When we try something new, or sense that change is on the horizon, or when we’re in a murky transition period that seems to have no end, it’s not unusual to feel varying amounts of fear.
Sometimes, though, the amount of fear we experience, well, scares us. (I’m reminded of the title of a song by Bauhaus: “In Fear of Fear.” That’s how it is sometimes!)
So I like to look at fear in two different ways (there are probably infinite flavors of fear, but this is a general distinction that is often helpful when fear’s got us confused or shrinking).
One kind of fear is what is sometimes referred to as “rollercoaster” fear.
You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and your body is braced for an intense experience — but there’s a definite thread of excitement there. You want to go where the rollercoaster is taking you, even though sometimes it causes your stomach to drop to your feet or your heart to spring to your throat.
The other kind of fear feels different. You’re expecting an intense experience, but instead of butterflies in your stomach, you feel cement.
This fear weighs you down; it feels impossibly heavy; you don’t anticipate the rollercoaster, but even if you did you wouldn’t have the lightness of step to get on. This fear is entangled with a palpable sense of dread, and sometimes a feeling of “ick” or revulsion. You don’t want to go where it’s taking you.
We can become confused when we don’t take time to make a distinction between these types of fear.
How many movies have you seen where a character is about to get married, and confides to her best friend that “something doesn’t feel right,” and the ever-helpful friend says, “Oh, you just have cold feet. It’s normal to feel that way before taking such a big step.” And either the bride turns and runs back up the aisle and out of the church in the middle of the ceremony, or she goes ahead with the marriage and it’s a disaster.
This is a good example of that second type of fear, which can be an indication that something isn’t right for you on the road you’re about to take.
Now, here’s the tricky thing: It can also be an indication that something isn’t right in the way you’re thinking about the road you’re about to take.
So, it’s not necessarily as clear-cut as, “Oh, you’re experiencing a side of dread with your fear? That means you definitely shouldn’t get married!”
What fear combined with dread actually warrants is further inquiry into what is going on for you.
It could be that you don’t want to marry this person — ever. He’s wrong for you and that’s the awful truth.
But it could also be that you love this person deeply — but you don’t want to marry him.
Or, it could be that you love this person AND you want to get married — but not until you’ve gotten in contact with your estranged dad, because your heart sinks at the thought of ever being married without your dad in attendance.
We always have a good reason for feeling the way we feel (even if the reason doesn’t seem valid to our “logical mind” or our inner critic). When we hit on that good reason, we usually feel true relief, sometimes accompanied sadness. If your fear feels heavy or “icky”, this is a sign to stop and investigate before moving forward.
If your fear feels like you’re about to get on a rollercoaster (and rollercoasters thrill you rather than making you want to throw up), this is a good sign that you’re in for a wild ride and your essential self is up for it.
(It’s worth noting, though, that if, like me, you are highly sensitive, “good fear” can feel overstimulating, so make sure you have solid support and self-care as you embark on your journey.)
Speaking of support, I have a two new one-on-one coaching programs I’m excited to share with you (and yes, I do feel some of that “rollercoaster fear” in putting these programs out into the world!). There will be more to come on these programs soon, but for now, you can hop on over and learn about Light Up Your Creative Self and Stellar Self-Care Foundations, here.
What do you notice about the different “flavors” of fear, for you? How do you deal with them? I’d love to hear from you.
Mary Montanye is the author of the memoir Above Tree Line, which I had the joy of reading recently. To quote her website, it’s “the story of one woman’s spiral downward into physical and mental breakdown and her return to wholeness by courageously, and some would say recklessly, following her intuition.”
Mary and I got on the phone to talk about her experience of writing and publishing the memoir, and how she found support for the process of bringing it into the world. Mary is one of my fellow coaches in The Writer’s Circle, and she’s become one of my favorite people, too. I’m so pleased she took the time to talk with me, and my hope is that creators who are struggling to share their work with the world — or even to begin the process of creating — will gain courage and comfort from Mary’s writing journey.
You can learn more about Mary’s memoir (and read her terrific blog posts!) at her website, here.
Read highlights from our conversation below, or find the link to listen to our whole conversation at the bottom of the post (please note this more of a casual conversation, not a “formal” interview!).
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Jill:I imagine some parts of this were much harder to write than others, emotionally.
Mary: Yeah, they were. And there were two things about that: Whenever I was getting close to writing something that I knew was gonna be really, really difficult, there were two things I did: One is, I reminded myself that all I had to do was write it. I didn’t have to share it; I didn’t have to publish it. There were many other reasons I was writing it. One is, I was learning how to write. Two, I was learning about me. I was honoring me.
