In the Summer Time

“In the Summer Time When the Weather is High, You Can Reach Right Up and Touch the Sky…” – Mungo Jerry

San Francisco summer = fog.  Chilly, windy, fog that makes me curl up and make chicken pot pie most nights to warm me up from the inside out.  I’ve been longing for the hot, sweaty Chicago days doused in humidity that I grew up with.  The days stretched on forever and I couldn’t believe it could still be light out at bedtime. My little kid mind was blown! What I miss most is the promise of a completely empty day waiting to be filled with play.

The options were endless.  Did I ride my purple, banana seat bike in my bathing suit all day? Sprinkler hopping down the block? (That’s me above on the right – how I loved that it was okay to run around with no clothes on.) Did I relocate all of the toys from our basement out into the front yard for the fresh air I thought they needed? Or did I wait for a summer afternoon thunderstorm knowing that I would  walk through the puddles with my mom when the moon came out?

The possibilities only grew in middle school – nothing planned, nothing scheduled – weeks and weeks of freedom.  My favorite memories turn to spontaneous water balloon fights and Super Soaker battles with my very best friend and the boys that lived on the block.

Then camp (full disclosure: horse camp) a month of summer away from my family for the first time. It was also an all girls camp.  I lived the truest possible version of myself I ever have at 10, 11, 12 and up until 16 at this tiny camp in Mazomanie, Wisconsin.  I found my voice at camp and owned it like never before.  The filter that was as reflexive as swallowing, measuring each and every word I uttered, was gone. My somberness gone.  My worry about whether I was good enough dried up and blew away. I was who I was and that was okay.  Fear, shyness, insecurity evaporated and I felt free.  This freedom to play and discover let me figure out who I was at my core.

I found my voice I did. I know I did.  But I manage to lose it more often now, and have never lived it as much as I did then.  So I’m adding more play into my life this summer. Clearly my cube-mates at the office probably wouldn’t appreciate a spontaneous Super Soaker fight…  I think it’s more about leaving a day entirely untouched, unscheduled and following my nose.  Doing whatever I feel like doing, and not worrying about it. (My only rule is turning the TV off. I watch so much it must be rotting my brain.) This New York Times article on busyness underscores the importance of idleness, and it was shared on Facebook so many times that I think it’s something we’re all aching for.  So go play.

Confession: I listened to Mariah Carey’s entire Daydream album while writing this post. If you were 10 when it came out it would also be one of your life anthems.

Finding an Opening in a Song

A string of chords, a wisp of lyrics, an intrinsic rhythm of a song can rip your heart wide open when you least expect it.  Sometimes it’s a song you’ve never heard before.  Sometimes it’s a song that’s worn itself well into the tiny crevices of your heart, hiding so deeply you wouldn’t even know you remember it until you do.  I’m a sensitive person, so much so that it can overwhelm me.  Music helps me float in that sensitivity without drowning, coast with it, overcome it, or open up when I’ve shoved everything I feel way down deep.

Things were pretty rocky growing up in my house.  My parents were deeply unhappy in their marriage in the early years of my childhood.  Certain albums cast shadows in my past.  When I heard Carly Simon’s Have You Seen Me Lately, the sense of betrayal and despair that swept the house was palpable, even to a seven year old child.  The notes of Jackson Browne could cast a spell of sadness in a moment that transfixed all of us.

The pain of those years is still so accessible that as I prepared to marry my husband I was haunted by Coming Around Again. It got stuck in my head, around and around, warning me that I was signing myself up for some sort of inescapable disappointment.  The lyrics hit at the core of my fear: “I know nothing stays the same… but if you’re willing to play the game… it’s coming around again… so don’t mind if I fall apart… there’s more room in a broken heart… and I believe in love… but what else can I do… I’m so in love with you…” I thought that no matter how happy I was with my partner now, in a marriage you inevitably doomed yourself to decades of unhappiness.  Eventually I worked my way through by remembering that I was making my own choices and not destined to reap the same pain I saw my parents grapple with.

When I was young there were also the nights when Buckwheat Zydeco blared loudly out of the giant speakers in their bulky wooden cases, pumping out through the open sun room and out through the glass slatted windows opened wide to the muggy Chicago summer air.  My dad making us laugh wildly as he danced around the house. Or Baby Now That I Found You which we sang with our mom on every family trip until our adolescence crept in and made us reluctant to join her.  Those memories come back as vividly as the painful ones.

Those are the songs at my core. They’ve shaped in one way or another the role music plays in my life now.  I’ve created my own soundtrack too, certain albums and playlists represent whole periods of time, disappointment in love, loneliness, newly found independence, new jobs, new cities, new friends, new chapters.

