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Greetings Fair Readers! This blog has been permanently relocated to my new website www.kateemccracken.com. Please visit me there to keep reading! xo Kate


what's underneath anger

Historically, I haven't done anger.  And I don't mean that I haven't done it well, I mean I hadn't done it at all.  It's not my favorite emotion.  It's not one that I'm comfortable expressing.  It's not even one that I'm comfortable having.  It's taken quite a bit of my adult life to develop a healthy relationship with it and, just like most things, as soon as I think I've got it I realize that I still have a long way to go.

Anger came up as a big theme for me a few years ago.  I had just gotten back together with my husband after a period of separation, initiated by me, and when I went to the doctor for a battery of STD screenings to make sure it was safe to get busy without protection I was surprised with a positive test for Hepatitis C (which is rarely transmitted sexually, by the way, so no one really knows why they tested for it at all, except for maybe the folks up in the sky orchestrating the universe and my life lessons).  They retested me in case it was a false positive (it wasn't) and sent me to a specialist who was booked for months.  In the interim I ran to my trusty chiropractor/naturopath's office to get cured the legitimate way. *wink*  She suggested she go see someone I had seen before: a bioreprogramming therapist who specializes in how our brains' programs effect our physical health.  To the bioreprogrammer I went and there I learned that our liver is associated with anger...

Ew.  I thought.  That's not me.  I don't get angry.  What could anger possibly have to do with what's going on in my body?  I never get angry!  Never!  NEVER!

Turns out.  Everyone gets angry... even me.  And when those of us who don't know how to feel or express it keep it buried inside it takes up residence in our liver.

In this case my brand of anger was "rancor": malicious resentfulness or hostility; spite.  And as soon as she defined it that way I knew what it was and where it came from.  I had no absence of rancor towards my husband or his family.  I didn't want to die, or turn yellow... so I allowed myself to feel anger... rancor.  The bioreprogrammer helped me process through it and predicted that if I was retested for Hepatitis C in 6 months that the tests would be completely negative.  No trace of anything ever having been abnormal.

To prepare for my meeting with the liver specialist I had to get a new set of tests done.  When I was sitting in his office a few months later for our first appointment I learned that my test results were 100% normal and as far as he could tell there was no reason for me to be there.  There hasn't been a recurrence since.

For the past several years I have been walking around believing that I had this anger thing down.  I get angry all the time.  Sometimes I even yell at people (from the safe confines of my car or my head)!

Yeah... that's not really mastering anger.

Anger has started coming up again lately... I went back to the trusty naturopath for a checkup and found out that I had a liver toxicity that needed clearing up (liver!  ding ding!  anger!  ding ding! go the alarms in my head).  Then last week in writing class another student said about my piece "you sounded very angry."  Which I didn't agree with or appreciate hearing so I got pretty pissed about that too.  It didn't help that I was already pissed at her saying that the persona in one of my other pieces (who is also me, I pretty much only write about me) was selfish, manipulative and had no self control.  Grrrrr...

In therapy last week I figured I'd get my money's worth so I plopped down in the chair and started talking about my relationship with anger.  In a moment's time I had learned that:
notes from therapy.

  1. I get angry when I think I look stupid
  2. I find "looking stupid" (or unreliable, loud, bossy, annoying, selfish, manipulative, not possessing of self control, etc) to be the worst possible scenario on the planet
  3. I also get angry when people fuck with my kid (apparently this is natural and healthy--yay!)
In describing my relationship to these states of being and why I was so opposed to appearing "selfish or manipulative" or not having any "self control" I found myself saying (and this is a direct quote because my therapist had me write it down and I'm transcribing it off the paper right now):

I don't want to ever give anyone a reason to know me for anything but my brilliant selflessness

And as much as I know how unhealthy that sounds... I also love the way it sounds.  It represents a huge part of me.  It represents this persona I carry inside, who learned to take the reigns many, many years ago and has perfected the craft of managing my life so that most people only do know me for that (or at least she is tricked into believing they do.  turns out they also see my yucky stuff and they still love me anyway)!  

I got the spend the rest of my therapy session honoring her for her contributions and then collaborating with her about how we are going to deal with the inevitable beasts of anger, impulsiveness, selfishness, and manipulation.  It's good to have an inner producer.  Especially a really good one.  *smirk*


bad at being happy

I have been in a state of perpetual crisis since I was about 9 years old.  Some of the crises were things we would all agree are crisis-like (untimely death of a parent, for example), others were specific to an adolescent (and then prolonged emotional adolescence) point of view.  Some came to, at, and through me without an invitation and others I completely brought upon myself.

The result: I get bored easily.  When there's nothing wrong I don't know what to do with myself.  I am uncomfortable with feeling comfortable.  I don't know how to do it.

My 2013 vision board.
Basically just says "keep being awesome.
keep letting awesome happen to you."
Just this past weekend I was sitting in my beloved's lap on the floor and sobbing.  Nothing had happened.  Nothing was looming on the horizon.  I was simply full to bursting with emotion because there's nothing wrong with my life and I don't know how to cope with that.

I tried to fill the open space by listing all of the things that are wrong with me:

  • I wait too long at 4-way stops, it confuses people, and then I get mad at them for being confused
  • I don't clean, but I want things to appear neat 
  • I hog the bed
  • I have stinky feet
  • I eat things that have been dropped on the floor
  • I have a stretch mark at the bottom of my droopy, post-pregnancy belly that is at least an inch in width (width!)
  • There was more... it's not that important...
I even tried confessing to one of my greatest sins against humanity:
  • once when I was baking something I needed baking soda and didn't have any in the cabinet so I took a teaspoon from the box in the fridge instead (you know, the one that sits in there absorbing odors for a while).

Don't worry current loved ones, it was years ago...  I have higher standards now.

