Tangled, But Not Tied Up

Last week a special Trail Blazer alumnus passed away. I didn’t follow Jerome Kersey in his heyday, however, his presence in the Portland community was very well known by fans and non-fans alike. He became a Trail Blazer ambassador after retiring from the NBA in 2001, and went above and beyond his duties. He made a positive impression on many, and was a true community leader. I even had a few interactions with him at a favorite restaurant that we both frequented a couple of years ago. He was always smiling and friendly to everyone at the bar. Many people have expressed warm remembrances of him from years past, including this beautiful essay by a friend of mine. It’s safe to say that Portland is feeling a great loss this week.

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Jerome’s death made me incredibly sad—it hit unexpectedly close to home—but also very pensive and a little tangled inside. I had just come off of a first date when I read about his death on Facebook. I was flying high—my date was nice, a gentleman, adventurous, and he was willing to go zydeco dancing with me, which was a first for both of us, and very cool of him. I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on someone I may have passed by in another life. We met speed dating, which, let’s be honest, is always a guessing game as to whether you just wasted $29 or met some really cool people that you may or may not ever see again.

So when I read about Jerome’s death, I instantly started reviewing how I spend my time and who I bring into my life. Since I moved to Portland almost 12 years ago, my life has taken many twists, turns, and curved paths that I could never have foreseen. It made me want to reach out to you in the best way I know how—through writing.

I want this blog post to function in two ways: 1) As my Christmas letter for 2014 to tell you what I did last year, and 2) As a way to dispense what I’ve learned in the past year (Okay, 14 months). During December, I kept finding excuses to put off the writing of my annual Christmas letter, and I wasn’t sure why. Now I realize I had so much more to process about my past year before sharing it. Normally I send these out to close friends and family only, but we are all one, we are all family. I love you, and I want you to learn my life lessons along with me. I’ll share my thoughts with you and use examples from my past year to make sure you get the best of both worlds.

Spoil yourself.  Spend the money. Take time off. Go somewhere new. You’re worth it! In 2014 I took my third annual solo beach vacation. For three days I ate decadent food, walked on the beach, drank wine, got my nails done, and did whatever my heart desired. I truly pampered myself. I also took a five day camping trip (between several shorter camping trips) to the Olympic Peninsula. It was so awe-inspiring and beautiful! In the fall, I went to New York. If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may know the story that goes with this. If you missed that one, read about it! What an amazing trip. I enjoyed staycations and fancy dates with handsome suitors and nights out on the town with good friends. I’m so blessed to work at a company where they reward loyalty with quite a bit of vacation time, and boy did I take advantage of it!

Challenge yourself. Some of my biggest challenges in life have been the result of belly dance. When I left Ohio, I could shake my booty with a little rhythm, and that was the extent of it. I had no formal training at that point, and I never thought that dance would be something I would later take on as an amateur performer. But then I met Yemaya, a professional belly dancer who also happens to be my long lost third cousin. She somehow convinced me that I was going to be a belly dancer one day. My style had never been particularly feminine, and when she said that, all I could picture was a horror show of obnoxiously bright sequins and awkward dance moves to snake charmer music. However, I allowed her to tease me into a few lessons, and from then on, I was in love. Soon I was practicing multiple times a week, taking every available workshop, and started performing in 2007, debuting at the Oregon Country Fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage.  In the past few years, I have fallen into a “comfortable sweatshirt” type of relationship with belly dance. I still practice and even learn some new skills sometimes, but rarely do I try anything that really scares me. For the last two months, however, I have embraced the sword! Sword dancing scares me—big time. I took a four week course more out of dedication to my teacher than actual interest, but I should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. Now I’m signed up to perform my sword dance in front of a crowd, with the assumption that I won’t allow it to fall off my head and pierce someone’s foot. Terrifying? Yes! Essential to grow as a dancer and as a person? Absolutely!

Hope for Andrew edit

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Embrace Your Sexuality. Yep, we’re talking about it. In the past, I hadn’t been confident in my sensuality or sexuality. This was caused in part by my weight issues as a child, my perceived lack of femininity as a young adult, and being from just above the Bible Belt in the Midwest, where traditional values and conservative ideas still have a hold on the population. I envisioned that the right type of sexuality centered on a husband or at least a serious relationship. I thought that sex under other circumstances was not wrong per se, but not ideal, and not really necessary. I believed that expressing your sexuality freely maybe made you just a little slutty, if not an actual slut. In acknowledging my feelings of judgment, I also recognized that I had mistakenly thought that my lack of sexual expression was a character flaw; now I understood that judging others was a defense mechanism, and my personal level of sexual expression is not a flaw. It is wholly mine, and I must engage it in a way that is true to my own nature and not anyone else’s. Make sure to explore this side of you, even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, because it is so important to know that side of yourself before you share it with anyone else.

