Tag Archives: do it anyway

what are you willing to leave unfinished?

Good morning good morning –

It’s a Thursday here, white-grey sky and just the right kind of chilly. The green finds its way into the garden. I wake up out of dreams that spread from my consciousness immediately upon opening my eyes, and after a few moments trying to get them back, I go downstairs to transfer the yard waste from the backyard buckets to the green bin that the city will take away. I say good morning to all the spiders who run off the spent lily foliage I pulled this weekend. I say good morning to the quiet birds. I say good morning to the city bugs.

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 “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

You might have seen this quote, attributed to Pablo Picasso, on the writing ourselves whole Facebook page last week? It’s my latest obsession – I am living in it. I keep repeating these words to myself — over and over they ring in my head. All the projects I keep putting off, that I tell myself I have plenty of time to do. And yet, I don’t do them. I make time for paid work, for house work, for the dog, for family. For television, for administrative tasks, for cleaning up, for cleaning up the yard waste and making sure it gets into the green bin.

I don’t make time to move (that’s another post). And I don’t make time to rework/edit and submit my writing. Continue reading

be easy with you today

Good morning, good morning, brilliances.

On this December 25, I just want to invite you to be easy with yourself. I don’t know about you, but I get stressed this time of year even when I’m not trying to find the perfect gift for everyone or panicking because I don’t have enough money or anxiously trying to navigate or orchestrate the needs and desires of blood family, chosen family, friends, and beloveds.

This is a good time of year for me to find a CODA meeting, quite frankly, and often the time of year when I’m least likely to make the time for that sort of self care.

Today I am taking it easy. I am spending time with people I love. I will weep when I need to, and laugh, too. I’ll play with Sophie with her new toys. I’ll decorate cookies. I’ll be disappointed that something didn’t go perfectly, and then I’ll laugh at myself. Maybe I’ll even steal away some time for writing. I’ll do my best to be easy with myself, and with those around me.

At least, that’s my goal.

This is an achy time of year for me, and for many of us, even when I’m in a right place. If it’s an achy time of you, too, be so gentle with yourself, ok? Enjoy what you enjoy, and as much as you can, let the rest go.

Much love to you today, and tomorrow, too. Looking forward to sharing the coming year with you.

“the conditions are always impossible”

Good morning this morning. Did you see that moon last night? Are you readying for the solstice?

This morning I am thinking about how we get out of our own way.

What is it that keeps me from doing my writing? I have escaped my stepfather, I have no one in my life actually telling me not to write, or that if I write something they will harm me or leave me. There is no one demanding that I abandon my writing to prove that I love them. I don’t even have a day job to blame for my lack of words or lack of time. The onus is entirely on me at this point. I am the only one rehearsing, repeating the messages that say I can’t or should not write. I am the only thing standing in my own way.

We were discussing this last night at the final Write Whole meeting of 2013: self-sabotage. There are books — whole libraries, more like — written about self-sabotage: why we as artists would rather clean the house or update Facebook or watch our twitter stream or read a book about self-sabotage rather than simply give ourselves over to our desired work. For you, spending time with this blog post might be self-sabotage, a way to procrastinate instead of doing the writing you really want most to do. Maybe you have twenty minutes a day for yourself, and you’re reading this or checking up on FB friends instead of doing your morning pages.

I could invite us to consider — to write into — the causes of our self-sabotage, to add to the piles of words about how we are trained to do the work of our augers and oppressors on their behalf so that they don’t have to exert the effort anymore. But unless that writing feels fertile and creative to you — and for me it so rarely does these days — I want you to forget it. Me, I don’t care anymore why I’m not doing my work. I’m so tired of all of my excuses. Yes, I’m scared. Yes, I’m afraid of what might happen if I step into my power. Yes, I’m sad it took me this long to do it. Yes, the words are difficult sometimes and rarely appear on the page as beautifully as they did in my head. Yes, I hear my stepfather arguing with me about whether I’ve gotten that part of the story right. Yes, I hear my inner community organizer telling me that I shouldn’t be spending time on this writing but should be instead writing a grant so that I can offer more writing workshops to more people so that their words can get onto the page because after all their words are more important.