As the words came out of my mouth I struggled to hold back giggles; sometimes I couldn't manage to.  She waited until I was finished (I probably went on for 20 minutes about how "awful" I am) and presented me with a "guess what?  I still love you."  And I knew it was true, which was awesome.  Even awesomer is that I didn't love myself any less for any of these things either.  They all sounded pretty ridiculous.

I don't know how to just be happy and content.  I only know how to struggle and cope.  I know how to keep my head down and plow through.  I don't know how to take it all in when there doesn't seem to be much of anything going on to take in.  I don't have much experience letting it be.  I've built a reputation on fixing and planning and coordinating life into a perfect outcome.

For 21 years I've been toiling away and hoping to get to someplace or some time when I would have what I wanted to be happy...  Well, I made it.  Now what?

In the past I would have made up something to be upset about.  I still see myself doing this, but when I see it as it happens it takes the wind out of its sails.  I hear a lot of folks self-sabotage at this stage.  I don't think I do that.  I think I just whine.  A lot.  And when I'm tired of whining I work from home so I can eat lunch three different times or I obsess about things like whether I should sell my iPad 2 on eBay and buy myself an iPad mini instead (I definitely should...)

Last night I had a dream that I was making a list of all of the things that were right about my life.  It lasted all 7 hours.

I'm starting to feel guilty about complaining about this.  Now that's a feeling I know what to do with!


positive feedback

As you heard, I marched myself into the principal's office last week when I finally decided that conflict avoidance wasn't worth the lifelong impact having a shitty relationship with his teachers was going to have on my kid and asked for what I wanted/needed.  I had a lot to say.  Things along the lines of:
  • I'm getting the message that the school/teachers are giving up on him
  • I'm also hearing that you're unwilling/unable to support him (especially because/even though his support needs don't qualify him for any kind of special support)
Kind of big stuff, no?

I also mentioned at one point that I never hear anything positive about him.  That seems to have been the biggest take away.  Last week I ran into both of the teachers on separate occasions when we were stopping by school at the end of the day to patronize the book fair.  Both of the teachers had clearly been "talked to" and I found their reactions to this "talking to" to be very focused on the "never hear anything positive feedback."  The first said, while shrugging his shoulders "he mostly does good in my class" and then made awkward small talk for a few moments until he had to run off to a conference.  The second flagged me down from across the playground and apologized for the note that suggested parenting techniques.  He said, "that wasn't meant for you.  You can use those ideas if you want, but they aren't meant for you."  Funny, because you drew an arrow on the front of the page you sent home to me indicating that I should turn the page over and read what was on the other side... (I kept this profound statement to myself).  He them proceeded to very loudly and very enthusiastically tell my son how great of a job he had done.  That day, that week, always!  SUCH A GOOD JOB!

I noticed the notes and homework assignments are coming with lots of smiley faces and exclamation points on them and I am very aware that I have not effectively communicated my point.  I'm not getting anything that says "we are committed to supporting your child."  I'm getting a lot of reactionary "I got in trouble by my boss because of something you said so I'm going to try and prevent you from talking to her about me again by being excessively nice to you."

Not exactly what I was looking for.

First, a clarification.  "Never" was an exaggeration.  They have said positive things about him, they are just on a 1:10 ratio of positive to negative.

Second, an explanation... When I express that I want to hear positive things about my child, I don't mean that I want to hear how happy you were when he behaved the way you wanted.  I want to hear positive things about HIM, not about how he acts.  I don't place much emphasis or importance on how compliant he was for the day.  To me, his level of cooperation is a direct reflection of his emotional state.  He has unmet needs, and until they're met they are the only thing he can focus on.  I get that this isn't a particularly functional way to live, but he's not an incomplete 30 year old, he's a complete 5 year old... and this is what he's working on.
original artwork by the child in question.
it's me, and a christmas tree, and it's raining presents.
good times. :)

Here's my message to all the teachers out there (and thanks to those who already do this).  Please do not measure my child's worth by his performance in your class; on the test or in his willingness or ability to sit still.  Please do not shower us with happy faces when he made you life easy and send home red X's on the days he doesn't.  When we have a conference to talk about his progress, let's look at where he's progressed and talk about the areas where there are opportunities for development by collaborating on how we can help him develop new strength.  If you must tell me about something he does or doesn't do, tell me a story about the time he stood up for, helped out, or was generous with another child.  When I come into your classroom I see these stories happening every moment as the children interact.  Talk to me about the things that get him excited and the areas where he appears to be bored or disinterested and then tell me how we're going to infuse the boring, less interesting stuff with the stuff that excites him.  Show me that you see him, know him, and understand him.  Show me that he's more to you than a red, yellow, or green card, a pile of worksheets, and a score on a standardized test.

Or, tell me that you won't.  But not that you can't.  Because you could.  You may not have known that it was an expectation or even an option.  Now you do, and at this point if you still don't, it's because you're choosing not to.


communication fraud

I think of myself as a good communicator...  I think HIGHLY of myself because I think of myself as a good communicator.  Over the last several days it has occurred to me that I am great in situations with other people who are also good communicators.  Trying to communicate with people who aren't (ahem, 5 year old boys, for example)... not so great at that.  Maybe I'm not that great of a communicator after all.  I'll tell you what I learned for sure today, if I choose not to get vulnerable, communicate my thoughts, and ask for what I want I'm no better than the next person.

Monday was "Student Led Conference" day at my son's school, which is just a fancy way of saying "Parent Teacher Conference" and implying that the child is invited.  Nothing about us, without us, right?  I didn't bring him, because even though he was at the previous one, it was by no means led by him and he was bored out of his mind.  I left the conference feeling pretty distraught.  Somewhere along the line my son's teachers had decided that he was a problem to be solved, and even worse, one that they couldn't solve because they didn't have the resources.  I had never heard them say anything good about him, except for a rare occasion when we received patronizing praise about his "good behavior."  Despite the fact that things had greatly improved over the school year the complaints from the teachers hadn't and it wore on me.  The next day pushed me over the edge because along with the asenine behavior contract/chart they send home every day was a note to me about how to use it (1-3 stars=consequence, 4-8 stars=reward, Be Consistent.  Be Firm.  Student's Bedtime is 8:00p.m.)