Life is short! Do what makes you smile and giggle, and spend time with people who inspire you. There have been so many times that I have stayed home to get a proper night’s sleep, only to find out the next day what unbelievably cool exploits I had missed the night before. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” I would be a millionaire…okay, maybe I’d have a few bucks. But you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I value my health and I truly feel my best when I’ve had a good night’s rest, but sometimes it is totally worth it to take a chance and stick it out for a little while longer. Nights that I stayed out with the Hash House Harriers for one more conversation, or salsa danced for one more song almost always ended up with new friends, new plans, or a memory I would never forget. I knew that I would feel tired in the morning, but I also knew that I was put on earth to experience those blissful moments…and I have had so many of these moments this past year.

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Make every movement with love and authenticity. This is a big one for me. I am a people pleaser. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing joy to your loved ones, making yourself happy and loving who you are will bring you the most joy in this world. Don’t worry about impressing others or fitting normative expectations of your culture. Live with authenticity in your heart and express gratitude for it daily. Be Love, every day.

2014 was a fantastic and enlightening year for me. When I think about the possibility that life can be cut off so abruptly, the way Jerome’s was, it makes me sad, but it also makes me grateful that I do the things I do, know the people I know, and experience miracles every day. Nothing is ever perfect, but my perfectly tangled existence is absolutely an abstract design of immaculate beauty.

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Vulnerability and Gratitude: a Tribute to Robin Williams

I don’t normally write much about pop culture in this blog, but I am feeling that I must say something now. There is a lot of information and opinion going around about Robin Williams’ death yesterday. Some people are recycling facts and lists so that we can recollect the best moments of his career, some are paying loving homage, and some are expressing bitterness that he took his own life. I’d like to say a few words in tribute.

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The most striking character Robin Williams ever played in my mind was John Keating in Dead Poets Society. In him, I saw a human so raw and so real that I found it hard to comprehend that Williams hadn’t always been Keating. As a fellow artist who has, at times, felt misunderstood and out of place, I saw a story that touched my heart. I also recognize the bittersweet irony of Robert Sean Leonard’s character taking his life because he felt the world would never allow him to be who he was meant to be.

In the same vein, One Hour Photo’s Sy Parrish was so quietly terrifying and believable that we didn’t want to accept that it was our beloved Williams. Still, we followed him into the deep recesses of the character’s mind. Perhaps it was his personal dark shadow that made it a little too easy to play Parrish.

The truly terrifying thing is that we genuinely can’t always see the pain in a loved one’s eyes. We see the slapstick facade they put on to entertain, but the darker side stays hidden, pleading silently that someone will probe just deep enough to realize that something is truly wrong. Unfortunately, most of us are not equipped to see that agony for what it is.

Robin Williams was one of those actors who did so much more than play a part. He brought intricacies out of his characters that perhaps the writer didn’t even know were there. Williams played them all like it was second nature because he let himself be vulnerable to every part of the character. He didn’t just play the character’s appealing parts, he played every side. What we didn’t know about Williams could fill caverns. Will we ever know why? Do we want to? Can we be satisfied by simply thanking him for baring his soul and letting the rest go?

I will say it. Thank you, Robin Williams, for being that inspiration to me and so many people. If I ever forget to sound my barbaric yawp again, may your voice come back to haunt me and remind my soul that the best way to show this world who I really am is to let it fly, no matter how off-kilter, how screechy, how weak or strong, how awkward, or how incredibly beautiful it might sound. To be vulnerable is to be true, and it’s not always pretty.

Thank you also to my mom for reading to my sister and me every night. Thank you to my dad for showing us the fruits of imagination. To my sister, I know you sacrificed your thug reputation spending hours locked in your room during read-ins with me. I love you. Thank you to my mom’s lifelong friends that drove hours to visit and, instead of catching up with her, sat patiently, reading my 152-page, handwritten, novel. Thank you to my early childhood teachers for giving me admiration for the written word, of loving them so tenderly that I knew from a very young age that words would always be a huge part of me. My gratitude knows no bounds.

Looking Out For the Littlest Happy Things

For the month of July, I made a concerted effort to live in the present and enjoy each moment. I stopped putting pressure on myself to have it all because I realized that it WILL come. When we cling only to what we know and let overwhelming fear in, it’s because we are trying to hold on too tight to control. I realized I had to stop chasing this controlled ending or I will lose precious time. No one knows what path their journey will take. Some of us want to try to guide it, but only the universe truly knows where it will go.

