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Nicole Arnold's Adventures

My impressions as I boldly go where I have not gone before.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day – 15 minutes to Love

I admit that this is my most shameless click bait title yet. Although Puppies and Sex   ranks a close second. That being said, I stand by my 15-minute pledge to receive love.

I believe I’ve discovered a path to the most loving Valentine’s Day yet – no matter your relationship status or relationship state. I happened upon this when I conducted a casual experiment for the month of January. I think I’ve accidentally hit on the best love tool ever.  Nope, this isn’t an advertisement for Lelo – it’s all about self-compassion.

Experiment might be an exaggeration for what I did. In January, I read an article that directed me to the practice of self-compassion letter writing. (It’s awful – I can’t find the article – I’ll keep searching and update the blog with the link when I locate it.)

I can’t say exactly what drove me to practicing self-compassion weekly by writing a  letter to myself. It’s possible that particular day I was more aware than other days that I’m pretty hard on myself. It’s also possible that I had recently read about the strong positive connection between self-compassion and well-being. Last summer, I read (a lot of) Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion (which includes this self-compassion letter exercise). Maybe it had penetrated my consciousness in such a way that led me to prioritize this activity.

Whatever the case, I did what I now do when I want to start a new habit – I put the activity into my Streaks app. It took me some time to figure out how to create a weekly task, but I prevailed and then sat down to write my first self-compassion letter for January.

I challenged myself to think about an activity or aspect of myself that I feel THE WORST about. Something that causes me shame and that I find myself circling back to numerous times over the course of any day.

Then I wrote a letter to myself, where I imagined that I was someone who loved me and wanted to provide me comfort about my hard feelings.

selfcompassion

The whole thing took fifteen minutes.

After I wrote it, I felt warm – like the way I feel after my kids hug me and I take the time to smell their hair and feel the softness of their skin.

Over the course of the week, I found myself feeling more compassionate and loving – both about myself and others. When there was a choice to be generous (to myself or others) or be unkind – I was aware of a growing ease in choosing the kind choice.

I have noticed the impact of my increased compassion on my relationship with my husband in two big ways: 1) I’m not looking to him to validate my weaknesses (or me in general) as much. I don’t need to because I’m feeling compassionate about my weaknesses. I’m not looking for compensation (as often). 2) I’m also not as frustrated with his weaknesses. I’m more likely to see the bigger picture and understand that they’re part of his strengths. I’m also more likely to feel self-compassion for feeling irritated by them, without blaming him for having them.

This opens a lot of space for loving connection. It’s the space that opens up when I realize that I have what I need, giving me the opportunity to consider what I want. It’s the shift from survival to flourishing.

This is what I’m getting for 15 minutes of formal self-compassion practice each week. Way cheaper than Lelo… What could be more effective for feeling love than feeling good about yourself?

I hope these 15 minutes lead everyone to a Valentine’s Day filled with love!

Here’s the link for the self-compassion letter activity.

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Why Do You Blog?

Why do I blog?

I asked myself this question as I walked over to Starbucks tonight. There were lots of reasons to stay home. It’s cold, the puppy was really cute and my daughters were in sweet form. Not only that, but I’m midway through a delicious read – The American War. This would have been a perfect night to curl up on the couch.

fireThe fireplace is symbolic. If I actually had this wood burning fireplace, I might not have left my house.

In any case, I made my way across the cemetery towards Starbucks, contemplating why I blog.

Here’s what became clear to me:

Writing this blog is for me.

Writing this blog is in hopes of starting a conversation with you (all the yous that might be out there).

Both of these statements resonate strongly for me.  Even though they might seem contradictory.

This blog is for me. It gives me a place to record my thoughts. I spend an awful lot of time thinking and putting the words on a screen (or paper) is often helpful. Writing brings me perspective, clarity and joy. The more I write, the better I feel – particularly when I let go of what the finished form needs to look like and just write.

Ever since reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I have been inspired to practice writing daily. Well, almost daily. I keep thinking, “Writers, write”. I want to be a writer.  Sometimes I even think I am a writer.  Thus, I must write. Happily, each time I have that sequence of thoughts, it nudges me along and makes writing feel pretty appealing. Enough to get me out of the house on a cold night for an hour or so I could write my blog.

