Transformation

Image by puuikibeach on Flickr.com

 

It will not always feel good,
This growing.
This stretching beyond the boundaries of the known,
The comfortable.

It will not always feel safe,
This learning and relearning of your own abilities
This reexamining of beliefs

This pushing of envelopes
This breaking through enclosing walls.

You will shiver.

You will doubt.

You will want to run home.

Back behind walls of safety.

This walk to the edge will not
Feel good, safe, or comfortable,
But there is no faster way to learn.
There is no other way to grow.

So step out.
Leave your home base
Your comfort zone
Your cocoon

Acknowledge the fear and discomfort

But step out all the same.

With each step you take,
Your world expands
Your caterpillar mind will
Strain to comprehend the unbounded vastness of the sky.

Step out.

Step…step…step.

Unfurl your wings.

Fly.

 

Image by Emmett Tullos III on Flickr.com

 

(I wrote this for me…but it feels like it was meant for you too. If you know someone else who needs this, please pass it on)

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)

The Dance of Avoidance: Tiny Plate Syndrome

Waaaaaay back in late May I drafted a post called Tiny Plate Syndrome. I was undergoing a minor crisis at the time, and writing the post really helped me sort it all out. But for some reason I never published it.

Well…it’s that time again. Tiny plate syndrome has returned…and this time I’m going to tell you about it.

Imagine you’re at a buffet.

Lined up before you is a selection of dishes. Some of them completely lack appeal, but many of them look amazing and potentially life-changing. You want to taste them. You want to eat whole servings of them. But you look down and realize that you’re only holding a teeny tiny plate.

GIANT BUFFET OF YUM. (Image by gailf548 on Flickr.com)

So…what do you do?

My natural instinct is to ignore the size of my plate and go on a feeding frenzy. I will load up that tiny plate with as much as it can hold and then desperately try to add new things on top of that plateful. And eventually things start to fall off. And, worst of all, the absolute-must-try things? The ones I took first? They get buried under all the other stuff that caught my eye afterward.

Obviously, I’m not talking about food here. The “dishes” are projects, dreams, classes…things that could add to my life and take me in new directions, things I’d like to try. The plate is the amount of time I have in any given week.

I’m a full-time mom with a not-preschool-ready 3 year old and ZERO local support (apart from my darling husband, obviously…but he works in the video game industry and is often insanely busy). I don’t have a lot of alone time. There is only so much I can do, especially if I make a point of taking time for self-care and rest. It’s just a fact.  It’s a tiny effing plate.

And yet I keep trying to pile food on the damn thing. I add e-courses and projects and obligations until…yup, there goes something on the floor.

And the Really Big Dream, the one that I desperately want but am scared to work on? Buried yet again.

This happened in May, and I ended up cutting out work on my novel (yes, I have a novel), a Right Brain Business Plan book club, and an e-course. And now it’s happening again.

FOOD! (Image by gailf548 on Flickr.com)

After a long talk with Matthew (who is insanely insightful as well as supportive and sensitive and did I mention that I married my perfect man? OK, just checking), I admitted to myself that this whole “Tiny Plate Syndrome” thing is just a fancy and VERY sneaky avoidance technique. It’s all about the Busyness and getting caught up in “Oh, look at all the work I’m doing” without noticing that I’m not actually doing the Work I dream of doing. Time keeps passing, and I’m “too busy” to make progress on it!

Nice job, subconscious!

***DISCLAIMER: I am NOT anti-exploration. Obviously, my inclinations are PRO-exploration. It’s just that there’s a difference between exploring so that you can find your Right Work and already knowing what you really want to do, but taking on dozens of other projects as a fancy means of avoidance***

So I say ENOUGH. I am pressing the RESET button on this madness. I am clearing the damn plate off! *wipes plate clean*

Nice, empty (but still tiny) plate (Image by uberculture on Flickr.com)


And now I head back to the buffet with the intention of only taking manageable servings of the dishes that feel the most important (and the scariest…isn’t that always the way?) and the things that truly nurture me. And I will clear my plate before going back for seconds!

