Becoming an Expert of Not Being an Expert

In the past many months, I almost forgot I was working on a book. It was still there, popping into my thoughts every so often; but not as something I was excited about. It came up as an example of how I never finish anything and stay as a constant beginner in anything I do. But last week, I decided to actually take another look at it.

It’s interesting to me that part of why I put off working on the book or even opening the file is because I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed that I never finished it, that I don’t seem to stick with anything for very long and always change my mind. Different things will set my creativity on fire at different times and I have a hard time once it gets down to really building skills. I’d rather dabble. Is there anything wrong with this?

Benefits and Downsides of Dabbling

Today I’m in a good mood, so I see it all through that lens. I am noticing that as I work on songs today and contemplate the book, the two types of writing feed into each other. It’s enjoyable to work on one and then the other, and go back and forth as I please. I feel like maybe both forms of writing are turning out better for it.

It is now officially impossible for me to say “Here’s this craft I’ve been working on diligently for fifteen years.”  I have played guitar, made jewelry, and written for at least that long. But none of those things became a regular practice that I truly devoted attention and energy to. I would forget about some of them for years at a time, except writing in my journal. Chances are that I’ll forget about one of them soon again, as other things spark up my interest.

Acknowledging Patterns

I realize that next week, I may feel very hard on myself for not having a well-practiced art form. I’ll tell myself that the reason everything I do is so mediocre is that I don’t put enough energy into it, and then I’ll probably zone out on Facebook and numb out that feeling.  Why is it so easy to enjoy the dabbling right now? One answer could be hormones. Another could be the focus of where I perceive value to be coming from.

If I’m thinking about how I should be making a living from my jewelry or writing, it’s easy to get mad at myself for not putting more devoted effort into those things over the years. “If you had worked at writing since high school, you’d be better at it now.” 

But if I’m thinking about having fun and living a life that I find enjoyable and fulfilling, then the dabbling seems fine because it has led to just that. Nobody else gets to determine whether I enjoy doing something, they just get to determine if I get their positive feedback or not.

Who Gets to Decide You’re Doing it Wrong?

Maybe part of the key is to remember where value lies. It is always up to us to live according to our values and to feel worthy, but when we start making comparisons or judging our value through the eyes of real or imaginary others, it feels like it is up to them.

“You aren’t making money with your art, therefore, it’s not valuable” can come up for me and other artists. That can be true of to you “value” means “making money by selling art”.  But if “value” means that you are engaged with the process of creating it or with the final result, that’s a whole different thing. Maybe your money has to come from elsewhere, or maybe you have to make certain things that are valuable to the world so that they will pay you for them if that’s what matters most to you.

The bottom line is- I can safely say that I have fun dabbling, even if it doesn’t lead to me becoming an expert who blows other people’s minds with my skills.  Maybe I am my own type of expert.

I hope that I can remember this the next time my anger and frustration towards myself kicks in. As I look back at recent rough days, I realize that the self-critical feeling is always based on the eyes of others and not my own. Whether it’s about dabbling in general or about a specific story or song, when I feel like I suck it is always feeling like I suck in the eyes of others or the world. Not in my own eyes. When I feel the air on my skin and the breath in my lungs, I am never dissatisfied with that experience. When I pump out a song or story or post to try and get positive feedback without enjoying the process or actually feeling the creativity, it usually backfires because the whole action was based on other people telling me I’m worthy instead of feeling worthy and engaged in the moment.

How about you, do these things ever come up in this way for you and your writing?

Do you feel like you always look through your own eyes at your work, or through the eyes of others, or through a mixture of both?

Did you feel the wind on your face today and enjoy it for a few seconds?

 

 

 

How a Garden is Like A Mind

This is a 50-pound cement unicorn I recently obtained. I love it.

This is a 50-pound cement unicorn I recently obtained. I love it.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my porch garden recently. There are a few things I’ve been learning about, and yesterday it dawned on me that there was a blog worthy metaphor lingering there, ready to burst with the cosmos buds and nasturtium flowers.

It all started when I watched this little grey bug sitting on a stem of a morning glory. It was spitting little tiny drops of water over and over, they were falling to the ground. My curiosity was devouring. I looked at it for so long, trying to imagine what it would grow into. A gecko? I like geckos. But no, it had too many legs and a different type of personality. I held up random objects to catch the water it spat and examine it. I longed for a microscope.

I asked my Facebook friends and found it to be some type of aphid, which I should get rid of. Either with ladybugs or dish soap/water spray. I longed for ladybugs. Instead, I flicked him and his entire family off at every chance I got.

A few days later I saw a cluster of red ant-like scrawly things all clustered on a cosmos stem. I watched them, they didn’t seem nice. I did some googling and found them to be another type of non-desirable aphid. Apparently not dealing with them soon could mean trouble later. So I flicked them off.

Planting seeds is a commitment to having plants, which attract bugs. Some bugs are good for the plants, some bugs are bad for them. Knowing which is which can be useful because you can prevent a problem before it starts, sometimes, by flicking your fingers instead of having to spray your food and flowers with toxic things.

