Thursday, December 29, 2016

How to change just about anything

Nick Wilton's Art2Life blog is as much about life as it is about art. This seemed particularly true this week in his post about getting into the flow of creativity.

[The flow of creativity] has to do with one simple thing. One simple thing that is available to anyone, anytime and practically anywhere. It is action. 
When we take action, when we begin, physically doing something, in our art, or even our lives, even if we are not so sure of where we are going, I believe it automatically begins the creative, flow state. Creativity does not magically appear because we create the right conditions. It comes automatically once we begin. Once we start it starts.

This makes sense to me for anything we want to manifest: changing, creating, loving. We can think and talk all we want but when we take an action (pick up the paint brush, put down the fork, walk on by the ice cream, do the kindness), things begin to align for us. The flow in the right direction happens and picks up speed. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Taking simplifying my life to a new level

In Matthew Kelly's book Perfectly Yourself:  9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness, the lesson that has had the biggest impact for me is the one on simplicity. I'm already a big proponent of decluttering and having a simpler environment. Even as a child, I knew that having things tidy helped me be more peaceful. And last year I embraced Marie Kondo's tidying-up with enthusiasm.

Kelly's discussion of simplifying does include his version of that, which he calls dejunking his environment, but it goes beyond our stuff. It includes also what he calls our moments of decision, where we commit our time and energy. This resonated with me because I'm finding myself awake in the middle of the night scheming as to how I can keep all the plates spinning as I ride my unicycle through life.

I have a great life and many interests, and that is leading to an embarrassment of riches in opportunities. And like any good consumer, I'm reluctant to do two things: turn down new opportunities and not explore the current opportunities to the fullest. So I'm finding myself with four businesses and two artistic endeavors, all asking for a lot of time. I'm a high energy person but even for me, this is too much.

So following Kelly's advice, I looked at what I have and what I want. Where are my priorities and what's most in line with my values. And here's what I came to: I want and need to continue to make art and write books. I need to continue editing as my primary income. And I am committed to promoting the Life between Meals program for the enxt 12 months. So that means setting my art business and big marketing efforts for my books aside for now. And while my perfectionist self is saying No, come on, you can do it all, I know that's not true. And there's relief in the paring down.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Inspirational lyrics from Holly Near

I am open and I am willing
For to be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change

There is hurting in my family
There is sorrow in my town
There is panic in the nation
There is wailing the whole world round

May the children see more clearly
May the elders be more wise

May the winds of change caress us
Even though it burns our eyes

Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion
Give me a desert to hold my fears
Give me a sunset to hold my wonder
Give me an ocean to hold my tears

Thanks to my good friend Ethel Gullette for sending this my way in her birthday wishes. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A beautiful poem by Jan Richardson

I've long been a fan of the work of photographer/poet/author/thinker Jan Richardson. 

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows have lengthened,
this blessing has been gathering itself,
making ready, preparing for this night.
It has practiced walking in the dark,
traveling with its eyes closed,
feeling its way by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon even as it wanes.
So believe me when I tell you
this blessing will reach you
even if you have not light enough to read it;
it will find you even though you cannot see it coming.
You will know the moment of its arriving
by your release of the breath you have held so long;
a loosening of the clenching in your hands,
of the clutch around your heart;
a thinning of the darkness that had drawn itself
around you.
This blessing does not mean to take the night away
but it knows its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots along the path,
knows what it means to travel in the company
of a friend.
So when this blessing comes, take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road you cannot see.
This is the night when you can trust
that any direction you go,
you will be walking toward the dawn.

                                                          Jan Richardson

Friday, December 16, 2016

The importance of a circle of friends

I recently had a very challenging situation with a long-term client. She had decided to write one more book in her chosen field before she retired and contacted me about a year ago to edit for her and help her manage the project. She had recently been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment due to a head injury involving a sidewalk and a 6-month-old German Shepherd. She assured me that she was fine and could do the project.