First, his bedtime is 7:00p.m., but thanks for asking.
Second, I am not going to subscribe to an arbitrary system of reward and consequence at home as it relates to his behavior in school where I KNOW he is not being supported.
Third, I'll show you firm.

if you MUST flush manually
press black button, control freak!
The whole thing sent a message of "the problem with your child is a deficit in parenting" which on top of the "we've given up on your child because he is difficult and we don't have the resources to support him" was more than I could bear.  We attend our local neighborhood school and are part of an important social justice movement to improve schools like ours so they can be fully funded and not have to compete with private education for resources.  But when my public school doesn't have the resources to support my child, how exactly am I supposed to feel?

I hadn't spoken up about this explicitly before because: a) it's a conflict and we know how I feel about those.  I couldn't put myself in a situation where I might look like I'm being "controlling!" b) I also don't know what I'm doing... hello first time parent to a 5 year old here!, and c) I wanted to be open to and welcoming of their expertise and experience.  I was too generous, as per usual.

In my anger, I bitched and moaned and whined and talked about wanting to pull my hair out and light things on fire. I had more violent fantasies about expressing my anger through physical aggression.  I expressed my hopelessness and got it validated by the Angry Wombat and Devon and through that I got the energy back to give it one more shot.

I contacted the principal for a meeting and we made one for later that same day (today, in fact).  I wrote myself a 1500 word essay about: The messages I'd received, the things I'd observed, and my suggestions about how to make it better.  I needed it to help me organize my thoughts.  My anxiety was raging and I knew I was going into this in a very emotional, very hijacked state.

I presented myself as such at the beginning of the meeting and I was at first irritated at how hard it was to keep up my rant because I just like the principal too much.  She's smart, she's clever, she's good at her job and she validated the shit out of my concerns.  She also strategically complimented me, my knowledge, and my suggested interventions.  She reframed my son's entire kindergarten experience to date as one that's shown progress and isn't being given up on by her by any means.  She guessed that the teachers probably feel like they've tried and they're worn out.  She also said that she hasn't been directive enough in insisting that they need to try harder and being worn out isn't an option.

*deep breath out*

I didn't leave the office today full of joyous confidence that my son is going to be treated the way he deserves to by his teachers, but I did leave without my rage. I left having expressed myself, through vulnerability and authenticity and even if it doesn't make a difference at least now I know that I'm doing the best I can.

It's worth noting that this was a "conflict" and I went into it deciding that it was okay to be in it as long as I took care of myself.  I did, and I was no worse for the wear. In fact, I'm probably better.  And now, I can face conflict after conflict after conflict, never backing down until my son is getting his needs met.

I guess I am a decent communicator after all.  The qualifier for that, however: speak up.


being "the best"

I had my first writing class this evening and I'm finding myself in this familiar place afterward... one that seems to make up much of what I choose to do lately: I don't want to, but I am willing.  I don't want to face all of the emotions and triggers that show up in a room when I try to be creative, face to face with individuals I just met, in a living room of the instructor's home in Los Feliz, but I am still willing to do so.  I don't want to engage in conflict, of any kind, particularly not the kind where I've said something that is upsetting to someone that I love, but I am still willing to have the conversation.  It really applies all over my life...  I don't want to go jogging, but I am willing to put my jiggly ass in stretchy pants and go out into the world all red faced and sweaty every once in a while if it's going to be good for me.

being the change is hard.
'cause everything keeps changing.
All of this willingness comes from a never quenched thirst for improvement... which is something I appreciate about myself, but it can be just as rooted in the darkness as the painful shit that comes up in these moments.  There's not a lot of nobility in the pursuit of growth or transformation when it is attached to this need to be seen as the "best."

I never thought of myself as a competitive person, and it was easy to get away with that because I didn't play sports so I was never in situations where I needed to be competitive.  As I started to see myself more clearly I began to joke that "I'm not competitive, I just like winning." And even though that contains truth, it isn't the whole truth because really I avoid situations where there are "winners" because I am too afraid that I won't be one.  Honing in on some clarity now I'm going to go back to claiming that I'm not competitive, but it's going to be because I'm realizing that what I am is comparative.

I'm always looking at someone else to see how I'm doing.

Tonight, in class...  No wait, back up: Tonight, leading up to class I noticed that I didn't want to go.  "What if I suck?" came first.  Followed by "what if no one likes what I write?  what if they don't laugh at the funny parts or they laugh at parts that aren't supposed to be funny?"  And then later I even got a little bit of "what if no one thinks I'm pretty and doesn't want to be my friend?"  Really?  Yup.  Willing, despite the not wanting to go, I trudged ahead.  The class moved me through more opportunities to practice willingness without wanting (like interviewing and being interviewed by a classmate and then presenting about each other) and finally landed me at the big'n for the evening.

When it was time to read our first assignment (the "Why I Write" that was about anything but from the other day) I was asked to go first.  I did, and the reaction I got was perfectly satisfying.  There were some places where I didn't hear laughter and I wanted to, but plenty of others where snickers and chuckles sustained me.  When I was finished I felt appreciated and heard.  I thought that I was done with the hard work and I sat back to listen to my classmates.

The young woman who went next started to read her piece and within a few moments I realized that I was starting to hate her.

Woah--let's go into that...
me: why do I hate her?
me (in response): I hate her because she's good.
me: Okay.  Wow.

I tried to make more sense of it.  I am a part of another creative workgroup (we call ourselves the Fucking Geniuses.  More about us humble souls later...) where I do not hate the members when they share work (and they're all good!).  In fact, I love them and celebrate their great work.  So, why not hating there... but so much here?  What's different?

me (in response again): I have a pre-existing relationship with the women in Fucking Geniuses, I am not in competition with them for anything...

another me: Did you hear that?  Competition.  Am I competing with the women in the writing class?  What am I competing with them for?
me (in response): Attention.  Affection (in the form of praise).  Establishment of worth in the room by being deemed the (fill in the blank: smartest, funniest, prettiest, "best" writer).

