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Depression Sucks

Depression Sucks

 “When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.” Elizabeth Gilbert

My first thought this morning was, depression sucks and can I get up out of bed? Or is my brain weighted down by fog and darkness?  

Now a hot cup of coffee sits on my cluttered desk. My desk that no matter how much I try to put away the stacks of books, the random post it notes reminding me of thoughts I scribbled during a conference call, or pens (lots of those, for whatever reason I like to use a different type of pen for different journals and writing activities), is always a mess.

The door behind me is open to the back yard teeming with bird song and squirrels who run, no leap, through the wet grass in search of little morsels to nibble on. The air is thick and dampness from the thunderstorms last night permeates everything. It is warm, hot really. It seems that mild spring temperatures bypassed Detroit this year. Instead we literally went from snow one weekend in May to 85 degrees and sunny the next. And it has stayed in the 80’s for the last few weeks.

To which I say thank goodness. The warmer weather, the longer days, the sunshine has been a balm for my soul and mental health that I needed. The last 5 months have been a long, slogging drudge for me. Heavy depression snuck in around the holidays and settle in for a visit. I know depression well, and for the most part I am able to work through it, or more like with it. I know I don’t have to listen to it’s siren call to lay on the couch all day watching tv to numb out. I know I will be feel better if I stay in a routine— get up and write in my journal, sit on my meditation cushion, work out, go to work. I know I need to try to stay involved as much as I can with life. This is not always easy.

I know writing in my journal, meditating and working out are my most important and power medicine. For the past 20 years these have worked most of the time. I stay functioning. The darkness stays in the background. Expect this time (well okay also after D died, I fell into the dark vat of depression too but that was different, I could attribute it to the extreme grief that swallowed my life whole).

The last 5 months have been difficult. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the heaviness. I forced myself to rise each morning and write in my journal and sit on my meditation cushion. I often felt these were the only moments of reprieve, but when I had to leave the cocoon of my little office, the darkness still loomed. The loss of interest in anything creative took away my motivation and joy. It was like all my systems powered down and I only had energy for a few essentials and barley those.

I felt panic as I tried to figure out what to do, or how to feel like something matter, or how to feel vitality about something again. It was all I could do to get work (where I was barely productive and my mind a mushy soggy mess) and home to the couch so I could zone out. As I sat in the darkness each morning writing in my journal, I tried to figure out why I was so uninterested, unmotivated, and what I could do to change things. It took me a while to figure out it was depression. I of course blamed myself. In my mind, I was depressed because I didn’t do something right, or I wasn’t thinking something positive. In my mind, no matter what, I was to blame and I had to figure out how to fix it. Unfortunately, I am inclined to blame myself, as if there is something wrong with me, rather than I simply am dealing brain chemistry that is off and inclines me to feel darkness and hopelessness.

Despite my attempts to blame myself, I know that sometimes we are just powerless over this stuff—there is no one to blame. I just happen to have the perfect conditions for depression to rise up and take hold. I come from a seemingly endless line stretching back generations who grappled with depression. My mother, her mother, her father, my great-grandmother and father and I am sure there are more back there. So there’s that. Also, according research, my chaotic childhood created neural pathways (I have an ACE score of 9) which predisposes me to depression and other fun stuff (hello anxiety and panic).

And finally, hormones. Can I say holy shit? My hormones are powerful little devils if you ask me. I am 45 years old and struggling as my hormones shift and wane towards menopause. For whatever reason I am abnormally sensitive to hormone fluctuations. Every micro movement feels more like a 8.9 earthquake in my moods and body. I have learned how to deal with the monthly fluxes of PMS but now things are different—way different. I feel like I am rag doll being tossed around harder and farther than ever before.

If I look back at other pivotal moments when my hormones were in extreme flux—puberty, pregnancy, and postpartum—I can see that I fell into deep depressions also. Only back then I didn’t have tools, wisdom or compassion I now have to deal with it. After these last 5 months I realize I am going to have to be extra mindful as I traverse the journey towards menopause and give myself extra support.