That’s another thing, I think that many times writers have, somewhere in their childhood, been shut down. “Oh, we don’t want to hear about that,” or whatever. So, by me putting it down, I was honoring myself, and my voice, and my experiences, and my life.
So I told myself that, even if I choose not to publish this down the line somewhere, I still benefit. And when I did that, it made the writing of the hard stuff doable, and it also made it possible for me to be as honest as possible.
… And second of all, I told myself that even if I did choose to publish it somewhere down the line, I could remove anything that I didn’t want to have in there. If it was really too tough, if I was too afraid to have it out there, I would just remove it from the book.
And it ended up that I didn’t remove anything from the book. I mean, of course I tightened it … But it works to just let yourself do it, just write whatever. And then tighten, or delete.
Jill:So it sounds like there was a lot of permission to write it and not have to publish it, and then there was also permission to not have to put in those more difficult parts – that you could cut those out if you wanted to.
Mary: Yeah. I just had to constantly remind myself that, I have control over this. Just because I write it down doesn’t mean that I have to publish it. And it ended up that I did publish it, and actually, a lot of the fears that I had about that never came true: that other people would hate me, or judge me, or not want me in their life, or be hurt.
… I think you have to just bite off small pieces as you go along, and not think of it as some great big huge thing that’s gonna change the rest of your life, because that would be paralyzing. At least for me. But when I did it bits and pieces at a time, every piece that I did was beneficial.
And that even included the publishing. I mean, I’ve had people, especially younger women, that I never thought would even read it, say how much it has meant to them, and why. And that’s made it all worthwhile. This is why it was meant to be out there. And I can take fear.
Jill:So basically, then, it sounds like you were writing this for yourself. So would you say that if you had any audience in mind, it was just yourself? Kind of your own listening ear?
Mary: Yeah. Well, I also had a reader in that Mary [Allen, writer and writing teacher] was reading. She wasn’t changing things so much as she was just saying, “Tell me more about this. This is really interesting, could you write more here?”… So I had her as a reader, but she was a very loving, supportive, gentle reader. And in fact, having one person like that is really helpful in that she normalized some of this for me. Like, I was feeling so awful about myself, even this many years later, for doing some of the things that I did, and she would go, “Well, that’s really not all that bad.” And that sort of helped, too.
So I’m not saying never have a reader and just put it out there before you’ve ever had a reader, or never have a reader in mind. [But] have the perfect reader in mind: like, for a memoir, the most wonderfully accepting, gentle person that you could possibly imagine, who really wants to sit down and hear about your life, and not judge you for it. Because if you think about just a general “other” out there, like some big massive social media kind of other, it would be terrifying. I don’t know how anybody could write an honest memoir like that.
Jill:Another point that I wanted to bring up is self-care around this process of writing something that brings up so much stuff for us. That is bound to be emotionally taxing. And physically exhausting too, probably.
Mary: Yeah. Everything. Sometimes I’d just feel like all I wanted to do was go to bed. So I got to the point where I just let myself go to bed. You know, it’s okay. Or take time off, too. Take a week off. Or write something easier, write a little bit of history of the area, or something that isn’t like one trauma after another.
Jill: That makes a lot of sense. I think that as writers we can get into a mentally of, I’ve gotta sit there and I’ve gotta push through, especially maybe if we have some resistance coming up for us around a particular thing. And it sounds like you were very aware of your own exhaustion, and you must have had a lot of trust in your process in order to give yourself breaks when you needed it.
Mary: Well, I got it [trust]. I don’t think I had it right off the bat. But as time went on and I did it, I’d say, oh yeah, I’m noticing every time I write some really hard scene, that I don’t want to do anything but go to bed. Well, maybe it would be a good idea to just go to bed. It was through the process that I learned about me and what I needed, and what I could do and what I couldn’t. And that there was only a certain length of time I could write every day. About an hour, for this book, was it. When I got into editing, I could spend a lot more time, but the actual writing was not more than probably about an hour a day.
Jill:What would you say to people who have a story – or not even just a story but some piece of creative work, something they want to share with the world, but they’re feeling stuck or scared around that? Let’s say it’s a dream right now. It’s in sort of baby dream phase and nobody else knows about it, it’s just something they really feel strongly about but they haven’t taken any action to create it. What would be the first thing you would tell them?
