On Being a Man

This afternoon, I’m simultaneously finishing a chapter of my book (more to come on that later), doing laundry and baking a beautiful breakfast I can eat quickly each morning this week.

A few years ago, doing all this at once would have made me completely overwhelmed, stressed and frazzled.

But it doesn’t today.

Instead, I am completing each task slowly, giving it all the attention it deserves.

Y’all, I am taking SUCH GOOD care of myself. Because I know what it’s like to strive for perfection, to feel like nothing I do is ever good enough, to work myself into a trip to the ER because I can’t stop and allow myself to rest.

But last year, I worked with an amazing coach who would listen to me tick off the things on my list, the schoolwork and the work work and the things around the house that weren’t getting done because of the two things above, and she’d let me FREAK OUT about it, and then she’d stop me gently. And she would point out all the things I was totally KILLING at the moment—the papers I wrote every weekend that were earning As even though I hadn’t cracked a book, the big project I’d just finished at work, the fact that I hadn’t punched that VP guy in the face, and the beautiful space I was creating for myself in our home. Before I could rush off into all the things that weren’t getting done, she would call attention to all the amazing things that were.

And then I was forced to admit that I really was accomplishing some spectacular things.

So it seems appropriate to be writing about all of this on Valentine’s Day, the day of love, because stopping to appreciate myself, pausing to celebrate my accomplishments and lavishing positive attention on myself are key to the process of escaping self-flagellation.

Last year, my main Core Desired Feeling was Fierce, and I definitely found myself having many, many opportunities to embody that. Almost weekly, I had to reach into my pocket and pull out my ferocity.

That got really old really fast, however. In the Fall, I told my therapist that I felt like I was going around stabbing people with a spear. (For their own good of course. They totally needed it. But I was having more Come to Jesus conversations and taking control of more things than I’d like.) And I told her that I was done with fierce, and my Core Desired Feeling for 2016 would be something softer, like Pretty.

But in the end, I chose something else. Because Pretty is nice, but it doesn’t sound like it gets much done, and I still had a lot to do. So instead, I selected Shakti, the embodiment of the divine feminine.

I know now that I can be fierce, that I can push through like a masculine sombitch.

But being fierce ALL THE TIME makes me really tired. And especially cranky, because I think grownups should handle their OWN STUFF.

So this year, I’m working to balance that masculine fire energy with Shakti, the divine feminine, the flowing water energy. Shakti gets stuff done, moves mountains and creates canyons and erodes beaches, but she does it her own way, on her own time.

I want to temper that DO ALL THE THINGS push with the WHAT THINGS WANT TO BE DONE question. Since I can’t do ALL the things, choosing the ones that are ready seems to be a very wise place to start.

One of those is the book I’m working on, which I’ll hopefully be sharing more about this year. You may see some other changes too, like a new email list and some other things that will help me “build a platform” so I can sell the book when I finally finish it.

breakfastBut for now, I’m going to sample this beautiful and fierce breakfast and give thanks to Shakti that it will be waiting for me all week long.

Paris, Beirut, and True Safety

A Facebook friend posted his thoughts about the Paris attacks yesterday, lamenting that he felt torn between nuke all the bastards and peace is the only way. I wrote most of this last night, and amended it just a bit—he’s a pastor, so it’s decidedly Christian, even though Christians are really pissing me off right now. Or maybe BECAUSE they’re pissing me off right now.

Anyway, his words really helped me frame an issue I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, about how we should respond to violence in Paris and Beirut. On one hand, it seems like our country’s original mucking around in the Middle East contributed to conditions that allowed terror groups to flourish there. On the other, how could we let violence persist by just leaving it alone to grow?

So what do we choose? Which side are we on? Pacificism or war?

The more I think about this, though, the more I think it’s a false choice. We believe the choice is between military action and the safety it will bring or pacifism/”no action” and the danger or risk that it will bring.

But I don’t think this is the case. In fact, I think this is really what the gospels are about. Jesus seems to be repeatedly reminding us that safety does not come from position or power or money or possessions. It also does not come from following the rules perfectly, which the Pharisees seemed pretty attached to.

But there is no such thing as safety. Your son could be immaculately conceived and still wander off when you’re not looking, scaring the crap out of you, and then be kind of a jerk about it. You could be the son of God and still get slaughtered and tortured and mocked. You could pledge your unending allegiance to Jesus and then take it back repeatedly while a lot of people are watching.

Your five-year-old nephew could get diagnosed with leukemia and die a few days after his seventh birthday, even if his parents fed him a mostly organic diet and ensured he didn’t do anything really risky or stupid. You could save for retirement and do all the right and safe things, only to watch it all go away in a stock market crash.

