Rediscovery

12736963_10208829531479748_1391457429_o

I must listen to the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live–but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

It takes time and hard experience to sense […] that running beneath the surface of the experience I call my life, there is a deeper and truer life waiting to be acknowledged. -Parker J. Palmer

All parents have the experience of knowing first hand that a baby comes into the world with a unique identity. This fact is made especially clear if you have more than one child and can thus compare how two siblings born to the same parents can be so different, even from birth. Whether you call it a soul, an essence, or what have you, you are born with a unique inner wisdom that can guide you to what brings you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. You also have all the tools necessary to “fix” your life when things go awry.

This essence and this guiding inner voice of wisdom is always there and it is completely unique to each individual. It is also indestructible. What too often happens, however, is that this essence of who we really are gets a bit lost and forgotten. It gets buried beneath the values that society, religion, or our families impose on us, all generally well meaning, but not necessarily in alignment with our souls. Our own fears and insecurities also keep us from recognizing our true power.

What I most love about the philosophy of coaching I practice is how respectful it is of each individual’s unique essence and creative capacity. The very best coaching helps you rediscover that inner fountain, that source of wisdom, creativity, and light within you that can heal, nourish, and give life to your dreams. The best coach will not only help you connect to that, she will hold you there and help you build the life you dream on from that place of clarity and strength.

I have recently started working with some new clients and I would love to add more! Please contact me for a free sample session.

Ai Weiwei

12239271_10208217156930767_4572251731381143752_o

I had heard of Ai Weiwei and had seen his art in photos, but my first direct experience with his work was here in Málaga where we currently have his Zodiac Heads on exhibition. I mentioned to a friend that I would be going to London this past weekend, and he recommended the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art.

IMG_9525
“Tree,” installation by Ai Weiwei in Royal Academy of Art courtyard. The tree structures are composed of dead trees collected on the mountains of southern China. “These artificial constructions have been interpreted as a commentary on the way in which geographically and culturally diverse peoples have been brought together to form ‘One China’ […]”
It is immediately evident why Ai Weiwei is such a tremendously popular contemporary artist, especially in the West. His political message is irresistible to us. He is disgusted by and reacts to the superficiality, materialism, prudishness, and conformity of the newly-rich communists in China who only aspire to driving their Mercedes-Benz and wearing their couture. He has suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Beijing police as a result of his brave efforts to document and make public the corruption and outrages against human rights always present in China. But it’s not just the politics. The enormous scale of his works is appealing, as is the big personality that infuses them. His playful sense of humor is palpable. He flipped-off the White House. What more can you ask for?

IMG_9484
Grapes. 27 wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty.

I think it’s too bad that many people shy away from contemporary art. They say they don’t like it because they don’t understand it. I went to a contemporary art exhibition with my adolescent son in Málaga a couple months ago. It was great because he is at the perfect stage in which he was slightly uncomfortable because he feels that these works are supposed to be telling him something and he doesn’t know what, and yet open and curious enough to ask questions and independent enough to look for his own answers before finding them on the smart phone. This is the ideal attitude to bring to a contemporary art exhibition. Discomfort mingled with curiosity will take you a long way.

IMG_9495

Ai Weiwei’s art is very accessible anyway. Not to say it isn’t forceful in its impact, or that it lacks complexity. I had spent the previous day at Stoicon, the Stoic Week Event, surrounded by logic. I love Stoicism and I am grateful for the philosophers, past and present, who have helped me in my quest to live a larger, more meaningful life. But where I feel at home is in an art museum, a concert, or in the street dancing. I value how Stoicism helps me to center myself in my principles and focus on what really matters to me and brings meaning to my life: my relationship with myself, with the people I care about, and with art. Art is where I find the contradictions and tensions, power and beauty, that make life interesting and whole. Logic is great as long as it is accompanied by lots of creative passion, frequent laughter, and connection to my body. Art is a reminder that sometimes things aren’t orderly or logical, but they are right and true and just as they should be. (Or not.)

There was one large room of the exhibit in which I could not laugh. In the end I couldn’t even stay in there to see “Straight,” Weiwei’s response to the Sichuan earthquake in which more than five thousands children were killed when their shoddily-built schools collapsed. There are photos, films with footage from the aftermath, two enormous walls covered with the names of the victims, and 150 tons of steel-reinforced bars used in the construction of the schools that Weiwei purchased and had painstakingly straightened.

“Straight” Ai Weiwei’s response to the Sichuan earthquake

I saw about 30 seconds of the footage and a few photos. I turned around and saw the names covering those enormous walls, and I lost it. I started crying. I didn’t notice anyone else crying. I tried to pull myself together because I wanted to listen to the audio and look more, but I couldn’t do it. I had to move on to the next room. I returned to the room later and tried again, but no go. In fact, remembering it now as I write makes me cry. I tried to use my Stoic practices to get myself through it but it didn’t work. I couldn’t be there.