Who cares why we self-sabotage? Yes, the reasons are important, and yet we don’t have to rehearse them anymore. There is always a really good reason — not even an excuse, but an honestly good reason — that we can’t get our work done: We had to go to our day jobs, we’re exhausted from working multiple jobs and being the primary caretaker for our kids, our back is acting up, there’s been a new act of violence against our community that we need to organize around, someone told us that we weren’t a good writer, our kids need us to make their lunch we’re out of paper and our printer is out of ink or our pen is out of ink or our cat won’t leave us alone or we’re afraid we won’t be able to say what we meant to say or we have finals due or we don’t write the way other people think we should write or there are bills due that we can’t pay and we don’t know where the money is going to come from and we know we should be doing some real work instead of wasting time on the page.

Here is one more for me: I am sure that if I really let myself into the kind of writing I really want to do, then I will be free. And then what?

There is always a truly good reason that you can’t do your creative work. The work will never get done if you are waiting for that day when your life to opens up and invite you with a cup of hot tea and a cozy cottage in the woods and a month alone in the wilderness for just you and your words, when all the other tasks are done, when no one is wanting anything else from you. And trust me that you would still struggle with self-sabotage, that the inner critics would still come knocking even all the way out in the wilderness. At least, this is true for me — maybe you are different, or have found your way out of this internalized, crazy-making maze, and if so, then I applaud you. Maybe you have found your way to a place of equanimity with those voices that say everything else in your life is more important than generating the words that will not exist anymore in the world unless you write them. Maybe you have discovered a way to step around the work of the inner saboteur, the way you learn to step around a tantruming child or a raging batterer, those narcissists that only ever want your attention on them.

Doris Lessing said, “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

I am tired of listening to myself explain to myself why I didn’t get my work done yesterday. Yesterday is over. I have been lucky enough to get another day to try again. Take twenty minutes or an hour or three hours for your creative work today. Give yourself the opportunity to feel what it’s like not to do the critics’ or abusers’ work for them. Feel the feelings of discomfort, if they arise, and do it anyway.

And thank you for those good, good words.

enough of the overwhelm

a wall filled with the phrase

(I love you wall, Monmartre, Paris)

Good morning this Wednesday morning. I’ve got cloudy, bluish skies outside the window, a candle casting its flicker across my fingers, some decaf with soymilk. What delight do you have so far today? What are you bringing into the morning from your dreams?

This morning I am thinking about how to navigate the overwhelm. Do you get stuck in the overwhelm? How do you step through the minefield of the lens of overwhelmed? How do you remind yourself to listen to the parts of you that want to take care of you and believe that you’re all right?

Right now, I am caught in the pendulum swing of overwhelm, which ends up looking like a binge mindset. There are many projects on my back burner right now, waiting for me to devote all of my time and attention to them. This is a finals mentality. In high school and college, at the end of the semester and I had finals to study for, papers to write, it was easy to set everything else to the side — nothing else that had a claim on my attention was as important as this job: study for the exam, write the paper, get a good grade. This is a way of engaging with my work that I seem to have internalized, but that doesn’t serve me so well anymore. A novel isn’t a 20-page final paper; a business isn’t an exam that I can cram for, bang out, and be done with. We need different models for ongoing work like this, Jen.

And it’s not as though I don’t know or use other models — I’m able to create a long-term, project-based schedule and use that to make small, steady progress in service to my goals. However, in crisis, that’s not the structure that lives in my bones. That’s not the structure that I am most familiar with. What I know in my bones is binge — binge on work, binge on ‘relaxation.’ Play hard with your friends all day, then stay up all night writing the paper. Waste as much time as possible, then dash out the anthology submission the day before the deadline. Have to be awake through the night dealing with your stepfather’s psychoabusive rantings, then finish your homework on the bus on the way to school, or sitting in front of your locker just before the homeroom bell rings. Work all day, drink all night. Is any of this familiar to you?

When I’ve slipped into the binge mindset, I feel like I’ve lost the ability to modulate, to see the world as anything other than enormous projects that I need to take care of right now. My body gets tight and tense, the muscles of my neck and shoulders ache all the time, and I stop sleeping well. How can I stop and make a plan for the next week when there’s So Much To Do? I can’t see you for lunch — I have to write my book today. (My friends do not say to me, Jen, you know, that’s not really possible — they are spacious with me, even after so much time of dealing with Overwhelm Girl.)

