Saturday, March 31, 2007

Finding Water Week Seven


Darn! I want to get with my Morning Pages. I've been quite lackadaisical about things lately. This week I'm committed to doing them every day on week 7, along with yoga and my decluttering project that I've written about before. Daily. Too ambitious? We'll see. Can't wait to see what the result is by the end of the week. I just think that it will be good if I really stretch myself this week to making it a priority.

I already had to today. Friends invited us out for some activities and I declined. I did my Morning Pages twice last week, and totally "forgot" my Artist Date, so I know I'm not getting what I could out of this special time. To be fair, I started a new part-time job, but that's no excuse. It's not that I'm backsliding as a recovering perfectionist, either; I just want more from this time!

~Picture Via Cute Overload

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More On Being Real & Emotional Sobriety

Reading Bee's post today and her comments on my previous post, I'm realizing how very, very little I truly know about emotional sobriety. It seems to me that some people are born on an even keel and then there are the rest of us...



It is so exciting to think about being able to be emotionally sober because to me it seems like being able to be:

passionate without being careless, impulsive, and destructive;

grateful rather than disappointed;

angry without being aggressive;

peaceful rather than agitated, worrying, or fearful;

sad without being dangerously depressed;

content rather than unsatisfied;

grounded rather than scattered;

focused rather than overwhelmed;

centered and aware rather than reactive and emotionally labile.


Of course, it is so much more than this. Do I have a grasp on this, at least conceptually? What are your thoughts?


~Photo by Hubbie Mark in honor of Leah's post on Jellyfish today

Martha Graham Quote---Keep the Channel Open


There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique. and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it! It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. ---Martha Graham


~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Monday, March 26, 2007

Finding Water, So Real

Julia Cameron's writing in "Finding Water" is so real for me. She writes about how to be sane, how to stay sane---emotionally sober---and to stay away from fear. I find this enormously helpful. Of course, we can never stay away perfectly from fear, but she helps me to find more ways not to dwell in fear.

Working part-time from home, it helps me enormously to have structure, a "simple grid" to follow, since I'm alone so much and working independently. Morning pages, artists dates, goodly walks; they help. Every time I drift off and veg out---like just sitting around watching videos, or sleeping in---I find it's good for a break but not for a lifestyle, and truly appreciate having some structure.




~Pictures by Hubbie Mark

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not the Only Artist


Well, I'm not the only artist in the family. Last week I found my husband out in the rain in the middle of the night taking pictures of the flowers in our garden. He used a huge spotlight and got some incredible results. Future posts will be featuring his latest work.

~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Real Beauty

I finished a book this week that I highly recommend for every woman---"I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame", by Brene Brown.



Anyway, this from the book really got me thinking:
"When Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty was launched a couple of years ago, I asked women how they felt about seeing "real" women in their panties and bras (versus super-thin models). I was not surprised to hear half the women say they didn't like it."

Ok, so this is half the women!! I have written, very positively, about Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty here and have a video they produced here. Now I read that it is women---women---who are upset with the campaign! Here is more:
"Many described their reaction this way: "I know it's probably a great thing, but I had a very negative emotional reaction when I saw it." Some women felt "embarrassed for the models" and others said, "It doesn't inspire me to look better or lose weight." Basically what I heard two years ago is what I still hear from women today: "I know it's empowering and wonderful, but my gut reaction is...You're too fat and not perfect enough---put some clothes on." It's imporatant to understand that most of the women who struggle with their emotional reaction to the Dove models look like the Dove models...beauty has been defined for us so often and in such insidious ways that we now support and buy into the definition, as if it were our own. The result is disastrous: We don't want to see ourselves reflected back to us in magazines because we're not perfect, thin or beautiful enough to be valued. Ironically, the only way to free ourselves...is to reclaim our real power---the power to create and live by our own definitions."

Well, I look just like the Dove models and I think it's great. But something inside me hurts---really hurts---for those women who look like me and yet feel "less than". Or not beautiful.

Yesterday I overheard a man make a comment, "I feel sorry for him because he's married to that woman." The person speaking didn't know "that woman". I asked, "What do you mean?" and when pressed, he admitted, "Well, she's fat." The woman was beautiful, elegant, and yes, somewhat overweight. The man speaking knew nothing else about her, and was a portly man himself. I felt sorry for the man, but knew that he reflected perfectly my culture's view of women. I felt sad for him that he is culture-bound and severely limited in his ability to appreciate and know women. But how many men are like this? It really makes me wonder.