Ai Weiwei was very influenced in his New York City years by Marchel Duchamp and Dadaism, who sought to make art about challenging our assumptions. The Dadaists wanted art to be less visually pleasing and more intellectually stimulating. This kind of art appeals to me now. I’m going through this personal evolution right now in which it appears I no longer value “pretty.” I bought a joint ticket to the other big exhibition on at the RAA, Jean-Etienne Liotard, a wonderful and unusual portraitist I’ve always admired.

LIOTARD_MarieAdalaideOfFrance
Marie Adalaide of France by Jean-Etienne Liotard

Seeing Liotard after Weiwei was a mistake because I felt under-whelmed. I was a bit bored by Liotard’s portraits and he deserves better.

Prettiness bores me. Lately I’m far more drawn to realness and wildness. I find more beauty there, and in individuality. Stylistically I’m feeling inspired by Patti Smith and Iris Apfel.

PATTI-SMITH-FEATHERiris9

I know, nothing alike, but neither are pretty and both are much better than pretty.

I am single and while I am interested in having a relationship, I feel completely and utterly bored by men who are attracted to me mostly because they think I’m pretty. I know I should feel flattered and grateful by this attention, but… I’m not. And I suppose that makes me bitchy or what was it one guy called me not long ago? Arrogant. I am sorry I appear that way, but I simply can not get jazzed about guys who are only interested in prettiness. I can just hear my kick-ass grandmother responding to this attitude of mine with something like: “Well, Lindsay, you won’t be pretty for much longer, so there’s a blessing!” Yessah.

I’m not sure how I got from Ai Weiwei to here, but I do know I share this sentiment with him, at least today:tsn0hcb8ww2ykektmmt8

And I love his bicycle chandelier!

IMG_9504 IMG_9503

welcome home… bienvenida a casa

IMG_9434My first glimpse of you was as a child of four or five. One day my great-grandmother took out a box and showed me its contents: two coiled braids of fiery-copper hair. “This is what they cut off when one day in the 1920s, my sister and I snuck out of the house and without our parents’ permission, bobbed our hair,” she said. My great-grandmother played piano at the grange hall dances where she also danced the Charleston in her youth. My mother taught me the Charleston when she and other adults were still giant-size to me.

La primera vez que te eché un vistazo, yo era una niña de cuatro o cinco años. Un día mi bisabuela sacó una caja del armario y me enseñó su contenido: dos bucles de trenzas de color cobre. “Esto es lo que nos cortaron a mí y a mi hermana en los años 20 cuando un día nos dio por cortarnos el pelo al estilo de la época sin el permiso de nuestros padres.” Mi bisabuela tocaba el piano en los bailes donde también bailaba el Charleston en su juventud. Mi madre me enseñó a bailar el Charleston aun cuando ella y los demás adultos me parecían gigantes.

charleston_gif

I next saw you at age eight, when a dance teacher moved to our small town in central Maine and started giving lessons. I started class a couple weeks late for some reason. At my first class we did ballet for a while and then all of the other little girls ran to change into their tap shoes. I didn’t have tap shoes yet, but I still remember the feeling of utter fascination, excitement, and longing I felt watching the other girls clack around in those shiny black shoes. I had seen Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies on Saturday afternoons with my mother and I had never imagined that I would have the opportunity to glide around a room looking fabulous and making beautiful noise with my shoes. I was incapable of thinking about anything else until I had my own pair. I don’t know if I have ever wanted something as much in my life as I wanted those tap shoes. I cried when the dance teacher moved away a year later.

La próxima vez que te vi, tenía ocho años. Una profe de baile se mudó a nuestro pueblo pequeño y empezó a dar clases. Yo empecé un par de clases más tarde. En mi primera clase, primero hicimos ballet y después todas las niñas fueron a ponerse los zapatos de claqué. Yo aún no había comprado los míos pero todavía recuerdo la sensación de fascinación, ilusión, y añoranza que sentí a ver a las otras niñas bailar con aquellos zapatos negros puestos. Ya había visto las películas de Ginger Rogers y Fred Astair los sábados por la tarde con mi madre y jamás me había imaginado que allí estaría yo,  deslizándome por la pista de baile viéndome fabulosa y haciendo ruido bello con mis zapatos. Me obsesioné. Fui incapaz de pensar en otra cosa hasta que tuve mis propios zapatos de claqué. No sé si he llegado a desear algo tanto en mi vida. Lloré y me deprimí un tiempo cuando la profe de baile se mudó un año después y mis clases se acabaron.

Later I saw you in brightly-colored dresses with impossibly long fringe in Singing in the Rain. When it came time for me to go to the prom, I designed a black dress covered completely in fringe and a friend’s mom made it. I was disappointed when I first tried it on and saw myself in the full-length mirror. The girls in Singing in the Rain were showing their beautiful shoulders and the material of their dresses was stretchy with room to dance in. My dress was a constricting black sheath with a fairly high neckline, as required for a Mormon girl. I felt encased and upholstered.