Overwhelm can be an addiction, at least it can be for me: the adrenaline high, the plunge of guilt and shame when it’s not possible for me to get some extensive project completed in a single afternoon — after which I’ll start procrastinating, in service to something that I call self-care or relaxation but looks a lot more like avoidance. The avoidance, of course, adds to my guilt and shame. That particular spiral is a hard one to move away from, and builds the case for the need to binge on work: I’ve put this project off for two weeks! I have to get it done now! Everything else will have to wait.

Of course, that means more gets procrastinated/put off, and sets up the “need” for more binges — and more overwhelm. There’s no end in sight.

Who am I if my schedule feels sane and manageable, both full and in motion, if I’m not introducing myself as Jen-I’m-So-Busy? Who am I if I can take care of my physical and emotional-life needs and can still get writing and workshop tasks done? This is the question: do I deserve for my life to be both manageable and satisfying?

It can take awhile for me to remember that this particular way of interacting with the world/my work is a choice — and I can step out of the whirligig of overwhelm and into sanity/serenity again. Sometimes I have to force myself: set up working dates with friends, go to the ocean and walk slowly along the surf line, write affirmations on sticky notes and tack them up all over the house: what you are doing is enough — who you are is enough, no matter what you do or don’t do.

Isn’t that what it’s about: believing that we are enough? Believing that we deserve peace and sanity? Believing that our dreams deserve steady, consistent presence and attention?

Is that a message you believe? Me either — at least when I’m in the binge mindset. So I do some faking-it-til-I-make-it. I say it anyway. I say it again. I set aside work days and non-work days.

On work days, I sit down in front of the notebook and write a few pages, even when the voice in my head is telling me I should spend seven hours there in my butt, banging out rewrites. I send a few emails, working around the tentacles of the inside binger demanding that I write back to everyone waiting for a response Right Now. Then I get up, I move, I water the garden, I throw the ball for the puppy. Ideally, then, I come back into the play of work: thirty minutes on a book chapter, or one email, or thirty minutes of online research. Let the process come back into some kind of rhythm — I remember my breathing. I let the tide come in and go out. I remind myself that it’s ok to fall off the wagon — I’m not a terrible or worthless person just because I set myself up (again) with too much to do and not enough time to do it in. That’s just my old self, survival-centered self trying to defend my right to exist.

I deserve to exist. You deserve to exist. We deserve our oxygen no matter what we do. And our dreams deserve out gentle practice and kind, daily efforts — one thing every day.

Thank you for your words today, written or not.

steal your writing time

Good morning good morning good morning — the summer morning outside my window is grey and sounds like the whistle of a train passing through Jack London Square. What is rising for you this morning? What is falling away?

I am entering into a couple-day writing retreat: two days focused on a couple of book projects, two days of stealing away from my regular life, two days in which I give myself permission not to feel guilty if I spend time writing rather than doing other work. This is a stay-at-home writing retreat, and will be interrupted by a trip to the vet and a few other tasks (mostly involving prep for writing groups); still, my primary focus for these next two days will be on moving these books forward.

How often do you give yourself permission for a day to focus on writing? How often do you give yourself permission for thirty minutes, or ten? How often do you feel as though you are stealing time from something, or someone, else in order to write?

How often do you actually sit down in front of the page and just let the words flow? I’m not talking about an email or an essay for school or a grant proposal — I’m talking about playing on the page, responding to prompts shared here on this blog or elsewhere, writing down that poem you began to dream during the commute home or the exchange you witnessed between that old man and young checker at the grocery store or the memory you had of your mother the summer you were six and she took the day off from work just so that the two of you could spend a day at the pool, or was it the beach? How often do you think, I should write that down, and don’t?

How often does it happen that then, when you’ve finally decided to take those ten minutes to get your body in front of the page, you find you have nothing to say, nothing to write — all those great things you wanted to write about when you were in the shower or busy working on a spreadsheet or talking with your bestie on the phone just disappeared! It’s just you and your pen and the blank page and the emptiness in your head. Do you think to yourself, Who am I kidding? What makes me think I’m a writer? Why did I ever tell anyone that I want to write? Look at me — I can’t even move my pen.

