petrolia

On Winning, Wide Open Spaces, and Why I Hate Football But Love Superbowl Sunday

Three years ago today, I went to a football party with my ex, a last ditch attempt to relate to his friends.  I was the weird yogi art teacher he met in philosophy class, and they were the friends he’d had since his days playing high school basketball. Nice people, we’d just historically had nothing in common. I knew before I left the house that this party was the last place I wanted to spend my Sunday…. but I went anyway. I have a hard time hiding boredom from my face, or pretending piles of chicken wing bones don’t freak me out. My ex was visibly frustrated. “You don’t have to be here” he said with an eye roll.

He wasn’t meaning to say something philosophical, just expressing his ever expanding contempt at my inability to be normal. But what he’d said hit me like a cosmic two-by-four. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HERE. Holy hell… he was right. I didn’t. Why was I?

It was a personal accountability epiphone/ life-changer moment.

I left the party ten minutes later, spent four hours finishing up the online TESL course I’d been putting off (most likely to do lots of other more socially acceptable things I didn’t really enjoy), then I spent the evening doing yoga and drinking wine and finishing a painting.  I went to bed alone that evening while he partied with his friends, not yet understanding why I felt so light.

Something in me had shifted in the moment I walked out that door.  As a lightbulb went off about how I almost wasted an entire afternoon being miserable for no reason, I had instantly become incapable of believing my own bullshit when I complained about how the life I had wasn’t the life I wanted. On the drive home, it hit me how many moments I hadn’t even asked the question, “Am I enjoying this?” and was just navigating my world on autopilot, slightly unfulfilled.

Best shift ever. I ended up spending the next month on the lost coast of California doing Tai Chi, meeting really amazing people, and climbing mountains, several months in Asia riding motortaxis and teaching English, and the fall road tripping out West, discovering   expansive landscapes and echo chambers hidden inside silos that mirrored the same way I was beginning to open up inside and understand that every decision I made reverberated and came back to me magnified.  I was creating every limitation and every opportunity I’d ever had.  A ton of responsibility in that realization, but also an infinite amount of possibility.

By the end of year, I refused to settle for anything in my life-when I couldn’t job I wanted, I started an online business.  I found new ways to make money that felt less restrictive.  I quit wasting weekends going to social events I didn’t enjoy, and as a result found a group of friends who continue to inspire me.  I stopped settling for ‘meh, I guess I don’t hate this’ so I could find my ‘hell yeah, this is the gooooood stuff’.

So I may not give two flying fucks about sports, but I love Super Bowl Sunday.  Because it’s my anti-excuse day, the day I remind myself:

You are free to do whatever you want, but more importantly… free to not do things. You are free to say no to things that feel restrictive, inauthentic, or not in integrity with who you are. You are free to dislike things, people, and experiences, and choose new ones.  You are free to turn down opportunities that make logical sense but don’t give you joy. You are free to find new opportunites, go to a new place, do a new thing. You are free. Don’t waste that, even for a moment.

And sometimes, it’s the day I book plane tickets (!), then take stock of the two new online jobs I have as a result of not settling, and give myself a pat on the back.  I don’t even know who plays in the Super Bowl, so I guess I won’t be making any bets. Except this… when we say no to things that don’t light us up to make space for what we love, for the things that make us feel expansive and joyful, we win.

 

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Fears I Faced This Week, or How I’m Only A Little Douche-y

For New Years, I decided instead of having one specific resolution, I’d take on 365 of my most limiting fears. This week instead of focusing on anything specific, I did a bit of a loose- ended random fear round up. Maybe because I’m starting small, or maybe because even letting go of the little fears liberating, my “Year of Fears” is already turning out to be unexpectedly fun.

Day 1-

Fear of Sharing Excerpts From The First Draft Of My Book With Others

So I wrote a book… or rather, a sketchy outline and pile of pages that wants to be a book when it grows up.  The fairly normal response to me telling people that is, “Can I read it?”, to which my answer is, NOOOOOOOOO. But at some point, I’m fairly sure books are meant to be read… so…

Strategy– Read one of the roughest excerpts at writers’ salon.   Result– I stumbled over about 8 paragraphs and didn’t even die…  neither did my audience. Cool, that was easy. One fear down, 364 to go.

Day 2- Being a Writer Makes Me Self Absorbed/ Promoting My Work to Build a Writer’s Platform Will Turn Me into an Insufferable Narcissist

A mentor once told me that 50% of being successful as a writer is about building a writer’s platform. Whaaaaa? Noooooo…. Just writing! I thought, I’m not trying to produce blockbusters, I just want to do what I love and maybe have it resonate with a few people. And pay the bills.

Then I realized there’s probably a reason aspiring writers are launching Myname.com sites, and everyone from Chuck Paluhniuk (hero!) to Cheryl Strayed (Wild author) are self-promoting via social media.