As the months progressed, we ran into more and more difficulties. Her short-term memory deteriorated until she could no longer remember how to attach a document. She also couldn't remember what we had agreed to each do to move the project along. We'd have what seemed like lucid exchanges on the phone or via email and then she wouldn't remember anything. As this happened more and more often, she got angry and frustrated and became abusive, and this week I resigned from the project. I was just worn out and I refuse to work with abusive clients.

So where does the circle of friends come in? I've known this woman 15 years. She was partnered when I met her but she and her partner split up a decade ago. Then two years ago she moved to Eugene to care for her older brother (he's 80 and she's 74 or so). She knows no one in Eugene. She has no real friends in Portland either. I suspect no one is watching out for her. No one is going to step in as she goes further down this path of impairment.

I did what I could. I sent an email to her ex-partner expressing my concern for this woman's wellbeing. I got no response and I have no idea whether they are still connected. But the lesson for me is in staying in touch with my generous circle of friends and my siblings, to keep a strong support network available.

Many of us aging women are living on our own. We need each other.

Monday, December 12, 2016

I found this incredibly value to consider 


Coping with Chaos in the White House

A few days ago, I wrote a post for my Facebook friends about my personal experience with narcissistic personality disorder and how I view the president elect as a result. Unexpectedly, the post traveled widely, and it became clear that many people are struggling with how to understand and deal with this kind of behavior in a position of power. Although several writers, including a few professionals, have publicly offered their thoughts on a diagnosis, I am not a professional and this is not a diagnosis. My post is not intended to persuade anyone or provide a comprehensive description of NPD. I am speaking purely from decades of dealing with NPD and sharing strategies that were helpful for me in coping and predicting behavior. The text below is adapted from my original Facebook post.

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.
2) He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.
3) You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.
4) Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.
5) We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.
6) It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.
7) People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as “enablers” when they allow or cover for bad behavior and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.
8) People with NPD often foster competition for sport in people they control. Expect lots of chaos, firings and recriminations. He will probably behave worst toward those closest to him, but that doesn’t mean (obviously) that his actions won’t have consequences for the rest of us. He will punish enemies. He may start out, as he has with the NYT, with a confusing combination of punishing/rewarding, which is a classic abuse tactic for control. If you see your media cooperating or facilitating this behavior for rewards, call them on it.
9) Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and torturous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.
10) Whenever possible, do not focus on the narcissist or give him attention. Unfortunately we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the president, but don’t circulate his tweets or laugh at him — you are enabling him and getting his word out. (I’ve done this, of course, we all have… just try to be aware.) Pay attention to your own emotions: do you sort of enjoy his clowning? do you enjoy the outrage? is this kind of fun and dramatic, in a sick way? You are adding to his energy. Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A great post from one of my teachers

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Debbie Ford on true healing

"Taking 100% responsibility for our circumstances, our emotions, and our inner world and letting go of excuses, reasons, justifications, and righteousness."

Friday, December 2, 2016

Moving from Point A to Point B

Most of us are interested in moving forward in our lives. While it's critical to accept what is--that's the most helpful starting point--we often want more or different. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's what life is about: growing, changing, experiencing. But many of us, maybe too many of us, just talk about this. We talk about changing, about experiencing new things, about having or being something more.

Habits play a big part in this kind of talk that's followed by little to no action. We are our habits, our practices. If our habit is to come home from work and snack all evening in front of the TV, that's hard to shift out of, even though we'd like to have a meaningful hobby or more exercise or a thinner body. And we'll argue for those habits. Our jobs are stressful. Our commute takes a lot of time. There isn't enough energy to do much more.

And those are good reasons and for some of us, they are immutable, unchangeable. But for many of us, they aren't. Most of us can change some of our circumstances. We can come home at night and go for a walk before dinner. We can put the TV in a closet and do something else in the evening. We can face our challenges, rather than bowing to them and accepting them as inevitable.

We start from Point A and figure out how to move to Point B. It helps when Point B is really specific. I want to walk 10 miles a week. I want to play cards with friends once a month. I want to donate 5% of my income every month to organizations I believe in. Once we know a specific Point B, we can figure out the "how" of it.

What are some of your Point Bs?