Mary: Well, I would tell them first that, if they’re feeling this pull, this little dream, this tug, whatever you want to call it,that that’s your intuition saying that you need to do it. You don’t know why you need to do it, but there’s a tug there, there’s that intuition. I think we tend to ignore our intuition, and I’m somebody who doesn’t ignore her intuition most of the time.
And most of the time, or 99.9 percent of the time, I find out why it was important that I didn’t ignore it. It may not be what you think – it may not BE about publishing it in the world. It may be you’ll help one person. It may be that you will learn something about yourself that you need to learn. But whatever it is, the very first thing I would say is don’t ignore, don’t minimize the fact that we have that tug to do it. That would be my first.
And then my second would be to just begin. Don’t think very far in advance, and set aside some alone time where you won’t be bothered. And make it, like we say in the Writer’s Circle, make it sacred. And just begin. Simple. Twenty minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. And then just do something else the next day, and the next day. And just see where it goes. Because we can’t figure out in our head what the reason is. We can’t figure out the reason, we can’t figure out the end result. We can only figure that out by the actual doing of it.
So those would be my two main things. Don’t ignore, and then begin.
Check out the recording to hear more about Mary’s take on: being a writer who’s an introvert and a highly sensitive person; how Mary “discovered” she was writing a memoir; Mary’s process of sharing the draft of the book with people close to her; her publishing and marketing experience; and more!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a Saturday Gratitude post and it’s really time for another. The past few weeks have been kind of insane around here, in mostly good ways. But my HSP introvert self has been desperate for a little solid downtime, which, thankfully, I am able to have this weekend.
So here are some things I’ve been grateful for since my last Saturday Gratitude post:
1) My “senior” cat (the vet says he’s a senior, but Sullivan doesn’t agree with this at all) came through his dental surgery just fine, minus three teeth. The couple of days after were no fun for any of us around here, but on the third day he was back to his shelf-climbing, window-gazing, chattering-at-birdies self. Pheewwww. I’m grateful to the folks at Prairie State Animal Hospital for giving him extra love.
(Quite inexplicably, he’s still hanging out in the cat carrier, apparently no longer relating to it as an instrument of doom.)
2) I participated in Kristin Noelle’s I Choose Authentic Joy Healing Wave, and we had a number of wonderful conversations in the Facebook group, including one about gratitude. I’ve signed up for a number of Kristin’s Healing Waves and they truly inspire me; if you’re not familiar with her terrific artwork, do check her out!
3) Last Sunday, I gave a presentation toChicago IONS on “Time and Conscious Doing.” We talked a lot about how our thoughts can give us this (false) idea that there isn’t enough time, and how we can choose to create and take action from a feeling of “enough”. I was so grateful for the deep participation in the exercises and insightful questions from the audience, and to those who came up afterward to continue the conversation.
4) Squirrel monkeys! My boyfriend and I rewarded ourselves for work completed by taking a trip to Brookfield Zoo, and there are now squirrel monkeys in Tropic World, swinging like they own the place and have always been there (though what happened to my beloved capuchins?). Monkeys continue to be a kind of power animal for me, reminding me that I am always inspired when I focus on play, curiosity, and hanging out upside down (if only metaphorically).
What about you? What are you grateful for today? I’d love it if you’d share, in the comments.
Several months ago, I led a small group of my clients through a support session to help them with fears that were coming up around their creative projects. They were all nearing the finish line and feeling a lot of resistance to completing, so I thought, maybe we could all support each other in this.
Something we noticed during our session was that we all had a tendency to complicate things to the point that we felt utterly paralyzed about how to move forward. The closer we got to finishing, the more questions about what might happen when we brought our projects into the “real world” came up.
A lot of the stuckness, we found, was based on fears of what might — or might not — happen in the future, if we actually did finish the projects. What if we put them out into the world and no one noticed? What if we put them out there and offended someone close to us with our content? What if we put them out there and got criticized or booed?
All of these things, of course, are distinct possibilities when we put our work out into the world. Focusing on these possibilities can also be effective ways to distract ourselves from actually finishing our work so it can BE out there.
So we came up with this question to ask ourselves when analysis paralysis set in: What would make it easier? What would make it easier, right now?
Just asking this question, we noticed, created a feeling of relief (which good questions usually do — and most of us are not in the habit of asking ourselves good questions!).
We brainstormed a list of possibilities this question generated, and here are some of the things we came up with:
* I could, just for today, commit to staying in the present moment with my work.
* I could stay in my own business. (This comes from Byron Katie’s “three kinds of business” — my business, your business, and God’s business [you might also call this the universe’s business or simply “reality”]. As I’ve written here before, much of the time I feel stress it’s because I’m in someone else’s business. That includes worrying about how my creative work will affect others in the future. There’s a place for this concern, but it’s not while we’re creating the work.)