I did several things to help myself along: I withdrew my profile from the dating site I was on. I practiced gratitude often. I made an effort to unplug more consistently. I ate whole foods. I expressed myself honestly and confidently instead of holding back because I wanted to sugar-coat a statement. I spent productive time alone. I took myself out on dates.

Happy face on a hike
Happy face on a hike

I also decided to be more assertive in the pursuit of my passions. I want to see opportunities more easily when they are offered to me. We tend to have tunnel vision and close ourselves off to creativity when we are in a rut. These are a few ways I can lead myself away from that tendency.

  • I will write more consistently (and publish more often). Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and I tend to run away from it when I feel anxiety about the future. I should be doing the opposite! Some of us have natural talent, but practicing our craft is what make us great.
  • I will open my eyes to the creativity that the world gives freely, and use it. We don’t always take advantage of the gifts that are bestowed upon us every single day. We shouldn’t be wasting them.

The first thing I did to kick off the month was take myself out to a movie. ALONE. It was great!

In the first week of July, I gave myself a gift. I bought my plane ticket to New York. I had been hemming and hawing, not wanting to pull the trigger because I hadn’t yet planned everything out perfectly. No longer! The trip will fall into place in the next few months, and I am comfortable with that.

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Over the next few weeks, I did many things for myself. I chose new podcasts to listen to. I attended an overnight event with 100+ people I have never met (and a few that I know very well). I cherished quality friend and family time. I tried new activities, including an amazing class that combined belly dance, yoga, and aromatherapy. It turned out to be quite transformative. I attended a meetup without a wing man to provide comfort, forcing me to talk to strangers on my own merits. As much as I am a people person most of the time, there are moments when I am shy. Walking into a place knowing absolutely no one is one of those. Everyone was friendly of course, and I even left with some future salsa partners. I went camping for five days in Olympic National Park with two friends. Talk about adventure! There were challenging hikes, beautiful sights, and giggles galore over games of Canasta and Yahtzee. I tried new beers at Brewfest on the Portland waterfront. I treated myself to a massage and acupuncture, and it was totally worth it. I allowed myself to emotionally heal over some issues I’d been hiding from. It felt fantastic.

The best things, though, were the small things. I walked around the farmers market and enjoyed fresh fruits right out of the pint. I let the tinkle of a child’s laughter float over me and fill me with joy. I found heart shapes in nature and took pictures. I read books, listened to bands playing in the park, and took a day off work midweek just because I wanted to. What a fabulous month. In August, I intend to take the spirit of the last 31 days and keep the energy going. I have some great ideas but welcome more! Book or podcast suggestions, activity invitations and restaurant recommendations especially appreciated. I hope you are enjoying the summer as much as I am! Drop me a note here and tell me what special treats you are giving yourself during the sunny months.

 

Beautiful Lake Crescent
Beautiful Lake Crescent
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Hearts in nature

Crow Medicine

In my personal Numerology, the number of the day is seven. Seven is the number that is all about meditation and self-reflection. In the resource that I use, the missive reads:

Look Within

Be alone, at least for part of the day. Be still. Read. Think. Listen to your inner soul. Drop the business world. If you pursue money today, it will run from you. If you keep still and wait, things will come to you. Study something spiritual or scientific. If you read the scriptures, choose Matthew 6 on this day. Work with your plants. Take a long walk or a drive in the country. The number 7 always reveals something. Meditate. Be open. – Louise Hay: Colors & Numbers

I certainly needed that message today. I have been in a funk this week and am having some trouble getting out of it. I won’t go into the details here; it’s not necessary. When I feel like this and decide to do something uplifting instead of huff and pout my way through the day, one thing always happens: the world drops some knowledge on me, loud and clear.

Crow Medicine
Crow Medicine

Since it was nice and sunny outside after work, I decided to sit and write on my porch, a setting I enjoy but do not make time for very often. I pulled my camp chair out of storage, grabbed a notepad, and filled a giant goblet with cold water, sitting it beside me on the cement. I had been listening to a song on the radio on my way home earlier, and it came into my mind as I stared at the blank page. Then, I started to write. The words came easier than I expected, but there are always natural pauses in my work. I fidget, or look up when someone walks by. I get hypnotized by the honeybee pollinating my poppies. I imagine something crawling on my toes and feel the need to whip them up in the air and shake them around a little…you know, just in case.

I was two stanzas into my song/poem when I saw some large shadows moving across the ground in front of me. I looked up and saw two crows. They spoke to me. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I knew I had to put pen to paper and somehow get it out of them. Here’s what I wrote:

Now, stop.
Look at yourself,
really take a look, and breathe.