Does that emptiness make you want to quit trying? How frustrated does this cycle of guilt and larceny make you feel?

I have a challenge for you today, you who wish to write, you who have words dancing under your skin and a lifetime of terror and disappointment and fear keeping the words from pushing out, stained and broken and imperfect, onto the page: I want you to take ten minutes today. Ten. That’s all. Ten minutes for this writing thing you love.

I want you to change one thing about your daily routine just so that you have those ten minutes. Turn of the tv a little bit early. Get to the gym a little bit late. Take your notebook and pen into the bathroom and lock the door. Get sneaky if you have to, to get these ten minutes where you will not be interrupted by family or friends. Tell yourself that you’ll get a reward after if you write for just ten minutes (and then make good on that reward!) — a half hour of silly television or reading the magazine that came in the mail today or hanging out doing a project with your kids or a dish of ice cream or some pieces of really good dark chocolate or … you know what would make the best reward for you. Of course, even better is the reward your creative genius receives: she gets to see that you will give her some time, that you are wiling to carve out ten minutes to listen to her rambling, generous voice.

Open the notebook and begin writing from the phrase, “This is what she stole…” or “This is what he stole…” (or “we stole” or “you stole” or “they stole…”). Complete that sentence with a single item or a list, and if you don’t know what to write next, start again. “They stole diapers and they stole time. We stole glossy, foil-wrapped Cadbury eggs from the convenience store up the road at Eastertime. He stole…”

Ten minutes. Set a timer. Stop when the time is up, period. If you’re really into the writing, break off in the middle of the sentence, and begin again when you steal another ten minutes tomorrow.

Keep on stealing these ten minute snatches. Do this day after day. Take twenty minutes some days. Take an hour. Take a weekend. Grab it. Demand that time for this thing that you love. One day you will find that making time for your writing doesn’t feel like theft, it feels like life-giving and promise. One day, you will find that taking time from writing is what feels more like theft.

just write the book

Good morning. It’s a Tuesday out there. Are you ready?

I have been reading books about writers recently, having found Writers [on Writing] (a collection of essays about writing from the New York Times) and the Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction, Vol. 2: Inspiration and Discipline on my sweetheart’s bookshelf. I am looking, over and over, for one thing: I want them to tell me how they do it. How do they get up and get themselves to the desk? How do they make the writing happen? How how how. I don’t want the theory — I want the practical: I get this much sleep, I get up at 6, I sit at the typewriter/keyboard/notebook and do not stop for two hours or six or forty-five minutes. Then I get up and I do something completely different. If I write a page, that’s great. If I get two new sentences, I feel successful. Eventually it all coagulates into a book.

Later, I’ll want the next part — how to get an agent, how to get it published, how to get it edited enough that someone besides my best friends will willingly read it. For now I’m still at the beginning and this is what I’m looking for: how to incorporate writer into a real life that also includes job and family and friends. Tell me how to we take care of our bodies while we do that, how to get a book finished when we have too many jobs and everyone’s telling us it’s impossible, how to write a book when we’re depressed and disappointed, how to do it anyway. Continue reading

how to fumble more often

graffiti of faces all pressed together in a tube, as the inside of an artery...Good morning good Monday to you — this morning there’s a good weightiness all around me; the world feels solid and maybe not entirely clear but present and necessary and open. The birds are a dawn chorus (thank you for that, Lucretia!), and the candle flickers over the words “Run your finger down the blackness behind my ribcage / make a puzzle of my womb / an alphabet of my fingers” (from the poem, taped to my wall, “Poem,” by Roberta Werdinger). How are you feeling your way into this Monday? What does the week hold in store for you? What are you carrying forward with you from this weekend?

A poem for today:

The Poems I Have Not Written
John Brehm

I’m so wildly unprolific, the poems
I have not written would reach
from here to the California coast
if you laid them end to end.

And if you stacked them up,
the poems I have not written
would sway like a silent
Tower of Babel, saying nothing

and everything in a thousand
different tongues. So moving, so
filled with and emptied of suffering,
so steeped in the music of a voice

speechless before the truth,
the poems I have not written
would break the hearts of every
woman who’s ever left me,

make them eye their husbands
with a sharp contempt and hate
themselves for turning their backs
on the very source of beauty.

