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?
You’ve got to be yourself. There’s struggle in that, sometimes, if people are not used to it, but past the struggle is miles and miles of white-sandy-beach ease. Why?
Because pretending takes so damn much energy.
It’s lying, on a long-term, semi-permanent basis. And remembering a lie and all the things that come out of the lie is soooo much harder than telling the truth. So sit down for a moment today and ask yourself,
what am I hiding?
No judgement, no right-or-wrong, nothing bad about your choices. They just are. Facts, like the color of your hair or the phase of the moon. But it’s good to know. what am I hiding? Is it financial, behavioral, spiritual, emotional?
I’m not saying you have to change it. Don’t do anything differently that you don’t want to do differently.
Just get yourself informed about what you’re doing, so you can make a full choice, not a half a choice limited by forgotten habits. what am I hiding?
What are you hiding in your business, in your personal life, from your lovers, from your family?
What are you trying (and failing) to hide from yourself?
Just find out. And if you like, share in the comments.
You have to be yourself first.
I stumbled across Sarah Robinson’s Fierce Loyalty
website today, and read a few of the essays before it hit me: in order for people to be fiercely loyal to you (or your brand or your business or your pet iguana) they have to know what they are being loyal to
. They are not loyal to a name, they are loyal to an entire entity: values, actions, beliefs, choices…the whole kit and caboodle. That means they have to know you, and trust that the you that they think they know is actually pretty close to some kind of objective reality.
They have to know you, which means you have to show up as you. No substitutes, no alterations, and absolutely no trying-to-be-what-they-want. You have to be strong enough and solid enough to be loyalty-worthy. Loyalty-capable. People can’t be fierce with anyone who is not, themselves, fierce. You must be fiercely yourself. Then your friends will be deep and true, your business will be brilliant and healthy, your presence in the world will be for good, and you won’t have to try. Just be you. Be fiercely you. Mr. Rogers used to say it best: “there’s no one in the world exactly like you. You’re special.”
Please, be you. The world is waiting.
I park next to the ocean, and by “next to” I mean, “beside the ten foot stack of lobster traps.” My car gets a better view than my office does, but that means that every morning and every evening that I go to the office I get a tangy-salty-lungful of reminders that there is more to life than work.
I love my work. That makes everything work better. But it’s easy to forget that there are other things in life.
Or it would be easy, if the ocean didn’t remind me.
There’s an image going around Facebook right now, with a quote: “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.”
When I first saw that, I didn’t believe the sweat part, but the other two made sense.
Since then I have learned how my body needs to be hydrated and had the pleasure of spending a number of evenings in a wood-fired sauna. Indeed. Sweat, tears, or the sea.
And when all else fails, just the sea. Go to the ocean, go on it, get into it if you can. Let it surround you. It is visceral and immersive in the most complete and literal of ways. It will indeed wash you clean, draw out the toxins of your blood, body, and soul, lull you, cradle you, make you laugh despite yourself, and force you to stay on your toes.
One of the most embodied people I know was almost killed in it. One minute she was wild, alive, in her element. The next she was fighting rocks and salt for her life.
She made it. Just.
We all have times when we make it. Just.
And we all have times when if not for magical timing and incredible, beautiful human intervention, we wouldn’t have had that extra fraction of a toehold that made the difference between life and death.
But if you want to remember that you are alive, if you want something big enough to hold everything, all of it, even the feelings you think you will drown in, the sea is your answer. Go to the sea. Not a giant lake, not the rivers; for this you need the biggest thing there is. Go to the sea and let it hold you.
The answers will seep into your bones as you float, leave your toes wrinkled, drop sand on your carpets when you go home.
The answers are in the salt water.
Go and find them.
Several years ago, I discovered (via Christine Kane) that there were alternatives to making resolutions. This was good, because I have a terrible track record with resolutions.
If you ask me to do something unpleasant I am instantly a thousand-million times less likely to do it than if you had just left me alone. I like to feel like I’m giving gifts, not completing obligations. If you don’t ask me to do it, it’s a gift. Once you’ve asked (or worse, told) then I hafeta. Only I donwanna. Iguana.
(If you, too, are rules-resistant but still have goals you want to approach, supportively and easefully, I can help).
So you can imagine how I respond to resolutions, turning exciting possibilities into RULES OF DOOM.
AT WHICH ONE CAN ONLY FAIL.
Right, so fast forward to 2009 or so. And I discover the idea of a word of the year. Not at all like a resolution. More like a conversation. A theme. An idea. A focus. A lens.