It’s too much to ask that
you believe in yourself?
I just want to know you’re staring back
into the glass and seeing what’s there—
love, loyalty, wisdom, and truth.

Wake up and hear your crow-cry!
Don’t fill your head with toxic waste.
Go instead into your beautiful mind,
and see love infinitely, authentically,
at last.

Why do you forget this gift,
roll over and part ways
with the one who loves you best?
I just want to know you’re filled with hope.
Know the world is here to help.

I got curious. I have these Native American animal medicine cards, and I thought, if Crow is giving me such a strong message, I owe it to myself to get that book out and reread what crow medicine is all about. Instead of copying and pasting the entire page (however, please click the link to experience it in its entirety), I will attempt to paraphrase.

The Crow sees that all worlds are an illusion, and that there is something much greater the laws of humanity. When we think of the Crow, we tend to think of death. This is just one of the infinite worlds. Because Crow is a shape-shifter (some see this as the metamorphosis between the living world and the dark unknown of death), it is illustrating that change is always imminent. Nothing is what it seems, but the Crow is the one who is able to peer through the clouds to ascertain what is truly important. Those who feel a connection with the Crow should use this knowledge as their guide.

The last paragraph is beautiful and eloquent, and I would not be able to do it justice, so I will end with this quote:

As you learn to allow your personal integrity to be your guide, your sense of feeling alone will vanish. Your personal will can then emerge so that you will stand in your truth. The prime path of true Crow people says to be mindful of your opinions and actions. Be willing to walk your talk, speak your truth, know your life’s mission, and
balance past, present, and future in the now. Shape shift that old reality and become your future self. Allow the bending of physical laws to aid in creating the shape shifted world of peace.

Boom. That spoke to me, big time. All the bad feelings I’ve been having this week were shattered by that paragraph. I felt refreshed and different when I read it. I love that words—and words alone—can do that for me. They bring up something inside that just needs the tiniest bit of prodding to come out.

Have you read, heard, or watched something that made you feel this way? If you want to, borrow Crow today and see what it brings out in you.

12 things

There was this update going around Facebook a few weeks ago, asking people to list [#] of things about yourself. I went back and forth about doing it. I thought it was the type of thing that would bore me after reading so many, but it turns out, the exact opposite was the case. It made me see those people as very brave, unleashing their most vulnerable sides. It was fascinating finding out people’s random pieces of trivia. My friend from high school, Julie, gave me the number twelve, which I thought was a ridiculously large list, but I figured that once I got the ball rolling, it wouldn’t be too difficult to get the rest of them on paper. The opposite turned out to be the case. It took me almost a week to make this list. Have you read any of these on Facebook? Did you write a list yourself?

Here goes mine…

1) There was a boy that I had a giant crush on in middle school. He taunted me relentlessly about my big butt and always sang “Baby Got Back” to me. To this day I can’t tell if he was being cruel or secretly had a crush on me.

2) I am terrified of having a daughter because I think I will screw her up.

3) My sister and I were born in the same minute, but we couldn’t be more different in our life choices. Get us around each other, though, and it’s creepy how alike our mannerisms and voices are.

4) I can’t believe I’m a runner. I’ve been doing it for three years and it still amazes me that I can do such astounding physical feats with this body. The same goes for belly dancing. I can tell you right now not one person who knew me in high school would ever have predicted I’d become a belly dancer.

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Hope for Andrew edit

5) I believe in karma and the law of attraction. What goes around certainly comes around, and I feel very strongly that the power of manifestation is real.

6) I love both of my parents very much, but I have completely different relationships with each of them. There are things I can tell my dad but not my mom, and vice versa.

7) Spiders are both my biggest fear and my biggest asset. How does that work? The physical manifestation of the spider can make my heart race. My mother tried to wean me off this fear when I was a child, saying, “You see a spider? Just invite it to tea! You’ll make friends with him.” In a word, dear mother:  NO. In two words:  HELL NO. Then a strange thing happened. A few years ago I discovered Native American animal totems. My cousin and I spent a weekend immersed in this cultural tradition and that weekend I learned about the nine animals that protect my spirit. One of them was the spider. I cringed when I spoke it aloud. Then I looked at the spider’s meaning. The spider is the story teller. Of course. This is the totem that encourages me in my writing, only one of the most important things in my life. So there you have it.

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8) I was born a Quaker (Also known as the Religious Society of Friends) and became an adult member of my meeting (church) when I was 21. Curious? Just ask!

9) I love watching basketball. It is the only sport I truly understand.

So...maybe it's also the eye candy.
So…maybe it’s also the eye candy.

10) I can be a self-saboteur (but I’m working very hard at releasing this habit).

