Quoting Natalie: Tolerating fear

“First recognize that you’re afraid and slowly build your tolerance for fear…

… You may still feel it, but you become willing to bear it as you write. You keep your hand moving, you stay there, you move closer and closer to the edge of what scares you.” – Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I have been working on an article for the past couple of months. It’s a biggie for me – the first one for one of the “Glossys” – and I am petrified. First I had to write the query and that scared the bejeezus outta me. But I wrote it and it was accepted. Toe in water. But now I have to swim, and swim damn well. The fear of writing something mediocre and having it rejected has me swearing never to call myself a writer again. I admit I am afraid that I’m not really a writer.

My daughter starts a belly dancing class tonight but she’s scared. What if they don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? It hurts my belly when I hula-hoop – won’t this hurt too? What if I can’t do it right? I try to convince her that everyone has to start somewhere (and sometimes hurt somewhere, like those en pointe ballet dancers who suffer through bloody toes for the love of their craft). I ask her, do you really want to not try this just in case you will have a bad experience? Why are you scared about something you don’t even know about yet?

Um, Mom? Do you hear the words coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to be having this pep talk with yourself!

Natalie Goldberg was of course referring to writing in the above quote, but isn’t there a message for us all, for our life?  Get close to fear and experience it, feel it. Splash around in it. Like the ocean, its chill eventually becomes tolerable, even enjoyable. Run into a cold sea enough times and you get to know it will get better. Fear turns to “Frust” (faith + trust). And once you have faith there can be no fear.

Recently I experienced some Serendipity that slapped Fear right out the door and allowed Faith back in.

Anxiety and exhaustion over self-promotion, high-achievement, perfectionism, and self-doubt found me standing at the sink blubbering what-ifs over the dirty dishes. The lack of response from one particular cold contact and my insatiable need to save the world ten workshops at a time had triggered the melt-down. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities and by my own potential to make a difference. What if I was missing opportunities to help people by not following up on every collaboration suggestion? Was I failing at my work by not contacting all the non-profits in town? It was suddenly all too much.

The networking and marketing was taking too much time and producing far too much stress. My name and work was getting known. So, I decided to let it go. To let people come to me.

And they did.

Four days later two lovely ladies walked in to the coffee shop where I was running an informal writing circle. They were from the very non-profit that had unintentionally instigated my fears. And the most amazing thing is that they weren’t there because they had received my email but just because they had seen my brochure somewhere and thought my work would be a good fit for one of their projects.

As I write my article for the “Glossy” I am thoroughly submerging myself in the Fear of it not being good enough. As I slowly let go and just write for the pure joy of writing and spreading my message, the Fear becomes more tolerable and starts to feel a little more like “Frust.” I have to trust that I do have talent and something important to say, and the faith to know that even if the article is rejected it is not a personal failure – rather a lesson for the next time.

Prompt: What are you afraid of? What are you willing to tolerate in order to move to a place of acceptance and growth?

(For my article based on this quote go to Examiner.com)

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Booger-fingers will not break my spirit

Yesterday I attended the Women Business Owners Network (WBON) Winter Conference in Manchester, Vermont. Everyone of the speakers was fantastic and one woman noted she felt “drunk on the energy.” I can’t begin to share all the things discussed but I will tell you, it was powerful!

I believe in serendipity, in the power of positive thinking and envisioning your future. In this blog I have attempted to pass along my own experiences to serve as inspiration to anyone who is ready to receive it. I knew there were a few out there who also followed these principals and either saw them enacted in their own lives or were searching for it. I have also recently become aware that there is a move in the community conscious towards these things. The Secret and What the [Bleep] Do We Know are two examples of Quantum Physics and science of positive thinking being brought to, and beginning to be accepted, in the mainstream population. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind how thoughts effect our energy but I have personal evidence and a strange feeling like this is something I have always known but didn’t know I knew. That’s all I need.

