Dancing with the Hard Bits

*tiptoes back into the room*

Well…that was an unexpected lapse in online presence.

I’m a big fan of regular time off. It can be hard for me to take it, but I do think it’s important. However, this time I didn’t take an intentional digital sabbatical, didn’t announce a leave of absence on my blog or newsletter. And there’s a reason for that: It wasn’t my plan at all. But last week wasn’t business as usual.

Last week kind of felt like a sprinting race where each expected finish line was actually a cosmic punking by the Universe, who kept moving the real finish line ahead a few hundred yards. It was a whole lot of stuff I wasn’t used to, all in one week. Big, life-changing things. Plus a telecircle. And a Fair. And a friend in the hospital.

You get the idea…

And while I’d like to say that I handled it without a single problem, bravely juggling everything and never once losing my cool…that would be a lie. There was stress, there was panic, there were things that slipped through the cracks. There were tears and rages and sniping at my husband.

Fact: sometimes you go through shit and it just throws you for a loop. And sometimes you get so bowled over that it takes a while for things to settle down again. There are things you can try, tools you can use to help you find your center…and 9 times out of 10 they work (I wouldn’t be such a big fan of living room dance parties if they didn’t make me feel better pretty much all of the time).

But that tenth time? It’s not so much that the tools don’t work as it is that you can’t even mentally get to a place where you can try them. And when that happens, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or that you’re weak or damaged somehow. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing worse than anyone else in the world. It doesn’t even mean that this situation is worse than the ones you’re used to. It just means that you need a new frame of reference.

Normally, I use movement to process my issues. This time, for an entire week, I couldn’t move at all. I knew it would help me if I did it, but I just…couldn’t move. My normal collection of tools wasn’t what I needed just then.

I think that, when times like that come around, when everything goes topsy turvy and you don’t know your head from your feet, you just need to go with it. Forget fixing it. Forget how it’s “supposed to” feel or how you’re “supposed to” fix these things. You just ride the waves, hold it together as best you can, take extra-good care of yourself, and remember that it’s OK. It’ll pass.

Each moment only once. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one task at a time, one breath at a time.

That’s what I did. I hunkered down. I dealt with it. I let myself cry when it got bad, and crying felt like sinking into a soft bed, like the hiss of an emergency valve letting off pressure. I didn’t write or film anything at all. I watched movies with a glass of white wine in one hand and a bowl of strawberries in the other. I gave myself permission. I made it through. And I’m slowly starting to find my bearings again.

I’ve been kind of hard on myself this week, telling myself how I “should” (ugh! that word!) have pulled it together by now, and how I “should” (ICK ICK ICK!) sit my ass down and write a damn blog post already. Get back online. Write about something upbeat. Make a plan. But the truth is that this is the post I needed to write, and I needed to wait until now to write it. I needed some perspective. I needed a damn break. I took one.

And that’s OK. 

You have permission: to ride the waves. To break away from your routine and take care of yourself. To feel what you’re feeling. To do the bare minimum. To do whatever it takes. To cry. To let go. To push through. To do what you need to do. And to rest when you’re done.

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.

Sometimes finding your word for the year is a roundabout business…

Happy New Year!

Today I’m giving you a wee glimpse into my process and sharing my journey to choosing my Word for 2012…because sometimes these things are FAR from simple:

Back on Dec 1st, I announced my Official Word of 2012 (I don’t do resolutions, but I DO do intentions summed up by Key Words). Here’s what I said:

Moving forward into 2012, the word I choose is Shine. Having come home to myself again and realized my own awesomeness in 2011, I wish to shine my light into the world and be even more of my beautiful, glowing, radiant, dancing self in 2012.

Sounds good, yes?

I thought so until earlier this week.

A couple of days ago I started rethinking. All of a sudden, “Shine” felt “should-y” and heavy and not-right. I felt like I would be stuck constantly feeling like I “should” be “shining” and berating myself for being too shy or cowardly or whatever. Like the way I felt at my husband’s office party last month…shy as hell, paralyzed with awkwardness, very guilty about not being outgoing, should-ridden, and not shiny at all.

So I set out to look for an alternative. I wracked my brains, going through word after word after word. And after many many (many many many) discarded words, I finally settled on my word for the year.

And the word is…

 

…wait for it…

 

SHINE.

Yes, that’s right. I ended up back where I began. Oddly, I’m 95% sure that this same exact thing happened with “Home” last year.

