The Only Way Around is Through

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It has been almost a year since my epic California road trip with one of my best friends. I got the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time, explore Big Sur and visit the Red Wood forest, which is something I had been looking forward to since I was a child. Every aspect of our journey was magic, but there were some struggles to overcome. Our rental car was a dud and we had to postpone the second leg of our journey by a half a day as we limped back to the airport to exchange it. Jamie struggles to sleep comfortably the first night in a new place and we changed hotels/locations almost every night. My snoring didn’t help either. Having my wallet stolen at Red Rocks the day before our trip was a huge inconvenience as well. All of that aside, we were able to work everything out and had one of the best trips I have ever been on. 

I have been thinking about this trip a lot lately and wishing I could go back in time and do it again. A full week with one of my favorite people in some of the most beautiful places I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful I got to see and stay in Big Sur when I did. 

Last week I found myself at a coffee shop after class. I had been planning on meeting a friend. I told her where I was in the coffee shop and said I had arrived a little early since traffic had been kind. She messaged back quickly that the day had gotten away from her and she wouldn’t be able to make it. I was faced with the decision to pack up and head home, or enjoy a coffee and work on some writing. I decided to do the latter, and pulled up my working outline. 

I have been working on this novel for a while. I realized about year ago that much of what I had already written was merely backstory. I had to scap a lot of it. And I have been really struggling with the plot points in the second act. Really struggling. Everything I outlined seemed cliche and boring. Yet, as I sat there sipping my Americano, I had a second act break through. I was able to tie in some of the old ideas in a way that felt fresh and rang true for the the characters and how I wanted them to grow through the story. I outlined the whole second act and felt at ease with these new plot points. Now, I have to write it, but I’m excited to tackle this new leg of the journey. Now I have a map. 


Brene Brown speaks about this same struggle in her magnificent book, Rising Strong. She writes of working with Pixar Animation Studios President and staff. The Pixar team explained that the middle of the creative process is the hardest part, in the writing and story telling, but also for the character. I would have to agree. I used to loathe editing, but now it is the part I love the most. The shaping of the story is fun. The slugging along through the middle has had me stuck in creative quicksand for a long time. As Brene states, “You can’t skip the second act.”

This is true in so many parts of life, not just the creative practice. The second act is difficult and trying. There are times it feels as if you will be walking uphill forever. I have been feeling this in my personal life as well. There are great things, don’t get me wrong, but there are deep struggles too. Brene also tells us, ” If we are brave enough, often enough, we’re going to fall. Rising Strong is about what it takes to get back up and keep being courageous with our lives.” 

Holding space and continuing to work and move through the hard stuff can be daunting, but it is worth it. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to storytelling in the first place. It is the shared experience of the human condition that intrigues and excites me. The good stuff wouldn’t feel so grand without the hard stuff to compare it to. There is also grace in accomplishing something seemingly impossible. You always get to keep that prize, you made it through whatever daunting thing had been placed in your path. And when the next hardship rears its ugly head, you aren’t hopeless, because of all the dragons you have slayed before. As Brene so brilliantly reminds us, ” The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens.”

Take a Breath

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Happy Summer! It has been hot here in Colorado, but nothing compared to some other states! I have been on summer break for a couple weeks and I wish I could slow down summer. Time off always seems to fly by! Every year I  find myself making big plans for productivity and projects as the school year is winding down, and inevitably, I neglect to schedule rest. My body had some plans of its own and I am proud of myself for listening and slowing down this year without judgement or criticism.

I don’t seem to be able to sleep in anymore, which is sad, but it has actually been nice getting up early in the day, even if I am moving at a slower pace. I have found myself being a bit lonely lately too, which makes the quiet difficult. That said, the quiet is what I have been craving. I used to ignore my self care in a reckless fashion, and now that I’m invested in my health (mental, physical, spiritual etc.) I know that when my body talks, I need to listen. 

I have made some goals for the summer, but have given myself some wiggle room for those days when the thing I need to accomplish the most is rest. I have been outlining and organizing my wip in Scrivener. I’ve been journaling. I’ve been napping. I started teaching this week and the structure of seeing kids again has been nice. It is only half days, a couple days a week, but I think I am enjoying it because I have gotten some rest and quiet. 

I also started a new tattoo about a week ago. It is healing nicely, but because of the location of the tattoo, I haven’t worked out in a week. I realized yesterday that the lack of exercise was negatively affecting my mood. Today I was planning on meeting a friend at a coffee shop. She had a conflict, so I sipped my iced Americano and worked on my book. I came home and danced and did some yoga. It felt really good to move again. To breathe in that particular way that clears my head and centers me back in my body. 

