The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “physical”

Thank You

So I have been a lover of the law of attraction and everything it represents for a while now.  And while I’ve had my ups and downs, my “oops!” moments and my “aha!” moments, I’ve been slowly moving forward, making incremental progress, learning some hard lessons and seeing deeper into myself than I ever could have imagined going in.  Last night was another one of those massive info dumps that feels so much like a meteor crashed into my mind planet, and my ecosystem is going to have to rebuild itself again.

If you’ve been reading for any length of time, it’s quite obvious that I am obsessed with making a home of my own.  Whether that’s a tiny house on wheels, a cob house, a beautiful old Craftsman bungalow… I just feel this inner longing for *home* the way that normal women who don’t, as Margaret Cho put it, ovulate sand might long for children.  I cry about it – a lot.  Not like, oh boo hoo, I want a fancy house to be a status symbol cry, but deep, profound sadness that can only be described as being adrift on a violent ocean, yearning for home.  I want my safe harbor.  I *need* safe harbor.  My ship has broken apart in the storm.

As much as I have tried to be positive about it, I’ve struggled.  I’ve done all the envisioning exercises I could think of – I printed out house listings I was in love with and hung them up where I could see them; I bought a few books on tiny house building and a couple of small tools that I didn’t already have as gestures that I was going to DO this; I bought beautiful vintage light switch covers to put in my new home; I said mantras like “I have everything I need and want available to me.”  And by the way, when you are paying for groceries with pennies from the penny jar and behind on rent, dropping $10 on a tool you don’t need yet is a big deal.  I thought I was sending clear signals of faith to the universe, so things were sure to happen!  And yet.  I would look at those house listings and think, good things like that don’t happen to you.  Other people get to have a home of your dreams, but not you.  I felt like I was torturing myself a little.  Real estate was already way beyond my income – and it’s only been getting more expensive.  But I kept looking at it.

I would get bitter about how easy it seemed other people had it – either now or in the past.  My most teeth-gnashing knowledge was that when my parents were my age, my father earned more at his job, with only a high school diploma, than I have ever earned in my life (and I’m not talking about inflation-adjusted dollars – I mean in unchanging numbers), plus they had my mother’s income as well.  He wasn’t a great employee – I grew up hearing tales of he and his friends going out drinking during their extended lunch breaks and going back to the office sloshed, or sometimes not going back at all (and yet, no one got fired for this, while I’ve been fired for showing up to start my shift ten minutes late one time too many).  With the gobs of money (in my eyes) from his dial-it-in job, he bought a two-bedroom house that cost five thousand dollars less than he made in a year, in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs.  Cars cost a few grand.  And yet, due largely to his gambling habits, my parents lost everything – the house, the car, everything.  When opportunity after opportunity had been handed to them as a gift from on high, they squandered it.  And it pissed me the fuck off.

Now, I get that it pissed me off because it’s all a matter of perspective.  To a kid that lives in a shanty town made of cardboard and spends their days fetching water from three miles away and can’t go to school, I’m the one who has had opportunity after opportunity handed to me as a gift from on high.  Just as to my parents, it wasn’t a big deal to have what they had – jobs were plentiful and stuff was cheap; the economy was good and don’t all the Mad Men drink cocktails in the office?  Normal!  Why would they have seen it any differently?  But I was so angry.  That anger said, I wouldn’t squander those blessings if I had them.  I wouldn’t take them for granted!

Which was all just a great big block to me ever getting any kind of blessings that I dreamed of.

Now, I tried gratitude exercises – but I felt like I was giving thanks for largely little things.  Somehow I thought that would translate into big things.  Well, it didn’t.  Because I was thinking of them as little things.  Hence the incremental progress instead of large leaps forward in the physical realm.

I tried making myself feel like I already had the thing I wanted – and envision it in detail.  I was good at the envisioning.  I am a writer/artist, after all.  I came up with house design after house design after house design.  I thought, this is the one!  I’m going to get some money, and build this house.  I did it with cars, too – you can see the Smart Car picture in an earlier post from me going to their website and designing the one I wanted.

But did I feel like I actually owned that house?  Despite all my mantras, no, I did not.  The car?  Not that, either.  For a long time, I was sad when I saw cars that I liked – I felt like I was being teased with something I couldn’t have again.

For the past several months, I have been sending out love when I see a car I like (for the record, Universe, that’s Smart Cars, VW bugs, Mini Coopers, and Subaru hatchback station wagons.  Yes, I have to have the one big car outlier, because that’s how I roll).  Now it’s not forced, and I honestly smile when I see one and feel like the Universe is smiling back at me instead of teasing me.  It’s saying, “Hey look, here’s that cool thing you like!”  So I feel a lot better on that front.  But I was still at a loss as to how I was going to earn the money (because that’s what I was focused on) to build or buy my dream home… or my dream car.  The writing muse has been flirting with me but I don’t have a book near completion.  No publishers have responded to my short stories or found my blog and said, “Hey, we like your writing!  Want a book contract?”  I wasn’t hearing back anything from jobs I had applied to.  I didn’t suddenly have a sewing tutorial or cat video go viral on YouTube.  I wasn’t selling out of inventory at craft fairs or Etsy, or having people beating down my door to buy Beachbody products en masse.  So, barring a lotto win (I probably buy a ticket once every two months or so), I couldn’t see a way out.  It was “I need,” and “I want” …which is, say it with me, NOT what you should be thinking if you are trying to attract things to you.

