Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Resolutions


The best New Year's Eve I ever spent was in Baltimore. Kerry, Luke, and I were hanging out at my tiny little studio apartment on Bond Street in Fell's Point. We were waffling between just staying in or heading out, stymied, in part, by the thought of dealing with the crowd of drunk frat bros stumbling through the streets and vomiting in the gutters. At 11 p.m. we decided to head across Bond to a local dive with friendly bartenders who gave us free drinks (now it's One-Eyed Mike's, and none of us can remember the name when we were there). At midnight we stood in the lot next to the bar and watched the fireworks over the Harbor, way back before Harbor East rose up and took over the view with its massive gym, condos, and Whole Foods.

We stayed in that bar until 6 a.m., when we may or may not have gone to breakfast at Jimmy's. The last actual memory I have of that night is the firework that exploded in the shape of Saturn (the first time I had ever seen that shape in fire), but I also remember the good time and the contentment of that night. Being happy.

I am a creature of habits, odd ones to be sure, but there they are. Before the clock strikes 12 on the 31st, I usually buy a ridiculous amount of food (like Y2K amounts) and put in several bottles of wine or other good booze (it's an abundance thing, I suppose). In addition, I have spent New Year's Eve in various places and with various people, but there are three things that are always constant, three minor rituals that I always do on or the day before New Year's Eve.

1. I shave my legs. I do a good job, all the way up and all the way around, not the normal winter shave of "not at all" or "just up to the kneecap."

2. I get rid of all the grey in my hair. Drapes and carpet. This may be TMI, but it's the truth.

3. I wax my eyebrows. Have someone else wax them, truthfully, but either way they get waxed.

It's odd that all of these three things have to do with hair, the plucking, shaving, coloring or otherwise altering my hair in shape, color, or location, but I only just realized that of everything I have done all of my life, all of the resolutions I have made and unmade, these things are my true north on New Year's Eve. Maybe it has to do with getting lucky. Maybe it has to do with the turning of the wheel and pushing back time.

Whatever it is, there is only one other thing that I have done more than once on a New Year's Eve, and it's a resolution, the same words, and it works every time, for better or worse. Once, it resulted in moving across the country. Once, it resulted in a death. Once, it resulted in a birth. Every time I make this resolution, it happens. I have only made this resolution three times (see the above three results). It is powerful, maybe because it is vague enough to be open to interpretation, but on the years I don't make it nothing much seems to happen. The resolution is this:

This time next year, I will be in a different place.

Sometimes I feel like tempting fate and making it to see what happens, but it's truly a crapshoot and I am not sure I am feeling all that lucky. If I do end up making a resolution this year, I will damn sure not say it out loud or write it down unless I am 100% prepared for the consequences. This is none of this The Secret bullshit, which has resulted in millions of people waiting for things to happen to them instead of getting off their ass and going out and doing them. It seems that when I put something into words then every cell in my body is bent on making whatever I have said happen. So I am already in a  different place, and I am not sure if I want to be in an even more different place this time next year.

What say you? What rituals or resolutions follow you around?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Vulnerability


"The question, then, is not only how to uncover our fundamental tenderness and warmth but also how to abide there with the fragile, often bittersweet vulnerability. How can we relax and open to the uncertainty of it?"

From this article by Pema Chodron, in which she discusses how loss and heartbreak opens us up to warmth, but then how we snap our hearts shut soon after. In the days following 9/11, this was the feeling of vulnerability that prompted most people to treat each other with tenderness. Shortly thereafter, just days, really, that tenderness faded, and we all went back to being gruff, protected, sheltered. Hiding our softest parts.

We all have them, these tender spaces that very few people are allowed to see. Babies are born with them, even called soft spots, so delicate that you can see their hearts beating through their downy hair. The body itself wisely closes that soft space as the baby grows, and our heart buries itself deep into our chests.

As 2014 ends and a new year begins, February looms. February, the most bittersweet month on the calendar, mercifully short. The month I met my love, and the month I lost him thirteen years later (almost to the day we met, on the day of our first date). I have felt crabbish and small these last few months, thinking daily of Dane and Life After.

I can feel myself shrinking a bit. I have had a hard time looking strangers in the eye. I have had a hard time being open and vulnerable. More often as I write this blog, this blog that is supposed to be the purest expression of myself (by my own design, as much as I can, as honest and authentic as I can be), I have had to stop or delete altogether blogs written for an audience by some version of the self I would like to project.