But in general, in my little corner of the globe, I felt I was alone with my new “wierd” (hippie/new age) thoughts. Then over the last month some crazy things have happened:

1. Hubby left his job as an employee to become a private practitioner at a Holistic Wellness Center. He is not by training a holistic healer, he is just open to many options and has always been spiritual in nature. Daily he is surrounded by spiritually-minded people and he is happier than he has ever been.

2. Hubby starts coming home telling me things about positive thinking and I’m like: Hey! Preaching to the choir, bud! I’ve been telling you you can achieve this kind of understanding through journaling for, oh, I don’t know, ever!

3. Through this new job he is recruited to become a founder of a new venture: The Center for Spiritual Unfolding (much more to come on this – it’s gonna be good!). I am asked to join the board.

4. Hubby brings home The Secret on his iPod and I begin to listen to it (I had not read it). I’m listening to what I have discovered by myself but increased in power and possibility to almost the point of “it’s too good to be true!”

5. I have a meeting with a minister to arrange for the possibility of my journal workshop being held at the church. He asks about my religious background. No judgment. He understands. Our conversation is great and a relief. While assimilating our talk I begin to – for the very first time with clarity – see how the tattered strands of my religious beliefs could tie to my new belief system (eg. prayer is just positive thoughts being sent out into the Universe).

6. I attend the WBON conference: Making your Vision a Reality. Business women? Yes. Passionate? Yes. Spiritual? Yes! Every speaker spoke of the incredible power of envisioning and positive thinking. Vision boards, meditation, gratitude journals, affirmations, self love, self care, yes, even quantum physics and the power of positive energy in our personal and business lives. These women were talking MY language!! I drove home on a high!

My worlds have come together. First Hubby and I get on the same page, even working out of the same building, reading the same books, and journaling to make sense of it all. Then the realization that there are others just like me – passionate, creative people who are took a leap of faith to start their own businesses and who believe with every cell of their bodies that some higher power gave them wings with which to make the impossible possible.

So why the tears this morning? I think the immensity of my dreams and new-found knowledge suddenly felt squashed by the reality of my everyday life. My mind is spinning with possibility while my son is threatening his sister with a booger-finger and she in turn is squealing with a pitch that could shatter her plastic cup.  The calm and commaradie I experienced for eight wonderful hours yesterday was instantly washed away in a tsunami of missing boots and splattered oatmeal.

It’s a fragile animal, this soul-body we live in. I have a fabulous, inspiring, enlightening experience, I come home excited and so ready to get on with my life and then whap! I’m crying, angry, anxious, and ready to crawl under my bed covers for the rest of this roller-coaster ride called Life. But I recognize this feeling, I’ve had it before and thankfully I now know the nausea and the tears are just the big-toe in a cold sea. It hurts at first then it starts to feel good and soon you are floating, face to the sun, content – and fulfilled. (Shortly after I wrote that miserable post I quit my job and launched Wisdom, Within, Ink.)

I am choosing to believe the tears and anxiety was just fear having a final say before exiting my body…

Jour du Journal: Serendipity Fest

How’s this for a series of events?

1. I response to a call to submission on a national mother’s writing forum. She published my essay (my first published work).

2. Turns out the editor/zine just happens to be based in a town an hour away.

3. The very week I finally subscribe to the local paper there is an article about this editor/writer and a book on her experience and beliefs about midwifery and the strength of women during birth – a subject I relate to and have applied to other life experiences in my own writing.

4. I write to her to share my congratulations and thoughts.

5. She invites me to come visit to discuss my journaling workshops.

6. Her zine is going to host a workshop for mothers in the fall.

But enough about me!

My point is, I believe if you are on the right path the path will rise up to meet you.

Henry Thoreau said,

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.

Goethe said,

… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

Do you believe this to be true? Write about it.

