You Can Find Me Here

Quiet. Grateful. Thinking. Happy.

That's how things are rolling over here. I've got all kinds of fun things brewing, but there is a beautiful summer to be had in the meantime. Books to read, shows to see, a little trip upstate for a performance in the Adirondacks.

Here are some other places you can find me:

What I Wish Those Articles on Transforming Our Spaces Told Us

Creative Superheroes Interview

7 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Rut

Meet the Artists: Jen Lee

Care and Keeping: Feng Shui Your Friends

Turning Points & No Regrets: Jonatha Brooke

From the archives--Photo by Susannah Conway, susannahconway.com

I still think about those dark days a couple winters back when Jonatha and I left our respective hermitages and slipped out for a coffee here or a lunch there. How consoling it felt to be with someone who knew what it was to be burrowed in deep, someone who knew how rejuvenating even that small injection of company could be.

It was like getting hooked up to an oxygen tank before plunging back under water.

It's so different now to be together in the bright sunshine of July, with those hard times behind us. With the champagne joy of new work pulling us forward into the crazy scary places that bubble with vitality and life.

I'm so happy to share our most recent conversation with you on Retrospective, where we talk about her adventures in music and theater, turning points and the decisions she'll never regret. (You can also listen in iTunes.)

TWO Iconic Self Live Events: August 19th

 

Phyllis Mathis and Jen Lee, the creators of the groundbreaking personal development course, The Iconic Self, reunite this summer for a power-packed, fun-filled day.

 

 

 

11am-3pm: Who's Driving the Bus?

An Iconic Self workshop with Phyllis Mathis and Jen Lee

Have you ever had an experience where your clear intentions were totally thwarted by some mysterious internal player?

Have you felt various parts of yourself at odds with each other and wondered how to call a truce?

Come and find out who is driving the bus, and how to smooth out the ride.

This interactive, story-rich workshop is for soulful people, artists, therapists and educators. 

Registration is $85 for this 4-hour workshop and includes:

  • new stories
  • interactive exercises
  • guided discussion
  • a gathering of kindreds
  • a light luncheon
  • a beautiful, intimate setting

Spots are limited, so register now:

4pm-6 pm: The Iconic Self Launch Party

This work has already transformed so many lives, and the journey is just beginning.

Come:

celebrate with us,
mingle with others on a rich interior journey, and join the conversation with a live Q&A session with Jen and Phyllis.

Refreshments will be served. This event is FREE, though reservations are required.

Pomegranate Place: Denver, CO

The Iconic Self LIVE

August 19th, 2012

750 Clarkson Street,

Denver CO 80218

 

Story Mentoring: Limited Spots

From nonprofits to executives and all kinds of creatives in between, my individual story mentoring is some of my most rewarding work. Previously only available by private request and arrangement, this summer I have a few spots to offer to my favorite people of all: you, dear readers.

Story Mentoring is for kindreds who:

  • tell stories live as an on stage performance, in speeches or teaching scenarios, or even at dinner parties
  • write stories in essays, online or in memoir
  • craft web sites and communications about their work in a way that incorporates their story and rich personal history

Sessions are available by phone for domestic kindreds, and via Skype for internationals, in packages of two or four sessions (each an hour long).

This work is highly interactive, diving deep into the work you're already doing and complimenting it with the rich multi-dimensions of story building, crafting and telling.

Want to find out more? Complete this short form, and I'll contact you regarding pricing and availability.

Last Chance: Order The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit by June 30th to be included in a TGOTM Facebook Group hosted by the lovely Liz Lamoreux. Imagine connecting with others who are retreating with these practices for reflective living alongside you--you don't want to miss out!

Liz had a great time debuting this new project last week at her Your Story Retreat, including her new collection of poetry, Five Days in April. Thanks to all our friends who celebrated with her in person there.

Read more about The Gift of This Moment or watch a short trailer here.

