How to Respond When the Universe F*cks Up Your Plans

I had last week all mapped out. It was booked off on my schedule as “work from home week.” Matthew had a day or two of work to do, but on all the other days I was going to take the afternoon and Do Some Work. Solid, uninterrupted, glorious work. I started out strong on Monday, inspired by my stellar office makeover.

And that’s where it stopped.

On Monday night I noticed that my throat was scratchy. On Tuesday, when I launched my 8-week session of DansKinetics classes at DANSpace (hint hint: you should come and dance with me!), I was in the process of losing my voice. By the time I got home that night it was official: I was sick.

It wasn’t my ordinary cold. For the past 5 years at least, my colds have followed a precise pattern: start in the head with 2 days of abject misery, move to the chest, feel better. This one? This one started in the chest and then migrated up, wiping me out completely for 3 days and not slacking off until Day 4. So. Much. Fun.

Instead of my lovely week of working and planning, I found myself slumped miserably on the sofa, watching movies with Xander, and even taking a daily afternoon nap (this never happens). I couldn’t walk from one end of the apartment to the other without having to lie down afterwards.

I started getting suspicious right around Day 2. I mean, I know the scientific mechanics of cold-catching, but I am absolutely convinced that illnesses come for a reason. And this one, this weird and oddly-timed cold? Definitely not random.

As I lay on the sofa, I thought a lot about Why This Happened. And the longer I lay there, the more insight I had about it. The way I see it, this cold came around for two reasons:

1. I wasn’t taking care of myself.
I’ve been staying up too late, working too much, not taking time to play or be still (this was made very clear over the course of my sofa-time…I’d forgotten what it felt like to sit for more than an hour without doing something).

It’s the usual story, and that’s why it’s my go-to theory when I get sick. My body decided that, if I wasn’t going to cut it out voluntarily, it would make me be still and look after myself…hence the 3 days on the sofa (and even now I’m not 100%…I had to lie down for half an hour this afternoon!)

2. My brand-new blinding-light epiphany: I was off-centre, and it was throwing everything off. In fact, I had been off-centre and floundering for so long that it had stopped feeling bad and started feeling normal.  This cold came to show me the truth.

I haven’t been fully living my life. Not walking my talk. Not living my message. Getting stuck in ruts of habit and resistance. Business-wise, not doing the biggest things on my lists. Meaning to do them and then getting bogged down in avoidance and perfectionism (which are both just fancy names for not doing something out of fear). Hanging back and stressing out and checking Facebook instead of moving through my to-do lists. Forgetting why I was doing the work in the first place. Letting myself and my dreams down.

That sounds like I’m berating myself for it, and I’m really not. I could feel that something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I don’t think off-centeredness registered consciously before last week because, really, I’ve been doing so much better than I was last year or the year before that (and don’t get me started on my first year as a mama). But I don’t feel good…and besides, better isn’t the same as full-colour-awesome. Now that I can see the difference, it’s time to make a change.

A lot of the “walking my talk” things I’ve been neglecting are self-care: Reiki. Meditation. Watching dance performance. Reading actual books. Moving my body regularly in the ways I teach and write about. Doing the work that’s most important to me instead of skirting the edges and making busy-work (and then getting worn ragged and stressed out and sick). These are all things that would make my mama-job easier and help me follow my passion. These aren’t things to “not have time for,” or to forget about or to avoid.

I knew vaguely that I was doing that before this cold, but I didn’t realize the full extent of the problem until I was forced to stop working altogether. I needed the week of misery in order to get perspective on the months that came before.

My Reiki Master taught us a saying during one of our attunement workshops: when she’s going through a major healing crisis, be it a physical illness or an emotional rollercoaster, she says “Thank you for my healing.” No matter the situation, she says “Thank you for my healing.” (Sometimes she shouts it and shakes her fist at the Universe :P)

Now that I’m getting better, that phrase sums up my feelings exactly. Last week didn’t go AT ALL how I planned. Being sick sucked a LOT, and I was so disappointed about not being able to do the things I’d planned, but now I can see the necessity of the week on the sofa. I appreciate the insights I gained from the change in plans.

