Posted in about me, exercise, vulnerability

Discomfort and growth on fake rocks

In April, I volunteered at an event at the rock climbing gym where I’m a member.

It was a bouldering event (short walls, no ropes) which is not something that I had done at all, but there were all sorts of fun, silly climbing (taller walls, with a rope) stations as well—one-handed, an obstacle course, a route made of old (looking) metal things, a “balance the ball on the spoon” route.

I decided that I would learn to boulder so that I could participate next year.

So…they changed it up a bit and are having a series of mini-competitions—all bouldering—and if you enter three of those (no charge for members), you can automatically enter into the Big Event in April.

I was mostly still at the “can’t get off the starting holds” stage of learning.

I decided that once I could climb ONE route to the top, I was going to sign up.

Two weeks ago, I did it!

Last night was the first event after that accomplishment, and so I went.

Let me share bits of “in my head” with you about this.

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering perfectionist. I have always been good at school, but I don’t volunteer unless I’m certain to be right/successful. Failing with an audience is shameful (“I am a failure” vs. “I failed”).

I’ve been working my way out of all of that—so many missed opportunities due to fear—and this event was a GIANT step outside of the comfort zone in the direction I want to go.

(People at Shumway: riding the backwards bike was a big deal.)

Unfortunately, this event is one where you sign up the day of. (I’m a big fan of registering while enthusiasm is high and then feeling obligated when I don’t want to follow through later.)

Shortly before it was time to get changed and leave the house, I sent two friends this text:

I'm scared

(Side note: bouldering isn’t any “less real” climbing than what I usually do.)

I sent a similar one to The Climbing Daddy.

Their responses were perfect:

reply 3

(This is true. There’s never been an athletic community that I’ve been part of that hasn’t been supportive. Running, triathlon, climbing. People are happy you’re into what they’re into, and they’re happy to help. As long as you’re decently pleasant to be around.)

reply 1

(This is true. Much like the above, it’s not making a fool, it’s taking a risk. The only people who would think me a fool—if I were to run into any—are the people who are insecure in their own skills or risk-taking. And their opinion doesn’t matter…)

reply 2

(It was not that long ago that I couldn’t get off the ground—or off the starting holds. But I can now, even on routes that I can’t complete.)

So I changed clothes and went.

I talked to the guy running it and found out what to expect.

I signed up for a time.

I waited a while.

And I climbed.

I made it up the first route.

Someone I didn’t know cheered for me the second half of the route.

I didn’t make it up any more routes, though I tried two several times. (It would have been much nicer to be there by myself attempting those, instead of in a room full of people with much higher skill, but that’s just my self-consciousness.)

Also, the route that I climbed successfully is one grade harder than the one I completed a couple of weeks ago, so there’s that as well. (V.0- tonight vs. 5.8 the other day, for those who understand that.)

All in all, people were either friendly or didn’t take notice of me, both of which were fine options.

The next one is in January. Maybe I’ll make it up two routes. And not freak out before it’s time to leave.

As far as stretching my comfort zone? Mission accomplished.

Posted in mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Personal creative work

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about writing and teaching kids to write, and how difficult it is. We came to the conclusion that the majority of us are afraid to be vulnerable (and creativity is extremely vulnerable), and that we can’t just do our own thing without comparing our output to others’ output.

Unless we’re directly competing for something that is valuable to us, there’s no need to compare our creative output with others’.

It’s OK for what you create to have flaws.

It’s OK to try but not have your finished product look or sound amazing.

It’s OK—it’s more than OK—to create just for the sake of creating, without intention of doing anything with the final product. You don’t have to record it or perform it or show it to anyone.

(And in the vein of comparison, in the words of a good friend, “Just because you’re the best doesn’t mean you’re good.”)

I am a writer. I am a musician. When I do these things just to enjoy them, when I don’t worry about the judgment of others (or of myself!), they’re fun. Sometimes healing. A good way to spend time.

When I judge them against the work of others, or worse, against what I think my output should be, they’re stressful and not at all enjoyable.

(This is different than constructive work simply to improve. In general, people enjoy getting better at things, even if it’s just incremental as we go.)

I enjoy drawing and painting. I love taking pictures. I’m not great at them. They’re still enjoyable. (Usually.)

There are so many outlets for creativity. Pick something you like, or something you’d like to try, turn off the inner critic, and do it.

A side note on the inner critic: for most of us, the inner critic is the voice of someone else(s) criticizing us when we were kids. (I know far too many people who were told by their music or choir teacher that they can’t sing.) In addition to telling those voices—sometimes out loud—that their opinion doesn’t matter, please see to it that your voice doesn’t become someone else’s inner critic.

