writing

follow your heart

When I was a child I knew without knowing how I wanted to live life. I knew that I wanted to feel the freedom of my own heart. That I wanted to explore and write and draw and color. And for a long time as a child I was able to do those things. It was a benefit of being the youngest child of a large family; in hiding amongst the masses, I could go undetected. But at some point, I am not sure how or when, it all happened so slowly, so subtly, I was domesticated out of my true purpose, (as most of us are), and was told in order to be loved I had to conform. In order to be loved, I had to live how society wanted me to live - demanded how I live. And for a long time I lived that way.

In my youth, I rebelled against these new rules for living and loving as much as I could. I slept a lot as I didn't see the point of getting out of bed if I couldn't live a life of my choosing. I smoked, I drank, I did drugs, I defiled my body. So, yeah, I was pretty miserable. But so was everyone around me so I didn't think much about it. It was "normal". But then in my early twenties I landed a job that helped change that. And for a while I was able to balance the demands of the world with the demands of my heart. And during that period I think I was happy if not totally fulfilled.

Then, once again, for the "sake of love", I abandoned my heart for the whims of society. And for many years I traveled back and forth between listening to the gentle whispers of my heart and hearing the loud clanging of the world. Until one day I could no longer hear my heart. And when that happened I experienced such tremendous feelings of loss. My heart literally broke. I was filled with grief and longing and my health began to decline. During this time, I foolishly thought that the grief, the pain, was caused by something outside of myself. That what I was feeling was related exclusively to the loss of relationships and job stress. But I realize now, I felt that way because I had stopped listening to the beat of my own heart.

It has taken time, 5 months of conscious sobriety, hundreds of hours of quiet meditation, and dozens of hikes to craggy, mountain peaks for me to be able to once again hear the near silent longings of my heart. And along the way, crossing valleys and forging rivers, one of the most salient lessons I have learned is true love will never ask me to betray my heart. And when society says, "no one will love you if you act like that", I now know that statement for the lie that it is. Because when I follow my heart, only true love flows to me. And when I listen to and then follow the promptings of my heart I always feel loved.

So, that's what I finally did. I took a gamble on my heart. I left my well paying but abusive job in retail (where it's all about the money, money, money...) without a real plan, without much of safety net, for the sole (soul) purpose of writing a book and reacquainting myself with my heart. And while somedays I feel a pinch of anxiety, most days I feel free and filled with gratitude. I finished writing the book! I have my health back! I have authentic and loving relationships. I wake up each morning early because I have a sense of purpose. I am in the flow. All because I decided to listen fully to my heart. And it's the best decision to date that I have made.

photo: moi 

photo: moi 

recess

Living in mindful sobriety has its surprises. Today while doing yoga I was caught off guard by a sudden waterfall of tears. Not knowing from where they sprung, I just let them fall. After yoga I felt an onslaught of anger reminiscent of a temper tantrum. The kind of anger where I just wanted to break something. Anything! And thought I really need to see someone about hormone therapy thinking, "Could this rush of emotion simply be symptomatic of being perimenopausal? Part of it for sure. But all of it?

I found out later when my inner 5 year old erupted demand equivalent to a volcano erupting that the answer was no. The emotion pendulum is not all related to hormone imbalance. My inner child was calling to me. Asking, nè demanding! that I stop adulating so hard and spend some quality time with her adventuring in Morocco.

I had a difficult time listening to my inner 5 year old, certain that somehow I am supposed to transcend this corporal experience of Life. That to reach enlightenment I need to deny myself the simple pleasures of life, of play, of being childlike. But I realized I have this body for a purpose. I am meant to live in this body; really live in it. Not above it, or below it, or around it, but really in it! And not just live in it but enjoy it! Life is meant to be enjoyed. And this body and all that comes with it is meant to be loved.

So today, because my inner child and me aren't able to physically fly to Marrakesh, we are pretending to be in Marrakesh by enjoying the daily simple pleasures of coffee and food, reading and writing, albeit with a slightly different perspective and quality use of our collective imagination. And amazingly, I feel much better because of it.  It really is true that recess (along with nap time) is the most important part of the day.

photo courtesy of moi. hanging out with my dear friend's daughter at the park.

photo courtesy of moi. hanging out with my dear friend's daughter at the park.

being present

There is magic in being present. I know that sounds like such a cliche and the phrase is so ubiquitous that it feels like a cliche as well. But, personal experience has taught me that there is magic in being present and that it is anything but a cliche.