Daaaamnit, I might have to make sure I write good things I’m confident enough to share and learn how to do that tweetering thing? Ugh.

Strategy: This…

day 2 photo

Jenny Monet’ shared Jenny Monet’s post, at JennyMonet.com.

Then I took a whole heap of smug selfies, because I can think of nothing more uncomfortably self-absorbed. Basically, I spent the afternoon being as narcissistic as possible and again… no one died.

Result: Eckhart Tolle once said that worrying about our ego is just more ego, and my equally wise best friend once said, “Jenny, you’re a bit of a douche already” (thanks Meg). If I write things I believe in, and am already a bit egotistical, then building my writer’s platform will go just fine.

Day 3– Because I’m a traveler, don’t own a home, a car, or even a couch, people think I’m poor/unsuccessful.

Strategy: Took a Greyhound bus which I figured would make me feel poor. Result: Saved money, listened to this really lovely podcast about networking, enjoyed two hours of free time, and realized this was about the most absurd leftover from childhood fear ever. Left my inner-poor-kid at the mall, so she could go buy a new shirt and look cool at school, and I could get on with being awesome.

Day 4

Fear that I’m not doing as well as I could be/should be/think I am (in other words, big time Imposter Syndrome)

Strategy: Hung out with a friend from college who has known me for long enough to be a good judge of whether I’m moving forward (13 years) Result: Reminisced and remembered how in my early 20’s I was a disfunctional alcoholic who spent my afternoons nursing my hangovers at my job at Verizon. Considering a decade ago my entire skill set consisted of a talent for bonging beers and yelling song lyrics while standing on furniture, I’m doing pretty damn well. Realized not only I accomplished about a million things I would never have dreamed of back when my goals were ‘find the party, drink the party, sort of remember the party’, but also… I’m happy. For someone who nearly died of depression in my early 20’s, being HAPPY… #1 success EVER.

Since this lovely photo (age 20) I have learned how chairs work and that cigarettes are gross.

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Day 5

Fear of telling people I have ADHD, because it will limit my professional opportunities if people doubt my ability. Fear that every time I get distracted, forget something, or waste even a minute of my workday, that my ADHD actually does limit me.

Strategy: Announced my label on Facebook with this photo..IMG_5194

a compilation of my yearly goal folder my giant bulletin board, and all the other office supplies that have been my key to  grad-schooling, and business-running,  travel planning, and general adulting for the last decade. also, the Buddha, because he makes a really good office assistant.

Result: Realized that as a result of acknowledging ADHD early on, I’ve actually damn good at time management. Also, found out that I know a bunch of really successful ADHD people hiding their label for the same reasons… ADHD is misunderstood and when channeled and managed makes us awesome at achieving and creating.

The only true downside?  I might kill a forest with my exorbitant use of post-it notes (which I will make up for by saving gas on Grey Hound busses?).

Day 6

Fear that finding consistent and enjoyable remote work to support my travels is a pipe dream, that the only way to have a good job is to be tied to a location/ ‘oh-dear-god-don’t-make-me-work-in-an-office-ever-again-phobia’.

Strategy: Set goals for the next day to push myself a little harder, be a bit more optimistic about freelance options that aren’t mind numbing.   Result: Woke up in the morning to an email from an old online boss, offering me work. …I didn’t even email her, I just wrote a To Do list the night before and woke up with a job? Holy hell, my day planner must have been designed by wizards.

Realized that if I can get online work in my sleep from old bosses I hadn’t actually contacted, and that I’ve stumbled into some decent online gigs in the past, I’ll probably kick some serious ass if I actually apply for the good stuff. Mostly I doubt myself because other people don’t believe freelancing works.  Cool, more jobs for MEEEEEEEEE.

Day 7….Fear of sharing my fears. This my friends, is what it’s all about.

I have been known to present myself as a ‘don’t give a shit what anyone says, I do what I want, I have it all figured out’ opportunity-landing-globe-hopping-smooth-sailing badass. But maybe I’m really a messy human, who doubts myself, feels uncertain, gets nervous when I dream the big dreams, and makes douche excuses so I don’t have to do things that scare me. Or maybe… I’m both.

Maybe we all are both- swirling stumbling bundles of courageous badass and risk avoiding wimp… bold heroes of our own lives in some moments and superstitious kiddos scared of the dark in others. And maybe…We can both love both parts of ourselves and still choose who we let run the show.

Strategy: This long winded blog. Result: TBD.

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Year-o-Fears: 365 Opportunities for Expanding Levels of Creative Badassery

 

New Year’s Eve was my first opportunity to see a ton of old friends after returning to the states a couple weeks ago. Upon hearing that I’d just returned from South America, a friend of a friend said this- “I wish I could travel like you do but I would be too afraid.”

