Hungry Muse, Naughty Muse

I yearn to create writing that is imaginative, playful, honest, and luscious — and to do so on a consistent basis. Writing is not only an emotional outlet, it is a reflection of who I am. It serves as documentation of the interconnected processes of self-exploration and transformation which I continually experience. It is an exhumation and selfless giving of the most special, sacred spaces in my heart. Writing is what makes me come alive, and in turn it gives life to ideas that hopefully inspire others in unique and meaningful ways.

At one time, I barely wrote anything for about four months. I was depleted, uninspired, and exhausted. My life felt heavy and stagnant. I was unable to produce anything of merit, anything worth sharing, anything worth reading. The less I wrote, the less I wrote. I was sucked into a downward repressive spiral from which emergence seemed more and more impossible. Was this it? Was there nothing more to say? Was I all but gone?

There was a lot going on my life at the time, and as a highly sensitive person I am often unable to filter out certain types of difficult experiences. I absorb them, ruminate, and internalize other people’s insecurities. Eventually my despair serves a purpose — connecting me with greater awareness and understanding, and illuminating new insights. This lengthy and difficult process is necessary for my spiritual awakening. But I could have been writing to help me make sense of those experiences along the way.

When I get stuck, it is usually because my naughty, naughty inner muse is assisting me in this self-sabotage. And like unruly children who are neglected and unfed, that naughtiness comes from a lack of attention and nurturance which renders her incapable of engaging in a creative relationship with me. When I feed my inner muse, she astonishes me with her support and tender loving care; In other words, I am better able to invoke passion and love through the written word when I take care of myself and indulge my desires — regardless of how often I stare at a blank piece of paper or screen. Because my writing is so deeply connected to, and a part of, me — I need to be well in order to write well.

There are certain special things I like to do to feed my inner muse, like immersing myself in sunshine, bubble baths, ocean waves, and spectacular music, eating ripe peaches at the height of summer, and traveling to previously unfamiliar places. Daily rituals, like meditation and physical movement, also fill her heart with joy. I can also approach every moment with openness, wonder, and curiosity and engage with the world as my playground, rather than a battlefield. Neglect her, leave her hungry, and naughty girl will once again emerge. At every moment, I need to treat her, my most wise and beautiful inner self, with lovingkindness so she, and my writing, may flourish.

40 for 40

A few months ago, a friend and I decided that we would do 40 extraordinary things to celebrate our 40th birthdays. Mine is coming up in a few months, and I have already started to do things that I might otherwise have been too timid, financially or time restricted, or otherwise hesitant to do. I am diving deep into all of those things that have been cast aside for someday as the somedays of my life slowly dwindle in size. Every Friday for the next 40 weeks, I am going to write about one of the 40 new things I intentionally chose to experience as a part of this endeavor. And I am also intentionally choosing to continue this tradition, only increasing the number of new things I will do to match the number of years in my life. When I turn 53, I shall need to do more than one thing per week!

Bibliophilia

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I love to read. An early precocious reader, I worked my way through chapter books in kindergarten and by the end of elementary school, few of the great classics had escaped my attention. Thousands of books have passed through my hands in the past 35+ years.

Books have always been like friends to me. My bestest of best friends. I am unable to throw them away, to cast them aside, as that would be the same as discarding an important piece of my own self-discovery, my emergence, my livelihood — essential to my being. Thousands of books sit on my shelves like old lovers, at my immediate disposal to satisfy whatever whim may enter my mind. There they wait for me, sad, lonely, neglected, and underused — but not abandoned altogether. Each book I read becomes a part of my own story, a part of me.

Cicero said (or maybe not as the exact origin is disputed) that, or something like, “a room without books is like a body without a soul.” Whenever I inspect a room and find it without books, I wonder how bleak the soul must be to exist in such an uninspired space.

I recently decluttered my living room, which had been populated with at least two hundred books in addition to many pamphlets. Those books have all been moved to make way for photographs, of actual people with souls; yet, the room does not feel quite right. There is a heavy emptiness, a desperate lack of the positive energy that only books can radiate in that special bookly way. This needs to change. A room filled with books is a room filled with hope, with possibility, with curiosity, and with love. It is where I feel safe, inspired, and natural.