On top of all everything it was the anniversary of D’s death and I had to put my 18-year-old cat Lupe down (that was super hard) last March.

I am beginning to feel better (I am actually writing a blog post). The weather is finally nice and sunny so I am getting out and riding my bike in the woods. Fresh air and nature always help. I am still writing in my journal, mediating and working out most days. I am seeing my therapist to sort out false irrational beliefs and to untangle how I have my self-worth wrapped tight around my doing and busyness. I am going to acupuncture to balance my hormones and taking new herbs to help with the depression. All of this is helping.

I think more important, I am also painting in my studio again, which is really helping. When D died I stopped painting and drawing. Sure I had a few fits and starts over the last 4 years but nothing that stuck. I would start a painting and be stuck, anxiety and negative self-talk overpowering me. As I have been grappling with heavy darkness the last 5 months, I have also been evaluating how I am spending my time, what is it that I really want to be doing, how I am supporting my creative self.

My therapist challenged me to take the summer off. To not teach, to not have goals, to not have projects but rather rest and do nothing. To follow my inner desires. I ask myself, do I want to read a book? Take a nap? Ride my bike? Than go do what I want.

As uncomfortable as it makes me feel, I doing it. I am not teaching writing workshops this summer. I haven’t blogged in over 2 months. I am evaluating my side hustle. I am reading a lot of books, riding my bike and painting. I am learning how to untangle my creative work from proving I am good enough. I have a lot more to say about this but for now, I am adjusting to this slower pace. To not having everything single thing I do be about being helpful to others (another huge insight for me).

Depression does indeed suck and I am not to blame. I need not feel shame about something that I am utterly powerless over. I am doing what I can and there is a lot of support and love out there to help. One awesome thing about this bout of depression is that it is realigning my life. It is slowing me down and getting me back to what I really enjoy, to what my real zone of genius is, painting and drawing. Things are looking up for me and I am grateful.

5

A Good Death to a Good Life

Kira Elliott Lupe

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France

I lost last week. Well, I lost my productivity last week. By choice mind you, but still as I sit here at my cluttered desk in the early gray morning, the furnace still clicking on even though it is early April, I am feeling that slight tug in my belly that says, you suck, you didn’t get all your shit done, you are behind now. I know this voice, it is my habitual taskmaster that keeps me tethered to feeling not good enough. It is the seeds of constant anxiety I battle with everyday to not grow into full on panic. Panic that can paralyze me and render me obsolete on the couch for days at a time.

My choice last week was to choose love. Instead of filling my life space with doing, or as Brene Brown says, performing, perfecting, pleasing, I turned my back on my habitual taskmaster and my never ending quest to prove I am good enough. I put everything I could on hold to be present with my dying cat, Lupe. On Monday, I finally had to call pet hospice to have them come and put Lupe down. I knew this time was coming. Lupe was 18 years old and declining rapidly. She had, what we think was a brain tumor, that finally was too much for her little body to handle.

So I did things differently than I normally do. I stopped and spent every free moment I could last week sitting with her on the couch, gently petting her, bringing her treats and water. I let go of my task list so I could let go of this cat who has been with 14 years. I picked up her frail body and held her close and tight, not wanting to let go but knowing the time was coming. Knowing the kind thing for Lupe was to let her go. On Thursday Lupe died peacefully curled up in her favorite blanket on the couch. It was a good death to a good life.

I adopted Lupe in 2002 from our local shelter. When I went to the shelter I specifically was looking for a cat no one else wanted and was least likely to be adopted. Lupe was 4 years old at the time and was surrendered because her owners had moved. She was a tiny light gray cat with whispers of orange tabby. She was unresponsive sitting in the cold steel cage, a water bowl and some food next to her. In the get acquainted room, she sat on my lap unfazed and unimpressed by my hand gently petting her tiny body. She didn’t seem to care about a single thing. When I brought her home she hide under the bed and in the back reaches of the closet for about 6 months before she started to come out and trust me. I don’t know what happened to Lupe before she came to live with me, but I am so glad I got to make a difference in her life. I was able to give her a warm, loving home in which she thrived. For Lupe, I was always enough.