Join Us: Indie Publishing Workshops this October

 

 

I'm so excited to announce my latest collaboration with Dream Designer Liz Kalloch--a series of workshops to get you off and running on your own indie publishing adventures.

We're gathering at the Create Explore Discover Art Retreat at the gorgeous Cedar House Sport Hotel near Lake Tahoe. 

After 6 major releases in the last 9 months, we're bringing all our best moves and lessons learned to the table to provide the information and wisdom you need to offer your own unique projects and gifts to the world.

Read all about it, bring your project ideas and dreams, and get ready to get in motion.

Join us: October 12-14, 2012

Introducing Hand Holds, and Work that Gets Done in Its Own Time

Read more about The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit, and order yours today.

I think it's common when you're pioneering a new way to do things to compare your process to other, established and seemingly more legitimate ways It's Been Done Before.

Take launching, for example. Some traditional joints have the process super dialed-in, and the timing and execution of the way they introduce new work to the world feels elegant and effortless. I have to admit to envying the polish and shine of it. The established way felt like the legitimate way to do it.

So we had the best of intentions for an elegant launch. I had a whole wall of the apartment papered with a big 12-month calendar. We had hopes that all the new work would be done by April, and that videos would be completed and posted 10 days ahead of time. We had all kinds of good intentions in this department. From mid-September until our production season ended (we were hoping in April), we were looking at six major releases: Telling Your Story, The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls, The Iconic Self, Ritual and Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care, Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery, and The Gift of This Moment.

But my friends and I, as you may have gathered, do many things, of which these resources are just one part. We travel, we teach, we care for loved ones who fall ill. We are committed to our own growth and development, which requires our presence and attention, as well as time with our mentors, guides, and support people. Around January it became evident that keeping our schedule would require us to work in such a way that would be out of line with what we value. See, we can't teach about things like taking care of ourselves and being present with any integrity unless we are practicing them all along the way--and not just when deadlines are far away.

The primary piece of what my friends and I are committed to is not just making the work, but creating a new way to be in the world, even while completing our tasks. So we changed the schedule. We gave each project to come after a little more room to breathe and become. We took care of our souls and our bodies in the meantime, and kept our presence-promoting practices firmly in place. We imagined the introduction of a new work as not a one-shot opportunity to bomb the interwebs with ads and chatter, but as a conversation one simply begins, and invites others into, and expands collectively and organically over time. 

The work will be done when it's done became the new motto.

There is so much yet to be done (believe me, the long list is never far from my mind), because the truth is, this is only the beginning. I'm trying to remember all I've learned this spring as I head into my summer, which I hope will be filled with lots of rest and maybe some short film-making. When the long list haunts me, I say, The work will be done when it's done.

And it is.

Navigating the Crumbly Days

Yesterday Liz Lamoreux tweeted about how the day after a launch felt even more vulnerable than the day before. It hits all of us at different moments, in different ways. We reach for different words in an attempt to explain what we're experiencing. Phyllis Mathis says, "This work costs something in soul." Liz Lamoreux says, "Putting from the heart work in the world feels like giving a piece of your heart."

It's a very specific kind of vulnerability to put not just your ideas into the world (Top 10 Ways To Blah Blah Blah) but work that holds the essence of who you are, the stories you carry with you always in the cavern between your ribs. The moments that made you who you are and continue to form you as you journey with them by your side and in your pocket.

You leap, and land. You say, See? That wasn't so bad. You're still in one piece. But then later--a minute or an hour or a day or two after--suddenly you feel all wobbly in the knees like your legs might give out on you. Your body doesn't feel like the solid structure that carried you off into the leap and absorbed the weight of your landing; now it feels like cookie crumbs shaped into a person-shape, held by plastic wrap. You worry that if someone bumps into you or looks at you unkindly, even for an instant, you might collapse into a pile on the ground. You put on clothes before leaving the house but it doesn't matter, nothing makes the naked feeling go away.

All those weeks and months of trusting yourself and what you knew you needed to do to say to make are suddenly drowned out by loud inner shrieks of the hysterical person on prison break in your mind. No one cares! No one wants this! It's going to make no difference!