11) I love experiencing the four seasons. I don’t know if I could ever live anywhere that was sunny all the time.

12) I write a Christmas newsletter every year marking the highlights of the past 12 months. It is something I grew up with, and I love carrying on that tradition.

Last Days of Summer/Autumn Serenade

Is it possible we are actually having an Indian summer in Portland? The sunshine this week, after a few days of extremely hard rain, feels lovely. It’s not what we expect here in the Northwest, that’s for sure, but I know I’m not the only one who has welcomed it back for a small break before the hardcore rain shatters our peaceful evening walks.

The changing of the seasons can be rough at first. We all have different reactions to it. The first hard rain of the autumn gets me so excited for boots and tights and all the fun clothes that come with them. Then, the doldrums set in, and I have to readjust all of my routines. Instead of sunscreen every morning, I have to choose which scarf to wear. I have to remember that my umbrella or rain jacket should always be within reach, and those flats I wore all summer will likely get soaked outside, even if I am just taking a stroll down the block for lunch.

Why else do I love fall?

The brisk winds that make my hair fly every which way.

The excuse to stay in and be a bookworm.

Snuggling up with soft blankets (or whatever snuggly friend is hanging out with me) and putting on a movie.

The beauty of the leaves falling with grace.

That extra helping of holiday happiness. I’ve got a friend who, for years, swore up and down she hated every season but summer here in Oregon. Now, every year around the end of October/start of November, she gets positively giddy with holiday happiness. When we lived together I’d find little holiday presents dropped onto my bed when I wasn’t looking, or yummy holiday teas in the cupboard. And holiday happiness is contagious. Spread the happy rash, people! Changing seasons are fantastic.

Last but not least…the fun fall races! October and November races can be some of the best all year. (Truth be told, though, spring races are my favorite.) If you like to dress up, you’ve got a multitude of choices: Run Like Hell is a classic. Terrapin Events puts on a great race! They pick a different theme every year and it’s always a good one. There are tons of other creepy holiday runs coming up as well, including The Zombie Run, Halloweenathon, Zombie Apocalypse Run (this weekend!!), Dawn of the Dead Dash, and Run For Your Lives. (This one is in Seattle – a fun destination run for those who like to get out of town with a group of friends.)

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Courtesy of The Zombie Run website

Speaking of friends and holidays, what do you do for Halloween? Do you have any autumn traditions? What is your favorite fall month? I have to say that mine is probably November. First of all, it is National Novel Writing Month, so obviously, tons of points there. Then there’s Thanksgiving. I love cooking up all sorts of fun cold weather foods and spending time with family, but I also look forward to Friends Thanksgiving! A group of friends and I get together every year and prepare an amazing feast. It’s a great time to catch up with people and, if we’re so led, head out to a bar after we stuff ourselves and get silly! This year we’re adding to the fun and doing the Ugly Sweater Run along with the traditional dinner. I can’t wait!

Whether your idea of awesome autumn frolicking is running, eating, carving pumpkins, getting spooked at a scary corn maze, or just observing the changes in nature, I expect you to love the next few months and stomp in those mud puddles with cheer when they come, because we all know they will be coming soon.

 

Mind Over My Hamstrings

The 8k from Hell

For the past year I’ve been running, and the entire time I’ve been telling myself I am running towards something:  towards a PR (personal record), towards a particular goal, towards an athletic achievement, towards a state of body acceptance. I have completely embraced running as a hobby and am proud to say that I have run a 5k, an 8k, a 10k…even a half marathon! I am truly amazed at my progress, and incredibly proud of myself for these accomplishments.

I was thinking about all of this last week when I was debating about committing to a second half marathon. I said I wouldn’t do one again for a while, but a few factors influenced me in the opposite direction.

Then I started pondering the deeper meaning of all of this running I’ve been doing. I climbed into that little cave in my mind where I tend to overanalyze. Man, I can stay in there for hours, feeding on worries and fears, breathing in the murky fog and breathing out light so that when I finally come out, there is a clarity that makes my world look a little different. I must have explored every corner of that cave last week. Following are a few notes that came to me while I was in there.

Quality time with friends. Though I go out often enough, I have a set of friends who I wouldn’t see nearly enough if it wasn’t for running. This is the group of friends who used to drag me into drinking games in our twenties (Ok fine, they didn’t have to pull that hard.). Many of them have decreased their social time, so it is with great pleasure that I get to spend my Saturday mornings sojourning with these people for a few hours.