In other words, I was dialing in my manifestation efforts, like I had always felt my dad had a dial it in job.  I was saying what I wanted but not feeling it.  I was faking it ‘til I made it.  I was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.  But just like they say, if you smile even when you don’t feel like it, the action will often lead to you honestly feeling happy.  Well, the project-positivity-project has finally taken root, and I truly do feel positive about my life and the future.

What brought this on?  Well, I’ve been reading lots of books on manifestation, the law of attraction, and “new thought,” as they call it.  One of the pillars of these teachings is that you have everything available to you in the universe.  If it exists, you can manifest it.  If you can dream it, it exists.  “Hold,” you say.  “What about people who dreamed up things that never existed before, like inventors?”  Well, those inventions were made, weren’t they?  The components for anything you can ever dream are there – we just have to lasso them in.  The elements that made the resources that made the parts that made the first computer always existed – it’s just that no one put all those things together to create it until it was first imagined and designed, the international trade network was there, and prior inventions that were necessary for its creation – like electricity being harnessed – had been realized.

I understood this premise on an intellectual level, but I didn’t know it in my bones.  I didn’t feel like, okay, I have access to anything, my abundance is limitless, the world is my oyster!  Mantra after mantra did not seem to be infusing it into my core any more than I can learn through osmosis.

Last night was the shift that changed everything.

What triggered it?  Another Rhonda Byrne book?  Source material?  A great meditation session?  Nope.  It was one of those viral videos full of NASA footage, stirring music, and Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about how we are all stardust.

I had seen videos like that before – in fact, I think I had even heard that particular quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson before.  I loved them both, and thought they were beautiful at the time.  But just like sometimes, you read a book for the second time and all new things jump out at you, or it speaks to you in an entirely different way as you are at a different place in your life, this video hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I cried (this post is full of crying, isn’t it?  I swear I am not a geyser 24/7).  But it wasn’t “I’m sad,” crying, or even “I yearn,” crying – it was understanding crying.  It was feeling connected with everything and everyone in the universe crying.  It was a beautiful moment crying.  It was gratefulness crying.  I actually felt it.  It was a spiritual experience.  I felt myself expanding.

And in that moment, I truly, for the first time, knew that I was one with everything in the universe.  Not just on an intellectual level – but in my bones.  In my heart.  In my soul.  I knew I had access to anything and everything.  And I had gratitude of such a profound depth that it eclipsed all my little gratitude games and mantras.  I’ve had a great day today, and more is to come.  I don’t say that to mean, I hope I have more great days.  I just know that I will.

This blog is to say, don’t lose hope!  Keep at it.  Even if you are not feeling it at first, it will come.  Read, study, meditate.  Do all the mantras and exercises.  All those little efforts will prepare you for the much larger breakthroughs, like paving the road for a manifestation superhighway.  I think I just opened my on-ramp.  And I’m driving along in my dream car (I’m looking at you, Einstein)!

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Inside Out

So, probably at least partially due to the sacral chakra sledgehammering, I have been taking a long, hard look at some self/body image issues.  Yes, I’ve had them.  Most of us probably have, to some extent.  But as “sledgehammering” implies, I haven’t been dealing with a sigh-in-the-mirror type of reaction – I’ve been calling it “there was a f**k-up in the soul-depositing factory on the day I was made.”  So… pretty hardcore discrepancies between what I feel like on the inside and what I look like on the outside.  And I knew these feelings were resurfacing and running me through the mud for a reason.  Cue the major insight music!

You see, despite these major discrepancies, I have not gone the route of body modification.  Of any kind.  There have been no surgeries.  I have no tattoos.  The only piercings I have are one in each earlobe.  I’ve never even dyed my hair… and except for hunting-and-pecking for split ends, it hasn’t been cut since I was nine years old.  The extent of my makeup inventory is a stick of eyeliner… that I don’t even wear most days.  I neither lie in a tanning bed nor paint myself a chemical shade of orange (I’m so pale I practically glow in the dark).  Basically… I am au naturel.  What you see is the way I was made.  It’s not what is on the inside, but it is the way I was made.

It is weird, despite the disparity between my “inside” and my “outside,” that I never tried to make the outside match more.  Certainly many, if not most folks do, to some extent or another.  But it has always seemed – and this was part of the insight tonight, why it bothered me so much when I thought about doing it – to me, at least, a violation of self.

Now let me clarify.  I take no issue with other people engaging in body modification.  I’ve seen plenty of piercings and ink that I thought looked great on the person who had them, and many folks who got a boost of happiness and/or self-confidence with their newly-dyed tresses.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  More power to you.  I am not at all saying that it bothers me to see *others* change their outside to better match their inside.  And certainly for the more serious changes – transitioning surgery for transgendered folks kind of serious – if that gives you peace with yourself for the first time in your life, by all means – be happy.  Please do.  But when I considered various changes that would better reflect my inside on my outside, on a personal basis, I always had this rather viseral reaction of revulsion.  Like, made-me-shudder-to-think-about-it disgust.  And I never knew why that was.  I have spent many nights in abject misery, wallowing in the it’s-not-fair bog of self-loathing, and yet I just couldn’t do it.  I just have always felt that somehow, the modification would bother me more than the original misalignment.