The poems I have not written
would compel all other poets
to ask of God: “Why do you
let me live? I am worthless.

please strike me dead at once,
destroy my works and cleanse
the earth of all my ghastly
imperfections.” Trees would

bow their heads before the poems
I have not written. “Take me,”
they would say, “and turn me
into your pages so that I

might live forever as the ground
from which your words arise.”
The wind itself, about which
I might have written so eloquently,

praising its slick and intersecting
rivers of air, its stately calms
and furious interrogations,
its flutelike lingerings and passionate

reproofs, would divert its course
to sweep down and then pass over
the poems I have not written,
and the life I have not lived, the life

I’ve failed even to imagine,
which they so perfectly describe.

There is much–everything, it seems some days–that I haven’t written because I was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect. I have been thinking, recently, about the tyranny of perfection.

I misspelled tyranny as I was typing, keying it in as tyrrany, and the little wiggly red underline cued me in to my excellently-staged potential irony; I could leave that misspelling as a device, as a way to call you, out, reader, who would snag on that misspelling, almost assuredly, and want it fixed before you continued, thereby giving you an embodied experience of just what it is I’m about to continue on to write about; but I’m so deeply beholden to this tyranny myself that I couldn’t leave it sit there, that red squiggly line, that indication of my fault and incorrectness, that visible wrongness, so I went back and corrected it.

It’s one thing to say, and know (and we know, don’t we) that there’s no such thing as perfect and, simultaneously, that we’re all excellent just as we are, perfect in our imperfections, our scars and brokennesses, our fuck-ups and disappointments and celebrations and joys.

Fine. Yes. These things are true and my head knows the, but  then there’s the fact that I have so deeply internalized this idea of and desire for perfection that it stops me, nearly every day, for taking some first step toward a goal or a dream because what if I get the first step wrong and then everything else about each subsequent aspect of my pursuit of this dream is also wrong because I did the very first part wrong?

Tyranny means the cruel or unjust use of power. Tyranny can get internalized. We do it to ourselves, after awhile — we get trained into these ways of thinking that are fully intended to keep us from realizing the fullness of our potential and possibility.

Here’s what’s true: whatever idea I have, it always exists as perfect while still living only in my head, only as a fantasy. As soon as I begin to move the idea from my head out into the world, no matter what I do, I will imperfect it. Period.

What if I just allowed that to be true, and moved on from there? What if I took imperfect as my goal instead?

Here is something I wrote last week, at the second Dive Deep meeting of the second quarter.  The prompt was to grab one of the ideas from Bruce Mau’s “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth,” and write on it, or write the beginnings of our own manifesto for growth. (Look what it says right there at the top of that linked page: Begin Anywhere. The message comes to me over and over, and still I beat my head against wanting to do it right.) The idea from his list that chose me was, “Make Mistakes Faster.” Oh no.

Make mistakes faster. This is the hard one. This is five books sitting on the shelves inside me, unwritten, on the backburners of my brain and heart, this is the frozen aching, oh god what if I get it wrong? what if the idea was wrong, the premise is wrong, what if somebody doesn’t like the idea what if somebody challenges me on it and I don’t know what to say what if it’s the wrong journal the wrong publisher wrong agent wrong advance wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong? what if I just did it anyway, put out the ideas and stood behind them, what if I fucked up more publicly and more often, I mean what if I fell ass end up right on my face? My god, would I die? Doesn’t every single person know that we only learned to walk by falling forward, falling forward, falling forward? Why cares, now, the root cause of this fear of being wrong, of blueing in the face, this having someone who could say to me, you stupid girl, I can’t believe you would write that — ? Some days I would look at it and not believe that I’d written it either. But isn’t it true that most days, these days, I’d breathe into the insult, spine straightening, understanding, yes, exactly this is what I wrote and why? My tongue is working now. Some days I can fuck up. I have learned how to fumble without breaking my body open at its hinges just to offer my heart up as a replacement for the kicking.