There will definitely be adventures this summer. I have already had the chance to do some really fun things with friends. I will go to the mountains and kayak and float in a hot spring. I will continue to work on this story. I will rest. I will breathe. 

For What it’s Worth

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you would have noticed that I have had trouble getting back into a writing groove since The Christmas Child was published. I have had some false starts and some deep dry periods. I don’t know if it’s fair to say I’ve been blocked because I think about writing all the time – I just haven’t gotten many words on the page. 

Things are changing. I have some major writing momentum right now and it feels great. I am flooded with ideas and edits and images. Over spring break, I took some quiet time to go inside and practice some necessary self-care. I worked most of the week on an application for a content writer position for an online magazine I really respect and believe in. It felt like a long shot, but I thought it might be good for my inner writer to work through this and write the two samples they requested for the application. It felt good to find my writer voice again. It felt great to edit and fine tune every paragraph and sentence. It was difficult to write with such extreme honesty and vulnerability, but it shook something loose.

Surprisingly, it opened the floodgates for my fiction as well. I started to work through the details of a short story project I’ve been sitting on for a couple years. I felt renewed enthusiasm for my wip and have a plan for finishing this draft. In this environment of self-care, I’ve been able to drown out a lot of noise. I think some of these ideas just needed a safe space available so they could show up. 

This last week I learned I made it to the second round and they published one of my submissions. I was so proud to see my article on their website, next to articles that inspire and move and challenge me. My excitement only grew when I was met with such support and love from the people in my life. On Saturday, I learned that I got the position and will be signing on for six months, with an option to extend my contract after that. It still doesn’t really feel real as I write that. I have been published before, but never on this scale. I am beyond honored and grateful to join them and add to their work. 

When I let people know, I was overwhelmed by their excitement, joy, encouragement and validation of the worth of my writing and my worth as a writer. I was worried that my work might not be up to par, but these people never doubted it. I even received a handful of comments about how they were happy to see this organization was seeing what they already knew. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the “stuck” energy I have been feeling over the last couple of years has been about not feeling worthy or good enough. I wrote this one thing I was proud of, but could I write something else that was good? I clearly had other stories to tell, but could I get out of my own way to tell them? The answer was no for a long time. That answer has started to change. 

I’m still an equal mix of excitement and nerves. I am empowered and feeling very humbled all at once.  Hearing kind words and support of my worth is helpful, but I am starting to feel my own worth as a writer again as well. I am looking forward to seeing what this next chapter has in store. 

Spring in my Step

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It has been feeling like spring and I am loving it. We are getting down to the last couple of months of school, my birthday is coming up, and it’s warm and sunny. I have had a hard couple of months. Lots of stress has taken its toll, and I am finding myself in desperate need of a reset.

I have been seeing a therapist again and I am very grateful for the support and perspective she brings to my life. We have been talking about ways to get energy in, instead of having all my energy drained out. Upon reflection, I’ve decided to take a month to really concentrate on self-care and do what I can to fill my cup.

I had a hard time embracing the idea of self-care when I was introduced to it. As a people pleaser, type A person, the idea of down time seemed ridiculous. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve learned over the years that time to rest is almost more important than the work I do. I’ve learned that I need to listen to my body, my energy, my spirit, my heart and take time when it is asking me to. Even though I have learned this, but I am not always good about slowing down.

That said, this thirty-day reboot is an opportunity to do just that. Take a break. Do things that are good for me. Do things that fill me up. Be around people who support me, where I am right now…not people who drag me down or expect me to give my all and not give me anything back. I’m reading some books, doing a yoga practice everyday, trying to create a bedtime ritual that promotes true rest and writing.

Yep, I said it. Writing is a big part of self-care for me. I ignore that fact from time to time, but I feel more grounded and stable as a human when I’m writing regularly. I have recently started working on a freelance content writing portfolio with a graphic designer and I applied to an online magazine I really admire and respect.

For a couple of weeks I was really stuck. Paralyzed by a fear of not being good enough and daunted by the task of writing the samples and resume. However, I jumped in over Spring Break and worked really hard to finish my submission on time. Writing vulnerable and honest essays about my life and editing them over a week, opened up a door in my heart that I hadn’t realized was closed.

Now I’m getting a rush of ideas and am feeling excited to be writing again. It’s hard sometimes to come to a blank page, but so is trying harder yoga sequences when I’m still a beginner. Not quitting and doing my best is really invigorating.

I am excited to see what these thirty days of reflection, intention and rest bring. I am only four days in, but I’m already feeling a difference.