I don't want that to be me in my work anymore. I assume there is an audience of some kind reading out there because I get your comments and analytic reports. I cannot write for an audience, though. I have to write for me and know that on some level it might resonate with someone. Being authentic and vulnerable here has been harder of late.

This is the time, Chodron says, that we should turn to each other. The time we feel the most vulnerable and anxious and scared is the best time to recognize that these are universal feelings that everyone has felt or is feeling or will feel. Instead of feeling connected, though, we get angry and withdraw or blame something/one else. We shrink into anger instead of expanding into love.

I don't want to be that person. I want to be open and vulnerable and trust that the people I meet will not hurt me (intentionally). I don't know how to do that except to just do that, but transparency goes against my nature, or at least the vision of myself.

" For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13: 12 (KJV)

But then also...

"Ignorance is regarding the impermanent and permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self." Sutra 5, Book Two The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali

So I think I know who I am but maybe not so much, and this darkly clouded glass is ignorance and confusion. Chodron says that pain is an illuminating experience in the most spiritual sense of the word if we can manage to seize the opportunity to stay with the tendency towards warmth and light as the pain starts to fade.

All this to say, simply, I want to fall in love again, but I don't know if I am capable of letting myself be that open to another human.

That was hard to say. It took 653 words to get there. It's what I was referring to in this earlier post but literally could not type the words yet.

But as I think about falling in love again, I feel myself closing up. I referred to myself as "not a hugger" multiple times in settings when, in fact, I actually could have easily been a hugger and people wanted to hug me, but I threw up the barrier as much as if I had stacked bricks.

I don't know if I have the capacity to let go that much anymore. But I know I don't want to be alone.

What do you do when you want to do a thing you don't feel you can do?


Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Does Abundance Feel Like?


A couple of months ago I wrote a post about feeling dry. Parched, shriveled up. I always envision pictures of salt flats or deepest Africa, the ones with fissures running across the cracked earth. This dryness, to me, is the ultimate symbol of deprivation.

The contrast to this pervasive dryness is lush abundance, a rainforest filled with light and life, a painting by Ruebens, the fullness of a spring morning. Wetness and warmth and glowing rounded figures.

Just yesterday I wrote a blog for a client on using gratitude to boost mood (#irony). One of the experts I quoted identified the three pillars of grateful people, chief among them the feeling of abundance:

  • Grateful people feel abundance in their lives; they do not feel deprived

  • Grateful people are satisfied with simple pleasures

  • Grateful people appreciate those around them

So what happens when grateful people lose that feeling of abundance? Can they maintain the other two pillars, or, like a three-legged stool, does that gratitude fall away into dust? What is abundance anyway?

I am a grateful person, not by nature but by practice (that continues daily). I know that I am lucky beyond measure with health, good people that I call friends and family, a daughter who is an amazing example of a human, a job that isn't just work, and all of the basic necessities of life. These things are enough. Of course they are enough.

But still.

It seems patently ungrateful to reflect on these things and then still retain that feeling of deprivation.

It's in the worry about building up a savings account after it was depleted to pay for The Child's trip to Paris. Or paying for tiny house parking in January. Or buying new pants for The Child five minutes after she gets new ones because they are instantly too small.

It's in the holiday season that is MERRY and BRIGHT with SHINY NEW TOYS. I don't shop unless I absolutely need something because once I enter a store I get caught up in the cycle of "I want." It throws me off the path. Makes me feel like less of a person because I cannot fill my cart with shiny, happy baubles. Baubles that I don't need and would ultimately not use, but still.

It's the conflict between what I truly believe (life should be filled with experiences, travel, good friends and food) and what it seems the vast majority of the country believes (life is about getting the latest. The newest. Shop every season for new clothes. Your kids should have every single thing they desire. You are a bad parent if you say no. Presents should be piled high under the tree). On good days, when I have grown and canned my own tomatoes or made my own farmhouse-style vanity from reclaimed wood from the rehab (that's happening!! Stay tuned!), or when I have spent the day with friends or with Sicily, exploring the city or on the road, there is no conflict. My heart is full.

But on other days, when I try to figure out, as my friend Luke puts it, how to stuff ten pounds of shit in a five-pound sack, it's much harder. These are the days when my now-obsolete laptop shuts off for no reason, or when the Seahawks are on national TV but we don't have cable so we can't watch. These are small things, first-world problems, really, that make me think that I need to spend some time with people who truly have nothing.

