When I was a kid, a little kid…seven, eight, nine years old, I was in school.
So I’d get up go to school, run around doing School Things all day.
Then I’d come home. And after I put down my backpack and took off my shoes, I would notice something.
I was hungry.
So I’d do that thing. You probably know the thing. You’re probably already picturing me, touseled braids on either side of my head, socks falling down around my ankles, jeans cinched right up around my waist (hey, it was the 80’s). I’m standing there, fridge held open, squinting inside.
And I don’t move.
My mom was saving electricity before it was fashionable, so she’s saying, “Close the door! You’re wasting energy! Decide what you want first!”
“But I’m hungry, mom.”
“Figure out what you want, and THEN open the door to get it.”
She didn’t understand.
I had no idea what I wanted. I knew I had this gnawing in my stomach. I knew the answer to that feeling was food. But it had to be the right food, and I had no idea what that might be. I wasn’t looking for a snack, I was looking for inspiration. (Note to self: do not look for inspiration in a cloud of refrigeration fog. There’s probably another post in there somewhere.)
And here’s the thing: my method worked. She could stand in front of the fridge all day, arms crossed, rattling off foods, “Do you want carrots?” “No.” Do you want milk?” “Nooo.” “Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It will ruin your dinner, but…” “No, yuck mom I JUST HAD ONE at lunch.” “Well then what do you want?” “I don’t knooooowwwww.”
I would never ever figure it out.
But if I stared and rummaged and got the things I thought I knew about what a snack should be to shut up for five minutes, I could find exactly the thing. “Ants on a LOG! YEah!” or “Mom can I have soup?” “There’s no soup in the fridge.” “I know, but can I?” “Yes….”
I didn’t think of soup because I saw soup. I thought of soup because I saw milk, and that reminded me of putting milk in Campbell’s Tomato Soup instead of water, and that reminded me of grilled cheese from camp, and….a masterpiece was born.
And it tasted so SO good.
I’m convinced that the reason that my method worked is that there was some alchemy in the creative process, something that stirred my digestive juices in the random, stream-of-consciousness process involved in staring into a packed refrigerator.
It wasn’t concrete, linear, or logical. It was pure flow.
What, don’t you go into a flow state when staring at a refrigerator?
Funny thing is, it still happens to me. If I need to cook, the best thing for me involves staring into a stocked refrigerator until something looks good. Oh, the kale, yeah, and then I’ll need some garlic and onions and butter to saute it in, and it would taste really good with that fresh ravioli and a light sauce, and then I think those pears, poached and drizzled with maple syrup…
Not logic. Pure inspiration. Yes, in the fridge.
…and recently, I discovered something. it’s not just food. And once I discovered that, I started thinking. And once I started thinking…well, you can see what happened next. It’s over here: http://ebbmassagestudio.com/wishfinding. You get to stare into the fridge of your life, and have some support in figuring out what you’re really hungry for. 🙂 And if you’re not in Boston, make sure you’re on my elist so I can let you know when I’m coming to a city near you…sign up over in the sidebar.
One of the things about me that I wish were less true is that I’m really hesitant to volunteer for things these days. In fact, I’m even hesitant to commit to things sometimes. I just change my schedule a lot, and it makes it hard to plan ahead. The more I have to change my plans the less I want to make plans, and so it goes.
But today I shared something on Facebook that I can TOTALLY get behind…because I’m already doing it. The Human Awareness Institute posted an image that said, “The world is changing and I’m on the transition team.”
Yeah, that’s me. And then I started thinking: how and why and what?
But no, really, I am. And I was inspired to make a list of things I try to do because I want things to be different from the way they are.
I strive for:
- ethical and local eating
- a healthy life cadence (enough rest, enough sleep, enough spaciousness)
- clear, gentle, and healthy communication
- more touch
- fewer toxins
- work that helps the world be more of what I would like to see
There’s a lot I don’t do, but that’s my transition team work. What’s yours?
Same coffeeshop as yesterday.
They’re laughing. In fact, the three people behind the counter are joking and smiling as they dish up coffee, relaxed, real, fun.
This is a notable change from summer, and not unusual for Maine. After all, the tourists have gone home.
No offense to the tourists–they keep our economy afloat in a very real, concrete way. But the high volume, high demand, low forgiveness culture of tourism makes our lives a little trickier from May to mid-October. We arrive, breathless, at September’s end, and groan a little when we realize there’s another lap before we’re done.
But about this coffee shop. The staff has changed, pretty much completely.
And I’m noticing how much easier I feel here now.