It finally came to me that that wretched feeling was a feeling of violation.  The violation of self.  I couldn’t modify my outside because I felt that would be violating it – violating me, somehow.  That seemed like a rather arbitrary assessment, in the that’s-not-very-rational sense, until the latter part of the insight came: because seeking inner peace by aligning my outside to my inside was going about it wrong.  Happiness, inner peace, and calm don’t come from external forces – at least not if you want them to stick.  You may get a shopping high when you buy some new gadget or gizmo, but that high doesn’t last forever.  You can’t force happiness by shoving it through your pores with acquired goods.  Would finally owning my own home (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know I’m a little obsessed with that idea) make me happy?  Absolutely.  Would it solve all my problems in the world so that I had no more reasons to be sad?  Decidedly not.  A new house wouldn’t be a replacement for a new friend, or fulfilling my higher calling, or any number of not-stuff things that rank much higher on the happiness scale.  My body matching my mind (if that was even possible) might make me smile when I looked in the mirror or give me more confidence when dealing with others, but I would never be truly free of the limitations of the physical self if I aimed to modify it instead of my inner self.  It would be like chasing my own tail (no, I do not have a tail – but you dog people and cat people know what I’m talking about).  Why waste energy chasing after something that is already a part of me?

I am what I am.  My inside is what it is.  My soul and my mind will be what they are no matter what my body looks like.  Maybe people won’t relate to me the way I would like, because they are going on my outward appearance rather than my inward reality… but that happens anyway, and frankly, those aren’t the relationships we should be worrying about.  I don’t want shallow relationships with people who look only at my cover and not the inner chapters of self.  The person who takes the time to read those chapters is going to know me, whether my cover reflects that or not.  My inner self is incorruptible.  Fixating on the exterior is tilting at windmills.

The foreman at the soul-depositing factory is off the hook.

Do A Little Dance

Sometimes, when dancing, you have to let go and just trust.  If you’ve got a partner, you have to trust that they won’t drop you or step on your toes.  If you’re alone, you have to let go of your inhibitions and stop wondering what others will think of you.

This applies to life, too.  Sometimes, you have to let go and just trust.  And sometimes, that can be scary as hell.

I find myself doing the throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air-in-unabashed-trust move, only to take a good look at what I’m doing and grab onto that safety bar in a gut-clenching, reflexive spasm, like letting go on a roller coaster.  There you are, feeling all secure in your seat, hands waving in the air, then you tip over the top of that hill and… hold on for dear life, even though you’re just as secure as you were on the way up.  I have to learn to keep my hands up there, and just scream my head off like all the other thrill-seekers.

First I was dancing, now I’m riding roller coasters.  Because that’s the kind of blog post this is going to be.

It’s never the metaphysical stuff I fear.  “The Shift”?  2012?  Unleashing the oddness that is the Real Wren upon the world (well, perhaps y’all should be afraid of that one)?  Unearthing old psychological scars?  Downloads?  Hippies (I live in Colorado, I had to make a South Park reference)?  Nope.  All good.  Bring it on.  I want to bend the metaphoric spoons with the best of them.  It’s the old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thing: I look at my bank account, which I was completely unconcerned about this morning, and clench.  I start adding up bills in my head, minus planned income, and I start freaking out about where the remainder is going to come from.  This morning I was in happy, it-will-all-come-in-time land.  Then cold, hard numbers had me looking up at the sky, wondering where the hell that you-don’t-have-to-worry-about-this-anymore windfall is when I really need it.  Which of course (*cough*LawOfAttraction*cough*), is exactly what I shouldn’t be thinking.  Thinking I need, thinking I want, thinking I don’t have it already just attracts… needing, wanting, and not having.  It’s fear-based thinking.  I need to dance on over to the love side of the spectrum.

I’ve already been working on exercises to change the way I think about money.  How many of us have this problem: I’ve heard over and over how “dirty” money is.  I’m not speaking metaphorically, here: I mean it has germs on it.  Think about where it’s been.  So I got into the habit of, touching money = germy, so I should wash my hands after I touch it.

Think about what message I was sending the universe: money is dirty and gross, I don’t like touching it, and I must wash myself clean of its essence any time I have some in my hands.

That’s a solid F- in Law of Attraction abundance thinking.

So I’m trying to override the hand-washing need and the “ew, germs” thoughts; I keep two dollar coins in my pocket (dollar coins make me happy, I like them) to look at and think, “I like this money; I like holding it; I’m keeping it” when I come across them; I’m doing an exercise from The Power that has to do with how you store money in your pocket/wallet, and what you think of when you look at it.

OK, so I promote my grade to a C-.  I’m still looking at that bank account and going, “I must plan!  That bill is due, and that one is soon due, and that one is overdue!  I must know how I’m going to pay them!  I must have details!  And what about the rent?!”

I need to look at my bank account and think, “I have so much money in there!  I never have to worry about this again!  I should go car shopping and buy Einstein right now!”

And as much as I try to Stuart Smalley my way around that one, my inner “realist” is like, “Groceries, Wren.  Concentrate on what you can actually do.  Concentrate on what you need right now.  Groceries.  Rent.  Bills.”

I hesitate to, say, go to the Smart dealership and look around because I feel like I’ll be wasting the salesperson’s time if I don’t have the ability to sign on the dotted line today.  But that’s exactly what I need to do.  I need to go and sit in the car, and imagine owning it, and feel what it’s like in there.  I need to act, with confidence, like I’ve got all the funds in the world.  Because otherwise, I’m just sending the universe mixed messages.

So my assignment, if I choose to accept it, is to go and drool over Smartcars, and possibly annoy some innocent salesperson asking about getting it in that nifty brown color.  It’s not wasting their time or mine, if this prompts the universe to channel the funds to me, and then I go back and find that nice salesperson and buy the car a month from now.  That will be my dance of confidence.

