I was craving a looooong break. I devoured these books and was inspired by the idea of a sabbatical, but I didn’t have the guts to actually take one (despite how the first book tried to make it simple for me). I didn’t think I could leave my boss high and dry. I was afraid to walk away from gainful employment at the age of 50. What if I get sick? What if I run out of money? What if I can never find a job again because I am so old? (If you have been listening to Cuomo’s daily briefings you may have heard that 51 is the new 81.)
So I kept working. And more work was piled on top of the work I already had. And I kept working.
Earlier this year, I wrote down some things that I really wanted but seemed out of reach. This sabbatical idea was still very much on my mind, because this was at the top of the list:
“Be free of my job and have time to rest and figure out what I really want to do with my life and not worry about money”
But was still too scared to actually DO anything about it.
When I was in my 20s I quit my job TWICE with no other job lined up. I don’t remember what I was thinking or how I got the nerve to do that, but BOTH times, I found new jobs that led me in to new careers. Clearly, as I have aged, I have become a chicken shit.
Fast forward to Spring 2020. My plans to re-enter the world, and interact with humans again were thwarted by a global pandemic. I found myself hunkered down at home, feeling grateful that I still had a paycheck, but it was harder and harder to focus, because I was completely burned out and the world was on fire.
Then, not long after I wrote that last post, I found out that my company would be furloughing people. One thing led to another, and on May 1st, I found myself on a four month sabbatical.
I wish I could tell you that I got the courage to make this happen for myself. I did not put my hand up to volunteer. I was still clinging to the security of my job, certain that I was too important to be let go, even just temporarily. But the Universe knew better. My ego was hurt for about 5 seconds, and then I quickly transitioned to being grateful that the Universe took over and forced the issue. (Excuse me, you said you wanted this. WTF. It’s go time!)
If you somehow still don’t now what a furlough is in the age of COVID-19, it is an up-paid leave of absence. The company intends to bring you back after a period of time, but there are no guarantees. You often still have health insurance (I do!) and you are eligible for employment. It is basically, a pretty sweet sabbatical situation (aside from the whole quarantine/global pandemic thing.) And assuming one has some savings, which I do and am very grateful for.
“Be free of my job and have time to rest and figure out what I really want to do with my life and not worry about money”
I manifested it!!! Kind of amazing, right?
So here I am, with four months to do anything my heart desires, within the confines of my budget and my tiny NYC apartment (at least for a while). In week one, I have been full of energy and have worked through a long list of personal “to dos”. Now I am feeling called to just chill out and rest. I need to create some space in my mind to see what is lurking under all of the “busy”.
I have no idea what will happen next. Four months is a looooong time. I have no idea whether I will still have a job in four months or whether I will want to go back to it or not. None of us has any idea what our lives will be like in four months. I am feeling some internal pressure to do something AMAZING with this opportunity and come out the other end a whole new woman with a whole new life. That might happen. But I will start by just getting quiet, listening to my heart, and following it where ever it leads me.
Today, my heart wanted to take a Zoom yoga class with my dear friend Erica and she mentioned this quote by Dov Seidman which was absolutely perfect, not just for my sabbatical, but for all of us who’s lives are on pause right now:
“When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when you press the pause button on human beings they start. You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, to re-imagine what is possible, and reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs.”
Just as I was starting to pick my life back up again and “go direct” after my 2019 Retrograde, the world fell apart. We were all sent to our rooms to reflect on who we are and what the f&*% we are doing. But even I, who am on an eternal quest for self growth am having a hard time focusing on that.
As things were unfolding here in NYC, I was in a complete state of anxiety. I am a Meyers Briggs SJ who is ALWAYS prepared so, of course, I started acquiring things early (not hoarding because SJs also follow the rules and think about others.) I would have mini moments of panic and run out to CVS in the middle of the day to get something I was running low on and then pop in to the grocery store just to make sure it was still stocked. I worried about my brother who has been sick for two months and tried to convince my Dad to stay home while sending him lists of things to stock up on. I had a cough that I would normally write off as a chest cold or allergies but of course I googled symptoms and worried about it constantly.
The first week of March, I had a colonoscopy I had been avoiding for a year (super fun activity to go through while the world is devolving around you). While I was waiting to get rolled in to the procedure room, I overheard my doctor say “It’s everywhere. It’s too late to stop this from spreading.” I already knew this. We are literally on top of each other here in NYC. There is definitely no hiding from something we don’t know is coming after us.
Two weeks later, I went in to a panic when I got an email from my doctors office saying my follow up appointment was cancelled because the doctor was “not feeling well”. Whaaaattt did that mean????!!! Within an hour, my temperature was 99 degrees. Cough…temperature rising….freaking out! I took an Advil (before I heard you are not supposed to take Advil for COVID-19) and texted both my energy healer and sister in a panic. They were both super helpful and within two hours, my temperature was back to normal. Did I have Coronavirus for a minute and then it passed? Or did my brain freak my body out? We may never know unless I get sick or get an antibody test, but I am fairly certain I am not the only anxious person who is going through this a few times a week right? (BTW: I have not heard a word from my doctor’s office. No news is good news, I hope!)