Después te vi en los vestidos de colores brillantes con fleco en la película Singing in the Rain. Cuando llegó prom (la fiesta formal de instituto de los EEUU), diseñé un vestido negro completamente cubierto de flecos que me confeccionó la madre de una amiga. Me sentí desilusionada cuando me lo probé y me vi en el espejo. Las chicas de Singing in the Rain se mostraban los hombros tan hermosos y la tela de sus vestidos tenía elástico que les permitía bailar a gusto. Mi vestido en cambio era una funda estrecha sin escote y con los hombros cubiertos, tal como requería mi religión estricta. Me sentí encerrada y tapizada.

I found you in a book about Hollywood stars of the 20s-40s. My favorite by far Annex - Brooks, Louise (Beggars of Life)_04was Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks looked on the outside how I felt on the inside. She had all of that range between boyish charm and sexy siren. I spent many of my days dressed like a boy and Louise-Brooks-31being mistaken for a boy on my father’s farm. But I didn’t always feel like a boy. When I went home to my bedroom and saw my Jean Harlow poster on the wall, which I had mostly hung there to scandalize my mother, I felt like Jean Harlow. I wanted to wear stiletto heels, silky dresses, furs, and feathers, all with a debouched and devil-may-care attitude.

Te encontré en un libro de estrellas de Hollywood de los años 20-40. Me preferida era Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks se veía por fuera como yo me sentía por dentro. Tenía todo el abanico entre sirena sexy y estilo masculino. Yo pasaba muchos días vestida como un niño en la granja de mi padre, pero no me sentía como un niño. Cuando llegaba a casa y veía en la pared de mi habitación el poster de Jean Harlow que había colgado allí para escandalizar a mi madre, me sentía como Jean Harlow. Quería ponerme los tacones de aguja, vestidos de seda, pieles, y plumas, y todo con un aire de chica disoluta y temeraria.

I found you in music, dance, film, books, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, fellow high-spirited Maine girl. I found you driving at 100 mph in my car on a summer night. I found you in my Ecuador adventures at age sixteen. I found you in midnight escapades of high hilarity and daring with my high school friends. I found you in the mirror sometimes in a girl breezily self-confident, free of convention, original, spicy, and fun.

Te encontré en la música, el baile, las películas, los libros. Te encontré en la poesía de Edna St. Vincent Millay, una chica también de Maine y llena de vida. Te encontré conduciendo a 180 km en una noche de verano. Te encontré en mis aventuras en Ecuador cuando tenía dieciséis años. Te encontré en correrías de hilaridad y osadía con mis amigos del instituto. A veces te encontraba en la chica del espejo, una chica segura de sí misma, libre de la convención, original, y divertida.

I got married when I was still a child, and that’s when I lost you. I will tell you how it happened. There had always been this Victorian girl at my shoulder. Victorian-Ladiy-Image-Velvet-GraphicsFairyStern and self-important in her principles and morals, quiet and yet insistent. When I got married she stepped in, in all of her efficiency and righteousness, and took your place. She wagged her finger at you and made you feel judged and out of place. You went far away. I missed you, but the Victorian girl comforted me. She said you were a bad influence and not to be trusted, and that it was for the best. She was not a bad sort. She was a gentle and nurturing mother who loved the bonds of home and family. She felt safe and valued there. She was responsible, self-sacrificing, and dutiful. Her modest dress reflected her modest attitude toward her personal achievements beyond motherhood and wifehood.

Me casé cuando era una niña aún, y fue cuando te perdí. Te contaré como pasó. Siempre había una chica victoriana a mi lado. Seria, rígida, algo pretenciosa en sus principios y moralidad, callada pero insistente. Cuando me casé, ella con toda su eficacia y rectitud, se hizo cargo de mí. Te regañó, te juzgó, y te hizo sentir fuera de lugar. Y tú te fuiste. Te echaba de menos, pero la chica victoriana me consolaba. Me dijo que eras una mala influencia, que no eras de fiar, y que era mejor que te alejaras de mi. La chica victoriana no era una mala tipa. Era una madre tierna y cariñosa que amaba las ataduras de familia y hogar. Se sentía segura y valorada allí. Era responsable, abnegada, y diligente. Su forma de vestir tan modesta simbolizaba su actitud modesta hacia sus hazañas más allá de la maternidad y el hogar.

Things happened. I made choices that frightened and disgusted the Victorian girl. You, my childhood crush, came back into my life to dance with me in the kitchen. I started seeing you at jazz concerts. You re-taught me the Charleston and together we learned to swing. We are all about emphasizing the second and the fourth beat now, you and I. We are never in a hurry, no matter how intense and driving the music may be. That’s how we groove.

Pasaron cosas. Tomé decisiones que asustaron e indignaron a la chica victoriana. Tú volviste a mi vida para bailar conmigo en la cocina. Empecé a verte en los conciertos de jazz. Me volviste a enseñar como bailar el Charleston y juntas aprendimos el Lindy Hop. Para ti y para mí, se trata de acentuar el segundo y cuarto tiempo. No nos apuramos en nada, da igual la intensidad de lo que pase a nuestro alrededor. Así bailamos la vida tú y yo.

kay francis 2For a while Victorian girl hated that you were back. She felt threatened. She talked bad about you and tried to get me to fear you. She threatened to leave if you stayed around. I told her that I don’t want her to leave. We’ve had some good times together and I value her, but I made it clear to her that you are back to stay. She has to accept you.