Next step: See how I can make the damn plate bigger 😉

I think I was a little hesitant to write about Tiny Plate Syndrome because I worried that maybe it was just me. Maybe NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD does this. But, really? Don’t we all struggle with avoidance when it comes to dreams that scare us, no matter the size of our plate? I think we’re very good at making ourselves “too busy” to make magic happen…but once we’re aware of this, it gets easier (please tell me it gets easier!)

How’s your plate looking today?

The dance of self-care, part II: Stillness

Once upon a time there was a young woman who took pride in her productivity. She took pride in accomplishing things and pushing herself. Her idea of relaxing was working on her laptop in front of a movie or taking an hour off to chat with a friend (and then working all the harder). In fact, her sense of self-worth was directly tied to the way she kept in constant motion (but that’s another story). And all too often she pushed herself so hard that she ended up sick.

Over and over again it happened. Around and around the cycle went. Work-work-work-push-push-push…collapse. Eventually she began to notice when her energy was running down…but each time she thought “I can make this time be different,” and she still pushed herself —with the same results.

One day, her husband ordered her to Take A Break Immediately. So she put on a movie and lay on the sofa, doing nothing else. …And it felt totally alien.

She realized that she had forgotten how to be still.

But even in the face of this realization, the urge to Do things was too strong. The woman made a list of self-care-y things to do, but she missed the point. For her, self-care had become just another thing to do.

…And so she got sick. Again.

But this time, the woman recognized the lesson behind the cycle:

Sometimes the ultimate act of self-care is not acting at all. Sometimes resting is the most “productive” thing you can do.

So the woman promised herself that she would start not-doing more often. She would explore her compulsion to push beyond her limits. She would breathe more. She would create space in her life for stillness. She would make it a priority. And she would start right away. She shut her laptop and went to lie down for the rest of the evening.

Do you push yourself beyond your limits? When was the last time you chose stillness? Remember (and yes, I know it’s hard): sometimes the best thing you can do…is not-do.

The Dance of Gratitude: a book of blessings

Yesterday about a dozen things went wrong. My Tuesday post didn’t post, my videos didn’t show up, I spent hours frustratedly messing with plugins while Xander watched movies, I found cat poop in the guest room (this would be worse if we did not, in fact, have cats…as it is, it was just annoying), and I missed a webinar tutorial thingy.

storm cloud by chascar on flickr.com

It should have been a totally crap day. On days like that I’ve been known to spend the entire day stomping around the house and periodically (I admit) yelling at Xander. But, in fact…it really wasn’t that bad.

There are a few possible theories about why that was. One is that Xander slept in until 8:30am, thus rendering me slightly-less-exhausted than normal. But, since I went to bed 90 minutes later than usual the night before, I don’t think this is it. Another theory is that it was rainy and gross out, perfect weather for camping out in front of the TV and working. I give this one slightly more credit, but still…no. There’s the fact that I made coffee cake in the morning and ate, like, half of it during the day…but honestly, that just made me feel kind of queasy.

No…it’s official…

It was the gratitude journal.

 

true to form by honor the gift on flickr.com

It’s becoming part of my routine: after I’ve brushed my teeth, fed the cats, and said goodnight to my sweetie, I tiptoe into the darkened bedroom where our son sleeps in the GIANT family bed. I take my journal and pen and a tiny flashlight off the dresser, I sit down, and I do the dance of gratitude: every night I try to fill a page with things I’m thankful for. It’s a shot of self-care and positivity before bedtime.

It’s hard at the beginning. I’ll write a thing or two, then get stuck. The page, small as it is, looks very, very long. But then more things come to me, and more and more, until I’m fighting to squeeze items onto the page, scribbling incoherently in the upper and lower margins.

I still have bad days. I still get cranky and gloomy and worn out. But something about taking those 5 minutes to turn the day around…it helps me. Yesterday, when things went bad and I found myself griping at poor Matthew on Skype every 5 minutes, a small part of me whispered “there’s still lots to be thankful for,” and looked forward to bedtime, when I could write down my blessings and think of all the gifts the day brought.

sunflower test by photo farmer on flickr.com

Because, really, even though I could count a dozen things that sucked about yesterday…it had so many gifts. The scheduled-posting-fail helped me learn a good half-dozen things (more, I think) about my new blog. Finding the cat poop made me pull myself together and do a thorough cleaning of the laundry room, and commit to giving the poor neglected kitties more love. The webinar tutorial’s follow-up email had a link to a recorded version.