Five days after the “fever” incident, a friend convinced me to go outside to get some fresh air. After walking for an hour and climbing seven flights of stairs to avoid sharing the elevator, I was pretty sure that I was not sick. Since then I have been (mostly) calm, working from home like I have for most of the past 10 years , with a ton more video calls than usual so I have to actually shower and put on a bra now. I continue to order in food so I can save my non perishables…just in case. (This grateful SJ, does not mess around with being prepared AND she really hates cooking.)
It’s hard to focus on anything for very long. There is so much news to read and so many family members and friends to check in with. It takes more energy to figure out how to safely get food and do laundry and exercise. Then I feel guilty that those are the only things I have to worry about so I write out all of the things I am grateful for over and over in my journal. Then I do more scrolling and searching for what else I can do to help while listening to sirens outside and siting safely in my home so I don’t get sick or make anyone else sick. I make online donations and share things on social media that are helpful or completely irrelevant. I go for walks on the empty streets of NYC and have to remind myself that this is not a quiet Sunday morning in August. I can’t touch anything, I have to dodge people who get too close, and I can’t touch my face.
I can’t even bring myself to focus on TV. Nothing seems worth my time and nothing has been able to keep my attention. I haven’t had the energy to read or write. It’s even harder to stay off social media now. We are all going through this together and that is the only place where we can all BE together. At least that is what I am telling myself. I have watched a surprising number of ex-bachelor contestant’s Tik Tok videos and spent last Friday night watching three hours of an influencer’s blind date and the aftermath on an Instagram Live. What is wrong with me?
We are all still processing the shock of what has hit us and adjusting to what (I believe) will be a long period of isolation and grief. If it hasn’t hit you yet, don’t get complacent. It’s coming. Be careful and get ready.
I finally got myself focused to do some writing because these questions are constantly going through my mind behind all of the noise:
What the f&*^ is going on?
What are we supposed to learn from all of this?
What are we going to differently when we get through this?
This is a wake up call. Things will not (and should not) “go back to normal” when this is over. I don’t have the answers. We are all going to have to figure this out together. The people who are governing like adults or saving other people’s lives or making sure we all have food to eat or taking care of kids while trying to work from home or trying to make ends meet with no income or out on the street because they have no home, are kind of busy.
So if you have energy and time to spare, go inside for a few minutes and see what your heart has to say about the bigger picture of what is happening here, so we can figure this out. Then you can watch Tiger King and Tik Tok’s.
It’s been a minute, I know. I once again fell off the face of the earth but I am making another come back! I have committed to write 12 blog posts this year and now that I have officially shared that with the handful of people who will read this post, we are in this together and I will make it happen!
It’s always so hard to re-start after a break. I know that I want to start writing again but I am not entirely sure what I want to say. I struggle with how much to share and why I am sharing anything at all. My perfectionist self wants every post to be amazing and insightful. Especially after a long break. I am not sure I can muster up “amazing and insightful” right now, but I want to get this rolling again (and I am continuously working on letting go of my perfectionism) so here we go.
To start, I am not an astrologer yet!!! (surprise!) I still love Astrology. I have acquired many more astrology books. I listen to Astrology podcasts weekly. I follow a zillion astrologers on Instagram. I went to an astrology conference in the fall. I think in the language of astrology. I post Instagram stories about the moon and astrological events that move me. I have done some mini readings for friends. But I haven’t been able to invest the time to take it to the next level and I am not sure exactly HOW to take it to the next level. (I don’t think I can get a master’s degree in Astrology?) It’s still a passion. I am pretty sure its part of my life’s purpose in some way. I just have to figure out what to do next. More on that to come!
Speaking of the language of astrology, I feel like I went retrograde at the end of 2019. The official definition of retrograde is to “move backward”. Planets go retrograde, but they don’t technically move backward. They appear to be moving backward because the earth and the planet are moving at different speeds in different orbits. (This video explains the astronomy of it, or just trust me). When planets go retrograde, astrologers have observed that things can go a little haywire down here on earth. Astrology says that the disorder retrogrades can cause is trying to show us something – to force us to pay attention or see things from a new perspective. We don’t usually make changes when everything feels good in our lives. We humans usually need challenges to push us to evolve. It’s kind of the whole reason we are here.
There were some great moments in 2019, but there were a lot of challenges too, and things devolved for me as the year went on. I started out in Hawaii, then got to celebrate my birthday with people I love, and followed that with an amazing trip to Ireland. But I also had multiple health issues, went through some crazy family drama, got attacked by a dog, and worked a lot. By the end of the year, I found myself right back where I always end up, working around the clock with no time for myself, or anyone else in my life. Things culminated into a work tornado of stress that was unlike anything I have ever experienced. (I know I have had a lot of work stress in my life so, I kind of feel like Chris Harrison on the Bachelor who insists that every season is the most dramatic one yet! But really, it was the craziest yet! The Universe could give those reality show producers a run for their money.)