I can do that. In spades. Metaphor! It’s almost like poetry! I like poetry.
I don’t remember what my first word of the year was, but it was kind of amazing to see what happened. So I did it again. And again.
This last year (2011) was prosperity. Can I tell you? I never knew how much shit I had around money and prosperity until I made it my word of the year. Also? How much was possible.
It’s a learning framework. It’s not like, “oh, my word is work, now I’m going to have as much work as I want!” It’s more like, “oh, I wonder what my relationship is to work? Let’s find out, shall we? Oh my god, I had no idea THAT was in there! And my missing sock!”
Now when I go looking for a word of the year, I don’t exactly look, because it’s kind of like rules. The more stiff I am, the harder and more awkward it gets. More flexibility = more ease.
So I plant a seed and go on about my business, and the word pops up, and then again, and then again, and then I say, “hi! looks like you’re it!”
And this year’s word? Snuck up on me as usual.
Well yes, like magic. But the word is also magic.
There’s some here-you-see-it-here-you-don’t.
There’s some poof!
There’s also some interesting stuff. I resisted magic because oy, how much pink-unicorn-i’s-dotted-with-hearts can one year take?
But then I thought…what are the rules you have about magic?
What do you think you know about magic?
And I discovered it’s like pink.
Apparently some part of my brain thinks that magical thinking is a bad thing.
Apparently magic is for Other People. And it is Not To Be Trusted.
Apparently it is also a gateway of sorts.
And a secret door.
And when I did some drawing and writing about 2012 before I picked my word, apparently this is the year of the Tolkienesque quest, complete with words like wend and tools like wand. And lots of trees.
So who knows where this is going?
here we come!
My favorite used car salesman is barely a salesman at all.
His name…well, let’s call him M. He works for a local dealership. And he spends a lot of time talking, a lot of time listening, and a lot of time smiling.
He has never pushed me into a purchase.
I have never felt rushed.
I have never felt hurried.
And I will willingly go back to that dealership over and over again.
I’ve learned my lesson.
I’ve decided I’m against urgency.
This is a radically unpopular stand in some circles, including what appears to be the whole internet. Even people who sell stuff and experiment with not-urgent eventually decide that urgency is the way to go.
It makes people make a choice. Yes or no, but not the endless maybe.
Only four spots left!
In other words, hurry up!
I don’t like to make fast decisions, although I’m capable of it. I prefer to think things through, check in with my brain and with my gut, and go from there.
I am, as I type, in the midst of trying to make an urgent decision.
It feels, predictably, icky.
My gut says yes. But my brain can’t figure out why, or if it’s on the verge of having a much better idea.
Urgency can make us shit or get off the pot. But urgency can also make us leap without knowing where we’re going.
And I think urgency is inherently extroverted, favoring process-out-loud over process-and-then-talk.
Now there’s some urgency that’s real: house burning down, urgent agenda is to leave. Well, yes. Obviously urgent. Good reason to hurry. But if you know you’re going to do something by x day, say release a product for a week’s worth of selling, give me a month notice. Or two. More if it costs a lot. I can make a decision nice and fast, but my budget can’t keep up with my brain all the time. I like to know where my money is coming from and where it’s going. Instant demands for large chunks of cash can turn a possible sale into an impossibility, no matter how much I want it.
Give me a heads up. Let me save. Let me plan. Half of why we’re having so much trouble with credit these days is that urgency built into every purchase we make. Hurry! Order yours today!
Gone are the days of peering in the toy store window, longing for a bicycle for a month or a year. If you don’t buy it this week it will be gone, sold, replaced with a newer and more expensive model. Saving up becomes this Sisyphean task because the price is always just a little out of reach, so we learn not to try. Better to just buy now on credit and pay forever.
What a mess.
So, my dear colleagues in the internet world:
If your thing costs more than $75–or heck, more than $50–
please don’t act like everyone is rich. Instead, be like my car salesman.
Announce the thing well in advance of any deadlines, and don’t expect sales right away. Say the price right up front, and the timetable.
I will be selling Magic Widget X starting now, for two months. It will cost $437.21. Here’s a permalink for your toolbar. I will email you to remind you about the deadline if you sign up for this list right here.
Now when I get your email I am happy to hear from you, because I didn’t want the Magic Widget X deal to slip away without making a conscious choice about it. I will have had the chance to try to save up the money. I am less likely to spend what I don’t have.
And if I do spend it because I saved it, I’m likely to feel a whole lot better about that, too.