I laughed, thinking of the moment I booked on my one way ticket to Thailand over three years ago. I was on my way to an easily navigable country nicknamed “the land of smiles”, and yet because I’d never left the country, my excitement was barely noticeable over full scale irrational terror. Little things like layovers in Abu Dhabi and Taipei and going to downtown Detroit to get my new passport expedited seemed as daunting as climbing Everest. Based on my level of irrational fear, you’d have thought international airports were full of wasps and vengeful ninjas and that the agency where I had to go get my expedited passport was tucked down a flaming side street in Hades instead of downtown Detroit (although the two do have similarities).

After having the “I wish I could travel” conversation more times than I can count, I’ve realized-

  1. There are a ton of non-traveling-people who think that I travel because I’m fearless. That is absurd, because travel is actually really easy if it’s what you want to do, and “fearless”? It’s not a real thing. We all have fear, it’s what we do with it that matters.

2.We usually aren’t having a conversation about travel at all- it’s the restrictions we impose on ourselves as a result of being unwilling to do things that feel uncertain or scary and then wondering why we don’t feel completely alive. Travel is just a symbol of the big ugly fear monster hiding under the bed that is keeping us from our dreams.

Historically, I have been afraid of a TON of things, potentially more than the average person. Luckily, I also think fear is totally boring, and as  novelty seeker to the Nth degree, I dislike being bored way more than I dislike feeling afraid. As a result, I started to treat Fear like an acquaintance I run into at the coffee shop that I’m not crazy about. I’m polite, because Fear has on occasion had an interesting thing or two to say, but after a few minutes, I’m like “Heyyyyy homie, this has been great, but I have more interesting plans. No, sorry… you aren’t invited”. And then I go do something new and awesome.

….Except sometimes Fear is kind of tricky bastard, and he offers to buy my coffee, and it’s something really tasty like double caramel chocolate marshmallow pumpkin spice, so I say yes. Before I know it I’m sitting down with Fear, listening to him talk about something useless like Donald Trump’s hair or scented candle parties, and wonder where the hell my day went, because wasn’t I supposed to be off being a badass?

Which may be why up until that conversation I hadn’t set a single interesting New Year’s resolution, beyond a vague intention to write more often- I got caught up in drinking metaphoric lattes with Fear.  Luckily the conversation around being afraid reminded me of why I started writing publicly in the first place (and why I probably need to get back to doing it regularly)- because despite having stacks of notebooks full of words and the dream of being a writer since I was a kid, I had a HUGE fear of being verbally vulnerable. And because I was afraid of the thing, and being afraid of the thing was limiting, I did the thing. Now I’ve got a bazillion blog posts, a couple thousand readers, and this year I accidentally-on-purpose wrote a whole damn book, which is both exciting and terrifying. You guyssss… what am I going to wear when I meet Oprah?!

And by the way… Fear numero uno? Sharing rough unfinished excerpts of my book with… humans. Fortunately, last night served as an opportunity to do just that- my friend Joe put on a writer’s sal0n so a group of us could kick off a new year of creativity, I read a thing, and I had the pleasure of listening to a group of other talented writers share their raw work. The universe is so good to us when we set intentions to expand, as is surrounding oneself with others committed to doing the same. Anyone else? Year-o-fears?

Fear #1 tackled, 364 left. 2016, lets go!

All love, Jen

 

 

***Dear readers- Thanks visiting. Please note- I am in the process of migrating websites. For future updates, please follow me at my new address, Jennymonet.com

http://jennymonet.com/2016/01/02/year-o-fears-365-opportunities-for-expanding-levels-of-creative-badassery/

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Danger- Under Construction

Today I had to go to the Policia de Migracion to get a form filled out for my new Ecuadorian visa. Based on the map, it was a little over a half hour walk, towards the outskirts of the city.

The route seemed simple enough and both because I’ve been trying to avoid taking cabs both to burn off the mass quantities of empanadas I’ve been eating and because I can buy at least four more empanadas with the cost of cab fare, I decide to walk. (Yes, I plan an absurd portion of my life around consuming melty-gooey cheese pockets from my favorite vendor. No shame, totally worth it.)

About fifteen minutes into my walk, I start to get into a sketchy area with more boarded up buildings than pedestrians, and notice that I’m entering a construction zone. Red tape marked PELIGRO (danger) forms a makeshift barricade, a weak attempt to keep pedestrians from being pummeled by one of the excavators that are moving from street to sidewalk haphazaradly. Dust and gravel are flying from every direction, and I’ve entered a part of city far from the familiar centro, where there are almost no people and just wires, piles of raw material, and cavernous holes dug in the ground to begin laying tracks for the tram that will run through the city in 2017.

I should just take a cab the rest of the way, I think. But something in me needs to walk through that construction, needs to stride confidently past the banners declaring “this place is unsafe” with determination. Out of habit rather than rationality, I shove my passport under my clothes, before remembering the danger here has less to do with getting mugged and more to do with the giant chasms in the ground and machinery designed to destroy entire buildings… and then I continue on.