Jour du Journal: Serendipity and Purpose

Yesterday on my other blog I wrote about Serendipity in my life. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

I choose to take this definition a step further and say that these “agreeable” things that occur do so because we are consciously or subconsciously – looking for them. Purpose. I had a (conscious) purpose: I needed people in my workshop. These two ladies had a (subconscious) purpose: they needed to write and comfort each other. When one put an ad in the paper during the previous week and the other showed up for yoga at the same moment as I walked in, they did not know they were reaching out. We had purposes that aligned.

Our purpose for that day was to come together one evening in a sunny room and write. It was not sought for but turned out to be valuable.

Christina Baldwin writes,

The sacred waits for us to recognize [the] call, to step forward and assume our purpose… this recognition happens occasionally when someone [or an event] enters our lives and our first response is recognition, that we have somehow been waiting for them.

Today, think of a happy “coincidence” that occurred in your life. Rethink it.

When I had purpose…

Please feel free to leave a comment – either about your journaling experience or to share your writing… I’d love to hear from you!

And the universe shifted into place

I am a few hours short of becoming a Certified Journal to the Self Workshop Instructor (through The Center for Journal Therapy). I will have business cards, a brochure, a website (hopefully) and a whole new career ahead of me (again, hopefully). I am very excited by this prospect.
Let me tell you how this all began.

I have been writing a journal forever, well, for the last 24 years anyway. 12 years ago my sister gave me Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I took to Morning Pages like a new religion (well, for me and my newly heathen ways, it was a religion and a good one too). A few years later I was given (once again by my very insightful and great gift-giving sister) A Voice of Her Own by Marlene A. Schiwy. Two amazing books which, as I can see now, were stepping stones in the journey towards my future life.

When we moved to Mississippi as I mentioned in this post and this one that I was driven to do something creative. I was a new stay-at-home mother in a new world (because Mississippi is not on the same planet as Vermont) and I was determined to stay sane, stay productive, stay me, and stay off soap operas. Actually, I wanted to be more Me than I ever had been before. Since age 22 I had been a 9-5er who aspired to something more, but who used her job as a convenient excuse not to do a damn thing about it. “If only I had the time… the energy… the turret… the right pen… o, then I’d be a REAL writer, an artist, a SOMETHING… whine, whine, whine.”

In downtown Hattiesburg, MS there is a tiny bagel cafe on the corner of an old building that shakes as the trains pass within feet of its doors two or three times a day. In this shabby, comfortable anachronism with the handsome model-turned-bagel baker behind the counter, I dreamed up and pursued an idea for a journal workshop for women. While Little Lady was at the local church pre-school for her 3 hours of much-needed social interaction I would read and plan, plan and write.

I taught one four-evening course at the local bookstore to a tiny group of women. It was well received and I was well pumped-up. My plan was to slighty revise the curriculum according to the feedback from the group and offer another workshop. So much for plans. I was taking a writing course, I was having another baby, and I was moving back to Vermont.

However, in my efforts to revise the workshop and open it to men, I had come across a book by Kathleen Adams, and consequently discovered The Center for Journal Therapy. Yada yada yada…

OK, so now I have a certification under my belt (or will, shortly) and now need somewhere to teach. In this post I told about a writer’s symposium I attended. It was there I met a lovely, inspirational author and workshop leader named Joni B. Cole. Now, once upon a time, shy me would NEVER have 1) attended a writing workshop where I might have to share my drivel and possibly confirm my suspicions that I was not, and will never be a Writer, or 2) casually chat with an author as if I had some god-given right to do so – Lord, no! But that was old me. Before I had met my good friends Confidence and Serendipity.

It turns out that Joni lives in a town about an hour from my home, the very town to which my sister (ya know, the one who seems to have had an on-going, yet unwitting influence on my creative life thus far) has just, as in last month, moved (from the other side of the continent). So what? you say. Just wait…

Joni operates the Writer’s Center in that town (the one an hour away where my sister – who has a spare bedroom and a willingness to babysit her niece and nephew) and she wants to talk to me about offering… drumroll, please… a Journal Workshop

Yada, yada, ya-serendipity.