The other people were perfectly polite. But it was obvious that we were different kinds of people, with different values, different social expectations, different rules. I always felt uneasy–like I was going to have a hair out of place, make a misstep, get snickered at behind my back. It’s old stuff, stuff from before high school, before middle school, although it was there, too–it’s stuff that goes all the way back to the first cluster of mean girls that I encountered. It was probably first grade, maybe second, and it put me off girls for a very long time.
I’m shocked, amazed, at how often as an adult I get hooked by that old fear, even though many mean girls grew up to be perfectly nice adults. Eighteen or twenty years of practiced defensiveness doesn’t evaporate easily. It makes me stiff, hesitant, withdrawn. I can usually smell a clique at twenty paces, and I get uncomfortable on either side of the division.
On the other hand.
On the other hand I know how often I write the story all by myself, with no help from the person I’m judging. I can make up a whole story about how someone is going to treat me, what they’re thinking about me, what they have to say in their head without ever hearing word one from them. In fact, they might not even have noticed me, all the way across the room, busy with their children.
My story is, I have found, most often based on clothes. That’s a product of where I grew up (Fairfield County, Connecticut) and how I learned to sort people out. We had the popular kids and the outcasts. I wasn’t a popular kid, and I knew it–my dignity’s saving grace was that I was too proud to try to become popular, so I was spared the bulk of the humiliation that some other kids were subjected to in their quest for membership among the elite. Who could I trust? Kids who didn’t wear designer clothes, trendy fashions, or (as I got older) makeup.
Fast forward twenty years and I still trust people in fleeces, jeans, and glasses before I trust people in stockings, and heels. No wonder I have chosen to live in Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, where the winter uniform is flannel, canvas, and denim.
And no wonder I am more at ease today than I was in August. The people behind the counter are “like me”–cute-messy ponytails, layered t-shirts, rolled up sleeves. And somehow the people have changed, too, since summer. The next table over has a mom in t-shirt, vest, and knee-high Bogs–the black kind rated for forty below.
Funny part is, I don’t know anything about them except that. I don’t know what they do in their spare time, or how they cook their dinner. I don’t know if they go to church, and if so, where. I don’t know what really matters at all. But I still feel easier around them.
There’s good laughter, easy laughter coming from the coffee bar.
And that’s all it takes. I feel like it’s a good place to be.
I’m in a coffeeshop, because there’s construction at home. No complaint about the insulation going into the basement, though. None at all.
So I’m here, in this incredibly comfy leather chair, surrounded by people softened by that first snowfall of winter. There are lots of people like me, laptops in hand, looking busy. There are an equal number of people in pairs, chatting. A couple of iPhones. A typical afternoon snapshot of small-city suburbia.
But one pair of people is different.
Something about the way they hold themselves tips me off. There’s a deal being made. Someone is selling something.
Once I know this, it’s easy to figure out who is who. A year ago I would have been put off, just a little bit: I would have felt protective of the customer and a little on guard about the seller. Now…I’m intrigued. In fact, I’m taking notes.
The look like peers. The buyer looks interested, engaged, attracted to what’s on offer.
The seller looks relaxed, comfortable, at ease. She’s not worried, she’s just helping connect someone with something she wants.
It’s the perfect situation. As the transaction continues, there’s a glich–which they solve together. No one feels cheated or even uncomfortable here. The buyer’s leopard-print rainboots glint in the grey light as she searches for her business card.
And as the transaction wraps up I start thinking about everyone. Everyone-everyone, not just business-people-everyone.
What are you selling? What am I selling? What do we need to be selling?
Because this woman, she’s happier to be buying than not. She looks glad to be here.
What do I have that would make someone happier? How can I let her know? As Marie Forleo says, “If you had the cure for cancer, would you hesitate for a minute to share it with the world?”
No, of course not. you’d tell everyone.
What is your superpower, your cure for cancer, or discontent, or the common cold?
And is that what you’re selling? When you move in the world, is that what you let people know they can have?
Or do you undersell yourself in a misguided attempt at modesty?
Well, I COULD tell them about that cancer cure, but I don’t want them to think I’m bragging. So I think I’ll just offer them some cough drops.
It’s a way to hide. Because having people reject your cough drops is a lot less painful than having someone mock you because you think you can cure cancer. But if you can…if you CAN cure cancer then THAT is what the world needs. Not cough drops. We have those. We need what you have.
And this isn’t about business, not really. We need your shy smile, your passion for Legos, your kinda-cute-kinda-awkward way of dancing. We need your willingness to leap boldly forward and your total unwillingness to make a choice without all the facts.