* I could go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
* I could check in with someone who helps me gain perspective when I’m stuck.
* I could drink more water. (This might sound silly and completely unrelated, but truly, dehydration can cause us to feel stuck, because water helps our physical systems move and flow. And, particularly if your system is highly sensitive, you may be susceptible to the effects of dehydration.)
* I could take more walks. (Sitting at a desk, especially if you use a computer to do your creative work, can cause you to feel sluggish and static. Moving your body shakes things up and help you shift perspective.)
* I could employ tunnel vision (in a good sense). Think of a racehorse who has blinders on so he is not distracted by what’s on either side of him — he’s only focused on the immediate few yards ahead.
* I could shift my work time to earlier (or later) in the day.
* I could work in a warmer (or cooler) room.
* I could take more frequent breaks when I work.
* I could aim for a B- rather than an A+ (this one is especially important for perfectionists, which most of my clients are). If it didn’t have to match your perfect vision, how much freer would you be to finish? Think about your favorite books, movies, music, artwork. Are they perfect, or are they inspired? There’s a big difference.
* I could, just for today, let go of the idea that I can please everyone with my work.
* I could, just for today, let go of the idea that I can please everyone in my existing audience with my new work.
These are only a few examples of what we came up with. But notice how simple most of them are. Sometimes there’s one small tweak we can make that really helps. And we noticed that the phrase “just for today” was especially helpful.
It’s very human to make things much more complicated than they are. Usually, when I find myself in the land of analysis paralysis, it simply means that I’m scared and I need some support. Notice if this might be the case for you.
What might make your current project easier — particularly if you’re getting close to finishing? I’d love to hear, in the comments.
And: If you’re stuck near the finish line and need some support in completing a large project, I’ll be forming another small, low-cost support group soon. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to be put on the list to learn more.
A reader wrote me with this question recently (and gave me permission to share it here):
Lately I have a number of unexpected stresses in my life that have descended on me all at once. Almost every day I reach a point of overwhelm where I just have to do the minimum and then rest. My work on my novel has gone out the window. It feels like I spend every day just keeping up and managing my emotions, and have no energy left for anything creative. I keep trying harder to “do the work” and it’s just not happening. Any words of wisdom for me?
Oh! Creating during the rough times. What a challenge it is to get hit with a lot of “life stuff” and try to keep on keepin’ on as we have been.
In answering this question, I want to look at it from two different angles.
The first has to do with embracing reality.
When life throws a lot at us — whether that change is external or internal, or both — things are not as they were before. Pretty obvious, right? But let me repeat: life has changed.
I really want to underline this, because what I see again and again (and I see it in myself for sure) is that when our lives change radically — or sometimes even when we are afraid that they could change radically in the near future — we have a tendency to go into denial for a while.
Sometimes this looks like freezing and not doing anything. Often, though, it looks like trying to keep on exactly as we have been — even though things are not as they have been.
Which is perfectly normal. But — after a point — not totally helpful.
What embracing reality means from the standpoint of doing our creative work is that when things change, it’s pretty much a given that we won’t be able to approach it exactly as we have been.
If we are suddenly taking care of a sick child (or parent), that is taking up time. If we have to take on a full-time job when previously we worked part-time, that is taking up time. We literally don’t have as many hours in the day available for our creative work: it’s a fact.
Another aspect of embracing reality is who we are.
How do you tend to handle a lot of sudden change, especially certain types of change? How emotional and sensitive do you tend to be? Some of these things are innate in us: we’re not going to change them — even if we want to — beyond a certain point.
I value the fact that I have a very emotional nature (I’m a Myers-Briggs “feeling type,” for sure) and I’m also highly sensitive.
But this means that, for example, when I lost two loved ones in the same week several years ago, it rocked me to my core and I could not “just keep on.” I remember people suggested to me at the time that my grief could be good for my creative work, and that I could “write through the pain.”
That felt wrong in every fiber of my being. I didn’t want to create at that time. I wanted to grieve. Things had changed, and I needed to ask myself if there was value in forcing myself to continue writing during that time.
For me, there wasn’t. For someone else, there certainly may have been. But we need to take ALL of us into account during the difficult times — not just the part that wants to create and keep momentum with creative work. If it feels right to scale back, we need to give ourselves permission to do that.
The other angle I want to take here has to do with our emotions themselves and the way we approach them.