It ends up taking me nearly an hour, three detours, and nearly getting backed into by a bulldozer to reach my destination.  The reward for my perseverance? I discover a mural of a woman with a butterfly on her face, wings in her hair, staring up at a crescent moon, a lovely juxtaposition of personally meaningful symbolism in one painting. She is nearly hidden behind a pile of giant concrete pipes, right in the heart of the construction zone.

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More significant is  finding this lovely rough creation right in the middle of a construction zone… it feels perfect. Yesterday I launched my Facebook writer’s page with very little idea how a writer goes about properly utilizing social media but a growing awareness that I should begin to figure it out.  I also started working on a new site to compile my published work. I felt uncomfortable sharing this while these things and my writing career are still under construction, but then it hit me… as a creator, everything I do is in a state of construction and as I hope to continue to grow and expand, it always will be. In fact, any creative endeavor is always a work in progress- including our lives, constantly being built and rebuilt, some structures crumbling or being torn down to be replaced with new ones.

I believe to discover the best parts of life, we have to be willing to walk through a few construction zones, sometimes take a few detours because a jackhammer is tearing up the street we’d marked on our map. In fact I’d argue that sometimes the best part isn’t the destination, it IS the construction zone, and we can stand right in the middle, the dust blowing in our face, the steady scream of demolition and building, step right up to the red tape marked DANGER and find something beautiful. Equally as important, we must also be willing to create a walkway right through our own construction zone to allow others to walk through the messy spaces of our life and appreciate whatever we are in the process of creating.

So, welcome to the heart of my “construction zone-. Join me at Facebook.com/Jennymonetwriter, and my incredibly unfinished new website, JennyMonet.com. Don’t mind the dust flying, I’m a work in progress. All love, Jen

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How To Be A Human

how to be a human

This week my mind has been in constant motion, trying to keep up with the rapid fire change around me .  “There are decisions to be made, plans to be created, goals to achieve”, my mind reminds me every second-  I’ve just quit one teaching job, which didn’t resonate with me, which was a lovely opportunity to be true to myself. However, given that, I’m starting to settle into the idea that I’ll may only be able to remain in Cuenca, Ecuador for a few months more.   This place is lovely, but  on some level I known all along that this place is a temporary home, and in between of sorts. I’m not even sure why I’m here, just that I’m learning, unburying parts of myself that got lost, writing my heart out, and eating my body weight in granadillas. At some point, I’ll be finished with those things- and then I will move on, do something else.

This is a big open space, and my monkey mind… immediately scrambles to fill open spaces. Something else? But WHAT something else?!, my mind shouts, pulling me from the present into a space of planning. Surely I must have something to tell people, when I admit that every time I think of how long I’ll remain here, I don’t know. December? But what if I change my mind and want to stay longer? What if I want to leave earlier? Where am I going? A few locations come up in my mind, but none of them with any certainty. Will my book be finished when I leave? Will I start seeking a publisher? What if I’m not ready to share? What if I am? Should I go to that conference where my hero author will be? If I go there, should I just go for a few days? Where should I stay?  Shit, forget conferences, what the F continent am I even going to live on after this? How will I… What will I…Do I want to… Should I…

“Aaaaaah”, screams my mind, “Figure out all the things”.

So yesterday, as I penned another chapter of my story, both my novel and my actual life seeming to form almost independently from my own consciousness at times, I ran into a friend at the coffee shop. We sat for about an hour and caught up on our weeks, and I told him about some of the things I’m not quite sure how I feel about in my life, expressed my desire to know how these things might go.

“It sounds like you don’t know what you want”, he reflected back to me. I nodded enthusiastically, “I don’t, I really don’t!” I said, hearing the tone of panic in my own voice.

Then he asked me if he might give me a bit of advice, and I accepted. I’m generally  hesitant to accept advice, because I tend to think as humans we love to generalize our own experiences and assume that we know what’s right for another. However I was facing a big pile of confusion so I obliged. What followed was SO good, so universally applicable, I want to get it tattooed on my forehead so I never forget.

Stop trying so hard to figure any of it out, he told me. “Just show up.

Just show up? Holy helllllll, it was so simple, and yet… perfect. It’s all we ever really need to be doing. Showing up 100% as whoever we are and however we feel in each moment. And if it changes- accepting that is totally okay too. And yet we get so caught up in the need to plan, to know, to have some sort of predictable outcome that we miss how simple this being human thing is… and how it changes all the time. Fuckin’ eh, I’d been trying to figure everything out again, and totally forgotten to embrace that we all live in a stream of constantly shifting information.

I laughed, sharing a related moment awhile back in which I tried to force plans instead of just accepting that maybe not planning was the most realistic, and even the most personally comfortable way of navigating the situation.  Instead I had leaned into external pressures to do the whole silly ‘figure this out’ thing, needing answers or some sort of definition because of what I perceived others might want.   My friend laughed as I told him how I wished I’d handled it differently. “Regrets are about as useful as plans”, he said.

