Sunday, July 24, 2016

Open-Hearted Living

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was sensitive or wore my heart on my sleeve, I’d have a lot of money. It took a counselor to point out to me that this is not actually a bad thing – that sensitive people know when someone is in pain; that actually, sensitivity is a super power.
Recently, I did a weekend retreat and someone gave me the most amazing compliment I’ve ever received: “It seems to be that you’re very open-hearted,” this person said. “How can I get that way?”
Even as I find myself moving more toward that space, where I value my open-hearted nature when I can bring myself to wear it, I realized this morning that I still have a lot of ideas about open-heartedness that are likely making my life more difficult than it needs to be. 

For one, it seems I hold a belief that open-hearted living has absolutely nothing to do with making money – in fact, in any interactions that I have around supporting myself, I had better hide that big old heart of mine or risk getting it stomped on. Even bigger than that fear, however, is a much deeper one: if the person I’m interacting with sees that I’m open-hearted, they won’t see any value in me, and will not hire me.

It seems that I am struggling to see open-heartedness as an asset, invisible audience, even as I seek more and more to live in an open-hearted way. I have been making more and more friends that value the sensitivity that I was criticized for in the past. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since I’ve been confused for a rock hard bitch – at one time, I gave that first impression to a lot of people. However, I think I have discovered a deeply fundamental belief about this person that I have always been: as much as it feels better to be open-hearted and authentic, I have not believed that those characteristics apply to making a living.

Last night I participated in a group discussion with people who were seeking ways to incorporate authenticity into their everyday lives. Someone asked how many of these people considered their work to be a spiritual practice, and most of them said it was – that they were able to give their best to their clients when they treated the help they were giving them as an extension of their own desire to be authentic, vulnerable, and open-hearted. This blew my fucking mind, invisible audience. I realized that was not how I worked. I realized that, as much as I have sought more authenticity in my life, I have been denying that my authenticity had any place within my work life.

Maybe that’s why it sometimes feels like such a struggle to survive. I do a lot of reminding myself of the ways I am succeeding, even if those successes are really small, but I wonder if the reason that I have seen it to be such a daunting task to build a business is because of a feeling I get on a regular basis. I will begin to focus on bringing in more money, and immediately feel like I am disconnecting or don’t have time for connecting with the people around me; I immediately begin to thirst for more connection, even if it’s just with myself. However, the minute I start seeking that connection, an internal voice says, “You cannot have both. You are either allowed to be open-hearted and poor, or make money and be alone.”

Fucking hell.

As dire as this sounds, I’ve started to find small ways that this is changing. I started writing this blog again, after all, even though at this point there’s no monetary value in doing so.  I find that teaching local Spanish classes is a fun, open-hearted way to make money, and here’s the thing: I find it both easy and enjoyable, especially when I’m teaching kids. It’s easier for me than the other work I do, when I’m more concerned with presenting a professional image than I am with whether anyone is having fun, including me.

So perhaps I have stumbled across a hurdle I didn’t know I kept putting in my own way. Perhaps the secret is to bring more of this open-hearted person I’m becoming to all aspects of my life, not just the personal parts of it. Maybe this realization will help me give myself permission to seek other ways of making money that incorporate all of my values, instead of just the ones that I would have deemed acceptable in the past.

Love and open-hearted kisses,


Sunday, July 17, 2016

F@#!ing Meditation

It’s coming at me from everywhere, like a Zen door-to-door salesman that knocks at the back door when the front door isn’t open. I keep hearing about the research that supports it; how it helps people cope with stress; the way it actually rewires your brain. I see people who look completely “Zenned Out” and I know, I just know, that they have a meditation practice. What I can’t figure out is why I’m having such an issue creating one, too.

It’s not that I’m opposed to self-care – not in the least. I journal every morning; do yoga two to three days a week; take walks purely for the access to nature (while also appreciating the positive health benefits of the exercise); and have regular appointments with people who help me calm the fuck down when I’m feeling riled up. But this meditation thing keeps coming up, and I keep looking at it like a vegetable I’m supposed to eat but can’t quite bring myself to choke down.
The problem is two-fold. One: most meditations encourage focusing on the breath, but – and I realize this is an extreme reaction – I absolutely HATE focusing on my breath. For example, I had a counselor who always had to remind me to breathe when I was in the midst of processing something highly emotional. More than that, however, I find that when I focus on my breath, I get this monstrous wave of anger that comes at me like a tsunami, and it’s outward focused at whatever calm, soothing voice is telling me to breathe. “Don’t you know,” I want to scream at this voice, “That breathing is DANGEROUS?”