I tweeted about my dinner plans before I went grocery shopping. @sexyethics wanted the recipe. But first I had to make it up.
So here it is, as promised, as I did it–my Dadi would be proud:
Salmon in thai curry squash soup
Make yourself some soup: take a big soup pot, add butter, heat it gently; when it’s melted add two medium onions, sliced. Sprinkle with sea salt. Chop two cloves of garlic into several chunks each. Saute until the onions are about halfway to translucent, plus or minus. Chop your butternut squash (you have one handy, right?) into large chunks and peel them. Put the chunks into the pot, add more salt and water to cover them. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. When the water is hot, add concentrated fish base if you have it. Otherwise check the salt levels. In fact, check them anyway. After it’s simmered long enough that the squash is soft, turn the heat off and stir in two cans of coconut milk and a substantial amount of red curry paste (YMMV, I put about two heaping tsp). At this point I raided the Indian spice cupboard: a healthy sprinkle of turmeric, not-insignificant amounts of red chili powder, a dash of mango powder, a dash of asafoetida, a very small number of cumin seeds. And salt to taste.
Insert stick blender and blend until smooth.
More simmering, gently.
Add the fish: Meanwhile, take about 1.8 lbs of salmon fillets with skin on. Slice them into portion-sized pieces. Sear them with salt in hot olive oil. Then drop them gently into the soup and simmer until they are just cooked.
Turn off the TV; take your time. Eat. Enjoy.
This is a post about a little thing that’s a big thing.
I need to start by saying this: I’m not a therapist. I’m not a doctor. If you need a therapist or a doctor, I am in no way meaning to contravene the advice and guidance you get from them or from other professionals.
And years ago (finally, it’s years ago) I lived with depression. I lived with it every single day. I woke up with it; I went to sleep with it; it stalked me down the halls and sat with me at dinner.
I had never known anything else; it is likely that I lived with it from childhood onward.
So I didn’t know what it was like to wake up without anxiety. I didn’t realize most people felt relaxed and happy when they left the house in the morning. Hell, I didn’t even know what happy really felt like.
I was born in the seventies. It was 2001 before I saw through the grey mist for the first time.
And when I did–when the clouds parted and I got a glimpse into something larger–it was like getting new glasses. I understood so much more about people, about the world, about my own life, and I had tools! I could actually use what I knew to learn to respond differently to the world around me.
I began retraining my brain.
Anyone who knows brains will tell you: your brain changes according to stimuli.
But it isn’t just the stimuli around you; it’s also the stimuli inside you. When you are depressed for an extended period, it changes the architecture of your brain. Your brain is a different shape because it’s been depressed. (Or anxious, or exhausted, or whatever). It actually adapts to that way of being and makes it easier to be that way in the future, and harder to be a different way.
So for example, if you’re living with depression, it’s easier to continue to be depressed–biologically–than it is to begin to be happy.
And if you are bringing yourself out of a depression, your brain will need support and help and patience as you reshape it. It’s like physical therapy. Day one, you can barely get out of bed; day 100, maybe you can walk to the end of the hall; day 365 you go for a gentle run around the block every day.
People who are depressed often have trouble experiencing pleasure. So it seems odd to suggest that pleasure could be a path out of depression. But it is, in fact, part of the picture.
Sometimes the antidepressants can do a good job of tricking your brain into trying a different path for long enough that you can start to build new habits. And sometimes they do other things. We don’t really know how or why they work (for some people and not for others, for some time and then they stop, once but not before or after) but for some people they do. And anything that helps with depression is, well, help. A step in the right direction. That’s a good thing.
But even if you’re like me, and the drugs just don’t seem to help (brain fog is miserable. Utterly, completely miserable.) there are ways to get there.
One of those ways is ease–doing the easeful thing.
One of those ways is grace–being graceful with your own limitations.
One of those ways is distraction and surprise–and not feeling guilty because you’re supposed to be miserable is a practice. You get better at it with time.
There are more: companionship. Abundance. Touch. Food. Motion.
And accessing them is a skill. Using them is a skill.
A learnable skill.
Harder to learn in the midst of a depression? Yes. But even then, not impossible.
Repeat from above: this is not a substitute for medical care or therapy. Not.
But it is a way to make it more effective.
The more you access pleasure, the easier it gets.
So yes, pleasure practices are for you, too.
I have an old piece where I wrote about some of the toehold things I did to get some traction. Depression is a many-colored thing. Your mileage will almost certainly vary. But if changing your habits around pleasure interests you, get on my list (the form is over on the right). There’s more coming.