Be creative. Let others be creative. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be.

Posted in about me, hope, vulnerability

I’ve always hated Christmas, but…

…I’ve wanted to love it.

It just sucked.

My mom’s love language must be gifts (based on things more than just Christmas). There were always piles of stuff for my brother, sister, and I to open, each in a different color paper.

My earliest Christmas memory, I was 7 or 8. We had ripped through our piles of stuff, and my brother, four years younger, had a meltdown because there was a particular toy he had wanted and didn’t get.

I have no idea what the toy was. I have no idea what he did get. I have no idea what I got.

But I remember being agitated that he had gotten all of these toys—presumably many of which he wanted—and he wasn’t happy.

(At this point in my life, I realize that he was three or four years old…but Child Heat didn’t give him that pass.)

As I grew up, I was religious and hated that the religious significance was drastically overshadowed by materialism—both in the culture at large and in our house.

(Don’t read too much piety into that. I always had a Christmas list and didn’t ever say I wanted nothing.)

When, during college, I became very much not religious, I still hated the materialism.

(I believe that much of the distaste came from other gift-related issues with my mom that were just overbearingly present at Christmas. Another story for another day.)

I don’t remember a time when I felt like I was part of my family of origin, or a time when I wasn’t ostracized. So holidays that are “for family” were torturous.

Years passed, The Tall Daddy and I got married, and I was so excited to have Christmas with his family. They were kind and loving to me—so unfamiliar and welcome—and finally (FINALLY!) I would have a holiday that’s about family with family.

Turns out, they didn’t do much for Christmas. Siblings lived in different states and some of them might get together at some point during that week off, but most stayed home with their kids.

It’s not that those years were bad so much as anticlimactic. (Also, The Tall Daddy and I gigged on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, so there’s that.)

The Christmas after that marriage ended, I had the flu.

The year after that, The Kid and I went to New Jersey. He was four. While we had dinner with a friend and her family, we spent Christmas Day in a hotel room, doing our own thing, just a few miles from my parents’ house.

It was so healing.

The next two Christmases were spent in Florida with The Climbing Daddy’s family, and while the second was not as bad as the first, those are not holidays I care to revisit.

This year … we’re at home. It’s just us. We’re settled into our house. (Last year, we moved right before heading to Florida.)

The Kid loves Christmas and decorations. Always has. The house isn’t totally decked out, but there are more decorations up than if I was left to my own devices. And it looks lovely. He loves Santa (though he’s always known that Santa isn’t real). And, of course, he loves getting LEGOs.

And so I am hopeful that this year, Christmas will be nice. Maybe even amazing.

I’m planning to take some of the traditions from my family of origin—little details that I loved—and hang onto them in ways that fit me now, with good friends. And leave the stuff I didn’t love. And add in other pieces that maybe someday my son will remember fondly as “something we did at Christmas when I was a kid.”

It’s been a long time comin’, but maybe this is my year.

(Also, I’m anxious that I’m putting too much into it and have a high likelihood of being let down. But I’ve pretty much always lived by the notion that the results are best when you’re all in, so………….)

Posted in about me, storytelling, vulnerability

Poking around in your head

Yesterday, I published a post that ended with a question asking about your experience. I’ve asked a similar question a few times.

This is the thing: I’m really curious about the answer.

I’d love to take every single reader out for coffee for a few hours and pick your brain about random things like yesterday’s post. (It’s not yesterday’s topic in particular…)

What’s funny is that without that context, if I actually was at coffee with some random person, I’d have no idea how to start that kind of conversation…or if it’s even too intimate to attempt.

I love poking around in people’s brains.

Some people don’t like their brains being poked around in. More than that, it seems that people think there’s nothing in their brains worth poking around in.

Yes there is, my friends. Yes, there is. You have lived this long. You’ve met people. You’ve done things. You’ve gone places. You’ve developed opinions. You’ve (probably) changed some of those opinions. You react to things in certain ways. You are definitely interesting.

I just need to figure out how to open up those kinds of conversations…

Posted in about me, mindset, vulnerability

Some days, I look tired

There’s a new-to-my-awareness probably-MLM line of products being hawked in my Facebook feed.

“Total makeover. Only takes 10 minutes!”

But you know what?

I like my face.

Some days, I have bags under my eyes, because I’m tired. Some days, I’m exhausted and have full-blown suitcases.

I’m at the point where I have creases in my forehead and crows feet next to my eyes.