That sounds like this blog is for me, right?

The thing is: my writing doesn’t need to go in a blog. Everything I write could sit somewhere on my computer or in my notebooks. Yet, I post blogs.

Why do I blog?

I think a blog is a way to have a conversation. I really like to have conversations about how people make decisions and what I’m learning from books I’m reading, as anyone who has ever talked to me for more than 5 minutes (and sometimes less) will attest to.

No surprise then, that I blog about the same subjects: choices and books (very handy for me that there’s a large genre of books about choices).

I have been taught to cherish the written word and the story for my entire life. I come from a family of story lovers, so much so that I think story has always occupied a significant part of my world. I have so many wonderful associations with writing and books.

I love the idea of adding myself to the bank of storytellers. Bloggers are storytellers.

So, that’s why I blog: I blog to grow and learn about myself; I blog to connect with you and plant seeds of conversations; and maybe more than anything — I blog to help me practice storytelling – because of the goodness that story brings me and others.

Why do you Blog?

(Feel free to post comments and start a conversation)

How to Gain Stability (or what I learned from Morpheus while holding Toppling Tree)

Calling a yoga pose “Toppling Tree” doesn’t suggest stability. Yet, stability is exactly what is required as I stand on one leg and bend my torso forward while kicking my other leg to the back of the room. At last Friday’s yoga class, our yoga instructor (Elliott Bettencourt, who inspired me and sounded like Morpheus from The Matrix) directed us to scan our bodies for weakness as we tried not to topple to the floor. What he said next was the best: he intoned (in Morpheus style) that we are easily distracted by the wobbling in our standing leg’s ankle – but that’s not where the weakness lies – that’s where the stress is focused. He told us that if we want more stability then we need to tighten another area. Once we did that, we would find that our ankle would stop wobbling. I scanned my body and found softness in my torso (no surprise there). When I tightened my back and my abs, lo and behold, my ankle stopped wobbling.

toppling tree

As I have made my way through the week, I have found this frame very useful in several situations.

Around 11am this morning, working through tasks felt like wading through molasses.  I started to question my desire to do the work in front of me – but that’s not where my weakness lay. I wanted to do the work, but I was still wobbling. I realized the weakness was in how much sleep I had last night. Anything less than 7 hours and I wobble my way through the day. As soon as I understood that, I resolved to be gentle to myself for the rest of the day and to go to bed in time to get 7 hours of sleep tonight.

Yesterday, I was writing a blog post and kept getting stuck. I initially worried that I was done with my 500 word/challenge – that I had exhausted my creativity. But that’s not where my weakness lay. When I scanned for weakness, I understood that I hadn’t scheduled enough time to write. It takes me at least an hour to write a blog post and I had left myself around forty-five minutes. I kept looking at the time and wobbling under the pressure.

I like this practice of scanning for weakness. Seeing weakness as a problem to solve, an area to strengthen, versus an indicator of failure is a perspective I want to practice as much as possible – in yoga, in my writing, in my business – in all areas of my life. I don’t want to be afraid to wobble and at the same time, I don’t want to focus on the wobbling site so much that I’m distracted from where the work really lies.

So far, I’ve learned that I need to tighten up my back and torso, get 7 hours of sleep each night and leave ample time for writing. Feels like more stability already.

How my Goal Setting Turned into a Wall of Resistance

I hit a wall this week.  Hard.  I didn’t want to do anything and the desire to curl up into a fetal position was strong. I am diagnosing the problem as too many goals. Here are the goals that I’ve been working on and their associated platforms/structures:

Streaks Goals 

  • Daily flossing
  • Stretching for 10 minutes daily
  • Journaling for 10 minutes daily
  • Logging my food daily
  • Writing a self-compassion letter to myself weekly
  • Mindful meditation for 10 minutes daily (I also entered at 21-day Mindfulness Challenge in January that had the same goal – 10 minutes daily).

Because I embrace moderation and reasonableness, I took the three times a week, 15-minute strength building session out of my Streaks app about a month ago.

There is also the writing 500 words/day for 31 days that I started last Wednesday and the flash fiction contest that I’m currently in the midst of writing. The deadline is midnight tomorrow for posting a 2,500-word short story.

