Sunday, February 17, 2019

It's Gotta Come From Me

It’ been a rough ride getting here, Invisible Audience. There have been a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs and detours to get to where I am today. For better or for worse, I’ve realized something important: all the major changes I’ve made in my life have only come after I let go of what others thought I should do. They came when I did what felt like the right thing for me.


It’s exhausting sometimes trying to keep up with all the messages handed to me on a regular basis, although I have to admit it used to be a lot worse. Not all that long ago, I found it hard to discount someone’s opinion or idea if they shared it with conviction, even if it didn’t ring true for me. If they were willing to argue vehemently about their opinion, I’d simply shut down, unable to find my way to my own truth in the moment. Well, actually that part hasn’t changed, but the way I look at it is a bit different. I have learned that I’m not great at coming to terms with what I think in the moment, and especially not during an argument. I want time to mull over what I think first; I also need some time by myself to decide whether or not what I heard makes sense to me. And ultimately, when it comes to my self-care, it has to come from me or it’s just not gonna take in any kind of lasting way.

I’m not saying I don’t seek advice or find it helpful. I’m not saying I have it all figured out. But I’ve figured out that just because someone raves that something worked for them doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me, and – this is really important, Invisible Audience – that’s ok. I am not less of a person if that one diet, religion, healing modality, mindfulness practice, friend, pet, skin cream, exercise routine, sex position or whatever other possible thing does not become my thing.

I used to think I’d write a self-help book one day. In fact, I think one of the reasons I’ve found it so hard to write these past several years was because I thought I was supposed to take all the things I’ve learned and share them with others in a way that would make them feel better: that I needed to make a bulleted list of things I did and tell readers how doing those things has made my life better. Well, I finally came to terms with something, Invisible Audience: most self-help books make me feel like they can only help me if I follow them to the letter, and following anythingto the letter has never worked for me. It’s because whatever author hasn’t lived my situations, or dealt with my own personal phobias and idiosyncrasies.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who told me that there’s now some research that suggests that religious people are more likely to have religious children, and not just because they’re exposed to religion as they’re growing up. It was more that some people are better with/get more from/find solace in/enjoy the rituals related to dogma. I started to think about it.  I realized that I know a lot of people that are very dogmatic about something in their lives, even if it’s not religion. I live in a mountain town, and there are plenty of people here dogmatic about outdoor recreation. I have a lot of friends in the healing arts, and many of them are dogmatic about the healing modalities that work for them. I know several people dogmatic about their eating habits. Even though there are several things that I could probably call my own personal dogma, I’ve also realized that in general dogma is a scary thing to me. Mostly, I’ve realized that I get uneasy anytime anyonesuggests that their way is the right way, regardless of what that thing actually is, and especially if amazing results would be available to me if I could just do xyz within a certain timeframe that they’ve decided on.

It’s gotta work for me, personally, Invisible Audience, and let’s be real: most of it doesn’t. For a long time, I would use the fact that the Acme Magic Life Changer I had just tried had failed as a sign that I had failed, too. I wasn’t dedicated enough; disciplined enough; strong enough; I didn’t want it badly enough. Well, it’s not true. I am actually a pretty dedicated person; I can and have made lasting changes in my life. And when I take the idea out of it that I have to follow someone else’s rules to get there, suddenly it’s not so painful anymore. Suddenly, I can make more headway than if I were following someone else’s agenda.

Now, I treat anything new like a new piece of food someone slipped onto my plate. I get to study it; sniff it; take a taste if I’m interested. If I don’t feel like eating it, I don’t have to. If I take a bite and don’t want anymore, that’s ok too. If I gobble it down, but then feel sick, I get to make a choice on whether I ever want to eat it again. If it takes several more tries to decide either way, that’s ok, too.

Love From Me Kisses,

Saturday, February 2, 2019

It Takes As Long As It Takes

Hello, Invisible Audience,

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the parameters I feel compelled to adhere to in our Western Society – about the idea I’ve had that there is a checklist I must complete before I’m 40. Every day I’m inundated by ads and huge, powerful messages that tell me that I can take control of my finances, have the beach body I crave, have better health, better sex, better relationships, and if I start today I’ll get them within 90 days or less or my money back!

No wonder I’m tired.

If I’m going to be honest about it, the truth is that change in my life has never gone quite that direction for me. All the lasting changes I’ve made to my life have taken years to come together. They usually included one step forward, four back, a dosey doe to the side, and a heck of a lot of side trips to the dump before I can get there.

This is rather hard to admit. It feels like our culture says that if you can’t achieve the results you want in the time you’ve set for yourself (or someone’s program has set for you) you’re utterly failing at life: you’re lazy; undisciplined; or clearly you don’t want it enough. 

What utter bullshit. 

We can’t force kids to leap from 8 to 18 in 90 days just because we tell them they should. We can’t hurry fall when it’s spring. There’s a certain amount of time that it takes to get from point A to point B. Certainly we can work on making that amount of time shrink, but we cannot eliminate the fact that there is distance between the two.

Let me be clear: I am not saying change is not possible, or that it cannot be done. I am simply saying that I have struggled for YEARS to try and figure out why I was “failing” at accomplishing something when the truth was that I hadn’t failed – I just hadn’t accomplished the thing in the time I was told I should take to do it.

