Category Archives: balance

Letting Go for the NEW New Year

Did you know that the Romans celebrated their New Year on March 1?

Mars, the God of War, oversaw the start of their calendar. Makes sense, because ROMANS.

terminalis statue wikipedia

As part of their ritual, they celebrated Terminalis, the God of Borders, Transitions, and Neighbors

I came across these facts randomly several years ago, and had the bright idea to use a random holiday as an excuse for a party.

It was great in DC, so I repeated it in Portland, as a way to meet my neighbors in the rather cold, anonymous apartment complex where I live. It worked out okay a couple years ago, but was less pagan-ritual and more corporate-ice-breaker vibe…

cheesy corporate icebreaker trust fall

So this year, in line with my intention to be more open to the mysteries, I deliberately invoked the pagan side of the holiday in my invitation.

I invited people I thought would be into rational discussion of neighbors. Borders. What being a good neighbor meant. What having a border meant.

My definition of neighbor expanded to include those within a few miles, since the people I’d met two years ago had moved on. We talked about the definition of neighbor.


I got 4 No’s and 2 Yes’s and 5 Lack of Responses. Portland.

My two Yes’s showed up and we had baked goods, wine, tea, and enlivening, enheartening conversation. It was brilliant. More evidence that quality over quantity is what counts.

It also affirmed my intention to Let Go of the effects of my generosity this year. For 2017, one of my intentions is to offer what I can, without the expectation of returns. This means not holding onto disappointment when no one comes on an outing, not seething with resentment when someone says they’ll come then blithely doesn’t show, not refusing to offer my generosity because I don’t get the feeling I desire.

It’s hard, but I’m learning. And my two Yes’s helped that little monster in my brain relearn the importance of a few deep connections, rather than the buzz of a crowd or the validation of popularity.

What borders around you need tending? What neighbors could you invite to your (metaphorical) hearth?


Images via Wikipedia, Expert Beacon, and property of Margaret Pinard

Self-Aware Bodies

systems of the body

How well do you know how your body works?

  • better than you know your car?
  • better than you know your career field?
  • better than you know your way through your house in the dark?

Have you ever wondered why this playground that you were born with came to be shrouded in secrecy, only to be revealed to doctors with pedigrees and trusted lovers?

Let’s try some questions:

  1. Can you point to your sacrum?
  2. Do you know a stretch for your hamstring?
  3. How do you avoid a muscle popping around your knee?

If you can answer these, I bet it’s despite your schooling, not because of it. At least that is the case with me. I had a terrible biology class in my Catholic high school, and never took Anatomy/Physiology. Elsewhere, at non-Catholic institutions, I’ve heard tales about Health class also being a joke, a ‘bird course.’ Our equivalent was, I suppose, Family Life.


So, along with many others, I was launched into public society (university) to fend for myself ignorant about:

  • how birth control worked
  • how sex affected the body/i.e. how the genitals actually worked, other than excretory functions
  • how the digestive system could be upset
  • how blood pressure, pulse, breath, and weight relate

Such lack of information led to some awkward/tearful/confused/expensive forays into the health care system. And almost always, there was shame.

Why isn’t my body working normally, like everyone else’s seems to be?

Why don’t I know how to fix this?

IS there something wrong with my body?

From here at age 34, I look back and know this was wrong.

Why were we left in such ignorance, powerlessness, and shame as teenagers?

The first glimmer I had that something was wrong, that it wasn’t just me, was in reading a book called Margaret and I, by Kate Wilhelm. In it, a loveless marriage fails in the face of the protagonist discovering someone who actually accepts her wholly, communing with her through a different dimension… (it’s pretty awesome psychological sci-fi!)

There is a specific scene where, in this loveless marriage, the man comes home to find the wife conked out, but proceeds to satisfy his urges (e.g. date rape her). The wife’s subconscious, the main character/POV in the novel, witnesses this. Margaret’s subconscious already had a resentment of the husband’s ordinary mechanical lovemaking, which then blossoms into a fierce protective shield after this incident. There are other types of betrayals to follow, but this physical one is what made me stop and take notice.