Everything brought a gift or a lesson, from “you need to get grounded right now” to “OK, half a coffee cake in one day…not such a good plan. How about some ginger tea?”

And what about all the awesome stuff that the day brought? Like the fact that the day inspired this post, or the fact that I made the most awesome baked ham for dinner and it didn’t go wrong at all, or the way that Xander slipped his hand into mine while we cuddled on the bed before storytime…

This is the stuff that goes in my gratitude journal. This is what I scribble, cross-legged on the floor in the dark bedroom. And as all of my blessings pour onto the page, I breathe a little deeper, feel a little lighter, and—yes—feel my spirit dance.

ashville by EJ wall on flickr.com

Thank you, gratitude journal.

Whatever happened to 5Rhythms Fridays? (and what comes next)

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I had a series called 5Rhythms Fridays where I undertook a regular 5Rhythms practice and blogged about it once a week. I did it for 3.5 months, give or take a leg injury. I started digging deep and healing myself with the dance. And then I stopped.

I didn’t just stop writing about the Rhythms, I stopped doing them.

And I’ve been feeling guilty ever since.

I know that a bunch of new readers have joined me since I last wrote a 5Rhythms post (Hi there!), so just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about, my comrade-in-arms, Jennifer at Flowtation Devices has written a fantastic introduction to the Rhythms.

Jennifer is lucky. She lives within driving distance of a 5Rhythms class. I, on the other hand, would have to drive for about 19 hours (one way) to get to a teacher. I’ve never taken a Real Live 5Rhythms class. The only reason I know about the Rhythms at all is that one day, years ago, a Reiki Healing Dance teacher at a weekend workshop recommended a book called Sweat Your Prayers to me, and I bought a copy. Any kind of 5Rhythms practice I’ve ever had has been based on what I’ve read in the book and heard in the vocal prompts on Gabrielle Roth’s CDs.

Sweat Your Prayers changed my life. It opened my eyes to new ways of moving. It gave me inspiration and insight and confirmation that there was, indeed, another way of dancing. And my experiments with the 5Rhythms have also been life-changing…I just read through my 5Rhythms Friday posts, and they are full of insights and healings and Beginnings of Big Things.

So why did I stop?

My original draft of this post listed 4 reasons why I stopped. But I think that, really, it boils down to two:

1. I was totally effing terrified.

One day I found myself engulfed by misery and wracked by huge, animal sobs, and I got some idea of the sheer extent of the rage and pain my body was holding onto. And it terrified me. After that, 5Rhythms sessions were harder to do because I was afraid that it would happen again. It was harder to get out of my head. I was resisting and avoiding.

In the time since I stopped doing the Rhythms, I’ve still been dancing, but I haven’t moved with the intention of healing. I haven’t peeked below the surface. I haven’t had the same meaningful movement experiences I had when I was doing the Rhythms. And I’ve been creeping back into stasis (which is my term for not-moving-at-all). Yes, fear was definitely part of the problem.

2. I was doing it wrong.

Yes, yes, I know that you can’t do the Rhythms wrong, that there’s no such thing as a bad dancer or bad steps (that’s the backbone of my own philosophy, after all)…but as I look back at my practice, review Sweat Your Prayers, and start playing around with the Rhythms again, I realize that, actually, you can totally do the Rhythms wrong. In a manner of speaking.

In Sweat Your Prayers, Gabrielle Roth says,

“The only discipline it requires is for you to show up and be true to the part of yourself that is committed to moving. Although there are five rhythms, today you may only do one and tomorrow you may do three. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it. You’ll soon learn to listen to your body and to do what’s appropriate for you in the moment.”

In spite of all of my breakthroughs, in spite of all the times I’ve written about dancing from the inside out and listening to your body…when it came down to it, I was still letting my head lead the dance. I obsessed about whether I was doing the rhythms “right,” and I got down on myself if I stopped before completing all five rhythms. My mind was a continual chatter of thoughts.