My love affair with books is a never-ending saga. There will never be too many books in my life. I may be an addict, but I am one that truly cherishes my unharmful object.

A Rainbow a Day

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Diets suck…the life out of our days, the days out of our years. Anything that is restrictive in such a way can only have short-lived, superficial success because it is physically and emotionally repulsive. Instead, I aim for a more succulent sustenance to promote optimal well-being.

I do this by trying to eat a rainbow every day. I don’t always succeed, but with this as my goal I typically eat well and feel great.

But not today, at least during the first half of the day. I had sourdough pancakes this morning, an almost weekly necessity for someone like me who can’t stand to waste excess starter and who had no other occasion to bake, having already baked two loaves of bread last week. Then for a snack, I had two pieces of string cheese. So far, that’s a lot of white. And brown (syrup). I skipped lunch; I was to meet a friend for lunch and a walk but we, despite thinking we were in the same parking lot, could not find each other. By the time I got home after running errands, it was time for dinner. I had hummus (more white), a raw red pepper (red, obviously), stuffed grape leaves (green), tabbouli (green and red), and cabbage and carrot salad (purple and orange). Now that is a rainbow-licious meal! It is only missing yellow and blue. I suppose we could count the chickpeas, and maybe the tahini, in the hummus as yellow.

I’m going to go eat a blueberry now. Mission accomplished.

I usually plan my meals very carefully, but with work and social engagements and travel, unfortunately infrequent as it is, my plans are not always executed as I had anticipated. I like to shop and chop on a Friday, or if that is not possible early on a Saturday, preparing everything that I need for the week so that eating my daily rainbow is a matter of routine. It can become a bit bland, many times eating the same thing on Wednesday as I ate on Saturday, but this process makes it easy for me to ‘follow the rainbow.’

To further help me, and you, do a better job of eating our daily rainbows, and of absorbing a variety of nutrients, here is a list of my five favorite foods in every color (except for blue, because I can only think of one — but to be practical, purple includes both blue and red so I suppose eating more than one of those will do). Of course, you should consult your physician or nutritionist before radically changing what you eat because there are many things to be taken into consideration when it comes to food — like sensitivities, disease, macronutrient balance, ethics, etc. You can also make your own rainbow hotlist and post it on your cupboard, put it in your journal, or set up a calendar alert to remind you each morning.

Red – strawberries, red peppers, tomatoes, cherries, apples, red beets (or are they really purple?)
Orange – carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, peaches, yams
Yellow – pineapple, bananas, lemons, summer squash, acorn squash
Green – kale, spinach, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts
Blue – blueberries
Indigo/Violet – blackberries, beets, cabbage, grapes, dried plums

Art for the Masses

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A few years ago, when visiting a major museum in the Mid-Atlantic area which shall remain unnamed, I was absolutely mortified when an employee — or perhaps it was a volunteer — handed me a device through which I was expected to listen to a narrative about the artwork I was about to view. I said to my mother who accompanied me at the time that it was like the scene in Amadeus when they perform the ballet without music. Art is meant to be personal and intimate; a group of people looking at the same piece but in their own little worlds listening to a streaming audio track in their headphones is practically sacrilegious.

Is this trend a feeble attempt to make art accessible to more people? A response to declining budgets and volunteer availability? A cruel social experiment intended to update what some people see as antiquated traditions with modern technology? Whatever it is, I refuse to take part in it. If the museum cannot or will not provide the service of a friendly and knowledgeable guide, I would rather engage with text than passively listen to some unknown, unseen, distant person speak. So hand me a pamphlet, or allow me to find the text that is typically installed as part of every exhibit on my own, and spare me the headphones. Or I shall do my own research instead.

My resistance to the integration of new technology at art museums is not in any way a hesitation to dismantle the old order. In fact, I was an early computer adopter, writing simple programs when my age was still in the single digits, and I value what technology brings to our lives. But when it creates a distraction, noise, and separation among people it is, in my opinion, no longer serving a useful purpose.