So what dance do you need to do to move forward, and show the universe that you fully believe you’re doing it?  Leave a comment – let’s give ourselves homework assignments!

Fulfilled = Fulfillment

This thought is still fresh and somewhat percolating, so forgive me if I need to revisit it later to clarify some things, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the difference between being fulfilled and being a fulfillment.  Here’s what I mean: being fulfilled, as in, you’re content, you have all that you need, your wants and desires are fulfilled.  Being a fulfillment is more like being the fulfillment of a plan, your destiny, or even your potential.  How many of us were told in school to “fulfill our potential”?  In other words, it would have been a crime if Einstein had become a janitor (that one movie with Matt Damon notwithstanding).  We want the great scientists to be great scientists, the great artists to be great artists, the great parents to be great parents, etc.  We don’t want people inherently gifted in one area to ignore those gifts trying to pursue endeavors where their contribution might be mediocre at the expense of what would be amazing contributions in their naturally talented subjects.

A lot of people don’t believe in destiny or fate, and that’s fine, I’m not altogether certain that I do, either.  At least not in the sense of how they are normally understood.  However, I think it was Leonardo DaVinci’s purpose to be a great artist and inventor, Stephen Hawking to be a great scientist, Michelle Kwan to be a great athlete, and Jimi Hendrix to be a great musician.  And I think all of us have a “purpose”.  No, we’re not all going to be world-renowned or famous, but say your purpose is to be a great parent: maybe you don’t win any awards or get a ton of recognition, but your contribution goes forward beyond your life through the lives of the kids you raise.  You’re still changing the world, even if you’re not in any history books for doing so.

So, fulfilled versus fulfillment was what I had been dwelling upon, and then tonight while meditating, I was asking questions of the Universe/God.  What am I supposed to do, why am I here, what’s the meaning of life, you know, mild stuff.  No pressure, Universe.  In this same meditation session I was putting out there my wants on a very “physical realm” type level.  I want financial security (I’ve already discussed the difficulty in focusing on higher purpose when you’re stuck low on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totem pole).  I want a home.  I yearn for a home.  I dream of a home.  I look at real estate listings and cry.  Really, really (really), I’m obsessed with having a home of my own (yes, it’s just me and the kitties in my apartment, but I rent.  I want a home I can truly call my own).  And as I was thinking of the more physical realm stuff, one of the larger answers hit me: I’m supposed to write my book.

Yes, the book has transmogrified in scope these past several months, and the original “happiness manifesto” idea has given way to a much larger concept (plus, I found out sometime after starting this blog and the book that there is apparently already a book called “The Happiness Manifesto” – oops!  While I’m sure it does not have my subtitle (“How I beat the living hell out of suffering and made it my bitch”), I didn’t even think to search for similar titles when I was still in the just-starting-out phase of writing.  Gah!  If anyone finds this blog looking for information on that book, sorry – not me.  I didn’t even know it existed until I was browsing on my Kindle one day and lo, there it was.  I just about kicked myself.  I’m sure there are books out there with alike titles, but still – so it’s a good thing that that is no longer the title).

Anywho, The Book (it will heretofore be referred to as The Book in capital letters, as even though it has another working title, I don’t want to a: goof again before I’ve researched that no one else has a book out by that title and b: it’s still shifting around in my head, and I may change it again when all is said and done.  I’m not putting it past me at this point).  The more I think on it, the more The Book is my raison d’être.  I want to write.  I’m meant to write.  Don’t worry, I’m not growing a massive ego and thinking I am The Most Awesome Writer Ever, but I must write.  I used to write so prolifically that I could reliably sit down and pound out a chapter in one sitting, giggling to myself as twists and turns came to me as I was writing them.  I gauged if it was any good or not by how violently my best friend threatened my well-being if I did not write the next chapter soon (I was really good at a cliffhanger).  Now, of course, I look at those old stories from my college days (or high school days or junior high days – yes, I wrote stories to share with my friends back then, too) and think, wow, I was really young.  Characters developed in my head as I was writing them, and so the original vision didn’t always mesh with the end product.  I was famous for going back and doing re-write after re-write after re-write in an attempt to align the earlier flying-blind parts with the later now-I-know-who-this-person-is-and-where-the-story-is-going parts.  I was more famous for forgoing paper altogether and just regaling my friends with verbal stories; the aforementioned best friend and I would take a random drive and she would put forth her one-word request: “Story?”  My friends knew the universe inside my head by then and it was nice to just shoot the shit with my characters and not worry about having to spell out backstory for potential new readers to understand what I was talking about.  Also, it was the most awesome way to test out new ideas and character developments ever.  But I digress.

The point is, I’ve always been a writer.  And lately it seems to come in fits and spurts, and as often as not I go back to the completed parts and look on them with disdain some time later.  It’s not that it seems terrible, but it does seem contrived.  Or young.  Yes, there’s that word again.  When I look back at my writing and think young, it’s the equivalent of crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it in a wastebasket.

Though now I look at my old stories and think young, I actually was young at the time.  I’m allowed to think the oeuvre of my twenty-year-old self seems young.  But I don’t look at it with disdain: I look back on it with fondness and pride.  I actually wrote that book, and that book.  I told thousands of stories.  I drew thousands of related comics.  One of the friends who read and heard the stories even drew comics based on the characters in my universe.  I inspired someone else.  My stories spoke to someone else.  I couldn’t have asked for better confirmation of worth than that.  Yeah, I was young, but my youthful stories spoke to other young people.  To this day I can drop a reference to those stories among that group of friends and get a giggle.  And two of my cats (I have three) are named after two people from that pantheon of characters.  Those stories are a huge chunk of my life.