What happened? Well, I remembered why I chose that word in the first place.

I picked “Shine” after I rewatched Stardust back in November. One thing I’d forgotten from previous viewings that really caught my attention this time: whenever Yvain (a fallen star) is happy, she starts shining. It’s beautifully done, really.

See? Shine.

And that was what I was thinking when I first chose the word: glowing, lighting up from the inside. Somewhere over the past month it got twisted up in my head, but that’s what I really wanted it to mean. And it has all kinds of applications:

-practicing self-care to keep myself glowing

-recognizing and valuing my own unique light (this one is all about self-worth)

-doing what lights me up (trusting my instinct and going with the joy, even if it’s not what I had planned)

It also feels like the perfect continuation of last year’s intention. Like, I came home last year, and this year I’m finding ways to keep the home-fires stoked and burning brightly. In short, I’m back where I started, only with even more understanding about my choice of word, plus a lovely photographic illustration.

Now that I think about it, how could I NOT stick with “Shine”?! It was clearly meant to be. <3

Dancing With the Past: It’s never too late to finish what you started

This is a piece of music from the soundtrack of the movie Pi. The year after I graduated from high school, I began to choreograph a solo to it. It was the most technically challenging and choreographically intricate piece I’d ever done. I worked on it for hours. And then I showed it to the wrong person.

And their comment was “Huh…it’s kind of sloppy, isn’t it?”

…I never worked on it again.

13 years later, I’m still sad about this. I’ve been through all the stages on this one: anger at the commenter, insecurity about my abilities, feigned indifference, anger at myself for giving up, and sadness at the entire situation.

Here’s what I know now: Of COURSE the piece was sloppy. I’d only just started…I only had the first third of it done. But it could have been great. I know it could have been great. I remember the very beginning, and it was amazing.

But I forgot all of this. I was so overwhelmed with pain and self-doubt that I gave up on it. I didn’t stand in my own power. And I have regretted it for more than a decade.

I am not alone in this experience.

Do you have a project you loved but stopped working on? Do you have a project you’re nursing tenderly and worried about sucking at?

Just do it. Trust your vision. Finish your project, no matter how many people tell you it sucks (or, alternatively, don’t show anyone until you’re done, that could work too). Trust me, “doing it anyway” sucks WAY less than regretting something for 13 years.

It’s NEVER too late.

I thought it was too late for me to finish this piece because I can’t physically do the dance steps any more. But there are always possibilities. I have a friend who can do the steps for me. It is never too late to finish what you started.

I’m going to do it.
You can do it too.

Please, just do it. Create that thing that calls out to you. Listen to it, bring it out into the world. The world needs your creations. Do it. Don’t let it hang over you forever.

Dancing With The Past: The One Thing I Would Erase If I Could…

Two weeks ago, Michelle Ward asked “What do you wanna erase?”

I’ve given this a lot of thought. And here’s my answer:

If I could erase one thing from my life, it would be the idea that my body needed to be a certain size or shape in order to “be a dancer.” It would be the feeling of shame, anger, and sorrow when the audition judges told me, “That was the best audition piece we’ve seen…but if you want to come to this school, you’ll have to lose some weight.” And I’d probably chuck out the years of fall-out from that experience for good measure.

Going through life without being told (essentially) “Your passion and talent are insignificant in the face of your inability to maintain a body weight which meets our standards” would have been pretty effing sweet.

And, regardless of whether I became a professional dancer or not, I would have had a lot more room for creativity and passion in my life if I hadn’t been constantly hating my own body and thinking things like “If I get up to a size 12, I may as well kill myself.” (Yes, I actually thought that. And that makes me sad.)

Officially “too fat” for dance school here…riiiiiiiiight.

My body was never meant to look like what our society as termed “a dancer’s body,” but it was strong and flexible, and my dancing has moved more than one person to tears. And it made my husband fall in love with me. For real. That’s what’s important.That’s what really counts.

What if you could be happy with your body right now, as is? What if you could be a dancer at any size? What if you could put on some music and move and just be happy in the skin you’re in? 

Pssst…you totally can. Because size is just a number, no matter what the ballet teachers say.

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?

Numbing Out, Noticing, and Stopping the Spiral.

Tell me if this rings a bell: You’re humming along in your regular routine. Weeks are passing like days, and while you’re not exactly happy, you’re keeping yourself busy and distracted.

