The Girl Who Sat in Trees

Before there were synced calendars and day planners and even before there were trapper keepers, there was a little girl who sat in trees. She sat in the trees for what felt like hours, though it might have been mere minutes. She dreamed, journal-ed and sketched. She transported to a place of joy and bliss, cradled in the crooks of maples and oaks, conversing with imaginary beings.

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Creative Commons license “CentreOfAttention” .

Eventually the little girl grew up and as happens, she stopped sitting in trees. She loved her art and writing and singing, but she was so very good at accomplishing what was asked of her –grades, scores certificates and awards–that little by little the doing and achieving overtook the being and dreaming. Sure, there were times she held on tightly; she traded calculus for art class, she filled nearly three dozen personal journals, and she took an art class here or there even as an adult. But no doubt, over time she shifted. She was a girl with goals and one day even the art was remembered as the silly musings of a child; the dreaming became purely the intellectual kind.

Nobody told her to put down the paint brush. They didn’t need to. She was a good rule-follower and she understood the unspoken rules of a world that stood in direct opposition to the place in the trees.

And so it was that decades later she found herself at the finish line all burned out and dried up. Even then she didn’t understand why. She was doing her very best to practice self-care and find balance within the system. She followed her heart within this system. She defied norms within this very system! So why wasn’t it working? What she didn’t know then is that no system–even this artificial world dominated by deadlines, goals and outputs, where rest was seen as a means to at some point get more done–did not exist outside the laws of nature. As far removed as she was from those trees of her childhood, the moon still waxed and waned above her. The seasons turned. The oak rested in winter and sprouted leaves in spring. Try as she might to will herself to make it work–to power through as she had always done–simply no longer worked because the answers would never be found in the wasteland.

The Heroine’s Journey

The Wasteland burns us up and burns us out. Instead of following your own instincts, instead of discovering what it is that gives us joy, what makes our heart sing, we spend most of our lives trying to make other people happy…living from our head rather than our instinct for what is good and healthy.

[…]

The Heroine’s Journey for these times is a journey out of the Wasteland. Each of us has our own unique set of stories to tell: the story of the years we spent in the Wasteland, the story of our awakening, and the story of the path we took out of it.

~Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted

Follow the Joy

Those were the words I heard last year, over and over. Follow the joy. It was that simple, so simple that it boggled my mind at times. Really, that’s it? Follow the joy? But where is it leading me and then what and what about after that? Listen, I’m an INFJ and if you know about myers-briggs you know that the J stands for judgment. It might as well stand for “Just watch me control and plan and assess and judge and achieve goals.” Follow the joy is so . . .fluid.  Where is the road map?! Oh right there isn’t one. Because it unfolds every moment of every day. 

As I enter 2018 I’m not making goals or resolutions, other than to continue to follow the joy. To suspend judgement. To sit in the mystery. To drop ideas and attachments. I’ve reached the place where I know that I don’t know much at all. Or at least, what I knew is no longer relevant to where I am now. I’m not going to throw out the yang with the yin, not at all. But I’m going to find a balance of being that honors the mystery, the dreaming, the intuiting as much as the assessing, the planning and the creating.

Where it takes me is likely beyond what my small mind could ever have dreamed. When I look back at 2016 to 2017 that is most certainly true.  The ego had plans and the universe laughed. Thank goodness because the universe brought so much joy and beauty with its plans–I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

Shonda Rhimes can keep her Year of YES. 2017 was my year of NO!

This past year was like the cleanup after a hurricane. (Which incidentally I also lived through.) If 2016 was the hurricane, 2017 the now what? after the hurricane.

After the real hurricane–Irma–I was surrounded by so many blessings. I saw them everywhere I looked. My house was still standing! The flood waters stopped short of entering my front door! (Barely.) The palm tree went down, sure, but it missed hitting our roof! And electricity, blessed electricity I so-take-for-granted–it eventually came back on!

That’s the thing about living through a hurricane. If you survive it mostly intact, it has a way of distilling what matters. For instance, living in a home with more than one room becomes a wonderful gift. (My daughter still to this day wants to play “hotel” because nothing was as amazing as having her mom and dad with her 24 HOURS A DAY, EVERY DAY, DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY, IN THE SHARED SPACE OF ONE HOTEL ROOM. She’s most definitely not an introvert like her mother, who to this day does not know how she survived the experience without totally losing her ish.)

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The year 2016: when I finally got tired of my own bullshit.

If 2017 was cleaning up after a hurricane, the year 2016  was the hurricane. I could say it was a year of deep surrender, unveiling of truths, healing wounds and rediscovering joy.  But really it was the year I owned my bullshit. (See Elizabeth Gilbert quote.) After that epic year of owning my shit, in 2017 it became very clear to me that experiencing joy was not compatible with duties that sucked the joy from my life. Shonda Rhimes may have had her year of yes, but 2017 was my year of no.