That was NOT OKAY. So what IS OKAY? And how do I share my body with another person in an OKAY way?

The second barrier I crossed in changing my thinking on this issue was a few years later, when I decided to start running for fitness and–haha–fun. I’d NEVER been a runner; in fact I’d nourished nightmares from running since 2nd-grade soccer practice: SO not my forte.

But at that point in my life, I was feeling stuck, unattractive, sedentary. I needed something that would give me confidence, change the routine, and reconnect my ever-churning mind with my body. I eventually ran a couple 5ks and a 10-mile race. After a couple years, the need to run became less than the need to do other things, but while I was in it, I wrote an article titled, The Point of Running My Race.

In writing that essay, I made the discovery that I was running to control one small portion of my life, a segment of my day, because I was not yet feeling up to changing the big things wrong with my life. What was making me feel stuck was a relationship gone awry, a lack of purpose and learning in my job, and a mismatch between my lifestyle and my personality.

In 2011 all I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other, quite literally. I didn’t get crazy, but I ran regularly, with increasing distances, and increasing knowledge of my REAL limits, not the stories I’d always told myself about my limits.

Those stories, including the ones about powerlessness and shame, are still being overwritten today.

This practice of running and its meditative element eventually allowed me to cut ties and move on–away from the toxic relationship that had me ignoring my own body’s responses, to a more flexible part-time work arrangement and writing career, and across the country to a place that aligned better with my own personality.

Fast-forward another few years and I’m here in Portland, juggling a burgeoning writing life and a social day job as a barista. I’m dancing, walking, and yogi-ing my way through some awesome studios and trails, and while there is still no one partner to share life with, I feel much stronger, braver, and truer to myself in my relationships.

So, back to the body:

As I outgrow my teenage and twenty-something ideas about the body, trusting what my body tells me and overwriting those toxic messages, I’ve actually become more fit. My running phase has been succeeded by a yoga phase which shows no signs of losing its appeal.

Meditative and gentle, yet challenging in both mental and physical ways, YOGA has been the third nudge in the direction of listening to and getting to know my body better. I’m even branching out into the amazing barre and strength offerings at Muv Training. Commitment to exercise that fits my goals has helped me figure out those questions from the top: learning to stretch the right way, for me, learning to eat the right way, for me. I’m discovering what works for my body:

NOT because I feel like it’s betraying me (‘why can’t I be more normal?’)

NOT because I want it to conform to others’ ideas of beauty (‘why can’t i look more like that?‘)

but BECAUSE I realize that being grounded in my body is the one and only thing that will keep me alive in this crazy world for as long as I am.

Writing this post has helped me forgive past attitudes, accept present consequences, and commit to radical self-care. It is a hard-won victory, and a long time coming.

I know there are others that have struggled, are struggling. Won’t you share your stories?

Image via Shutterstock and LiveScience

Luminaries: Maisie

This is the third in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1 and 2.

feet in converse sneakers

Maisie’s A-Mais-ing Newsletter, The Barefaced Brief

What comes across when you meet Maisie is a zest for the life she’s living. She relishes her work, and continually commits to savoring the fact that she got herself to the place where she is: sole owner of a boutique writing studio with clients who are ready to push the envelope.

(Okay, enough with the foodie verbs)

Maisie is the brain and heart behind Audacious Muse Writing Studio (which has the awesome #amwriting hashtag in the url! bodacious). I sat down with her last month to talk about what makes her tick and how she pursues her own path.

First, what does she do?

In her own words, she “uses marketing juju to marry business and storytelling” so that the business client can get to “the big Why.” I didn’t know this when I met Maisie, but she chooses to work only with clients who are ready to go deep into work on themselves, which I thought was awesome and courageous! Imagine if we all challenged the people we worked with to get in touch with their feelings and motivations and passions?