We plant all kinds of seeds. We may join a book club or reading group. We may buy a journal. We may throw away all of the sugar in our house and buy some flax oil. We make commitments to growing certain seeds in our life all the time.

But what about the bugs? We notice them when they are in full swing, don’t we? Some bugs can devour your entire porch garden and chomp on all the leaves right before your eyes, leaving you no option but to start over. Self-doubt can creep in to your budding writing group and tell you that you have no right to be there, you’re a crap writer and none of the other people like you anyway. Maybe it kills that plant in your life.

Unless you see it coming, identify it, and flick it off the stem before it has a chance to grow and eat all of your hard work.

Some bugs are good. Like ladybugs. And mud wasps. They eat the stuff you don’t want, the circle of life works in harmony with what you want on the tiny piece of the world you started relating with. Are there good bugs of the mind, too? Some people use affirmations. Some use meditation. Some use Yoga. We nurture these actions because we know that they tend to live off of and consume the small aphids of our minds- the doubts, the self-criticalness, the insecurity.

Just some thoughts on gardening and the mind. Hope everyone is well!

Do you have seeds that you plant in your life, do you enjoy the blossoms or fruit that they bring?

Do you have a garden, have you ever seen those little spitting bugs?

Do you have actions that you nurture in daily life to take care of the small little metaphorical aphids before they devour your entire garden?

 

Is Predictability Addictive?

I was musing about this on my blog’s Facebook page recently, and it seems to be a rather intriguing topic.

Predictability is great, and in some ways, it can also deaden a lot of other things like spontaneity and adventure. Like Mike Freeman mentioned on my last post, some things make great servants but awful masters. If it’s true of Facebook, perhaps it’s true of predictability.

There are a lot of angles to take with this. On one hand, we have the inherent value of predictability.

Value of Predictability

If you know that when you go to your local grocery store, you can go to the back left corner and get your bread, and then go to the far right and get your miso, and stop somewhere in the middle for chips, then you are on a roll. You can get in, get out, know what to expect, and spend your time thinking about other things like what to make for dinner or what that text really meant.

You had to start somewhere, and then you found the route that made sense. You repeated it. You found that it worked.

Does Predictability Get Addictive?

It seems to me, at least in my world, that things can get addictive. This usually happens when they help me feel different than I already feel. Like coffee, or alcohol, or feeling grouchy while doing dishes. Some things happen over and over and over.

Why do these things seem so appealing? Maybe it’s because they help me escape the uncomfortableness, however temporary, of the present moment. They make me feel something I can count on (at least for awhile), and they let me know what to expect, which is nice because it gives an illusion of certainty to the near future. I say illusion because it is; we never know quite what is going to happen or exactly how it is going to feel when it does.

Predictability and a routine does cut down on stress to some degree. Not knowing what’s going to happen or where anything is can be a bit intense, especially if it happens for a long time without stopping. If you have traveled to a foreign country, you know the feeling of culture shock. Suddenly the things that you take for granted daily, such as how close a stranger will sit to you on the bus, are not a given. It takes extra brain power just to keep up with it all.

There’s an article on Psychology Today called Routines: Comforting or Confining?

That article talks about how some routines are beneficial, but it’s also good to re-examine them. What I’m more interested in is noticing the feeling of when I’m acting based on predictability, because when we know what to expect then we aren’t necessarily aware of the moment in all of its unique freshness.

Scary..or Fun?

Some years ago I was painting as a profession with a friend. At one point I had to stand on a ladder in the middle of the room to paint a rafter. I pointed out that it was rather scary. “Scary, or fun?” the other painter said. He had made an excellent point. The feeling of scary was the same feeling as “fun,” except fun would be something I choose and scary was something that was happening to me. As soon as I embraced my increased heart rate and hyper-awareness of balance, it felt more fun. But for me, “scary” is a predictable feeling. I go to it a lot in the day to day, but if I’m aware of that choice in the moment it happens, I can switch it over to “fun” sometimes.

Predictability takes so many forms, physically and emotionally, that it can be hard if not impossible to catch all of the ways in which we indulge in it. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

My main point is this. A lot of times patterns are formed because they make something take less work one time. That feeling of predictability is preferable to feeling like everything is happening for the first time. But a balance is always key; and it’s nice to remember that there is always more than one way to do something. Just because repeating an action once helped the world feel stable doesn’t mean that it’s a good long term solution.

On a side note, it’s been hard lately to blog as much as I did before and to keep up with as many of you as I’d like to. Feel free to post a link in the comments of any posts you made that you think I’d like, I love when you do that!

Do any of you struggle with predictability, or pay attention to it at all?

Do you feel like you have a solid ability to keep things interesting and stay in the present without getting sucked into routines?

 

 

Curiosity, Meet Convenience: Hidden Stories

Remember that feeling in middle school where you introduce a friend to your parents, and you feel torn in half as you suddenly  realize there are different and sometimes incompatible versions of yourself to keep track of? Sometimes that feeling still happens when you introduce friends from different circles to each other. You are different versions of “you” with both parties and suddenly you have to find the middle ground, and it’s not always comfortable.

Blending Worlds to Deepen The Depth of the Moment

I am many people throughout the course of the day. Sometimes, I am mindful and curious and aware and gentle. Other times, I’m fast, furious, focused, and indulging in the convenient.