Nope. Safety can’t be earned or achieved or even promised. You can’t create it by following enough of the rules. This is why the Buddhists teach non-attachment, because attachment to things or outcomes or even safety brings suffering.

Instead, safety comes from realizing that every day, almost every moment, brings the opportunity to choose between love and grace or the rules we think keep us safe. It comes from understanding that this love and grace starts with accepting ourselves, and then flows out to loving and graceful actions to others. Because unless you understand that you are fundamentally okay, you can’t extend that grace to others. You can’t sustainably flirt with old people at the grocery store, or to donate to organizations that support refugees or effectively raise foster children or forgive your enemies. You have to understand that you’re okay today and you’ll be just as okay tomorrow whether you get what you want or not. You’ll be held and supported and loved then just as you are now, in this moment.

That’s safety—the freedom that comes from understanding that nothing is permanent and therefore, nothing is really safe.

And since nothing is really safe, then everything is safe.

I’m not advocating for frolicking down dark alleys—safety and stupidity are two different things. But I am saying that since you can’t earn safety, you can, finally, be safe just as you are.

Only Natural

Also known as: officially coming out of the Closet

It is pretty well known that I do not really “like” nature. It’s dirty, there are bugs out there, and above all, the temperature is usually all wrong. Camping is akin to torture for me, because there are few things I want to do less than hang around outside, especially if sweating or discomfort is involved in any way.

It’s funny, then, that I’ve been drawn out into nature lately. I’ve been walking for hours outside in the summer heat of Texas. Why in the world would I want to torture myself by wandering around outside in the hottest part of the year, sweating like a pig because it’s hot as balls?

Well, there are a few answers to that ridiculous question.

First, because it keeps paying off. The first time I followed that weird tug to go walking around the neighborhood when the heat index was over 100 degrees, I wandered into a grove of trees and wound my way past some small, muddy ponds to a bigger, only slightly less muddy pond with a beautiful fountain in the middle.

I’d visited this pond before (although, admittedly, not when it was quite so hot outside). But I had never noticed a little bridge that serves as a walkway over the pond and the creek running from it.

As I walked over it, I saw a praying mantis on the bridge railing, which I consider a sacred symbol.

I didn’t know then that praying mantises actually live in Texas, and that they are fairly common and a friend of many a gardener. All I knew was that the praying mantis is a symbol for the sacred, the shaman, for God, the inner knowing. To me, that praying mantis was a big, freaking deal. It meant that not only was I in the right place, but that the place I was in was holy, divine, and special. That I was supposed to be here.

Mississippi Kite. (Look closely).

Mississippi Kite. (Look closely).

Since then, I continue to see amazing things on my walk. For instance, that muddy water is actually full of life, of fish and turtles and tadpoles, but you have to be still and watch before you can see any of that beneath the fine layer of muck. I often run into squirrels or cottontail bunnies or ducks. I’m learning to tell the difference between the call of the Cardinal and the call of the Mockingbird. And I now know what a Mississippi Kite looks like (in addition to the fact that it eats large bugs). Every time I take that walk, I see something new or exciting or vibrant and energetic.

Second, and on a related note, it’s my church.

Most people I know, whether they are religious or not, believe in a higher power of some sort. So do I. While I do not exactly believe in the vengeful God of the Old Testament or the all-powerful God of the New, I do believe that at the center of the Universe lies a divine, powerful love that connects us all.

I also believe that we all have guides who have chosen to join us in this lifetime to help us learn the lessons we came here to learn and to live the biggest lives we possibly can. Some people call them spirit guides, guardian angels, the higher self, the ancestors, or God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit. I call mine the Board of Directors or, sometimes, “the committee,” and I think they are all of the above.

When I’m quiet, or in trouble, I often hear them speaking to me. (No, not like voices in my head, although sometimes it probably appears that way.) I hear a voice that sounds just like another thought, but I can tell that it’s not coming from what I consider “me.”

Lots of people have had this experience when scared, or lost somewhere, or just trying to make a big decision. They get an insight, or a thought from somewhere else, and they follow it because it just feels right. Sometimes this happens to me when I’m driving, and I know that car on my left-hand-side is going to try to move into my lane while I’m still in it. Or when I’m trying to locate a new address, and my GPS isn’t updating fast enough; somehow, I know where to turn and when.

The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary.

The first time I took that walk out to the bridge, I heard that same voice as I approached the grove of trees. It indicated that this was a sanctuary. (It also indicated that I should NOT WALK SO FAST, DAMNIT. SLOW DOWN.) Perhaps it didn’t use those exact words, but I got the picture.