I tried to just "notice" myself feeling this way, but it was hard to do it without judgment.  Ay yay yay, Kate.  Really?!  You do not need to feel this way.  Go back to how you feel in your creative workgroup--find a way to make that feeling come with you here.  I made a mental note to ease the need to compete by finding something about these strangers to love.  Form a pre-existing relationship with them in your head.  Want them to be happy and successful.  Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by their success.

I could decide to love them for being good writers if I found nothing else.  One girl had a cardigan with heart shaped patches on the elbows, that helped.  Another grimaced a lot which I decided was because of some painful internal dialogue that I had empathy for.  I was getting there...  It was working.

Then a woman, whose work I didn't think was particularly successful, read and I noticed that I became completely endeared to her almost instantly.  I felt safe again.  I might not be the best, but at least I'm not the worst.  Phew!  Cue: relief and then when I noticed what was happening, more judgment.

Back home with Devon, I debriefed the class experience.  We compared notes about competitive feelings. I deduced that mine were all about worth.  In our existing group I already had worth because the group was made up of preexisting relationships where I knew I had value.  In the writing class my only chance to establish my value was by performing successfully in class (yes, I hear myself and all the un-truths in this belief system).  Devon suspected it might be more than that... I heard her, but I didn't have any more ideas and we went to bed.

Then I got out of bed...  drowning in shame, I couldn't sleep.  I wrote this blog post and didn't feel any better.  I wrote in my journal and found myself in a conversation again.

me: what's up
other me: i'm an asshole
me: why don't you go to sleep?
other me: assholes don't deserve to sleep

I have conversations with myself, in my head and my journal, quite often but this is the first time I've ever written anything like this.  I've been reading Elyn Saks' memoir about her life with schizophrenia... I think my subconscious is getting new ideas about how to more effectively self loathe and and punish myself.  I gotta finish that book and move on to something lighter.

I will maintain that it's about worth, but the habit is deeper ingrained than just wanting to be the favorite...  I compare myself to others constantly.  In situations with new people I compare myself with others to see how I rank and establish my worth.  In situations with people I love I still compare.  Sometimes it's just to see how I'm doing.  Other times (especially now that I choose relationships that challenge me by having something to teach) it's to make sure I'm measuring up.

It's amazing what I'm finding still buried deep inside.  I suppose I am somewhat grateful for the opportunity to pull these things up from the roots, but like any landscaping project (going literal with the metaphor here) it ends up taking much longer and being much more intense than I ever expect it will.

Big to-do list for 2013:
1. dive head first into conflict
2. know own worth without having to evaluate it alongside another's


conflict avoidance is going to kill me... literally

This afternoon I was happily doing some work from my home computer on my fancy, new virtual network connection when I got a call from my therapist.  It was about 2:15, 45 minutes before what I thought was our scheduled appointment time and I realized as soon as I saw his name that he had been expecting me at 2.  After a brief conversation we decided I would hop in the car and come down for the remaining portion of our session.

I expected to be about 15 minutes away and was pleasantly surprised to find a highway free of much traffic and found myself just around the corner from his office after just 10 minutes in the car.  I had been thinking over the last several days that I wasn't sure what I wanted to talk about in this session.  I felt pretty "ok."  I mean, I certainly still have feelings but I am rarely, if ever, in crisis mode and just as rarely in a position where I don't have the skills I need to cope with what I'm experiencing.  I also noticed that I was wary of going to therapy.  I didn't want to dig too deep and discover that there was something wrong underneath this calm facade and walk away all screwy (which is an interesting fear because a skilled therapist, which he is, doesn't leave you all screwy when you walk away... they pay attention to the order of things as they take you apart and then close it up nicely and send you away all put back together).

I'm thinking about all of this while I wait at the light on the corner.  I'm the second car in line at a red left arrow and we're waiting for the arrow to turn green and allow us to turn.  I notice that we've been sitting there what feels like a long time.  I start to wonder if this intersection is one where the lights go in a different order.  I observe another cycle of lights-no, that's not it.  Then I notice that the car in front of me has left a significant amount of space between herself and the crosswalk... "oh, the sensor," I suspect out loud.  "You know, you have to move your car up past the sensor if you ever want the light to change," I say again, out loud (I do this a lot.  I'm not sure I would know that I do it a lot except that when Spiderman is with me in the car he's constantly asking me who I'm talking to).

I've pretty much concluded that this is the problem: the woman in the car in front of me (yes, I'm just assuming she's a woman because she's driving a candy apple red camry, wearing large plastic frame sunglasses, has bangs, and a tousled ponytail.  forgive me, gender gods) hasn't moved over the sensor so the light doesn't know that there are (now) 8 people waiting to turn left onto Franklin from Highland.

Then several things happen:

  1. I notice how amazing it is that no one has honked.  We've sat through at least 3 cycles of this light and our lane hasn't moved an inch.  It isn't a high traffic time of day, this is not an expected reaction of the typical LA driver I've come to know (assumptions again!)
  2. I start making deals with myself (this is something I do because: a) it's another way to avoid conflict and b) it's rooted in the belief I have that my needs aren't as important as others so I should wait) like "one more cycle of the light and you can take action"
  3. I notice that I'm worried about how exactly I'm going to take action.  
    1. If I honk, I'll be perceived as a bitch (or worse: bossy.  urp!).  
    2. The light tap of a "beep beep!" seems ineffective because if she hasn't figured it out by now she isn't going to figure it out
    3. Maybe I write a note/sign... even backwards so she can read it in her rearview mirror.  If I combine a "beep beep" with a sign when she looks up that will help.  Oy Vey!
    4. I could get out of the car and go tell her what's up 
  4. My curiosity and wonder has lapsed.  I'm officially irritated.  I was already going to have to pay full price for half a session of therapy because I got the time wrong... now I'm going to get even less.
The deal I make with myself expires and we make it through another cycle of the light without any change.  I open my car door and get out as traffic whizzes by in the opposite direction.  I realize I'm unsafe but instead of getting back into my car I cross in front of my car to go to the passenger side of her car again.  As I walk up her passenger is rolling down the window.  I lean forward and say, "the light won't change unless you roll up and over the sensor" and I gesture forward.  "Oh, thanks!" she says and starts to roll forward immediately.  I jump back a bit, startled, not wanting to get my feet run over.  I make my way back to my car and notice that my heart is POUNDING.

this is Mark Twain trying to encourage me to be
more willing to get into it with people and me expressing doubt...
"Well, now I have something to talk about in therapy," I think (not aloud, for the record).  I don't know what's happening, but I know I'm having an intense emotional reaction.  