Evolution 

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Welcome to the fallout. Welcome to resistance. The tension is here. The tension is here. Between who you are and who you could be. Between how it is and how it should be…Switchfoot

I recently went through some of the old CD’s in my car. Yes…I still listen to CD’s in the car, don’t judge! I found one from six or seven years ago and as much as I enjoyed going back in time with those songs, I also was humbled by a profound realization. Every single song on that mix was about me being lost…the lyrics were about owning who you are, finding love, finding your voice, loving your life, becoming the person you were meant to be. 

Growth happens over time and so gradually, that it feels subtle to the person experiencing it, most of the time. Yet, listening to those songs again, was a huge reminder of how far I’ve come. I am not perfect. Far from it, in fact, but I have worked hard to slay most of those dragons. I will always love the songs on that mix, but they are no longer my anthems. They are memories. They aren’t me anymore. 

I used so much energy not being good enough for so many years, it’s a wonder I accomplished anything. It has been difficult to see that I was the one blocking my path forward in many instances, but it felt incredible to listen to those songs and know that I have changed that. Stress and the unknown always make me want to sabatage again, but I’ve learned to see those triggers for what they are and I have strategies to avoid those old pitfalls. 

I am still learning and growing, I don’t think that will ever change. According to the dictionary, evolution is a gradual development, especially from something simple to more complex. I still have areas to develop, that’s for certain. I’m still learning to balance my work life and my artistic leanings. I’m still learning balance in romantic and family relationships. I’m still learning who I am as a writer and performer. However, none of that discounts how far I’ve come already. 

Maybe redemption has stories to tell. Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell. Where can you run to escape from yourself? Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go? Salvation is here. I dare you to move. 

Dinner is Served

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I  love to cook. This has always been the case, but it was very difficult to cook for one for many years. It took a while to figure it out. I also have two major food allergies that make it difficult to eat out and be satisfied. I can modify just about anything, but if I want it, I have to figure out how to make it happen in my own kitchen. This could have been very challenging, but it’s actually been a positive thing. I had to learn how to cook again and it has opened me up to another form of creativity.

I have been listening to podcasts recently as I cook dinner. One  in particular has been incredibly juicy. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Her book of the same title came into my life at a critical time and it has helped me dispel some of the myths I had held about myself and my ability to create. The most recent episode really hit me, as did the episode with Neil Gaiman. These podcasts have quite literally been food for my soul.

The podcast I listened to tonight spoke of many important things, but most importantly for my journey, was the concept of showing up before you’re ready. Knowing that you are never going to truly be ready, but here is the Universe offering you an invitation anyway. I cried as I sautated my Brussels sprouts, hearing my thoughts and feelings expressed through another woman’s voice. I think this is why I create. To find meaning and find myself in others. It helps me feel connected to something bigger than I am. It helps me makes sense of the world, when it is so often senseless.

My life has been topsy-turvy the last few months. I made a major change for my good, but I am not someone who handles change well. Even when it is what is best for me. Creative endeavors ground me. They lead me home and I discovered later than I care to admit, that when life feels overwhelming, the best thing I can do is create. I might never write the great American novel or headline Red Rocks (although  I’m still working on making those things happen) but I can make dinner. I can take ingredients and use my magic to create something special and delicious. I am going to continue trying to find meaning. I’m going to start accepting that invitation.

Hello Autumn

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Today is the first day of fall. I realize that I haven’t written here in a really long time. I think of it often, like a childhood friend. However, that was not enough to get me here. Many things have contributed to this, but I am starting to get my sea legs again and felt compelled to write today. Autumn is so yummy. I have written about it here almost every year. I have written a song about it. I take dozens of pictures every year. The weather cools to a perfect degree. The light is spectacular all day and the world perks up with deep hues on every leaf. 

It also signals an internal change. I go inside and reflect. I take stock of the year, the previous seasons, and think of the trials and the triumphs. I remember that soon the world around will get darker and cold. Maybe this is why fall is so beautiful. To remind us that not every moment can be bold and colorful, there has to be reserve and stillness for balance. 

I have been slowly making my way back to a writing practice. I am making real head way with a book that has been haunting me for years. I am doing yoga and dancing and meditating. I have been okay with saying no, when it needs to be said. I changed jobs. I planned to move, only to learn it was best to stay put. I went on an amazing adventure with one of my best friends, and got to see some things I had been dreaming to experience since I was a little girl. I promise to write about it soon. 

Autumn teaches me important lessons. It has ushered in new love, and guided me back to my heart time and time again. It is magic and I’m exited to see what it has to show me this year.