You think you’re ticking all the boxes. You’re filling the void with food and movies and audiobooks (or whatever your particular vices are), and it seems like things are more or less OK (if a little depressing and stressful).

…you kind of feel like this guy. (Number25 by cliff1066 on Flickr.com)

And then…in the blink of an eye…you wake up.

You blink, and it’s like you’re coming back to yourself. The sights and sounds around you suddenly come into sharper focus. You observe things that you’ve been ignoring. When you think back, it’s like you weren’t even there for the past…however long.

Does this ring a bell at all?

I call it Numbing Out. And I haven’t been keeping an exact record, but I think I do it fairly regularly.

Like for the first half of this month, for example.

But hey, at least I’ve started to recognize patterns and symptoms…right?

These will vary slightly from person to person, but here are my top 5 symptoms of Numbing Out:

1. Not-moving. Honestly, not really moving my body in any way at all. Not even going for walks. Period. (Extra-fun bonus: when I don’t move, I get SORE. Lots of aches and pains)

2. Eating more. Medicating myself with food. Like I said, filling the emptiness. (Extra-fun bonus: Combine this with #1, and I end up outgrowing my jeans)

3. Avoiding self-care. A big one for me when I’m numbing out is feeling like I can’t give myself Reiki. It feels like things just aren’t flowing. Probably because Numbing Out entails a whole lot of not-being-centred. But this applies to other self-care-ish things too.

4. Not being Present with people you love.  For me, this is all about Xander. Everything about parenting feels like a chore when I’m in the middle of numbing out. (Extra-fun bonus: I feel terrible about it even while it’s happening, but that doesn’t make me able to snap out of it. It just makes me cranky and sad. Out of all of my symptoms, I regret this one the most).

5. Avoiding stillness and silence. I distract myself constantly. I listen to audiobooks non-stop. During a particularly bad postpartum depression-y period of numbing out, I listened to the Twilight Saga audiobooks on such a regular loop that Matthew half-joked that Xander would recognize the Twilight narrator’s voice before he recognized his own Daddy’s.

comfortably numb by rovingI on Flickr.com

And the verdict is in…Meg’s been numbing out.

Yup, even though we’re over halfway through my absolute favourite month of the year, I can categorically state that I missed a bunch of it. Every symptom was present, but the real clincher was the constant (and I do mean constant) need for audiobooks. It got to the point where I could feel my brain begging for stillness.

Now that I’m awake again and noticing things, I’m compiling a list of things I can do to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. I present:

Meg’s Top Six Things To Stop The Numbing-Out Spiral

1. Seek stillness and silence. Turn off the TV, close the computer, and just…shhh. Try reading a book or sipping some tea without any distractions. Just for a change. Look for ways to add stillness to your day.

2. Choose a better option. If you’re zoning out on audiobooks, try listening to music (music = more dancing!). If you’re noticing a tendency to snack a lot, try eating something your body actually wants…or have some water and see if that’s the real issue. If you really want to watch a movie, pick something that’s going to engage you and watch it with a friend. Making a conscious choice helps stave off the numbing.

3. Move. Walking, dancing, skipping, whatever. Moving is key. Ever notice how going for a walk can clear your head and make a solution to a problem just appear? That’s because moving your body is magic.

4. Take time to notice things. Make mental lists of noteworthy or fun things you encounter during your day. The other day I was on the bus and I saw a woman in a pink PJ set sitting out on the steps of her apartment building with a book and a mug of tea. And it made me grin all the way home.

5. Make real connections. Talking to someone in real life brings everything into focus so much faster than email or Facebook-wall-commenting. And focus is the enemy of Numbing Out. So is self-expression. Let’s bring back phone calls (or Skype calls, if it’s long distance). I miss conversation!

6. Clean something. It’s hard to get the momentum when you’re Numbing Out, but cleaning—really cleaning, not “functional-levels-of-tidy”-ing—can help because it moves the energy around in your home, and it actually feels nice to Be there.

There are definitely more ways out there, but these are the Big Six in my books. At least I think they are…I’m currently testing them out. So far so good, but I’ll keep you posted.

Bonus of not being numb? You notice things like this. (sky 2 by ~BrendaStarr~ on Flickr.com)

Do you ever find yourself Numbing Out? Do you have any good tricks to stop it? I’d love to hear them!