NO, REALLY, SLOW DOWN. YOU WALK FAST NATURALLY. WE DON’T MEAN SLOW FOR YOU. WE MEAN SLOW. THIS IS A SACRED PLACE. SLOW DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t get the picture immediately, but I got it eventually.

I slow down when I enter the sanctuary, and keep that pace as I approach the bridge, which I consider the Holiest of Holies.

And third, it helps me deepen my intuition.

Many gurus say the same thing: if you want to hear that voice more often, you should go out in nature. You should meditate. You should feed your body only the things it wants. You should stop and take breaks in your day to listen.

It appears that I am moving on all of those fronts (more on that some other time), and the trips out into nature are just one step in a journey of many. They aren’t the first steps, but they wouldn’t be possible without all those before it.

And they are more important to me now, as I think using my intuition, my ability to read people and hear the truth that lies 10 layers underneath what’s being said, will be key in what lies ahead for me where my career is concerned.

So as I finish my highly analytical MBA, I’m also beginning to turn within and to listen more often, more reliably. I’m working to strengthen my Right brain in addition to my high-functioning Left. I think most of you knew I was pretty woo already, but it was time to start the process of coming out of the closet.

After all, everyone has a sixth sense, so tuning in to mine is really only natural.

Hey, Coworkers: I’m Really, Truly, not at all Pregnant

So remember that one time when someone asked me if I was pregnant, and I wasn’t, and we all had a good laugh about it?

No, me either.

But I do remember that time when I told my health coach that the worst thing that could happen if I gained weight was that people would think I was pregnant. And then, of course, 2 weeks later, someone asked me if I was pregnant. (Um, no.)

And it sucked, but we got through it.

So, of course, it happened again.

SERIOUSLY. NOT PREGNANT.

Earlier this week, I was walking a new coworker around the office, introducing her to people on our floor. When we got to the other side of the building, we walked to the far corner so I could introduce her to someone I thought she’d need to work with often.

As we got around that corner, a woman who works on that side of the building started YELLING excitedly at me. (This was, of course, not necessary. This building is almost entirely open concept, so I could’ve heard her perfectly if she had been 5 feet away, instead of 15.)

“ABBY!” she screamed. “LOOK AT YOU! YOU’RE PREGNANT, AREN’T YOU?” (Insert international pantomiming motion for pregnant belly here.)

“No,” I said, walking over to her. “I’m not.” (Insert me working really hard to not show her the international hand gesture for “fuck you” here.)

“YES YOU ARE!” she said. “I CAN ALWAYS TELL! YOU JUST HAVE THAT GLOW ABOUT YOU, AND YOU’RE SO PREGNANT.”

“No,” I said, “But you’re going to be really embarrassed in nine months.”

“OH, YOU TOTALLY ARE. I CAN ALWAYS TELL. YOU JUST HAVE THAT GLOW, AND YOU LOOK SO HAPPY, AND YOU ARE DEFINITELY PREGNANT.”

Well, then, what more is there to say? Plus, there was obviously not another way to avoid belligerent yelling about my body, so we left.

Later, my coworker came over and asked, “So, do y’all have a pregnancy joke, or was she really not getting it?”

Um, the latter.

Put Down the Onesies and WALK AWAY

Therefore, I feel compelled to clear this up for everyone: I do not intend to get pregnant any time soon. (If at all.) I get it; I’ve been married a little over 3 years. And because you had a bunch of kids right after you got married, you think that I should, also, be pushing an 8-pound-6-ounce screaming, helpless bundle of joy out of my ladybits.

But ohmigawd, I have shit to do.

Don’t get me wrong—I have the utmost respect for mothers. I think parenting is probably the hardest job that exists, and there is so much effing judgment no matter what you do. (Dads, you do great work, too, but I don’t think you get near as much judginess as the moms do, so after them, you come first, okay?)

I have almost always worked with or for working mothers, and I could not respect them more—they do the hardest job in the world in addition to the job they get paid for, and they almost always feel like they are failing at something. Mothers of the world, you have my deepest respect and admiration.

But that does not mean I am in the process of becoming a mother myself. Or that my plans about motherhood are any of your damn business.

It’s not me, it’s you

And, for that matter, neither is my body. So let’s review, then, the times that it’s okay to comment on someone else’s body.

Never. Nada. Not. At. All.

Seriously, no body talk. Do not comment if someone looks smaller or bigger or taller or shorter or better or worse. Because you don’t know what they’re going through. They could have miscarried or started chemo or just, well, done nothing. Unless it’s your body, it’s none of your damn business.