You are not broken.
But every time you advertise yourself as something your’e not, you’re reinforcing the story that you’re broken. You’re telling yourself that YOU won’t sell, so please instead be selling something easier to explain.
Because sure, you’re complicated. You have soft spots and warts and a few downright holes in your sweater. You also do some stuff that’s awesome but can only be explained with five hours and an endless supply of hot cocoa. And that stuff, the impossible stuff, is what we need, because the rest of us don’t even think it exists.
So take a look. What are you selling? …and what could you have on offer instead? Tell us in the comments!
I want a different culture than the one we live in right now. I want a culture with more body joy and less body shame, more yeses and hows and fewer no’s and we-can’ts.
If I could have my way with a magic wand, we would live in a gift economy and it would all work.
We’re not there yet, not as a whole, although small pockets of people are definitely experimenting with what happens when you change the rules.
But I’m also not stuck with the luck of the draw, and neither are you.
Want something different? Make some choices.
Surround yourself with people who have what you want: the mindset, the choices, the behavior. You can’t change everything, but change your daily world to reflect where you’re going. Scientists say that your worldview and choices are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. These are the people who influence you. All the time. Choose them wisely.
And then there’s larger cultural transmission.
In years of running conferences and organizations, I have discovered that if you want the culture to stay stable, you can only admit 25% new people at one time. That allows those people to become acculturated without really changing the culture they are joining. On the other hand, if you want the culture to change, bring in more than 25% new people, preferably all of whom are the kinds of people you want to see more of. They will become the majority, and the culture will shift. Yes, you have to adjust for power dynamics. Yes, it’s not an exact science. But it matters.
Who are your 5 people? Do you need to change something? Tell us in the comments!
This morning I ran across an article on The Snugglery, a snuggling service in upstate New York. They provide nonsexual cuddles (usually spooning) for $60/hour. Pajamas stay on, other people are in the house but not in the room, confidentiality is assured.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard of professional snuggling, but sometimes it takes a few pings before I take notice. I’m taking notice.
Because touch saved my life. Seriously, completely saved my life.
When I was 7 years old, I stopped touching people. All I could say about it was that it gave me an icky feeling in my stomach. You know the kind–it’s the bad-touch, oh-shit feeling, the one that makes you want to puke. Nothankyouverymuch, I just stopped with the whole touch thing. We didn’t have pets yet, so for a few years there was NO good touch in my life. I got spanked. That was pretty much it for physical contact.
We got a dog, and I wanted to be with her all the time. I spooned her on the dining room floor while I did my vocabulary homework, I petted her, I sat next to her, I drank in the possibility of uncomplicated contact, and I started to breathe a little.
But it was so clearly not enough.
Then when I was 14 another pivotal thing happened. I got a hug.
It was a hug from a boy I had never met before. He was saying hello. I knew nothing of a world where “hello” and “hug” had anything to do with each other, but I was about to find out.
Over the next few years I completely changed my attitude about touch. Apparently touching people who were not adults was a whole different thing to my unsettled gut. I loved hugs. I loved puppy piles. And partially as a result I loved drama club and I loved church youth events. I didn’t know it then, but I had been starving for touch. Oxytocin changed my brain. Because of touch I was able to survive the depression that would chew on my brain until I was well into adulthood.
And I have never confused touch with sex. Sex is wonderful, deep, intimate, hot, fantastic. And it is not the only thing that can happen with touch. All that touch, all through high school and into college for me, was about contact. We are beings made to be in community, and one of the fantastic things about being near other people is that you can touch them.
I believe in its healing power. I believe in the biochemistry of contact, and I believe in the psychological benefits of closeness. As I type this I have two cats pressed up against me, preferring this spot on the loveseat to the entire rest of the house.
But all of the science aside, it just feels good.
It feels good and has no harmful side effects.
I practice both reiki and massage, but even simple physical contact can make a world of difference. Yesterday I had a friend parked in my driveway when I got home. We sat and talked and snuggled for several hours. It was wonderful.
I’m horrified that Jaqueline, the proprietor at The Snugglery, has been asked to stay out of her grad school program because she snuggles for pay. What is her school thinking? With all the rising information about the connections and importance of body-mind integration, her work should be considered a pioneering step in the healing world.
It only shows how far we have to go.
Meanwhile, I’m curious. Would you use a snuggling service? Tell me in the comments!
We are drawn to the wildness.