I may be a snob, but I am an inclusive snob. I believe that all people have the right to enjoy good and beautiful things by virtue of their human nature (of course some people vehemently deny and reject this right, and who am I to argue with them). If indeed the headphone thing is what needs to be done to engage people in the fine arts community…no, I can’t accept that as the best or only solution. There must be other ways to make the arts come alive for people, like small group discussions led by artists or complementary art forms like film. And what could possibly be more engaging than opportunities to create art right in, or adjacent to, a museum when visitors’ souls and imaginations have been stirred and stoked?

Yes, the way we preserve, view, and appreciate art can and should be modernized and made accessible to more people. But let’s do it in a creative and inspiring way.

70 Generations

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There is an Iroquois doctrine which states that people ought to take into consideration the potential impact that their actions could have on the next seven generations. When we drink water from a bottle, for example, there is an environmental cost of packaging and transporting that water — and too often those bottles end up strewn about the street or in the trash (I know, it looks just like the other round bin with the big recycling logo on the front. Right.). So many accumulated water bottles, over so many years, has a devastating impact on our earth.

When I was a little girl, about seven or eight years old, my aunt — who also happened to be by third cousin twice removed — gave me a book with the genealogical history of one side of my family. A few years later, aunts and cousins started trying to recruit me for the Daughters of the American Revolution. After years of procrastination and other priorities, I finally joined an ancestry service so that I could more fully explore my roots. With the assistance of this service and many other dedicated researchers, I was able to speculatively trace my ancestry back 118 generations — through Revolutionary War patriots, pilgrims, queens, and kings.

These discoveries, in a way, made me feel closer to much of humankind. It is amazing to think that so many people, probably including a lot of people with whom I interact everyday, share common ancestry. It is also interesting that I, who had to work in garment factories and, even worse, as a telemarketer — but thank goodness (for the customers much more so than for me) not as a stripper to work my way through college, could have such illustrious ancestors as Edward III and Philipa of Hainault. What a difference 23 generations makes. I wonder…if those kings and queens of yore had lived a bit more intentionally and sustainably, perhaps today all of their descendants — and all human beings as well as animals on our gracious planet— would be living in a beautiful, responsive, and plentiful world where everyone’s needs and purest desires could be easily met.

No, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder due to some ingrained sense of white privilege. I believe that all people should use what they have — material or otherwise — to make the world a better place, or rather to lovingly restore our planet so that its life and potential is replenished and renewed.

Therefore, I am now taking a broader view and thinking about what our world will be like for those who will be alive in another 70 generations — should our planet withstand the increasing pressures to its precious resources — and how I can contribute toward co-creating a more resilient environment, inclusive socio-economic structure, and impassioned culture for those future earthlings. Every little thought and action counts.

Hidden Rainbows

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When driving home from work one evening, I saw a beautiful rainbow stretch across the sky. As I approached the stop light which granted me an extra few moments to appreciate this beautiful manifestation of nature, I put on my green-shaded (they are prettier than they sound) sunglasses to protect my sensitive eyes from the brightly shining sun. As I did, the rainbow disappeared. I pulled them away and put them back on. With the shades on, I had to strain to see the rainbow. With them off, the rainbow was vividly apparent.

We see the world through lenses — both those that we place on our face and those that we superimpose on the way we metaphorically see the world. Perhaps the most cliched example of this is seeing the world through rose colored glasses. But there are other lenses that influence our perception of reality, like those we put on to protect ourselves after having difficult or scary experiences. Sometimes we are not aware that we have used lenses to cloud our vision, and other times we become so used to them that we become accustomed to accepting the world in a certain way.

Throughout the course of any given day, we may exchange our lenses as a response to our environment, to prepare for a certain interaction, or to make sense of an unusual experience. We can experiment with our lenses, intentionally switching them out to see the world and our experiences in new, exciting, and transformative ways. We can even develop a lens repertoire so that we can call upon those lenses which will best help us to learn and grow at any given moment.