If you want to give someone a compliment, find something that’s not body-related. Tell them how great their new perm looks, or how much you appreciate that they hold in their flatulence after a big meal of Mexican food, or what a great job they did not strangling the woman who badgered them about being pregnant. There are MANY other nice things to say about people that are not body-related. (This goes double for children.)

If you wouldn’t yell it at the CEO, don’t yell at anyone else. No one would think it was appropriate to yell about a man’s body from halfway across the office. (“HEY BOB, HAVE YOU GAINED SOME WEIGHT?! YOU GOT SOME JUNK IN THE TRUNK GOIN’ ON!”) Therefore, let’s quit doing this to women.

And speaking of men, let’s also quit waiting for men to lead this effort. Trust me, ladies, this is too important to wait around hoping that someone else will do it. This one’s on us.

Let yourself off the hook so you can do that for other women, too. Listen, I don’t feel bad about being tall or having red hair. It has never occurred to me that either of those things made me bad or wrong or unattractive. So why would my weight get that kind of play?

Next Stop: Body Love

And, really, I have to hand it to yelling idiot lady—she was right about one thing. I have been dressing to hide my body because I’m uncomfortable with my new visible belly outline (which my friends call VBO). And I’ve been wearing lots of clothes to camouflage it because I’m not able yet to flaunt it.

My tummy hasn’t appeared because I’m pregnant, but just because this is the size my body is right now. It’s as good as anyone else’s body, and it is kind of the thing that makes life possible for me. That breathing in, breathing out thing couldn’t happen without my body.

So I will try to embrace my tummy, to think of it as pregnant, in a way. Because I’m hoping that THIS is the tummy I’ll have when I learn to love my body, to accept it and honor it as it is today, to bless it as my home in this go-round. THIS tummy will help me birth body acceptance in myself.

And the fact that I don’t have to push anything out of my ladybits to get there is the best part about it.

Travel Restrictions

There are some good things about flying.

There are some good things about flying.

I’m just back from my rest and rejuvenation retreat in Portland, Oregon with my fellow Epic Fucking Badass mentees, and we had a beautiful time bonding over meditation and massages. It’s not every day that you meet more members of your tribe, but I just added another five to mine.

My husband and I stayed over a few days to explore the city, and I’m happy to report that we both loved it. I think he’s ready to pack up all the pets and just move on over, but I’m not so sure that I love rain THAT much.

The crappy part, though, is that we had to go through some airports to get there and back.

I travel a lot for work, but there are still some things that REALLY get to me. I can handle delays and taking off my shoes to walk over the nasty airport floor and airplane bathrooms. But I cannot handle airplane seats that lean back. I will know that I have truly achieved enlightenment when I can sit behind someone in an airplane and not get incredibly pissed when they lean their seat back into my face.

I know it is possible to lean your seat back in an airplane. But just because you CAN do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

For instance, I CAN run up and down the aisle of the airplane naked, farting and yelling obscenities. But this sounds to me like a smelly and drafty endeavor, so I choose to remain in my seat, fully clothed, with some guy’s head in my lap instead, jabbing my knees into his back and violently snapping the seat pocket at random intervals.

I mean, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is a good idea…

But we got through it. And then we got home, and there were clothes all over the bathroom floor, and I could hardly walk through it, and I started freaking out because I have a jam-packed day of work tomorrow while my body readjusts to Central time, and a huge paper due this weekend, and I got a bit overwhelmed.

My orchid.

My orchid.

But then, I realized: ORCHIDS. I have a plant that was nearly dead, but has decided it would like to keep living inside instead of in the compost pile, and it is beautiful.

So maybe we will get through all if this and come back to fly again. Hopefully without seats that lean back this time. . .

What kind of woman do I want to be?

lionpic

At the start of my EFBA mentorship, my mentor and I spent some time talking about what kind of year I wanted 2015 to be.

I told her about my 5 Core Desired Feelings (fierce, flow, radiant, luxurious, connection), and when she asked me to pick a word/phrase/motto of the year, I chose FIERCE, which I define as “powerful (full of might, strength) + clarity (the quality of being clear); commanding.”

When she asked me how I want to feel this year, what kind of woman I want to be, I said, “Like a mama lion.”

Because while my life is amazing, I’m not entirely thrilled with all of it. I’m tired most of the time, and I have this bad habit of working myself into burnout, of giving too much to everyone else and not sticking to my boundaries.

But I know for a fact that mama lions don’t put up with that stuff.

I had the amazing opportunity to go to Africa in 2014, and I got to see all kinds of animals—giraffes, rhinos, elephants, leopards (my favorite), water buffalo, hippos, etc.

sleepinglionsWe also saw quite a few lions, and they all pretty much looked like this. I learned that lions sleep 15-20 hours a day (so I think I might apply for that job when I’m done with the one I have now).

