years' worth. But it's time to let them go. I've saved them all, for me.
But I've turned another corner, as it goes, and have found that more and more, I'm pouring my untethered emotion and such into my new projects and creative interests. My voice is changing, the path is shifting, and I'm listening. And in my life, since I started blogging, this has happened many times. It feels like a shedding of skin and stepping into a new version of myself, gathering up everything that I'd learned, the mistakes I'd made, the wisdom I'd gained, and then reinventing myself... ever-forward. It's what I do, I resurrect. It's my namesake.
And so, with my old words and musings and ramblings brushed into the winds, I now find white space again. Neutral territory; a blank canvas. And this used to seem scary, but it's not anymore. It's invigorating. It's the start of a new journey, a new direction, a new focus. Raw essence. A brand new dance of divine alchemy.
As I finish editing through Wild Horses and Mistakes and begin narrowing down photos, I become more and more aware of the pending raw and creative potential; the wild chasm that approaches. I think of creative projects as babies, in a way. They go through a birth process, like any living thing: the idea is conceived and then steadily grown and nurtured within, until it's time to really work and push, to get the thing out of you. (I am currently in labor (with WHM), and it is taking a while to get it out.) But then, when I do... the other side of my brain will take over and work on logistics and publishing, formatting and querying, researching agents, more platform-building, marketing, and so on. The nitty-gritty stuff, the business side of things. The hustle.
And then, there will be a rising up of that... primordial cosmic creative essence... that raw energy that longs to create something new, swirling within, looking for a home. So, before I get there, I am being mindful and intentional about what I'd like to say next. What I want to experience and create, what I want it to feel like, and where it might take me, on the road of my life. What do I love?
See, I'd been meditating on death, lately. And in my mind's eye, death came to me, as it had before, in my life. And death asked me, directly... "if I were to come back for you in a few months' time... what would you like to have left behind, in this place, before moving on?"
And I blinked open my eyes and began journaling. At first, I brought up all the things that I wanted and had already brought into my life:
Have a child, check.
Write a book, check.
Go kayaking, check.
Travel more, check.
Go on a spiritual quest and write about it, check.
And there, in the pause, when I finally stopped naming things I'd done, I began to hear the things that I wanted next. The things that I wouldn't want to leave this world without trying. So, I am happy to say that I do know what's next and it's not necessarily another book. Not right away.
And once I decided...the journey started. Again. And so have the obstacles and in-my-face realizations and inner-demons and all the rest, already sticking their chins out, shaking me up. Asking me how much I want it. Another walk across the desert, another lap around the circle. Living life this way, in pursuit of a dream, of a passion, overcoming challenges, is the only way to live... for me.
Alive, lit up, inspired, and always learning.
With each new intentional endeavor to learn and grow and create something... we, the humans, the real cosmic clay of Life, evolve along with whatever we choose to make, if we pay attention. I believe... that declaring what you want in no uncertain terms will awaken the forces that surround us, at the ready, to guide us through, if we take the first step. Then another. And another. Intent, action. Intent, action. Always guided and inspired. I believe that this is just how creativity works, when we tune in. I don't think it drops in our laps, but I don't think we're alone in it, either. I think we have to work for it, reverently. Gratefully.
And if you're stuck in it, or struggling, or anxious...consider the freshness of starting again. Take on a new perspective, at least, to enliven what you're working on. And check out Joseph Campbell and the Hero's Journey. I've found it incredibly helpful in harnessing creativity in a project. Keep moving, keep making, keep creating.
And so it begins. Stay tuned. Watch this space. Starting fresh. Good things...