And I knew exactly what he meant. The future doesn’t exist, but neither does the past, yet here the moment I let go of the future my mind rewound, finding another way to be anywhere but the present.  Now… such a lovely location in time… I really ought to hang out more in it.

So, in case anyone was wondering what my plans are for the next several months (and judging from the questions I am asked constantly by friend and family, some are quite curious), I’ve finally figured it out. My plan? …to show up.  That’s it, that’s all I’ll be planning. Waiting to see what information life brings me and …showing the f up.

….

Later, as I was penning this blog, a friend shared his creative work with me via Facebook, a beautiful song he’d written and recorded. He expressed hesitance- the natural trepidation that comes with sharing our heart’s work with others that I can so relate to as a writer. It’s scary enough to show up and accept whoever we are in each moment, it’s even more terrifying to do it out loud  I have so much respect for his courage both as a creator and a person- and it reminds me- when we show up, in each moment, exactly as we are, it creates space for others to do the same… to trust that we only need to create reality one beautifully alive moment at a time is such a powerful thing… and it’s a choice we have to make over and over, letting go of the moments we totally failed at being present, the moments we clung to our favorite moments out of fear that the new ones we created couldn’t possibly be as perfect. It’s about being curious,  it’s about being free, it’s about accepting all of it as a part of being human.

So this being a human thing?  Osho puts it this way; “Life isn’t a problem to be solved, it’s a mystery to be lived.”

And I’m off, to embrace another 24 hours of mystery, one empanada… or I mean… one moment at a time ; )  All love, Jen

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The Power of Sharing Our Stories

Do you blog?

I’ve mentioned my writing to one of my new coworkers at the school in Ecuador where I’ll be teaching English part time, and we’re discussing freelancing. I tell him- yes, I have a blog, but my writing focus at the moment has shifted. I actually ended up in Ecuador somewhat as a result. I wanted to live in a place where I could get by on a part time teaching salary so I could give attention and energy to finish the book I’d been writing. I’d also always wanted to visit Ecuador and work on my Spanish, so the goals intermingle quite nicely- life is lovely that way sometimes.

So I’ve slowly warmed up to admitting I’m writing a book, regardless of how crazy that makes me feel. But I’m still not entirely comfortable talking about what my book is about, because it’s part of my personal story I haven’t shared freely with everyone in my life. I realize it’s somewhat of a contradiction, writing a book about something I’m afraid to even speak of, with the goal of publishing that book and therefore making that content available for public consumption. I often wonder how I will bridge that gap, but I also trust that when I need to be ready, I will be.   Or perhaps I hope….

So despite the recognition that this is a story on some level I wish to share, when asked about it I usually spin a vague response about how it is a memoir, about travel and relationships. And it is, but this description… it’s a cop out. I’m afraid of someone misunderstanding or placing a judgment on the experiences I’m actually writing about.

However this night, maybe because I’m a continent away from my ordinary life, from anyone whose opinion about my history might matter to me, or maybe because I’ve spent the last several months letting go of remaining pieces of my old life, or even it’s just because I’ve had two fairly strong mojitos, my trepidation melts away.

“I was in an abusive relationship. I’m writing a book about it, and how the places I’ve been and my travel experiences have helped me begin to heal.” I say the word begin with a hidden sadness. I’ve realized recently I’m not nearly as ‘healed’ as I thought, and it stings a bit to admit it out loud that I’m still digging through the pile of defenses that have accumulated over the years to find my heart. Then again, aren’t we all doing that on some level?

So here in this tiny apartment with four people who by all social standards are still strangers to me, I finally get the courage to share bluntly the part of my story that for months has been wrapped in layers of shame. It’s a small step but it feels big, because when I reveal that I was abused, I am also revealing that I was too afraid, too weak, and not conscious enough to leave- and these people don’t know me enough to think otherwise. And then I tell them the hardest part, the part I’m always afraid of sharing, that I’m always afraid will be misunderstood- that yes, my relationship was abusive, but that he never physically hit me.

This is why sharing my story feels important, but also why it terrifies me. Tell someone your partner punched you in the face- they get it, and there is nothing more to explain. Tell them that they slowly broke down your entire sense of self with words, anger, control, and emotional manipulation, and there are questions. The answers… aren’t simple. Which is why I’m writing- it’s why this truth matters to me- because it’s one that’s not spoken often enough, and that in my opinion is why women like me have gotten lost in the darkness. There aren’t enough lights. Maybe my story can be one.

So- I’m writing a book not about where I went, but the meaning I found in those places. Because when one is trying to rebuild their entire sense of self, finding meaning in every moment is necessary, even the challenging ones. Especially the challenging ones. If there is even a small chance that sharing what my journey out of this looked like will allow another to find their way out, that my found meaning can help someone discover theirs enough to feel strong again- I have to tell this story no matter how hard that is… or how afraid I am of exposing a part of my life I’d rather had never happened.