But then I feel awful because we have to choose between buying Sicily's art teacher a giftcard for the holidays so he can replenish the art supplies without using his own money and "adopting" a family from the local community center so they can have SOCKS FOR CHRISTMAS. Or putting together kits for the homeless, so when I stop at a light and see a sign I can hand out a bag with a few protein bars, some hand warmers, some socks, and a few hygiene items.

Abundance to me means enough to share, widely, and I don't feel that way right now. It makes me feel shrewish and ungenerous and cold in a season that has those feelings in spades. It makes me feel pinched with worry. It doesn't feel like "christmas" (minus the Christ part, for me) because I cannot give. And that, to me, is the height of deprivation.

I am not sure how to cultivate the feeling of abundance even when I am worried about bills and giving and the future. Maybe the answer is to not worry about those things which, after all, are ultimately not fixed with worry. Asking me to not worry is like asking the sun to please not set in the west.

What is abundance to you? Do you feel like it exists in your life?


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Muffin Sunday


Some mornings are made for muffins.

Sunday mornings, in particular, seem like the perfect time to wander sleepily around the kitchen in your bathrobe, throwing ingredients together. As you feed the dogs and they head back to sleep, your muffins will be filling the house with the warm, tantalizing smells of cinnamon and, because it's the holiday and you happen to have some in the 'fridge, eggnog.

These particular muffins are delicious, dense and sweet but not cloying. They take five minutes to throw together and are highly adaptable to whatever is in your pantry. They don't make many, though, just eight goodly-sized muffins, so be prepared to double if you are feeding a crowd. They freeze well, so every morning can be Sunday morning.

Cinnamon Eggnog Crumble Muffins

For the muffins:

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (gluten-free blends work well here; try this recipe)

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 egg

1 egg yolk (or just add 2 full eggs, easy like Sunday morning)

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 tablespoons yogurt

splash of eggnog (or milk if you have accidentally consumed all of your eggnog)

Crumb topping:

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. all-purpose flour (gluten-free here, too, if needed)

1/4 cup melted/cooled butter

1 tablespoon cinnamon (you could use less if you want to, and maybe add in a pinch of nutmeg. Your kitchen. Your choice. You could also add pecans or some other kind of nut.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use muffin liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together dry muffin ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together wet muffin ingredients. Add wet to dry, and mix until combined. The mixture will be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, add another splash of 'nog or milk. Spoon into prepared muffin tins.

For the topping, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted, cooled butter and mix with a fork. Top each muffin with a  generous spoonful.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins peek a golden brown top through the crumble. A toothpick inserted into a muffin will come out with crumbs sticking to it but not be wet.

Try to wait a couple minutes while they cool in the tins, then eat. Cool completely if you are planning to freeze. Fresh muffins keep well for three days, but they won't last that long.

(image is what I plan on doing after eating these)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Should You Bother With A Backup Plan?


This week Sicily and I managed to get ourselves out of the house after dark THREE TIMES. This is huge. Even though darkness comes obscenely early these days, once The Child is home and dinner is done, all I want to do is curl up on the couch and go to sleep.

However, I bought a Living Social deal for a restaurant in Fell's Point back in August, and it was about to expire, plus The Child had a painting in an art exhibit at UMBC, so we went to dinner before the show and then to UMBC.

The Child's piece of art (photographed poorly by me, see above) was based on the work of Tom Scott, and the curator of the Tom Scott exhibit spoke to the assembled group to talk a little about Scott and to give some life advice. Namely, that artists shouldn't plan on making a living from their art and that they need to have a Plan B, and "probably a Plan C."

As he spoke, I got more irritated.

He talked about how it's not possible to live simply these days, but it was easier to live simply back in the 50s and 60s, so artists didn't need as much money to survive. He said that art can be a profitable hobby, and parents should support their kids and let them go to art school if they want to but to make sure that they are prepared to do something else and leave art to the weekends and evenings.

I will concede: very few artists of any stripe will achieve international fame and exorbitant monetary success. An artist who subsists off the proceeds from his or her art (and here I mean painting, writing, music, etc) will generally not live in a mansion and drive a fancy car.

And to this I ask: so what?

So what if you don't have a mansion? So what if your car isn't fancy?