If, like my reader (and me!), you tend to be “emotionally intense,” the way you approach your emotions in and of itselfcan create more stress for you during the hard times — or not.
When a lot was going “wrong,” I used to say things like, “This sucks! I am so overwhelmed!”
Venting is a good thing sometimes. But it’s also important to look at what we say when we vent.
Here’s why: When I say “I’m overwhelmed,” I’m fusing my identity with the emotion. And, even if I value how deeply and intensely emotional I can be, my emotions are not me. They are simply energies moving through me.
Probably one of the things I say most frequently to a client when they share how they’re feeling about something is “Good to notice.” That’s because noticing is pure gold.We can’t change a thing if we don’t first have awareness of it.
And, at the bottom of it all, “who we are” is simply that awareness — not what we’re doing, what’s happening to us, the emotions we’re having or how we’re reacting.
So, now, when I catch myself saying “I’m overwhelmed,” I say instead, “I’m noticing that I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m noticing a feeling of overwhelm within me.”
Do you see how this immediately creates a space between you and the feeling?
From this space, you are both the person experiencing the emotion and the observer of that emotion, how it feels in your body, the way you are reacting to it, the thoughts you are thinking around it. And from that space, you are not rocked and thrown by your emotions; you are not fused with them; you are simply experiencing them.
So, during the difficult times, here are two places to start. I’d love to know if anything here resonates for you, or if you have other suggestions, in the comments.
And: If you’re in a rough patch right now and you need a shift, my awesome friend Dawn Herring, founder of Refresh with Dawn Herring and #JournalChat Live on Twitter, will be offering a Refresh Intensive e-course, starting April 3 (the deadline to sign up is April 1). And it’s only $21! Want to learn more? Find out, here.
One of the most common issues that comes up for my clients, approximately 90% of whom identify as introverts (and most are also highly sensitive), is what I call Downtime Chasing.
It looks something like this: You were planning to stop working for the day at 5:30 p.m., eat some dinner, and have the evening to just hang out and experience some quiet and revamp your resources in preparation for tomorrow. Or, if you’re like me, maybe you wanted to get in a good solid hour of journaling before going to bed.
But: At 6 p.m., the phone rings. And even though you know you really need tonight’s downtime in order to reconnect with yourself and feel energized for tomorrow, it’s a family member and you wonder if something might be wrong. Or, it’s a work-related thing. Or, it’s a friend in a crisis and you want to be there for him.
So you pick up the phone, and before you know it, it’s time to go to bed and your much-needed downtime hasn’t happened.
Now you’re kind of irritated, maybe even angry, because you wanted downtime the night before, and last Thursday, and the same thing happened. And now you haven’t had any real time to yourself in over a week and you’re starting to feel like you’re running on empty.
Introverts need downtime alone to recharge. This is not optional; it is a necessity. We simply can’t renew our resources by being around other people the way extroverts can.
The tricky thing is, because introverts are usually very good at adapting to more “extroverted” ways, we may easily toss our need for downtime out the window. It might even be habitual for us.
If we’re highly sensitive as well, we’re often so attuned to what others need that it feels sometimes like their needs are just as pressing, if not moreso, than ours. So we jump into “helping” mode before we realize what we’re doing.
And then there’s this sneaky thought: “Well, so-and-so is an introvert, and she doesn’t seem to need the amount of downtime that I do. Maybe I need too much. Maybe I can go without it.”
I often see introverts going to two extremes with this issue:
The first is the introvert who gets angry and frustrated and locked into the “Desperately Seeking Downtime” cycle, which means that trying to get enough downtime becomes the main purpose in her life. Because she feels so deprived of time to herself, everything on her “to-do list” starts to feel like the enemy of downtime. This constant seeking doesn’t actually get her much downtime, but she thinks if she stays angry about not having it, somehow it will magically appear, someday.
The other extreme is the introvert who decides to just forget about downtime altogether and pretend she doesn’t need it. After all, she’s so good at adapting, maybe she doesn’t really need it! Maybe the problem is she’s trying to meet a need that simply can’t be met, and she’d be better off getting rid of that need, letting go of it.
Except … she actually does need downtime. It keeps her sane, keeps her connected to herself, keeps her energized and keeps her life in perspective.
Okay. So what’s the answer?
Well, I wish I could tell you the precise end-all-and-be-all solution to this issue for you. I can’t. Only you can do that. But here are some things I’ve found helpful for me, and my clients.
1) Know yourself.
How much downtime do you truly need to feel sane, to feel like you’re thriving and not just surviving? Be really honest here.
The answer for me is: a significant amount. Definitely more than fifteen minutes grabbed here or there.