Everything could have been so much worse, and I am grateful that it wasn’t. My health issues were not life-threatening, the dog “bite” did not break the skin, my family is (mostly) holding it together, and I did not lose my job. But there were messages being sent, and I was listening!
Universe to me: Hello!!! I thought we were moving in the direction of our life’s purpose? What are you doing? You are not taking care of your heart! You are not taking care of your body! You are not feeding your soul! OK, I am going to throw some stuff at you to make you pay attention!!
It was not fun.
In January, the smoke cleared. Things lightened up at work in a way that was definitely for my greatest and highest good, but there were some hard lessons in there about my ego and letting go, and about paying attention to where I put my energy, that helped me shift my perspective. (Nice work Universe!)
At the end of a retrograde, after a planet goes “direct” again, there is a shadow period (called a “retroshade”) as the planet is adjusting to the shift in direction (or the illusion of the shift in direction, I guess.) January was my retroshade period. Things were still a little weird and then I took some downtime to regroup and recover. When February started, I was ready to go “direct”.
To get the energy flowing back in the right direction, I decided to bring “New Things” officially back in to my life! I don’t have a specific number new things I want to do this year, I am just going to try to get out and do new stuff and hopefully, write about it! I managed to knock out five new things in two weeks, so I am off to a good start! You can find the list on my lists page!
Happy (very) belated new year!! It feels good to be “direct” again, and on the right path, and to have this 2019 wrap up post complete so I can really get started with 2020.
PS: Ironically, as I was writing this post, Mercury went retrograde and will be retrograde until March 9th, 2020. Metaphorically, I am “direct” but in reality, we are all now experiencing Mercury retrograde which may cause some disruptions in communication, perception, and thinking (which are all related to the energy of the planet Mercury). Be careful out there.
If you have had any contact with me in the past year, you probably know that I have become obsessed with astrology. This is the story of how and why that happened.
Last year, when I was on a pilgrimage to the UK, there was an astrologer with us on our trip and I asked her how I could be a Pisces and not be a fan of baths, hot tubs, swimming or boats. Pisces is a fish (two fish, actually)! How could I not like water? (For some reason, this was the only astrological question I had at the time.)
She instructed me to enter the date, time, and place of my birth into a website to pull up something called a “birth chart”.
What happened next blew my mind. From looking at a bunch of cryptic symbols on a wheel divided in to 12 “houses”, this woman I had just met started saying some very accurate and profound things about me and my life. She also said that this wheel contained some guidance about what I was supposed to be doing with my life!!! How had I never heard about this beautiful, mysterious, magical wheel????
[Before I go on (because I am sure you are dying to know), being a Pisces is not really about actual, physical water. Each sign is associated with an element (fire, water, air, earth) that represents one of four personality temperaments. Water is the “feelings” temperament. Pisces don’t necessarily want to take baths all the time, but they do feel things very deeply. I have a lot of feelings. Mystery solved.]
So how does this crazy, magical wheel (aka birth chart or natal chart) have all of this information about who we are and what is happening in our lives?
Hang on now, because this gets a little woo woo.
First, you need to be open to the possibility that you have a soul and that this soul has lived many lifetimes with the purpose of learning and growing. (Souls love to learn and grow.) What’s the end game? I like to imagine that after you have conquered all of the hard things (without creating any new shitty karma) you can do cool stuff like relax on a hammock all day, look out at the universe, drink margaritas, and never get hungover. Some might call it… enlightenment.
In order to get to this relaxing hammock in the universe, you have to learn A LOT of stuff. To help you get there, each lifetime is perfectly crafted so you have the POTENTIAL to learn your next set of lessons. You might not successfully master all of the lessons, but your life is set up to give you the opportunity to do so. (It’s like a choose your own adventure book!) My astrology teacher believes that each of us has a soul advisor that we meet with before each lifetime to discuss the lessons we want to learn. Or it might make more sense to you that there is a divine being that sets this all up because she has a bigger plan.
Once the lesson plans are decided, your soul advisor (or the divine being) selects the exact time, place, and family you will be born in to, to give you the opportunity to learn those lessons. The location of the planets (and other celestial bodies) in the sky at the exact time and place of your birth, is your natal birth chart. Think of it as a map to your soul’s purpose in this lifetime. And this map is somehow coordinated with the maps of a bunch of other souls that you are supposed to interact with in this lifetime so you can learn some lessons together. (This soul advisor/divine being is super smart.)
But, how did anyone get the idea that the planets in the sky would have anything to do with what happens in our lifetime?