Now I get to decide how I want to proceed from here.

Thank you for my healing.

A whirlwind of change…

Last week my life changed.

I don’t mean that in an “I’ve had a crazy awesome epiphany way” (for once). I mean it literally. Last week my life as I’ve known it for the past 4 years…changed.

I went back to work.

People who don’t know me personally probably need some backstory here: For the past few years, my husband has been working at a computer game company (he’s an insanely talented artist..do a Google image search for “Matthew Goodmanson art” sometime and see what I mean). But at the end of March he left his regular office job to work from home on a contract basis.

He needed a break from work, and I (I hate to admit this) needed a break from full-time Mama-ing, so we agreed that he would stay home with Xander and I would go back to working temp assignments like I did when I was pregnant.

I started my first assignment on Wednesday. And it was FAR more difficult than I’d expected.

The work itself wasn’t much more difficult than I had expected (although I had to learn a TON that first day). It’s the emotional strain I hadn’t considered. You don’t even want to know how much I cried that first day. I cried when Matthew and Xander dropped me off, I broke down sobbing on my cell phone at lunch, I cried after work, and I cried before bed. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I actually cried a little bit during work as well.

I wasn’t just crying because I missed my kid (I did) or that the work was intimidating (it was). In hindsight, I think I was crying because I didn’t know how to process what was happening. It was the biggest change I’d been through since I became a mama—which, incidentally, made me cry in exactly the same way for a number of weeks. It felt huge and scary, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

Things got better. No more crying after that first day. But the tears have been replaced with…I don’t know…malaise. Something’s shifted since the last time I did this. I can’t really explain it in any way other than saying that I feel exactly the way your feet feel when you’ve been wearing sneakers and flats for years and then try to go out in heels. I’m trying to be a person I’m not, wearing a costume (because what is “business attire” if not a costume?) so I can fit in. I feel wobbly and uncomfortable and all wrong. I feel like I’m from another planet or something. I don’t like the way this feels AT ALL.

I don’t remember feeling this way before. And I can’t tell if this is growing pains or something more permanent. I think that I assumed that when I went back to work, things would go back to the way they were when I was pregnant and temping, that I would settle into the rhythm and be 100% OK with everything. And maybe I will…I’m only 3 days in, after all, and I’ve been at home for almost 4 years…it just doesn’t feel like it’ll be OK from here. And I don’t know if I want it to be…

I’m in SUCH a weird space right now…off-balance, adjusting, while simultaneously feeling like I don’t WANT to adjust. I’m trying to remember that I’m not in this forever, that things will sort themselves out, that I can still be ME and work toward my dreams even when I’m working an office job (lots of people do it, right?!).

There are some good things. I’m finding that my priorities are clarifying in the face of this change. I’m learning that when I’m at home, I need to do my Right Work with super-intense focus and efficiency, or it doesn’t get done at all. This would be why you barely heard from me last week (it’s a learning process) but I assume that (eventually) learning to do my work efficiently and intensely will be a good thing in the end. And I’m cherishing every minute with Xander, even when I end up being the puke-catcher and cleaner-upper all weekend (he caught a tummy bug…blech).

I’m struggling to regain my balance in the middle of a whirlwind of change.  I don’t have a solution or a Grand Plan or anything really conclusive yet. But I can tell you this: here and now I make a commitment—

~to hang on to my dreams with both hands

~to make use of every moment I have

~to work with laser intensity and rest/play with equal intensity when I’m done

~to dance as much as I can

~to keep an eye open for opportunities

~to remember that this change will help me get where I need to go, even if it’s just by shaking things up and reminding me of what’s important.

And what’s most important to me is this:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOYxQ0znZN4)

Practice and permission

I’ve been pushing myself really hard. Staying up until midnight every night, working through hangings-out with friends, constantly perusing my to-do list. Push push push. Go go go.

