Monday, January 26, 2015

There is no other shoe to drop

Have you ever had a run of good things show up in your life and then get really nervous that something is going to come out of the blue and screw up your happy dance?

Let me tell you a little story.

Just a little over a week ago I was so elated that my kitchen was getting a full re-do and the result was a shiny new fridge with all the bells and whistles we'd hoped for at a dramatically reduced price.

A day after I published that blog entry I noticed my cat Turtle running around the house at full-speed. He looked like he was being chased by demons. I suspected our two small dogs had chased him but he was panting and foaming at the mouth, twitching and nervously jerking his head behind him like there was something evil just past his shoulder. He was staring into the distance, not recognizing me or his surroundings.

12:30AM we were in the pet hospital emergency room with Turtle hoping the vet could tell us what was wrong. Twenty four hours and a thousand dollars later it was determined he was having seizures. Something was wrong with our poor boy's brain and he needed to get on medication right away.

Later that week I take my Mom to the doctor to get a second opinion after a prior doctor had mismanaged her case. The new doctor called for a biopsy and sent me back to pick up the tissue sample the original doctor had taken. Forms, and phone calls and faxing and transfer fees--the original doctor wasn't interested in making it easy to get a second opinion it seemed.

I'm sure Mom is ok or at least will be with the right treatment. Still, its a biopsy.

Plenty of other things were happening on other fronts--some of them needing my immediate attention or at least needing me to take notice.

In the middle of that I had scheduled myself to teach a class on my book. I had many people sign up so I knew I needed to pull it together and make the magic happen.

Mountain high to the valley of stress below.

So many feelings.

But despite how stressful it was worrying over my Mom's diagnosis and my poor cat's well being, I found myself having pockets of joy.

When I focused on the class I was going to teach or my writing projects or even the fact that in a couple of days our new fridge would be showing up real joy would show up--real visceral joy.

Feeling joy when other things felt terrible left me kind of confused. How can these things be existing in the same space? Also, getting happy over something as trivial as a major appliance made me feel a little like a bad person.

Real joy just happens. Just like real pain.

I recall every time in the past where I talked myself out of moments of happiness worried about the "something" that was bound to happen to show me the error of being in a state of bliss.

Call it what you will, but that kind of denial is an ugly superstition born of the fact that life is in constant motion and we are exposed to a variety of experiences that elicit both pleasure and pain--sometimes in close and coincidental proximity--sometimes at the same time as well.

Here is some truth. You can't escape pain by denying joy--even the joy of a simple, silly thing.

Pain happens. So does joy. Let them both in. Feel them both fully.

Our little boy home again.
Just two nights after rushing him to the vet, we brought our kitty home fully doped up on anti-seizure meds.

That night Turtle slept between us. Every so often I would reach out to stroke his silky coat and feel the subtle rise and fall of his ribcage.

He was weak but hour by hour started to show that he remembered us. Eventually he treated us to his deep, contented purr. I couldn't stop my eyes from welling up--overcome with feelings of love and relief for this little soul I was sure we lost.

I don't know how long we get to have Turtle--you invite pets into your life knowing that they won't live as long as you and that someday you will lose them. I'm reminded of this every time something like this happens. But I don't stay in that thought.

I won't deny myself the joy of having Turtle with me today. I also won't spare myself the pleasure of sitting with Mom at her table for Sunday lunch. Or even the simple satisfaction of filling our new fridge with fresh produce and cold drinks. Its all good.

Do you believe in the other shoe dropping? Are you willing to give that up in favor of extra joy? Drop me a note and tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The magic of making room for what you want

This is a simple tale. No metaphysical magic implied but the real world kind that comes from when you move things around to make space for the things you desire. 

I give to you the tale of the new fridge that just wouldn't fit.

We have a guest living with us. She is a long time friend and business associate. Her specialty is helping her clients remove friction from their business and home spaces. Having her living with us is a little like having a genie in the house--things just start working better because of the small changes she recommends and implements. 

One evening she asked me about the small iceberg forming under the ice maker in the freezer.

"Oh yes, the freezer doesn't keep a consistent temperature--we want a new one but none of the fridges we've looked at will fit in the space. They are all about an inch too tall unless we get rid of that cabinet above the fridge. We are already short on usable storage."

That area of the kitchen isn't really storage. The cabinet is too high to use so we usually do things like pile bags of pretzels on the of the refrigerator. Its an area of clutter we never quite mastered.

"What if I can fix your storage problem"? 

"Ok, but I don't see how you can". 