Then there are my business goals – such as developing two business lines for January and following up on all of my leads.

My Fitbit goal is set at 10,00 steps a day.

I aim to walk our dog twice a day for 30 minutes each time. That has maybe happened three times in the five months we’ve had her, but maybe that’s because I haven’t put the goal into Streaks??

One of my favourite lines in the movie, Shrek, is when Donkey and Shrek are standing in front of Farquad’s ridiculously large castle and Shrek says to Donkey, “Think he’s compensating for something?” I look at this list and think (with Mike Myers’ questionable Scottish accent), “Think she’s compensating for something?”

That’s an easy one for me: I am regularly compensating for the sense that I’m not accomplishing enough (that’s code for: not enough). Brene Brown’s work has helped shift my thinking tremendously in this area.

The wall I hit this week didn’t feel like exhaustion exactly (although it might have been). What it felt like was resistance to doing anything that felt like a commitment. If I expected it of myself or anyone else was expecting it of me, it felt like a burden. I wanted to be free and I wanted to rest. At the same time, I fought rest. First of all, I hadn’t completed everything on my list for the day. Secondly, I feared the slippery slope – if I don’t meet my commitments today, then I will be out of practice and then start slacking regularly.  Before I know it, I’ll be reading books in bed all day, every day.  That’s the fear. Who am I kidding? It’s also the dream – there are so many books I want to read.

I know that fear only motivates me in short spurts. If I want motivation the balance of the time, I need positive emotions.  Lots of them. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading emotions researcher at UNC, Chapel Hill has identified the ideal ratio as 3:1 positive to negative emotional experiences each day. While I’m not measuring that precisely, I do know that if I’m hitting a wall, that in order to get past it, I need to be constructing more positive emotion experiences in my daily life.

I’m not going to add this to my Streaks app.

What I am going to do today is think about the positive emotions that light me up and practice them. I’m going to bring humour into my writing and kindness into my interactions. I’m going to bring curiosity into as many situations as I can today and every time I feel commitment resistance, I’m going to be gentle with myself.

Positive emotions are such a powerful antidote to fear. I can feel their super powers stirring as I write.

Wishing everyone a great day full of curiosity and kindness!

 

 

Are we Destined to Become Our Parents?

Are we destined to become our parents?

I contemplated this question last night as I sat in bed beside my youngest daughter, happily reading Charlotte’s Web with her. The word happily doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to reading Charlotte’s Web. I love it so much. E.B. White’s description of farm life and the pure love between Charlotte and Wilbur inspire me to want to jump through the page and spend an afternoon on Fern’s stool, watching the social scene at the barn or just once to be on Zuckerman’s amazing swing and fly through the doorway of the barn.

The other reason that I love Charlotte’s Web is because it takes me back to time as a child with my mom. The unedited truth is not only did my mom read Charlotte’s Web as a child to me, but when I lived with my parents for a few months a year or so after I graduated university, I would climb into their bed each night and we read Charlotte’s Web all over again. If that is my future with my youngest daughter in 10 years, I welcome it.

(If you’re reading through this post and you have Darth Vader’s voice in your head saying, “It’s your destiny”, you’re not alone. If you didn’t and now you do – you’re welcome.”)

There are definitely parts about becoming my parents that I welcome and even encourage. There are major parts that I can’t deny, even if I wanted to. It is pretty clear that I haven’t deviated so far from their path: I am a child of parents from two different religions who raised a house full of children and animals with values of family, independence, love of reading and doing work that you love sitting front and centre.

I am a Toronto Jew married to a Catholic raised French Canadian, raising my children as Jews (as my parents did) with a dog, two guinea pigs, a house full of books, noise, more opinions than people and an understanding that doing what you love is the Holy Grail.

Is it my destiny?

There’s no denying that environment is powerful. We learn so much growing up in our parents’ house – for better and for worse – about how people talk to each other, about what gets rewarded and what gets punished; what leads to people’s happiness and what leads to people’s misery.