As I sat down to write tonight I longed for the perfect song for the first time in a long time.  I realized it had been ages since I’d bought any new music, much less thought about it.  So I followed the nudge and started browsing through new music.  The waves of emotion that rolled through me as I found one song after another I understood how long it’s been since I’ve had my heart open.  This week I’m listening to more music to create more openings for however I’m feeling.  You pour what you’re feeling into the music, but it offers something back to you too.  It’s no wonder they say that music can have a profound influence on our moods.   Depending on what I choose to listen to it’s wondrous how hopeful, heartsick, pumped up, or nostalgic can feel after listening. In a song, I can find the emotional opening I need.  Keep listening.

Showing Up for Yourself

Bloom (C) Open Hearted All Rights Reserved

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

I’m so not in the mood to write anything at all right now.  Pretty ironic since I want to write about the importance of showing up for yourself.  I got a very nice reminder about how achieving your dreams is really up to you, it’s not magic. It came in the form of a post from Positively Present.  (It’s hard not to link to that blog in every single post I write…)

I find myself feeling envious when I watch other people quit their day jobs, to pursue full-time writing, or land an amazing book deal.  I get this strange feeling that there’s not enough room for me to be successful, that there are “enough” writers out there already.  I’m not sure where that feeling comes from. I know truthfully that the idea is just plain silly.  There’s plenty of room for me to succeed too, if I really work hard at it.

If I show up for myself, then my dreams are in my reach.  Making it real, making it happen is up to me.  The universe will meet me halfway, but I need to figure out how to get across my half.

Part of it is moving out of my comfort zone.  When people ask me what I do, for example, I’ll try owning that I am a writer.  I’m also incredibly fearful about sharing my work with other people, making up any excuse to revise to avoid showing it.  I’m afraid of sending it out into the world, with my name attached to it.   To tackle that fear, I’ve outlined some baby steps for submitting my work over the next month. Taking new risks will help get me there.  Starting this blog and keeping it up has been one of those risks that feels pretty good on the other side.

Expecting more from myself is another thing I’m working on.  I’m possibly the world’s best procrastinator.  I can come up with an excuse for anything.  I’ve started trying to develop new habits with Creative Recovery.  Through the process I’m hoping to remove some the of creative blocks I’ve developed.

Most importantly I’m trying to shift my attitude.  When I procrastinate I can get stuck in this self-defeating cycle.  Say I’m watching TV instead of writing.  When I realize I should be writing, this super negative, critical voice comes up.  It points out that I’m lazy, and worthless, making me.  I feel more depressed, and get more and more stuck on the couch.  I’m trying to change my attitude. When I realize I’m berating myself, I’m trying to shift to a more gentle, nurturing, encouraging voice.   That’s the only thing that really gets me off the couch.

Reminding myself that my dreams are important, and that the little things I do add up puts those dreams back in reach again.  I owe it myself to honor those hopes, wishes and desires.  Well here I am showing up today.

Side note: The quote above might seem a little out of place.  I included it though because this whole process of showing up, feels a little like blooming.

Creative Recovery: Day 0

Via

I’m going into creative rehab today.  Creative recovery is a term that I read about in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a brilliant book about uncovering your creativity and artistic inspiration.  One part of her introduction really hooked me, and I thought, “Oh god that’s me too.”  It was in the introduction. She hints at her issues with alcoholism.  What I understood from her writing was that she came to a point where she had to make a choice between alcohol and art.  She realized the two couldn’t coexist.

At the time I read that, I felt like I wasn’t really ready to make a change.  I wasn’t convinced that I needed to.  Sitting where I am today I feel like it’s time.  I choose writing.  I choose my art.  I choose the difficulty and discomfort of facing and sorting through my raw feelings.  I’ve written before about how I tend to run from difficult emotions afraid that they’ll gobble me up.  I run, by self-soothing with food, wine and TV, numbing out from the world around me.  You cannot selectively numb, as I’ve learned from Brene Brown. If you numb the bad, you numb the good.  When I finally drag myself to my desk to write, I’m left with nothing inside to write from.

I have this great habit of getting all excited to start a new program, or lifestyle, or endeavor, and never make it through dinner of the same day.  Posting here, is way of holding myself accountable.  Though no one’s watching, I’ll feel like someone’s watching.  A nice kick in the pants to stick to somtehing for once.  I’m trying to go day by day and leave it at that.

Daily Creative Recovery:

  • Morning Pages (See Julia Cameron’s book for this one)
  • Healthy Diet (Sugar, Caffeine, Gluten, Alchol, Dairy Free)
  • Enough Sleep
  • Fresh Air
  • Excercise
  • Open Hearted Post

Removing some of the crutches I cling to, a glass of wine, comfort eating, and so forth, I take away the layer I normally use to cover over whatever I’m feeling or thinking.  This is an experiment in learning to live without those buffers.  At the very least I hope I get a better understanding of myself.  I also hope my health and energy levels improve.  Most importantly though, when I sit down to write I want to know that I’m doing all I can, working my ass off to haul up my own star. (Have to thank APW for that little gem of wisdom.)