I woke early this morning startled from a dream. In my dream, I was in a co-worker’s apartment in Brooklyn after a work event. I was hiding in the bathroom because the meeting I was suppose to lead flopped and everyone else took over. I failed at my duties. I was not good enough. As I stood at the sink looking in the mirror, Lupe my cat, jumped up on the vanity and pushed her tiny gray head against my hand for a pet. In the dream I knew Lupe was dead. Just three days before I knew I had carried her limp, still warm, body to the back room so my other cat Riggins could smell her body and know she was dead.

But there in my dream, Lupe was vital, warm and living. I remember all I wanted was to hold her tight to my chest one more time and whisper I love you over and over. I wanted to feel her purring body that was soft as bunny clinging on to mine just one more time. As I picked Lupe up and held her I woke from the dream confused and sad—shrouded in grief.

The dream felt so real, I wanted to linger in that dream space and yet, I also felt betrayed. I had already said good bye. I had already done so much of the hard work of letting go of a loved one. I had buried her in corner of the backyard under the young maple tree. I had wrapped her tiny frail body in a white cotton pillowcase with petite pink flowers, laid her gently in a shoe box and tied it with twine.

I had done some much hard work. I laid in the darkness thinking I didn’t want to have to do it again. I couldn’t do it again. The hardest part of being a loving pet owner is giving them the best gift we can, a good death. If we are lucky enough to have a long life with our furry loved ones, most of us will come to the moment where we will have to give this most selfless gift. We will have to let them go in love and dignity, peacefully to reduce their suffering. It is a honor and privilege—and it is hard.

So no I didn’t get my Open Heart Letter out to my email list, I didn’t answer all of my emails, I didn’t participate in the painting class I am taking. Instead I choose to give myself time to be with my cat in her final days. I choose to love. It is what made last week more than good enough. This is the stuff that really matters and I am thankful I am wise enough to know it.

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

8 Ways You Can Survive and Thrive in Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty- So last month I officially enter mid-life, or can we say early mid-life. I find so many things shifting inside about what next and reevaluating every aspect of my life. I love this list of ways to thrive in midlife. It is about slowing down but staying engage. It is about owning limitations and embracing the vitality of life. It is about saying no to striving for more to make room for what I want.

True Story: I’m a Cat by Sarah Von Bargen- Holy crap this is just what I needed to read this week. I was laughing so hard. For anyone who has a cat, you must read this.

Meditation on Loving Kindness by Jack Kornfield- Here are the basic instructions for practicing Metta or loving kindness meditation. This is the first form of meditation I practiced before moving into a vipassana practice and I can say it changed my life. Still is.

Zen Calligraphy: the Creativity of Non-doing by Alok Hsu Kwang-han- A beautiful meditation on creating and non-doing.

Love Obsessive Organization? So Does Austin Radcliffe– Love these photographs. I, on the other hand, am not obsessive about organization but I appreciate it.

And finally, Lap of Love Pet Hospice Service– I can not thank the folks at Lap of Love enough of helping us through this difficult time. Dr. Courtney Brookens Graham, DV came to our home so Lupe was not stressed out by traveling to the vet. Thank you Lap of Love.

P.S. You might also like The Treadmill of Not Good Enough, Accept the Goodness, and Dreams of Good Enough

3

This is My New Normal

Kira Elliott First day spring

“Do not wait for the healing to arrive. It will never come. The holes will never leave or be filled with anything at all. But holes are interesting things.” ― Augusten Burroughs

I am sitting still looking out the window at yet another flat grey day that is reflecting how I feel inside. Fat red belly robbins bounce across the dead grass in the dim morning light. Thick frost covers the roof tops and car windows as the sky turns light grey on this first day of spring. Only spring here in Detroit is slow coming. It unfolds in fits and starts as if it is not quite sure it is ready to leave the hibernation of winter. I too am unsure I am ready for longer days, sunshine and more activity.