I am tired of my culture's definition. I think it's time for us Baby Boomer women to stand up and present a positive alternative to our culture's stereotypes of women, as with Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. I think it's time for us too, to appreciate the men who know and appreciate us, and to acknowledge and recognize them for not buying into silly manufactured stereotypes. Do you know a man like this? Thank him for not being an asshole a patsy and for having the courage to think for himself. Give him a big hug and a kiss today :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I Am An Artist


"I am an artist.
I am here to live out loud."
---Emile Zola



~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Autonomy


This week, our Finding Water community focuses on Autonomy. One of our co-facilitators, Jessie, had some questions on her blog post which I answered in the comments, so I thought I'd post it here so that you could answer it yourself, if you'd like...it really makes you think.

What is your definition of autonomy? Knowing my truth and being able to stand in it.

What brings you peace?
Being alone, being in Hawaii, reading, writing, creating, looking up at the tall trees in the forest and hearing them move.

Where does God live for you?
Somewhere inside of me and in my brother (as in, everyone is my brother).

What do you love?
Being alone, being in Hawaii, reading, writing, creating, looking up at the tall trees in the forest and hearing them move---i.e., all the things that bring me peace---PLUS labyrinths, good food and wine, good movies, good friends and family, my husband, my house, and books.

What are you grateful for?
Spirit, all the things that bring me peace (above), all the things I love (also above). I'd like to learn to be grateful for everything, as I do believe that everything is a benevolent life lesson, but I'm not there yet :)

How do you escape the dull-drum fuglies?
Usually getting extra sleep or being alone. Menopausal hormones. But honestly, I usually can't escape them, so I just weather them. This too shall pass.

What part of your life and your Self could use a little more compassion?
Impatience, still trying to do things perfectly, although technically I'm a "recovering perfectionist". I keep falling off the wagon. I'd like to be kinder and gentler to myself.

Where does your "true North" point to?
Spirit, Hawaii, writing.

So how about you...yes, YOU?


~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Week 4 Artist Date Recap


With my Dad's death, I'm behind in my Finding Water activities. I did want to write about my Artist Date from last week, though, as it was exciting. My goal had been to do something really challenging that would force me to stretch. So I decided to go to my favorite pub, and then do something I've never done before---sit by myself at the bar.

Whenever I go to Fishtale Brewpub I order my favorite meal, a BLT with avocado and a Caesar salad on the side. This year I've switched from beer to red wine, so I have a glass of Chilean red wine. Always the same thing, each time. But I sit in a corner and read or write, never at the bar. I've never ever sat at a bar by myself anywhere at all. This is because I'm so introverted, and sitting at a bar without anything to do would leave the impression that I am open for conversation or interaction, which is something I'm really uncomfortable with---with strangers, that is. Really, really uncomfortable.

But last week I did it. I was determined that no matter how hard it was, I'd get through it. I didn't have to enjoy it, just do it. People all around me were having conversations and interacting with each other and with the bartenders and servers. People were greeting familiar faces, embracing, catching up, etc. I just sat there, and it was pretty awkward. I smiled at people and eavesdropped on the conversations. The servers and bartenders eyed me curiously, as they had seen me lots before in the last several years, but never, ever at the bar. And never, ever without a book or paper, just looking around.

After I got my food, a stranger came over, and after introductions, I had a scintillating conversation about good books, dreams and goals (I used to be a life coach), more good books, and simply felt wonderful! My luncheon companion was a professor at our local university and we had a delightful time. I was really proud of myself, though, just for getting through it.

Some people do this sort of thing all the time, but not me. It was the first time, at age 49! But I did it---YEA!

Now that I'm back home, I want to get back into my routine, catch up with reading Finding Water, and start again with my morning pages. Looking forward to it...

Back from Texas


Hi, all! I'm back from Texas, and I can see I have a lot of catching up to do. Thank you everyone for your condolences.

The funeral was so healing. I was, on principle, against conventional funerals, but my experience in east Texas changed my mind. My Dad's funeral was conventional and modest, and a perfect reflection of him---of his life, of who he was, and of whom he loved.

