I’m like the opposite of the Toys R Us kid…

Today I went to Google and typed in “How to be a grown-up”

…well, technically I typed in “how to be a gro” and it filled in the rest because I am clearly not the only person in the world who wants to know.

I keep expecting people to go “Oh NO, don’t be a grown up! Why would you ever want to grow up?”

And here’s the truth: I don’t want to “grow up” in the way that people mean when they say “Oh grow up.” No. Here’s what I want:

To clean up my messes and not leave them all over the house. To know when bills are due and pay them on time instead of paying them whenever I happen to be able to. To have savings. To use food up before buying more. To never run out of toilet paper or hand soap. To have up-to-date passports, a will, and the same last name in both the US and Canada (long LONG story). To “get around to” all the things I mean to “get around to” instead of going from day to day hoping the sky doesn’t fall on me and then waking up in a panic one morning in July and realizing that, while I did pay my taxes, I didn’t actually file them. Yeah…that happened. Not 100% my fault, but the fact that I didn’t notice for a month is kind of sad.

I know that the answer to my problem is habits: creating them, keeping them. I know that I can learn all the stuff I need to know fairly easily if I put my mind to it. But I’m embarrassed and sad that I’m 32 years old and I’m basically a teenager in a grown-up’s body. I may feel old sometimes (like when I try to listen to dubstep or find out that Eminem’s daughter is now 18), but in many important ways I’m not acting like someone who has a kid and a house and taxes and bills and things to do other than crochet and play Minecraft. 

I don’t have all the answers (and no, I didn’t find them on Google), but I know in my heart that it’s possible to dot your Is and cross your Ts and STILL be a total kid at heart. And that’s the kind of growing up I want to do.

Some Thoughts from Lunch Hour

Ahoy!

Why can’t I write a post more than once a month anymore?! Urgh.

I’m writing during a belated lunch hour today. I was watching the email pile up and up and the days pass with no writing being done and I thought to myself, “Self, you know, you could take your damn laptop to work and do this stuff there.”

So here I am.

Working full-time is weird. I know it feels normal for most people, but trust someone who spent the last 4.25 years not-working: it’s weird. Your entire life suddenly revolves around this place you go to do things you never really thought about before. Like answer admissions emails, create new digital filing systems, order textbooks, and learn how online courses are made (I’m the assistant to the Distance Education Coordinator at the School of Social Work at my alma mater…this is the stuff I do).

The view from the doorway of my building at work.

This isn’t what I expected to be doing this fall. I signed up for a 2-week gig leading to part-time work…and then the person I was filling in for passed away (yes, really). And I realized that I enjoyed the job and I was good at it…and when they asked if I could keep going for a while, I said yes almost immediately. Sometimes things just happen and you need to listen to your gut and ride the wave. And now I’m working full-time (at least until New Years) with an actual salary that was quoted to me in annual terms for the first time in my entire life.

It’s turned our world upside down, this change. Suddenly I’m the one leaving every morning, kissing my baby goodbye and coming home a couple of hours before bedtime. My husband is home trying to parent AND house-keep AND run his business. And we’re both experiencing growing pains while we adjust to it. That’s really why you haven’t heard from me much lately.

I’m finding my way. I’m finding that there are moments (like this one) that can be snatched during my day and used for whatever I need–like the 10 minutes I spend stretching in the morning before I start my day, the 15 minutes per lunch-hour I used to crochet an amazing rainbow scarf, the 20 minutes of lounging/net-surfing/crafting/snuggling I grab after the next day’s clothes are laid out and the lunch is packed.

I’m noticing on an almost-daily basis that I am smarter than I thought I was, more capable, a more creative thinker. Things about me that I took for granted are suddenly things that make me special–I don’t know anyone else who closes the door and has a 2-minute dance party whenever her energy slumps (not at this office, anyway). I’m the Big Tea Mug girl, the Filing Whiz, the Crocheter of Rainbow Scarves.

See? ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?!?!

It’s fun to play around with my definition of me in this space that I live in for 7.5 hours a day–figuring out who I am by seeing myself through other peoples’ eyes for a while.

I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay here after December 31. But I’m planning to make the most of it while I’m here, to learn a lot, to stretch my wings, and hopefully to write more damn blog posts. It’s all a big learning curve, darlings, and I appreciate you bearing with me while I find my feet.

The First Cuts are the Scariest: Life lessons from a haircutting adventure

Last night I did something crazy…

I cut off my hair.

Not like, “I went to a salon and had my hair cut,” (although I did that this afternoon…just to tidy things up). Nope. I stuck my hair in 2 bunches, grabbed the scissors, and lopped it off. Seriously.

The last time I did that was when I was 19 an in a major bout of depression. And it SUCKED (the depression AND the haircut). This time? This is something different.