When hurricane Sandy came to the Maine coast I had an almost irresistable urge to go look at the ocean–in fact I wanted to go down at high tide but I did not dare. I know how low the dunes are and I know how big the oceans gets. So instead I went just past low tide. It was 5:30 in the evening and as I pulled my car up the narrow alley of a street that leads to the dunes that lead to the beach I discovered that I was not the only one there–the entire street was lined with cars, the dunes were streaming people back and forth: people, wrapped tight in windbreakers; people sheltered against the flying sand and salt and still we came and still we had to see and still we needed to be close to the power because people are drawn to wildness. We are not drawn to the tame, to the gentle, to the easily approached; we are not drawn to the easy; we are drawn to the wild places where tension stretches and breaks across sand dunes; we are driven to the place where the wild wild storm crosses the tame grass of our front yards and rushes across our doorsills. We are drawn to chaos we are drawn to disorder we’re drawn to liminality, we are drawn to transition, we are drawn to change
even as we fear it we are drawn to the wildness that echoes the wildness in our own hearts.
So if you have thought to hide because you thought that by making yourself easy you would make yourself more appealing think again. If you had thought to turn yourself inside out trying to be gentler than you really are think again. We sigh when we see the beautiful landscape stretch out before us: early, perfect, clear blue sky but when the tornado appears on the horizon we turn to that instead. We are drawn to the wildness and the wildness is drawn to us.
It was approximately a million years ago when I first picked up All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.
Years later I would discover that it had been written by a UU minister (Robert Fulghum), that it had started as a newsletter column in a kid’s backpack, that there were other books.
But when I was in eighth or ninth grade all I knew was that there was this sweet pithy book of essays that made me laugh and cry and nod, even as my own experience of church was at best a mixed bag–I loved youth group but struggled to find meaning in the services and sermons upstairs, even though I knew we professed the same things.
As an adult, as clergy, and currently on extended sabbatical from congregational engagement, I have a much better understanding of the gap that I felt all those years ago–perhaps that is food for another essay, some other time.
But back to that book.
It has lots of amazing essays, written back in the days when newsletters were mostly produced by photocopying pages that came out of typewriters or dot matrix printers. There’s the one about the box of 64 crayons with the sharpener built right in, and the one about polishing a stick…but the one I’m thinking of this morning is the one about playing hide and seek only the kid hides too well, and the other kids give up and go in to dinner.
And what happens to the kid who is good and right but not found?
That kid gets cold and lonely and misses out on what happens next.
I have so fucking often been that kid. If there’s a thing to do, I want to do it right. Completely right. The rightest it can be. Circles and arrows on the back of each one (thank you, Arlo Guthrie) because somehow, if I get it right enough, if I hide well enough, then I will be loved.
And I want that more than anything. I want to know that I didn’t do anything that could have contributed to my unloveability–that if no one loves me, at least it wasn’t my mistakes that caused it.
But when I get caught in the be-exactly-right loop, here’s what happens:
1) I get totally attached to being right. The validity of my existence depends on it.
2) I don’t get found. Because I’m really good at being right most of the time. Technically, intellectually, if there’s a recipe for “right” I can probably follow it. But when you’re that right you end up tucked .behind. the garbage dumpster in the alley where nobody goes, hungry and cold and too far away to hear them calling olly-olly-in-free when it’s time for dinner. By being flawless, even momentarily, you can take yourself completely out of the game.
Which is not to say that excellence is in any way, shape, or form, bad.
Excellence is that wonderful, beautiful, trust-creating gossamer stuff of which miracles are often built.
The key is to play with the other kids, and be excellent. To know that excellence can include playing well with others. And not to claim that you are not as good as you are. If you are good and you know you are good; if you are, in fact, better at something than someone else, claim it.
Because only if you claim it can you make appropriate choices about how to use it. Admit that you are powerful, brilliant, able to change the world in some ways, some places, some times…admit that Marianne Williamson was right, that,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Take full ownership of your power, and then you will know when to unleash its full breadth and depth and when to use only part of it, to recognize that to play with others you need to make space for the differences between you. Play softer, gentler, easier if you need to. Hide where you will be found. Or if you made a mistake, cough, laugh, or move. Be falliable, even if you don’t have to be.
Get found, kid. You belong.
Tell me, do you tend to hide too much?
There are lots of reasons why we hide parts of ourselves. Some of them are old patterns, some are new, some still serve us, some…don’t.
Most of the time it boils down to fear.
We’re afraid of something: afraid of rejection, afraid of inadequacy, afraid of ridicule, afraid of being hurt when we expose our most real places. There’s something easier about exposing our surface layers.