Today, not only have I shifted my focus both in reading and writing to non-fiction (it’s rare that I pick up a novel anymore, though it does happen occasionally), but I don’t seem to be able to sit and churn out a chapter as I used to.  I would be okay with a slower pace if it was at least steady, but it’s not that either.  It’s very much as if my muse is teasing me with hints of what I will be writing more than actually writing it.

Tonight, in that meditation session, the reason came to me: my mind is still too focused on the Maslow’s Level Two stuff to be absorbed in The Book.  Back when I used to sleep, eat, and breathe Story, it was my survival mechanism.  Life was supremely craptastic and so I escaped to the much better world in my head, and ran on autopilot in “the real world”.  Now I’m firmly anchored in “the real world,” and unable to fully let myself escape into Book World.

Therein lay my answer to the fulfilled/fulfillment question: it shouldn’t read “versus”.  It’s more like, in order to be a fulfillment of your purpose, you need to be fulfilled.

I’m not fulfilled in the “physical realm”.  I need to be so I can let go and fully engage in The Book.

Now, I’m not saying every wild dream has to come true in order for me to fulfill my purpose in writing The Book.  In fact, that would be a Star Trek-worthy paradox, as completing and publishing The Book is one of those dreams.  What I’m saying is, I need to feel “safe” enough to go and live in the alternate universe that you really have to take residence in in order to pen a meaningful work.  I need to not worry about how I’m going to pay the bills, or where I’m going to live, or when am I going to do this or that.  I need to have some basic things taken care of that are taking away precious focus from writing.  I have been better about not stressing so hard about things like money, but to be frank when I’m not sure where/how/when it’s coming, I do focus on things related to it, like: I need to list more things in my Etsy shop.  I need to check Craigslist for temp jobs.  I need to make business cards.  I need to “network”.  I need to list more things in my Zazzle shop.  I need to submit another article in an attempt to get published and paid for something now.  Etc.  It’s a very different distraction trying to establish yourself as a freelancer than working a full-time “day job”.  It may be more miserable, but in some ways it can be easier to mindlessly punch in, do work, and punch out again.  The more mindless the job, the more my mind wandered off and dreamed up new stories.  But then again, when I was in a horrid make-you-cry-in-the-restroom type job, there was no daydreaming there.  Well okay, there was, but it involved choice words to certain real-life people and maybe a middle finger or two; not exactly “storytime”.

So, I made a deal with the Universe.  God knows I don’t need or particularly want a lavish, crazy lifestyle.  But I do very much want certain needs taken care of, which would free up my brain to go live in Book World.  I want my own home; I want financial security; I want a car (yep, 33 years old, never owned a car.  In NYC that may be normal, but in Denver that’s shock-worthy).  The car seems arbitrary until you consider how much more involved it is for me to go anyplace (hours instead of minutes whether I’m bussing, bicycling, or walking.  How much can I carry or cart around if I’m grocery shopping.  The fact that I can’t do those things I would love to do and have always been good for my soul, like drive into the so-close-and-yet-so-far mountains and just enjoy the scenery or load up an SD card with metric tons of photographs.  There is no city bus that reads “pulls over at every cool spot for photographic opportunities”.  Go and visit friends and not worry about the last bus out or if I can hitch a ride.  Not have to deal with creepy creepers following/chasing/stalking/bothering me (yes, that’s happened… a lot) walking home or waiting for a bus.  Etc.  For me, it would be rather life-changing.  So I told the universe that basically, I need for the little things to not be so hard.  I need for them to not be so thought-consuming.  I need to be able to live somewhat on auto-pilot again but not because things suck; because it’s easy to do so.

It’s not that I want to be permanently on auto-pilot, though I do want my life to be permanently at least a little bit easier.  I want to know that if I follow my muse into Book World, where time moves much more slowly than it does here in physical realm, then I’m not going to come out of it with a completed chapter and an eviction notice.  I want for my physical realm to be safe so I can go play in the alternate Universe.

So there it is.  I get a safe home, the world gets my purpose fulfilled.  Not a bad deal, eh, Universe?

Your Body Is A Temple

Part of my spiritual upbringing included a whole lot of “Physical realm bad.  Spiritual realm good.  Must punish physical body in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.  Physical body doesn’t count.” type messages (and yes, I imagine that being said like a stereotypical caveman grunt.  Though I suppose cavemen might have had wondrously complex languages, you get the point).  So for a very long time, even as I thought I was maturing and growing, I still treated my body like a trash heap, and thought of it that way, too.

You’ll recall my previously stating how I came precariously close to becoming a full-fledged hoarder until I moved into my current apartment, which caused me to look the problem square in the face and deal with it.  I still am, four and a half years later.  It is a long and sometimes difficult process, but so worthwhile.  I never fully realized until I started watching the show Hoarders what this said about how I thought about myself.  In more than one episode, it has been made abundantly clear that some of the people surrounded themselves with trash because they thought of themselves as trash.  They perceived themselves as not worthy.  They thought they were disposable.

That was me.  I thought I was unlovable.  Easily discarded.  Worthless.  Trash.

Having that revelation brought front and center planted the seed of thought that I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with self.

After reading the book The Secret, which was filled with a revolutionary concept for me at the time, I decided that instead of beating myself down with negative self-talk, I would beat the negativity down and squash it like a bug.  And so the process began.