The lenses that shade our vision of the world may be obscuring beautiful rainbows, just as my green sunglasses did that evening when I was driving home from work. Try removing or switching your lenses to see what mysteries and novelties are revealed.

Carpe Diem

People have been seizing the day since Horace offered this delicious phrase to the world in 23 BCE. Yet over time, we intuitively fall into a flow of anticipating the cycles of seasons and days. Habits are established. Life loses its pristine novelty, too often without capturing our notice.

I sometimes wonder, worry really, if I have fallen into an intermittent willful resignation. My life sometimes feels pre-scripted. Other times, it feels like a play I have repeatedly seen. Sure, I uncover additional nuance with each performance, every viewing, but there are empty seats awaiting me in the theatre down the street — not to mention across the country and around the world.

About eight years ago, a psychologist told me that I was bored because I had adopted a conventional life, one that contrasted greatly with that of my past. Being able to manage my emotions and behavior to achieve my life goals, even to maintain stability in my life, has been useful. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. It doesn’t fulfill and excite me. I feel dull, numb, and nearly half dead at times.

For me, there is a constant tension between carefully controlling my life so that I am able to function and fully living in, and appreciating, the moment as it occurs. Perhaps everyone experiences this phenomenon, but my loss of control could potentially be destructive, devastating, and disastrous. I suppose this is true for most people, to one degree or another.

Learning to reconcile this tension in a healthy way, and to live a naturally integrated, complete life is an ongoing process. With time, I continually discover my own cycles and rhythms to complement the harmony I wish to create in my life. There are no shortcuts to realizing authentic wholeness, and with both patience and practice the moments I feel that level of connection — with myself and the planet — will surely grow in both frequency and duration.

Excuse My Vulgarity

I recently met someone whose perception of the proper intersection of authenticity and propriety was skewed slightly differently than mine — especially when making a first impression. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is a civility, and a tenderness, to using discretion when sharing the most banal and vulgar aspects of ourselves with new acquaintances. If I have offended anyone in this way, and I’m sure that I have, then please accept my apology.

That is not to say that deception ought to be employed. Nor should positioning and manipulation.

Rather, we should slowly and softly reveal ourselves. I long for the mystery and intimacy of gently unveiling our complexities, an art form which has sadly become scarce in modern society. I would rather lie awake at night, curiously anticipating more, than bend over the proverbial toilet proverbially puking because too much has been revealed much too soon.

Excuse my banal vulgarity.

Procrastination

My life has been a series of unfinished projects. Yes, I have seen many books, reports, home repairs, and other projects to their bittersweet end, and it would probably surprise most people that I suffer this perhaps self-imposed impediment. But there are many more, thousands more, that remain submerged inside of me.

Some of them are in bits and pieces, swirling about, searching for the perfect moment of emergence. Others are already complete, inside of my head, but have not yet started the journey to the outside world. Yet others have been spewed out — here, there, and everywhere — but have not yet been brought together into a final masterpiece. My unfinished projects are toys in the box, lonely and neglected, yearning for a playmate to make them come alive and have more than a symbolic meaning.

I tend to be good at starting things, but not finishing them. I once worked with a man who was good at finishing things, but not getting them started. We were the perfect (working) pair.

I have tried to organize my projects with index cards, notebooks, two different types of note software, file folders (both electronic and hard copy), websites, spreadsheets, three ring binders, sticky notes, and posterboard. I’m sure I’m missing something. And don’t even get me started on the calendars.

Perhaps it is subtle self-sabotage. Maybe it’s ADHD, mostly but not entirely without the H. Or it could be my vain and fickle heart that chases one dream after another. Possibly a fear of failure? Bashfulness?

Whatever it is, I have enjoyed the creative journey of generating ideas, whether or not they are shared and brought to fruition. The unfinished, and even the unstarted, project carries with it the allure of what might be. As long as it doesn’t cross over into the regret of what could have been, a certain amount of disorganized procrastination may be healthy. It serves as a reminder that creativity is a generative, rather than a depleting process, and that the process itself is what really counts, most of the time.