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

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Peering into the closet

Sometimes we need to dig into the closet. What is in there that scares us?

I’ve read that the Chinese New Year’s FIRE ROOSTER brings with it the energy of tidying up, letting go, and being fastidious. 

Recently I fully embraced the rooster energy and decided to spontaneously empty and organize our walk-in closet. To the untrained eye the room was full of assorted piles of crap. Not so! I had fastidiously sorted each and every last content into items in need of repair (buttons sewn on, stains removed); items to donate–with sub-categories including the items to take to the domestic violence shelter thrift store (clothes mostly) and items to donate to a home for young mothers in foster care (for them, only the nicest household items, some children’s clothes and toys and don’t ask why those things were even in my closet in the first place.). And then was the pile of trash. The pile of random mementos that needed to put tucked away. The pile of clothes that no longer fit but maybe if I lose those last ten pounds? The pile of office supplies (why were they in there….?) You get the idea.

SO. MANY. PILES.

A week later and the project is complete, including the addition of a new plush rug inside the closet that my daughter and I gleefully rolled around on, all the while absorbing the beauty of the clean and orderly closet! 

I thought my Fire Rooster energy had run its course. It turns out, no so fast.

Alas, it seems there were other dark spaces that had slow and steadily collected items out of view. Left in the dark but ready for light to be shined upon them. 

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting as much recently. Mostly this is because I have been doing a lot of artwork, and also keeping busy with my little project #100daysofhope (mostly on instagram).

You could say I’ve been consumed by my art. Every spare moment I seem to be in front of the watercolors. I’ve been posting them on Instagram…and then something started to happen.

Within the span of days several people asked to purchase prints I had made. Did I have a store?

I think the best way to describe what happened next would be paralysis. 

I know, it makes zero sense. This is awesome, people want to buy my artwork! How wonderful!

Yes, yes yes. But it meant getting my act together. It meant collecting and properly scanning and uploading and editing and printing and….and….all the excuses you can imagine. Know what it really meant?

It meant shining a light on my creative work. IT MEANT VULNERABILITY.

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Image found online

The universe was giving me so many nudges, it was ridiculous. And then my sister called. She urged me for the thousandth time to setup a damn online shop. And after I told her about the inquiries she jokingly and lovingly scolded me, WHAT? Sarah get your butt in gear!

I was a tad defensive. Do you know how busy I am? Blah blah blah. Well, in talking to her, I decided to cut work early yesterday and at least get started on the project. 

So yesterday afternoon, dragging my feet still, I slowly assembled the artwork until every last piece was laying on my bed.

My jaw dropped. There was SO MUCH ARTWORK. I had created all this? All this time it had been tucked away in the dark, in need of fastidious sorting and cataloguing.

And it needed light.

At this point in the afternoon I realized I needed to make a call. I left a message for my sister and I told her she would not believe how much artwork it turns out that I had! (Oh, I think she knew.) I thanked her for the nudge. The loving nudge to push the baby bird out of the nest. The bird who was more than ready to fly.

I’m sorting, scanning and fastidiously editing and preparing to print the artwork. I will gleefully-and fearfully-share with you when they are posted online for sale. And if I drag my heals, you officially have permission to nudge this baby bird once again.

What about you? What is hiding in your closet, in the dark, in need of light and air? Are there things you need to let go of? Are there things that need to be seen? Who can hold you accountable and gently push you out of the nest? The fire rooster calls!


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Honoring My Urge to Clean

I recently took a day off of work to clean. Spontaneously, with gusto, and with more love for cleaning products (stainless steel appliance cleaners! fancy sponges!) than, well, ever before probably in the history of Sarah.

I am not a neat freak. I used to be a slob. I am a recovering slob. Let’s just say I lean toward being a tad like one of my favorite law school professors. His office had stacks and stacks of papers, so much so that he refused to move offices even when he received a promotion. He knew exactly where everything was in that chaotic mess, thank-you-very-much.

I’m not that bad, but I definitely lean in that direction.

My husband is the neat freak. He gets a little too twitchy about it sometimes for my taste. But it is ok because he balances out my lackadaisical tendencies.

So back to the day off to clean.

It was glorious.spring_clean_with_cc

Lately I had been feeling unmoored. Things in my life that should feel steady and constant hadn’t felt steady and constant.

My solution to all of this was to clean. To assert some order in the chaos. To rid the stagnant and stale energy of October and usher in the gloriousness that is this November.

This is not my usual solution. In fact, my brain was trying to talk me out of it. (“What a silly way to spend a day off” “Why is this bugging me so much, shouldn’t I be able to let it go?”)

I overrode all the negative chatter and I went to my happy place: T.J. Maxx. I slowly wandered the store with my short cart, no child in tow, no husband, just me and a coffee, sniffing candles and perusing sale racks. I realize it is consumeristic and a bit ridiculous to claim that T.J. Maxx is my happy place. And I assure you, when I was in labor with my daughter I was not envisioning the quiet, fluorescent-lit aisles as I breathed through a contraction.