Thus began a whirl wind of our guest  doing spacial drawings and creating 3-d mock ups with cardboard in the kitchen to show us a variety of ways we could redo storage. She moved items around showcasing her mock ups to show us how to reclaim space and get our counters back. 

After a week of a variety of prototypes, a solution was decided on that would give us four times the space we'd lose from the little cabinet and give us additional clear counter space. 

We took a trip to IKEA and found an occasional table that fit the space but needed some minor changes to be perfect. We installed it the next day and started moving items into their new home. The kitchen felt larger and easier to move it. 

Even if we didn't get the fridge I felt the effort was completely worth while. (also, I was a little afraid of removing the cabinet and possibly screwing up the look of kitchen if I botched it--so if nothing else happened I was good to go).

The next day Keri and I went for dim sum breakfast and decided on a whim to go up to the IKEA and get some small shelves that our guest pointed out that would help which would clear up some counter space. While up there we went to the neighboring Big Orange (not the real name of the store) to order a new blind for the kitchen.

Lo and behold Big Orange had fridges on sale! And there was the one Keri had just told me about for $1500 off list! 

Wow! I was very excited about this synchronicity and called the sales guy over.
Just then Keri noticed some scratches and a small dent. I wasn't too put off because of the price reduction but Keri was significantly less enthused. I told the sales guy we were interested in getting the fridge but then he said 1. delivery wasn't free, 2. they wouldn't take away the old unit and 3. we would have to bring the new unit in ourselves--it was their policy. WTF??? We bought from Big Orange before and they included all of that for free. 

The scratches, the difficulty with delivery (it weighs over 300lbs!!! not likely I'm going to be able to move that even with our guest helping!) It started to feel "hard"--like I was about to force something to happen because the deal seemed so good. Even though I was excited by the savings I realized my inner compass was swinging away from it. Keri said she felt it too so we walked out. 

In the evening Keri wanted to shop for some pretty baskets for our new storage unit and asked if we could "just look" at the fridges at Giant Yellow Tag (also, not the real name of the store). We went out and Giant Yellow Tag  was also having a sale! 

I walked the aisles not seeing an option that was good for our kitchen. Just as I thought we ran out of inventory Keri called me one row over. 

There in front of us was a floor model fridge for $300 less than the one we saw that afternoon at Big Orange. No scratches on the outside and when we opened it they hadn't even taken out the packing materials--essentially a brand new unit. It wasn't the same maker/model but comparable in every way! Plus purchase included full install plus disposal of old unit. 

After paying for the unit, taxes and extended warranty (you want extended warranty that fo sho) the total was the same as the pretax on scratched unit we saw earlier! 

We paid the good man and our new fridge will be here thursday. This afternoon we removed the cabinet and the area is ready for our new toy!

No metaphysical mumbo jumbo here. But I have found time and again that when you intentionally make your circumstances ready for the thing you want, that thing has a way of turning up. I think its more like our minds are then trained to go on an intensive search to make the magic happen. 

What works, works. 

Give it a try. Think of something you really really want. Then do the things you know you need to do to make that thing fit in your life. See what happens. Then send me a message. I want to hear!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Putting yourself out there when you are an Introvert

One thing I've noticed from so many of the bright and shiny people I know is that a good number of them classify themselves as Introverted. 

I am one of them. 

This doesn't mean that I'm shy (although I can be, especially when I'm in situations or in a frame of mind that trends towards feeling shaky or insecure) but it does mean that social interactions with groups larger than 2 or 3 cost me something in terms of my personal energy. It means that every time I put myself out there and have to be heard above the maddening crowd I am spending from my personal reserves. Those reserves have to be replenished which I do by spending time alone doing my favorite things (reading, writing, art projects, taking long walks, meditating) or spending time with one or two close friends.
I can't see you so you can't see me!

When you fall into the Introvert camp there is a huge temptation to exclude yourself from highly visible, energy expending activities such as leading teams, public speaking or anything that puts you in contact with lots of people.

The thing is, being with people is where its at. 

If you are a writer, artist, teacher or anyone who creates, connecting your work to an audience is one of the most important things you can learn to do.

I had a meeting with my mentor this last week and I asked her about her first year as a coach and mentor and what was one of the things that helped her get over the hump (from spinning her wheels to an active, growing business) and she said it was being comfortable talking to others about herself.

I caught my breath for a moment. The idea of "talking about myself" pushed a big button.

One of the virtues we are taught as children (especially females) is to think of others first and not be so talky about ourselves. I mean, how can you serve others if all you are doing is blah-di-blahing about yourself? 