This is me.

My path has not been easy, and I have the creases to show for it. But I’ve laughed a lot along the way, and I have the creases to show for that, too.

Also, I’ve spent 20 years raising my eyebrows at kids, and I have the creases to show for that.

The last five years have been especially unkind to my skin. Stress is unforgiving like that; age was a sidekick.

This is me.

I could buy stuff and try to cover it all up, but then who you see wouldn’t be me any more. It would be some weird likeness. A china doll version.

I’ve been spoken to pretty harshly for my opinions on makeup.

But really, I wish we could all just like our faces.

Posted in ebb & flow, gifts, hope, mindset, podcasts, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: creativity (and so much more)

TED has started a new podcast series called TED Interviews, where Chris Anderson interviews people who have give TED talks about their talks, and they get more in depth.

I haven’t quite listened to all of them, but all that I’ve listened to have been captivating. (As of this writing, there are only six of them.)

I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, mostly known for writing Eat, Pray, Love. (I haven’t read it.)

First, they got into creativity. She talked a short bit about the history of creativity (who knew there was one?!) I loved the imagery in what she had to say:

“The way I describe it is the way I’ve empirically experienced it, which is broken down in my life to this notion: that ideas are living entities. They have consciousness. They don’t have matter. They can’t be seen, they can’t be felt, they can’t be proven, but they have will. And the way I picture it—and it’s sort of whimsical but I have also literally based my life on this—is the universe is sort of swirling with these ideas that wish to be created and they’re constantly looking for human collaborators because for some reason we have this oddly sensitive consciousness that can hear them and find them. And so the way I picture it is they sort of just roam around being like, ‘Are you my mother? Are you my mother? Are you my mother?’ And every single human who is struck by inspiration describes the experience exactly the same way … there’s this distraction where the idea sort of consumes you and in that consuming which can take months, weeks, years, the idea is interviewing you and asking you, ‘Do you wanna do this thing with me or not?’ And that’s the most important conversation that I think human beings can have, is that dialogue between your willingness to cooperate and show up and make something with this idea and manifest it and the idea’s desire to be made and the question of whether you are indeed the right partner.”

Whimsical was a solid word to describe the idea, but I love the imagery. Even more, though, I love the ownership of the work, and how the idea doesn’t just come and magically happen—it’s a partnership. “Your labor is the contribution to the miracle.” (She says that later.)

She talked more about that in other places in the podcast as well.

They also talked about curiosity vs. passion, enchantment vs. empiricism, fear, memes (not the pictures on the internet), secular magic, dark night of the soul, why to do the work if it’s likely to fail, and quite a bit about grieving.

It’s an hour long, and it’s well worth your hour. I listened to it twice, in addition to the bits I listened and paused so I could transcribe.

Posted in about me, hope, meandering, mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Toxic Thanksgiving

When you are Other in your family—for whatever reason—holidays are stressful.

I always felt trapped on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because “the holidays are about family” but my family was toxic. There was nowhere else to go when I was living at home, and it took me moving across the country to be able to set a boundary after I moved out.

Thank goodness for books, right?

Our current tradition is to go to a National Park or National Monument for Thanksgiving. They’re not crowded, and all cultural Thanksgiving expectations are eliminated.

What a relief.

We have an advantage here, in that there are so many National Parks and Monuments within a few hours’ drive, so we can go for two or three days without issue. Sometimes we camp; sometimes we stay in a hotel.

Maybe you’d like to break the tradition, too, but you’re not near many parks. Or aren’t interested in them. What do you like? (I hear you, people who answered “sweatpants, book, tea, couch”!) What is relatively nearby?

If you’re in this emotionally disastrous place, if Thursday is a day you dread (or worse, the whole weekend) because of the people you feel obligated to spend it with, I’m sorry. I know your pain. Our reasons might be different, but the hurts still hurt.

I encourage you to examine your obligation and to see if maybe there’s somewhere else for you to go, ideally with someone who is safe. (If not this year, since that’s in two days, perhaps next year?)

If that’s just not possible (and there are a million legit reasons why it might not be—don’t flog yourself), build in some self-care. Take something with you to do. Make sure you have clothes to be able to go for a walk or a run (depending on what you prefer). Maybe plan something with nearby friends for some time in the day when family obligations are lower (in the evening, for example, if you have an afternoon meal). Sometimes just bringing unfamiliar people into the mix puts the bad people on good behavior, which at least will buy you a respite.

You are loved. You are worth it.