And perhaps this is the purpose of sharing our stories – to shine a light on our human experiences with the chance that it will resonate with someone else, and simply through that universality, we can support each other. We can say, That experience you don’t think you will survive? I did. You will. Hold on.

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Flailing in Public, Necessary Messes, and Other “Bad” Things that Are Good

Up until yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t been out of the country in almost three months. More notably, I hadn’t had a reason to speak Spanish with another human being since leaving Peru  this spring. When I left I was just beginning to be able to form a sentence that slightly resembled a coherent thought in a language that seems to sound beautiful from every mouth but mine.

Today I’m in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I arrived a day ago, and am taking a writing break on this balcony:

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 This is a rooftop where one simply cannot sit without composing something, effortless in a way where I wonder if  words are instead composing me. In the same way the ivy has snuck up the bricks, syllables weave themselves into sentences and I am just here to admire whatever story is growing.

As I skim over a few articles I need to finish writing as well as a couple poems I’ve been meaning to submit the person I’m here visiting is taking a Spanish lesson upstairs. I told him I didn’t want to join because, “My Spanish is too terrible.” Which of course is exactly why I should take a Spanish lesson, but oh NOOO… I don’t want to stumble over my words in front of humans! That would be awful.

Hmmm… so either the Spanish learning I was cramming into every moment before I left was some special kind of Spanish that one only speaks to themselves, or I’m doing a silly thing where I base my actions on avoiding embarrassment. This is fairly illogical, because if barely speaking Spanish is embarrassing, it would follow that I might be equally embarrassed at the fact that I become nearly mute when in Spanish speaking countries, and don’t even say the words I do know for fear I’m pronouncing them all wrong and will sound like one of those asshole Americans who listened to one lesson of Rosetta Stone and now thinks I speak the whole language. Instead, at present I’m someone who doesn’t speak at all or lets someone speak for me, which it turns out is far more uncomfortable than the alternative of stumbling through my handful of Spanish words in public.

Maybe I would just let it go if it was just speaking Spanish that I was pulling this crazy illogical behavior with. However, it strikes me in this moment that there are a lot of things I don’t do because I’m either bad at them or haven’t perfected them, and that the reason I haven’t improved has a lot to do with… the fact that I’m not doing them. The logic is incredibly flawed, it’s the equivalent of trying to learn how to swim without going into the water, and the result of my fear of looking or acting foolishly is that I limit myself. Cringe.

The true weight of this behavior is that I realize I’ve at times applied this backward logic to sharing my passions including writing. The first few items I published this year were in my mind mediocre, things that came from a heart space, but I hadn’t put a lot of time into polishing, and had hit the send button with a trigger happy impulsiveness. There was lot going on in my life, so maybe mind was too preoccupied to worry about run-on sentences or sentence rhythm, or maybe my words were so crammed full of all that I’d been holding back that they simply exploded into existence. And while I submitted some work that upon reflection could have been improved on, the beneficial result of my lack of perfectionism was that I was writing daily, and I was sharing it, no matter how imperfect it felt.

Maybe because there was so much of me contained in those spontaneous explosions of sentences and phrases I’d put in a public space, I had what can only be described as an exposure hangover. I pulled back with the same force I had revealed myself.  Suddenly as much as I’d needed to put my words out there, I needed them back. I needed that raw pile of words I’d felt so compelled to publish to not be out in the open.

In fact it felt so itchy having my messes out there floating around that at one point I almost asked an editor to pull a poem I’d submitted. I decided it would hinder my chances at being published on that particular site in the future, so I refrained… and I’m glad that despite my resistance, I left this piece where it was, in all its messy-human-still-learning-to-write gloriousness. Getting comfortable with sharing the messy stuff is so necessary, because writing is never perfect, nor is anything we aspire to do well but are growing into.

No matter how long I spend editing it, there will always be something that could have been worded more gracefully, something I could have rearranged. I will make mistakes, and I will make lots of them.   Really, if any of us wish to share what we create with the world, at some point we have to pick a point where we are willing to let go and just say, “Okay, it’s good enough. Here it is.”

So today as I pull up the article I’m working on, I realize the folder of unsubmitted articles and unpublished blog posts I’ve felt unwilling to share have a lot in common with my Spanish language skills. They are rough, some of the word choices are not ideal, and a year or so from now I will laugh at the roughness of my attempt to communicate. And while I’m always going to be growing into a better version of a writer looking back at my writing from two years ago, I already feel the same way. But I wrote anyway, and I shared. Because this is how one stops sucking… they do the thing, flail, stumble, and in the case of writing suck out loud for others to witness. And it’s not only okay, it’s necessary. In fact the whole process has a name… learning.

The way I see it, with almost everything in our lives, we can choose perfectionism or we can choose growth. We can’t have both, because whether it be writing, learning a new language, playing an instrument, or shifting into a new way of being, growing is messy stuff. It sometimes even requires being willing to be terrible at things, knowing we may look like a fool, and acting anyway.