But, I often don’t need as much as I think I do.
When I deprive myself of downtime, I start to feel like I need it all the time. I don’t. Even though I’m pretty up there on the introversion scale, it’s not often that I actually need days of downtime. In fact, if I fully and freely give myself an entire day where my intention is mostly downtime, I usually find a couple of hours of true downtime will do just fine.
2) Notice where you’re getting into comparisons.
You need as much time to yourself as you need.
It doesn’t matter if Jane is also an introvert and doesn’t need as much downtime as you do. She’s not you; her constellation of needs, choices, and wiring is different.
When you can own how much downtime you actually need, without feeling like you “shouldn’t” need it, you are about a hundred times more likely to make that downtime happen.
We live in a world that believes “busy” is good. So we can feel pressure around owning our need to shift into “being mode,” whether we’re introverts or not. Sometimes, it takes real courage to own this need. Take that into account.
3) Notice where you are rigid around only getting your downtime in a certain way.
Be open to fluidity and flexibility around your downtime — without giving it up.
I once heard someone (I think it was Eckhart Tolle? — feel free to correct me!) use this analogy about money: We think money has to come in through the front door, when in fact it might also come in through the windows.
The same is true for downtime. It can come to us in myriad ways if we’re open to that idea.
If we think it must look like sitting in total quiet on the couch in our living room, we might miss out on the opportunity to have absolutely blissful, rejuvenating time to ourselves while walking home from our dentist appointment or cleaning up the kitchen (yes, it’s possible!).
4) There’s a discipline to downtime.
And I’m not a big fan of the word “discipline,” but, for introverts, it’s a commitment.
Notice the ways you’re too willing to break this commitment. Notice why you’re willing to give it up. Are there two tempting social opportunities this weekend, and deep down you know you can only handle one? What makes you want to schedule in both? What do you think you’ll be getting by doing the extra activity and cutting out your downtime?
It’s okay to drop the downtime to do something you want to do — as long as it’s a choice and you have a strategy for how you’re going to replenish yourself (it might mean you need next weekend totally to yourself, with absolutely nothing scheduled, so you can bounce back).
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s a great time to think about your needs for downtime. How do you make sure you get enough? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Something that often comes up when I work with one of my lovely clients is the creative visionary’s resistance to accepting “the everyday”. Sometimes I call it “the mundane.” One of my clients calls it “real world crap.”
In my twenties, I ignored “real world crap” to the point that I became ill and had to be hospitalized. I was defining “real world crap” at the time as: paying bills, eating decent meals, getting good sleep, doing the dishes, doing the laundry.
The creative visionary part of me said: that stuff is boring and it won’t get me where I want to go. Focusing on that stuff is a drag.
Fast-forward fifteen years and I realize that the “everyday stuff” that I loathed so much back then is actually my friend.
Doing the dishes is an excellent way of being in the present moment and dealing with analysis paralysis.
Doing laundry is a great way of getting grounded, of coming back to earth, to the things of this rich material world, when my creativity has taken me far, far away from it.
Getting good sleep allows my physical body the rejuvenation it needs to move through another day with hope and resilience.
Paying bills is a way of acknowledging that money is part of the energy that supports me in living the life I love. (I didn’t want to accept this back then — money was boring, and “unspiritual.”)
And: because I, and many of my clients, are highly sensitive people, we tend to become easily overstimulated by the very creative work we love. There’s a point where, if we don’t stop when we’ve done enough, we are at risk of becoming ungrounded and burning out.
The “mundane” things of everyday life — walking to the mailbox to get the mail, mowing the lawn, saying hello to the neighbor — are actually vital ways of rooting us in the fabric of this earth, this world, the here and now.
So, if you feel like you’re spinning off away from yourself or swept up in a creative wave that feels a little scary, remember that “the mundane” can be your friend, dear highly sensitive creative visionary.
And, because you are who you are, I have no doubt that you will quickly discover the magic in the mundane, too.
And: The Sunshine Award!
The lovely Harula of wordsthatserve, who writes such amazingly true poetry, kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Award. Yay! I’m thrilled — thanks, Harula!
So, here’s me accepting, gratefully. 🙂
* Post a picture of the award on your blog
* Link back to the person who nominated you
* List ten random facts about yourself
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” (I’m actually nominating six.)
* Comment on their blogs to notify them of their nomination
So here are ten random facts about me:
1) One of my earliest memories is getting sick on giant marshmallow chicks on Easter day. And of my mother warning me not to eat so many.