Running away from confrontation. I admit, I keep myself very busy, so much so that many of my friends/family have commented on it. They ask me how I get my “me time.”  They accuse me of using my social life and hobbies to avoid something deeper that is going on inside me. You know what? Sometimes, in order to avoid staying home and being fully occupied by my worries and fears, I go out.

I run. I hike.

I salsa dance. I belly dance.

I write.  

I need a healthy distraction—what’s so bad about that? True, I over-commit. I had my first “date with Becky” last night, which was the first I’d had in months. But I think there is something my concerned brethren isn’t realizing. There is so much catharsis in these activities. Anyone who has ever been immersed in a dance or a sport so much that they completely free their mind knows what I’m talking about. It happens every time I attend a belly dance class. Does that happen to you?

Society. I feel as though I am running, no, sprinting AWAY from society’s standards at this point in my life. Why is it that when we point our lives in the direction of this supposedly-desired end result, we feel so incredibly awful if the situation doesn’t play out like it’s supposed to? I get so frustrated when I look at my life, impressed with what I have accomplished and the goals that I have set for myself, and then a person, media outlet, or simply my fear turns on a 120-watt light bulb so that I am certain to see what I don’t have:  a husband, children, a high-paying job, a nicer car, lots of material things. And then I feel like crap, and have to start the process of feeling good about myself all over again. What is the point of striving for societal standards anyway? Seriously! I really think that all they do is set us up to reach for ideals that may or may not be what we are destined for, and there is no built-in security net, no automatic back-up system that we can reset to if something should happen.

This morning I received an automated email from a website I am subscribed to. If you haven’t already, you should take a look at Sex, Love, Liberation. It’s focused on sexual liberation, but it’s about so much more than that. I don’t always agree or even enjoy the posts that Ev`Yan sends out, but most of the time, her words touch me in some way. Following is a snippet of today’s email.

This journey of self-discovery that you are on is a hard one. It involves strength, trust, & complete vulnerability — a wicked combination.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have all the answers right now. Don’t be discouraged by the rate of your progress or the slowness of getting to the bottom of your core wounding.

The road to liberation (sexual, spiritual, or otherwise) is not paved in gold. It’s a mess of overgrown foliage, dark, murky caverns, & muddy paths. 

All of that chaos & confusion is necessary for your growth. Even hardships & negativity serve your liberation. Ev`Yan Nasman, http://sexloveliberation.com/

You know what I’m going to say. I cannot hear this message enough. I urge you to read it and realize that while you and I have a ways to go in our journeys, the reality is that we’ve already accomplished several PRAs (Personal Records of Awesomeness) during our existence on this earth, and for that we should be extremely proud. If you feel so led, share in the comments section one PRA that you’ve accomplished. I want you to BRAG and feel incredible about doing it. Thank you in advance for sharing.

Free Will, Sisters!

free will
http://www.freewillastrology.com

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Numerous websites on the Internet allege that Greek philosopher Plato made this statement, which I regard as highly unlikely. But in any case, the thought itself has some merit. And in accordance with your current astrological omens, I will make it your motto for the week. This is an excellent time to learn more about and become closer to the people you care for, and nothing would help you accomplish that better than getting together for intensive interludes of fooling around and messing around and horsing around.

This is my Free Will Horoscope for this week. I’m a Virgo, in case you haven’t caught that in a previous post. There are two reasons I love this VIRGO horoscope today.

Number 1: Virgos find it incredibly hard to simply “play.” First we analyze what all the possible outcomes would be if we did play, then we figure out the intensity of play we should be participating in based on multiple very important factors, and by the time we’re done with the calculations, we’re too tired to actually play. Much of the time we end up doing a default comfort-zone activity instead. But! This week, I, Virgo Extraordinaire Becky, have done exactly what my horoscope has ruled that I should do! I’m having a great time straying far far away from my comfort zone. I’m not branding my source of fun, I’m not analyzing it, I’m just doing it. It’s exhiliarating and awesome! (Why don’t I do this more often??) 

Number 2: (Notice as I’m writing about not taking life so seriously, I’m still making lists about it—Virgos RULE!) It’s International Women’s Day! I’m torn about this day, though, because before today, I was under the impression that every day was women’s day. I mean, I know the system is patriarchal, but really? We get ONE day? Huh. Foregoing the negativity, I have decided I will embrace International Women’s Day and will make my mark by doing something that is considered out of the box for me! 

One last tidbit before I send you off to do some fooling around of your own. I love that when I’m doing something right, the Universe is never shy in giving me a sign/patting me on the back, saying, Good job, Becky! That’s the spirit! There are times when I think there is no higher being or consciousness, but days like this I can’t deny that there is an “entity” that brings everything into my world precisely when I need it. Thank you, Free Will Astrology! Thank you, International Women’s Day! Thank you, Universe! Most of all, thank you, BECKY! Now go and play, friends.

