Kick-ass Author #5 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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As I’ve put together this short list of kick-ass writers over the last several weeks, I know I’m leaving out countless other amazing authors whose books also pick up on the powerful themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. In fact, I could probably make writing about other people’s books a full-time blogging job. I’m an unabashed devotee of books that inspire and nudge people to look inward and move forward. And I love connecting people to books.

But alas, this time around I’m committed to five recommendations only. So here’s the last in my series on Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown):

 

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

This book is for you if: You feel you have something inside you that needs to get “out there” but don’t know where or are too scared to start; you have silenced or hidden your inner artist ever since that elementary school art teacher told you, “you’re not doing it right”; you are trying to solve a problem or express an emotion or amplify your life and think creativity might be the way forward. 

If you are thinking, “I’m not creative, this book is not for me” then you need to read this book. If you’re thinking, “I’m too busy with serious ‘real-life’ stuff to concern myself with creativity” then get yourself to a book store pronto and buy this book.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a stand for all of us to live a creative life: To live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. She explains that creative living is what separates a mundane existence from “an amplified existence” (don’t you love that?) Creative living – in all its manifestations – is for all of us. Do you see how you need to read this book?

Big Magic is a great read, presented in nice, easily-digestable chapter “nuggets” that speak to overcoming the fear of stepping into the creative arena. Her book invites you to find all your “not enough” gremlins, look ’em square in the eye and then promptly kick them to the backseat.

 

She is like the friend who tells you, “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

 

Gilbert challenges you to question all the stories you tell yourself about the way things are, nudging you to find a different, better and more daring story to tell. She speaks to self-care and compassion, giving yourself permission, and the occasional, much-needed smack upside the head (e.g. “Fear is boring.”)

What I love the most is Gilbert’s voice in this book: it feels like you’re sitting down with your best friend over a coffee/glass of wine, and she’s telling you the things you need to hear about expressing your creative self. She is like the friend who tells you,  “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

As an added bonus, Gilbert launched her podcast, Magic Lessons, to continue exploring her ideas from Big Magic. It’s really worth a listen, especially Episode 12 which features an interview with Brené Brown herself!

Now, if you really want to get serious about exploring your creativity, check out my awesome friend and coaching colleague, Allyson Woodrooffe. Allyson helps people find their voice and live their truth through creative expression, and she is definitely someone you want alongside your journey to find your creative self.

To wrap up, let me say that I would love to hear about your favourite reads that touch on the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. Send me your list on my Facebook Page.

And if you end up reading any of the five writers/books I’ve suggested over the past few weeks, please post a comment below or to my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought of it!

 

My Year Of Creative Living

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“Creative living…is about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”  

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I was really struck by this statement written by Elizabeth Gilbert in her latest book, Big Magic.

I actually believe I was meant to read this statement when I did. I had been feeling a simmering of sorts for a while and when I read this sentence, I sat up and took notice. Yes!  This is what’s been simmering: a more creative life. I had been feeling a deep-seated charge inside to get more of “me” out “there”. I want to live a creative life. I want to live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear. This will be my year for creative living!

It feels a little like the past couple of years have been serious years for me. Lots of deep work; lots of deep reflection; lots of quiet inward gazing. I don’t know what it is, but for me, 2016 feels like it has to be about living out loud. Letting go of seriousness and letting in fun. It’s going to be about testing waters and playing with expressing myself in new ways (read: not just by writing my blog). I’m taking a page from my kids’ playbook: if something looks like fun, try it.

Here was my first taste: I have a deck of self-care cards, which is basically a deck of 52 cards with different intentions and inspirational tidbits on them. I pick a card every so often to see what the universe wants to tell me at that moment. Back in December, I chose a card that said “Resurrect a childhood dream. Let your passion take flight.” Ok, sometimes these cards are dead-on with their messages and I’ll read something that resonates big-time for me. This card, however, fell flat for me. I kept thinking back to what I dreamt about in my childhood and came up empty. I couldn’t think of one childhood dream that I’d want to resurrect.

Later that day, I was searching online for a painting course at our local recreation centre when I came across a course description for tap dancing. My jaw dropped. THAT was my childhood dream! To tap dance! I remember pretending that my shiny black Mary Jane’s were tap shoes. I remember bringing those shoes to school and lying to all my friends about taking tap lessons. I dreamed about being the next Shirley Temple with the blonde curls and the cute skirts, charming everyone with my dimpled smile and mad tap skills.

Alas, I never took a tap lesson in my life. Until now.

So, okay universe… thank you for the message! I signed up that week. And I start in a week and a half. That got me to thinking: what else have I always wanted to try and haven’t? And with that, I came up with a list of 10 creative acts that are completely new for me that I want to try in 2016. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Tap dancing
  2. Playing the ukulele
  3. Writing a book (yes, a book.)
  4. Building something (out of wood, I think)
  5. Decorating a cake – like one that you’d want to buy in a bakery
  6. Painting an abstract painting
  7. Left-handed drawing/sketching
  8. Writing a poem (or a prayer or a song… whichever way it decides to come out)
  9. Voice training – to sing, orate or otherwise be in better control of my voice
  10. Write a series of jokes… like for a one-minute comedy routine, or something.