I'll spare you the details of the speed session, but leave you with what I'm left with.  I worship the god of conflict avoidance.  I am willing, as evidenced by this episode, to put my physical life in danger (besides getting out of and leaving my car on a busy Los Angeles street my therapist also pointed out that the other driver could have had a weapon--I hadn't even thought of that!) to avoid conflict...  even the kind of conflict that is the result of honking at a perfect stranger on the road and the judgment I imagine they might have about me as a result.

I am putting myself into situations where conflict avoidance could actually kill me... literally.

Enough.  Of.  That.


"Shame! Shame!"

It's amazing how many "firsts" one can experience in a lifetime...  The age of 32 has brought me many, but it takes one catching me by surprise to let me see how many more I am in store for in this lifetime.

On Saturday afternoon I experienced my first public shaming for being a queer person.  True story.  In 2013.  In Los Angeles.  Public shaming still exists, and on Saturday afternoon in Glendale might look a little something like this:

Devon and I were walking through a parking lot (from the art supply store, where I bought some new notebooks, to the car) with our arms draped loosely around each other.  I think I may have had my hand in her back pocket.  I can get kind of grabby...  I learned in my childhood that we can show how much affection we have for someone by patting their butt...  It works for us.

A white sedan with disabled placard license plate passed us slowly as if looking for a parking place, but apparently the driver was looking to relieve some deep, personal angst because as she passed us she (an elderly woman with a short, permed hairstyle, glasses, and a waggling finger raised in the air) shouted in our direction "shame on you!"

shame on you for buying so many notebooks!
I remember being stunned.  Maybe even stopping in my tracks.  I didn't have a whole lot of time to react before her next action though.  Just before she turned the corner at the end of the row the waggling finger soared out of the open driver's side window accompanied by a resonant "Shame!  Shame!"  I remember seeing Devon ahead of me and closer to the car.  She was reacting out loud, but her reaction didn't look like what I was feeling inside.  She was putting her hands together in the prayer position, holding them to her heart, and calling out a "have a nice day!" and her voice had a lightness, maybe even laughter, in it.

That is how I would have liked to react too, but first I was just too confused.  

Shame?  On us?  Me?  Is this woman privy to some information about me that I feel ashamed about?  Let me run through the mental list of things I might be doing wrong at this moment: I'm wearing flip flops and my heels are cracked and dry--that feels pretty shameful.  I just indulged in a stack of new notebooks to help me maintain my habit of taking on too much--I sometimes wish I was content with just one thing at a time.  I am not always the mother I want to be... that's the area where I feel the most shame, but how could she have known?!  That must not be it.  What's happening right this moment?  I have my arm around the woman I love... oh.  That.  According to this woman I am supposed to feel ashamed about expressing affection in public (or maybe even having affection, whether it's expressed in public or not) for the woman I love (because I am also guilty of the crime of being a woman).

Cue rage.

I couldn't relate at all to the woman's point.  I didn't feel ashamed and I can't even fathom why someone else would want me to be and/or why anyone would want anyone else to feel ashamed about anything really...  so all was left was rage.  I was angry.  I wanted to want to "have a conversation" with her like Devon said she did.  Sure, it would be interesting to find out what's going on in that woman's life that drives her to express her own shame outwardly and project it on others.  She's probably not going to be up for having that conversation though, especially not after I bash her face in with my fist.

Luckily for us all, me most of all, the rage subsided after talking through a few "punching an old lady in the face" fantasies (which help me see, by the way, that I don't ACTUALLY want to punch anyone in the face) and I got to have the incredibly healing experience of telling and retelling the story to several loved ones the next day which, in each instance resulted in the listener erupting into fits of giggles.  Because really... leaning out a car window and calling "Shame!  Shame!" in a warbly old lady voice is pretty fucking funny.  That, and the relationship I'm supposed to be ashamed of is the safest place I've ever been... safe enough to talk about clockin' old ladies, let rage be present, and then wish it well as it carries on it's way.

So there you go old lady.  You tried to hand your shame over and it didn't work.  Thanks for the offer though...

I have this very hopeful theory that if we can all love each other we can create a peaceful world...  and I  believe it with my whole being.  BUT!  I also understand how far away from that we are right this moment.  

So how's this for a first step: Love everyone you can.  Anywhere you can find something about someone to love or feel compassion or empathy for... feel it.  In those cases when you just can't find it/feel it... do that person, and yourself, the grace of leaving them alone.  Baby steps.


Why I Write

A little over a week ago I sat down with all my little to-do lists.  You know, the ones I had scribbled on post-it notes and the backs of utility bills I haven't bothered to switch to paperless, the emails I had sent myself in the middle of a meeting or traffic jam, even all of the virtual lists that never really existed anywhere other than when they were clogging up wherever the place is in my brain that allows my creativity to pass through from idea to action.  I sat down with all of them and made the most beautiful spreadsheet ever.  It was two worksheets in one document (one sheet for leisure and one for life.  because that's all there is to my life, by the way... life and leisure), and in each sheet there were 7-10 sections for all of the different areas of life and leisure I am pursuing.  And in each (of course: color coded) section I had three columns; one for the task, one for the due date, and one for the priority.  Section by section I filled up the spreadsheet with all of my to-dos and then ranked them in order of importance.  And when I was done with what I had called "Giant To-Do List" I realized that I hadn't made a to-do list at all; I had made a planning form.  I used the, now, Giant To-Do List planning form to calendar and "Reminder" app my next three weeks worth of life and leisure tasks and carried forth with little to no faith in my process.