Hubbie and I went to a private viewing before the public viewing, and attended the public viewing and funeral. We visited with a lot of family. The funeral was conducted by Dad's pastor and his brother, who is a minister from New Mexico. The church then gave us all a homemade potluck luncheon that was obviously made with lots of love. Hubbie and I reached some closure about Dad, and built stronger bonds between our other siblings.

Dad was the head of an amazing and loving family. I am so blessed to be a part of it.

We flew the red eye both ways, so we're both tired, but are glad we got to go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Second Most Important Man in My Life


The second most important man in my life, my dad (technically, my father-in-law, but effectively my father) died early this morning. We're going to Hooks, Texas to bury him. My husband's two brothers and my dad's 8 grandchildren will be there, too. I wrote extensively about him in my morning pages early this morning.

I like this picture of him because you can see the love in his eyes, his sense of humor, and the happiness of his second wife---the second love of his life, Betty. My husband's mom died in middle age, and Dad remarried quickly after he met Betty and they found happiness together. How fortunate to find true love not once but twice in a lifetime!

I was blessed to have such a wonderful dad for seven years. I am thankful for him and for what he taught me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Decluttering, Part Two---Creating Space

I started my decluttering process with my office/studio.

I am impressed that what I am doing is not really decluttering, but Creating Space. Space for functionality, and space for new dreams. There are so many old dreams that I am letting go of---my paraphernalia for past businesses I've owned and have long since abandoned, old web design books (including a DOS for Dummies book), musical instruments I used to play, things that belonged to people who have since died and are memories of my love for them, other "important paperwork" from the past 20 years. It feels so freeing to leave the past where it belongs and to move on. So much old baggage is going out the door, and much of it to people who will be able to use it and benefit from it.

I created a bin for sentimental items so that they will all be in one place, not lost or mixed in with our bills and other paperwork.

And best of all, there is a whole dresser now available for my collage materials. They are now accessible and organized. I was so inspired by looks at Lia's studio yesterday. I'll take some pictures of mine. I'm not done yet but I'm on my way!


~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Julia Cameron's Negativity


What do you think? Do you think Julia Cameron is negative in Finding Water, and if so, how do you deal with it? Caroline has a great post here on her blog (please see the 19 comments) about how she is coping. Until I read her post and the numerous comments, I had no idea what she meant. I was really puzzled.

Of course though, I'd just finished reading Julia Cameron's memoir (read my review here). I think that I am just learning so much, and that all of this is so new to me, that when I encounter something that rubs me the wrong way, I just assume it's me. Say, for example, the chapter on support. Julia Cameron does have oodles and oodles of friends---maybe even hundreds of friends---who have gone out of their way her entire life to support her in big, big ways. Even her ex-husbands support her profoundly. I just look at myself---the introvert---and feel somewhat inadequate. I'm not great at maintaining my friendships and have the energy to maintain only a very few at that. I'd love to be like her, but I'm just not. And my ex's didn't support me in the marriage, and so now...well...let's just say that I don't have their support. So anyway, I just admired her and was reminded of the importance of my friendships...and wished that I was better at maintaining them and able to have even more.

The only place I really saw negativity was in her memoir. At first, whenever she'd move somewhere, she'd be enamoured almost beyond belief. All of her problems would be solved AND she'd be able to write as well in this new place. After six months, at most, she would have soured on her new residence, and "need" to uproot herself and her family to go to a new, more desirable place---all for her arts sake. But she did it! And was successful at creating for years and years and for that I really admire her.

I figure I can learn so much from her, and will continue to---her books are rich for me; however, I will now read "Finding Water" with a more discerning eye, and I am interested in what you all think.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Julia Cameron's Life

This week I read Julia Cameron’s autobiography “Floor Sample”. It was a good read, but disturbing.

It showed me how profoundly the structure of Morning Pages, Walks, and Artist Dates grounds her in her very difficult life. It is pretty much all the grounding she has. Her life has been difficult mostly because of her artistic temperament, her turbulent interior life, her continual life-long seeking of geographic cures, and her overall high intelligence and brilliance. She is an extraordinary woman, one that many might call psychologically disturbed (her “mental illness” is controversial…she takes medication to stay functional). I disagree; I think she is instead just very, very bright, thoughtful, eccentric, and creative. It sure made me feel better about my own emotional processes.