My fingertips are cold as they wander over the keyboard typing and deleting, a never ending cycle as I try to pull threads of what I want to say, what I need to say out of the hidden places inside. I have been quiet, too quiet, these last few months. It feels as if something is shifting deep inside and rearranging things. I feel purposeless, not sure what or why I am doing things. Perhaps something is growing inside, taking all my energy to make something new. Maybe all these seeds I’ve planted over the last few years about being good enough are finally taking root. Or maybe it is more simple than that? Maybe it is a simple case of SAD, Seasonal Effective Disorder, that has robbed me of my normal enthusiasm.

Or maybe it is grief, once again holding me underwater, making it hard to breathe. After all the first day of spring is the anniversary of D’s death from lung cancer. I know better than to disrespect grief, even when I tell myself it’s been four years now and I should be fine. The reality is while it is not white searing hot pain like the first few years, it still hurts. The loss was huge. I still think about him everyday. Tears still trickled down my face every morning last week as sat on my meditation cushion each morning.

Last night I sat on the floor in the corner of the living room, wedged between the end of the couch and an old cabinet I painted red about 20 years ago, looking through old pictures for picture of my son Max, D and myself.D max and me train 98 I wanted to find the one of the three us standing in front of a train in Berlin. We were exhausted from over 24 hours of travel on our way to Poland for more physical therapy for Max.

Stashed away in this cabinet in the corner of my living was my life story told in hundreds of snapshots haphazardly stacked and stored in boxes, envelopes and even an old crumpled brown paper bag. I sat there flipping through pictures of my son Max 5 days old coming home from the hospital, a turquoise binky plugged in his mouth, 1-year-old Max sitting on my lap while I read him Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s, 21-year-old me living in Kentucky, tan and tone from working in the tobacco fields, or 30-year-old me in art school, hair dark and curly, looking exhausted but content.

Woven into the very fabric of my story, was D. There he was with 25-year-old me when Max got his first wheelchair. D was the strong one when it came to Max’s Cerebral Palsy. I wanted to wait longer to get the first wheelchair. I wanted to hide the fact my son needed a wheelchair, I didn’t want it to be true. D, said he needs to D Max first wheelchairget around by himself, this is going to be his life. Then there was the one of the two us looking down and laughing on a bright sunny day at Max’s 5th birthday party. A party filled with other kids with disabilities we had met from traveling to a physical therapy clinic in Poland. Poland gave us hope and we looked forward to the future. Or one of my favorites, where we are both standing in his backyard looking down into a hole filled with my ceramics for my first authentic pit fire. He is holding a red gasoline can and a cigarette is hanging out of his mouth. I am holding a fish head I will throw into the fire to flash minerals on to surface of my pots. (He did mind that I dug a six-foot hole in his backyard without asking but he loved helping me make a fire that would burn for days.) He was there at every holiday, significant moment and everyday dinners too even though we had divorced when Max was only one and half years old. D was, no is, part of my life story.

I tend to want to know the why of what I am feeling, so I can do something about it. Especially if I am feeling flat, blue and unenthused as I have been. You know take care of it, make it go away. One thing I have learned from losing D is that somethings are not meant to get over or go away. There is no fixing this. You don’t heal from loss like this. I have a huge hole in my life. The man who I loved and was part of my life for well over 25 years is gone. As Augusten Burroughs says, I am learning to live with my holes and trying to understand how they are interesting.

The missing lives in my bones now. This is my new normal. I am not sure you stop missing what was once so much a part of you.

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Some Things Just Hurt by Sharon Salzberg- This says it all. It is about learning to feel the hurt. There is no magic or anything. We are human. We are going to hurt.

He Rescued a Dog, Then the Dog Rescued Him– This is a great story and makes me want to get a dog. Well, I think I am happy with my cats for now but animals add so much to our lives.

A Basic Skill We Should Have Learned As Kids via Raptitude- Naming and understanding our basic emotions. It wasn’t until I started a daily journal practice in earnest when I was 25 was I able to start naming my emotions.

Know Your Why by Kate Courageous- Just the simple question of, has your life turned into a personal growth project, stopped me in my tracks. Read this awesome post.

