Jumping Through Hoops

You guys know how I love metaphors.

I jokingly posted one of these dog hoop pictures on Enjoy Life’s Facebook Page a few minutes ago, and realized that there is really a deeper thing to look at here.

A lot of people I’ve talked to recently are hung up on the hoops they have to jump through to accomplish their goals. Maybe it’s a business license they have to apply for, a massage test they have to take, a form they have to fill out or a phone call they have to make. We don’t like the hoops.

The work I’ve been doing lately has to do with relating to those feelings differently. Even if I feel like I don’t want to do something, when I am connected with the value of that action and leaving room for the thoughts, feelings and urges that may arise that make me want to not do it, it helps me to get it done and to feel accomplished and fulfilled.

Looking at the hoops differently can maybe help to get through them if we choose, and we might just enjoy the brief moment of flight we experience as we do so. Plus the sun might be shining and maybe there is grass under our bare feet.

Sometimes a mental picture helps to remember stuff. Which is why there is this:

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A new acoustic song about how sometimes it’s good to have some hardship to create magical things, or something like that :) http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/my-boat-by-jennifer-stuart

Do you have any fun hoops you jumped through recently? :)

Hope you are well!

What Are Fears Afraid Of?

Recently, a few things happened. One is, I learned to relate to some aggressive sheep dogs. The other is that I played an open mic. I’m realizing that working with fear is less about solving a mystery or scaring it away or ignoring it, and more about making friends. 

Let me explain the sheep dog scenario. I live part time at a ranch, and there are a few sheep dogs. They are doing a job, which is guarding the sheep. The sheep happen to be right outside of my front door. So walking my dog anywhere quickly became a problem.

If you are any type of perceptive, you probably notice I have a lot of pictures of my dog up on the blog. That’s no accident. I’m his biggest fan. I love the ever-loving Hell out of him. I don’t want him getting bit up, beat up, or intimidated by some dogs based on a misunderstanding of the threat he poses to some sheep.

What I did at first was just run from them. That didn’t work, they felt powerful and chased me. I then started carrying a stick to raise in the air and scare them if they chased us. That sort of worked, except sometimes they got really angry and truth be told, that stick wouldn’t do much if they wanted to attack me or my dog. Then I tried something else, which was to come outside to actually greet them alone before walking my dog.

You know what happened? They freaking loved it. The girl one even let me pet her, which is nearly unheard of. She gets happy to see me in the morning now. The boy one does as well. They say hi to me, get excited, and then they leave us pleasantly alone while we walk by the river. They don’t even bark. If they do, I say their name, and they stop. It’s that freaking simple.

The open mic. There’s another one. A small handful of my friends have heard me play and sing, even though I’ve been doing it for more than ten years for just my own amusement. It’s not a side of me I show very much, yet have always yearned to in some form or another. Since joining Soundcloud, where things are safe and distant, I’ve learned that my lyrics really do have a great impact on some people. That’s a great feeling.

I was half-watching a movie called “The Waitress” last night (Nathan Fillian is in it, come on how could I not), and one of the things the main character Jenna said was “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

That’s exactly how it was. I became addicted to wanting to share, wanting to share my words with whoever would want to hear them. Plus I like getting over fears and hesitations. So I did the open mic.

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A new song about feeling proud of what you are even when it’s not much comparatively:
http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/until-its-done-by-jennifer

Before going, I addressed my fears one by one. I knew that if someone went before me and sounded amazing, that I would tap into a feeling of “I’m super proud that I get to offer something very different” instead of “oh jeez I’m going to just suck compared to them.”  I meditated, I even played in front of my boyfriend for hours and had him talk to me and try to distract me while doing it because I knew my mind would attempt such things later. I met every possible fear in a friendly way and worked with it so that when I was there, I felt prepared.

It went wonderfully. I sang three songs, I made some friends, I plan to go back and do it again next week. A few months ago, I would have probably bet my dog’s right front paw that I would never do an open mic for at least a few years. But working with my fears has really made my world feel bigger.