Fortunately my life seems to offer an almost infinite amount of opportunity to step into itchy imperfection… I’m off to go flail, stumble, and be a mess in public, just for fun. Maybe I’ll accidentally learn a little too😉

All love, Jen

moleskine-notebookq

Vulnerability, Naked Dreams, and Daring to Be Batshit

“I’m a writer”.

There is no phrase I can utter aloud that both fills my heart with as much joy and shakes my soul to the core to the same time. Writing has always been ‘the big one’, the dream that never faded, that stands quietly waiting behind my more ‘realistic’ goals. Most importantly, it’s always been the thing that makes me come alive.

I’m currently taking a publishing course, I’ve written over half of a book. I’ve let go of the ghostwriting someone elses ideas to step up with my own voice, I’ve published a few things online, I have a blog with a fairly decent following, and I got an award for a poem I wrote last year. Yet still when people I know ask me what I’m up to, I tell them about travel, I tell them about the English classes I teach online, I tell them about how I might maybe one of these days finish my therapist internship, or how I’m applying for teaching positions abroad, because uttering the phrase, “I’m a writer”…makes me feel a lot like one of those nightmares where I accidentally show up to school with no pants on.

Those words “I am a writer” feel true, but make me feel naked, vulnerable, and  quite honestly… batshit.

Naked because saying this requires me to remove all the layers of ‘should’ I’ve spent my entire adulthood hiding behind, and say, “Hey, this thing that I’ve wanted since I was a kid, that every social construct and ounce of rationality tells me should be a hobby- I plan on doing it for a living. Everything else I tell you about my career plans is either fear, socially acceptable bullshit, a distraction, or a means to pay the bills while I figure this making a living with my words thing out.”

Vulnerable in the recognition that some people are going to look at me like I’m crazy, tell me about how many books get published and fail, and how many aspiring writers never make it, and ask me what my back up plan is, which essentially feels like stripping down to my essential self and someone saying, “Duuuude weirdo, you’re in your 30s. Put your clothes back on, preferably a pair of dress slacks and some sensible flats, and start worrying about a 501K. If you need a goal, train for a 5k like everyone else your age. Write a book? What a delightful but absurd fantasy.”

And then batshit when even with the awareness of all this I confess, “I’ve decided not to have a back up plan anymore.” Why? Because my back up plan always makes more rational sense, and then it sneaks up into the front seat, and I end up realizing I haven’t written a damn thing for weeks. Sure, I’ll find ways to pay the bills, and hopefully continue teaching in a way that feels authentic, but as far as future plans go… career goals…  Writing. Is. It.

I recently started realizing how off track I’d gotten when I sat with my little brother and talked about his plans for the future. He just finished his first year of college, and I saw the same look I had in my eye when I was his age. It’s that quiet confusion that comes when you realize for the first time that you don’t want to settle for typical, yet it butts up against everything you’ve been socialized to believe about what your career and life path ‘should’ look like.  I think he’s already aware that he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than what he’s passionate about. The urge to have him jump in my car and go on a road trip was strong, but I realized he’s on his own unique journey which quite likely doesn’t have anything to do with crisscrossing the globe and refrained.

So instead, I immediately started yammering on about how big rewards require big risks (there is nothing that turns me into an obnoxious bumper-sticker-speaking motivational speaker like realizing my youngest sibling is asking all the same questions I struggled with), and it was healthy to question whether the things that were supposed to make him happy really would and to carve his own path. Yet as I drove away, I realized how I needed to practice what I was preaching. I have this big scary dream of my own, yet still feel afraid to take those risks and step outside of the cultural norms- for fear I might appear crazy, or even face for a time being something considered even worse than crazy in Western culture… unsuccessful.  

Screw playing small, screw playing it safe. In this moment I’m recommitting more energy to being a naked, vulnerable, and batshit crazy writer, even if that means I end up living in a foreign country so I can afford to work part time and have more time to do what I love, and failing 80 times before I finally succeed. In fact, I know myself well enough to say I’ll probably find five reasons I shouldn’t be putting it all on writing, I’ll probably announce ten more career paths I’ve decided on besides this one while my friends laugh because its only a matter of time before I change my mind.  But I’m going big, especially now that I’ve realized it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about announcing my big dreams, and showing up to prove that no goal is too big, no ambition too ‘batshit’.

….and hey, if I’m going to be crazy, I think  go-big-chase-the-fuck-out-my-dreams is my favorite kind of crazy.

To my baby brother… Dream ginormous kiddo, I freakin’ love ya.

scalding-sun

…THIS is real.

Authenticity does not do the dance

Of “look how real I am”

It shows up quietly in the background

In each moment.

Or loudly shouting… when my authentic reaction is

Fuck you for objectifying my tenderness.

And assuming it was only of value,

When it looked like you needed it to.