Well, my mentor isn't known for blah-di-blahing.

The kind of "talking about yourself" she was describing wasn't about ego, over-sharing or thumping your chest. Its about connecting--finding the intersection between you and the person sitting across from you. And to do that, you have to risk sharing yourself.

For introverts this is important to remember. Genuine connection can energize but to get to the energy you have to risk putting yourself out there. You do that by sharing about yourself. 

I took some public speaking classes a couple years ago and I was dead certain these would be a horrible waste of time. I just hated the idea of getting in front of a group of people (and it was on a Saturday AND my boss was making me go!!!). But I discovered I was actually pretty good at telling a story in front of an audience when I connected with the individual people in the room instead of talking "at" the group. 

I actually remember going home after the class feeling pretty chipper despite having interacted with a group all day--a much better outcome than what I expected (which included lots of Anime on Netflix and Smartfood...not a brilliant recharge but I wasn't exactly anticipating an evening of meditation after that).

Bottom line, I had to learn that I could manage my energy in these group (or even crowd) settings. Also, the more bitter pill, was that I had to own that I was using my introversion as an excuse to not share things that are important to me. There is a big difference between the manageable concern of dealing with your energy in a crowd and more garden variety concern of the fear of being judged. 

Fear of putting yourself out there is usually married to garbagey thoughts such as "its egotistical to talk about myself", "who am I to go on like this", "those people will think I'm (uniformed, untalented, annoying, dumb, a lightweight, unhinged, over-reaching etc)". 

Well, some people may or may not be thinking trash thoughts about what you are offering--SO WHAT. 

In any given crowd there are going to be some people thinking shit thoughts about whatever they experience "out there". The trick is to not get caught up in it. Whatever "they" are thinking, has little to do with you--you just happened to be the one that started up a negative thought loop they already were nursing. Focusing on them will separate you from the people in that very same crowd who need to experience your art. Be brave for those people and go put yourself out there anyway. 

So, my fellow introverted artists, writers, dreamers and change makers, I hope you will challenge yourself to connecting with the people who need your good stuff. Find the connection, let the haters hate and bring your magic to the world.

If you want to see me put myself out there in a very public way sign up for my web class on Getting Agile with your Life. Free and there will be a Q&A to cover how this relates to your goals.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I just killed a habit as old as my home internet connection

I have had internet in my home in one form or another since 1994--yup 20 years.

And for those 20 years I would sit down first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee and read email and browse the internet.

At first it meant connecting with a 28.8 kbps modem and then with a 56 kpbs (oooh, twice as fast...sort of) until I moved into a house of my own and had cable internet installed.

At first, I couldn't wait to see what surprises would show up in my inbox. But after a while it just became a habit. It was my version of looking at the newspaper in the morning.

Well, I recently quit this habit.


Spending my waking moments looking at  Facebook etc was costing me.

I knew I was losing prime brain time and spending far too much time browsing which resulted in a whole lot of procrastination. I let it go on and on for years as a more or less harmless vice--I wasn't ready to let it go until I realized I wanted to spend more time writing. That time wasn't going to just show up in my calendar. I needed to make that time.

On the first day of the experiment I settled into my chair with my coffee and resisted the initial urge to flip open my laptop. Instead I looked out the window.

There was a dove on the telephone wire over my fence. The sun was reflecting on its breast, making it appear golden. For a while I continued to have the impulse to pick up my laptop to read or (trickier) to write someone a message that needed to be sent RIGHT THEN.

I just let the urge pass, made a note in my notebook to contact my friend later and continued to watch the dove on the wire.

I finished my coffee and then started my day--a full hour ahead of when I usually would. I managed to jot down some ideas for some new projects and head out for a long walk.

I checked my laptop later in the day for all the things I normally would have at dawn. None of it was so compelling that I lost anything by waiting until later.

At that moment I made a decision about how I would start my mornings moving forward.

Only a few days before this I couldn't conceive of not starting my morning with a little browsing over coffee. It just seemed like an impossible habit to break. But by changing this habit I stopped up an enormous energy leak.

It turns out I didn't have to force myself to get up earlier to get my writing in. I could just get up and get going.

Small changes can yield huge results.

The new year is upon us. You can change a habit any old time (I just did) but I know its still popular to start things when the calendar flips over.

Have a big goal you want to work on? Want to succeed in making it happen? Check out the book I just published on Amazon. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One lesson I hope people take away from the book

Well, despite the rewrite, the downtime in Maui, the ER, and the EVERY STUPID OTHER THING that showed up in my path I actually AM publishing in December.