Three Things Grief Taught Me by Anna Oginsky  – Anna is one of the most warm-hearted and genuinely kind person I have ever met. I love her description of grief and how it never goes away but we do gain so much from it, if we let it. I know for myself the loss of D has opened my heart in ways I never thought possible and it lead me to this amazing community online.

P.S. You Might Also Like Grief is Hard Work, Reflections on Grief, and Thank You Loss for Teaching Me to Grow

3

How to Lean Into the Good

Kira Elliott- Leaning into the good

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu

Spring is beginning to open up here in Detroit despite relentless snow each day. I am feeling the pull for something new, to lean into the good, instead of craving for my life to be different. Only I am not sure I know how to lean into the good.

Each morning sitting on my black meditation cushion I now hear song birds and mourning doves cooing softly as the sun begins to rise. This morning I listened to a single crow calling out while I sat at my desk which is littered with half empty tea cups, a teaspoon I took from D’s house the day he died to eat the pint of ice cream (I felt I deserved it after sitting watching him die for four days), pens and highlighters, a stack of thank you letters I need to take to the post office and stacks of books, many of which I have read, many still waiting for my attention.

Finally, there is a single sheet of white paper with a short paragraph I printed in black ink from a blog post I read two weeks ago by Jonathan Fields. Each morning for the last few weeks I have sat with my green tea in the cold darkness and read these words:

If you knew, with 100% certainty, that the thing you were doing today, the people you were with, the partner whom you’re dancing would have to be the thing, the people, the partner you stayed with for the rest of your productive life, but you had the ability to craft the way you experienced each precisely the way you wanted, what would you do differently? How would you create the most purposeful and rewarding reality within those constraints?

The blog post, Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This has rearranged everything inside of me. It is redirecting my choices and changing how I act and behave each day. I admit to clinging on to the belief that I need blow up my life in order to be living a truly purposeful life. I have felt that I am so how less than or not good enough because I have not blown up my life. I feel like a loser because I still have my day job working at a non-profit building affordable housing and I have not abandoned my responsibilities to those who depend on me.

Ever since D died almost four years ago, I have felt that I am not doing what I need to be doing in my life. That I need to be doing more. I need to pursue my passions. I felt that I gave up my calling to live a life of creative expression for taking care of others and security. His death made acute the reality that life is indeed short and I had better make some changes.

I did make changes, lots of them. I began prioritizing my writing and creative work. I started blogging and connecting with other like minded women around the world. Taking care of myself became nurturing and joyful not just another should or something I had to do to keep my head above water. I woke up a part of myself that I had buried under the pressures of being an adult and taking care of my son (and way too many others). I slowed down. I stopped worrying about cleaning the house. I became softer.

Yet, I felt this wasn’t enough. It wanted to be more. I wanted to earn my living from my passions. I felt I was falling short. I wrote business plans. I incorporated. I poured all of my free time and energy into learning about building a business. I created opportunities to gather women and reflect on good enough. I got certified to lead creative writing workshops and started teaching.

And I am somewhat successful for doing a part-time gig. I tell myself I know I can make this happen if only I can do it full time. I dream of winning the lotto or some other windfall of cash that will allow me to finally pursue my passion job full-time. As a result my day job has become enemy number one.

I am bound up in striving and ignoring when my heart whispers to go to my studio and play with paint. I tell myself I can revise those poems and prose pieces later, after I finish my latest newsletter. Instead of submitting new work I have to set up the launch of my next workshop. Despite my efforts and hustle, I am still not living a life of creative expression I so desperately want.

I cause so much suffering by thinking I need my life to be different, as if what I have right here and now is not enough. This is classic craving.

So here’s the deal, I have a good life, a really good life. It is me that creates so much unrest, and dissatisfaction by constantly craving more or different. I choose to not lean into the good that is present here and now.

I am not going to lie, I am torn about my day job, it is demanding. Some days it feels so much bigger than me and I want to run and hide. I often come home and collapse on couch unable to think. Sometimes I cry because the needs in my community seems so impossible to meet. Yet it is also fulfilling. My efforts literally builds homes for people in need. Trust me it is not as glamorous as it sounds. It is not me hammering the nails and raising a roof but rather writing grants, talking and bargaining with people in suits likes bankers, lawyers and city officials. It is solving problems and mitigating risks.