Let me say, for the record, each one of these things scares me. I mean, really scares me. Life would be a whole lot easier if I didn’t choose to do any of these things this year. But I am curious. And this IS a year of fun. So I’m doing it! I’m doing them all!

I’m going to take on one creative act per month (save for the summer, when I will practice some of those that are a bigger commitment, like ukulele-playing) and write about it here. And, you guessed it, the themes of vulnerability, shame, courage, connection and compassion are going to show up… because putting more of “me” out “there” is a big, new, scary arena with a whole audience of critics I’ve avoided most of my life.

So, welcome to a new chapter of showing up, being seen and living bravely. Onward, upward!

 

 

What I’ve Learned About Surrendering

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I wrote about my Surrender Experiment back at the beginning of November, and here’s what I’m learning as I practice letting go of control, embracing what shows up and honouring each moment as sacred:

Surrendering is hard.

At least at the beginning it is. I cannot tell you the number of times (each day) I catch myself with eyebrows furrowed, planning and playing out scenarios, all in an attempt to control the direction of any given thing in my life. Big and small things alike, my mind is kept very busy in future-focused mode.

And, like everything worth doing, surrendering is a practice. So now it’s coming more easily to me to release the worrying, the planning, the playing-out of every possible scenario to find the “best” way forward, and choosing instead to let go and see what happens. I have moments, mind you, where the conversation in my head is something like, “Are you crazy? You can’t just let things go. What if this-and-this happens? Or that-and that?” Anxiety creeps in, and that brings me to my next lesson…

Trust is surrender’s best friend.

Turns out that an experiment in surrendering is also a big experiment in trust. And I don’t mean trust in the sense of “trusting everything will work out just fine”. No, I mean trust in myself. Surrendering control means I must be willing and able to trust in myself, that I will be “enough” – smart enough, strong enough, grounded enough, resourceful enough – to manage, deal and otherwise live with whatever happens, good or bad.

This is a big one for me. A big gremlin message for me is, “are you sure you can handle it?” The thinking behind this is: If I’m not prepared, if I haven’t thought through every possible scenario, if I haven’t set up all my ducks in a row, then when the shit hits the fan, I’m going down. There is so much fear pooled around this thinking that my chest feels heavy just writing about it.

So, letting go of control and surrendering to whatever shows up in my life is really about self-trust. And choosing to trust in myself rather than giving in to the anxiety of not being in control is also huge act of self-compassion. The moment I treat my anxiety with a message like, “trust that you are enough” or “you’re going to be ok” or “you can handle whatever comes”, a huge sense of peace and ease comes over me, and I am brought right into the present moment. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Possibility lives in every moment.

In any moment of surrender, another cool thing happens: it levels the playing field of all my life experiences. There are no moments more important than others. Whatever is here is what life is offering up, and who am I to say that this moment is any more or less valuable than the next?

It’s like this: when you surrender control and choose to embrace whatever shows up, then “whatever” is full of possibility. Surrendering makes me pay attention to everything I’m doing, because there could be magic in this moment (and, turns out, there is magic in every moment if I choose to pay attention to it). So walking the dog isn’t a chore that I have to get through just to get on to more important things. It’s the only thing that needs to be done at that moment, and so why shouldn’t I be fully present and attentive to the magic of it? There is no wasted time, no chasing time, no losing time. Each moment matters.

Nobody knows like the body knows.

One thing I couldn’t make sense of when I started out this experiment was, when does surrender turn into boundary-less, aimless drifting? If I surrender to everything, won’t people walk all over me? Won’t I be overwhelmed or run down by saying yes to everything? Won’t I just be going from one thing to another, saying yes to everything without any sense of direction?

Then, of course, I was reminded by my body that it knows better than my brain when it comes to these matters. It’s pretty simple, actually: When I’m in struggle, when I feel the tension in my gut and my eyebrow furrows and my head tilts forward in serious thought, it’s time to surrender. Feeling tense? Time to let go. Replaying thoughts in my head? Time to let go. Feeling my shoulders hunch up? Time to let go.

On the other hand, when I find a sense of positive energy and aliveness bubble up over something I see, hear or think about, then it’s time to embrace. Feeling peace and ease? Embrace. Feeling tickled pink? Embrace. Feeling hopeful and giddy? Embrace.

And luckily, because my body is always living in the present moment, attuned to what’s here now, I can trust what it tells me (if I just take the time to quiet down and listen, of course).

 

In a nutshell, I will say this: surrendering is an exercise in mindfulness that has the incredible power to bring instant peace and ease to my life. My word for 2015 was ease, and this has been an amazing experiment with which to end my year of choosing ease.

I’m excited for the holidays ahead of us, and will take a break from blogging until the new year. I’ve decided on a new two-fold focus for my blog in 2016: exploring and unpacking the Physics of Vulnerability, which is a foundational piece of Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong AND exploring my own vulnerability through creative expression (inspired by my other BFF, Elizabeth Gilbert and her Big Magic). That’s right: I’m challenging myself to a Year of Creative Expression where I will take on a new artistic medium every month and write about my experiences in pushing boundaries and being vulnerable in the arena of creativity. My first stab at this will be… wait for it… TAP DANCING! Nothing like starting off a year of vulnerability with a bang (and a tap)!

Happy holidays, dear readers. I wish each and every one of you love, light, peace, ease and big magic!