Por un tiempo, la chica victoriana odiaba que estuvieras de vuelta. Hablaba mal de ti e intentó que yo te tuviera miedo. Me amenazó con irse ella si tú te quedabas. Le dije que no quería que se fuera. Hemos vivido cosas muy importantes juntas y la valoro, pero le dije claramente que tú ya estás para quedarte. Le dije que te tenía que aceptar.

She has to accept you because since you came back, I am whole. I am wild and exuberant and free. I am more in the moment. I’m more at ease. I’m more comfortable in my skin. My world has more color, taste, sound, smell. I’m stronger. Ironically, I’m a better Christian. I like myself better now that you are back, and if there is a God, I think He would like me better now, too.

Te tiene que aceptar porque desde que volviste, soy completa. Soy más salvaje, más llena de vitalidad, más libre. Estoy más en el momento. Estoy más a mis anchas. Mi mundo tiene más color, sabor, sonido, y olor. Soy más fuerte. Y hasta soy mejor cristiana. Me gusto más a mí misma y creo que si hay un dios, yo le gustaría más a él ahora también.

annex-hepburn-audrey-roman-holiday_05

keeping it fake

montaigne-heykeli

I write to keep from going mad from the contradictions I find among mankind – and to work some of those contradictions out for myself. -Michel de Montaigne

I haven’t yet read “Keep it Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life” by Eric G. Wilson, but that will not keep me from commenting here on Clancy Martin’s NYT review of it.

Martin cites at the beginning of the review an anecdote Wilson relates about the time when he was trying to be a good father and also struggling with depression, overwork, and drinking too much. Wilson began referring to himself as “Crazy Dad” instead of “Super Dad.” Once he let go of the “Super Dad” ideal of being conscientious, responsible, and square, he discovered other fascinating possibilities for inspiring fatherhood within his reach. He was able to play to his strengths and saw improvement not only in his role as a father, but in other aspects of his life as well.

That reminded me of a time two years ago when I was going through a bad spell as a parent and in every other way. I found out one day that a mother at my daughter’s school wouldn’t let her daughter come to play at our house because this woman didn’t think I controlled my children. She was right. I have never seen the need to control my children. They appear to thrive, in fact, without my meddling. Even so, this woman called me an “irresponsible mother” and that hurt. There is nothing like someone criticizing your parenting skills to fill you with self doubt. Though I didn’t worry too much about what this lady thought of me, I wondered if maybe I was irresponsible and if my children needed more from me. I asked my 11-year-old daughter, “Do you think I’m an irresponsible mother?” She thought for a moment and replied, “You’re… an interesting mother.”

With these words, it was as if my daughter suddenly turned up my resolution. I wasn’t like her friend’s mothers. I wore stiletto heels and sometimes came home at 5 am. I had crazy friends. I ate and slept at odd hours. I danced in the kitchen alone or with my children and made them laugh until they cried. I had boy trouble. I was even invited by my daughter’s friends to slumber parties. I was interesting.

The fact that she didn’t outright deny that I was irresponsible did give me pause and I realized I needed to tighten up the ship a bit. However, she taught me that you don’t have to buy into a certain standard or ideal way of being in any given role. And that not only are there different ways of being a good mother, for example, there are different points of view on the same mother. Seeing myself as the “Interesting Mom” opened me up to “enjoying a more zany, capricious, playful, capacious, love-charged, creative existence,” as it did Wilson.

So all of this is great. What confuses me comes next in Milton’s review. He talks about how we “act our way through life” and that we are different people in different contexts. I’m different with my children than I am with my friends, than I am in my job, with strangers, with my sister… And then he says:

But there is an undeniable tension between that observation and the nagging feeling we all share that behind those masks there is a “real me,” a “genuine self,” some kind of master narrator who stands behind, informs, controls and even unifies these other selves. After all, if I am not one self but many selves, can I ever tell the truth about myself? […] That sounds like a threat to all kinds of things we hold dear. Self-knowledge, telling the truth about how we feel, sharing frightening aspects of ourselves with loved ones, developing intimacy, cultivating a coherent, reliable personhood: These virtues seem to be threatened by the idea that we are merely playing the game of being a person.

I know that this is a thing and that philosophers have been agonizing about it forever. One reason I love Montaigne is the absolute glee he takes in contradicting himself within the same essay. I love it because I identify with it and so do most people. People are infinitely complex and full of contradictions. The more people insist on defining themselves a certain way, the less I trust them, and the more I think they are repressing the part of themselves that is not “that way.” Shouldn’t self-knowledge, truth, and authenticity take our complexity into account?