The people who know you in your trusting and brave moments don't always know what to do with you when in the grip of crippling doubt. People forget to tell you that you're doing alright and that they love you and that it all matters deeply because they take it for granted that you know. And some days, you do. Just not these days.

I wish there were magic words we could speak to each other on these days that chases the doubt away like a very powerful spell. Or that we could wrap ourselves in some protective cloak. But the only magic and cloak I know is to wrap ourselves in love--the deep abiding love of those who are ever-present safety net whether we fly or fall. To try to take it in through our ears, our eyes, our skin. To ask to be embraced, held, listened to while we say the crazy thoughts out loud so we can hear ourselves how crazy they really are.

It is only because of this safety-net kind of love that I can ever take a leap at all. Everything begins there for me, and on crumbly days like today I remember that everything ends there, too.

Phyllis Mathis has been this kind of friend to me for over a decade. I'm so honored to have her as my guest on this week's podcast, as we talk about the way we are formed inside of friendship and conversation. Everything I do begins and ends in these deep soulful connections, but it's a relational form that feels on the brink of extinction.

Give it a listen and think about a safety net you could weave or strengthen in your own life, and the courageous leaps you could make as it holds you.

Give Yourself The Gift of This Moment

photos by Liz Lamoreux

Some days it's the way the importance of what you're up to in the world sweeps you out, as if into a tide.

Other days it's the way the breeding inbox and never-ending details tap incessantly on your shoulder.

Or the way the future breathes down your back. And then you blink and turn the calendar and wonder where all those weeks and days and hours and minutes went. You wonder what you missed noticing and forgot to tuck in your heart and carry with you.

You wonder who you could have been if you let those moments change you instead of chase you.

Sometimes it's helpful to get tired of things like hype and speed and hamster wheels that promise you so much but in the end leave you spit out and spent with calendars heavy on scribbles and light on memories.

photos by Liz Lamoreux

What if you didn't need a sabbatical in Tibet or a hike through the Himalayas to turn the ship around? What if reflective living was as simple as a moment in front of a mirror, a snapshot and a line penned on a napkin, or a book of holy heart words tucked in your bag the exact minute you need them?

What if it was a gift you could give yourself, that arrives gently at your door?


The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit by Liz Lamoreux

Finally it's here: a collection of invitations, reminders and practices to keep you grounded, awake and clear so you don't miss your deep wisdom or your hidden treasures--those moments of seeing and hearing and embracing that first change us and then travel with us forever.

Give yourself this gift and receive:

  • The Gift of This Moment: Practices for Reflective Living, a professionally recorded and beautifully designed audio CD featuring Liz Lamoreux's heart-felt stories and an introduction to her 3 Practices for Reflective Living.
  • Seen: A Mirror Meditation Journal, a 30-Day companion for reconnecting with the person who knows you best--You. Paperback, 40 pages, including 18 invitations, notes and check-ins. Featuring line art by Liz Kalloch.
  • In This Moment: Field Journal and Photo Album, your reminder to see and to notice, to root yourself deeply in the present. Carry with you, cherish, remember. Hard cover, double-wire bound, 86 pages, including 27 writing and photo prompts.
  • Five Days in April: A Poetry Collection, for the times when your own words fail you. Paperback, 40 pages, including 20 soulful poems by Liz Lamoreux.
  • Breathing from the Heart: Guided Meditations, five downloadable mp3s of professionally recorded meditations by Liz, whose training as a yoga instructor infuses and informs this journey.
  • A Breathing from the Heart reminder sticker: place where you need it most.
  • A custom-designed, 2.25" pocket mirror in a sheer organza bag: reconnect to yourself wherever you are.
  • Here and I am Beauty temporary tattoos from Chickadee Road: adorn yourself with the reminders you most need to stay present to your practice.
  • Rejuvenate. Reconnect. Retreat. Black mini tote bag to hold together all the parts and pieces, plus your keys, your phone and other on-the-go essentials.