I want to release this idea of perfection, this need to be and do perfect. I want to welcome wrongness more often, and with open arms, let the shame and embarrassment wash fully over and through me and then move on to the next step. Learn, grow, keep writing. This is my practice these days. If you got it wrong, change it, move forward. Begin anywhere, and then keep going. That’s what we do in the workshops, right? Just dive in, and know that you can come back to it later, change the beginning if you want, edit, revise, recraft, elucidate, concatenate, lengthen, alter — create the raw material first, then work with it. Do it wrong first, absolutely. What if I offered myself not just that permission, but that imperative? What if we had to do it wrong? What then? What brilliance would emerge?

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An idea for your writing for today: There’s this quote, What would you do if you knew that you could not fail? So, that’s one prompt, and a good one. Here’s a redrafting of that, though: what would you or your character take on if you knew that without question you were going to fuck it up, but that it was going to end up brilliantly anyway? Let yourself write into that idea, into all the ways whatever it is that you want to do will be wrong as soon as you start to do it — and then follow that writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thanks for all your gorgeous, your breathtakingly beautiful wrongnesses. Thank you for the fierce risks that you offer yourself as necessary food. Thank you for your anyway writing. Thank you for your words.

letting ourselves fly

spray painted graffiti of the word "Hero"Yesterday it was skunks. Today it was a fresh new tennis ball near the courts, just waiting for a ball-loving puppy to come upon it and pounce. What a good life.

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Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as having said, Do one thing every day that scares you. There are several things on my plate right now that I’ve been putting off for years, that terrify me (book proposals, grad school, growing the workshops, building relationship with family — you know, little things). How do you step up to positive action that scares you?

You probably remember, too, that bravery is defined as acting in spite of fear; that is, feeling fear and acting anyway. Bravery, heroism, isn’t about the absence of fear — but taking steps along with feeling that fear.

This is up for me a lot these days, and for many of my friends as well: doing what’s right, what we love, what we want to do, won’t always be comfortable or feel safe or good. Sometimes doing the best next thing, taking the best next step, doesn’t feel good at all. It’s scary, it’s laden with trigger points, it looks like I’m about to step off the ledge into nothingness.

(You know the next quote I’d include here; apparently I’m in a quote-y mood this morning. Yes, of course, Richard Bach:

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you’ll find something solid to stand on
Or you’ll be taught how to fly.”)

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Sometimes radical self care is about letting myself hibernate, letting the inside selves move away from the things that scare them. Sometimes, the best thing I can do to take care of myself is to be that fierce mama and push the babies up to the edge of the nest, push them over, thrill and mourn a little as they let the air lift up under their wings. You know we all have that fierce mama inside us. The mourning is about the loss, the change, how those parts will never be babyish again, never need to be fed — they’re headed off into the world. Change is both sad and glorious sometimes. What happens when we can feel it all?

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What’s the flight that you and or your character are resisting right now? Want to take 10 minutes to write that out today? Or write about a time that you were afraid and acted anyway. Dive into either the fear or the possibilities that could manifest after you/they take the leap — or both! What happens, in your writing, if you or they feel the fear and still take flight, still take action, do it anyway? Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.

Thank you for the times that you are brave enough to rest, to take time out, to quit pushing, and for the times that you are brave enough to reach out and step forward into something new and unknown. You keep on inspiring me. Thank you for your words.

this is about patience

graffiti: "breathe, you are alive"(written at 6.15)

This morning is about patience and slow work, it’s about new learning and what feels like endless change. This is about we just got started, and expecting to be further along already. It’s about stress and deep breathing, counting to 10, trying again. We don’t get it right the first time, me and Sophie–she pulls at the leash, and I say No instead of telling her what I’d rather she be doing. I think she should already know how I expect her to behave, I take it personally when she doesn’t act that way. I slow down, squeeze new tears of frustration, stop, start again.

Now the wireless isn’t working and so I’m blogging from the phone.

This morning is about faith and work, about willpower and how positive reinforcement is slower and deeper than aversive training– not that dogs don’t learn from aversive training, they do, but they don’t learn what we want them to learn, what I want her to be able to learn. They learn fear and resentment. I am teaching myself a new way to think. And sometimes I’m jealous or envious: I had to learn through fear, not with treats and strokes... And if I learned that way, so can you. Deep breath. Start again. It’s about letting go of the old ways of getting respect, about trying something different. About being afraid that if I set boundaries, she’ll hate me, and then where will I be?