A long, long time ago (before electricity and television and Instagram), people had A LOT of time to look up at the sky. They paid very close attention (because they had nothing else to do, but survive) and noticed patterns between the locations of the stars and planets in the sky and people’s personalities, behaviors, and the events that happened in their lives (and in societies and on the earth overall!) For thousands of years, astrologers have been observing, confirming, refining and expanding on these observations and they prove to be true, over and over again.
This sounds crazy, I know, until YOU get an natal chart reading and you are blown away by what the position of those planets says about you.
This map (or lesson plan) is not like Google Maps which gives you specific routes to get you where you need to go and tells you how long each route will take. It’s more like a very complicated puzzle that has to be decoded. And it’s not like a jigsaw puzzle that can only be put together one way. Each symbol can be brought to life by different people in different ways. And the relationships between the planets create even more options. And the map might actually say something different later in your life as the planets continue to move through the sky and as you take different paths on your “chosen” adventure which will provide new contexts. Souls are complicated. Life on this planet is complicated. Unpacking all of that with astrology is complicated.
So you may be thinking, “If there are so many ways to put the pieces together, how do I know my astrologer is putting it together the right way?”
Excellent question. Even the BEST astrologer can’t tell you EXACTLY what will happen to you in your lifetime. If they have a lot of experience (and intuition) they can pick out the pieces that fit best with who you are and they work with you to put it all together. But only YOU will know in your gut if it feels right to you. I have only started to dabble in telling people what their charts say (and I know just enough to be dangerous) but so far I have a lot of peeps nodding their heads when I tell them what the planets and stars have to say about them.
Worst case, you dismiss it as nonsense and go on with your life. Best case, something really important becomes clear to you that you had never thought of before. Or something is unlocked inside you that you didn’t know was there. Or it brings you comfort to you to believe that there is a plan and all of the hard things you have been through (or are still going through) are lessons that you created for yourself and it might actually make sense! And it MIGHT be fun to believe that when you finally conquer your lessons, you can relax and drink margaritas ALL DAY with no repercussions!
All of this “best case” stuff is what happened to me! Learning about my own chart made me so curious that I took an astrology class, started reading astrology books, and have been viewing everything in my own life (and in the lives of everyone around me) through an astrology lens.
I mentioned above that my chart has some guidance about what my life’s purpose might be. I will spare you the play-by-play of my chart analysis (for now), but the net-net is that it appears my destiny might be to use astrology to help people. As much as I love understanding my own chart, I really want to help other people figure out what their lessons are so they can get through them and on to the next level of their own enlightenment (which may or may not involve a Universe hammock and margaritas.) The planets and stars (and my astrology teacher and dear friend Kim) keep telling me that I was born to do this.
I have a lot to learn before can hang up my shingle and call myself an astrologer. It takes many years to really learn astrology and I do have a full time job that I need to keep to support my new astrology book habit. So if I have your birth deets and I have not yet given you the full analysis of your chart, be patient! It feels right in my heart that this is what I am supposed to do, so I will get to it! I also plan to write a lot more about astrology, so hopefully, I have piqued your interest enough to keep you tuned in.
You may be wondering about the picture above. My amazingly talented mother drew this beautiful picture of me as a baby surrounded by my Pisces fish with a few astrological symbols in the mix. I have always loved this picture. Maybe it was because I knew deep down that it represented my destiny.
Full disclosure, she also drew a similar and equally beautiful picture of my brother who is, so far, not super interested in astrology. But he is a Leo so he is doing his own thing.
As the end of 2018 approached, I was craving rest. November and December had been crazy busy and I was really looking forward to some time off. But before I could rest, I had a last minute work project to finish, a trip upstate to celebrate Christmas , and a sleepover planned with my nieces. As all of that approached, I started to feel like I was getting sick, but pushed through it. I got the work done. I got the pre-holiday errands done. I got the packing done. I got the cleaning done. I thought I was maybe fighting off the sickness, but as I got on the train to go upstate, the worst sinus infection of my life set in.
After spending Christmas on my brother’s couch feeling like I got hit by a truck, I managed to get myself on a train back to the city and cleared my calendar for the rest of the week. I didn’t have the energy to read but I did muster up the energy for an Audio book. Audible had recommended a book called My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, because I was a Pisces. It sounded very relaxing and exactly what I needed.
Not too far in, it became clear that this was not a book about rest and relaxation. This was a book about a young woman who wants to sedate herself, so she doesn’t have to live life or feel anything. She has decided that if she sedates herself for a year, she will be “re-set” and can then go on with her life and leave all of the stuff she didn’t want to deal with behind. But it’s a also a comedy. This book was seven hours of a lot of this….
”I took a Valium, two Benadryl’s, when to the Egyptians and got two coffees and a Klondike bar, watched Jumping Jack Flash and The Fugitive and drifted off to sleep.”
I listened to the whole thing. (Spoiler alert, I am going to give you the play by play.)