As we watched, they woke up for a few minutes, and I got to see them interact with other members of the pride; they were generally pretty affectionate, much like my sleepy kitties are with one another.

But everyone knows that you do not want to cross a lion. Lions might be expert resters, but their power is most evident when things need to get done (like hunting), or when someone crosses a line. The momma lion will let her cubs tug at her, she’ll let them play bite, but when this starts to get on her nerves or interfere with her sleeping, she’ll swat at them and go on (or just get up and walk away). She sets a boundary and rests in it.

Unlike me, who sets a boundary and then perseverates. “This is how it is,” I’ll say confidently, like I’m wearing my big girl pants.

And then I’ll go away and think, “OMG, did I set the boundary firmly enough? Did I say the right things? Maybe I was too firm. What if I hurt their feelings? Should I have been more clear? Because if they try to cross the line again, then it might be my fault. OH NO – what if they cross the line again? Clearly that will mean I am a failure. But more than THAT, we’ll have to have this direct and difficult conversation all over again, and I do NOT like conflict. Oh Lord, if I don’t get this right, I will end up alone and unloved, destitute in a van down by the river.” (Don’t ask me why it always ends there, it just does.)

So I would like to be more Mama Lion—more clarity and less agonizing.

To commemorate this, I dug a piece of art out of our guest room that I had bought for another purpose (long story) and took it up to my office. I know it’s not a MAMA lion (based on the mane it is probably more of a DADDY lion), but it still gets the job done.

I see the lion when I walk into my office, and when I’m sitting at my desk, the lion stares back at whoever’s in my guest chair, reminding us all that I am an Epic Fucking Badass.

The one question you never ask a woman

You should totally check out her entire photo shoot.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about food, and it’s about time to get back to my favorite topic.

The Stop Fighting Food Master Class I’ve been in (which I highly recommend; do not hesitate to sign up next year when she offers it again) has taught me many things. First, that living in allowance is not about what I eat, it’s about how I feel about what I eat. It’s about not making myself wrong regardless of what I eat. (When I first heard I should live in allowance, I was all, “Yaaay! Bring on the enchiladas and ice cream!” Then I realized that my body really functions best on salad and red meat. Good thing I am trying not to hate my body, or I would’ve been royally pissed about that one.)

Second, I have learned that perhaps I do not have control over my weight. I have only ever been able to control my weight in short bursts. And then, you know, ice cream and enchiladas happened.

Let me say that once more. I do not have control over my weight. That popping sound you’re hearing is probably my mind being blown again.

I understand that fact can be hard to believe because, well CULTURE. (Notice I did not say “science.”) So I highly recommend stories like this and the work of Linda Bacon, including her book Health at Every Size. It is life-changing.

Any hoo, for the sake of the length of this post, let’s assume we all agree on that one. Also, let’s just agree that women are not afraid of fat because of fat itself, they’re afraid of what they make fat mean. I have learned that when I’m having a “fat feeling,” it’s usually caused by insecurity about something else like my job, whether or not people will like me, or about the horrible things that will happen to me if I wear my hair curly in public. (Seriously, that last one happened just a few days ago.) When I’m worried about fat, it’s almost always about something else in my life that I’m trying to control.

Like that one horrible thing

Before Christmas, one of our executives stopped by my office and conspiratorially asked the one single question that you do not ever ask a woman. Ever.

“Are you pregnant?” she said.

Yeah, THAT sound is probably my heart dropping into my larger-than-it-used-to-be stomach. (And not because I’m pregnant, damnit.)

“No,” I said matter-of-factly. “I’ve just gained some weight recently.” (Note that I resisted the urge to make excuses about how I gained some weight learning to be free of food and living in allowance. That’s big.)

“Oh,” she said, looking a bit shocked, “Well you were feeling bad last weekend at the Christmas party, so I thought, you know, maybe. . .”

I quickly flipped through my memories of the Christmas party, and did not remember feeling bad. Also, it’s flu season, so if I HAD felt poorly, there could have been about 5,476 other causes. I’m going to guess this was a poor excuse for a cover-up.

“No,” I said, “If I felt bad, it was probably the result of spending 17 hours out of my weekend up at the office waiting for the Christmas party to be set up,completed, and then taken apart.”

I honestly don’t remember what either of us said after that. She probably mumbled something and got out of my office ASAP. That’s what I would’ve done.