Real? I am real in my inability

To have compassion in this moment.

For the person who encouraged my real creative heart

But immediately discarded my light as invaluable

When it wasn’t created for his purposes.

I’ll feel loving later.

Human. I’m doing human.

Would you like an authentic reaction?

Here it is…

Thank you for objectifying me

In the most elusive way

So I can reaffirm

That I will not be a puppet

Of what a spiritual being,

creator,

artist,

revolutionary

Should look like

You can silently speak

That my art ‘should’ look differently

How my heart should behave.

But I am not a performer.

I am a goddamn human being.

The intersection of sacred and profane.

Poems half full of love, and half full of

Ugly, dripping, salty swear words,

Anger mixing with appreciation.

Thank you for reminding me

That I am no leader,

And neither are you.

We are all just humans.

Following each other in circles.

If I am the chosen one,

So is everyone else.

I do not write or speak,

To be judged by anyone

Your praise, your criticism

Are of equal value- none.

Sometimes my authentic being is love,

And sometimes she is a shouting, crying, bitching,

Moaning, yelling, fearful,

Petty asshole.

I’m okay with it.

….Gasp.

She accepts herself even when she’s ugly?!

Yes.

Sometimes,

Like this moment…

When I don’t even feel loving.

What am I?

Who am I?

I am this.

This is real.

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can you?

Love is STILL the Movement

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a “strong woman” a lot lately. In the last two days, I’ve had men I don’t know make lewd comments to me from a car window or a sidewalk FIVE times. One of those times, a man drove by me, told me it was his friend’s birthday, and with a lick of his lips and a creepy wink, told me I owed him a gift. When I turned away, my face probably crunched up in an angry expression, he yelled a string of expletives after me that I won’t repeat.

My friend asked me why I thought this happening so often in such a short period of time… was it the weather, the rolled down car windows? Was it the neighborhood? Was it my blonde hair?  I’d had the same thought- was it a full moon? What the hell was going on?

But in that moment, with no hesitation, these words popped came out of my mouth- “It’s because it’s what my soul needs.”

…I promise you, my response surprised me as much as it did her- my soul needed me to feel objectified? Huh?

I sat with that thought all evening, fell asleep confused. When I woke up this morning I realized what it was about. It was about reaffirming purpose and how sometimes purpose is less about action and more about our own way of being in the world …My way of being in the world.

For the past four months, I’ve been writing a book about my story, about abuse, about being a woman, and underneath it all, about the deeply ingrained social construct that any of us are here to be someone’s something. It’s about not wanting to be an object of affection, or an object at all, about this society in which we objectify ourselves, and about unconditional love… for self, for others, for humanity.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt that sharing that story at some point will be my purpose, but right now, I’ve felt a little without a cause, because that book is still a pile of pages barely cobbled together, and it’s a story I’m not ready to share…not yet.

Then I realized I always have something to share from moment to moment. And because it’s so damn simple, it’s also so damn elusive.  Being.

Right now I don’t have a published book, or a organization I’m supporting, a clear career goal, I don’t even know where I want to live at the end of the summer, but while I’m here, I’m showing up in the way I think the world should be.  If I’m exhausted by this consumerist culture (and I am, I so am), I could leave, move  to another country, where the rules don’t apply to me because I am an outsider, where I don’t feel so pressured to be something I’m not… but I’m not somewhere else.  I’m here. It’s now.

So today I will rebel by accepting myself. I will be an agent of change by loving EVERY part of my essential self so deeply that I can show up so authentically enough and fearlessly enough to see the heart of every single person around me, and accept them for all that they are, instead of all the ‘things’ they and society needs them to be.  My purpose… is as it always has been, to love the hell out of the good, true, alive souls all around me. Everyone.

Do I know that on some level, I am moving towards a life that empowers women? Yes, but today I don’t feel a need to “fight against” masogyny or objectification, I just need to walk around in a world that anticipates we will treat each other like objects, and to see with my heart, instead of my eyes or even my mind.   The hardest part of that, of not seeing others as object is that it means I can’t fight them, I can’t see a single one of them as enemy, even the ones who’s words batter my often exposed heart.

My purpose and my strength… to be fierce in my loving, to hold compassion for the ones that are hard to love. ESPECIALLY the ones that are hard to love. To remember I’m separate from NO ONE. Not even that sneering man who shouted ugliness from a window. To not condone his ugly words, but to notice the hurt in my own heart when I am treated like an object, and channel it, to let that self compassion fuel compassion for a deep level of disconnect in him I cannot understand, and to hope that someday someone looks him in the eye and reminds him of his buried aching heart under whatever experiences and fear made him forget who he is.

can you?

To see others from a place of love, to need nothing, but to witness the good underneath-  today it is enough, it is my rebellion, it is what makes me a strong woman.  It is the only movement I need to be a part of.

PS I have a secret… I think loving, deeply, truly loving… might be your purpose too.