But the challenge is that the more authentically we live, the more every single one of our actions becomes an expression of our deeper selves. Every choice rises from something larger. I know of someone who doesn’t order meat when he eats out because he only wants to eat locallyraised or wild caught, healthy animals, and he doesn’t trust restaurants to meet his standards. But it can be even simpler than that: what things you buy, how you choose to dress…everything becomes tied in, eventually. In a choice between a well-known brand and a locally-made brand of socks, the choice might be about quality or it might be about economics or it might be about price…but it is a choice that has something to do with who you are.
And so living authentically exposes us.
We run out of excuses for why we can’t possibly do the thing we believe in. We come face to face with our hypocrisies: is it true, really true, that I cannot live my values, or do they simply require a cascade of other, possibly difficult choices elsewhere? And which other values do my current choices support? It is not impossible or even uncommon to have values appear to conflict. Sometimes the conflict is real; sometimes a deeper look will expose a new layer of possibilities and the conflict will fall away.
But putting the self we believe is real and true out in the public arena requires courage and energy…and sometimes we just don’t have it.
Sometimes you’re too tired to explain why you have your kid in plastic diapers instead of cloth (or cloth instead of plastic). Sometimes you’re too occupied to deal with the extra “really, we can get you something else,” when you ask for water, so you just ask for a Coke. Sometimes you just need comfort food and you don’t give a rat’s ass that Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese has bright orange food coloring in it–it will ease the ache in your gut and that’s what matters.
And sometimes you have things that you just don’t want to show to anybody.
And that’s okay.
This morning I was putting away dishes, washing dishes, sweeping the kitchen, and trying not to feel guilty about how long it had been since I had last done those things. I know the kitchen feels better, and so I feel better, when I keep it clean, but some days…some days I just don’t have it in me, even though it is a tiny task.
And I realized, as I gently gave myself permission to feel whatever I was feeling while I puttered, that I hide myself–including my dirty kitchen–because I am afraid of not being loved. And underneath that fear is the fear of not being worthy of love.
Now I’ve said it a thousand times if I’ve said it once: love is not something we can deserve, as humans. Love is too big, too vast, too profound. No one can deserve love. It is a miracle, and you don’t deserve miracles because there is no amount of goodness or perfection in the world that could possibly deserve a miracle. It is so big, so unthinkably huge that all we can do is weep with gratitude and say yes, thank you.
And that’s sometimes the biggest challenge of all: yes, thank you. We’re not trained to be good at accepting gifts. We’re trained to believe that everything has a price.
But love, and all the graces of being alive cannot be priced. There’s no currency that can buy them. Which means we have to accept that they are not in our hands–that these are gifts beyond possession, beyond our understanding.
And all we can say is yes, please. Thank you.
Yesterday, I invited you to consider what you were hiding. Just find out what it might be, not change it or do anything about it.
Today…well, I looked into it, too. What am I hiding? Big stuff? Little stuff? Medium sized stuff?
More stuff than I realized, I’ll tell you that. I found some stuff that I am ok with not sharing with the world, and some stuff that I might need to stop hiding eventually, and some stuff that I’m hiding because I don’t know what is true about me anymore–I’m changing, and the old story doesn’t fit, but the new one isn’t formed. I feel like a sea cucumber, hiding under a rock until I can regrow my insides.
But there are a few things I’ve decided to share, because trying to pretend they aren’t there is an old, leftover from when that kind of self-protection was really, really important.
That kind of protection isn’t necessary anymore.
In fact, it isn’t really even serving me. Either people will understand and love me, or they will think I’m a little nuts and love me, but I do not worry that the ones I love most will stop loving me because of who I am.
That’s a huge change for me, a huge point of growth. I sometimes slip back into the old habits of thought and start to hide away again, but it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t about them. It’s my fear, my old habits, my challenge to change it.
The big thing that I don’t say out loud much is that I believe in stuff we can’t see or control or understand. I believe in things like intuition and tarot. I draw cards from an angel card deck that inevitably have something important for me during the day. When I read daily meditations I open the book randomly and almost always have more connection with the reading than I should by sheer chance. I believe in astrology, especially since watching ten major relationships implode at the end of March 2012, and watching several of them slowly knit back together as soon as the planets started to realign.
I do not believe in any of these things to the exclusion of logic or fact. My fear is that people will think I am irrational, illogical, or less smart because of my belief.
But I know I’m not. My experimental evidence–my lived experience–is that these things are important and useful tools.
I believe in the spirit, the light of that-which-is-holy, in every person. And I believe in some energy greater than ourselves that moves through the world.
If you didn’t get a chance to share yesterday, join me today: what is it time to tell the world?