Writers Unite!

I went to a writer’s symposium today. Despite being exhausted (this follows two grueling days of workshops on child sexual abuse and other things I’d prefer to remain naively ignorant about), this workshop was just what I needed. Being around other writers (and what colorful characters we are!) is so affirming. Hearing pens frantically scratching across yellow legal pads as we thrash through the mental cobwebs to enter the mysterious, and always miraculous, cave of verbal wonders; being applauded for something you scribbled in a 10-minute sprint and told you have to “keep going with that… I’d read it,” is music to the ego and adrenaline to the muse. You feel a part of something; something real, something worthwhile. You might even consider claiming to be a… a… Writer (whoa, slow down there, Nellie!)

Let me throw a little bit of serendipity in here.

I found out about this workshop from a writer whom I contacted through http://www.pw.org/. I was hoping to find a writer’s group nearby. I found the name of a woman who lives 20 miles from me. While reading her bio I discovered, amazingly, that she grew up in a town within miles of where we lived in Mississippi. She wrote a friendly, helpful email telling of her publications and current works-in-progress. She also suggested I contact a certain gentleman about a workshop being held the next weekend. It turns out that this very gentlemen and my father just happen to belong to a mutual admiration society, so I was able to [maiden] name drop and register for the workshop just a day before it was held.

Now I have contacts. I will be joining the local writer’s guild. I will have people to hold me accountable, who will (hopefully) offer positive feedback and constructive criticism, and who, most importantly, will make me feel I belong. To a “club” of like-minded people, who understand the unbounded beauty of a blank book and a fountain pen, and to whom the ideal day is one spent wringing out words and pegging up phrases.

To paraphrase one of our presenters today, Joni B. Cole, writing may be a lone effort but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Waiting for the serendipity to stir

I realized I hadn’t said much about serendipity or positive thinking lately. Since I started the job that was the result of a serendipitous event, life has become kind of run of the mill. Despite having not worked (out of the home) for 4 years I have slipped back into the routine and mindset of being in an office as if I just returned from a extended vacation. Thankfully this job has yet to stress me out like my last “real” job where I had publication deadlines, front-of-house crowd control issues, and the pressure of being a new, working, breast-pumping mother.

Even so, I think I’m a little down. I had finally started writing – or at least got my head in a place where I was (truly) ready to start – and now I’m wrestling The Schedule. I have marked up my planner until it looks like the departure board at Logan airport, blocking out every hour with this chore, that errand, appointments, work, and writing. But then that errand takes an hour longer than it should (due to the rice having been moved from aisle 4 to aisle 13 and pizza dough apparently no longer made) or a staff meeting and work project running over time, shrinking the scheduled writing time from three hours to one (which, of course, means no writing).

I’m glad I’m working and I especially can’t wait to write a grant. Plus, we definitely needed the extra paycheck to get through this heating season. But I also feel that maybe – once again – I have put my own dream on hold. Did I do this on purpose; subconsciously sabotaging myself because I was getting too close to actually doing what I have dreamed of?

When you no longer have an excuse to fall back on, the responsibility of a dream can loom large and scary.

I think I have stopped thinking positively and looking for serendipity because my life has become, well, normal, and a normal life – boring life – doesn’t foster spiritual thoughts. But I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m making a mistake. If I did start thinking more positively about merging my working, mothering, and writing lives into a more do-able, less scary whole, I would most likely start to see the serendipity stir.

Even Oprah is in on this serendipity thing

Once again my ol’ buddy serendipity has popped in to say hello. Not to me this time but through me (and our good friend Oprah).

I have two friends, friends from a past life, a life steeped in religious dogma. Due to a recent relationship, one of said friends is battling with an old demon (not that demon) of the who, where, what and how of religion and spirituality. She is questioning the road she has taken. The three of us have been emailing today with cyber-hugs all around.

