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Dreams of Good Enough

Kira Elliott Good Enough

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”  ― Christopher K. Germer

Do you ever wake startled out of a dream? Your heart racing, mind blurry and confused, and it feels like your whole body is flailing about in your bed. When your mind is dragged into the present you open your eyes, the room is filled with early morning light filtered through the curtains. Your loved one is sleeping next to you, his mouth slightly open making small noises with each breath. The cat is curled into a small ball at the foot the bed between your feet and his feet. It takes you a moment to realize you did not leave your wallet on the side of the road next to a prostitute who was selling her little girl to another woman dressed in rags who only wanted to throw the little girl away. That was only a dream.

It seems almost every morning this past week I have woken from intense disturbing dreams. I wake startled, confused and scared. I go to my notebook and write these dreams out, trying to capture the images, the feelings, so that I might be able to untangle what my unconscious mind is telling me. I have always had intense vivid dreams. I still remember dreams from when I was little girl. I believe dreams are messages from our inner wisdom and can help us take better care of ourselves if we listen.

I know I am getting closer to a truth or my life is shifting in a big way, which usually means an inner shift rather than external one but not always, when I start to have intense dreams like I had in the last week. When I woke from the dream about the prostitute selling her daughter to another woman who was only going to use the little girl and then throw her away I was shaken for days.

I spent hours writing about the feelings, the images, following little trails of thought around my life, trying to find a place for this dream to settled or fit. Rarely will this process make literal sense. Rational thought is not involved, rather it is me feeling my way around things. It is me writing streams of concrete images on the page and paying attention to how I feel when I write them.

On the page I poked my relationship with my mother. I pried my relationships with men who objectified me over the years. I peered under the shame of growing up in poverty. Page after page of seemingly unrelated images, feelings and meanings something began to take shape and fit. I began to feel settled. The murky feeling of disconnection faded.

I realized the prostitute symbolized me, a part of me that sells myself, my dreams, my time, my energy and resources—and worst, my authenticity, to being good enough. Striving to be good enough uses everything I have and throws me away. Good enough objectified me. My quest to be good enough is more than a subtle form of aggression, it is a direct assault on my heart and my well-being.

So now what? What do I do with this knowledge? Why am I dreaming about how I sell myself? The quest to be good enough is so deeply ingrained in my cells and modes of operation it is not something I simply become aware of and poof it dissipates.

To be honest I don’t know how to stop striving. This is not the first time this awareness of how striving to be good enough hurts me and robs me of peace. I have learned to release the quest at times. But often, I am unaware I am being motivated to be good enough until something like a dream I had the other night wakes me up and reminds me of what I am doing. Sometimes I get sick or my hormones flare and I scorch the earth around me.

Learning how to let go of being good enough can be tricky because inherent in the letting go is notion I can do it perfectly—therefore good enough. There is a lot of seeking, learning and striving I can engage in to figure out how to let go of being good enough and that generally leads to more feelings of not doing it right or simply more I am not good enough feelings. A terrible vicious cycle.

The only thing I know that helps me is a gentle practice of loving kindness. This is the hardest practice for me to engage with on a consistent basis. Learning to develop self-compassion for all of me as I am—striving and all—dismantles the walls around my heart. Loving kindness breaks the cycle of getting better and being better. There is no destination with self-compassion, it is seeing things as they are and allowing space for them to exist. It is the intention for peace and love but not making peace and love.

Loving kindness is the antidote to the aggression of trying to be good enough. Loving kindness shows me I am good enough already there is nothing else to do. Loving kindness lets me sit, breathe, and be without striving. And this is the hardest, most uncomfortable place for me to be.

Even though I get startled and disturbed by my dreams. My dreams of good enough remind me that my wisdom comes from inside and my heart knows the way. Loving kindness is wraps it warmth around the prostitute in me, the little girl and the woman who buys her to throw the child way. When I allow myself to practice loving kindness consistently I know I am enough and I can trust myself.

 

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

The Art of Being You by Caroline McHugh- This is an amazing and powerful TED Talk. I am simply speechless about how much this talk wove it’s way into my heart and exploded. I have watched it several times and I can assure you it is on my list to watch again—especially when I am feeling beat up by the world and wanting to shrink in the corner. I think this is one of the best talks I have ever heard about the power of being yourself. Watch it.