I’d wanted to know about this amazing woman who wrote “Finding Water” and so many other terrific books, and it encouraged me greatly, because it helped me to see how she managed to create DESPITE all of her various and sundry life difficulties. I would definitely recommend this book. It does, however require a bit of slogging through; I just wanted to scream each time she thought that the place she lived was horrible and that it was time to move again to the wonderful place where she'd lived only six months before. This probably happens 40-50 times. It's realistic, though, because she has portrayed her artistic process vividly and well in order to inspire and help others.

The book includes details about Julia Cameron's marriage to Martin Scorcese, her relationship with their daughter, and with other famous artists and writers. It also discusses throughout her recovery from alcoholism.

The book vividly, candidly, and courageously portrays Julia Cameron's struggle to create, and showed me that her process was far from easy for her, just something she made intrinsic---absolutely intrinsic---to her life---thus her body of amazing and diverse creative works.

I am inspired by "Floor Sample" because I want to make my writing as basic and regular and matter-of-fact to my life as Julia's is to hers. It also showed me that there is no difficulty that can stay in the way of your "art"---whatever it is---if you don't want it to.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Daily Inspiration


Place of Inspiration for Everyone: I just love these little messages, sent to my inbox each morning. Try them and see if they don’t brighten your day. They come at unexpected times, and are always a breath of fresh air. Sign up, and get a little bit of reliable encouragement. I feel like I can always use a little more positivity in my day, every day. Curious if you like them as much as I do---let me know.


~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Did my Morning Pages


Hey, I did my morning pages today and it felt like heaven. I knew I was accountable to you all. Thanks :)

~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Weeks Two and Three of Finding Water


So I’m a little behind here, the story of my life!

Morning Pages: I developed a repetitive movement injury in my hand from writing so much. It’s probably the position I’ve been writing in. So I took a break in writing, and instead dictated my morning pages for a whole week. It’s not the same at all. There isn’t the time for reflection, and it feels like a totally different process. The injury is better now, but I’m babying my hand, since I use it for so much more than writing. I miss my morning pages. For the last three days, I haven’t done them at all. I’m going to start up again tomorrow, I promise. I’m accountable to you, after all.

Artists Date: My last two artist dates (#2 and #3) have been unspectacular times of sleeping in, relaxing, and reading. They have been luxurious for me, but not particularly risky. I want my next Artist Date to involve stepping out in some way, confronting something big and challenging.

Goodly Walk: I’ve been great with these, love them and can’t get enough of them. I’ve developed tendonitis in my foot, and am seeing my doctor tomorrow to make sure I’m taking care of it properly. I’m still walking, just in pain, and in really supportive shoes.

I’m pretty frustrated because it seems like every time I try to do something that I really like, I somehow overdo it and my body doesn’t want to cooperate. I feel like I’m mad at my body for holding me back. Actually, I know that’s not a useful position to take, because my body is trustworthy and supports me in what I want to do---it just talks to me via physical pain and I need to listen. More rest, less work. Today I want to be kinder and gentler to my body.


~Picture by Hubbie Mark

Do You Love Screaming Deals?


Are you a bargain hunter? I am.

If you are, too, here are some resources to help:
1) Jungle Crazy: lists the best Amazon deals at 70% to 99% off, all in one place. This tip was found today by Paul Michael on Wise Bread.
2) Bizrate: enter the name of an item and compare prices from stores all over the Internet.
3) Air Fare Watchdog: has incredibly low air fares, many for last-minute travel.
4) Site 59: all last-minute air fares only, great for emergency flying situations.
5) Nordstrom Sale: cick on "Sale" and then on "Save 70 Percent" for Nordstrom deals.
6) Amazon.com: did you know that you can buy groceries at Amazon? Especially if you buy non-perishable goods in bulk, like tea for instance---you can save SO much money---even over 70%. Go there and enter in the name of anything at all---your favorite tea, tool, cleaning supply or beauty product, or even shoes (if you know for sure what size you wear in that brand). You'll save money, and usually have free shipping if your item is over $25. If you don't live in Washington state, you won't pay any sales tax, either. Save, save, save.

Have fun shopping!

~Picture by Brother Rick

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Decluttering, But More...Really, "Blasting Open Your Creativity"!