Wait, what?  Did she say little to no faith in [her] process?  Yep.  That's what I said.  Despite the fact that I love spreadsheets and calendars and to-do lists and the acts of making them I have never actually had a system that works for me for any longer than a few months at a time and lately it's been more like a few days.  I've always just gotten by with being naturally, insanely organized (read: brilliantly effective).

Almost a week and a half into my new process I can report that it's been going tremendously well.  I've known what I've needed to be doing every evening and I've committed to doing it (except for those times when I've realized that I'm doing way too much and have moved things to later dates or eliminated them all together).  I've kept the TV off and have rested my head with pleasure reading and early bedtimes.  I've even had a good time doing it!  Still, tonight (and I'm going to blame this more on hormones than an ineffectual system that is on its way out), I am filled with doubt.  I have been performing at top speed (there's the first clue) for over a week and I am tired.  It's no wonder why: parenting a kindergartener (and I just revealed tonight at the PTA-ish meeting I attended that I am a "Project Manager" and that got a lot of attention.  Oops!), holding down a full time job that is anything but mindless, writing a book, starting a business, participating in a creative workgroup, taking a writing class, being madly in love with a brilliant woman...  are all wonderful, but even a lot of wonderful equals a lot.

Back to the doubt.  Am I trying to do too much?  Am I avoiding feeling my feelings?  I've noticed that I've been eating mindlessly the last couple of days (although if I noticed it how mindless could it really be?).  Is that because I'm not coping as well as I think I am with some unknown issue that is obviously plaguing my life and poisoning it with a certain brand of failure that can only be constructed by a vivid imagination combined with an extraordinarily hidden low self image?  Sigh, doubt is tiring too.

That, folks, was a very long intro to what I'm really going to write about.  Because as tired as I am, I am (thanks to the principles of mindfulness and relative ease with insight) able to see that I am just tired, a little hormonal (come on menstruation... any day now I'd love to experience some relief from this sudden and then continuous drop in estrogen levels), and maybe not taking as good of care of myself as I could be (note to self: two days without sitting in formal meditation is your max right now for avoiding crankiness and also, remember to bring snacks).  I'm going to let go of the doubt because I have something very important on my to-do list tonight and abandoning it or the list aren't part of the path I want to be on right now.  I need to write a piece on "Why I Write" for the class I'm taking starting next week.  I'm nervous about it because it's for a class, instead of my usual blog, and in thinking about it before sitting down to write it I found myself believing that I need to take a different approach to writing it than the other things I write.  Eesh, there was doubt again.  I better get on with it with what few words I have left.  

by the way, this is my latest ass picture.
I'm not turning it in as part of the class assignment.
It's just for you folks here
Why do I write?  Just like most I write because I "have to."  I get an inexplicable urge (that I would be remiss to not acknowledge often comes up as inexplicable resistance more than anything else.  when writing is the last thing I want to do that's usually time to go write).  I also (let's try on all of the cliches for size, shall we?) write to find out how I really feel.  Just now, both in composing this in my head before sitting down and then by putting the words on the "page" I worked myself through some doubt that could have been crippling, if not paralyzing for days on end and found out it was just a symptom of busy-ness and the presence of a very real monthly cycle.  I haven't heard this one as much, although more lately, but I also write to be read, and even more than that to be seen.  When I write, I see myself first, and then myself reflected back from you.  I write because when I do I get to call myself a writer and suddenly something I've always wanted to be is who I am. I write because I am all about the process and writing is all process.  Every part about it; the thinking, the resisting, the bursting, the blathering on.  It's me.

I write because writing has given me life.  By giving into the urge or pushing past the resistance, allowing myself to be seen and then seeing myself, I have been able to transform my life and (from what I hear) the lives of others.  I can't imagine a gift greater than that and so now, I write because I can.  


What's Next? ...A LOT!

On my calendar this evening it says "blog about something, anything really..." and then it asks "what's the blog about in 2013? does it need a topic/theme?  are you blogging the book?"  If I learned one thing about what worked well on this blog over the past year it was: thinking out loud...

If you're wondering what's next for this blog in 2013, so am I!  Let's start with what I know:
making rainbows out of this lifetime...

  1. schedule: without one, I will probably fade into oblivion... so for now, I am committed to posting on Mondays & Wednesdays weekly (except, of course, when I am sick-tired-lazy-on vacation-having a nervous breakdown... not for every one of those instances.  It will be far more interesting for you if I continue to post mid-breakdown).
  2. topics: oh, wait I was starting with what I knew... I'll have to get back to this one in another list
  3. what's happening this year:
    • I'm writing a book... a little bit memoir... a little bit how-to... a lot bit funny (wocka-wocka) and wildly successful (damn straight!)
    • I'm starting a business (with my beloved)... green, crunchy, somehow we're going to find a way to involve vulnerability too!
    • I'm doing a painting a week (starting on January 22nd) and showing you a picture every week... even if it is completely sucktastic
    • I'm continuing to attract the life and love that I desire (you know... the usual... no big deal)

What I don't know: 
  1. Topics/Themes for the blog: As nice as it was to have a structure for 2012, I didn't exactly follow it... and I think we get a lot juicier when I departed from the intended path.  That being said... there are a few things I know I want from 2013:
    • Success on all the aforementioned projects
    • To maintain an attitude of wonder and curiosity (as opposed to judgment, expectation, disappointment, assumption, etc.)
    • To shed behaviors/people/things that cause me harm take on behaviors/people/things that love me up!
  2. and a WHOLE lotta other stuff... and as I find out (that I either know or don't know it I will share it with you)
That's all I have for now!