I was still, after all these years, doing the trained dancer’s trick of dancing from the outside in…and that meant I was “making” my body do steps instead of letting my true dance come out. I wasn’t listening, I wasn’t doing what was appropriate in the moment, I was going by the book and not by the body.

As far as a technique in which there is no “wrong” goes…that’s about as wrong as you can get. And even though I didn’t know exactly what the problem was, I had this sinking feeling that something was off.  Dancing the Rhythms was a struggle (far more so after the aforementioned fear kicked in).

But the thing is…this work is important. I want to heal. I am so close to deeper understanding and Knowing. And this is what I set out to achieve this year: Homecoming. So screw the fear. It’s time to take another leap (or at least a gentle step).

I’m coming back to the 5Rhythms. Very very slowly. But with a difference this time:

1. I will not commit to writing weekly 5Rhythms posts.

That puts too much pressure on the practice. If anything post-worthy comes up, I promise to share. And I may give occasional progress reports. But the weekly post thing was just not working for me, at least not as a hard-and-fast rule (if I find that every week gives me something 5Rhythms-y to write about, I will absolutely do so…but I don’t want the point of the practice to be finding something to write about, you know?).

2. The only thing I will commit to doing is showing up.

I’m starting right from the beginning. I’m not even going to try to do the Rhythms, I’m just going to commit to putting on some music and doing the tuning-in/warming-up “Body Jazz” part of the practice. If I feel like dancing more after that, I will, but I will stop if my body tells me to, with zero guilt and zero expectations. Just like I tell all of my students to do.

3. I’m returning to the source.

I skimmed through a bunch of Sweat Your Prayers before I started my practice last time. This time I’m going to really read it. Sentence by sentence, highlighting and note-taking all the way. It’s going to take me a long time…there’s not much time for reading in my day, but I’m going to inch my way through and really digest it as I go.

After all, the point of this is to focus on the journey, not the destination.

If you want to find me, I’ll be shut in the guest room with my eyes closed, listening to what my body has to say.

Looking beyond “success” and “failure”

This is the post I dreaded writing…and that ended up practically writing itself in the end.

I held two Dancing Mamas events this month. One last weekend, and one the weekend before. This was my second try…you can read about my first try and the lessons I learned here.

So…how did these ones go?

Just like last time, that depends on how you look at it.

Were they jam-packed money-making name-establishing phenomenons?

Ummm…no.

Did I get to dance with people I love, reconnect with someone I haven’t seen in years, and learn at least a dozen lessons to apply the next time I try?

Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Notebook full of notes. So many lessons!

On July 17 I set up in an absolutely beautiful studio just outside of Halifax. And no mamas came. But (and this is a Big Deal) one old student did come. This month I finally emailed all of my old DansKinetics students from back in 2007, and one of them was so excited to dance with me that she came out to Dancing Mamas. We had an amazing chat and a really great dance together. I played a completely different playlist just for her and me, and it was awesome.

The whole afternoon reminded me how much I loved the classes I offered when I was pregnant and how amazing the people were. It made me want to revisit the classes I offered that time around. It reminded me that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, even when you’re revamping your business. Thank you, Martina, for coming out and dancing with me.

On July 23 I set up in a crowded library in a residential area of suburban Halifax. And I ended up dancing with my old ballet studio-mate Omni and my friend Kerry and her small son Jonah. We had a fantastic time boogieing and chasing Jonah around.

I learned so much that afternoon: about how I was experiencing severe (and I do mean severe) resistance to really embracing the possibility of success, how I’m not sure if I have the details of Dancing Mamas quite right, about how the next time I try a library class I think I want to make it either free or as close to free as I can because it feels wrong to do otherwise.

And I also learned about the things I’ll bring next time: dry erase markers and extra business cards and cups for the water fountain. And about how awesome, supportive, and truly loving my friends are.

You can’t put a price on what I learned.

A handful of precious (and unexpected) gifts.

So, was the second round of Dancing Mamas Tribes a success?

I think that might be the wrong question.

It was exactly what I needed at this time and under these circumstances.

And that’s all that matters.