December 16th to be exact!

I'm pretty damn excited.

I hired my friend, the enormously talented Kerri Antes to do a photo shoot so I would have some professional pictures for my author page and also for my website and other promo materials.

Here are a couple.

People, there are thousands of pictures of me on the web joking around, making faces etc. There are none that I can think of with me just looking nice.

I hired someone else to catch my good side because I needed some distance and for someone else to "show me" my good side.

This is pretty bad news (not that I could take a photo like this by using selfie mode on my iPhone).

No, because it's a pretty tight parallel to the way I've been treating my book project.

People come to me to help get over the baggage that keeps them from putting themselves out there, to take risks and to drop paralyzing perfectionism.

I want my clients to be aggressively on their own side and refuse to take crap from anyone who isn't on board with whatever crazy fantastic thing they want for themselves.

When I was working with my own coach this week (yes, I have one) she nailed me on my doubt on being able to draw an audience for the book.

"Why don't you think you can do that"?

"I guess I don't have the evidence that I can. I don't know if people will like it or find it valuable".

There is something stupidly incongruous with putting as much effort as I did in distilling down the information my new book contains if I have some lingering doubt that people won't find it valuable or be drawn to its content and lessons.

Good lord! I'm glad I didn't have this evidence requirement when I started writing. There isn't a whole lot of power behind the thought "I'm going to write this thing and maybe someone will read it".

No--you write a book because you want to reach the world.

And you can't wait for the world to tell you it's ok.

I've spent tens of thousands of dollars and years in effort acquiring the knowledge and experiences that fed the content of this book. I threw out everything and started from scratch so that the content would be concise and accessible. I did it because I wanted my audience to get something solid.

Being aggressively on my own side on this one.

If you undertake any new endeavor, don't cheat yourself with foolish thoughts such as "I don't know if its good enough" or "why bother".


Just don't.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I finished my revised draft!!! Here is a big section to check out!

I'm so freakin' excited I can barely stand it! Just minutes ago I sent my fully revised draft to the editor. I'm late for publication this December publication but REALLY EARLY for January. Good stuff!

Look, a turtle! Also, my booty.
I'm feeling exceptionally grateful and lucky. Last week I took a soul cleaning vacation with my sister, my sister's husband and Miss Keri.

I brought my laptop with every intention of working on the draft while I was out there starting with using the uninterrupted time on the flight.

Long story short, I fell asleep on the flight over and was completely out for nearly 5 hours.

This never happens.

When I arrived, the warm balmy air enveloped me and I found all my productive fantasies evaporate. I just let it be.

Deadline, shmedline. This girl needed to rest. Come to think of it, you probably do as well.

As a little Thanksgiving gift, here is a section that I think everyone will find useful (whether you read the finished book or not--which I hope you will).

Assemble your team
Even if it feels like your goal is something you are working on alone, you will need help. Think of these helpful people as your team—the ones you will go to for training, advice, guidance, support (mental, emotional and physical) and feedback.

Anyone who is on your team will understand what you are undertaking and express in no uncertain terms that you are capable of accomplishing what you are setting out to do.  This is not to say they should give you false confidence or blow smoke at you. Ideally your team members will have at least some insight into the pitfalls and difficulties of your goal and be there when you run into those things to either give you courage or much needed help to surmount what ever fresh hell pops up.
Here is my short list of the folks you should include on your team (as well as the ones that should stay the hell away).

Yourself—You are the only one who has 100% stake in your goal so you are the leader, the majority shareholder and the only one who needs to be satisfied with whatever it is you set out to do. You and only you set the standards, the pace and get to make the decisions on this. You may ask for help, for input, for advice but at the end of the day you are in charge and responsible for everything. Just own it. Its better to let everyone off the hook and acknowledge up front that whatever happens along the path you made the decision to go there. If you decide to change course or even bail it’s a whole lot cleaner if you do it for your own reasons than to point your finger at someone else or some external circumstance as the reason. Are you going to do it or not?

Experts (teachers, coaches, consultants etc)—See the above paragraph. These individuals are not in charge of your reaching your goal but can be very helpful when you are trying to learn a new skill, overcome a hurdle, or navigate your way through territory that you are not yet expert in. They just can’t do it for you.

Beware of any expert who demands slavish adherence to a fixed method or set of ideas. Also, beware of advice to keep doing the same thing (even harder) if your progress has come to a stand still. No matter what “experts” say, there is always more than one way to do everything. Keep any such experts at arms length.