Stay tuned.


Reflections on a FULLfillment Project

Has anyone else noticed that the world feels more inspiring in January?  The newness of the year and related energy that folks seem to give off is something that I find quite intoxicating.  I noticed that I became increasingly less easy to inspire as the year went on, but come January again I'm seeing almost everything with wonder and curiosity.  I've been moved to tears more times than I can count for the last couple of days... if the world isn't more inspiring then I don't know what is (well, maybe it's hormones).

just a picture of a red cup... for kicks.
infer whatever symbolism you choose.
When I left here on Wednesday I really didn't know what I was going to say about this "year" and the end of this project. I programmed a task into my reminders app that read "ruminate on final FP post" and repeated every day until today. I thought about it some and figured I'd finish where I'd started and take a picture of my ass, find an older picture for comparison and talk about how much difference my ass looks by virtue of barely focusing on anything having to do with ass reduction or shaping.

Then last night, just after Devon surprised me with a beautiful token of acknowledgement celebrating the completion of this project and the beginning of what's next... and finished telling me her story of how it came to be with "thank you for giving me an opportunity to listen to my intuition" (<--i know, right?  it kills me--in a good way--too.  she is AMAZING!> I opened to a page in the middle of my notebook where a few lines were written but plenty of space remained. I started to flip to a completely blank page but first stopped to read what was written above. It said:

End of crisis
Creating new crisis
Everything is fine but me

I don't recall when I wrote that, or why, or even if they are my words (maybe I was quoting someone else), but they say it all... with one change. Everything is fine. Including me.

This started in crisis... and when in crisis from loss the stillness that showed up in the space that was once filled by someone or something was too much to bear so something had to be "done." In that, this project was born. The project itself became a new crisis. There was a schedule to keep and break. Themes to focus on and get distracted from. There were beginnings and endings and in betweens. In the end, space still remains. Only now... in that space, everything is fine; including me. Even when everything isn't fine. I still am.

and now... the Project, in review!

  1. January 23-February 20: prime the canvas (nourishing the physical body that my soul lives in)
    • This one got really old really fast... I really wanted to start here because at the time the most self harm I did myself was through food.  And loving myself enough to eat something green every day was all I had at first.  It came fairly easily, though, and didn't hold my interest so I'm glad that it turned out that this isn't what it was all about.
  2. February 21-March 21: creative force (making art or art-like things)
    • Ah, now this one was heavenly!  I got to be a hoarder to prepare for it, and then face the challenge of the purge on the other end.  I made beautiful things, that now live in my home, and shape my space--make it mine (although, honestly, the other day I started not to feel so attached to them anymore and even considered letting them go.  What's me, it seems, isn't attached to any "thing."  I have it in me, so it doesn't have to live in anything or anyone else).  Focusing on the making of art and how good it feels in my mind, body, and spirit to do so was incredibly fulfilling.  This is a habit I want to make and keep (and one way I'll be doing that is by doing a painting a week for 2013!)
  3. March 22-April 20: just the two of us (being the parent I want to be)
    • I remember wanting to quit this one.  I'm sure I had a good reason at the time, but I'm also sure that reason was just there to mask that it's hard for me.  I don't know (still) that I love being a mother.  I certainly love moments, and I even more certainly love my son... but this being a mother thing isn't something that fills me up yet.  It's still something that requires me filling up elsewhere and then remembering not to let myself to become fully emptied by it.  Instead of working on being the parent I want to be, I'm working on wanting to be the parent I am.
  4. April 21-May 19: ish (living without knowing answers, maybe even without questions)
    • It took another nine months to sink in, but the connection to my inner wisdom that comes up when I visit it in silence in stillness is the single greatest asset I have that connects me to my wholeness (how was that for woo-woo, eh?!)
  5. May 20-June 18: get smart (from books and other sources)
    • I went into this one with an idea in my head that I needed to be more academic... that somehow my lack of pursuit or follow through on things I find interesting is a character flaw... that I would become more complete if every time I was interested in something I dug deeper and deeper until I had found the meaning of life.  I don't think that's the path for me, after all... it's just not the way I operate and if I try to make myself I'm not going to end up doing anything else.  So what if I only have a very basic understanding of the way emotional intelligence plays out in our brains... I know enough, and when I need to know more, I'll seek it. 
  6. June 19-July 18: letting the inner child out (to play!)
    • Surprise-I'm playful!  Like sexy, coming a few months later... I got to learn that I already was... and seeing and finding that part of myself allowed me to come to love and appreciate it.  And guess what happened when I started love and appreciate these qualities?  Someone else came into my life who loves and appreciates them too (and I started to hear that other people have been telling me they love and appreciated them all along).  Amazing what  little perspective will do.
  7. July 19-August 16: plenty (money, honey)
    • What I learned?  I have plenty (not just money).  And when I see that, I am abundant and I get what I need.  Simple as that.
  8. August 17-September 15: where the heart is (loving where I lie my head and other spaces I occupy)
    • Space is important... this is going to be a big one next year.  I did the things I intended to do in this month quite a bit behind schedule, but I finally managed to shape my home into a space that nurtures me and Spiderman.  I gave away half of my possessions and created a lot of space (physical and emotional) for myself and others to occupy.  2013... working toward an upgrade.
  9. September 16-October 14: no maps allowed(experimenting with adventure)
    • Remember when I tried living without my GPS and it ended up making me less spontaneous?  That was funny... and not super adventurous.  Life is an adventure...  and the adventure of Fall 2012 was kindergarten, and a rough go at that.  I'll try this one again when Spiderman moves out of the house.  Until then, I think I'm getting as much adventure as I can handle.
  10. October 15-November 12: chosen family (nurturing my relationships with both blood and chosen relations)
    • I'm not sure if I'm ever going to be able to communicate to the people I love how grateful I am to them.  I certainly haven't lived up to my own standards yet, but I'm going to keep trying. 
  11. November 13-December 12: get sexy(getting, well... sexy)
    • I was already sexy.  Nothing to do here!
  12. December 13-January 10 (2013): work smart (love what I do and do it with love)
    • I spent the last week making a spreadsheet that serves as a planning form for the process of calendaring and task list/reminder setting that keeps me on track.  I already have this...  there wasn't a whole lot more to learn except for: it works when you work it (and it doesn't when you don't).  Thank you AA, you've got a lot of gems!