13 years ago I left my church. Eight years ago I came to peace with myself. Three years ago I began to understand a new concept of God/Spirit/Universe. A month ago I was finally able to sit in a church and translate the minister’s words into my language.

Three years ago I made an amazing connection between journaling and spirituality; intuition, inner wisdom, and God. To sum up in as few words as possible, I believe our intuition/instinct/subconscious IS God. At that time I was attending a small Unitarian Universalist church and I was able to present my discovery to the members. I told of my journey from reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way at age 22 to my aha! moment at 30-something. (A link to this unrevised essay, “Wisdom Within” is here.) Also around this time I compiled a journal-writing workshop that looked at this concept from a non-religious – but inherently spiritual – point of view.

So, to get back to today.

I’m still sick and when I feel like crapola I justify watching TV in the middle of the day. I’d had enough of Curious George so I insisted on watching “mommy TV” for just a little while. Oprah came on talking about “The Gift of Fear:” how we should pay close attention to our instincts/intuition. Although I wasn’t really conscious of it at the time, the thought crossed my mind, “yup, there’s God again.”

When I could longer hear Oprah due to the whining of the kids begging for their show, I turned the station (besides, I didn’t really think it was appropriate for them to be hearing about women almost getting stabbed) and forgot about it . Less than an hour later I get an email from the questioning friend. She had been reading my essay while watching the very same Oprah episode. She wrote: “putting it all together now – perhaps that instinct is another way in which God dwells within us and speaks to us.”

Weird, eh?

No, serendipitous.

Serendipity on a Bike

This move from Vancouver to Vermont is not an easy prospect for ‘lil sis. We have been scouring the area and the internet trying to discover the potentials of her new home.

One thing you should know about my sister (let’s call her “C”) is that she’s painfully allergic to malls and other large (or small, actually) shopping areas. I have had the misfortune to be in her presence on the occasion of an allergic reaction. First, almost imperceptibly, her blood pressure rises as indicated by a slight coloration in her cheeks. Then the grumps start, which present as snapped answers to quite rational questions (i.e. which bag do you like better, the blue or the red?). These grumps slowly increase in intensity until the final phrase is reached which can be termed as The Explosion. At this point, when she says, “We have to leave, NOW!,” please do. Drop the blue (or red) bag and exit immediately in a calm and orderly fashion.

I mention this only to clarify that the move is not made difficult by the distinct decrease in shopping opportunities in the Upper Valley – far from it – but rather a fear of the lack of community, walkability and get-out-ability. I believe C and her husband would live on top of a mountain if it wasn’t for a preference for indoor plumbing (a preference with which I wholeheartedly concur) and a genuine need for local coffee-shop camaraderie (again, I agree).

If not on a mountain or drinking good coffee with friends, C’s joy is found on a bike. And this is where the serendipity comes in.

On my reconnaissance mission I had noticed a bike path. Not knowing if it was like the Rutland bike path which begins with great hope but ends 4.3 minutes later in a soggy ball field, we both did some research. C called some organization and discovered at some point in the conversation that her boss-to-be is an expert on said bike path and rides it the 6 or so miles every day to work. To quote C, “It made me very happy.”

So, once again, serendipity rides into to save the day (or at least the deflated mood).

Proof is in the pudding

More proof that this positive attitude thing works…

I got offered the job on Tuesday, August 5. Just a week and a half earlier I wrote this in my journal:

“OK, I’m going to pretend I don’t need a job and I will start my journal workshop training and get writing and just see what happens… I want to get offered work – someone needs me, I just need to find them so they realize it!”

One day later:

“I’m trying to network hoping something will land in my lap… can I decide NOT to work? Will that leap of faith stir the universe to throw me a rope?”

One week before offer of job as grant writer:

“Yes, you will make money as a writer – YES, YOU WILL.”

Not the kind of writing I thought I was talking about but I’ll take it!