The way that I faced the fear of singing in public and really chose to want to work with it instead of run from it or fight it was very similar to how I finally learned to be less scared of the dogs. Maybe fears are as afraid of us really looking at them as we are of them. Maybe they are more afraid of someone being nice to them than of a direct challenge, because it’s amazing how fast they can scatter once you make up your mind to just let them do whatever they want after they get a friendly “hello” from you.  It’s easier than a battle or feigning ignorance, because even if you aren’t looking, they still have a strong prey drive.

How about you, have you overcome any fears lately?

Do you like to do things that are scary, or a specific type of scary? 

Do you ever look at your fear or fight it, or try to learn about it to dissolve it?

Hope everyone is well!

Running Toilet: The Rorschach of Household Problems

The other day, the toilet at my part-time house was running for too long. I had to turn the water off, and figure out what was wrong. I gave my dad a play-by-play of the situation over the phone as I turned the water on, flushed, and watched what happened in the back part. It was fun, connecty, and educational.

And it got me thinking. What if this was a metaphor of something?

In some schools of thought, you can view your house as a reflection of your self. If you always have trash piled up before taking it out, maybe you have a problem with letting things go. If you have too much food and can never fit it all in the cupboards, maybe you can use a better system for taking inventory of your day before adding more things to your schedule. It’s rather endless and fun, and I don’t really do it.

But this running toilet was interesting. I didn’t realize that you could just turn the water off to make it stop running, turn it back on, use the toilet, and then turn it off again. It was like empowering magic.

Do I have something that’s constantly running in my mind, something that ends up doing more than it should and causing problems because of it? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. It’s called fear about the future. It’s always running, overflowing, doing more than it needs to.

A small amount of that fear can be fine in some situations. It helps me to be careful, to be safe, to take account of what’s happening and choose my actions accordingly.

But too much of that fear constantly running is just a waste of energy and creates an annoying noise in the background.

So I started applying what I learned about the toilet’s water system to my own fear. Turn it off. Twist the knob, make it stop. I can turn it on when I need it, but there’s no need for it to be running constantly.

I did that, specifically in relation to some dog issues that have been arising in this house, since it’s a ranch and there are many dogs and my dog’s a little nuts. I am constantly afraid that he’s going to get super hurt, but I also want us to be able to play by the river and have fun and get exercise.

I shut the fear off temporarily. I went to the river, I felt the ground under my feet and the sunshine and all the things that were not fear. It went fine. The fear came back, but then I went to the river again the next day. The fear didn’t come back that time.

And now, the toilet doesn’t keep running. Maybe it will again, but for now it’s working great. At the same time, I try to learn about the water pipe of my fear. Where’s the knob, how far to the right do I have to turn it before it stops? Can I find it in the dark if I need to? And can I notice the times when it actually doesn’t run for too long and appreciate them?

Just some thoughts.

Are there household problems that you feel could relate to your own mind?

Do you ever see your house as a reflection of yourself or is that just new-age hippie crap?

If you had to pick one random thing, like dishes in the sink or dust on the shelves, and relate it to your mind, do you get some ideas of things that pop up?

Hope you all are well :)

In the link under the picture is a song by Tom Waits called “Yesterday is Here” that I covered with a distant friend. Actually trying to “sing” was new for me, and I’m rather proud of how it turned out! Shuttin’ off the fear is fun!

Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

This is the extent of our decorations..and it's still 80 degrees..

This is the extent of our decorations..and it’s still 80 degrees..

The older I get, there are more sad associations build up around holidays. Especially this year because it’s 80 degrees, my nuclear family is a few thousand miles away, and hearts are broken all over my home state of Connecticut. The holidays just don’t feel as good and innocent as they did when I was little.