2) Last month, I achieved one of my lifelong dreams: seeing “Jaws” on the big screen — twice. Chills.
3) My favorite actress is Crystal the Monkey. Few human actors have this monkey’s range of expression — seriously.
4) My current favorite thing to watch on MeTV: “Rhoda.” The opening theme music is so whimsically weird.
5) I am happiest in weather between 30 and 70 degrees F. I love fall when it is brisk and slightly overcast.
6) My favorite book I’ve read recently is “It Chooses You” by Miranda July. So achingly real — and talk about embracing the everyday! This book proves that the extraordinary hides out in the ordinary.
7) Most of my favorite foods involve the potato in some form.
8) My shoe size is 7.5 M.
9) I’m kind of a chatty hermit. One of my gifts is connecting with others, but it needs to be balanced by lots of alone time.
10) I miss my grandparents more than I ever thought I would.
And my Sunshine Award nominees: every time I read one of their posts, I feel nourished and enlivened.
Often I hear from my clients that their dreams are progressing much more slowly than they’d like. Because I love to work with people on clearing out the “stuck stuff” that keeps them from deeply engaging with their creative work (or play, as I prefer to call it), clients usually come to me when they are in this space. Either they feel disconnected from their creativity, or they are judging their process for being “too slow” and therefore creating a feeling of stuckness around their process.
Our creative projects, our creative visions and dreams, have different ways of unfolding. Some of these unfold very quickly, so quickly it can feel frightening. I remember writing a short story that poured out of me so fast I felt like the top of my head was going to come off. Truly, it felt like I did not “write” this story — it had its own momentum and its own timing, and that happened to be an extremely fast “birth” from inside of me into the physical world.
I’ve experienced this type of velocity with other creative projects, but more often than not, the pace of my creative projects and dreams tends to be much slower. When the dream is large, like writing a book or creating a business, we often have a huge learning curve, even if it is something we’ve done before. The new book (or business) is a completely different entity from the old one, and the guideposts we created in the process of doing the previous thing may no longer apply. We must discover new ones.
It’s important to accept that we are not necessarily in control of the pace of a creative project. I know that can feel frustrating to hear when we have deadlines we want to meet, or if we feel we haven’t put our creative work into the world as much as we’d like, but it’s still important to honor. My friend and fellow writer and coach Terri Fedonczak (with whom I participate in Jenna Avery’s Writer’s Circle*), often said during the process of writing her forthcoming book, “I am not the timekeeper.”
I love this. It’s true — we can plan and plan, but within each creative dream lies the knowledge of its own unfolding. When we allow a dream to unfold at the pace that feels right and juicy to us — no matter how slow or fast we judge it to be — we are creating a solid foundation for that dream. We’re creating a dream that’s got legs.
If we rush our vision, or, at the other extreme, try to halt its momentum because the momentum is unsettling to us, the project can either burn itself out before it has a chance to truly take root within us, or lose its glow for us because it’s not allowed to fly as fast as it wants to.
If the process of creating your dream feels like it is moving too slow, ask yourself:
* Slow by whose standards?
* Why do I think I need to move faster? What do I believe would be gained, or lost, by moving faster? Is this true?
* Do I have enough support (inner and outer) for this project or dream?
* If I totally trusted myself and the unfolding of this dream, would I be okay with this pace?
If your project, vision or dream feels like it’s moving too fast and you’re getting scared, here are some things to remember:
* It’s essential to develop a practice of grounding and centering yourself regularly, particularly if you are highly sensitive. Your nervous system is going to be more reactive to rapid change than that of the “average” person, and you are going to need to practice radical self-care now more than ever.
* It’s important — and totally valid — to feel safe. At the same time, we can feel unsafe when in fact we truly are safe. Ask yourself: How can I create a feeling of deep inner safety for myself, even if my external world feels like it’s moving too quickly for me right now?
* When change is moving quickly — and that change feels like it is good for us — we are also growing and changing very quickly. When I’m in a period of rapid change, I know that the “me” who does not feel capable of handling the change today will be more than capable of handling that change tomorrow, or tonight, in the moment I am called on to handle it.
Accepting the pace of our dreams starts with deep self-acceptance. When we’re not accepting of an aspect of ourselves, we are going to project that onto our dream and thwart the growth of that dream.
Think of your creative dream as a child: some kids need lots of time to play in blissful solitude; others run right out into the throng and play until they drop. If the kid who needs to play mostly alone, at her own pace, is forced out into the throng, she suffers and withdraws. If the kid who wants to immediately join the pack and play hard until the sun sets is forced into slower, solitary play, he feels isolated and suffers.