I guess I want to be out front with the work, the difficulties. I get so frustrated with the online peer pressure that exists to just talk about the good stuff: look how happy and blessed and easy my life is!–there’s this side, too.

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This is the prompt: to to take 10 mins, and tell the truth about how you’re feeling in this exact moment. All if it. Tear it up, after, if you want to, but let yourself write it.

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There are gorgeous thick full white clouds outside my window. They help. And maybe some puppy pets before breakfast.

Thank you for your deep breaths, how you are staying true to your decisions and dreams, even and especially when they seem to have been terrible ideas. Thank you for your words.

let it wash through

graffiti of dog with wings, by the words "Orasul e al nostru" (Romanian for "the city is ours")

she says, "the city is ours!"

Good Monday morning to you! Right now, I’m in my living room, and just to my left, at my feet, is a 5-month old, hound-lab-mutt mix puppy called Sophie. We found her in the animal shelter up in Mendocino County (a great road trip for us, a less fun road trip for her) on Friday and brought her home to live with us on Saturday — today is our second full day together, this new pack of ours, momma & poppa & Sophie Star. She curls up into a small ball when she’s sleeping, then stretches out wide and long, and is a fireball of energy when she’s awake. She’s quick, smart, and has been making this huge change very easy on us.

What do I want to tell you? I’m exhausted from not sleeping, really, for two nights — there’s a new life in the house, one I’m responsible for now. What sounds will she make? How will she take to her crate? Will she let me know if she needs something? This morning she let me get up and do my morning pages before I opened her kennel and we went out for our walk, just as the sun was about to lighten the sky. It’s 6:42 now — I stayed in bed as long as I could, and got up at 4:23, listened to some tail-thumping coming from the crate, but no whining. We are learning how to be with each other, how to flow with each other’s movements, how to accommodate each other’s needs. Yesterday we went on 5 walks together — in the past, I could go days not taking one walk. The past is finished now. (That, of course, is a tautology, but still…)

And this is the other thing I want to talk about: how scared I am.  Sometimes it’s terrifying to get what you want. I’ve been wanting this–a dog in my life, this addition to our home–for several years. It’s been an ache, a place of real sorrow: I’ve always been a dog girl, checked out dog books from the elementary school library and fantasized about the dogs I would have. It’s been 7 years since I last lived with a dog, and so bringing a dog into the family was something the Mr. and I have talked about and planned for. Once we decided it was time, we moved fast, maybe too fast, but we moved, and now here we are: transformed. Transformation means change, means what was has to end, means growth. And you know: with growth come pains.

What was a quiet, two-of-us house now has another life filling it, watching herself in the mirrors, watching and following us. She requires lots of attention, attention we used to give to other things. For awhile, we won’t be just running out to the farmer’s market, the movies, a friend’s nighttime party — at least, not together. Will we lose each other in this? What will happen to the family that was? How do I learn everything I need to know? What if I’m not a good dog-mom?

And so I’ve been feeling the fear, let it wash through me, paying attention, talking back to it: Just because you’re scared doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision, Jen. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. Trusting our instincts is hard work, ever, isn’t it? And then here, in the moments where it looks like maybe everything is going wrong, it’s so easy to listen to the counter-instinctual voices, the ‘editors,’ the saboteurs, who don’t want us to trust our instincts: they don’t want us to have to stretch or risk or be scared.

Here’s the metaphor, for me, to take out into the larger work of life practice: just because I’m scared doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Isn’t this an ongoing re-membering during the process of relearning to trust our own instincts and judgments? This is a radical self-care thing: listening, paying attention, choosing, and then walking through the internal fire in the aftermath, the firestorm of questioning, of blame, shame and guilt. Keep listening, paying attention, recalibrating, moving forward — that’s the work.

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Anyway, I guess there are a couple of prompts for today; give yourself 15 or 20 minutes, and write about (for you or your character):

1) The first days at home with an animal you loved (what experiences, what smells, what change?), and/or

2) the fear that can arise after you welcome into your life something you’ve been wanting, waiting and working for — what do those fear voices sound like? What do they say? How do you respond?

Thanks for your ferocity in the face of those self-doubts, and the many ways that ferocity manifests. Thanks for your presence. Thanks for your words.