A Christian Gives Thanks for an America that is Not a Christian Nation by Parker Palmer- I normally don’t share links I think are polarizing or political but this one I had to share. Just the fact I think it is polarizing says a lot. It is vitally important we as Americans don’t forget the freedom of thought our country affords us. I know take for granted the freedom offered me to explore the bigger questions of life and what is right for me. This post reminds of that freedom and why it is so important. Let me not forget or feel intimidated because I find my answers in a different way than my neighbors or others in my community.

Mary Karr- Don’t Compare your Twisted Up Insides to Others Blow-Dried Outsides– Here is a transcript of a commencement speech given to Syracuse University graduates. Mary Karr shares her best tricks for dealing with fear and overwhelming anxiety. If you have not read any of Mary Karr’s work, I highly suggest it. She is a master poet and her memoir’s are beautifully written.

5 Tips for Taking a Work-Life Sabbatical by Bethany Butzer, PH.D- I have often dreamed of taking months off to recluse myself to the woods. I have also wondered how on earth do people just pick up and leave. The reality is they don’t. They plan.

And finally, It Turns Out My Anxiety Means I’m a Genius by Erin Blakeley- It is hard to admit that I too worry about all these little things. Danger is around every corner and I am constantly scanning for disaster so I can be ready for the blow. I attribute this level of worry to my upbringing, which was chaotic at best. I have never thought of the gift my anxiety offers me. By the way, this predilection of scanning for danger is one of the main reasons I meditate regularly. Enlightenment is good but not as sweet as the relief I get from my anxiety, but then again, maybe that is enlightenment.

I still have 3 spots open in the summer session of Writing to Open Your Heart Creative Writing Workshop. We start Wednesday May 20th. We are only meeting once a month instead of weekly. This is a great way to maintain connection with your writing this summer. Register Now!

 

 

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Gifts Beyond My Control

Kira Elliott Crab Apple Blossoms

Spring is in full bloom finally here in Detroit. I was out of town most of last week and when I returned on Monday afternoon everything popped open. The branches of the red buds are delicate lines of lavender against blue skies. The crab apple trees lining the street to my office are fluffy white. And my favorite, the sweetness of lilacs drifts through the neighborhood and through the open windows. This time of year is full of gifts beyond my control.

When I left for work on Friday morning I felt lightness and freedom of spring dressed in sandals and only a light sweater instead of my thick down coat, scarf, hat and mittens. I was listening to Patty Griffin, singing along, wearing sunglasses, smelling spring. I was content and joyful—in the moment.

Then I let a lady driving a white minivan in ahead of me. Then she slowed way down not keeping up with the flow of traffic. That’s when I felt it, the switch flipped inside, and the next moment searing hot frustration and anger flooded my body.  At the next light she slowly glided through and I had to stop as the light turned red. To which I laid on my horn, shot her the finger and screamed “What the f%^k!” I decompensated into a roiling mess in a matter of minutes. Not at all how I want to be acting or treating the others in the world.

I sat at the light stunned. What the hell had just happened? What was the matter with me? I went through my mind to check to see where I had not been taking care of myself. But all things checked out. I was getting enough sleep, eating clean, drinking enough water and working out. My joints didn’t hurt, my back was not tight. I was writing daily in my journal, sitting on my meditation cushion each morning. As a matter of fact, I felt like my meditation practice was filled with ease and openness all week. I sat in my car continuing my drive to work perplexed as to why I was filled with so much friction, anger and irritation.

The day did not unfold much better. I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a kombucha tea and some how drop my house keys in the parking lot. Which of course I did not realize until I got to my office, where I also realized I when I packed my lunch the cap to my smoothie was not on all the way and had completely emptied in my lunch bag.

Driving back to the store to get my keys I was seething, over flowing with impulsive anger. So much so, as I sat waiting for traffic to clear I had the thought to drive out in front of an oncoming truck. My thoughts scrambled and incoherent— not rational, not sane, not kind. My chest was constricted. I struggled to take a deep breath. My mind was buzzing and confused.