Wait, what? That’s the crux of it, invisible audience. There’s something about breathing – about taking the time to focus on my breath – that feels dangerous, like the world will come crashing down; time will stop; or maybe suddenly I’ll just evaporate. Clearly this comes from the reptile part of my brain – the part that cannot bring itself to realize that actually there is nothing dangerous about a relaxed state and that breathing is actually synonymous with not being dead. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think it’s somehow linked to the idea that if you’re hiding in the woods, for example, and someone is looking for you to kill you, they’ll hear you if you’re breathing, find you and dismember you. When I watch movies and these kinds of scenes appear, that’s exactly what I’m thinking when the man or woman is hiding behind a tree trying not be butchered by a crazy person. “WHY ARE YOU BREATHING? DON’T YOU REALIZE THEY CAN HEAR YOU? HOLD YOUR BREATH OR DIE, YOU DUMBASS!”

So, clearly, I have a hang up about the very essential, life-giving nature of breath.
Second, if I manage to get past the breathing – say, focusing on something else that’s less life threatening – I come face to face with a chasm of grief so deep and so wide that it feels like the sun will fade before I will ever get through it. This is, perhaps, what the fixation on the danger of breath is actually protecting me from: standing at the edge of this ocean of tears and feeling the hopelessness of never being able to cross it.

Logically, I can know it is likely not as deep or as wide as I imagine. I can see that crossing it one stroke of the paddle at a time is the way to get through it, instead of wringing my hands from the shore. But you know what, invisible audience? There are people who never fucking cross this ocean. There are people that cannot bring themselves to even stand on its shores and look across it, despite the fact that it may be their life’s work. And as much as I fear crossing this ocean, my deeper fear is that I will forever be stuck wringing my hands on the shore, unaware of what exists for me beyond the horizon, and whether it’s as far away as I think it is.

“Well, at least you know what you’re up against,” one of my meditating friends told me when I described my struggles with meditation. I wanted to slap her, even as I recognized the truth in her words.

So despite my fear, my anger, and my grief, I will continue to try, one step at a time, to wade into these waters. And funnily enough, one of my favorite lines for coping with grief comes from the timeless rom-com classic, Sleepless in Seattle, and has to do with breath.

When the radio talk show host/therapist that his son has called asks Tom Hanks how he will deal continue to deal with the grief of losing his wife, he says, “Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.”

Love and deep breathing kisses,


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Being Enough

Hello, invisible audience. It’s been a really, really long time.

Don’t think that because I disappeared that I forgot about you – in fact, I think about you all the time. However, my life has changed in such profound ways since I sent out my last real blog post about the panic I felt as I drove into Mexico that I haven’t even known where to start. Barring the occasional resurfacing, it turns out that restarting took almost two years.

I’m not sure if this post will be the beginning of more regular blog posts from me, but I’ve decided to dip my toes into the water, to see if I still have anything to say. The fact that I’ve decided to write after an almost sleepless night is probably more significant than I’d like to admit. At any rate, here I am.
I have been thinking a lot lately about being enough. For the first time in many years, I moved in to a shared house at the beginning of the month, and I’ve found my insecurities came to join me like so many long-lost friends and extra roommates. Am I clean enough? Am I quiet enough? Am I loading the dishwasher correctly? Are my anxieties as apparent as I think they are?
Someone pointed out to me that in 34 years of life I have lived more than many people who are in their 60’s, and I realized that therein lies the problem. On the one hand, I try not to compare myself to others because in so many ways it makes me feel inadequate – Why don’t I own a house yet? Why do I still drive an old car? Why can’t I bring myself to rock the trucker hat? – while on the other hand I rarely give myself the credit I deserve for what I have accomplished, even if those accomplishments are only important to me.
Some days, I am so high on the life I am creating that my heart feels as if it will burst. I live in Leavenworth, a beautiful mountain town in the North Cascades, chock full of clear, cold rivers, pine-scented trails, and an amazing community that I’m beginning to feel a deep connection to. On other days, my insecurities rear their ugly heads and I am laid flat by the fear that I will never be enough – thin enough, confident enough, financially stable enough, capable enough, well enough – to accomplish anything ever again.
Yes, I know, it sounds drastic. It is what I refer to as black and white thinking: the idea that life and its experiences are good or bad, happy or sad, this or that, when really they are all of those pieces, all at once. It’s tough to grasp sometimes; tough to be ok with. I find myself fighting within myself, struggling to find a theme, a meaning, and a single way to see the world that will make sense, not just today but all days in a row – I want to figure it out once and never worry about it again.
Of course, those are the days that I am afraid of the mystery that on others days I welcome and seek out – the days that I remind myself that I love surprises, and that the best things that have ever come to me were the ones I never could have predicted or expected. Those are the days that I am not wondering whether I am enough, and am instead find myself completely satisfied with what is instead of what will be.
For the first time in a long time, I have found myself craving the option to discharge these fears in a post to you, invisible audience. There is still something about the process of aligning black symbols together in neat rows on a white background and launching them out into cyberspace that eases the fear a bit. Although I certainly haven’t put down writing completely in the last two years, I have missed this specific outlet for my thoughts – I have missed you, and the writer/reader relationship we have.
So here I am, seeking my own enough-ness with a crowd of invisible folk who live out in cyberland. And here you are, taking it in as I test out the waters once again.
Love and plenty of kisses,