We also learn what gets our parents’ approval. I think we all learn at an early age that if we mimic our parents’ values: “I would LOVE to share that cookie” that it’s a fast route to our parents’ approval. Which feels an awful lot like love. Thus, becoming our parents isn’t just our nature and nurture destiny, it’s also our route to gaining the security to our parents’ love or at least feeling like we have.

This whole notion was ripped wide open for me a few years ago when I read, “The Middle Passage” by James Hollis, a Jungian psychoanalyst. At the beginning of the book, Hollis asks the question, “Who are we outside of our history and the roles we play?”. Who am I, outside of being my parents’ daughter? It’s not an easy question.  There is SO much of me that’s my parents’ daughter. I continue to weigh this question in my head as I grow as a parent. In a quest to enter what Hollis refers to as Second Adulthood – when we live by our internally driven values rather than the values that are held by our parents, partners, employers and other providers of security – I have spent some time examining which of my values are actually my parents’ values and then contemplating what I want to hold on to and which ones don’t align with who and what I am.

I devoted many, many journal pages to listing out my values and brainstorming about how much of what I do is an extension of my parents’ beliefs and values. It turns out there’s a lot:  from talking to my husband several times over the course of a work day to having a pile of books on my nightstand. The route to second adulthood involves holding each value to the light and determining whether I continue to act according to these values because I’m seeking my parents’ approval and love or whether I value these actions independently.  This is a process rich with positive results.

The two greatest results have been my enriched relationship with my parents and my liberated relationship with my children. When I became conscious that I was determining my lovableness with my parents by whether I reflected their values I started making different choices. As challenging as this was (mostly for me, not so much for my parents), I was able to see more frequently how much their love extends beyond me being a mirror reflection of them. I saw this most when I would make choices that were different than their choices and still feel the warmth and strength of their love.

This is when I realized that my children aren’t receptacles of MY values. That was surprising and liberating. I don’t want to teach my children (implicitly or explicitly) that they earn my love and approval my echoing my values. I know there is a natural inclination to get excited when there is something that we share or when they embrace something that I love. Like adoring Charlotte’s Web. At the same time, I want to be aware of the messages I’m sending when their values are different than mine. I want their security to come from evaluating the goodness of their values based on how it feels to act according to them – not based on how much approval I provide them. The more I do this, the happier we all are living together and the more I am able to see how this is giving them space to freely and securely develop their own values.

Are we destined to become our parents?

I think we are in all sorts of ways. The more interesting question to me right now is: once we realize all the ways that we are like our parents, what comes next?

Tell Me What you Want, What you Really, Really Want

Are you getting what you want? Do you have enough time? Do you KNOW what you want?

While these might sound like philosophical questions, they are also the questions I ask myself every morning when I sit down to work.  I’ve been doing a version of this for years, initially inspired by Stephen Covey and then reinforced by various habit and productivity-oriented books (The Power of Habit, The Sweet Spot and Smarter, Faster Better have been my favourites). Asking and answering these questions serve to organize my day and guide me to get back on track when distractions feel tempting.

My current routine looks like this:

I sit down with my 2018 Kate Spade Calendar. It’s black with gold polka dots and I love it. I have been organizing my day/week for the past year using Excel and iCal.  They both work fine, but Charles Duhigg inspired me to use paper when I looked at his tools in Smarter, Faster Better.

I make out a list of what I want to get done today. This list is informed from my Weekly To Do List (that I do keep on my computer) that I update each Monday. THAT list is informed from monthly goal list (that I also keep on my laptop). I love lists.

The list of what I want to get done for the day is a mix of business and personal. Making the list has a few purposes. Brainstorming all the things I want to get done helps me understand the whole scope of what the day holds. I often fear that my ambition and the number of hours in the day might not match up. This exercise shows me whether I have the time to do what I want and need to do. It turns out there usually is enough time – but often not a ton to spare, so this exercise also encourages me to focus on what is on my list. I ask myself two questions: 1) What do I need to get done today? 2) What do I want to get done today?