At the beginning, I felt a little Stuart Smalley-like, as though I should have been staring in a mirror and telling myself, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”  In other words, I felt more cheesy than the entire state of Wisconsin.  But I stuck with it, and after a while it became less forced.  I began to actually believe I was good enough, and smart enough, etc.  I felt less corny and more like I was having a deep psychological breakthrough.

Now, I had tried counseling a couple of times in my life, and other than it occasionally being nice to have someone to vent to, didn’t feel like it was helping me much.  This utter willpower maneuver of mandated positivity did more to repair my psyche than any outside person telling me that my thoughts were unhealthy ever did.  And I began to believe that I deserved love; I deserved happiness; I deserved respect.  Don’t all people?

But just recently this awareness took a new turn.  Even though I had been accepting that I deserved to be happy for a while now, I still wasn’t looking at my physical form with a whole lot of self-love.

Several months ago, I finally caved to months of pressure from my doctor to try easing up on my strict vegetarianism.  After over nine years of strident near-vegan “purity,” I agreed to try “a little fish” and see how I felt.  The doc felt I wasn’t getting enough protein or omega-3s.  She wanted to see if the omega-3s would help my mood, and the protein help balance my blood sugar (I was so hypoglycemic, I was crashing on a near-daily basis.  Sometimes more than once a day).

Holy mother of nutrition, did I feel almost immediately better.

The sugar crashing all but stopped.  I can now count on my fingers the number of times I’ve sugar crashed in the months since, instead of it being a given that it would happen regularly.  I had more energy, too.  Oh, and… the perpetual always-coldness began to let up, at least somewhat.  I’m still “the cold one” in a group, but there are times where I actually feel warm now.  That was nearly unheard of.

I quickly dubbed myself a pescatarian (someone who eats fish, but no other meat), and figured that was that.  But I had opened up the floodgates.  My body started having cravings I had thought were long dead.  It wanted more.

I fought it.  I already felt guilty; I thought of myself as a “failed vegetarian” or “weak” for giving in to what my body obviously needed.  I wondered why others seemed to do so well on a veggie diet and I didn’t.  You know how people are supposed to lose weight when they go veg?  I actually gained weight.  About 30 pounds.  I did not understand how that happened.  It brought up even more body-hate in my mind, because I used to be a stick.  Suddenly I felt ginormous.  I fasted as much as I could without putting myself in a diabetic coma, and my weight didn’t budge.  I restricted what was “acceptable” fare more and more.  I ate low-fat this and diet that.  Still fat.

So I caved.  All or nothing, right?  If I had already failed as a vegetarian, then I had failed.  Might as well go out with a chicken pot pie in hand and enjoy myself.

And I felt even better.  This was counter to every nutrition book I had read for the past decade (all aimed at vegetarians, mind you).  What really caused me to make the pescatarian-omnivore leap was reading a Jillian Michaels book on diet and nutrition.  She had recommended twice the amount of protein that one of my cherished veggie books had done.  Twice.  That wasn’t exactly splitting hairs.  That was a completely different take on nutrition.  So I started searching for more information online.

In addition to a mountain of blogs and websites I still find myself getting lost in for hours, I found an interview with Lierre Keith, a former vegan for twenty years and author of the book The Vegetarian Myth.  It got me interested enough that I bought the audiobook (I have found that I love listening to a good non-fiction audiobook, in addition to reading them normally).  I’m still listening to it, but so far it is proving to be one of the most profound books I’ve ever read in my life (and as previously noted, I’m a bibliophile of epic proportions).  This isn’t some machismo rancher looking condescendingly down upon the wussy vegetarians and telling us how silly we are; this is someone who had many of the same motivations I did (save the animals!  save the earth!), and struggled with many of the same moral issues, who recognized her own willful blindness to the truth about everything, and slowly – and not without a fight – came around.  I can’t even begin to do it justice by attempting to summarize it here; but truly, if you really want to know about saving the animals, saving the earth, our health, the industrial food system, and how things really work, I can’t recommend this book enough.  So many of the things we think we know are wrong.

Anyway… let’s get this Amtrak train of thought back on its rail.  Honoring my body.

So, okay, I’ve been now exploring the world of traditional foods, homesteading (if ever there was a thing that I get passionately obsessed with, it’s homesteading), and the like, and learning about the nutritional needs of my body from a non-vegetarian perspective.  I feel like a new student in a completely foreign field of study, with so much to learn, and so little time.  But this metric ton of knowledge was all pointing to the same personal revelation: I had willfully been ignoring the very basic, very human, very physical needs of my body, relegating them to “weaknesses” and “unimportant” in the name of some “pure” ideal that was impossible to attain (yes, vegans, even you are not eating without death.  Just because there is no meat on your plate, doesn’t mean animals weren’t killed as pests on the farm, or by a harvesting machine, or for fertilizer, or when farmland was deforested or prairie turned into farmland, etc.  Read The Vegetarian Myth.  I promise, it’s not condescending.  It’s someone who wanted the same things you want).

So why were my very natural needs being given the short shrift?  Because I still felt my body was not “worth it”.  Not worth what?  Surviving?  Thriving?  Did I truly believe I was put on this Earth to suffer?