The Yin and Yang – Solstice Shedding and Goal Setting

Understand that the journey is as important as the destination. Enjoy every moment, and live life fully. This is zen.

Solstice and the New Year are turning points of each year. It is a time to shed the unwanted items in our lives, whether those are bad habits or material addictions. It is also traditionally a time to let new light in; some people set exercise goals or promise to create more structured sleep or work habits. My brain knows that I can start fresh any time I want, but there is something about the collective energy of the world’s people looking at life with new eyes, pumping up the positivity, that it makes me want to join in!

I have been searching the internet and asking my friends for their own personal holiday rituals. The following warm and fuzzy ritual was created by Tess Whitehurst, west coast author of two books on Feng Shui (edited for brevity).

Thinking back on 2011…

1.  List 5 personal victories – big or small – that you experienced.  (Examples:  I got physically stronger, I recycled more, I created more art…)

2.  List 5 precious, priceless gifts that you received from others or from the Universe.  (Examples: my trip to Hawaii, spending time with my partner, an afternoon vision of sunlight dancing on the lake…)

3.  List 5 challenges that you faced and the valuable lessons you learned from them.  (Example:  I faced the death of my beloved pet/I learned how to appreciate the present moment and love my still-living family and companions deeply, to get in touch with my emotions, and how to be strong in a crisis.)  The purpose of this one is to notice the blessings hidden within seeming challenges so that we can release our fears about the future and be fully open to all the ways that the universe showers blessings upon us.

4. Set a timer for 2 minutes, and during that time brainstorm as many things as possible that you are grateful for in your life.  It doesn’t matter how small or how large.  (Examples:  the amount of money I do have, the roof over my head, my cozy slippers, the food in my cupboard, my friends, my family, my opportunities, my talents, laughter, books, poetry, the sun, the moon, the Star Wars trilogy…)

Now, put on some relaxing music, light a candle and perhaps some incense, and sit comfortably with your spine straight.  Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over it.  Close your eyes, and conjure up all the gratitude you possibly can.  Marvel at your good fortune, and at the good fortune you experienced in 2010.  Relax into this feeling.

When this feels complete, remove your hands from your heart and open them up to the sky, arms angling out, palms facing up.  With your eyes still closed, slightly tilt your head up so that your face is gently angled toward the sky.  This is a gesture of welcoming in even greater blessings for the year ahead.  Visualize very bright golden/white/rainbow light streaming down from above.  Receive it gratefully and with an open heart.  Let it swirl around you and surround you.

If you are interested in a different kind of exercise to lead you into self-examination, here is one I swiped from a Taoist blog written by Pedram Shojai (edited for brevity), who gives an up-front and somewhat sardonic offering of reflections and resolution queries.

1- Have you closed out your 2011 projects? What things do you not want to carry into 2012? What do you need to finish, schedule in, or simply drop in order to maintain your sanity? How important is it? WHY are you doing it and does it serve you/your family?

2- Have you spent time telling the people you care for that you love them? It doesn’t take long…do it now.

3- Have you slowed down and caught up on your sleep? If not, to bed early.

4- Do you know what you want the next year to look like? If not, read this page on GONGS- http://taoistpath.com/resources/gong/

5- Have you meditated on where you are in life and sifted through the noise to ask the important question of’ “Who am I?” If not, you’re wasting your time being told who to be by the media…snap out of it.

6- Have you taken on some life/health enhancing practices that you will do the next year? Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, hiking…just get out there and start living life like you mean it.

7- Did you spent enough time in nature this year? What are your plans to integrate more contact with nature for 2012? Our lack of contact with nature is directly connected to our willingness to look away while others destroy it.

8- Have you closed out energies that no longer serve you? Toxic “friends”, happy hour instead of the gym, the unspoken feud you are having with your spouse…whatever it is that is taking up your mental bandwidth and drawing down your energy…isn’t NOW a good time to drop that crap and get on with living a fully empowered life? You sure ain’t getting any younger and it’s funny how those things don’t “go away” on their own. Make 2012 about moving through those issues and coming whole.

These practices help us reflect on the year—relishing in the joys of the last 365 days, facing what has continued to give us pain all year long—as well as aid us in looking forward to changing what doesn’t work. It’s not the easiest task, but I really do feel there is strength in numbers, which is why I encourage you to embrace the solstice and New Year with intention, knowing your brothers and sisters are with you, in the flesh, or in spirit. In that spirit, I’m going to share some of my own short responses from the Taoist checklist.