Peers (who get it)—These are the ones who are working on something like you are. Maybe not exactly the same thing, but in the same spirit. These boon companions will be the ones who are likely to have encountered similar problems and either have good information to lend or can help you work through a problem through shared experience. The friendships that come out of these kinds of experiences are the kind that can last a lifetime.

I can’t say this strongly enough—don’t accept unasked for advice or feedback from people who aren’t on your team. While it is true that you can get good insight from almost anywhere I am highly suspicious of people who pop up in the middle of my projects with a wealth of advice to give when they have little idea of what I’m trying to do and have no stake in my game other than to hear themselves talk. I know those poor souls are desperate to show someone that they know something, but not on my dime. I avoid them at all costs—I recommend you do too.

Also, be careful of getting into unnecessary competition with your peers. It’s very tempting to play this game and it starts innocently enough with one person sharing their progress and another person wanting to show they are also making headway. While it might not seem like a big deal in the moment, what purpose does it serve?

The better you are at understanding your emotional outcomes for your goal, the less of a problem this will be and the less likely you will be to take the bait. Like the unwanted advice giver, be sure to not include people who try to goad you into competition on your team.

Cheerleaders—This is not a group apart exactly. I would hope that the experts and peers you add to your team are also cheering you on to success. But you will have friends and loved ones who might not quite understand what you are doing but who at a baseline believes you are equal to the task and tells you so—especially when things are going to shit. You don’t need realists in this role--you will meet plenty reality along the way anyway so don’t invite people to offer that kind of help. 

Cheerleaders are not there to tell you to temper your expectations or aim lower. They are there to continue flying the flag of your shiniest vision even whey you aren’t able to yourself. 

The Helpful Cast of Thousands (or perhaps one or two)--Anyone who does the dishes, laundry, runs errands, or takes on any task that frees you up to do your thing---these people are actually angels. Treat them like the precious saints they are with lavish gratitude, praise and appreciation. Seriously, make this a priority. If you don’t have anyone in your life helping with these things seriously consider paying someone—and then shower them with gratitude, praise and appreciation as well.

You will add to this group of stalwart companions as you make progress on your journey.

Monday, November 10, 2014

REWRITE! How to keep going when things are total sh*t

Hey gang. I finished a big chunk of my manuscript but I felt things weren't quite holding together. I turned it over to my editor, Ginger, and asked that we do a review to see what areas should be built up and what should be discarded or deemphasized. I knew certain concepts needed more details but being so close to my subject I couldn't judge for myself.

I received a pleasant email from the editor saying she was really happy with my first draft (good job!) and that there was just some reorganizing needed. Cool! I was in a similar frame of mind and this really was better news than I expected.

Until I opened her edited copy.

I scrolled through to the final feedback and had to read it twice. While what was being suggested was indeed a reorganization of the book, in order to do the reorg I would have to mostly rewrite the prose.

I started to feel nauseous. I KNEW I would need to do some rewriting and reorganizing but this wedged my brain. I literally couldn't see past the monolith in my mind. I had been so focused on getting my first draft written, getting my ideas down and building the manuscript that it never crossed my mind I would have to do it twice.

In "Bird by Bird" by Annie Lamott, Annie wrote about having to rewrite a book treatment for her publisher three times (she holed up in a hotel room and was doing lines of crank if I remember correctly). She busted her way through it too using will (and crank) to get her manuscript where it needs to be.

Cool. I know what to do--be like Annie (but no crank--not even on special occasions).

I've read "Bird by Bird" book many times and know this temporary state is just part of being in the middle of the process--the swamp where I'm elbows deep in my own mire of thoughts and doubt (no biggie).

I met with Ginger on the phone to discuss the new approach. She was still pretty optimistic about the concept so I steeled myself to go in again with a short writing assignment and move forward. I set a time to work on it and let myself have a couple days to kick chairs and complain.

I put my house in order, took a trip to Carmel with Keri and another friend, and visited with my Mom. I allowed myself the luxury of griping. But when my date to write came up, I put that all aside and got to work.

Even faced with the rewrite I knew had made enormous progress. Books usually need lots of rework--sometimes several goes at it. I'm in good company in this regard.

Truly, almost any project that can't be tossed off in an afternoon probably will need some rework. Building in a place for that in both emotional and physical space is important. Its a good argument also for not doing your homework on the bus.

I'm still moving toward my deadline. I have a clear picture of how to proceed which I'm far happier with than what I originally drafted. I have several writing assignments scoped out that will take me forward until draft number two is completed.

Are you in the thick of things? How are you doing? Drop a line in the comments below and let me hear from you.