Interspersed with reports of the medications she was taking, and the movies she was watching (starring her heroes Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford), we did learn about the life of this no-named woman. She was beautiful, and she believed that no one really wanted to be her TRUE friend because she was so beautiful. She did have one friend she did not really like, who insisted on coming over and complaining about her life while the un-named woman made it very clear she did not want her there. The main character’s parents gave her almost nothing emotionally and they both died while she was in college. She was obsessed with an older man who was a complete ass. She had an insane psychiatrist who kept forgetting her parents were dead and had no idea the woman was lying about having insomnia to get more meds. Did I mention this was a comedy? I had read a review that said the ending was worth reading the whole book. So, I kept listening.
Every month or so, the un-named woman would go to her insane doctor to get more prescriptions. At about 6 months in, they tried a new drug called Infermiterol (not a real drug) that would make her sleep for three days straight (score!), but she learned that during those three days, her subconscious would do crazy things, like go out partying, buy things online, order Chinese food, drunk-dial the older man, and get bikini waxes. She wanted to stop doing these things, because they were counter to her goal to do NOTHING, so she tried to avoid this new drug. But after the Infermiterol no other sleep drug would work! She was screwed! It was painful to listen to her take more drugs and watch MORE Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford movies and still not be able to sleep!!! But I kept listening.
She finally came up with a plan to have this creepy artist dude lock her in her apartment and make sure her basic needs were met (i.e. food) so she could take 40 of these pills in a row to finish out her “year of rest and relaxation” and NOT leave her apartment and not DO anything or FEEL anything. In exchange for helping her with this, the creepy artist dude, got to make creepy art of her while she was “sleeping”. (There is a whole undercurrent about the ridiculousness of the art world in this book that was sort of over my head because I am not in the art world.) Did I mention the no-named woman is independently wealthy because her parents were rich and left her all of their money? This was why she could sleep all day, not work, and still pay for drugs…in case you were wondering.
I kept listening to the book, because now I really had to see how it ended. And we were almost there. Just three more months of sleep to go. And luckily, they went quickly because she slept through most of it.
Here is how it ends. (Reminder…spoiler alert!) When she wakes up from her three months of slumber (somehow surviving on diet Sprite and some occasional light snacks and vitamins) she is emotionally healed! AND she has NO drug withdrawal. She does have to regain her strength with an egg salad sandwich so she can walk, but she does it. She is now a person who can tolerate living in the world. And she is still, miraculously, beautiful. She literally erased all of her angst by sleeping for a year, and then just woke up. The book ends on 9/11 and she loses her one friend (who she didn’t really like) in the attack on the World Trade Center. She records the footage of a woman jumping out of one of the towers and watches it over and over because she is sure this woman is her friend. And she thinks her friend is finally feeling alive in that moment. That is how it ends.
My first thought was… “That was a waste of seven hours of my life.”
I know there was all sorts of poignant commentary on our society in this book that I was supposed to pick up on. (I read about it in the literary reviews.) I didn’t pick up on any of that stuff. But it definitely, left an impression on me. This was a CRAZY book and I could not stop thinking about it.
I was thinking about how much I really needed to REST and how much I wanted to shut everything and everyone out and do absolutely nothing for a very long time. In those days, feeling sick and tired, I could totally relate to wanting to sleep and just ignore everything else. And that freaked me out.
I felt sad for this imaginary woman, of course. (I AM an empathetic Pisces sun/Cancer rising.) She had no tools to deal with her parent’s death. She had beauty, money, intelligence, a job in a cool art gallery (that she eventually lost because she kept taking naps there), but she was deeply unhappy. She didn’t want to face that, and she didn’t know how to fix it. She did all the WRONG things to make it better. But then it WAS better. And that freaked me out. Life doesn’t work that way!!!
What was this book saying to me? Why was it hitting me so hard? I honestly wasn’t sure. I continued to hibernate for the rest of the week and recover from the sinus infection. I started this post about the book but had no conclusion, so I filed it away, incomplete. I re-entered the world and went on with my life. Things got crazy busy again. I started flying around the country, working long hours, and squeezing in “creativity” on the side.
Then my body revolted on me again with another sinus infection. Whatever the message at Christmas, I didn’t get it. My body loves to send me messages and if I don’t listen, it yells REALLY LOUD and the timing usually sucks.
This time it was my 50th birthday and my sister and my college friends were coming to town to celebrate with me. I managed to rally through the weekend with a lot of Sudafed, Advil, Augmentin, and Prednisone, but then I had to go back in to semi-hibernation to rest. I felt a lot like the no-named beautiful, sad woman…with slightly fewer drugs and better entertainment.
The book and the unfinished blog post were haunting me (and not just because I am an ISTJ and hate having things incomplete.) I think this book represents my own ongoing conflict between wanting to just “sleep” and hide out and wanting to be awake and alive – which is often scary and a lot harder. And how much rest do I need? Am I resting enough? I am not good at resting. I am a type A person who always has a list of things to do, but maybe I need to just chill out more often. Does every weekend have to start with a to do list? Do I need to watch more movies and eat more Klondike bars?