Second, what has she learned? Several things, it turns out, that might help YOU.

Balance is a Myth

(We might differ on this one, but I like her argument)

Oh, my kingdom for some balance! How often have we heard people saying that they want more balance? Maisie says it’s a false idol. She works in spurts, either focusing on work or business growth, while maintaining daily goals of family time and reading time.

Her daily routine looks something like this:

  • Wake at 8 or 9
  • Work on personal writing material for first hour (no social media)
  • Work on client projects for next 8 hours
  • Break for dinner with family
  • Family time
  • Back to writing time

And she recently introduced a no-client-work-on-Wednesday rule, so she can work on fiction projects, the blog, or reading during that time.

I like the Wednesday idea for sure, but couldn’t keep up with her idea of a “spurt.” My idea of a spurt is 3 hours, max. After that, I need to switch gears and either change my location or change my task.

Which end of the spectrum do you fall on?


A Moment of Knowing

Maisie had a moment of clarity in which she knew what she was meant to do in this world (not to be grand about it, but YES). It happened during one of the workshops of WDS 2013, held by Pam Slim. While she was waiting for the speaker to start, she thought up the name of her company, Audacious Muse Writing Studio, and heard the words, “You are going to be a writer.”

She searched for the Godaddy domain registration right there on her phone, and bought it. Details like a safety net and the structure of her business would come later, but, by gosh, she had an address on the Net!

Just like she demands of her clients, Maisie had to ask herself some troubling questions in order to get to a safe place with the business. Battling demons of people-pleasing and perfectionism from childhood, she had to weigh the goal (writing badass content) against the cost (instability and insane hours).

She had to trust that she had what it takes to achieve her dream.

pema chodron quote we already have everything we need

Well, you may ask, how did she maintain this tiger-like focus on her dream through the weeks, months, years of school trips, parking permits, and grocery shopping? (She has a teenage son) She has three tools.

Set deadlines and stick to them. Maisie has the curse/superpower of always being aware of time. This motivated her to get good and fast at writing copy and brainstorming, which is essential when you are a starting-out freelancer.

Use the Pomodoro technique. A common technique for many writers, the Pomodoro technique uses a timer (preferably silent, not ticking) to remind you to stop working after 25 minutes, and take a switch-gears 5-minute break. Then you’re back on!

Know yourself and your habits/ limitations. Here we are in complete agreement! If you know you need to eat every 3-4 hours, take a break to make a nutritious snack. If you know you do tend to lose track of time, set that timer. If you can’t work with distractions, don’t try to be all hipster and work out of coffee shops!

hipster dudes working in a coffee shop

***Final caveat to this list: Always come back to being gentle with yourself, not just a taskmaster.

Avoid This

What does Maisie recommend avoiding? Three things:

Don’t work with people who you don’t respect. I.e. People who havent’ done the hard personal delving you have to know their values, but expect to connect with their own clients/customers on a deep level. Good luck with that.

Don’t be mainstream. As she says in her weekly email, you need to “be fearless in your weirdness.” She knew she’d managed to reach people on that deep level with her content when she got her first haters,  because it had elicited emotion. That means she took a risk and was vulnerable online. (Sound familiar?)

Don’t be held to others’ expectations. (That gets a Sing It, Sister!) Like when she got her first haters, Maisie had to cross a line in her thinking. When she would write something and a voice in her head would say, “What would Mom think if she read this?” she decided to tell that voice to shut up. She wan’t writing for her mother!

Recently, Maisie has even taken her own discoveries about how parenting styles and community values color what we think we should do with our talents, and started using that as a way to explore where her clients are coming from… fascinating, right?!

It all comes back to this: examine your own expectations. Do that deep work. Where are they coming from? If they come from fear, banish them like the Ghostbusters.

And if you find weirdness, let it out!


Images via Maisie, NextHipsterTrend, and Minta on Pinterest