Yes, this past year was all about Does it bring me joy? No? GOODBYE FELICIA. Does it take time away from my ability to experience joy? SO LONG, WON’T CATCH YA LATER. Are my choices leading to burnout and fatigue, therefore limiting my energy to create art and experience joy? DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.

This of course was more complicated than I’m making it sound. In one stretch of weeks this past fall I remember collapsing while sick (likely due to lack of sleep) and crying in a puddle of tears. I CAN’T DO IT ALL, WOE IS MEEEEEEE! Well of course you can’t do it all, foolish woman! I had the startling realization that there was still a LOT more no to be said. I faced some major Catholic guilt…”but i promised these people I would volunteer with this project! I can’t possibly quit!” Yes you did, and now you must pay the piper and admit you over-committed. Suck it up buttercup! Time to say no!

I said no. . .and I survived. It felt good actually. I nurtured my yin — the feminine energy fueled by rest, introspection, creativity, and deep glorious sleep. I asked for a sleep mask for Christmas and I wear it with glee. I go to bed early, really early. I even (GASP) went off coffee for a long while so I could rid myself of the addiction to caffeine. It wasn’t needed now that I wasn’t trying to do more in a day than was humanly possible! Such joy and freedom in saying NO. For calling bullshit on the inner dialog that said “this is how it is, I work fulltime and have a child and blah blah blah here are alllll my excuses for why I should be permanently frazzled and fatigued.” Facing the truth–that my time is precious indeed, so how can I use it to fuel joy?–was LIBERATING and EMPOWERING.

Where does this leave me as I say goodbye to 2017? The trash has been taken out. The roles and responsibilities have been winnowed down to essentials only. Now I need to step into my truth. No more excuses. No more distractions. 2018 is where it becomes manifest. Ultimately it will mean living my truth. Time to take the plunge, baby. 

Are you ready? I am. Well, mostly. I’m sipping a coffee as I write this (some habits are hard to break) BUT I did sleep soundly for eight hours with my beloved sleep mask. No more excuses, no more hiding. Let’s do this.

You Sit on a Throne of Lies!

Why is it that when you know your scale is broken you still always assume everyone else’s scale is broken and ha ha don’t they know the only accurate reading is visible only to you in the privacy of your bathroom? 

Which is to say that I bought a new scale. Guess what. MY OLD SCALE LIED. Of course it did! I knew it did but I wanted to believe otherwise. Perhaps the snug feeling in my shorts *wasn’t* just my weight “rearranging itself.” That isn’t even a thing! Weight doesn’t one day go, “Hey Herald come with me to this belly region so we can try out a new view! You know, hanging outside the top of this lady’s shorts!”

What does this have to do with anything? Well, it seems that this week is all about slaying. Not slaying as in “Beyonce is slaying on the red carpet.” Slaying as in, time to slay all the damn illusions and lies you have been telling yourself for too long.

Think you are losing weight even though your damn scale is five pounds off? SLAY.

Think you are totally cool with and have come to peace and understanding about ——>INSERT LIFE ISSUE THAT SUCKS<—???

Think that while yes those confederate monuments are gross and racist and vile you never really considered that WE LITERALLY WALK AROUND WITH MONUMENTS CELEBRATING SLAVERY AND WHITE SUPREMACY IN THE SAME WAY AS IF GERMANY HAD KEPT UP A BUNCH OF HITLER STATUES AND YELLED AT PEOPLE WHO WERE LIKE UM THOSE ME UNCOMFORTABLE???

How did I not see all this?!

That’s right, the word of the week is slay.

Slay those illusions and falsehoods. Because the truth–that is something you can work with.

The scale speaks the truth and now you can accept reality and decide maybe not to eat the large Costco bag of Veggie Straws by the fistful. 

Life is hard and painful and yet…it’s only when you face the pain that you can release it. (Phew doesn’t that feel better?)

 

The confederate monuments are turd burgers so why not replace them with something way cooler like a statue of Missy Elliot please and thank you? (You can sign to support the cause here.

Anyway, you totally got this. Go slay some dragons. Excuse me while I got throw out that old, lying scoundrel of a bathroom scale. 

 

Pausing to enjoy the view

Today I officially became a member of my community’s Unitarian Universalist church.  It is the first time I can say wholeheartedly that I feel spiritually at home with a people, a congregation, a larger community.  It is wonderful. 

The road to this day was both immensely painful and at the same time full of more grace than I’ve ever experienced.  I joined shortly after having a miscarriage, and still on the heels of the loss of my mom.  

As I was thinking about how to even begin to describe this journey, a flow chart idea popped into my head. So I started doodling and diagraming. I’m going to share it tomorrow and plan to blog about it all week. I invite you to share your own stories (or diagrams!) too. 

Until then, a moment to savor the fruits of much hard inner work. There was a time when faith alone that this too shall pass was all I held onto. It felt impossible. It wasn’t, and it did pass, and only makes the joy in my heart today that much sweeter. 

up tomorrow, a map of healing