These last couple of months as my bank balance dwindled and I have relied more and more on my stellar credit I would jokingly tell people that my nest egg had sprouted wings and I needed to make sure it didn't completely leave the coop. Since I haven't had any practice until now being a full time creative, that meant (and maybe means) getting a job. And with all of that weighing on me - the money, the job, the feeling that I am somehow abandoning my dreams - I would find myself in the throes of crippling anxiety. Anxiety about an uncertain future or a harry past. What ifs clouded my brain: What if I couldn't find a job? What if I don't sell any art? What if no one likes my book? What if I have to sell my house? Nearly paralyzed with fear over non-existent events, my mind had trapped me into inertia. I couldn't write. I couldn't paint. I couldn't move! All I could do was cry. It was at times like these that I would often turn to alcohol for relief. Thank God for my meditation practice! It allowed me to refocus on my breath and recenter myself in this world of now.

Staying present is hard work. Especially when we are bombarded with information. Social media, TV, radio, our friends & family, our senses become overwhelmed with too much, often impertinent, information. It takes real effort to tune all of that out and focus on what is happening in the now. And while our electronics can get in the way of our ability to be present, the biggest culprit is really the mind. Our minds have been trained to be anywhere but here. The mind travels to the past with longing, regret, or shame and then jumps to the unknown of the future where anxiety and uncertainty live. To throw a leash on that and make it heel to the present moment is a daunting task. Training the mind to heel requires a level of awareness; awareness that the mind is even rambling out of control in the first place. When you can get the mind to heel then peace has a chance to take root and blossom.

Well, I know my mind wanders. I have that awareness. I just didn't realize the extent it roamed until I stopped drinking. And because I no longer have that distraction, or the distraction from friends that I used to drink with (that's another story), and because I have so much more time with myself and no place to hide from my current circumstances, I can either choose to stay present or drown in anxiety caused inertia over events that I can't change or LIFE that hasn't yet unfolded.

To me, it's a no brainer. I would rather be present to the glorious unfolding of this life. And therein lies the magic. Because LIFE really is glorious in all its messiness and all its beauty. And when I am present for it I see how blessed I really am. I have realized that most of the anxiety and fear I experience is a. learned, knee jerk reaction to life; a habit. Because I know it's a habit I know it can be replaced with the healthier, more pleasant habit of being present. Being present is an invitation to experience what is real. Being present reminds me that living does not happen in the past or the future, but right now - in this moment. And it shows me beyond reasonable doubt that right now, in this moment, I have everything I need and am surrounded by love. And that knowing, fills me with a deep sense of gratitude. Because LIFE, when given the opportunity, will do anything to support us. We just need to stay present for it.

original art by  cecilia anthony

original art by cecilia anthony

the decision

Last fall I decided I wanted to experience 2018 completely sober. The craziness of the world had something to do with the decision but mostly it was because I was curious to see if and how my life would change and to challenge myself to sit through the difficult spots without self medicating or running away, (I'm really good at running away).

I had quit my job in September, realizing that since the death of my parents a year earlier, I hadn't really been able to get my head back in the game. So, I left and decided that taking a time out to finish writing a book I'd been working on for years was a valiant goal. I had no idea, (still don't!), how I was going to support myself long term. I had enough savings for about 6 months but, I figured if Donald Trump can be President of the United States then anything is possible. I spread my wings and jumped and prayed that over the months of not knowing my wings would grow bigger and stronger and carry me faithfully through the currents of uncertainty.

Now it's April and I am finally getting around to recording my year long journey of sobriety. Things are still uncertain and I am learning the value of staying present. I've finished writing my book and have some time for other things before I need to head back to work to support myself. Or not.

I'm not quite, but nearly, out of money. But I'm not lacking in resources or joy. And while the last few months have been uncertain they have been some of the most fulfilling, especially since moving to Utah nearly 5 years ago. I have been living the creative life I have oft dreamt of. Really, actually living it! And so today, on my hike, I was wondering what it would be like to sell my home and pay off all the debt I have accumulated and just start over. The idea thrilled me! But the nuts and bolts of actually doing that doesn't sound so fun. So today, that's where I am at; trying to reconcile where I am with where I want to be. Trying to stay present while not losing sight of the vision I have for myself.

And the alcohol? I'm not missing it one bit!

 

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