 

…Before…

 

I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed down. Not just by my hair (although I have…had…a HELL of a lot of it), but by all kinds of garbage and limiting beliefs that have built up over the past 2.5 years. “I can’t”s and “I should”s and “I have to”s. Bitterness, resentment, martyrdom, victimhood. It’s been pressing down on me.

Yesterday I was playing guinea pig for a friend’s art therapy session, and my drawing of myself looked like this:

 

See that hair? That hair is the weight of the freaking world, my friend.

 

Last night I had one of those pivotal moments of realization…one of those moments when everything clicks into focus and all my patterns turned into what they really are: not “this is the way it is,” but “this is the way I have been limiting myself, and I’m effing tired of it.” And my hair felt like the embodiment of all of it, just like in my drawing. So I cut it off (honestly, I was this-close to giving myself a buzz cut).

 

…the clippers were RIGHT THERE. It was a near thing!

 

Before I started cutting, I took a deep breath and visualized my hair containing all the limiting beliefs and emotional baggage that was holding me back and weighing me down.

And then…

Snip snip snip.

The minute the scissors hit the hair, I was terrified. There’s a certain “Holy shit, I can’t go back now” to beginning a major transformation (whether it’s a haircut or something bigger). All I could do is keep cutting and hoping that everything would turn out OK in the end.

I kept cutting. The hair came off.

…I’m thinking of donating them. That’s a LOT of hair!

 

It turned out OK…

No…more than OK. It turned out really freaking awesome. It was JUST what I needed!

Eeeeeeee! No regrets whatsoever!

Honestly, I was pretty thrilled with the end results. I felt 10 pounds lighter, and infinitely freer. It was amazing.

And here’s the final cut, after the hairdresser fixed it up a bit.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

And I feel different. More present, less stuck. Ready to make other, bigger transformations.

The moral of the story: The first cuts are the scariest. Everything else is just shaping and trimming.

Coming home: a strategy for re-inhabiting the body

One of my core beliefs is that the body and the mind are completely intertwined. We cannot live fully, cannot fully express our creativity and passion, if we live up in our heads all the time. My mission in life, I’ve come to realize, is to help people get back down in their bodies and rediscover the magic of embodied living.

So it helps when I myself am embodied. Funny thing about that…

I’ve been really quiet on the blog lately. There’s been so much stress and worry and house-buying and stress and epiphanies and mental whirls…I’ve been almost entirely up in my head. I basically stopped moving apart from outside time with Xander.

I completely stopped stretching. I started sitting at LOT more, and not in healthy ways. And I started noticing last week that when I get up in the mornings or get up from the sofa, my calves are starting to hurt because they’re so tight. Again. And my back has started hurting. Again. And now I have a nagging issue in one hip. Again.

This is what happens to me when I stop moving expressively, stop taking care of my body, and start living up in my head. I know because it feels all too familiar (although it used to be worse because I used to wear shoes with heels, so my legs were even tighter).

I’m glad I finally noticed what was going on. Because now I can take steps to cut it the heck out. And I can share the process with you.

Here’s my plan (some of it I’ve already implemented, some of it I plan to, and most of it I’ve done in the past and just got away from when things got tough…which is, of course, when it’s most needed):

1. Ditch the chairs.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year about how sitting and chairs are horrible for our bodies. And I know that I feel really tight and awful after a long night of working in a chair or on the sofa. So I’m replacing them. I have two options: Standing up, like I am now (added bonus, I can stretch out my super-tight calves and do all kinds of other fun stretches while I work), or sitting on the floor.

2. Stretch stretch stretch

I already mentioned the calf stretch. I’m also going to add a hamstring stretch, a psoas stretch, and an abdominal release or a spinal twist. Oh, and eventually I want to be able to squat.

3. Get grounded

For someone as air-sign-y as I am, not to mention someone who KNOWS that grounding helps me 99% of the time, I sure spend a lot of my time with my feet several inches above the ground. Clearly, spending significantly more time standing will give me more opportunities to ground myself, but I still wanted to give it its own item on the list because it’s just that important.

4. Breathe consciously

At the worst of this busy period, I found myself getting actual dizzy spells from not-breathing. Seriously. That’s not good, people. I want to move through my day with an awareness of how I’m breathing. I also want to explore different breath-centred meditations (if you have any favourites, I’d love to see them). And I would LOVE to get back into yoga…that always helps me breathe.

5. Be gentle

An embodied life, to me, is a life focused on sensations in the body, accessing the body’s wisdom instead of ruling it with the mind. That means moving when you want to move, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, paying attention to the body’s requests for rest and nourishing activities like stretching or baths. It means playing and exploring and feeling things out. It means feeling emotions and expressing things physically.

To me, it’s a life full of more textures, tastes, smells, sights, and sounds than my thinking mind can comprehend. That’s what the body experiences. That’s how I want to live.

(Expect to hear more about this!)

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.

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.

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!)