1- Have you closed out your 2011 projects?
For the most part, yes. Most of my projects are continuing into the New Year, but here are some examples: I have accomplished my goal of becoming a true writer by starting my blog and being published in a magazine. As for my running, I have kept up my training, and blown past my goal of running a 10k by the end of the year (6.2 miles). I have several other (more personal) goals that I will continue to work on in the New Year.

2- Have you spent time telling the people you care for that you love them?
Absolutely. It is one of the most important things to me.

3- Have you slowed down and caught up on your sleep?
I struggle with this daily. It is hard to give up a lively social escapade, but more often than not, my body forces me to slow down, whether I like it or not.

4- Do you know what you want the next year to look like?
I know I want light, love, and laughter!

5- Have you meditated on where you are in life and sifted through the noise to ask the important question of’ “Who am I?”
I have not done this enough this past year. It is a work in progress. The refining of Who I Am is definitely a goal for next year.

6- Have you taken on some life/health enhancing practices that you will do the next year?
I will continue and improve on my current regimen. As of today I am pretty satisfied with my physical exercise, but my life-enhancing exercises could use some work.

7- Did you spent enough time in nature this year?
YES! I plan on doing the same next year. J

8- Have you closed out energies that no longer serve you?
This is my biggest challenge in life. I have trouble letting things go. This is my main goal in 2012.

What we do with our resolutions after we make them is up to us as individuals. I challenge you to keep your resolutions for 2012. I promise I will support you, and try to check in once in a while to make sure you are following through! Make them good ones that really mean something to you and to the earth. In the words of my friend Chrissy, “Let’s do this!”

I am grateful for YOU and your energy, which always makes me smile and gives me even more reasons to write this blog. Thank you for embracing my words.

Thankful for the Balance

Think about how many times a day you thank the Universe for something. Yes! I snagged the last free muffin! Do you do this a few times a day? Now, think about how many times a day you (vocally or just mentally) complain or are ungrateful about something in your life. Uuuurrrrggghhh! The pharmacy line at Freddies is SO LONG! I personally don’t have a balance between the positive and the negative in this situation. Recently it was brought to my attention that I should be more mindful of that balance. Once I thought about it, I realized I have this knee-jerk reaction to immediately bitch and moan about something if it’s not perfectly the way I like it. I think it’s natural to be disappointed or grumble when something doesn’t go our way. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t complain, but I’d like to see if I could train myself to, instead of first having the nose-wrinkling negative reaction, be thankful for what positives are there. I see the pharmacy line is pretty long. This will give me some time to people-watch. Maybe I can develop some characters for my novel while I’m at it!

I didn’t do very much blogging in November. My focus was on National Novel Writing Month. When I looked at the stats on my WordPress dashboard, I was dismayed to see how few people had been clicking on my blog for the last few weeks. I took it very hard, thinking that all of my readers had forgotten about me, and how bummed out I was about it. Now that I have had time to breathe I realize that maybe everyone needed a break. If I had been blogging all month, I wouldn’t have had time for NaNoWriMo. If I didn’t do NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t have met all the great new friends I met during that month. I also wouldn’t have developed an amazing story that will someday be a bestselling novel! See how I did that? I just needed to follow the breadcrumbs to the place of positivity, rather than greedily following them right into negativity’s lair. The question, then, is how do I start reshaping my autopilot thoughts? I’m asking you! I don’t have an answer to this except to say that practice makes perfect. Perhaps keeping a journal of it every time it happens is the answer. Honestly, I would have time for little else in my day if I did that. Small judgments and opinions are constantly popping up in the peanut gallery of my brain. So what suggestions do you have?

I’d like to make a list of things I am grateful for right now. I missed the chance to do a Thanksgiving blog, but I think being grateful is relevant all year round. Besides, it is the holiday season, and I like to think most people become a little less cynical and a little more appreciative during this time of year.

1) The number one thing I am grateful for today is that I have a safe place where I can express my fears and questions, my triumphs and giddy anecdotes, to an audience who lovingly embraces every word, and does not judge me.

2) This should be said more often, but I am so grateful to have shelter, food, and heat. I consider myself to be somewhat miserly; I rarely have extra money to spend. What I have, though, greatly outweighs what I am lacking. Many people in America can’t say the same thing.

3) I am exceptionally grateful to have the friends and family I have acquired in the last 32 years. Every single person who has come in and out of my life deserves a medal, because they have brought me so many life lessons.

4) The last thing I am grateful for today is for me. What I mean is that I am grateful for the person I have become. I appreciate all of my experiences, my body, my mind, and my incredible spirit. I promise to use this attitude to try and see my everyday nuisances as blessings in disguise while recognizing that everything, good or bad, happens for a reason.