Ten years ago, I quit a corporate job in Bellevue to become a writer. I gave myself a year to get myself published. Well, that didn’t happen. It’s true that I ended up self publishing a book within about a year, but that was not what I had set out to do, and it was not the book I longed to write. 

Ten years later, I’ve self published two more books, and I don’t actively market or sell those books anymore. I don’t make my entire living as a writer, but I do write freelance articles and blog posts, mostly for the private sector, and I get paid pretty well for it. If you’d told me when I started this was where I’d end up, I would have been disappointed. Where are the riches and the following and the authorship I thought I would get after a year of working to get published? 

I never learned that these processes can take a lifetime, Invisible Audience. I never learned that the best way to make progress is one small forward step at a time, not giant leaps and life changes (although I’ve done both with varying levels of success.) It has only been recently that I realized that I get a lot more bang for my buck with small, incremental changes that build upon one another. In fact, the less I beat myself up for where I think I’m “supposed” to be, the more likely the change I decide to make will stick. 

·     My diet is the best it’s ever been. Finally, I’m not tired in the middle of the day and I can concentrate. It’s taken more than 10 years to get there.
·     I’m more emotionally healthy than I’ve ever been. It’s taken a lifetime to get to this point.
·     I’m more financially stable than I could have ever imagined being. It’s taken years of experimenting with different kinds of budgets, tracking, and giving myself permission to spend money on the things I personally consider important to get here...not to mention letting go of the ideas of what financially stable "should" look like.
·     I’m working on being physically healthier. Every time I try to rush the process, I experience a huge setback. All that has worked so far is small, incremental changes.

It takes as long as it takes, Invisible Audience. And sometimes, it takes a long time.

Love and however long it takes kisses,

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Fewer Strings Attached

I've been thinking about you, Invisible Audience.

I've been thinking about you and what you mean to me, especially when there are so many other invisible audiences that I think about on a regular basis.

  • There's the audience that tells me there's something wrong with me that I'm single and 37.
  • There's the audience that tells me that I really should be getting out more, and that there's something wrong with me that I enjoy my time to myself so much; that often, I prefer time to myself to time with others.
  • There's the audience that thinks I should be able to do it all -- everything I expect for myself, plus everything everyone else wants for me, too.

There's the audience that thinks I really should be something different than what I am now -- more financially stable, maybe; with a newer car; that I should weigh less; laugh more; work less but get more done. That I should keep more toxic people in my life, simply because we share blood.

Here's what it's taken me a long time to come to terms with, Invisible Audience: just because these audiences are invisible does not mean they don't exist. After all, you're invisible, and you're reading this, aren't you?

I've spent much of my life wondering why I felt pulled in 200 different directions; wondering why I felt like I was fighting expectations even when I couldn't see anyone around me trying to enforce them. I would try to explain this pull to others, and many would look at me, confused.

"But you always do what you want," they'd say. "Just look at your life. You never adhere to the norm."

It's true I have not lived a life that looks normal, but that does not mean that stepping away from the norm has been painless.

For some reason, 40 years old has felt like a marker. It's loomed ahead of me as a finish line that I'm afraid I won't be able to triumph. Shouldn't I be something else by then? My hair is turning grey; I weigh more now; I am not as buoyant about life as I once was. Surely if I don't have everything figured out by 40 I never will. An invisible audience told me that. And for a long time, I believed them.

I have been turning these invisible yet very real expectations over in my head and in my heart, and I have finally been able to ask myself:

Do I want this?

  • Do I want to seek a partner just to say I have one?
  • Do I want to believe that I only have worth if others think I do?
  • Do I want a child so my friends that leave me out of conversations about kids will include me?
  • Do I want to live a more lavish lifestyle and battle stress and debt simply so I look more normal?
  • Do I want to try to push myself physically at the expense of my health just so I look more like one of the very athletic mountain town women who live where I live?
  • Do I want my life to look like everyone else's to quiet those invisible voices, whose presence is as real as gravity and as hard to pin down?


No, I do not.

It has taken years. It has taken an ocean of tears. It has taken the loss of many friendships and loved ones. There have been many betrayals. There have been many surprising allies and steps forward and back.

Fuck it. Fuck all of it.

There's some saying that I can't quite remember about how inadequate a fish will seem if you expect it to climb a tree. The thing is, a fish knows what it's good at, but even as its fins work and its lungs breathe underwater, you can totally fool the fish into the thinking it will never be good enough if you tell it that all that matters is if it can stand on the uppermost limb; that, indeed, its existence and happiness depend on it getting there.

I know what I'm good at. I'm good at pouring my heart out into my writing; I'm a stellar solo traveler. I'm really great at starting over. I'm a great business woman. I'm really great at making sure kids love learning Spanish. I'm pretty good at speaking Spanish. I'm good at excel spreadsheets, and paying my bills on time, and getting my oil changed and my tires rotated when I'm supposed to. I'm the kind of renter that landlords rave about having. When that's the standard I aim for, I knock the expectations out of the park. When I buy into the invisible expectations that have nothing to do with me and everything do to with what is considered normal or acceptable, I look like a fish trying to climb a tree.

And that's the thing, Invisible Audience: I've always been a much better swimmer than a climber. It's just a question of owning it.

Love and swimming kisses,