I often include:

  • Journaling
  • Responding to specific clients
  • Developing specific areas of my business
  • Yoga class
  • Walking Lily (our puppy)
  • Following up with specific proposals

Once I’ve completed my list, I estimate the time that each activity will take (including travelling time). Then, I add up all the minutes and look at what time it is to see if it’s physically possible to complete all the tasks. Often it is.  Sometimes it isn’t and then I review and ask myself two new questions, “What doesn’t need to get done today?” and “What can I ask for help with?”  I make my adjustments, get my tea and my glass of water and dig in. As I move through the day, I check back to the list, both for the satisfaction of ticking things and off and sometimes to remember what I had planned.

This process completely rocks my world. As someone who by default identifies as a slacker, having physical proof that I am accomplishing things each day is a real boost.  As an entrepreneur who works from home on largely self-directed tasks, actively and strategically directing my activity and my motivation is critical for productivity and a sense of accomplishment.  As a mother of three kids who arrive home most days by 4pm, making the most of my working hours is essential to move my business forward and to make sure that I’m doing the things that are most important to me.

More than anything else, thinking about what I want each day and then taking tangible steps to have what I want is one of the best activities I know.

I’m going to go tick “Write my blog post” off my list.

 

Is Writing different than Typing?

I fancy myself a budding scientist.  To that end, I am regularly experimenting and analyzing. This blogpost is an experiment in writing. I am asking the question, “Is my writing different when I begin a piece with pen and paper instead of on my laptop – and if so, how?” Like many legendary scientists, this experiment began with an accident: I forgot to bring my laptop to Starbucks yesterday afternoon.

I arrived at Starbucks, primed to write.  I had set aside the time and I had two specific deliverables that I wanted to emerge with after my two hours of writing. Both were time sensitive items, so I also had some urgency on my side (a powerful motivator for me). The problem was that the weight of the two books I was returning to the library had masked the fact that my backpack did not contain my laptop.  It was still charging at home.

What I did have in my bag was my notebook and pen. The day before, I set aside the afternoon to write for the NYC Short Story contest. The prompts were released at midnight on Friday, leaving 8 days to produce a 2,500-word short story. When I planned my Saturday afternoon writing time, I thought that writing out three pages longhand on anything that comes to mind – particularly my fears and concerns about writing the short story would be a good way to start (Thank you Julia Cameron!). It was a great way to start – the writing I did on Saturday was some of the most unfiltered and satisfying writing I have ever done.

I made the decision to keep my notebook in my bag earlier that day when I packed to head out for the first part of the afternoon.  My youngest daughter had volleyball practice and I planned to sit and write my blogpost while she was in the gym. I had also brought my laptop, but I liked the idea of having my notebook in case I wanted to brainstorm.  It always feels more natural to write random ideas on a piece of paper than typing them in linear fashion on my screen. Turns out I didn’t use my notebook to write that blogpost but making the decision to hold on to my notebook ensured its place in my bag several hours later. As I lingered in the doorway of Starbucks, my pretty notebook stared up at me hopefully.

I live a 6-minute walk away from Starbucks.  I could have walked briskly home and returned to Starbucks in under 15 minutes. I was a little afraid that inertia would take over and I wouldn’t put the same effort into my work if I went home. I was also reticent to give up any time at all. More than anything else, I got excited about embracing writing rather than typing. I started thinking about the opportunities it would present – I was more likely to brainstorm first. The quality of my work could be higher, because I would be writing at least one draft. It was a greater investment of time, which meant affirming how important the work I was doing is to me.  All of that felt as good as it sounds – so I settled myself into Starbucks and wrote happily and proudly for the next two hours.

On the heels of my love affair with my notebook yesterday, I decided to further the experiment by writing today’s blogpost by hand before I started typing it. Full disclosure: I haven’t even gotten yet to what I wrote by hand. All the same, writing two full pages before I started typing taught me a lot. I realized how much more vulnerable I feel when I’m writing with a pen than when I’m typing. I also feel more creative. I’m pretty sure the two go hand in hand. (No pun originally intended – but I am always loathe to remove any puns.) Writing is a continual experiment in peeling away layers of vulnerability to reveal my thoughts and tap into my creativity.