So mommas don’t let your babies grow up to ask women if they’re pregnant

I admit that the whole conversation really threw me for a loop. I don’t know exactly how much weight I’ve gained since I don’t get on the scale any more, but I bet it’s no more than 5 pounds or so. I just happen to be graced with genes that instruct my body to store fat around my tummy. (Note to self: in next life, opt for body that stores weight in boobs.)

I felt pretty crappy about the whole thing for a while. Getting dressed was even more judgy and difficult than usual.

Until I remembered that this fat feeling was brought to me by yet another insecurity. Here’s what that insecurity sounds like in my head:
What if the people I work with don’t think I’m young and pretty any more? Then they won’t want to work with me, and I won’t ever get promoted again. They’ll all think I’m lazy and undisciplined, and my career will just end here. No one will share any gossip with me, and then I won’t be able to write good communication any more because I won’t know how people are feeling, and I will end up destitute and alone, in a van down by the river.

It’s amazing how deep that river of insecurity runs

But here’s the thing I really hate: as I realize I don’t have control over my weight, I’m also uncovering all sorts of other things over which I have no control. You know, like pretty much EVERYTHING. I can choose my actions, but I cannot predict their outcomes. And I cannot control what other people think about me. There will always be some people who dislike me no matter what I do and some who like me no matter what I do.

I think I’ll hang out with the ones who like me. Especially if they like ice cream and enchiladas.

So if I get asked if I’m pregnant again, I will chose between 2 options:
1. Send them the “I’m not pregnant” photo shoot above and pretend it’s me
2.Respond with, “No. Why? Are you?!”

Other ideas welcome in the comments. 🙂

Rebutting Resolutions

I’ve always hated January.

This is probably because Christmas is my favorite holiday—while I do not love the militant Christians who sometimes come out to play this time of year, I do revel in the lights and the decorations and the food. I like that time seems to slow down in December; no one rushes to finish things, because, hey, we’ll do that after the holidays.

January, however, stands in stark contrast to the freedom and frolic of December. January’s like a month full of Mondays, reminding us that we did not accomplish any of the things we set out to do last year. January is judgmental and all about setting goals and resolutions that we won’t achieve this year, either. It’s like that mean old aunt who’s just been waiting for her turn to remind you that you are still as fat and unaccomplished as you were 12 months ago. And are you going grey as well?!

January is also the month of poor parking and poor sales. When I was a regular gym-goer, I HATED the first 2 weeks of January because I could never find a parking place at my gym.

Also, in December, ANYTHING you could EVER want was on sale. In January? Only fitness crap and diet food. January is the month of celery.

Your whining is futile; you will be assimilated.

But here it is, January. Again.

In December, I decided to just consider trying to find the good in January, to actually see it as a clean slate instead of an opportunity to fail. (Again.)  Because it was coming, whether I liked it or not.

So I started with a Winter Solstice ritual. Yeah, I know. I’m only slightly hippie and mostly Woo, I am not really a dancing-naked-under-the-moon kind of gal. (At least, not yet. I mean, let’s see what Authentic Self has to say about that. I AM hoping that bitchy gives way to something more zen.)

But, y’all, it was AMAZING. As part of this ritual, you “harness” the darkest day of the year, a time of quiet reflection, by looking back on what has occurred. You celebrate your successes, honor your surprises, and really face your failures.

And then you take each of your failures and work the hell out of them. (Ahem, literally.) For each of the big ones (you’re supposed to do this for all of them, but I wrote down a lot of stuff and ain’t nobody got time for that), I wrote out what my Inner Mean Girl says about the situation and what my Inner Wisdom says about the very same thing.

Words came out of me that felt EXACTLY right, but that I had no idea were in there. I actually learned a lot about myself and the motivations of other people just by inviting my Inner Wisdom to weigh in. It was transformative.

Next, you’re supposed to spend time telling all the failures goodbye and celebrating your successes and surprises and turning those into things in the new year, and. . .yeah, I didn’t do that either. (I mean, come ON. I had things to do and shoes to buy and stuff. It was December, after all.)

But it was an amazing way of gaining a new perspective on parts of the year, and I highly recommend it. I bet it could still be powerful if you are looking for a way to say goodbye to 2014 or if you also hate January and would like to pretend it’s still magical December.

A month of better feelings

My copy of the Desire Map.

My copy of the Desire Map.

I’ve also been Desire Mapping. I figure since I love Danielle LaPorte and her social media posts, I should read at least one of her books. I’ve also recently been reminded of just how much I hate setting goals at work. (Probably because they feel a whole lot like resolutions—either they are stupid things you’re going to do anyway, or they are the unreachable dream. Goals and resolutions are both dumb.)