As I drove gripping the steering wheel, grinding my teeth, I tried to talk myself down, through, or out, of this nasty state I found myself in. I kept going through my mind asking myself: What did I do wrong? Why am I so consumed with anger? These are small mishaps, why am I blowing them out of proportion? Why can’t I just calm down? But rational thought simply was not connected to my body or my emotions.

I was frustrated I felt so out of control.

I kept trying to stay in the moment as I have been taught while meditating. Stay with how I feel, try to not push away, judge or change. I know from past experience leaning into where I am at without trying to change it helps me move through difficult experiences faster. If I can withhold from judging myself for falling apart I can let it go quicker.

After I picked up my keys from the lost and found at the store I began to calm down. My breath began to regulate. My mind began to make better sense. It was then that I was finally able to connect my sudden mood shift, like a flip of a switch, to my hormones.

I am grappling with perimenopause and my acupuncturist changed my herbs last month to adjust to the spring season. After months of relatively stable cycles bothersome symptoms began appearing again once the days increased and became warmer. Hot flashes, insomnia, heavy bleeding, fatigue and yes, irrational anger all came back. It seems as I transition from my mother years to my sage years I am full of red hot heat.

I have to admit, I don’t like the answer to my flash of anger on Friday morning. I want something I can control. I feel like saying it is hormones is somehow me not owning responsibility. But here is the thing, I do own responsibility for my body. I do my very best to take care of myself to minimize these upheavals in my emotions but I only have some much control over what my body does. I am doing the best I can and that has to be good enough.

The funny thing is when I was in thick of my melt down I was trying to find a way to be with my anger and be graceful— put together. I wanted to be in control when I was feeling completely out of control, as if that was possible. Learning to lean into and flow with whatever is present is one of my greatest struggles in life. That and being vulnerable. Both of which ask me to let go of control. Both of which also open my heart the most.

 

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

What to Do When The Internet Hates You by Dani Shapiro- Yup, I love this essay. I am not sure if it is me hitting my stride of middle age or what, but increasingly I am finding myself shedding who I am not—letting go of what other people think of me— and embracing my authenticity. I love the Hindu prayer Dani mentions in this essay.

People Who Say F**k A Lot Are Hotter and Healthier by Beth Buczynski- I admit I have what my mother calls “a sailor’s mouth”. The older I get, the more I practice loving kindness meditation, the less I swear but I still swear as a matter of course. It is part of my original voice from an early age. I know it offends some folks and I don’t want to offend or alienate. I honestly try to be mindful but I will always be the sassy girl who grew up public housing who swears a lot and I am ok with that—it’s who I am. Plus, look it actually is a good coping tool for life.

An Artist Prayer by Christina Gage- My friend and awesome painter Susan Lobb-Porter (you really need to check out her paintings) shared this link on FB last week and I fell in love. May I create with with the same joy and intensity as nature. Simple and pure this one is.

How to Love Your Authentic Self by Lori Deschene- Learning to embrace my authenticity, which means vulnerability. This is by far one of my greatest life challenges. Yes, my past doesn’t have to be my future but I still can’t change where I came from, what happened to me or how it affected me. When I hide these facets of my life out of shame I cannot be authentic.

Mountains that Never Rest-The Story of Oquirrh Mountains– Here is an amazing collection of stories and videos about the Oquirrh Mountains. I got lost on this site for hours.

May you find compassion for yourself and others this week, simple pure compassion, even if only for a breath. ~Kira

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Top Three Self-Care Practices

Kira Elliott Self Care

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ― Audre Lorde

For the my post this week I made this video about my Top Three Self-Care Practices. I am attending the Amherst Writers and Artist conference for workshop leaders this weekend in Hadley MA so I knew I was not going to have time to dive in deep and write. I am gathering all kinds of writer mojo, hanging with some awesome writer friends and meeting new ones.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Here is this Week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart:

Overcoming Overwhelm by Jo Malby

Why I Teach: To Honor and Shape Stories by Shawn White

6 Ways to Destroy Your Dreams by Bel Pesce

The Truth About Hope by Katie Bergman

Breathe by FKY- I found this simple video so uplifting and full of hope. Sweetness and innocence.