For example, as far as developing intimacy goes, the closer you get to someone, the more a certain part of you wants to get the hell outta there. I love the Civil War’s “Poison & Wine” lyrics for this truth about all romantic relationships:

You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don’t want me to
Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
You think your dreams are the same as mine
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
I always will

I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you

 

sunlit souls

10658678_10206590466590004_5343241563314139227_o

There are souls that one desires to draw near to, like a sunlit window. -Federico García Lorca

A few days ago I met with an Argentine friend who lived many years in Spain but moved last year to Manchester. I went to visit her in Manchester last fall and she seemed to be adjusting well. When we’ve spoken since then, she’s always been upbeat about the experience. This friend is one I’m always thrilled to get together with because she is unfailingly positive.The shortened version of my friend’s first name means “light” in English, and her last name is similar to “ray.” Every time I see her I think how much she resembles a sunbeam. Yesterday I finally got to see her again because she has come down to Spain to visit. I hadn’t realized that this entire past year she has been unable to leave England because of a visa problem that has just now been resolved. She told me about this and other difficulties she’s faced this past year as well as the measures she took to keep herself in a positive frame of mind. I had been taking my friend’s sunny disposition for granted. Though she does lead an enviable life in some respects, she has difficult trials and fears and disappointments just as we all do. She is naturally good-natured, but obviously some days (or months, or years!) it requires a lot of effort to maintain good cheer. She is always radiant because she chooses to be.

IMG_7469Cheerfulness is not the only way a shining soul makes itself known. I think of my grandmother, Bea. She was a simple country girl, not at all fancy or sophisticated. And yet she had a powerful presence. A neighbor who was raised on a farm next to my grandmother’s house (on the legendary River Road, where I grew up!) once told us about the skating parties they used to have there in the winter. In that group of children there were some quarrels and rivalries that came out whenever they got together. But then my grandmother would arrive (late of course–Bea knew how to take her sweet time), and suddenly all would be well. There was something about her that made everyone want to get along and have fun together. She radiated peace and contentment.

Another sunlit soul I am privileged to know is my friend Mariló , she of the Bridge People wisdom. Mariló is an artist in everything she does. Everything. In her relationships, her interactions with patients as a nurse, her meditations, her paintings, her dinner parties, the decor of her home, and in the way she talks and moves and dresses. She can not help but constantly express beauty and joie de vivre. I first heard about Mariló from some mutual friends and then I kept seeing her comments on their Facebook content. I longed to meet her, but couldn’t figure out how. One day I started chatting with a man on Facebook I don’t know personally, but we had other friends in common. He is a successful and inspiring violin teacher and we were talking about that. All of a sudden he said, “You should meet Mariló. She lives down near you and you have a lot in common.” I didn’t even know he knew Mariló! And I thought it must be fate that she and I meet. We didn’t finally meet in person until about a year later. We’ve had many conversations about how people don’t always make it easy for you to be yourself if you are not like everyone else. Mariló is constantly making the choice to be true to who she is and to let her light shine brilliantly.

When I was in Barcelona recently for two weeks, I felt radiant. I was in a magical city far from my woes and cares where no one knows me. I felt completely free to explore different versions of me and I discovered within hidden talents, ambitions, and strengths that I never knew existed. This post is indicative of how I felt before I went to Barcelona. In this post and this one, I mention some discoveries, though not all. I will write about more discoveries, and some I will keep to myself. Anyway, now that I am back home, I have struggled to maintain that high. Friends have told me that that’s what happens when you come back from vacation. You are faced with the reality and routine of your life and, Hello! It’s not vacationland. Well, I’ve got news for them. I was BORN in vacationland. If I want to feel the same freedom, creative inspiration, and joie de vivre here in Málaga that I felt in Barcelona, then I will, damn it. And no one is going to tell me that I can’t. I will choose to be a radiant, sunlit soul. So there! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

how to be a tramp and other words to live by

ba819960237b1bc74cedb0644c6d2bd9.850x521x1Isn’t that a great title for a book? I’m making note of it.

I’ve had a few private messages from readers asking more about the Life as a Tramp post from a few days ago, so I’m happy to write more about it. Being a tramp is something I’m passionate about.

First, let’s look again at the Frank Sinatra lyrics that inspired the post.

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she’d hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Doesn’t like crap games with barons or earls
Won’t go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
Won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That’s why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free fresh wind in her hair,
Life without care
She’s broke and it’s oke
Hates California, it’s cold and it’s damp
That’s why the lady is a tramp

This is such a fun song! I love it. The lady in question is labeled a “tramp” by the popular women of her social tier because she’s unconventional and doesn’t give a rat’s tush what they think of her. This song really resonates with me personally because of an experience I had a few years ago. I was newly separated and looking for new friends. There was this group of women who were initially friendly to me and they seemed cool. Attractive, smart, funny, talented. However, not long after I met them they started giving me the cold shoulder and then I heard from other people that they were gossiping about me. In fact, they were calling me a tramp! I was shocked because I was one of the least trampy people I knew. I asked a friend what to do about it, and he said: “Nothing. Forget about them. They were only friendly with you so that they could probe your weaknesses and bring you down a peg. Your way of being makes them feel threatened.”