I took a look at how I was treating my body otherwise.  I either was punishing it with exercise, or none at all.  Eating junk, or not enough.  I didn’t respect the food I was using to nourish myself: the perpetual load of dirty dishes, my hadn’t-been-cleaned-in-ages refrigerator, the splatter-covered microwave and toaster oven.  The kitchen wasn’t the place to create sacred nourishment, it was the place to throw together something convenient and get the heck outta there.  No attention was paid – ironically, as I thought of myself as “food conscious” – to the act of nourishing my body, even as I obsessively counted calories or ounces of water.  Allergy season caused me to look at my bed – covered in pet hair, sheets rarely changed, the mattress producing a renegade spring that had stabbed my hand and drawn blood once already.  A litter box right next to it, which was placed there to try and prevent one of the kitties from peeing under it (it worked, but she has shifted territory again, so it’s rather moot at this point).  In addition to the spring escapee, all my bedsheets are old and threadbare, hand me downs, stained, torn, and otherwise just as problematic.  Even my bed frame is almost as old as I am, and a hand me down that used to be half of a bunkbed.  I’ve never in all my 33 years had a bed that wasn’t a bunkbed, or part of one, let alone something larger than a twin size.  I had to throw out the egg crate cushion I had on it to try and make things more comfortable because a kitty peed on it.  I had a dream where I was told this was like sleeping in my own filth.  And you know, it’s true.  There is a literal litter box right at the foot of my bed.  How was that respecting myself and the place where I was supposed to get rest?

Being that I’ve been living off of savings and grace since I lost the day job last year, now is not exactly the best financial time to go to a furniture store and buy a nice new full-size bed with a comfy mattress and new thick sheets.  I accept that I deserve these things now, but to buy them would lead to a case of… aaaaaand how am I going to pay the rent?  So.  I did the best I could with what I have.  Washed the blankets.  Changed the sheets.  Vacuumed the mattress, the box spring, all the nooks and crannies, the heat registers around the side of the bed.  The litter box is getting moved this weekend (it will take some furniture re-arranging to find it a new home).  I’ll shampoo the carpet then, too.

I also went a little cleaning-frenzy in the kitchen and did the dishes, cleaned the fridge, and the microwave.  Checked for expired beyond use foods and tossed them.  Cleaned the floor.  Now when I open the refrigerator door, it feels so white and clean… and pure.  Because I’m honoring what I put into my body.  I’m honoring where my body gets rest.  My body isn’t the means to an end, or a sub-par vessel that doesn’t count.  It isn’t “a bag of water” as one of my friends terms it.  It’s a temple.  One that I am the proud caretaker of.

Let It Be

For the past couple of months, I have been largely in what a friend of mine calls “cave time,” that is, time when you turn inward and live in your inner world rather than participating so much in the outer world, or as some might say, “the real world.”

I’ve had a lot of good insights into myself, my path, and life in general during this time, as well as a lot of “What on Earth have I done all day??” moments.  That was part of the lesson I learned during this time.

We often feel in our go-go-go, work-work-work, now-now-now society that “just being” is just a polite way of saying “lazy,” and of course, being “lazy” is “bad.”  We’ve got that masochistic work ethic drilled into us so much that the idea of “rest” is foreign and to be sneered at.  I’ve had this theme become rather ubiquitous in my life as of late.  Someone I follow on Google+ – or was it Facebook? – commented one day how it was brought to their attention when they had shared an update that they were taking a “lazy Sunday” and just resting and relaxing.  One of their friends had commented “Don’t make a habit out of it.”  Why not make a habit out of it?  They wondered.  Isn’t that the idea behind the weekend?  The sabbath?

Remember that notion?  One day a week where it was religiously mandated to relax and live in your inner world and commune with a higher power.  Why is that now “bad”?

I was browsing Kindle books a little while ago and found this gem I had never heard of before: “The Right To Be Lazy” by Paul Lafargue (Karl Marx’s son).  I’m not done with it yet, but in it he talks about how historically “work” was something to be scorned by free people, and how being free from work spawned a lot of great philosophies and discoveries, such as in ancient Greece.  Back then, the work was foisted onto slaves, but now we have machines that can do much of this work for us (and keep in mind, this book was written around the turn of the 20th century, so this holds even more true today than it did then).  So why didn’t automation become a way for people to work less and have more free time and still have enough to get by?  Why did our society develop the way it did, with “workaholics” and overtime galore, or even if you didn’t want to live that way, feeling pressured to perform thusly or risk losing your income?  Why did automation become a “threat” to our livelihood rather than a blessing?  Why didn’t EVERYONE benefit from these technologies, instead of just stockholders and CEOs?  And why do CEOs continue to work so much, despite being filthy rich?  If you won millions of dollars in the lottery, wouldn’t you quit your job and do what you wanted (say, travel around the world or volunteer or hobbies or whatever it is you like to do)?  These guys win the paycheck lottery every year but they keep working 80 hour weeks, instead of quitting after a while and living a comfortable life.  Instead of passing the torch for someone else to win the paycheck lottery, they feel driven to “keep busy”.  People, when talking about retirement, often say that they “wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.”  Why is that?

Have you ever read a Jane Austen novel?  Monied people didn’t work.  If you watch Downton Abbey, the family is rather scandalized when they discover that the next in line to inherit the Earldom is a LAWYER who WORKS (gasp!).  Back then, if you had the means, you didn’t work.  But many people who have what I would consider to be plenty to live on insist on working, even though they don’t need to.  It’s shameful if you don’t have a job, even if you don’t really need the money.

Why do we define ourselves by our livelihoods?  When people ask me “What do you do?” I have often said, “I write, though that’s not how I pay the bills, if that’s what you mean.”  Why do I feel the need to make that distinction?  Because I have never defined myself by my job.  The job was just a way for me to pay the rent.  What I WAS was an artist (painter, sculptor) and a writer.  I WASN’T a secretary, or a medical assistant, or a cashier.  That was what I did by necessity; writing, painting, sculpting, etc. is what I did for love.

