Saturday Gratitude #6

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Time for another Saturday Gratitude post.

So much to choose from this week — and I feel blessed to be able to say that.

1) So it was my birthday this past week.

And I’m not a big celebrator of my birthday. I never have expectations for it or anything. But something about this birthday felt extra-special, extra-celebratory. The day unfolded in such a lovely way — I spent it with some of my favorite people (and cats!) — and I felt so loved and appreciated.

And the funny thing was, I had decided to give myself the gift of a day away from the internet. And that felt so peaceful, so replenishing, so grounding. I needed it. But then, when I did return to the internet, there were all these lovely birthday wishes on Facebook, and some emails from good friends.

And I was reminded that so much love flows through the internet, too. I just need to balance my internet time with my “in the physical world” time, or I start feeling like a strange, cramped, distorted version of myself.

2) While writing and revising a short story this week, I made some discoveries about why fiction writing has felt extra-hard for me lately.

Interestingly, I had to step away from my main project (a novel) in order to make these discoveries. The short story actually served as a metaphor for the struggle of the novel — but it was easier to see and grasp because a short story is a less vast and unwieldy thing than a novel (for me, anyway. I certainly don’t mean to say that writing a short story is not hard or confusing.). Metaphor! It can make things so much more clear. (More on this is a future post.)

3) Finally taking action on something I’d been on the fence about for a long time.

And then the noticing that what unfolded after I took action was not nearly as scary or overwhelming as I’d feared. And that I can create safety for myself along the way, with each step of the continued unfolding. In other words, I have more control than I think I do. Good to know!

I’d love it if you’d play along with me, if that feels good to you. What are you grateful for this week? What comes up for you? Feel free to do this silently, on your own, too, if you don’t want to share. But either way, do notice how focusing on the good stuff creates more of it. It’s true!

Image is “Rainbow Sprinkles” © Cyrus Cornell | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #4

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Last week’s Saturday Gratitude didn’t happen due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to sickness (see #2, below). But today, we’re back! Here are three things I’m truly grateful for this week. Play along with me if you’re so inclined.

1) Clarity.

I’ve been struggling for a long time with some issues that just wouldn’t seem to budge, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to push through them. Once again, I had to come to the realization that pushing through does not always work. In fact, when I’m dealing with a complex tangle of stuff, it almost never does. I had to reach a place of acceptance — at a deep level — and now that I have, clarity is starting to peek through the clouds. Yay for clarity!

2) Health (and self-acceptance!).

Well, relative health — I’m almost feeling like me again. For eight days, I struggled with a bad cold and really could not function in a normal way. Of course — as tends to be my way — I fought the fact that I was sick for about four days and tried to function normally anyway. As above, I defaulted to trying to push through when, in the long run, it would have made things easier and simpler to accept that I was sick and give myself the rest I needed. But it took me four days to get to that place. Letting go does not come easily or automatically for me, even after twenty years of practicing. So, here’s where self-acceptance sweeps in to save the day.

3) Weather and walking!

Today, it feels like winter in Chicago again, but yesterday — oh! For the first time in ages, I was able to take a long walk in the sunshine and enough treacherous ice had melted off that I wasn’t slipping all over the place. I could even feel the onset of spring, and the birds and squirrels chattered wildly everywhere I went.

And I reconnected with how incredibly valuable — vital, even — it is to get out and be in nature. Walking outside solves my problems. Really, it does. Or maybe the more accurate way to put it is, it shows me that what I thought was a problem is actually not a problem. I just get so stuck in looking at it a certain way that I believe it’s a problem.

Walking, connection with the earth beneath my feet, shakes up the stuck. So, gratitude, too, for being healthy enough to walk, to move; for being able to hear the sounds of the birds and squirrels; for the ability to see the sun glinting on the melting snow, the dog trotting by, the smile on the face of the woman walking it.

What are you grateful for this week? I’d love it if you’d share.

Image is “Frozen Sun,” © Sebastian Corneanu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Join Me for Muse Office Hours, tomorrow!

Feeling stuck, scared to begin, or flat-out immobilized around something you’re creating? Does it feel like you just can’t stop procrastinating? Do you need some support to get going again? I really know how you feel, and I want to help you get started. To that end, I am offering Muse Office Hours, tomorrow, Feb. 24, from noon to 2 p.m. Central Standard Time. (If you need help figuring out the time zone difference, click here).

What are Muse Office Hours? They’re a two-hour window of time in which you can call in and get fifteen minutes of free, focused coaching from me on any creative issue you’re experiencing. If you’re feeling stuck, scared, so excited you’re freaking out, or anything at all around something you’re creating, and you need some feedback or support, this is totally for you. And the “something” you’re creating can be anything from a novel to a business to a new way of life.

The “muse” in Muse Office Hours does not mean that I, Jill, am your muse — no way! You carry within yourself your own very specific muse, precious and utterly unique, and my purpose with Muse Office Hours is to help you awaken it. Or maybe you just need to get back in touch with it, cheer it up, or knit it a fancy scarf so it will feel warmer and more connected to you. I can help with all that, too.

I love talking to creators about their fears around creativity — and by the way, if you’re having these fears, you’re totally normal. We’ve all got ’em. It’s talking about them and getting support that allows us to get unstuck.