At the end of this year and this project I can see that I have been given some tremendous gifts. I have come to know myself as a writer, something I always wanted to be. You have allowed me to be seen by you, and warmed by your sight and acknowledgement. I am developing a partnership with a brilliant being who loves me for all the things about me I thought were lovable but never heard about from anyone else... and am so excited about it!  I have this incredible experience of committing and evolving under my belt and it's hard for me to imagine that much of anything isn't possible... if I want it, I can have it.

The FULLfillment Project is officially over and a new "year" has begun.  This one only has 365 days in it, and my intention is to view each of them through a lens of wonder and curiosity.  I'll be back on Monday to tell you more... and until then:   THANK.  YOU.


this is it.

oh dear.  Tomorrow is the last day of the FULLfillment Project.  I think I'm going to cry...  or scream?

Maybe both.

The main thing I'm feeling right now is terror...  I've been taking it very easy on myself this "month."  I was sick with a nasty winter cold for nearly two weeks, then took a road trip, and allowed myself to not adhere to any schedules for writing or planning or anything really (except for work that I'm paid to do) as a result.

The end result of those choices: I have to-do lists written on tons of little pieces of paper all littered around my apartment (not really, that would drive me crazy.  really, they're all in a little plastic folder/pouch that I carry my life around in).

That's not the end result of the FULLfillment Project, that's just the result of my recent state of mind and mode of operating. The end of the FULLfillment Project (TOMORROW!  ack!) is something I'll need to reflect on a bit before I get back to you.

But I will... reflect... and get back.  Promise.

For now, I have to-do lists to consolidate, task lists to setup, and calendaring to polish.  Because this month was about "working smart" and if I took only one thing away from it, it's that catching up after time off is going to take as long as it takes (and feeling anxious about it, attempting to work late hours that result in sleepy mornings, and trying to do everything at once don't make it go one bit faster).

Goodnight, beloved readers.  (wow, the terror is disolving into gratitude, isn't that nice?) Thank you for being here with me.  This has been a pretty amazing year.  Let's all engage in a cyber group hug and meet back here on Friday to talk about what we shared and what's in store for 2013!


preview of coming attractions for 2013 :)


this blog ain't going to write itself!

I was going to title this post "back in the saddle" but I'm pretty sure I've done that at least 100 times before and it seems a bit expected at this point.

Another thing I've done a gazillion times before is come here to talk about not wanting to write and procrastination and what time it is right now and how long it's taking me to write this and all the things I did before coming here to do this...  so I'll skip that part too.  Let's just get straight to the meat of it, shall we?

I woke up at 6:01 this morning, just 14 minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  After the initial "AWWW-DAMMIT!" and while trying to relax back into sleep for the now remaining 13 minutes I was overwhelmed with panic.  And under the panic was sadness, fear, loneliness... that, and it was fucking freezing (wtf, Los Angeles... when are you ever this cold?)

yeeouch.  Good morning, me...  wow.

Thing is, it was a pretty good morning to be me.  The same me who felt sad, afraid, and lonely took her notebook with her to the toilet and wrote morning pages while she shat and got a lot out (of both ends... which is important because I was previously on a road trip if you catch my drift).  And I discovered in the writing that my sadness, fear, and loneliness turned into panic when combined with a belief that something was wrong and that in order to not feel sad, afraid, or lonely anymore that I needed to fix (fix fiX fIX FIX FIX!) that something and then polish it to perfection or I would be destined to be sad, afraid, and lonely forever!

hair by nature.  proof of superhero transformation...
Back to why it's good to be me: I knew that belief wasn't reality.  Yay!

And I went about my day reminding myself about what was in front of me when I started to drift back into the tempting robotic voice chanting: Must.  Fix.  Must. Fix. Now.  Make.  Perfect. ...and I discovered on a bathroom break that my hair had formed itself into the most delicious little curls on my forehead...  and I started to wonder if maybe I was turning into a superhero...

Later at my desk I noticed this pain under my collar bones.  This pain (pause for the woo-woo) is something that I learned to identify in therapy as the presence of an inner child (a 5 year old one, in fact) trying to get my attention because her needs aren't being met.  The nice thing about this is that it's super easy for me to figure out what her needs are...  she's five, just like Spiderman... she's simple.  She doesn't muck stuff up with doubt.

I had an experience this weekend where I was not clear about what I needed and in a conversation with Devon I blurted something out of pure emotion (which I'm allowed to do, by the way, I ain't perfect...) that set off a series of events that was unpleasant for all involved.  In fact, it was "shitty."  The kicker is that I figured out in less than 5 minutes what I really needed and how I could have gotten it... but again, I'm allowed not to be perfect (woot!)

My needs, and whether they're being met or not... not always clear.  Five year old inner child's... super clear.  Today she needed me to know she was scared.  She needed comfort.  She needed reassurance.

She got it--and I didn't even need to leave my chair to give it to her.

Yes, everything is still okay...
Yes, you are still loving, lovable, and loved...

And that was all she needed.

That was all I needed.

Turns out, that's all I really EVER need in one form or another...  Because I am her and she is me.

And you know what's great about that?  I've got everything she'll ever need...  I'm her hero.  Maybe even her super-hero...


road trip!

I'm on the road this week and while I hope that doesn't mean I won't be writing it likely means I won't be posting. I hope you're reveling in the possibility of this new year... I am. We're in for another fun one! xoxo