Launching my Big New Things this week really put me over the top.

I’m exhausted.

So today, instead of posting a dance video, I’m giving myself permission…

Permission to rest.

Permission to relax.

Permission to stop striving.

Permission to just be.

Permission to read something non-business related.

Permission to CHILL OUT for a few days.

Because, here’s the thing:

The world won’t stop turning if I go to bed early instead of working. Life as I know it won’t end if I spent a few days resting. And if I really want to create a joyful, soulful business, then I need to be 100% me when I’m creating it, and not some strung-out, zombie-brained, droopy-eyed mess of exhaustion.

…kind of like this.

 

In spite of all of my reading and journalling and chatting and posting about self-care, I’m still driven to push push push. Suffering under the burden of Never Enough. But practice is what counts, I hear, and this weekend I resolve to practice:

Practice resting.

Practice relaxing.

Practice doing things on a whim.

Practice being light.

Practice being easy.

Practice flowing.

Practice self-care.

Want to practice with me? What will you be doing this weekend to care for yourself? What will you give yourself permission to do?

(I’ll be back on Monday to see how it went!)

Cave Time

I wrote this post last Saturday and then forgot about it entirely until today. But I just had to share it 🙂

 

I am sitting in an empty apartment on a Saturday afternoon.

I am sitting with a mug of tea and my laptop.

I am sitting…and trying to remember the last time I experienced complete solitude.

And I’m suddenly not surprised that I’ve been feeling not-myself lately.

 

 

Although I’m a total performer when it comes to dancing, I am a classic introvert at heart. I have vivid memories of a 2-day New Years party back in my 20s. By the afternoon of the second day, I was so overwhelmed by a desperate need to be alone that I went scrambling up the stairs to hide in a bedroom with a book while the party continued without me. My soul craves solitude, revels in silence. My creativity truly shines when I have lots of quiet, unstructured time to be with myself.

And it occurs to me that I haven’t had a moment of true solitude in months. I’ve worked in the dining room while Matthew put Xander to bed. I’ve worked (far too) late into the night with the baby monitor fizzing obnoxiously at me from the hallway. I’ve gone off into another room while people played D&D in the dining room.

…But sitting on my own in the stillness of a totally empty apartment and knowing that no one will require anything of me or interrupt me in any way for the next hour or so? Not so far this year, not to my knowledge. This is a first for 2012. Hell, I’m pretty sure it’s a first for 31 (and my birthday was back in October).

No wonder I’ve been feeling increasingly like running away and never looking back, or like throwing things through windows and screaming at the top of my lungs. Off-balance, off-center, off-kilter just…off.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed this. Not even when simple things like (child-free) people saying “Last night I sat out on my balcony with a glass of wine and watched the sunset” or “I took all of yesterday and worked on my Brand New Awesome Project from breakfast til supper” have been triggering bouts of painful jealousy and frustrated rage.

I love my family. I adore my son and my husband, but I’m coming to realize that mama needs cave time. Not just once a season, but regularly. If I could have a stretch of time like this on a regular basis…oh, the things I would do.

As I wrote on Saturday (or, 30 minutes ago in Real Time, since I’m also writing this on Saturday), big changes are coming for me and my family. I think that more time like this may be an unexpected and welcome side-effect.

And now that I know how much it revitalizes me, how it makes me feel like myself again in ways I forgot existed…well, I’ll try to make sure it is.

Dancing Words (a Bodyness Blog Wave post)

 

Two of my favourite things in the world are dancing and writing.

When I dance, I love the feeling of my body moving through space, the stretch of my muscles, the flow of my breath. When I am grounded, centred, and completely IN my body, I feel connected not only to my deepest core, but to the whole of the Universe. My cells dance in time to the rhythm of creation as I express my soul through movement.