May you find time in the coming week to practice loving self-care in whatever way works best for you. ~Kira

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Outwitting Not Good Enough

Kira Elliott Outwitting not good enough

“I shall live badly if I do not write.” —Francoise Sagan

I just returned from a walk in the nearly empty park. The sun is finally shining here in Detroit after a week of grey, snow and frost covering my car every morning. The canopy of the tree line is a soft almost imperceptible hue of green as the trees are beginning to unfurl tender leaves.

In the park I lifted my face to the sunny blue sky with wisps of feather clouds. I breathed the sweet fresh air that smelled of damp earth and green. I watched robins—fat, red, plumb—bounce on the empty ball field searching for worms. I heard a bluejay screech in the distance down towards the river.

I woke this morning with a long to do list—a too long of a list—of writing projects, packing for two back to back trips this week, grocery shopping, cleaning and it went on and on, becoming a free association of everything I think I need to get done in my life but never get around to.

Get my car detailed, clean out medicine cabinet in the bathroom, clean out the spice cupboard, get new lucky bamboo, find out when shred day is, clean behind the refrigerator, clean my studio and start painting, go through my clothes and get rid of what doesn’t fit. This to do list spun faster and faster, drilling me into a hole of paralyzing anxiety and fear.

So I walked fast, never stopping, in an effort to feel my heart beating, my lungs inflating, my entire body warming in the cool spring air. I walked fast to ameliorate my anxiety, to give pause to the constant barrage of thoughts chanting like a gang of little kids in dirty overalls that I suck and I am no good.

I walked fast to outrun the fears I will never be good enough to be a writer or have my dreams come true. Because this fast spinning, overwhelming, to do list in my head was all about one thing. It was about keeping me from showing up to the page and writing my stories. Writing what my heart has to say.

The underbelly of the ever growing to do list distraction is the lie, if I am productive enough I will feel better. When the truth is if I just sit and write, even if it is just a bit, that is what always makes me feel better. Writing always aligns me with matters most and reminds me that no matter what else is going on in my life, I am ok, I am good enough. This is one of the reasons I try to write every day.

Some days the trick for me is outwitting not good enough feelings. Today taking a walked worked. Other days it might be sitting on my meditation cushion, riding my bike or doing some yoga. Or it might be taking a nap, reading a book for pure joy. Either way, it is up to me to take care of myself. I don’t have to believe the lie that being endlessly productive will make me feel better.

 

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

When Wild Voice Speaks Pay Attention by Judy Reeves- So if you are not familiar with Ms. Reeves and you enjoy writing you need to become familiar with her work. What she writes about as Wild Voice is what I see writers access in my creative writing workshops.

End of Self Help by Susan Pawula- Here is a great interview with Dr. Gail Brenner, author of The End of Self Help.

I Want to Be Insightful by Sylvia Boorstein- I love Sylvia’s wit, humor and teachings. Insightful and always helpful.

Taking Back Detroit– A three part series from National Geographic. Here is a what I think is a balanced view of what is happening in Detroit. It is not all blight and grim but not also not all about the come back. Detroit has real challenges facing it but is also so many wonderful opportunities.

The Happy Secret to Better Work TED Talk by Shawn Achor- This is a funny talk about five things we can do to help us feel happier and thus work better. I felt validated listening to this as many of these are the cornerstone of my days.

May your coming week be filled with outwitting any pesky not good enough feelings that keep you from doing what you love. ~Kira

 

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Making Sleep a Priority

Kira Elliott Self Care Sleep

“Fear of being a flawed person lay at the root of my trance, and I had sacrificed many moments over the years in trying to prove my worth. Like the tiger Mohini, I inhabited a self-made prison that stopped me from living fully.”
― Tara Brach

The last two mornings I have stood looking out the window above my kitchen sink listening to the tea kettle rumble. I stood watching the eastern sky light up with streaks of bright pink and orange. I rarely see the sunrise anymore. Most mornings I wake in the darkness of pre-morning, or at least I try to rouse myself out of bed at that hour. I have to admit I am not as disciplined as I used to be about getting up. Or maybe I should say my discipline has shifted, I am now more disciplined about getting enough sleep.