So I’ve been working through a big, fat process of setting goals based on how I want to FEEL, not what I want to ACCOMPLISH. The idea is that we want to accomplish things because of how we think they’ll make us feel and not for the goals themselves. (When I lose 20 pounds I’ll be attractive, when I get that promotion I’ll be powerful, when I get married I’ll be truly accepted for who I am, when I get that raise I’ll finally be safe, etc.).

Instead, you desire map to decide how you want to feel and choose what you do based on that.

I have set five Core Desired Feelings for 2015, which are:

  • Fierce – powerful (full of might, strength) + clarity (the quality of being clear); commanding.
  • Luxurious – luxury, pleasure, great abundance
  • Flow  – State of fluidity
  • Radiant – Beaming with heat or light
  • Connection – The state of being connected to or with likeminded Ninjas of Love

I’ve hit some stickier situations now, though, because I’ve been trying to define the actions that will help me feel those feelings this year, and I’ve only come up with a few, which include things like:

  • Wear clothes that feel good on and that I look good in.
  • No more playing small (I’m embarking on a year-long mentorship to help me with this, but that’s another post for another time).
  • No more restricting what I eat; food is pleasurable, and I want to enjoy it.
  • See my group of Wayfinders and talk to them more often.

I like to think of these as INTENTIONS rather than goals or resolutions. This is partially because I loathe resolutions and partially because this seems more plausible. I intend to do them, but if things happen and I change my mind, no big deal. Intentions are fluid because, well, LIFE. I mean, January happens, you know?

I intend for 2015 to be awesome

My new calendar.

My new calendar.

Perhaps I am the only one whining about January, but I am still kicking butt. I have already managed to fill out and put up my 2015 calendar (something I don’t normally achieve until February at the earliest).

So while I cannot promise that your birthday card will be punctual, I can say that I intend to get it to you in a reasonable amount of time.

And I’m already feeling accomplished in 2015: I’ve set some Core Desired Feelings, I’ve embarked on a mentorship, and I filled out my damn calendar. And it’s only Jan. 2! I’ve totally got this thing down.

But what if your authentic self is really bitchy?

I came home and told my husband about the best and the worst thing that happened to me at work today. When I told him the worst thing, he gave me one of those “I married a weirdo” looks.

And rightfully so.  Because the worst thing that happened to me today was a “keep Christ in Christmas” kind of email.

You don’t want to get into a Biblical tango with me

So, first, some background. I grew up in the Church of Christ. This means that I spent the majority of my childhood at church, bible camp, or bible bowl. (Also, I did not realize until my 20s that most people did not spend their childhoods in hospitals and nursing homes like I did.) So if you want to talk hermeneutics or eschatology, I’m your girl.

But I am not your girl if you want me to support this season being all about you. I understand that not everyone is a Christian, nor do they celebrate Christmas.

Especially now

Second, as I work on letting my authentic self come out to play, I find things I usually keep to myself just tumbling out of my mouth. This can be funny sometimes, but can also be a bit surprising. Kind of like discovering that your dress has been tucked into your pantyhose all afternoon.

During a department discussion about our holiday lunch celebration, someone asked if we should do a white elephant gift exchange again. At this point I offered my opinion, which sounded something like, “I just want to spend time with all of you; I don’t really need any more useless crap.”

This was actually much more coherent than what was going on in my head, which sounded a lot like “Noooooooooooooooooooooo.” But everyone looked kind of surprised. They’re still talking about how I just went RIGHT ahead and shared what I was thinking.

I could see how this might be surprising, as a large portion of my job deals with saying the right thing in the right way to the right people at the right time.

But ohmigawd, that takes a lot of energy.

Luckily, though, this authentic-self-thing has some benefits, too. Since I am spending less energy covering things up, other things are showing themselves more naturally. For instance, people have randomly started sharing things with me that they never would’ve shared before. I’m going to start charging people by the hour for listening to them.

Also, I have a better idea of what is in unmarked envelopes.

This diatribe has been a long time coming

A few months ago, I got an unmarked envelope via interoffice mail—it was one of those brown envelopes with only my name on it.

As I picked it up, I thought, “We really should screen our mail for anthrax.”

And then I thought, “Where did that come from?!”

But when I opened the envelope, I discovered exactly where that thought came from.

The envelope contained two pieces of paper. One was a copy of the email I had sent to announce the winners of the Halloween office decorating contest. (I hadn’t composed it, but I had sent it.) The other was a typed letter about how the anonymous sender thought we were a CHRISTIAN organization, and our use of the phrase “spirited décor” was a direct violation of that.

Obviously, Anonymous is an asshole who has no life or work duties.

My boss, however, did not share my shock and awe. When I went to her expecting her to share in my outrage, she said something like, “What did you expect? Halloween is a PAGAN holiday.”