The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit: All you need to rejuvenate, to reconnect and retreat, any time, any place. No plane ticket required.

$135 USD, ships free worldwide

Early bird bonus: order by June 30th to be included in The Gift of This Moment Facebook group hosted by Liz, with other moment-savoring souls.

 


On Ugly Ducklings and Beautiful Swans

This is the final episode of The Emerging Icon Series. If you'd like to start from the beginning or let your friends in on the action, subscribe here and receive an episode a week in your inbox (12 episodes, all around 3-4 minutes each). I'll open up the comments today--if you've enjoyed this series, let me know.

The conversation continues.

I'm expanding the conversation of emerging to include the wisdom and stories of my friends and colleagues, now available as the Retrospective podcast. Subscribe in iTunes, where you can rate and review the series (all of which make a tremendous difference).

 

Are you ready to dive in deeper?

If you're ready to really pull into focus the forces that keep you quiet and hold you back, then the Finding Your Voice home study course is your next step. Designed as an interactive curriculum, it's self-paced so you can enjoy your bursts of velocity and also take time to simmer and absorb when that's what you most need. Reclaim your power--your voice--and unearth the courage to put yourself out there, over and over again.

What Happens When Artists Rule?

There's a school of thought that says when making and then selling something, people don't care about how or why you make it the way you do--they just want you to answer the question, What's in it for me? It's likely true for some people, probably a personality thing, but I am a values-oriented person and I can't imagine I'm alone in this. The how and the why matter immensely to me--it's why I buy organic and free range and free roaming food and support farms with humane practices. I pay more money for these items, and not just for their superior flavor and nutritional content. There is a kind of work in the world I believe in supporting, other values-oriented people I believe in sustaining.

Maybe this is why each time a new release draws near, I'm always compelled to pull the curtain back and let you see a glimpse of how we do things and why we do them that way. The curious among us can read on.

Almost everything we make has official and unofficial titles. For instance, something that might be called, say, The Gift of This Moment may have an unofficial or working title like, How to Feel Less Fucked Up and Alone. Maybe we'd sell more if we just stuck with those unofficial titles, I don't know, but I do know that they help us keep our eye on the ball during the making. To remember what we're up to and why. 

Similarly, the official tagline you'll see on a Jen Lee Productions banner right now reads, Hold the possibilities in your hands. And that is part of what we stand for, for sure. But an unofficial tagline has been keeping things clear behind the scenes in the making: Artists rule.

Like many things we create, I started down this path of independent media production because I was frustrated--frustrated with the ways we have undervalued wisdom and allowed systems to flourish that diminish creators and wisdom-keepers. I dreamed of a way to make things that would pay artists more than mere cents for the culmination of years of living and cultivating and researching and developing. A world where authors would get to name their own books and get to be a part of the process of making and shaping and designing their work, where they don't lose creative control to vetoes from the marketing department or a big-name bookstore that threatens not to carry their work unless they change the title.

We all know that what we really respond to are authentic voices, but I don't believe projects we run through such severe interference emerge with that authenticity intact.

What's the remedy? Letting artists rule. The work is the way the work should be, even if we're hours from going to press and we decide no, those interior photos really don't work in black and white. If they must be in color to retain their power and beauty, then in color they shall be.

Some content is well-suited for book form, and in those cases it becomes a book. But the concern and consideration that most drives me is transformation. I'm not asking, What will people buy? I'm asking, What way of interacting with this content will be the most transformative? The greatest shortcoming of books is that we are passive in our posture towards them. We generally hope that they will do something to us: entertain us, inspire us, give us the magic recipe we've been missing to have the life of our dreams.

But my journey has been more heavily influenced by a deeper kind of work--one in which I am interacting with the material and really reflecting and seeing things that I can no longer not see, things that change everything forever. It was while doing a writing exercise in The Artist's Way--not while reading it--that I had a realization that ultimately culminated in our move to New York City. It changed the direction of my work and our lives. A few months after arriving, someone was visiting me and saw the book near my bed. Oh, I read that book once, she said. I think I'll go back and 'do it' after I retire.