But the other day the two worlds met. I was eating a corn tortilla and found myself wondering how many people’s lives were involved with the whole process of making them.

From the plastic wrapper they came in to the fields the corn was grown in to the design of the package and the light switches at the factory that pumps them out. How many people were involved? Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions if you really got right down to it (since each piece of the factory was made in another, and those people were technically involved with these tortillas…you get the idea). Who turns off the lights at the factory, what do they eat for dinner when they get home from work?

Singing Songs to the Cows

I spend half my time in a rural area. I sit on the porch and watch cows. One of them has big white spots and he’s going to turn into food someday. I watch him graze and let my heart ache a little with the awareness of his imminent demise that he has no idea about. He’s just eating grass in the sun.

But someday, people are going to eat him. They will taste the burger and not think of the girl that sat on the porch, folded book on her lap and spiderweb-filled mini-guitar singing songs to the cow as he nibbled on grass by the river. They won’t think of her or her story at all, just the food on their plate and other things on their mind at the time. How could they possibly know about her, never even mind what she had for dreams last night or for breakfast or how she gazed curiously at her corn tortillas.

I wonder about these stories that can infuse our convenient moments with curiosity. It’s easy to buy a package of corn tortillas, but it’s also possible to have curiosity for them.

Loosening the Grip of Our Own Story

In the past few days since the corn tortilla incident, I have applied this type of curiosity to other things and moments that otherwise can feel rather habitual. Brushing my teeth, making coffee, walking around the grocery store. And I’ve discovered something wonderful.

Stories are everywhere, curiosity can always be kindled. Every item on the counter, every car in the lot, every person walking by- stories on top of stories on top of stories.

It’s fun to jump into another story to see the context of our own. It can get us out of our own head, and it can bring some magic to an ordinary moment. It can also be great fuel for the imagination for writing stories and songs or working with a business problem in a new and creative way.

I feel moved to share this little tidbit because it has really stuck with me, and getting to stuck in our own story can sometimes limit us in terms of what we imagine. Imagination is great, use it whenever you can, especially when it can bring you a greater amount of gratitude and appreciation and awe for the little things in life like corn tortillas. glowy jen and zeek on couch

Are there convenient things that you take for granted a lot that may contain stories you never even imagined?

Do you think that it would be fun to look at life with this type of curiosity sometimes, or would it just make things too complicated?

Do you stare into lit up windows and wonder about the people who live inside and what they might be like?

I hope everyone is well :)

 

Permission for Transitions

We all know how we generally “are” in the world. There are some aspects of our personalities that we consider strengths, others as weaknesses. Sometimes we put effort into trying to grow. But what happens during transitions? Do we know how to adapt our expectations appropriately for these times?

Recently, I had a piece published on the Mindful Word. It’s called The Art of Compassionate Editing, and I’d love it if you wanted to check it out. It applies mindfulness to the act of editing, much like a previous blog post. Most of my writing on this blog has to do with applying mindfulness to daily things that we may not otherwise think about.

The reason I take this approach is because for years, I worked as a therapeutic counselor at a place called Windhorse in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was my favorite job because it involved being mindful, being with interesting people, and having authentic relationships as a way to be a part of their recovery process from extreme states of mind and addiction.

And now, I am part of a therapeutic team starting in Texas. It has only just begun, and the journey is going to be something that I can hardly even imagine at this time.

I am excited, joyful, and rising up from the inside. I am leaving my job as a basic content writer, putting some of the freelance writing on pause, and embarking on this journey with my whole heart and mind.

This is quite a transition, and I notice that my expectations of myself are no longer something that I can take for granted. How much time I spend a day reading, writing, meditating, cleaning, walking the dog, and cooking are all up in the air. Things are altering, changing, adapting. My routines aren’t going to hold, most of them are going to disappear all together and new ones and old ones are going to rush in to take their places.

It makes me realize how many people I know are in transition, or have been in the past. How often do we expect people to be the same as they were last week, or last year? How often do we expect this of ourselves? How often is unnecessary pain and suffering happening because of these expectations?

It’s just something to think about in terms of how we speak to and work with ourselves during transitions of all kinds. Going to and from work, moving physically, even taking a walk. The transitions are always happening and sometimes they are tiny, and yet we can still get in a pattern of harsh judgement. “Why am I not as attentive as I should be? Why am I not getting enough exercise? Why am I not as happy?” Sometimes, the state of being is temporary. It may only last a few minutes or days if we didn’t hold onto the expectations and judge ourselves or another when we noticed they weren’t being met.

But all too often, we do hold on. Tight. And then we judge. Harshly. Then the problems can turn into a nagging presence that gets us down instead of just passing through.

These are just a few things to think about, especially as this new job may lead to changes in my writing on this blog. I think that they will be for the best, and things will undoubtedly get interesting. The focus will be the same, but it may shift away from writing a little since I’ll be doing less of it, and go more towards how we relate with each other and ourselves in an authentic way.

I hope you all are well, and enjoying various experiences of your daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly transitions!

Please feel free to share your thoughts below about transitions and how you relate to them!