This obsession with gadgetry and new everything and what things look like on the outside (brand-name clothing, etc) are cyanide to anyone with artistic inclinations. The message being delivered by the curator and people of his ilk is this: you have to choose between eating and art. Which is patently untrue.

One of my favorite quotes that I will butcher here and not attribute to anyone because I cannot remember who wrote it (but it's not plagiarism if you make sure to say you didn't write it, yes?): Don't be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

If you are an artist, ART. Paint. Write. Make music. Sing your song. Having a Plan B, or god help you, a Plan C, makes it too easy to fall back on that plan. If you are hungry and you are working on it you will succeed. How you measure success is up to you. If you measure it by the size of your house, then perhaps art isn't the right place for you. Maybe you like the IDEA of being an artist, the trappings, more than the act of art.

But if you measure it in terms of granting yourself the freedom to find your voice and express it, or by dedicating yourself to getting better at your art and doing it every day, then toss out the Plan B, and just ART.

This panic over money and the Plan B cushion is why I didn't become a writer when that's what I wanted to be from a very young age. I drank the middle-class Kool-Aid that said I had to have a career and go to college, so I did, and I became a teacher, which I loved, but in the back of my mind was this idea of writing. I am 100% sure that the reason my school got off the ground at all is because a donor backed out at the last minute and I had no money to work with. I had to make it successful because for a time, that was all the money we had coming in. So I put in the work and ended up with a fully accredited, non-profit private school that I built myself from nothing. Had I fallen back on the cushion that a donor would have provided, I am not sure that I would have worked as hard. If I am being honest (which I always try to be).

When Dane died I decided that life is too uncertain to put off doing what I wanted to do. As much as I loved the school, and even though it was beginning to turn a profit in the sense that I could actually give myself a paycheck, it was time to put that work into something for me. Teaching and education is my heart, but writing is my soul. Or vice versa, depending on the day.

There is definitely a certain level of anxiety surrounding the money I am bringing in (or not). But if I am being honest, which I always try to be, there has always been a certain level of anxiety surrounding money for me. So much so that I can remember coming up with a mantra in my mid-twenties self-help period that clearly reflected this anxiety: I have everything I need.

So if I am going to be anxious about money, why not be anxious while doing something I love? Why not finally throw myself into learning more about who I am as a writer? Why not prioritize time over money?

Thankfully, The Child was just as irritated as I was by the curator's speech. She felt like he was saying that art was good, but be okay with spreading yourself thin with a day job. Some would argue that I am handicapping her by encouraging her to throw herself into what she does with no thought of the practical, but to that I will simply say this: she built a house and has given two TEDTalks. She can certainly be as unmotivated as any adolescent, but when she is determined, she is persistent. Persistence is a better Plan B than any day job, and she is working hard to cultivate that (with some "motivational help" from me, I'll warrant).

Final thought is this: if you are prepared to throw yourself into learning and doing and creating, if you are determined and persistent, if you have focused on what's important to you and not followed the sheeple who preach material goods and the almighty dollar, if you have a path that you believe in an are willing to do what it takes to make it work, then a backup plan is unnecessary. Go out and ART.

What do you think? Should you have a backup plan?

Edited to add: I should also say that, after reading this blog again, some might interpret this post as being judgmental of those who take day jobs. This couldn't be farther from the truth; I was one of those people, too. We do what we have to do based on where we are and what we think we can do. There is no shame in providing for yourself and your family. I just hated to hear this guy telling a group of enthusiastic students that they can't be artists as a job. He was killing the dream before they could even dream it. The point is to think differently about what really matters in this life and act on that.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Yoga: The Art Of Finding Your Worst Self


Just like that, I have run smack into myself.

It's in the way I argue with Pantanjali's Sutras, choose the hour class over the 90-minute one, and judge the shapes I make as I learn the asanas.

It's the bargaining about whether or not I will go to yoga today because, after all, the teacher training only requires two classes and  I already did those, so technically I don't have to go.

It's hard. I don't believe in God, really, so the bhakti (devotional) yoga is killing me, and it's just like Jack Nicholson's crazy face through the door in The Shining: it's opening the door just enough so I can focus on how hard everything is and highlight the things I don't agree with and the parts I am bad at (nearly every pose, these days, apparently). Only meeting once a month leaves lots of times for assumptions and interpretations.