To take advantage of Muse Office Hours, call in to +1 708 689 9480 at any time during the two-hour window, up to fifteen minutes before the window ends — if you get my voice mail, it means I’m coaching someone else; leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I’m able! Muse Office Hours are first-come, first-served.

Thanks to my friend and fellow coach Melissa Wirt for dreaming up Muse Office Hours. 🙂

And stay tuned for my article on the difference between stretching and pushing ourselves, coming soon!

Image is FAIRY © Darrenw | Dreamstime.com

A couple of announcements, & gratitude!

A while ago, a coaching buddy of mine and I were talking about how it’s difficult to experience a feeling of abundance in our lives when we don’t take time to really feel it, don’t slow down enough to be with it, don’t take a moment to say “thank you.”

I can forget. I can get so focused on what I don’t have that I get into “lack” mode. And then I see evidence of lack, everywhere. When I remember, when I notice what I have been given — often with no conscious effort on my part –I see evidence of this in my life, everywhere.

We can practice this. We can practice by noticing. Yesterday I noticed I was a little bit tired, and although I felt a tremendous urge to rush over to the computer to respond to email, I decided to sit quietly on my couch. My cat woke up from his nap, looked at me, and immediately came over and jumped into lap. I listened to his purr and felt it reverberate through my hands, my chest, my abdomen.

I breathed in the abundance of this moment. I was sitting on a soft down throw my mother gave me for Christmas last year. My living room felt warm, even though it’s in the 40s outside. The sun was sneaking out, after a clouded-over, gray morning. It felt good, to just be, to realize I had all I needed in that moment. And in this one.

Here’s to noticing what we have. Here’s to saying “thank you.”

And here’s to more abundance — a couple of announcements:

* Last week, I officially became a Martha Beck Certified Life Coach (woo-hoo!).  In celebration, I’m offering four FREE half-hour coaching sessions — first come, first-served. Bring me any issue (it doesn’t have to be related to creativity, but it certainly can be) and we’ll do a little exploring and get you a little less stuck. To get your free session, email me at jillwinskicoaching@gmail.com and mention “free session” in the subject line.

* Also, I am super-excited to announce that I will be a coach for the next session of Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle, which begins Nov. 28. I’d love for you to join us — it was the amazing encouragement of this circle that helped me finish a first draft of my novel last session, which I wrote about here. To sign up for the Writer’s Circle, click here. The last day to register is tomorrow, Nov. 23, so don’t wait!

Wishing you the gift of noticing what’s beautiful, good and right in your life.

Image is PUMPKINS © Paul-andré Belle-isle | Dreamstime.com

Celebrating What I No Longer Do

Today I was thinking about an issue I’ve been working on for years and I started beating myself up because it seems like I’ve made so little progress on it. (I am being purposely vague — my “issue” will be the subject of a future article.) At one point, I caught myself thinking, How can I still be doing this?!?!  Then I remembered an exercise taught to me by the wonderful writer Joyce Maynard, whose workshop I attended a couple of years ago. Joyce suggested it as a good way to come up with story movement, but I think it works equally well as a way to celebrate the changes we’ve made.

It goes like this: “I used to _______ , but now I ________ .”

Here’s what I wrote at Joyce’s workshop:

I used to be a chronic dieter, but now, most of the time, I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.

I used to be afraid to ask for help in a store, but now I can walk up to someone and tell them what I need.

I used to go numb and forget how to speak when someone did something that hurt me, but now I can tell them to stop (even if it’s an hour or a day later).

This all caused me to think about Victor. Victor is a character in a short story I wrote. I like Victor. He’s about to turn fifty, and although he works as an office manager, he’s really more of a philosopher. He likes to sit cross-legged on the floor of his office in the middle of the day and … ponder. He has a twenty-six-year-old son who can’t seem to get his life together, and a wife who has long since ceased to connect with him. Victor just wants everyone he loves to be happy and he thinks he can make this happen by just going along with what everybody around him wants. It begins to occur to Victor that it’s been a helluva long time since he’s thought about what he wants.

Victor used to pretend it was okay when his wife ignored him, but today he’s telling her he wants to connect with her.

I might want to up the drama for the purposes of my story. Maybe Victor tells her he needs to connect with her or he’s leaving the marriage, and instead of saying, “Victor, don’t leave me!”, his wife says, “Do whatever you want.” What does Victor do then?

However, if Victor were a real person I was working with who told me he was stuck, I’d tell him to celebrate the changes that are even smaller.

Victor used to pretend it was okay when his wife ignored him, but now he notices it’s not okay with him.

Go Victor!! Just that act of noticing it’s not okay — wow! This is the way we progress as humans. Sometimes things take a long time. Sometimes an issue reappears for the entirety of our lives (my therapist called these our “core issues”; Eckhart Tolle calls them “structures in the mind”). But wherever we notice change, wherever we notice movement, no matter how tiny it may seem to us, we have evidence that we are not stuck, we are not hopeless. It is, in fact, in our very nature to grow, to change. We just need to do this at our own rate.

I guarantee you that if you make a list of “I used to … but now I’s”, you will start feeling pretty darn awesome about all the progress you’ve made in your life. We need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to celebrate the small stuff, maybe especially the really small stuff. The more we celebrate the small stuff, the easier it is to create what we really want. The big stuff.