With a bit of time I came to see that it was actually a compliment that these accomplished women felt threatened by me. It made me start to wonder if I was maybe cooler than I thought I was! I don’t especially care about being cool, but what I learned from this experience was that I do care about being free to express myself as I am and do what I want to do when I want to do it, just like the lady in the song. I care much more about that than I do friendship and acceptance, and I’ve always been that way.

However, earlier in my life being accepted and liked were more important to me than they are now, so I often felt that my values were in conflict. I would always do my thing, but then when people didn’t like it, I felt bad. The difference now is that I care less what others think, so I live more peacefully. I’m not as likely to put on the veneer of niceness out of fear of someone not liking me. That’s not to say I can’t pull out that card and play it when I want to. I can make polite conversation with people I don’t especially like or have much in common with if I want to. I can conform to norms in certain situations when I deem it ultimately beneficial in serving a specific goal or my life purpose. Maybe for convenience’s sake I want some government official to like me for five minutes, so I’m nice. Etc.

When I want to remind myself that I value being unconventional me, free to do what I want when I want and how I want, free to say what comes to mind, free to let myself shine, I think: This lady is a tramp. Those words are a trigger that instantly focuses me and connects me deeply to all that the song means as well as my past experience, what I want in the moment and moving forward with my life… There is a lot of power in naming your values and making them tangible. I look forward to writing more about that soon!

In the mean time, here are five ways to be a tramp, if you are so inclined:

1. Wear yourself some bold, red lipstick.

2. Take your sweet time. Yesterday I was crossing the street when a car came along too fast. The driver stopped abruptly, honked at me, and gestured rudely. I tossed my hair and smiled winningly at the man. I even waved and tilted my head at him as if he’d just told me I was the most beautiful thing he’d seen all day.

3. Don’t apologize for having your period or for being cranky about it, either.

4. Enjoy your dessert. In fact, enjoy every damn mouthful of whatever you decide to eat. If you’re going to eat it, enjoy it! Don’t beat yourself up about it after. Savor it. Guilt is not going to help you lose weight, ever. Making the conscious choice to thoroughly enjoy your food is the first step to getting yourself into a slender mentality.

5. If there is something you want to say, speak up. Put it out there. Say it with the absolute conviction that you have a right to say it. If you are expressing a doubt or a question, feel entitled to ask and unembarrassed by not knowing. Good grief, if you are asking that means you are trying to remedy your ignorance, a most admirable action! Speak in a voice that is sufficiently loud and clear.

I wish you happy tramping!

untethered

11127204_10206955703675224_3380256642613492434_oThis is the first vacation I’ve ever done by myself, completely untethered. No kids, no dudes, no staying with friends.

At first it was disconcerting. My first full day here in Barcelona, for example, lunch time came along and I wandered the narrow streets of the Gothic neighborhood looking with longing at all the mouth-watered options. Thai, Moroccan, Spanish, Catalan, Japanese… I became hungrier and hungrier. My stomach started to growl. Suddenly, I stopped and looked around me in irritation. And I realized something. I was looking around for whoever was responsible for deciding what “we” were eating for lunch. Because there has always been a “we!” I seldom go out to eat alone, and I always defer to whoever I’m with to decide where.

That was a major moment. Since then, I’ve positively reveled in the acts of getting up late, taking forever to choose my outfit for the day, primping, eating at odd hours, taking siesta at 7pm, browsing the shops forever, reading in cafes, and spending too much or not enough time in the museums. It’s marvelous. Even if I get engaged tomorrow (which seems like a distinct possibility here in Barcelona!), this will for sure not be the last time I take a vacation by myself.

I am reborn. Back in Málaga where I live, I was feeling annoyed, misunderstood, and very tense. Weird stuff kept happening and I couldn’t deal with it. I felt like whatever I did was wrong. Here in Barcelona, I’m a cat and I don’t give a damn. Everything flows, the Universe is conspiring in my behalf, and I’m ready to receive whatever comes my way. I feel alive creatively in a way that I haven’t for some time. I’m constantly getting new ideas for my projects and I’m excited to start work on implementing them. I’m on fire!

On a personal level in my relationships, back in Málaga I was stressed about various situations there. I felt stuck and whatever I tried to unstick myself only made things worse. Here and now, in my state of flow, spontaneity, creative energy, and Level 3 listening, I’m cool with sitting back and letting things unfold as they will in my relationships. This is how I so desperately wanted to feel before, and though I tried, I didn’t know how to get there. Now I see that what it takes is allowing myself to be happy and engaged deeply with what I care about. When I do what I love and kindle my passions, everything and everyone else falls into place.

I spent much too much time agonizing over who said what, she looked at me wrong, and I texted this or that and then he said such-and-such… Such absolute rot! For one thing, if your resources are largely devoted to doing what you love, you radiate an irresistible energy. You attract the “right” kind of people in your life. It’s effortless. Really, you don’t even have to think about it. Also, people always reveal themselves for who they truly are. Sometimes it takes time, but it all comes out eventually. There is no need to be surprised or even especially upset when someone you care about and think you know turns out to be a bridge person.