And then I read this from sutra 30:

"Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions re purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand our own capacities. In fact, this is the natural law. If a river just flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength..." (source)

And then I guess that it is human nature to want the river to just flow smoothly, but how many people really allow it to do that? How many people let their lives run in an unhurried pace with no drama? More often than not we stir the pot to create a little current in the river of our lives. I think we enjoy the rapids, even as we complain about them.

If I am being honest (which I always try to be), I am a little over all of this self-discovery, which is unfortunate because there is so much more in store. So I guess the plan is this:

  • Make a rule: don't skip more than one day between yoga classes.  This is how you build a habit, and I should know because I just wrote two blogs on the topic. It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, big or small, and falling off the wagon or slipping up doesn't seem to affect that time period. However, taking a big break can stop the habit formation in its tracks. I feel better when I go to yoga, and I am a better human, and I just need to keep that in mind. I'm doing it for humanity.

  • Make a plan: my procrastination is going to bite me in the hind parts sooner rather than later, especially with all of my technology issues of late. So it's back to the "to-do" list and making a budget to keep up with the house rehab, the reading requirements, writing my $#@! book, and working. Plus finances, because I am going to need a new computer soon, and cash is our currency of choice around here. Maybe I'll figure that out on Monday.

  • Make a deal: I am so judge-y. Even that statement was judge-y.  I need to stop being so critical of the classes that I choose to take. Getting on the mat is challenge enough sometimes, so that has to be enough.

  • Make the effort: I go to class because my home practice is non-existent, and I need a teacher to push me. So I need to push myself in class. Coming back from a wrist injury is very discouraging, especially when so much is done on the hands and wrists, but within minor restrictions I can go much harder than I am currently going.

  • Make some balance: yoga is not just the asanas (poses) but also the other eight limbs, one of which is prana (breath, energy). I have been avoiding the breath. Sounds weird, but stop this instant and tell me how you are breathing. I bet you are holding your breath or breathing very shallowly, and your shoulders are hunched forward and clenched up near your ears. BUSTED. So I need to breath, to meditate, to try to quiet my brain. When I push myself in asana, sometimes it's all I can do to breath and stay upright, so my brain is only focused on that. Valuable, but I need to learn how to do it when I am not moving. HARD.

Can you tell I need a little structure in my life? I guess I will consider this as fortifying the banks of my own personal river to contain the raging flood of self-discovery. See how I did that?

What's raging in your river this week?


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fear Of Silence


Many things are conspiring this past week to make it nearly unbearable.

I am particularly sensitive to the world, and sometimes it's too much. It's easy to scoff at this and say I am being too sensitive, or that I am overly dramatic, or I should just ignore it, and I try. If you tend to let things slide off your back, you will never understand, and you will always think me a bit weak for not only feeling this way but for also admitting to feeling this way.

But sometimes, between the dark and the tragedy and the daily stuff of life, it is very difficult for me to hold up well. I feel in my cells.

This morning there is new video of the aftermath of Eric Garner's death. Police officers milling about, not particularly urgently, and Garner very obviously not breathing. No one administering comfort or aid. Eric Garner is a neutralized sack of meat on the sidewalk. Devastating.

Usually I will respond by hibernating a little or going on a media blackout. This weekend I am going to try something different. I am going to try to go out into the grey world. I am going to breathe.

Tricycle has published an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh's next book talking about the fear of silence. The reasons why we won't stop and turn off the noise, either physical noise or media noise. There is a brief guided meditation focused on uniting mind and body and moving into the silence.

I catch myself breathing in short, sharp, shallow breaths these days. Even on the mat it is hard to breathe deeply. I feel like I am holding tragedy in every cell of my body these days, internalizing it and keeping it in. If I am being honest (which I always try to be), I will say that I don't know if I believe that simply by breathing I will make anything better. Maybe I will be less tense, but in yoga breath is supposed to contribute to some sort of magical release into the universe, and I am just not there. Call me the Cynical Yogi.

But goddamn. I am willing to try just about anything. I found The Child sobbing in the shower last night, and I can't fall to pieces right now. I can't hibernate.

So today, and tomorrow, I will breathe.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Dreary Days, Or How To Hold On Until The Solstice


So some days it's better to stay off the internet.

These are the days when I look at all of the beautiful pictures and writing that other people are doing, then look at mine and think, "Why bother?"

These are the days when I feel an overwhelming need for stuff that I can't buy. That feeling ultimately isn't really about the stuff anyway. Still.

These are the days when I want to get in my car and just go, or go to the airport and just leave. Somewhere warm and without many people.