I learned when I was writing this morning that there is an automatic self-validating process that is generated with hand writing, that I don’t believe is automatically generated for me by typing. There is something about the permanence of paper (who knows why…) and the actual feeling of the words that I have pressed into the paper that provide me a sense of, “These words, these thoughts, they have value. Value to ME.” When I publish a blogpost or submit a short story for a contest, I am inevitably asking the question, “Does this have value to YOU?”. Beginning my writing with a sense of how and why I value my thoughts and feelings generates great security. I think that security gives me space to be vulnerable and creative – really what I want to be most in my writing.

If you’re feeling out of touch with yourself in general or specifically as a writer, I encourage you to pick up a pen and paper and write about anything at all. I find the best writing comes when I give myself permission at the onset to keep it or destroy it when I’m finished. It is amazing how the act of writing with a pen on paper can light writers up from within and provide us with the warmth we are always needing.

What Does it Feel Like to Fall?

I had a eureka moment when I was thinking through this blog. I started out thinking about fear of failing. Usually, when I think about failing, the voice of Dave Gorham (who was my Frame of Mind Coaching coach) enters my head and prods my negative beliefs about failing. Today, the first voice I heard was that of Junior Diljohn, whose yoga classes I have been attending regularly at Moksha Yoga Thornhill.  As we test our strength and balance, Junior asks us, “What does it feel like to fall?” When I heard his voice this morning, I realized that my fears about falling and failing are interchangeable and that embracing both brings similar benefits.

Here’s what happens in my Moksha yoga class: first of all, it’s really hot. Not as hot as the Bikram classes that I attended, but hot enough that I’m sweating before I’m moving. Secondly, the class is social and anti-social at the same time. It’s social, because I’m there with other people. I like having people all around me. Sometimes they serve as a guide to what a pose can look like and sometimes they’re a reminder of what is left and what is right. It’s anti-social, because we don’t talk to each other.  At all. We don’t even meet each other’s eyes during the course of the class. It’s a respectful, non-verbal, supportive space. I can’t remember ever experiencing anything quite like it – where I felt both connected and alone at the same time.

It is in this environment that I am beginning to consciously explore what it might feel like to fall. I am no stranger to falling by accident. In fact, the fall that broke my knee when I was twenty-three continues to impact my life – both in terms of the impact on my physical structure as well the domino effect the experience had on my life, leading me to break off an engagement and pursue a relationship with the incredible man that I share my life and children with.

What does it feel like to fall?

It can hurt. It can be embarrassing. I often fall walking up the stairs at home.  Usually when I’m moving very quickly. Falling in this way often leads me to slow down for a while (until I forget) to prevent subsequent falls.

In yoga class, I am directed to find stability and then look for my edge. I love doing this most for the tipping poses that are on one leg. First, I root my foot into the ground. Then, I feel the strength and power in my standing leg. Once I feel solid, I begin to tip forward. I tighten every muscle that I can – my legs, my stomach, my back – and I simultaneously reach toward the mirror with the crown of my head and reach toward the back of the room with the foot that is in the air. When I begin to wobble, I tighten up more. Sometimes, I lose my concentration, or my balance and I fall out of the pose. When I fall and there’s still time, I move back into the pose, slowly making some adjustments – tightening up my back a little more, focusing on the quad in my standing leg and I find more balance, more stability. Sometimes it’s all I can do to maintain my wobbly stance.  Other times, I find more strength and get a little closer to the mirror and at the same time, a little closer to the back of the room. As the sweat pours off of me and I feel the presence of the people beside me who I don’t know, but still appreciate, I feel powerful.

What does it feel like to fall?

I associate falling with weakness – both the weakness that led me to fall (since I associate my klutziness with weakness) and the weakness that can follow an injury.  I associate falling with fragility. Yet, when I peel away my beliefs, I know that I also associate falling with strength. The strength it takes to heal. The strength required to take steps after falling. The courage to work through pain. More than anything, I associate falling with learning. In yoga, when I go back into the pose, I experiment with adjustments and see what impact they have. I learn what my capacity is and the scope of my power. I do the same thing in my life every day – through journaling, through taking responsibility in conversations, through generating ideas to develop my business.

When I reflect on my personal stories of pride and inspiration: leaving fundraising to go back to school and study Psychology; leaving the PhD program to be a coach; breaking off my first engagement; I realize that there were seeds of failure in all of these stories. I didn’t think my route to professional success was as a fundraiser; I didn’t think my route to success in the field of psychology was as an academic, I didn’t think my route to romantic success was with my first fiancé. I initially failed in all of these areas. I fell and fell hard.