I just read a great book last night about decluttering---"It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh. It only took me about two hours, but it really had an impact. Hubbie (the one recovering from a heart attack) worked until midnight. So had an unexpected chance while I was waiting up for him to read this life-changing (yes, truly) book. For those of us in the Finding Water community, decluttering can be vital to opening up the creative process. I am very excited about doing this in my home and plan on accomplishing it during our twelve-week program. Or at least getting an incredible start. Especially after reading this book and understanding how to make the physical environment of my home compatible with the vision I have for how I want to live my life. I'm very psyched!

Here's my Amazon review:

Great Book for Everyone to Read Before Attempting To Declutter, March 6, 2007


*****
What I found most valuable with this outstanding book was that it was about the motivation behind excess accumulation and cluttering. Unless you address this motivation, the clutter is bound to come back, even if you hire a professional organizer and everything in your home is perfect. All of the clutter will creep back.

There are so many outstanding points in this book. For example, with sentimental-type clutter, the author says that the most important thing is to separate the memory from the item. Then the item can be dealt with appropriately. You are not discarding the memory, just the item. Thus, if you have an overabundance of momentos, you can divorce the memory from the item, pick a few items that you want to represent the memory and truly honor them by displaying them in your home (rather than storing them in boxes in your garage), and discard (or digitally scan and then discard) the rest.

In my house, my husband has a wealth of pictures of his children when they were small. These pictures are filling boxes in the garage and our barn. We have all of their schoolwork and many personal items because he loves his children and feels as though throwing away one of their things is throwing away a part of them. They are now adults; however, until this underlying motivation for hanging onto things is addressed, all attempts at decluttering will be futile. For me, the whole book was profound. I'm great at organizing techniques, but the idea of looking at the feelings and problems sourcing the whole hoarding behavior was most helpful.

I am getting ready to declutter my house, as we are bursting at the seams and can no longer function well in our home. This is the perfect book to read to understand the emotional work and the letting go that must go on so that the process of decluttering can take place. Then whatever vision and purpose you have for your home can be implemented, and you can enjoy the space you have in your home. The book targets a huge consumeristic flaw in our American culture, and gives solutions.

I cannot imagine who would not benefit from this important book. Highly recommended.
*****

Ok, so THIS IS NOT PRIMARILY ABOUT DECLUTTERING! It is really, truly, about letting go of your stuff and being free to create and change and grow. It is about being in the present. It is about creating space for whatever vision you have for your life. And really...your "stuff" can hold you back and hold you down.

If anyone else has read this, let me know. I'm looking for an accountability partner here. Maybe we can support each other in creating a space to support the lives we want to have.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Your Life Span

I received a tip from my friend DS about two surveys you can take to determine your estimated life span. Apparently, these surveys were featured in a USA Weekend Special Report in the papers yesterday.

Since I'm really close to age 50 I took the Eons survey first for people 50 or over. That showed that I would live to be 87. Not bad, but not good enough for me. I would like to live to be a hundred or older. A nice thing about the survey is that it gives you recommendations for increasing your life expectancy.

It takes about ten minutes and you have to register with eons to get your results, but you can opt out of communications from them if you'd like. The survey measured many components of longevity, and, as Internet surveys go, seemed to be one of the better ones.

If you are under 49, you should take the "Living to 100 Survey". This survey has two tracks---one for people under 49 and older and one for those over 49---but the one for people over 49 is the same as the eons survey. If you're exactly 49 like I am, you fall between the cracks---he, he! I was a statistics major as an undergraduate, so I do pick up on these little details, and it's amazing how many of these surveys are designed like this---and no one notices! So anyway, go here and take the survey if you are a younger person.

I'm wondering what my heart-attack surviving husband would score here? And what would you score? It could be surprising!

Of course, these surveys are only lay approximations, but they're fun to help you to stay aware of whether or not you're on track with your health program, or if you're living in ways that statistically are proven to lead to an early death.

I am greedy for more of life, and I want more than 37.5 years, and so will continue to strive to improve my lifesytle habits.




~Picture by Brother Rick

Sunday, March 4, 2007

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?

I was incredibly busy this weekend, so I haven't posted much. Tonight I am catching up on my 106 favorite blogs---lots of delightful reading.

I found out about this fun quiz from Antony Hanson, blogger of "Come to the Quiet", a new blog I'm reading. It's a spiritual blog with influences of some of my past favorite writers, including Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, and Kathleen Norris. Anyway, he referenced this quiz, and it's a lot of fun. Here are my results:

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.


Try it and see what kind of intelligence you have :)