I almost had to sit down. What if I had just read that book, like it was any other? What if I had waited until retirement to take the time to listen to myself and hear what I most want? She had read a book and thought, That's nice. I had really interacted with it in a way that shifted my life's trajectory.

This story is not ever far from my mind when I'm writing home study courses: work that is active and invites you in to play with it, to experiment, to wrestle with the more difficult parts. The same ethos drives the home retreat kits. Yes, being in person, presence-with-presence is the most transformational way to interact with the material. But what if the logistics of that are out of reach? What's the next best thing?

When we began talking about Liz Lamoreux's new project, we quickly learned that the solitary nature of some of her practices for reflective living were not well-suited to the group format of a live retreat. At first I thought we would make a binder and CDs, as we had for Finding Your Voice and Telling Your Story. Our companions for the journey had powerful, rich experiences with them, and we knew how to make them--it would be a breeze.

But we weren't far into our discussions before I could hear that the binder would not be a good fit for this project. What we needed instead was a meditation journal, a separate poetry collection, and a field journal and photo album. We needed an audio CD with Liz's teaching and stories to walk our companions through the practices, and some audio meditations would be helpful, too. And that is how we build a project, piece by piece, form following function and not the other way around.

It's not inexpensive to make exquisite things in small batches, compared to what it costs to manufacture something you see for sale in Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. But in our case you know that your funds support the artists directly, that they receive more than mere cents from your purchase. Much of the work we offer is free, but every now and then we come up with a way that we can give you the best of what we have to offer in a form that allows you to give your support in exchange. We have not produced a resource yet that was not years in the making--years that we would not have had to pioneer these frontiers and then be your guides along the way if our financial circumstances did not and do not continue to allow it.

What happens when artists rule? Dreams come true. Next week (6.13.12) we release our latest project featuring the warmth and wisdom of artist, author and teacher Liz Lamoreux. We're in the dreams coming true business for artists and visionaries, and we hope you'll celebrate this one with us.

The Nameless, Faceless Abyss

Hula's photos on exhibition with others at The Impossible Project hulaseventy.blogspot.com

I remember years ago, before I was online, teasing my husband (a computer guy) about the "imaginary friends" from his IRC channel (this was before chat rooms). I knew they were real people, out there, somewhere, but even though he knew those guys for years and felt close to them, when he referred to them by screenname in casual conversation it just lacked the weight of reality for me.

And then when I started writing in this space (circa 2005), it was really a subversive act for me. The code I lived under then was a lot like: Be [nearly] invisible and make us look good. There were things I wanted to say I didn't believe in anymore in regard to groups we were involved in, but there was no one to tell and it wasn't good to get caught trying. Then there were many things I didn't believe anymore. The nameless, faceless abyss of the internet was for me then a place I could send what thoughts I could eek out--out of my head, into the ether.

I saved my most personal stories for the stage. For many people, THIS would be their idea of a nameless, faceless abyss--but not me. I may not be able to tell you on any given night who is in those rooms, but I can tell you who isn't, and sometimes that's just as important.

But here in this space, it's been hard to keep ahold of my sense of who is in the room. The nameless, faceless abyss is not so helpful when you stop hiding and start hoping that someone is listening. Hoping that when you choose courage, it matters, and that the "mattering" will counterbalance what it costs you.

When I got the idea for the new 2012 Catalog, it was such a strong intuitive hit that I felt compelled to protect it from my reason. I wouldn't even calculate the cost of it, or give that reason-voice any ammunition to shoot the idea down. I couldn't even tell you why I thought it was important--I just kept insisting that it was, and that we wouldn't understand why until later.