What does it feel like to fall?

Falling feels scary.  Falling feels risky. Falling can be painful.

At the same time, falling (failing) is incredibly productive. It’s inspiring. I think it’s necessary. It motivates and changes me.

I was thinking about failing this morning because tomorrow marks an incredible beginning for me. I am testing a Kindness Challenge that I have designed. It has been my dream to take what I learn by studying psychology research and build programs that are accessible and effective for increasing people’s well-being. Over the next two weeks, about twenty-five of us will be testing this Kindness Challenge to learn if I have designed it in such a way that people are motivated to participate daily and equally, to learn if this practice increases their well-being.

What does it feel like to fall?

As I embark on these two weeks of testing, falling feels like reaching.  Reaching back to what I’ve learned and forward to what I’m dreaming about, with a focus on stability supporting me in between. Falling feels like embracing community, power and humility at the same time. It feels a little sweaty – but mostly amazing.

Giving Birth to a Writer

I’ve been having a lot of birth and baby dreams. This has been true for at least a year and the baby dreams out-number the birth dreams by far. Dreams, like Rorshach’s Inkblot, can be interpreted every which way. In fact, my enjoyment of conversations about my dreams can often be measured by how many interpretations are offered up by the person to whom I’ve described the dream.  The first person, who I ever have described as “my Rabbi” (thank you Rabbi Danny Gottlieb) told me that baby and birth dreams are a sign that there is something new that we’re trying to deliver or become. Given my age (44) and the state of my husband (post-vasectomy), this is a far more productive (excuse the pun) line of thinking for me than the interpretation that my body and mind are longing for another child.

I believe I am really longing to write and to write often.

Last night around 11pm, as I struggled to keep my eyes open, so I could finish the last few pages of Origin, I was also reflecting on the commitment I had made to myself earlier in the evening to wake up at 5am and write. I made this commitment in recognition of how good I feel when I am writing regularly and knowing that if I want to become a better writer (and I do), then I must write and write regularly. I know that committing to do something first thing in the morning and moving the needle on what “first thing” is to quiet time in my house, is my surest route to keeping my commitment.  Yet, I also knew that I have been fighting a cold virus all week long and that sleep would benefit me a lot. Thus, as I closed my book, I provided myself with some pre-sleep direction (in my head, so as not to wake my already sleeping husband and puppy) that sounded like this: “If you’re up to it, wake up at 5am to write. It’s okay if you’re not, it’s okay to sleep.” And with that, I closed my eyes and enjoyed a hot yoga induced deep sleep that included at least one baby/birth dream.

I opened my eyes, fully awake in the darkness. In late January, in this part of the world (Greater Toronto Area), amount of light gives no indication as to time of day.  Ditto for how alert I was – I can wake up at 1:30am lucid and energetic, as if I’ve had a full night’s sleep.  I knew that it could be 2:30am, 4am or my target of 5am.  I checked my trusty Fitbit Alta and learned that it was 5:38am.  Wow. My body knows what it wants.

Despite this, I lay in bed for about five minutes. While 2017 was a great year for me for early rising and getting a ton done before 6:30am, 2018 has, so far, been the year of snoozing. I wondered what I would write about. I felt some guilt for getting the puppy up for so early (no need – she’s currently passed out comfortably beside me on her back on the couch). Two things became clear in my head: I was definitely awake and if I want to write, it was a good idea to get up.

Then I gave birth to this blog post. (Okay, I let the puppy out first.)

Giving birth isn’t easy and taking care of babies isn’t either. I have given birth three times and while I look back to each birth with an incredible sense of pride and wonder, I also recall the pain, exhaustion and fear.

Becoming a writer feels similar – although less intense then I remember the effort required in pushing out my babies. Similarly, to how I felt about having children, I feel excited about wanting to write and compelled to commit, even when it feels hard. More than anything, I feel the love of creating. Creating is such a powerful and act – fully of mystery and joy. The power to do so, feels like an an honour and a gift.

I look forward to many more dawns like this one, as I give birth to myself.

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