But T.J. maxx and its aisles of storage bins, linen sprays, and laundry baskets was just what the doctor ordered. I got handy-dandy containers to organize my pantry. Bins that hold canned goods! A cute little container for your sponge and scrubber that suctions to the side of the sink.

And when I got home, I cranked up the NPR, put on scrubby clothes and got to work. IT FELT SO GOOD. I cleaned, I organized, I argued with political commentators on the radio.

It totally and completely renewed me.

It turns out that a day off to clean was exactly, precisely what I needed. It wasn’t my typical “self-care” regimen, for sure. I love yoga, meditation, a walk in the woods just as much as the next gal. But this time when my soul spoke, it told me it wanted to scrub dirt. And watch Strange Things on Netflix until too late into the night.

Yesterday, the day after my cleaning-day-off, I got an email from the writer/retreat leader Jennifer Loudon entitled “The Spiritual Importance of Watching TV” and gee, talk about timely. She writes:

Forget the spiritual ideal of trying to be awake and aware all the time. Or doing only “healthy” things to recharge. Let alone always pushing yourself to be “better and better.”
….
I see too many people, especially women, holding themselves to some spiritual ideal or some productivity guru’s ideal of what life should look like.

Self-improvement all the time!
Striving to be awake and aware 100% of the time.
Working 8 hours a day without a break. (You can’t do it, but you may think you should be able to – so draining.)

It all becomes another way to terrorize yourself with some impossible ideal.
….

You end up settling for crumbs, for what I call shadow comforts: things that don’t truly nourish you, but because you think giving yourself what you really want is lazy or even dangerous, you end up starving yourself of real rest and relaxation.

And then you rebel. Maybe by binge watching 10 hours of Netflix or eating food you aren’t hungry for or by giving up working on your creative dream.

By listening to my body’s weird request to clean and categorize, I found deep satisfaction. I can’t tell you how much it recharged me.

(And my husband, well I told him not to get used to this or anything. Unless it turns out I’ve been hiding an inner-neat-freak all these years!)

I leave you with this: what if you listened to your deepest desires and needs without judgment. What would that look like? And if you rebel against it, why might that be?


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I am called to listen to the sound of my own heart

“I am called to listen to the sound of my own heart—to write the story within myself that demands to be told at that particular point in my life. And if I do this faithfully, clothing that idea in the flesh of human experience and setting it in a true place, the sound from my heart will resound in the reader’s heart.”

Katherine Paterson 

A Lesson in Lightening Up, Letting Go

Which meltdown do I begin with? Me yesterday frantically trying to find my daughter’s Halloween costume (the one I purposely bought early since I knew I would be busy traveling for work) only to lose it and despair over the fact? Or the blueberry smoothie that spilled over half the living room rug and had me yelling at nobody in particular? Or maybe it was the bathroom desperately in need of mopping before someone mistakes it for a baseball stadium restroom. (Thank the kiddo and her pee-pee accidents for that.)

Yes, yesterday was a Day. It was a day where I felt so super-charged in my responses to fairly benign stresses (or at least routine ones) that it was hard at times to remember that I shouldn’t just blindly obey the part of my brain that desires a knee-jerk reaction, and more importantly that I should not identity with those emotions and distorted thoughts that demand I feel victimized, or resentful, or defeated, or righteous. What Jen Pastiloff calls the “bullshit stories”, the false soundtrack about our life that we all create as human beings. So much easier said than done, especially when the lizard brain is clamoring to be in charge.

Yesterday, as I was frantically looking for my daughter’s costume so she could wear it to a Halloween-themed birthday party, I got teared up. It was silly and I knew that, but the emotions overcame me and I just let them. I needed the cry and I didn’t fully understand it but I tried to just be with it. My daughter saw me upset and she playfully started poking me with her broom and said “cheer up mama!” I could not help but laugh. How perfect, right? The costume that was for my daughter (not me) and yet was causing me such distress. But she wasn’t in tears! We had found a dress that looked sufficiently “witch-ish” and she had her hat and broom and what was all this fuss about exactly?

A reminder not to take ourselves so seriously.

free-flying-witch-clip-art-graphicsfairy

That as intense and strong as those emotions may be, they are not us, they are simply the wave that is surfacing and we can ride it and–yes–even laugh!

I needed that reminder from my almost-four-year-old. A young human being who knows all about intense emotions, and yet also seems to inherently know that sometimes you just pick up your broom, brush off, and keep flying.

 

 

 

The Dream

There is a large hall full of people, but I initially chose the small side room. I was there by myself, surrounded by plates and plates of hors d’oeuvres. The restaurant servers kept delivering them to me. (My late mother–who was not present because, hello, deceased–had pre-ordered these hors d’oeuvres for everyone. Which if you knew my mom is so my mom.)

It got lonely in this little room. Plus, all this abundance to share. I could not consume it alone. 

I came into the great hall only to discover a series of long tables full of friends and family who had been waiting to see me.

At this point I tried on several different outfits until I found what is comfortable on my skin (ahh–to be comfortable in our own skin) and then I spent time catching up with everyone. So much time had already been lost! 

Dreams, ammiright?