And then requests came in, and I started handwriting each address, and I felt some place inside of me exhaling. I wasn't in here alone. And with every house number and street name, you--my "imaginary" companions--crossed some threshold in my consciousness and I could start holding the reality of you. You have names like Mallory and Deanna and Pen. You live on streets with names like Foster Avenue and Sycamore Square Drive. I imagined the catalog showing up at the post office in towns called Granite Canyon, Wyoming, or Wilmington, Delaware, and also making its way across oceans to India, the Netherlands, throughout Europe and Australia and New Zealand.

I had no idea how much I needed to know at least a fraction of who is in this room (and that anyone is here at all). Maybe we all need these reminders of one another's reality and humanity, these moments when we pause to imagine whole lives unfolding behind every avatar and screenname. I'm seeking more of these personal connections all the time, and I'm so thankful when you reach out and say: you're here. We're together. And it all matters.

(Now you can get new posts in your inbox: subscribe here.)

 

Yes, he's funny. But the side of Andy Ross I love most is when he's thoughtful and true, as he was in our latest conversation for Retrospective. You can listen here, or in iTunes. Andy is a comedian, writer, storyteller and the host of New York's popular live show, Real Characters. He is also the World's Greatest Wedding Dancer.

Informing and Inspiring

Unedited, cross-processed film. Taken with my Horizon Perfekt panoramic camera.I wish I could say it's as simple as telling your soul to wait until June, to hold off and sit quietly in the corner until this last project is made. This part of the making takes so much left-brain attentiveness to copy editing and making sure the sound edits are undetectable, so many calls to printers and attempts at clear communication and then when it's out of your hands and into someone else's--so many crossed fingers and prayers.

But I've been saying "just hold on" for so long now and "it won't be much longer", even as our timetable has stretched this long production phase from April now to June. And perhaps at the end of the day one doesn't have this much say in what kind of seasons draw us in or usher us out.

It makes me feel split between two worlds whenever I have deep, intuitive shifts happening under the surface. So much is always happening up at the surface, whether five pieces are going into production or I just need to remember Wednesday morning's check-up at the doctor and that tomorrow really IS the deadline for a little one's field trip money and she will be so disappointed if I forget.

I tell myself, Be present. But in the middle of the playground or the Friday night movie I have a montage all my own running behind my eyes as the part of my mind that weaves together and connects and takes all the patches and sees how they fit into the whole, spins with memories and emotion and the wise things others have said and all I'm missing is the popcorn.

While I'm shifting and swirling in the place where two worlds overlap, here are a few of the pieces simmering in my internal pot. Things that are informing or inspiring me, right here, right now.

The New Feminine Brain:

Developing Your Intuitive Genius

by Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D.

 

 

Maya Stein's Spoke-n-Word daily journal of her amazing Type Rider project

 

Johnny Cash at San Quentin

 

 

 

(You may need to switch to full-screen mode to close the pop-up text windows.)

An Evening of Stories with Jolie Guillebeau

All photos by Bella Cirovic, whose generosity feels completely other-worldly to me.

Arriving early, waiting for dinner.

When you live far from people you work with and people you love, being together feels like waking up into a dream that keeps on dreaming you even after daylight hits its screen. Disbelief is your constant companion as you shake off the thoughts that this is all too good to be true.

It IS true, you tell yourself. You are here, right now, together. You found one another—in the great sea of the world, you recognized some kindred light in water or in sky and you found a way to meet. And this is your reward: these soothing souls who help you decide what to wear, who drop into your afternoon routine with the little girls, who help you carry the load and host and take pictures that make you look beautiful, who drive and ride for hours to share a table and a drink and receive your stories as a gift. 

I'm not sure there's any better medicine for the soul than stories and togetherness. Gatherings like these are physical manifestations of the truth that runs like a current, always, beneath our feet: no matter how alone we feel, no matter how particular and specific the details of our struggles and sorrows, the minute one person shares her story all the separateness falls away and we remember that our stories touch places in the stories of others. They run parallel, they ring out in the same key, they chart a way through the common frontier that is the human experience.