When I’m writing, I can get to a place of similar flow and connection. Words I didn’t know I contained flow through my hands and appear on the screen. Images and phrases that delight and astonish me suddenly appear unbidden. My story emerges, dancing with the rhythms of life.

Sometimes, dance and writing collide. While reading a written piece out loud, I come across a word that I particularly enjoy. I take a moment to feel the  shape of the word, to roll it around my mouth and appreciate the dance of speaking. Or, while dancing, a word will come to mind and shape my dance with its meaning.

There’s the dance of the written (or spoken) word…and words that shape the dance.

Below is a list of 16 of my favourite dancing words. These words dance as they are spoken…and they shape the dance I do. Today, I invite you to take a minute to fully appreciate these words. Read them aloud to yourself and appreciate the way your mouth moves to produce the sounds they make.

Feel the texture and rhythm of the sounds—the crisp report of a P or a T, for example, or the soft hiss of a “Sh”—and notice how they feel. Appreciate the marvel of a mouth that can form these sounds, the wonder of language.

 

(Feel free to download the picture so you can play with it whenever you want)

 

And then take another minute to dance your way down the list.

How does it feel to twirl? How is it different from oozing or striking? Move your way through the words and see how they translate into your body.

There is no wrong way to do this…no “good” or “bad.” There is only you, your breath, your body. Give yourself the gift of exploring and enjoying them today.

 

Breaking the Silence

Words words words.

My head is stuffed full of words unspoken and words unwritten. I am stifled, smothered, crushed by the weight of unspoken thoughts and untold stories. I am self-censored to the point of utter silence, mired in the shame that comes when you feel that your thoughts and feelings are not worthy of expression.

When you look at me, you might think I look a little sad, a little tired, a little stressed. But I am drowning, lost in a sea of words and stories and emotions, and unable to find my way out.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for days. I kept writing “blog post” on my to-do list and then…checking Facebook, opening tabs for other people’s blogs, obsessively collecting information about the thoughts and feelings of others instead of being in my own head and heart and processing their contents. As if salvation was possible only outside myself, as if other people’s breakthroughs could take the place of my own.

The only expression that has managed to break through the chaos is dancing…brief moments of release and escape from the crowded prison of my brain.

 

Big changes are coming for my family. Big changes for me, the stay-at-home mama. Changes which mean stepping out of my safe little bubble, smashing through my comfort zone, and doing the things I’ve said for ages that I wanted to do…but didn’t make time or space for because I was too afraid. It’s already starting. And I haven’t said one word on this blog or anywhere else on the Internet.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Didn’t want to upset anyone or take the risk and fail. Thought that if I kept quiet and didn’t tell anyone, maybe the Big Scary Changes would wander off and bother someone else.

And that makes me shake my head in disgust, because the second-to-last real post I wrote was about my epiphany: how I didn’t want to live in fear anymore, wanted to live out loud and be 100% me 100% of the time.

“Now look at you,” my inner critic cackles, “Stuck in the mud, quiet and cowed like you always will be.” The untold stories threaten to bury me, to cover my head and suck me down into a life of silence and shame once again.

But, eventually, I stop them. I close down Facebook and all the other browser tabs full of other people’s stories. I open my word processing program. I begin to type this out. And the pressure inside my head and heart begins to ease. I start to feel more like myself again. Like maybe my stories are as worth telling as anyone else’s. Like maybe it would be OK if I just wrote what I was feeling. Like maybe this is only the beginning.

I know me. I know that in a week, or even a day, this collection of sentences won’t remotely resemble what I’m feeling, just as it bears no resemblance to how I was feeling 2 weeks ago. I’m an air sign, as changeable as the breeze. But this is my story right now…and I will tell it. Keeping silent hurts too much.

The words flow out of my head and onto the screen, and I breathe a little deeper, sit a little more solidly in my body, make plans to dance again tomorrow. I remember why I started blogging in the first place, remember the relief of letting my stories out into the Universe. I start to think of new stories to tell, now that the dam is broken.

There are always stories to tell.