I have been getting sick a lot the past few years, so I know something is out of alignment – physically, emotionally, spiritually. To get back in alignment, I know I have to be IN the world more and go more deeply in to what I need to work on. But when I am sick, ALL I want to do is rest and hide out. See the conundrum?
I have been debating all of this, thinking about my next move, and pondering how to end this blog post.
Then, last night, I had a dream about egg salad sandwiches. I think that was my sign that it’s time to wake up and come out the winter hibernation. I have to figure out what my body needs to get healthy (and stay healthy) and find the right balance of resting and being in the world. What is out of alignment is probably some crazy shit that’s been building for 50 years (or maybe 50 lifetimes!) so this is not going to be easy, but I am going to figure it out. I might take a few naps along the way, and I will need to be patient, but I will get to the bottom of it.
I did put my spiritual journey on the back burner a bit during this crazy time but its still simmering on the stove. All of this resting and being sick, ties in to the astrology stuff I have been studying but I will save that for another time. If you are interested in my spiritual journey, you are in luck because I will be jumping back in hard core this spring. Lots of good stuff coming up! I will be going deep.
I learned this week, that between the full moon and the new moon, you should close things out, let things go, and make room for new stuff. I am letting go of this book. I am letting go of this sinus infection. I am wrapping up this blog post and putting it out in to the world.
I watched Leaving Neverland this weekend, the documentary just released on HBO about the experiences of two men who were sexually abused by Michael Jackson. I hadn’t read anything about it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it. I am trying to cut back on the media noise that comes at me from all directions every day. Did I really need to watch a sensationalized story about a famous person that has nothing to do with me? Will it make me not be able to listen to Michael Jackson music any more?
Of course, I was curious, so I watched it.
It was VERY hard to watch. It deeply touched me, so I feel compelled to share my thoughts and encourage others to watch it. I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to watch this documentary. It’s so well done and important.
I have never been sexually abused and don’t know anyone, personally, who has shared this with me. So, I don’t speak on this topic from personal experience, but Oprah weighed in on the “After Neverland” special and she does know what she is talking about. It’s really an amazing documentary.
Be warned, the movie gets in to very explicit details about how Michael Jackson seduced and sexually abused two young boys for many, many years. As I was listening to these graphic details I was thinking “Why is this going in to so much specific detail?”, “Why am I watching this?”, “Is this helpful or sensational?” These are visuals that I now have in my head that will haunt me for a very long time. They are powerful and disturbing, but they are important part of the story. And because they are so specific (and similar) they are undeniable.
There is no way, listening to these men, that you could not believe them, unless you are in deep denial yourself. The sexual abuse is part of a bigger story of seduction and manipulation. This is the story that is important to understand, because this is how it happens, over and over, to so many children (according to Oprah who knows what she is talking about.) Those boys were in love with Michael Jackson and didn’t believe that what was happening was wrong. He convinced them to lie in court about what happened to protect him. Michael Jackson designed and built his home to facilitate the seduction and sexual abuse of young boys. That is a lot of planning and foresight. He was not a good man.
After watching this documentary, I felt complicit, in a way, to what happened to those boys. I only vaguely remembered the accusations. I probably believed that they were true but I don’t remember thinking much about it and it didn’t effect my opinion of Michael Jackson or his music. We kept loving him and buying his music, and he kept doing it. He manipulated the world.
The second half of the documentary is focused on what happened to the men as they became adults. They had this deep secret that waged a battle between their subconscious and conscious minds. They described this battle so well and explained how having children of their own triggered something inside that made them finally realize what had happened to them.
I encourage you to watch and listen to what these men have been courageous enough to share with the world. If there is something we can learn from this and bring in to our own lives to keep more children safe, it is worth 4 hours of being uncomfortable. Even if it means we can never listen to Michael Jackson music again. I thank Wade Robson and James Safechuck (and the boys who came forward before them) for their courage.
Week 4 of The Artist’s Way is “reading deprivation” week. It was called “reading deprivation” in the early 90s when the book was written, but the world has evolved and now it is a full blown “media deprivation.” No reading, no TV, no movies, no newspapers, no social media, no podcasts, no blog posts, no internet surfing, and limited e-mail and texting. (If you have a job, you can work.)
Why would one do this, you ask? All of it? At one time?
The theory is that this noise is drowning out our own thoughts. The intent of The Artist’s Way is to uncover “blocked creativity” and our creative ideas have a harder time coming to the surface when your brain is drowning in information. All of this reading and consuming stuff can be one of the many ways we hide from ourselves. In Julia Cameron’s words…
gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings,
rather than cook something up of our own.
When I got to this assignment, I made excuses about why this was not a great time to do it, and I put it off. I went on a business trip and spent the week reading, listening to podcasts, and posting about my travels on Instagram. But in the back of my mind, this “media deprivation” was calling to me. I was craving it and dreading it at the same time.