These are the days where it is getting dark at 4:30 and the skies are a beautiful dreary grey that nonetheless makes me feel like listening to Damien Rice or Ray LaMontaigne and sitting on the couch with a fluffy blanket and a never-ending cup of tea.

These are the days when I lose all touch with my yogic mind and begin to flagellate myself in the brain. This is a flogging that leaves no visible marks but is nevertheless very painful.

Everything is a minus. Every hill is a mountain. Every step is a trial.

Until December 21st, the light gets smaller and smaller.

Then the very next day we start to add precious minutes of daylight, little by little, until the ladybugs wake up and starting landing on windowsills and the grass starts to grow and the dogs start to itch because the fleas are back.

Right now I have to figure out how to float through this and just let it be whatever it is.

Maybe I will bake my way through it.

Maybe I will drink a lot of tea and read and sit and stare and twirl my hair.

What would you do?


Separating Food And Life

So thanks to my intrepid webmaster, Andrew Odom, I now have two separate blogs: one for food-related stuff (Bitter/Sweet Food), and one for everything else (Bitter/Sweet Life). Mad love to Andrew; he is the SEO and social media master!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Creative Entitlement And Responsibility


This quote popped up on my Facebook feed this morning.

"All the resources you will ever want or need are at your fingertips. All you have to do is identify what you want to do with it, and then practice the feeling-place of what it will feel like when that happens. There is nothing you cannot be or do or have. You are blessed beings; you have come forth into this physical environment to create. There is nothing holding you back, other than your own contradictory thought. And your emotion tells you you're doing that. Life is supposed to be fun—it is supposed to feel good! You are powerful creators and right on schedule. Savor more; fix less. Laugh more; cry less. Anticipate positively more; anticipate negatively less. Nothing is more important than that you feel good. Just practice that and watch what happens. There is great love here for you. We are complete."


I went to sleep as early as my grandmother last night and woke up at my birthday time (3:14), wide awake. The dog liked the idea of getting up, so rather than lie in bed, twirling my hair, I gathered the dog and the cat and headed down for early morning coffee, and maybe some guilt-free Facebonking.

I read the above quote, then saw something else posted on Elizabeth Gilbert's Facebook page, and it was like an epiphany this morning. She is talking about the idea of creative entitlement; that is, the idea that we are all entitled to the space of creativity. To wit:

"Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and believing that — merely by being here, merely by existing — you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own."

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, as my mercenary writing work picks up and I ignore Pantanjali's Sutras that I am supposed to be reading for yoga teacher training. Along with being entitled to creative space, voice, and vision, there is a responsibility (should you choose to accept it) to take advantage of it. I fall into the easy trap of distraction frequently. I use the excuse that it's all research and reading and that should be okay for a writer.

Except it's only okay when it is done to a purpose, not just following clickbait until you suddenly find yourself reading an article on the ten best places to retire in the mountains and you realize that two hours of fluff have gone by.

I write and talk and think a lot about the cult of busyness, how everyone says, when asked how they are doing, "I'm BUSY!" like it's a badge of honor to be so busy but it's kind of complaining also. But we have exactly the same number of hours in a day as Einstein or da Vinci or Curie. And it many ways, we have more time created by our modern conveniences. So when we say we are busy, we are really neglecting to utilize our time. I am not utilizing my time.

If the resources are right at my fingertips, and I am entitled to my creative space, then it is my responsibility to fill that creative space with creation.   Gilbert talks about why we shirk this responsibility so often, and it is spot-on for me this morning. She talks about David Whyte and "the arrogance of belonging":

"Without [the arrogance of belonging], you will never push yourself out of the suffocating insulation of personal safety, and into the frontiers of the beautiful and the unexpected.

The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it’s exactly the opposite; it's a force that will actually take you OUT OF YOURSELF and allow you to engage more fully with the world. Because often what keeps you from living your most creative and adventurous and expressive life IS your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection)."

This is psych 101: if you don't try you will never fail. If you don't step away from the computer or the other distraction, if you don't shut up the voice in your head and all of your fears, you will never escape the "suffocating insulation of personal safety" (this phrase bears repeating for me, and all of us who fall into the trap of routine. To quote Coehlo: "If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.").

After realizing that you are entitled to creative space, then it is time to show up and do the work. It is your responsibility to do so. It makes you a better person.

This is my meditation for today: I am entitled, I am responsible. What is your mantra?