I remember being young and asking about Santa. I asked if he could get us anything, and my parents nodded, knowing that the huge box of markers I had in mind was already a done deal. I asked if he came to everyone’s house, they said he did. I asked why people who need money don’t just ask for it then, instead of presents. They didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they said the elves couldn’t make money in the North Pole, I’m not sure. I just remember that it seemed awfully unfair, but I didn’t stop believing just yet.

That’s the thing. The unfairness was harder to handle than disbelief, in some ways. It was awful, and yet there was nothing I could do. The elves can’t make money and toys don’t pay bills, so suffering would happen and my fleeting notion that I had solved the world’s poverty problem was thrown out the window.

The Difficulty of Grasping “It’s Just Unfair”

When it came to learning Santa was fake, it was far more simple. Okay, there is no Santa. Not a huge deal, I sorta saw it coming anyway. Being a big fan of magic, I was just happy that they taught my brain to believe in magic at all (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I’d think about as a kid). It was harder to feel and hold the sadness and anger that I could get presents, but not get money to give to everyone that needed it.

Let’s go to the Connecticut tragedy for a second, because that feeds into this too. In the midst of conspiracy theories and extreme religious people saying that God planned it or something like that, I can’t help but feel like these mentalities are held by those trying to run from that feeling of how horrible it is that someone could do such a thing without being brainwashed or part of God’s master plan. Murder of innocent people is happening in so many places, so much of the time, and yet we can’t always picture it or feel sorrow. For me, it’s easy to picture a suburban Connecticut town in December right before Christmas; that was where I came from. Maybe if it happened in the high plains it would seem farther. But having the ability to visualize it and relate with the situation makes it feel more powerful to me, and I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I can use the high impact of the tragedy in my consciousness to lead to more empathy when I hear of the many deaths of children around the world, but the ones that are “close to home” are going to hit harder, I would imagine.  It’s just how it is.

Back to the holidays, though.

Sure Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Time

It doesn’t feel like Christmas and I don’t know if it ever will. Even if I was with my family on the East Coast, there is less of that feeling. Perhaps the holiday joy gets deeper and less sparkly as we age. Maybe it gets grainy and raw, a holiday feeling that has Sam Elliot’s voice and the grumble of a diesel engine. Maybe it isn’t light and fluffy like movie snow, but resistant and firm like a wrought iron crowbar from hundreds of years ago, being dug up from the dust.

Who knows.

But it’s okay. It’s fine. It doesn’t need to be any certain way, it just has never quite dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t just “this year” that feels off. Maybe the holiday spirit has taken on a permanent new form for me. The amount of friends I have who have lost parents or people close to them is growing, my heart goes to them as the holidays roll around, and there is sadness. It’s not just about trying to wish hard enough for new markers or crochet a dozen last-minute scarves. It’s about realizing that the holidays are as much a trigger for pain for some  people I love as a reason to celebrate for others.

The Roots of the Magic Becoming Transparent

Part of it is the decorations and consumer-based nature of this beast.

Cute plush stockings are our only decoration this year, but I know that the places where they were made would probably make me a bit sick. There are so many illusions, all trying to support the idea of love, but distracting from it, too. Cut down trees, buy gifts, buy insane amounts of decorations. I imagine being in some faraway factory, bracing for the time when Americans go nuts for cheap treasures.

What am I saying here? I’m not quite sure. I am having a hard time thinking normal thoughts since the Connecticut shooting, and anything else seems rather trite. I wonder if other people are feeling the difference in holidays as they get older, and if this holiday season will feel like other holiday seasons to anyone who felt a connection to Connecticut and the other recent tragedies.

Are you having a good holiday season, whatever holidays it is that you celebrate?

Are you finding the joy in these times, even with the pain happening?

Do you feel like the holiday spirit changes as we get older, or does it change as a product of the times, with technology and blow-up decorations taking the place of hand-made presents and simple ornaments?

Any thoughts you have related to the above are completely welcome.

I hope you are all well!