To which I replied, “SO ARE CHRISTMAS AND EASTER, BUT NO ONE SEEMS TO BE COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT!”

Seriously, look it up

 Fast forward to today, when I sent an email announcing a “holiday gift” from our leaders.

I received an email that said something about how excited the sender was, and how this was the “best work CHRISTmas gift ever.”

And then I couldn’t help myself, so I fired off a response that said, “Unfortunately, this is your gift for Christmas and New Year’s, so you’ll have to consider it covering both HOLIDAYS!”

This could be no big deal.  But it could also be a bit career limiting for someone whose career depends on saying the right thing. In my defense, though, I did not say what I was really thinking, which was:

“Christ was born in the summer, Christmas is based on a pagan holiday, and not everyone who works here is Christian, you ignorant slut.”

The Zen response

I know that I should not be frustrated by her ignorance. If she wants to take offense at someone else’s beliefs, I should let her go forward in her great ridiculous muggleness.

But years of shoving and eating my feelings is coming back in full force, and my authentic self is looking like the girl from Hyperbole and a Half, all crazy like I’ve been drawn in MS Paint. But with red hair.

And she will not be denied.

Lucky for me, though, unlike the girl from Hyperbole and a Half, I will never be tempted to clean all the things.

Perhaps there is some hope after all.

A Big, Beautiful, Book-Writing Day

As we discussed earlier, my Big, Beautiful Life Plan includes writing a book. So I recently spent a day at a book/blog/all sorts of writing conference. 

It was pretty standard—there were discussions about book proposals, the necessity of building an online following before sending one, and a belly dancer with python. (Because watching a belly dancer sans python would’ve been totally boring.)

I learned some really important things! First, I am nowhere close to being ready to write a book (see: increased online following above).

Second, I learned for approximately the 8,456th time that pre-7 a.m. fights are really stupid. For many ridiculous reasons, I hopped on a 6:50 flight to LAX the morning of the conference, but couldn’t get a flight out that night, so I booked a 6:30 a.m. departure for the following morning. (I have way more work to do than I will ever be able to accomplish, so I needed to get back to the office.)

Lorna, Kathy, Julie, Ali, me.

Lorna, Kathy, Julie, Ali, me.

Then I spent the day with my buddy Ali, experiencing the amazingness that was the conference, and then we met three of our OTHER friends who happened to be two hours away at a DIFFERENT conference. That’s what we call synchronicity, baby. So Ali drove us in horrible traffic to meet them, I got carsick, and we finally walked into the restaurant after 8. We ate and laughed and I soaked up even more pure, pure joy. (And Diet Coke of course—I was kind of a mess.)

By the time we got back to our hotel, it was late, and by the time I showered and crawled into bed, it was 12:30 a.m. California time, which was 2:30 Texas time—I had been up almost 24 hours.

So I rescheduled my flight the next morning from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Because as we have discussed, flights before 7 a.m. are like blind dates—they sound great when you make the plans, but they really aren’t worth the pain.

And here’s the lesson I’m trying to remember: following your bliss is the most important thing, but you can only do it if you’re resting, too. Just like you can’t get to the top of the mountain unless you put gas in your car first, even deep joy will only get you so far.

And, last but not least, I learned that I am more in love with Danielle LaPorte, one of the author/hosts of the conference, than ever. She said that someone once told her that if Deepak Chopra, Janis Joplin, and Seth Godin had a baby, it would be her (and it’s SO true). I stood near her for a long time, trying to break in and talk to her.

And when it was finally MY CHANCE, well, I just kind of verbally vomited on her about how I just want to stand near her and rub her energy all over myself, and how I love that she’s standing at that weird intersection of writing about entrepreneurship AND spirituality. And I hugged her twice.

http://www.daniellelaporte.com/truthbomb/

http://www.daniellelaporte.com/truthbomb/

It was beautiful and totally awkward at the same time—kind of like life, I guess. But as I watched her, Danielle helped me choose my word for the remainder of 2014 and probably all of 2015: fierce. She said she had worn a dress that day because it would help her embody the divine feminine while she would be heavily showing up as the masculine. (And she was. She didn’t hesitate to say, “We already answered that—let’s move on,” or “I don’t know what that hand signal means; how many MINUTES do we have left?”)

I tend to either let my feminine energy rule (“Oh, you screwed that up and missed the deadline for submitting it? That’s okay.”) or my masculine energy (“What is the point you’re trying to make here? Great, we get that, let’s move on.”). I’d like, instead, to find that beautiful balance somewhere in the middle.

Maybe I can work on that while I work on building my online following, too. . .