We are not alone, this we know whenever stories and togetherness are present. It all matters, we all count, and as someone I know would say, it's beautiful.

To hear some of the stories from the evening, check out this podcast interview with Jolie. (You can now subscribe in iTunes.) My deepest gratitude and thanks go out to all the dear ones who came from near and far to join us. The whole evening was a dream come true, and it wouldn't have been the same without you.

Jolie's book, Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery, is available for a limited time.

Walking in the Snow

One winter night I was in line before a StorySLAM at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe with some friends. I really wanted a peppermint tea, and Ben wanted to find a restroom so we set off together to find a coffee shop. We wandered through the Lower East Side of Manhattan, past stoop steps and empty flower boxes and these snowflakes started falling--the big, quiet kind that make you feel like you've suddenly stepped into a movie. Snowflakes landed on our heads and our shoulders and I don't even remember what we talked about but I remember feeling this big, quiet kind of happiness that makes you feel that you are just where you need to be.

That walk through the snow is one of my favorite New York moments.

It was such a pleasure to sit down with Ben Lillie and hear about the journey that brought him to the Nuyorican that night. A former physicist at Stanford, now the director of Story Collider and a writer for TED.com, Ben is my most recent guest on Retrospective: The Podcast. Listen to our conversation here, or subscribe in iTunes.

Finding Your Voice: Forgiveness

Photo by Allison Downey, allisondowney.comEvery time I step onto a stage I have to forgive myself.

I forgive myself for breaking so many rules, like: 

  • Be quiet.
  • Stay small.
  • Swallow your truth to spare other's feelings.
  • Look good.
  • Make us look good.
  • Stay positive.

I forgive myself for not being able to control what others feel, whether they agree or not, whether or not I am understood.

I forgive myself for decades of jaw-clenching to hold my words inside. For the way my throat still tightens and catches, making my voice break when I wish it was pouring out uninterrupted and free.

I forgive myself for forgetting how to forget myself and be natural, for needing to practice, to remember.

I forgive myself for wanting to be good, to get it right, to have my words tight and dialed in.

And I forgive myself for fumbling and for stumbling as I try to let it all go. As I try to surrender.

Join us for an intimate night of stories (no stage) tomorrow night at Park Slope Ale House (7:30pm, no cover). I'll be with one of my favorite people in the world, Jolie Guillebeau, whose stories are better than mine. You'll get to see what we've been up to together, live and in person. Tell us you're coming and we'll save a spot for you.


 

More on Finding Your Voice here.

What Being A Beginner Looks Like

Our first attempt at a mailing like this.

Getting a lesson in perfectionism from the printer: (The good one.)

Compiling all the addresses into a spreadsheet, but then not being able to figure the mail merge out. (Oh well--handwriting is better than labels anyway.)

Thinking removable mailing seals sound like a good idea.

Noticing a few popping off, and thinking, I must not have gotten them on good enough. Rubbing them back on with your fingernail because that will do it, right?

Watching the postal worker drop a huge stack of international-bound mailers in her giant cart and seeing a seal pop free right before the pile falls.

Knowing as you walk away that it will be a small-scale disaster. Imagining them all coming apart, getting returned to your tiny postal box which cannot hold them, or arriving postage due. Feeling your whole body tighten with dread.

Searching all over the neighborhood for "permanent" seals. Believing when you find them that this time it will work. 

Folding every domestic mailer, plastering them with little white circle seals. Bundling them all into your market bag.

Carrying them to the postabl box, only to find these labels popping off, too. Rubbing them back on with your fingernail. Dropping half of them in before realizing that it will be a small-scale disaster.

Imagining them all coming apart, getting returned to your tiny postal box which cannot hold them, or arriving postage due. Feeling your whole body tighten with dread.

Calling your mother, who has a much stronger relationship with objects and the physical world than you do. She suggests staples, or tape. Feeling foolish for ever trusting those damn white circle seals and their lofty claims.