At the end of the week, which happened to be February 1st, I had dinner with a friend who mentioned an astrology web site that had given her a very accurate January horoscope. When I got home, I checked out my February scope which said…
The new moon of February 4th has you hunkering down in solitude to work on your strategy for 2019. Pisces does their best work when alone so carve out time to think, dream, draw, take notes, and plan…..whatever your aim, being alone will bring beautiful, thoughtful results. – Susan Miller
I took this as a clear sign that THIS was my week to tune out the world and tune in to myself. I kicked off my “media deprivation” week the next day, and by the new moon on February 4th, I was well in to my week of solitude.
I did get sick on day one. (Not a surprise after four plane rides in two weeks.) I decided it was a test from the Universe. “Are you serious about this? Cuz I am going to make it REALLY hard for you not to turn on that TV and veg out, just to be sure you mean business.”
Well, the Universe should know that when I say I am going to do something, I (almost) always do it. I felt like shit for a few days, but I did not break! When I was soooo tired and all I wanted to do was turn on the TV, I just went to bed. I got A LOT of sleep!
With Sudafed and coffee to keep me going, I did actually get a lot of things done. I caught up on my Artist’s Way exercises. I called my parents. I cooked (twice)! I read my sister’s birth chart, which I had been putting off for months. (This was my one “reading” exception because I really wanted to knock this out.) I had a drink with a friend I had not seen in years. I was much more focused at work without the temptation of picking up my phone or flipping over to Facebook or reading the news.
Did the deprivation spark my creativity? Well, I did spend a lot of time on this vision board. (If you don’t know what a vision board is, read more here.)
This was a project I had already planned for the week, and then it turned out to be exactly what my horoscope told me to work on…”hunker down in solitude to work on your strategy for 2019… carve out time to think, dream, draw, take notes, and plan” Hello! Vision board for 2019!
It was a delicate dance in the bookstore to find magazines for
this project without actually reading anything, but I pulled it off! I spent
hours picking out images and arranging and rearranging them on the page before
I pulled out my glue stick and put it all together.
I love how it turned out. I managed to fill it up using mostly the magazines I intuitively selected for this purpose. I did print out a picture of Josh Radnor because I think he is the bomb and if I can call him in in 2019, then I will know I have truly stepped in to my spiritual power. It also includes a washing machine with a portal to an “other world” (score for intuitively selecting a magazine that had that image in it!)
Would my vision board have been this awesome if I had not shut off all media which gave me extra hours to hunker down and do it? Who knows? Will it be more powerful because I created it in solitude on the new moon in Aquarius? How could it not be? We can circle back at the end of the year to see how much I end up manifesting for myself in 2019. (If I call in Josh Radnor, you will hear about it way before then.)
In some ways, the “media deprivation” was like a week-long meditation. I paid attention every time I would normally pick up my phone and didn’t. I paid attention every time I thought I should take a picture to share on Instagram and didn’t. I stopped thinking about cool hash tags for my life, and just experienced it.
I felt like I was in a bubble of silence. Even when I was with people, it felt like I was in seclusion because I have become so used to this other layer of digital connection. I didn’t really miss the news or TV or podcasts or reading books. But I missed the connection to my extended community. As an introvert, it would exhaust me to physically interact with lots of people all the time. But I like knowing what people are up to from a distance and I like them knowing what I am up to. But I also really liked the quiet of stepping away from it all.
The intent was to encourage you to tune in to your thoughts.
I am not a person who runs away from my thoughts. I am a person who is more in
my head that I should be. I personally think I need a mix of being alone with my
own thoughts and being inspired by other people’s ideas to be creative. That
was a key learning for me this week. I can do without the junk that fills my
brain like empty calories, but the real quality stuff that I consume enhances
my life, and my creativity.
My week is up. I have
made it thought seven days, but I find myself resisting turning it all back on.
I have this image in my mind of emerging from a dark cave in to a bright sunny
day and the light is so overwhelming that you have to block your eyes from the
I will ease my way back in to it with sunglasses on and try to continue with LESS of it all (especially those empty calories!) Perhaps a weekly re-set is in order to remind of the beauty of this silence.
I highly recommend this detox for everyone. It’s hard core, but you will learn something about yourself if you dive in and give it a shot. I promise!
This week, I started the The Artists Way, and one of my first assignments was called “Imaginary Lives”. Part 1 of this exercise was to think of five imaginary lives. What would I do (career wise) if I was not doing what I do now?
The first things that came to my mind were:
The vegetable farmer is weird, I know. I have always thought that maybe in a past life, I was a vegetable farmer. I get up early and go to bed early, like a farmer, even though I live in the city that never sleeps. I love vegetables and I am not a huge fan of animals. I am not sure if I really want to GROW vegetables, but this popped in to my head so on a subconscious level, maybe I do!