It is good work, it is meaningful work. I am good at it—and I want, no need, to do other creative work too. I need to express my creative impulses. Just like a good night’s sleep, clean healthy food and time to sit in meditation each day, I need creative expression in my life. Creative expression for no purpose, goal or end game but then to create. And I think I have gotten off track.

I have to also acknowledge the benefits my day job provides me. It gives me stability and security, something if I am honest with myself, I need to keep anxiety and panic at bay. It affords me the resources to do creative work. Not only art supplies, my Macbook, or super fast internet, but also I can afford to go on retreats, and take classes. My day job has taught me how to work with and manage a team of talented people. I have learned how to manage big complex projects. It has taught me how to believe in myself and do things I never I thought I could.

So how would I create the most purposeful and rewarding reality within the constraints of my current life? How can I rise up and not blow up my life?

I don’t know. I want to say some smart witty things but the truth is, I am not sure yet. I do know just by asking the questions, I feel a shift inside. In the simple act of asking I am creating a space for me to pause and look at what I am doing in my life. It is in this space I can let go of the striving and self-judgement, to really see what I have and what I want.

I also know that I need to make more space in my life my own creative expression that is for no other purpose than to play and have fun with my art. Even if that means I have to pull back on my side hustle a bit. I love teaching and gathering women together. I love the work of building a business too and at the age of 45 I now know that I can’t do it all. Life is not only short but time is limited (as well as energy). Unless I win the lotto or some other large windfall of cash enters my life, I need to do work that provides my basic necessities and provides me with stability.

When I stop and really consider blowing up my life, I know I don’t want to. I would have blown it up already. But I still feel the tug that I am missing out, being a wimp or not good enough and if only something were different, than it all would be better.

So as spring opens, I find myself opening too, to a new direction, or rather a realignment, to what I knew so fiercely in my bones after D died. Life is short and I have to make wise choices about how I am living and using my time. I need to have space for creative expression without the pressure to blow up my life to make it great. I need to lean in my good and let go of the false notions that there is always something more and better.

I am doing good, meaningful and important work—both in my day job and with my creative expression. I am rising up and that is good enough.

Here is this week’s Inspiration To Open Your Heart

Never Apologize by Veronica Funk- So as I realign my life, this post reminds me to not apologize for getting off track but rather see how I am always making choices about how I spend my time.

Equanimity by Louise DeSalvo- Ms. DeSalvo is one of the wisest teachers I know and I love this post about how to cultivate equanimity with our writing (or any creative work).

90:10- The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Stress by Dr. Mike Evans- I simply love Dr. Evans videos. His kind and matter of fact messages about how to take care of ourselves are wonderful. Here I am reminded how it is my thinking that causes most stress and I can do something about that. I need to remember the 90:10 rule, so true.

The Remembrance of Places and Lives Past by Liana Aghajanian- Liana is the writer in residence at Write a House here in Detroit. She captures one of the things I simply adore about Detroit—how friendly most people are. We talk to strangers here and whenever I visit other cities I feel so strange because that is not the norm. Liana doesn’t sugar coat Detroit but rather shares a pretty balanced view. 

Crochet Food Hats via Visual News- This is for joy. I simply love these so much. I am in awe of the talent.

P.S. You might also like Authentic Abundance, Accept the Goodness and Willing to See the Goodness

I invite you to sign up for my mailing list to get monthly Open Hearted letters (plus many extras like secret videos!) + access to my Open Hearted Writing mini ecourse. Sign up HERE!  