I took the above photo in the National Museum of Catalunya. I don’t remember the details of who the photographer is. I believe it was untitled. The photo struck me because I love women in hats. Also, I think the determination in her expression and light in her eye shows that she is a woman connected to her passions. I identify with the feeling I get from this photo.

Listen. I’m a cat.

10857097_10206391429934212_4417232304679935582_o

Here and here I talk about different ways of seeing. Now I want to talk about listening. I’m a good seer, but not such a great listener unless it’s music, and sometimes even then I think I listen more with the rest of my body than I do with my ears.

This past weekend I started training to become a life coach. I’m taking classes and certifying through the Coaches Training Institute because I like their Co-Active model of coaching focusing on helping people find within themselves the creativity, power, and energy to connect deeply with others and create the transformation they want in their lives.

This weekend I did the two and a half day Fundamentals course in Barcelona, in Spanish. It was fascinating, but intense and a little overwhelming by the end. As I stay more time here in Barcelona on vacation (more on that later!), I’m slowly processing what I’ve learned. Pondering, practicing, and making it my own.

I’m learning to listen.

There are three levels of listening. Level 1 is when you mostly hear what someone is saying, but you’re in your own head, thinking about yourself. You relate what they are saying to your own experience. You are occasionally distracted from what they are saying by thoughts and ideas related to you and your life. You are judging and evaluating. Level 2 is when you are completely focused on the other person. It’s like when you’re in love with the person sitting across from you at the table at a restaurant, and when you look into their eyes, the rest of the world fades away. You forget about yourself and only think of that person. You listen intensely and completely with the focus of a laser beam. Level 3 is a softer, receptive focus that encompasses your environment and includes all of your senses. It’s when you are attuned not only to what someone is saying, but the feelings behind it and the effect it may have on other people in the room. It’s noticing changes in energies, vibrations, body language. It’s a deep feeling of presence and awareness of the moment.

As a coach, interactions with clients should be at listening levels 2 and 3. Level 1 is not very helpful to the client, though it is inevitable that we go there sometimes. When that happens we need to notice it and get ourselves back to level 2 or 3.

It takes practice to get out of level 1.

It’s hard for me to objectively assess my own listening skills. I think I’m usually at level 1, as I suppose are most people. As I’ve thought about ways to make it easier to listen at levels 2 and 3, it’s helped to remember my father. Dad was unusual and idiosyncratic, and I don’t think he even attempted the kind of polite listening most people do, paying attention in a surface way, but really thinking of other things. He wasn’t “nice.” If Dad was thinking of other things, it was obvious. You could say something to him and he wouldn’t respond. You could say a number of things, thinking he was hearing you or caring, and suddenly he’d say “Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes” in an irritated way, and you would realize it was not the moment to be talking with Dad. However, Dad did a lot more level 2 listening than most people do. It was part of his charm arsenal. The things he said, the way he looked at you, his candor and complicity, all made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him or at the very least, like you had a special in with him that no one else had.

Dad could sometimes be manipulative, yes, but he was genuinely in love with people. He loved people, but he was also in love with people. Constant infatuation. If he charmed you, it was because he found you charming. I relate to my dad in that way completely.

But I digress, as I usually do when I start talking about Dad. I am most interested in level 3 listening. For some months I’ve been working on being more observant and conscious of energy changes, vibes, body language, and all that they communicate. I’ve been practicing self awareness and awareness of my environment and those around me. I admit that this awareness practice started in part because a friend laughed at me one day for never realizing it when guys like me. I’m always oblivious. So I started playing with that, and it took off and expanded from there.

What I’ve discovered is this: I’m a cat. People have always told me that I remind them of a cat, that I’m very feline, etc. And yeah, I can see it. I love to curl up in a ball and sleep in the sun. I’m intensely curious and that curiosity sometimes gets me into trouble. I’m very flexible. I like to tease. I especially love to tease men, who remind me of dogs. I move in silence around the house. I’m a master of delicate disdain. I’m constantly grooming myself. If it were socially acceptable, I would rub the length of my body against my friends when I see them.

I’m a cat, and when I’m at my best, I’m at my most cat. These past few days I’ve ramped up the cat energy as an assignment for my coaching class. My classmates labeled me Catwoman and my assignment was to connect more fully to that energy. I was amazed at the effect it had on me and others! I had several marriage proposals in the streets of Barcelona, and lots of admiring glances. Many more than usual. But it’s not because of how I looked. It was the vibe I was putting out. The cat vibe! The cat vibe is mysterious and compelling. The cat says, “I really do not give a damn, do I?” If you get too near, the cat might scratch. But she might lick you too, depending on her mood. The cat is curious and wants to check out everything. I walked into an art gallery in full-on cat mode and started looking at the works. I was very interested in several of the paintings and I wanted to ask if I could photograph them. So I asked cat style and was told that absolutely I could photograph anything I wanted to. When I left I purred “thank you,” and the guy, who I think may have been the artist, said: Thank YOU, and I DO look forward to seeing you again soon, I hope…

What does me being a cat have to do with practicing level 3 listening? I realized that when I connected to an archetype, it was much easier for me to practice awareness. I was more conscious of how my body moved and felt, the energy I put out there, and how people responded to me. Connecting to an archetype and harnessing that energy is not about pretending to be something you aren’t. It’s developing more fully a register that already exists within you, a powerful facet you can summon when needed.