So, just being.  One of the things I’ve discovered since losing my “regular job” back in June was the nature of the sleep issues I’ve had all my life.  I always chalked them up to being “a night owl,” but even when I worked nights I still wasn’t sleeping enough, or sleeping through five (yes, five) alarm clocks, or any variation of “not being able to maintain a decent sleep schedule” in between.  And yes, I read just about every article on sleep and tried just about every remedy besides drugs, and nothing helped.  What I’ve discovered is that apparently, my circadian rhythm is not set to 24 hours.  Once I finally let myself sleep when I was tired, instead of when I “should” sleep, and stay awake when I was awake, instead of trying to force myself to sleep, it became clear that I just don’t cycle every 24 hours.  For instance, for the past few days, the cycle has been: awake for 26 hours, sleep for 10 hours, awake for 26 hours, sleep for 12 hours.  That’s about three days but for me it was two.  No WONDER I was either an insomniac or comatose.  I’ve beat myself up over my sleep habits – or lack thereof – my whole life.  I’ve been deemed “lazy” and “irresponsible” because of it, even when the majority of the time, trying to squeeze myself into a “normal” schedule meant that I averaged about five hours of sleep a night (or less).  Accepting that I’m just not wired like most people, and not beating myself up over it or trying to force it into submission has been a boon to both my waking and sleeping hours (not to mention my mood).  I feel great, and for once in my life, rested.  One of the many reasons why I’ve been trying desperately to find my niche and earn a living writing/freelancing – I’d get to keep my sleep schedule the way it naturally is.

It took me months to get to the place where I am now, of neither trying to force myself into the “normal” mold, nor feeling guilty about it.  I still struggle with it some days, especially during the winter months when the day is so short and THAT’S when my body decided it was bedtime.  But the difference it has made in how I feel usually means I can override that guilty feeling with, “Don’t mess this up!”  Or maybe “You’re allowed” or “You’re worth it.”  Because you know what?  We’re all worth getting a good night’s rest.  Or staying up when we’re not tired.  Either or.  It’s not a sin.

And that’s been the overriding lesson learned these past couple of months of “cave time.”  I’m allowed to turn inward when I feel the need.  I’m allowed to let my body dictate when it’s tired or awake.  I’m allowed to work like a busy bee or take a day off.  I’m even allowed to have a bad mood some days, and not feel guilty for it.  It’s called being human.  We’re not perfect, and we’re not all the same.  And I don’t have to internalize society’s dictates on what I “should” be or do.  I needn’t feel guilty because I don’t fit the “average” mold.  For years I beat myself up and hated that I didn’t fit that mold.  Today I’m finally glad I’m different.

Honoring your needs

Right now I am working on a chapter about honoring your needs.  These can be any needs – physical, emotional, spiritual.  And while on the one hand I have made great strides in honoring my needs in all three categories and no longer feeling guilty about it, I still had a block in place when it came to a certain need: money.

Without going into too much detail, lest this post turn into a “triumph over adversity!!” daytime movie, I grew up, shall we say, in a “scarcity” mindset.  And that mindset followed me well into adulthood.  I always felt like other people had things, other people had opportunities, other people had things go their way, and I thought that just didn’t happen for me.  Even as I learned (and am still learning, because I don’t think any of us can ever truly say we’re done learning such things) to accept various things that I have long struggled with as not bad; even as I learned to accept my body the way it was, etc., I still had some convoluted notions about wealth.  Either there was the old self-esteem issue of thinking I didn’t deserve wealth; or perhaps the spiritual guilt issue of not thinking I should want it at all; or the flat-out defeated notion that even if I deserved it and and wanted it, it was never gonna happen.  In short, I could think “that would be nice” or “I deserve a turn” all I wanted, but that was not going to open the path for wealth to come into my life.

My revelation, while working on this chapter and with my own internal struggles with not having a regular job and hence, a regular paycheck for some time now, was that I needed to change how I viewed money.  Money is not a bad thing.  It is not “evil” or a vice.  It is the means to an end.  I can squash the spiritual guilt with the knowledge that if I was awash in abundance, I could truly focus on “higher level” growth (see “The Manifesto” about my history with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).  The physical plane is not “worse” or “less than” – it is its own perfectly valid and here-for-a-reason experience.  It is not something to be suffered through on our way to a spiritual afterlife.  We are not supposed to suffer.  We are to overcome suffering.  We are here to learn things that we couldn’t learn without taking physical form.  Being in a physical body is not a punishment.  It’s OK to be taken care of here in physical form.  We don’t need to be poor and struggle to be holy.  We are holy, by default.  If you believe in creation, God created all that is, right?  That means all of us are “of God”.  Do you think God would create not holy things?  Knowing that we’re safe and secure and will continue to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies does not make us not holy.  Now I’m not saying that materialism is holy – but things are tools that we use to achieve other things.  I’m using my computer right now to communicate.  You might use your car to run errands and go volunteer.  A computer or a car, or possessing them, is not “unholy”.  It’s simply having the tools to accomplish goals.

I’m writing this entry after having just had a wonderful meditation session, so I hope it’s not as rambly as I fear it might be.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Have you struggled with accepting abundance in your life?  Have you overcome this struggle?  Share your stories!  It is my hope that this blog can become a forum for everyone to find happiness together as a community.

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