1

Compassion is My New Mode of Operation

Kira Elliott Green Cabneit Kitchen

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

Today I am learning how compassion is my new mode of operation. This morning I sat at my writing desk. It was cluttered with half empty mason jars of water and tea, small index cards scribbled with notes for different projects and crumpled tissues. The cats were relentless in their pursuit to sit in the morning sun slanting across the desk. There simply is not enough room for both of them on the desk. Lupe didn’t understand she can’t sit on the keyboard while I am typing, yet I am too much a softy, so I tried to make it work. I repeatedly stopped to pet her gently and tell her to move off the keyboard. All this did was make her move in closer to me. It was a losing battle. One I admit, I gladly welcomed the distraction. The words were not flowing this morning.

My plan was to get at least 6 to 8 hours of writing in today. I have multiple projects that I am working on and all of them have deadlines, which are fast approaching. I needed to stay focused and I was not only losing the battle with the cats but also Facebook and my honey, who came into my office, his coffee in hand wanting to hang out. I gladly turned from my computer and hung out. Even made an extra pot of coffee.

As I wrote last week, I have been struggling to show up to the page. The darkness of winter is wearing my soul thin. I am resisting the urge to berate myself for not getting more done, for hibernating the last month or so. I know from past experience that my writer self does not do well when my irate inner taskmaster starts barking orders and throwing me down the shame gauntlet. My writer self seeks for cover and retreats further away when this happens. The urge to snuggle on the couch with my kitty and binge watch The Fosters becomes almost impossible to resist.

So what do I need to coax my writer self to show up and write? Compassion, my new mode of operation.

Compassion and acceptance for where I am at in this moment. The older I get the more I realize compassion is not only the foundation of my writing practice, but for my whole life. It is how I actually get things done. I thrive in an atmosphere of kindness and compassion. This is bit counter intuitive in our culture which values a “no pain, no gain” attitude. But it is only when I am able to tell my inner taskmaster that, “Hey, it’s okay, I got this. You can go away,” am I am able to start to write.

And I often have to make bargains with my writer self too. Today it was, I will write for three hours this morning and then hang out with my honey (it’s the weekend for goodness sake), then write a few more hours, then go workout (yes, this is a reward for me). I told myself, I will get done what I get done—perfect is the enemy of done.

I did get some of what I had on my little to do list scribble on one of those note cards on my desk. Not all but most. I feel good about that and so I told my writer self I will go spend some quality time in the kitchen to make a special dinner. Shrimp and scallops simmered with garlic, basil and a triple blend of mushrooms served with kale, roasted eggplant and polenta.  Baked apples with almond flour biscuits for dessert.

The most important thing is I am not demanding, I am not focusing on what I should have done or all that needs to be done. I am simply showing up and guess what? The words flowed enough today. I feel connected to something larger than myself. Today it helped that I had deadlines but even when I don’t approaching myself and my writing with compassion always works better than not. Today compassion is my new mode of operation.

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Proof of Seriousness by Nancy Peacock -I read this morning and it resonated deeply. Sometimes I feel like I am a failure or not serious enough about my writing because I am don’t attend all kinds of conferences or live a “writer’s life”. I needed the reminder that living a rich full varied life gives us material and insight for when we show up to the page.

Strong Offer Friday- Transform Terror Into Commitment and Entitlement Into Hope by Patti Digh. This talk by Laurie Foley is a must watch for everyone, at least I think so. The part about entitlement hit me hard. I don’t like to think of myself as feeling entitled to anything but I do feel entitled to a long life and that I will always be here for my son. Watch this now if you have not already.

Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most common Pieces of Writing Advice is Wrong by Daniel José Older- The problem with “rules of writing” is that they are generally based on a western work ethic of no pain no gain. They are based on a reality too few of us share. Yes, show up to the page as often as possible but don’t get bogged down in shame if you can show up each day. Here is permission to be human.

Bring Kindness to a Full Stop By Justine- This post reminds me to pause and remember what is truly important. Kindness and how can I be a Daymaker. What if everyday I tried to be a Daymaker? Now this is cultivating joy if I ever heard of it.

What If All I Want Is a Mediocre Life? by Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui- I simply fell in love this post. It says it all. Why am is my life as it is not good enough? Why do I strive so much? Do I really want to be a superstar?

P.S. You might also like Endless Amounts of Compassion, Compassion for the Young Woman I Was and Allowing Space to be Sad

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