How do you listen at level 2 and level 3? What archetype do you identify with and would like to connect to?

more seeing

William Blake was an English poet, painter, print maker, and visionary of the Romantic period. He has influenced and inspired the work of such artists as William Butler Yeats, composers Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and counter-culture poets and songwriters of the 1960s like Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison. Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, considers Blake a major influence in his own philosophy and work. Most online bios of Blake note that though he was considered mad in his time for his unusual ideas, now he is lauded as a magnificent luminary and genius. As in, those people back then just thought he was crazy but now we, a more enlightened people, recognize and appreciate him for what he was.

I don’t stand in judgement of who is crazy and who isn’t, but I’m willing to bet that most of these Blake fans, if they had the opportunity to have lunch with him today, for example, would come away thinking the man’s got a screw loose. William Blake started seeing visions at age 8 and continued to see visions very frequently, almost daily, throughout his life. He claimed to converse on a regular basis with angels and demons. How does that sit with you?

William_Blake_002

Blake saw the above “ghost of a flea” during a seance one night. Blake claimed the flea told him, “fleas were inhabited by the souls of such men as were by nature blood thirsty to excess.” In Blake’s time, a belief in the supernatural was not considered as idiosyncratic as it is now, so I wonder if he was considered mad more for his religious and political views.

When I was fifteen or sixteen I found in our bookshelves a copy of Blake’s Poetry and Designs. I found it mesmerizing and shocking. At that time I was obsessed with feminism and social justice, so I quickly picked up on those themes in his work. But as a believing Mormon, I found his religious ideas confusing and some of his artwork extremely unsettling.

Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar
The Ancient of Days (Urizen surveying and measuring the world he has just created)
Ancient (Urizen surveying and measuring the world he has just created)

His artwork was so powerful and arresting I couldn’t stop looking at it, but I didn’t understand it. About ten years later I bought a copy of Blake’s Poetry and Designs and I continued looking at the images and reading the poetry, thought I don’t know that I came much closer to understanding it. I didn’t know whether I liked it or not, but I had to have it. Unfortunately I left the book back in the US when I moved to Spain.

A few days ago researching creative vision brought me back to William Blake, and I wish I had the book with me. I’ve spent the past three days with whatever I can find of him online. I could write many more posts about all things Blake, but for now, this. What he thought about seeing. He sent the following lines to a friend in a letter:

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God uskeep
From Single vision and Newtonssleep!

Let’s start with single vision, the dreaded Newtonssleep. Blake was not an Isaac Newton fan, and single vision represented the purely rational, logical, scientific way of seeing. Blake dreaded this literal view of the world, divorced of all emotion, empathy, and intuition. Twofold vision would include both reason and emotion, and an ability to contextualize and imagine. At the threefold level you have access to poetic, creative inspiration at Beulah, a place in Blake’s mythology “where Contrarieties are equally True.” It’s the subconscious. It’s where Blake goes Jungian. (In Beulah, it seems, the sexes “blissfully converse in shameless selflessness.” Sign me up!) Fourfold vision is mystical bliss. Ecstasy. Revelation. Visions.

blake_man_illum450

 For Blake the purpose of reason is to give form to imagination. Allowing contrary truths to coexist without one repressing the other is the ideal explored in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. He believed the paradoxes of human existence should be allowed and in fact it is from these paradoxes that creative energy springs. 

“Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are
necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call
Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason.
Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.”

Harvey Birenbaum wrote of Blake’s Songs of Innocence: “The tensions of the world resolve here, appropriately–not in rest, however, but in play, a fluency of energy in absolute delight,” “…thus the meaning of life itself is not a philosophical problem but the function of a process or activity–properly a dramatic or a mythic problem.”

I am fascinated by the idea that we don’t create meaning in our lives by buying into a certain belief system imposed from outside ourselves, like formal religion and science, but rather through our way of seeing, of experiencing and enjoying creative energy. I agree with Philip Pullman, who says, “Single vision is deadly. Those who exalt reason over every other faculty, who condemn those who don’t respond to life with logic but allow themselves to be swayed by emotion, or who maintain that other ways of seeing (the imaginative, the poetic, etc) are fine in their place but the scientific is the only true one, find this position ridiculous. But no symphony, no painting, no poem, no art at all was ever reasoned into existence […]”

On my to-read list are:

698081Blake, Jung & the Collective Unconscious: The Conflict Between Reason & Imagination by June Singer

Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake by Northrop Frye