 

Posted in books, hope, mental health, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Book quote: family and belonging

I listened to Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. (OK, I listened to part of it. But audiobooks and I have a complicated relationship, and I didn’t finish it before it was due back at the library.)

Given my unpleasant relationship with my family of origin, this quote spoke to me. There is something comforting about the end…but I’ll talk about it after you read it.

Also, given that I’m transcribing from an audiobook, I can’t guarantee that the punctuation is as you’d see it in the book.

“Even in the context of suffering … Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break out heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth… And when those things break, there are only three outcomes …

“One, you live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting pain on others.

“Two, you deny your pain and your denial ensures you pass it on to those around you and down to your children.

“Or number three, you find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and for others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a very unique way.”

That bit at the end—spotting hurt in the world in a very unique way—is like a consolation prize. “You didn’t have what you needed when you needed it, and sometimes you still don’t. People who haven’t experienced it don’t understand it and often, you’re blamed for what was inflicted on you. But you get to have the capacity to help others the way you wished you had been helped.”

Better than passing it on. And hopefully, helping someone else not to pass it on.

Posted in about me, hope, mindset, vulnerability

Go make a ruckus

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I’ve been reading and listening to a fair amount of Seth Godin lately.

He ends his podcasts with “Go make a ruckus.” In other words, take what you have to offer, and offer it.

Another piece of that, though, is that work that isn’t good won’t spread. (Lots of angles on the word “good,” but I don’t want to get stuck on that here.)

If what you write resonates with people, it will spread.

I am not a marketer, in many respects. (We’re all marketers in some ways. Another post for another day.) A handful of years ago, my business failed. Not because I didn’t have value to offer—I’m an excellent teacher, speaker, coach, mentor—but because I didn’t have the know-how (or the courage, if I’m being totally honest) to put myself out there.

I’m not totally sure where “out there” is.

I’ve always been an introvert. I’m perfectly content to stay home. (My husband is the driving force on adventures and travel.) I’ve never been into almost anything in pop culture. (I came of age in the 80s without ever having big hair or stonewashed jeans … though I did have lots of neon and a pair of parachute pants.) So looking for places that people go or talking about things people talk about is foreign to me. Still.

So this is my thing: I don’t know how to discern between “it’s stagnant because it’s not that good” and “it’s stagnant because these things take time” or “it’s stagnant because it hasn’t ‘resonated with the cool kids’ yet.”

My request of you: if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, share it with someone else who might enjoy it. I can be added to an RSS feed. I can be followed on Facebook. You can get on my mailing list if you’re not already (one email per week, with links from that week—no spam—this is my hobby, not my livelihood).

In return, I’ll do my best to add value to your life, to make worthwhile the time you spend here reading.

Posted in mindset, motivation, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

The disclaimer post

While it seems to be possible to push someone’s buttons regardless of the topic, many of the things I write about are known triggers for people.

Instead of writing a disclaimer in every post, urging readers to remember this and that, I decided to just write it all once, and I’ll link back to it as needed. (The first link back is tomorrow.)

So here it is: I’m not judging you. I’m not shaming you. In many cases, I don’t even know you.

I’m sharing with you my life experience. This is where I am now; this is where I’ve been. It’s not a contest.

In the past roughly 12 years, healthy living has been a priority. Changing what I eat, how I think about what I eat, (eventually) what I feed my kid, how much I sleep, how much I exercise, how I think about a wide variety of things … it’s been A Big Thing for me for a long time.

Some of it is easy. Some of it is hard. Most of it varies by the day.

My experience growing up in my family was substantially negative and has left all kinds of scars. I promised myself that as a parent, I would do better. It is a high priority for me—higher than healthy living (though they really go together)—to raise my son to be emotionally healthy and astute.

If I’m writing about something you’ve never really thought about, or thought about but haven’t put into place (or a million other possibilities), some of what I write might poke you. That’s not my intention—my posts are not written AT anyone.

But if you examine that poke and dig into it a little and figure out WHY it’s pokey—instead of blowing it off as “Heat is [your favorite putdown]”—you might learn something about yourself. And that’s how we grow.

Don’t compare your insides to my outsides.

I try to be transparent so you can see struggles where they exist(ed), but in real life, these are blog posts, and while I’m willing to share a lot, there are some things I’m not willing to share and some things that aren’t mine to share.

And there’s the issue of volume: there’s only so much I’m willing to write and there’s only so much you’re willing to read (if we’re all honest here).

I’m talking about what I’ve done in hopes that you take something from it and run with it, not so you can berate yourself for not doing better.

Start now. Pick a little something and do better now. Because you can.