If you can accept your own needs AND the needs of your particular vision, your dream will unfold in a way that’s good for you AND the dream.
How do you deal with the unfolding of your creative projects? What have you learned about yourself along the way? I’d love to hear in the comments.
Work With Me: Need some support in allowing your creative vision to unfold? I have openings for new coaching clients. Find out more, here!
*And: Tomorrow, June 13, is the last day to register for the next session of Jenna Avery’s Writer’s Circle. If you’d like to develop a more regular writing habit with group support, check it out here.
One thing that I really like to drive home to my coaching clients is the importance of knowing ourselves.
I mean, really, really knowing ourselves — and particularly, the things we have a tendency to do that create chaos and disconnection for us.
Because very often, we know what doesn’t work for us, but we do it anyway.
Particularly if you are highly sensitive or an introvert, or both, the “general way” our society does things may not work for you. But it’s easy to toss away our particular, unique self-understanding when we convince ourselves that “everybody else” seems to be living, well, differently.
When we’ve been through the hell of learning something that brings us to our knees and connects us with our core (or, to put it another way, our essential self), we need to actually own that and act from what we know.
I call this acting from exquisite self-knowledge.
It is powerful to put this stuff into action. And you can often tell when you’re not putting it into action, by the way you feel.
This is true on both smaller points and large ones.
Like today, I was writing in my journal and I was completely caught up in the flow. As I’ve written about before, when my journal is truly calling to me, I have got to heed that call. Journaling has been, for many years now, the way I process and ultimately integrate what’s happening for me. It is my practice. If I don’t do it — especially when it’s really calling to me — I keep spinning my wheels and I don’t move forward.
But: I get really antsy and am easily distracted when I can feel something big about to come through in my journal. And I have a tendency to sabotage these “hardcore” journaling sessions by reacting to stuff in the external environment.
Today I actually grabbed my iPad in the middle of my journaling session — even though it was going brilliantly — and searched for youtube videos on Jaws 2. (Okay, not even a good movie, but I’ve been feeling oddly nostalgic for it lately.)
Before I knew it, I was watching shark attack videos which were obviously fake (and why in the heck would I do that to my HSP self?), and then somehow I was watching videos of cats stuffing themselves into small boxes (how do I always end up there?).
So I moved away from the iPad and picked the journaling session back up. A couple minutes later, the phone rang. I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs when the phone rings. I don’t know why I think I have to get up and see who it is. But get up I did.
It was a friend of mine who I really wanted to talk to. Normally, when the caller ID comes up as a close friend or a family member, it’s almost impossible for me not to pick up. I pick up as a kind of reflex. I figure I’ll make up the journaling time later; I tell myself the call will only take a couple minutes and then I’ll get back to my writing.
But experience has shown, this isn’t what happens. I get sucked into the call and when I get off the phone it’s hard to get my flow back. I put the journaling off. I toss away my practice. And I feel disconnected from myself.
So today, I didn’t pick up the phone. Why? Because I finally know myself well enough to know that if I pick up the phone during sacred journaling time, I will regret it.
And I have to tell you, acting on that exquisite self-knowledge felt really powerful. It felt congruent.
This might sound like a small point, not picking up the phone during a journaling session, but all these seemingly “small” points add up over the long haul. When I toss the needs of my essential self away on a regular basis and tell myself these “little things” don’t matter, I end up disconnected from myself, over time, in a big way.
There are larger points, too — like going back, out of fear or familiarity, to that job or that relationship we just know in our gut isn’t good for us. Or saying “yes” to something that we know from experience we simply have no desire to do.
None of this is about “doing it right” all the time or never making choices that don’t feel good to us. Part of the process of knowing ourselves is learning through trial and error what doesn’t work for us.
And sometimes, like with my Pavlovian response to the ringing phone, we have a very long learning curve. But when we do finally learn, it’s important to own what we know and take action on that knowing.
Try this: Make a habit of keeping a written record of things you’ve learned — the hard way — about yourself but have a tendency to forget. (I call this my Exquisite Self-Knowledge List.) Then check in with it from time to time, particularly if you’re feeling crappy and you’re not sure why.
What do you absolutely know about yourself that you might put on your own list? I’d love to hear from you.
And: Speaking of putting pen to paper, Thursday, Feb. 21, is the last day to register for the next session of Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. I’ve been a member of this group for going on a year and a half, and I’m also one of the coaches. You can read about the strides I’ve made with my writing in this group here. We’d love to have you join us! You can check it out here.