For years I woke up at 4:30 am everyday—even on the weekends— so I could fit in self-care time. I woke early to write my morning pages, meditate, work out on the elliptical before I had to get my son up and to the bus and myself ready and to work by 8:30 am. I was never late, I had each moment of my morning scheduled and efficient. The rest of my days reflected this compact intense schedule of time. There was no room for deviation. From 4:30 am to 11:00 pm I was busy.

I was a single mother going to school full-time, working part-time, commuting three hours a day and taking care of my son with special needs. After I graduated from college and I got a full-time “real job” I thought I was going to have time to rest, work on my art, have some fun, but my internal lack of self-worth propelled me to work 60 plus hours a week to justify having my job. Sure I excelled at my job but I also was exhausted, tense and disconnected from myself. We won’t even mention the quality of my almost non-existent relationships.

It was not until my son’s father passed away of lung cancer at the age of 48 years old did this “efficient schedule” breakdown. From the time D. was diagnosis to when he passed away three months later, the external structures I had built my self-worth on were dismantled.

I collapsed not only from the crushing grief but also from pure exhaustion of over extending myself for 15 years. I stopped setting the alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30 am and started allowing my body to wake when it needed to. My self-care routine shifted to sleeping, crying when I needed, doing nothing. I did less—a lot less.

Now three years later I have more balance in my life. Sleep is my priority in taking care of myself. I know if I am exhausted doing other self-care habits will only deplete me. I will set my alarm clock but not if I have not been sleeping well or on the weekends. I strive to journal and sit on my meditation cushion 5 days a week. I move my body most days but not every day like I used to. I now work 40 hours a week at my day job. I pursue my creative work that feeds my soul in the time I used to work. I now have deeper relationships with friends and loved ones.

The key to my balance is sleep. So if I come from work and I need a nap but I was planning on going for a walk, I take the nap. I might feel like going for a walk after, maybe not, but the nap is key to my priority. If I am awake in the middle of the night, as I often am, I will turn off my alarm so I can sleep in and for go working out or meditating in the morning. I try to go to bed at 8 pm most nights. Sleep must come first.

I do less but I have to admit I struggle with the nagging thoughts that tell me I am not doing enough. I know the dangers of over schedule, pushing my body beyond it capacity but still I think I am being lazy, or I should be able to keep the same schedule I did for years.  When I try to figure out how on earth I maintained the frenzy of activity for years, I realize I was disconnected from my body. I had no connection to what I was feeling or how exhausted I was day in and day out.

Today I am more gentle with myself. I allow myself to feel what is happening moment by moment in my body and because I know how awesome sleep is, I am not able to maintain a scheduled like I used to. No, living that way is no longer an option. I value feeling rested and connected to myself too much. ( I didn’t mention how my relationships improved too, but that is another post.)

So somedays I get to wake up and watch the sunrise as I make coffee. Somedays I wake up late and go to work late. Other days, I wake up in the darkness to write and meditate before my day starts. Either way, I allow my body to tell me when to wake. For the most part this works because I am rested.


Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join by Jason Lengstorf- Ok, if you are stuck in the cult of overworking you need to read this now. While I have made some great strides to leave overworking behind I am not there 100%. Please note that Jason mentions making sleep a priority. As I like to say, sleep is the nectar of the gods.

Are You Ever Hard on Yourself by SARK- Love Love Love this. I first read one of SARK’s books back in the early 90s and it helped me start to play in my life. She also talked a lot about the value of naps but I could never let myself nap too much back then. I think I have a whole gaggle of inner mean girls.

Letting Go by Gil Fronsdal- (Audio talk) I love Gil’s gentle voice and teachings. This is an invitation to explore instead of definite shoulds you need to do. I so appreciate this, it helps create an openness to try new ideas or practices out.

Marie’s Dictionary– An amazing video about one woman’s efforts to save her native language.

What I want to say: How writing in a journal helps a writer get there by Pat Schneider- OK, I am a huge fan of Pat Schneider but for good reason, she is honest, real and gives me permission to be a writer. I love this peek into her journal. I know I have many days like this—I am struggling with the reality of my present—internal and external—and it is only on the page can I sort it all out.

 

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