Remembering last night's revelation about all you cannot control, the futility of trying to hold it all together, and the calm that followed. Acknowledging the way your peace and hoped-for enlightenment are brought to their knees in an instant by a rebel force of little white circle seals. Spiralling into crisis because you literally cannot hold them together.

Longing to pull it off exquisitely, with joy in your heart and ease stretching across the morning of your face, but knowing everything will conspire to remind you: you cannot be anything but what you are. A beginner.

 

Please send forgiveness and understanding my way if your white circle seals don't hold. I'm leaving the comments open because I could really use the good news if any of these catalogs arrives successfully. The third batch went out Saturday, with tape. And it's not too late to request some good mail.

Helpful Things People Have Said

a country retreat

Helpful things people have said to me in the last few days:

  • You're expecting too much of yourself.
  • It's enough.
  • You need to get back on stage--that's why you're so tired.
  • What would it be like to stop hiding, to come out and just be? (That's what you do on stage, isn't it?)
  • What would it be like to forgive yourself for not being able to do the impossible?

How to Feel Crazy and Still Make Things

I feel like I only do two kinds of blog posts any more: project posts (videos, podcasts, books we're making) and posts in which I confess to barely keeping the crazies at bay. Lately I've been thinking of dividing it all up into separate streams, in which case all that would be left in the "Journal" category would be these little check-ins I throw out to illustrate that I don't have everything together, regardless of how all the project posts might make it seem.

Remember when we were little and we used to swing on swingsets? Our family had the small, wobbly versions in the front yard, and then in 5th grade my friends and I had a really tall one on the school playground with long chains and you could go so high. For two weeks straight, we played a game where the girls would wear slip on shoes (usually dress shoes) and swing, and once we got going really high we'd kick them off to see how far they would fly and the boys would chase after them and bring them back.

I'm thinking of that giant swing set this morning because there are these times when I can trust myself, really trust myself. And I can listen for what I should say in an email or what wants to be made and I can feel the stretch of shooting my toes up to the sky. But then the chain reaches as far as it will reach, and I get pulled back.

"Oh no, I totally blew that email. Why can't I write emails like regular people? You know, the ones who always know what to say and always come off sounding so sane and normal." 

"I can't believe I thought my photo was good enough for a full-page spread."

"I got it all wrong."

"It's a disaster."

Back and forth, more like whiplash than rhythm. Pride and shame. Celebration and fear. Elation and debilitating insecurity.

This is how it feels to me: making things. I think it's also why promoting anything is such a struggle for me--I just can't get those proud, celebratory, elated moments to last. One minute I post something, the next minute I'm dying to take it back down. 

A few things help:

Making work with other artists. This gives me emotional distance from some of the parts and pieces, because when it comes to someone else's words or images or layout or design, I am the shoe flying off the foot of the little girl on the swing. There is only the joy of flight, with no chain to yank me back. I love their work through to the end, and it's easy for me to tell you how much I love it. I do feel responsibility, though--that never goes away. I want to do their work justice with whatever form we put it in. There's still so much vulnerability involved in the process that I can only do it with people who are safe places for me.

Staying connected. I talk to my friends every day. When I feel like I'm drowning in doubt, I say, It's gonna be okay, right? This happens so frequently that in the end it's like a verbal tick. Yes, everything's going to be more than okay, they say. It's this funny call-and-response that's like being rocked in a rocking chair. Their swing is going forward when mine is pulling back, and because I trust them, it comforts me. 

Learning the art of gentleness. I'm just trying to love that girl on the back swing. To get her someone to talk to when she needs it, people who will help her look after her wellness, a teddy bear to hold, a Masterpiece Mystery to watch, a cup of cocoa or peppermint tea to soothe her nervous stomach. I'm trying to schedule days off for her, time to lay down and rest when she's not feeling well, and permission to have days that feel more crazy than sane, more fearful than brave.

And somehow, by some miracle that I cannot yet explain, things keep getting done. Something is finished, and before the day is over the next adventure is born. And so I make things. And so I swing.