Part 2 of this exercise was to actually DO something related to one of these lives during the week. At first I thought I had to do ALL of them and I was like F&^*!!! I don’t have time for that. But just one, I thought I could manage.
I thought about corralling someone to go sing karaoke with me but I had a super busy week so I just couldn’t swing it.
Astrologer and writer were too easy because I am already doing both of those on a regular basis. (I know I haven’t written much about astrology yet, but I will!)
Painter came to mind because I had just seen a movie where a woman was painting and I thought “that looks like such a relaxing way to spend the day.” Growing up, I used to do paint-by-numbers all the time. I liked it because it had structure to it (open this paint color and paint where you see this number) but was also kind of creative. But paint-by-numbers take a really long time. You have to paint one color at a time and wait for it to dry. Its a process. (I should also note that my mother was a painter. I don’t remember her being particularly relaxed or un-relaxed about it but she made the most beautiful paintings. They far surpassed my paint-by-numbers of course, but she never rubbed my nose in it. Thanks mom!)
The plan at this point was to either paint or buy a plant.
I googled “tiny paint-by-number” and I found this! A super tiny Bob Ross paint by numbers kit. Score!!!! (This box fits in my hand. It’s tiny.)
The website said was in stock at my local Barnes & Noble so I ran out in the freezing cold to pick it up. If you haven’t been to an actual bookstore recently, you might not remember how hard it is to find something there. It is A LOT easier to order stuff online. But, I like to “buy local” when I can, and I was in a rush. I stopped at three information booths that steered me in the wrong direction. When I asked guy #4 at Barnes & Noble, he told me that he had wanted a Bob Ross bobblehead, and although he knew it was in stock, even HE could not find it in the store, so he ordered it on-line. (True story). BUT since his personal failed quest, he had one more idea of a place he hadn’t checked, and we found it. If you want one (and after you see how amazing mine turned out, you might), check the “spinner” near the check out isle at your local Barnes & Noble. (You’re welcome.)
Below, you can see all of the supplies that come with the “Bob Ross by the Numbers” kit: three super tiny “canvases”, paint, a brush, instructions, and an easel (to display your art on your desk when its finished).
When I read the instructions, I learned that I was going to ,have to mix my own colors. I panicked a little bit. This was supposed to be an easy, quick slam dunk. I was tired and had a headache and that just seemed hard. But I always do my homework and as one of my inspirational heroes Glennon Doyle says “we can do hard things”, so I pressed on.
My first attempt was the actual picture of Bob Ross painting. I did have some issues with the color mixing (Bob’s hair should be a little darker and the sky should be a little lighter) but it’s not too bad, it really WAS relaxing!
I was pretty sure I could so better so I took on one more painting (and miraculously my headache was gone!) I think painting #2 is kind of a masterpiece, don’t you think? Have you ever seen a more beautiful 3 inch by 2 inch painting? Are you not impressed with the dark and light purples I had to mix on my own using blue, red, and white? And what about the various shades of green? FYI, I learned from experience that to get dark green, you should mix in dark blue, not black. (Again, you are welcome for all of the knowledge I am sharing with you today.)
I am definitely happy that I went the extra mile to complete my assignment this week. I may seem like a small thing (no pun intended), but it felt so good to tune out and use my brain in a different way for a few hours. I had a long list of stuff I wanted to do this weekend, but I made the time for this creative endeavor and it was relaxing and fun! I impressed myself with my creative skills, and I think mixing my own colors counts as leaving my paint-by-number comfort zone, for sure.
The bonus of this activity was that it killed two birds with one stone. As part of the Artists Way, I also have to do an artist date every week. An artists date is “a block of time where you are committed to nurturing your creative consciousness.” Done and done. I do like to be efficient!
I decided to keep it simple this year. I am going with a one-word theme.
I debated setting another goal to do a set number of specific things and was (of course) obsessing over how many things and what exactly those things would be. And then last week, the idea of having a one-word theme was presented to me.
This is not a new idea, but it was a new idea to me and I loved it because it was simple. And I don’t want to keep doing the same old “new” things. I need to innovate!
And…..I already knew what my word would be.
I had been thinking a lot about what I wanted to focus on in 2019. I want writing to be a big part of it, but I have other ideas. I recently realized that I have a lot of ideas that I don’t pursue. I let them float through my head while I am busy checking off meaningless stuff on my to do list and I often just forget about them. Or sometimes they keep coming back to me and I make excuses not to pursue them. Then I sit around saying “I don’t know what I want to do with my life and I have no ideas.” Sigh.
At the end of 2017, I read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved that book and its been milling around in the back of my mind with all of those ideas. The story from the book that stayed with me most vividly was one she told about this glimmer of an idea she had that she wanted a garden. And she didn’t just dismiss it (like I have many times with the plant wall I keep thinking about) but she ran with it. Then she got interested in learning about the flowers and she ran with that! And THAT turned in to a book.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
This idea of following your curiosity, reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, I have loved Alice in Wonderland since I was a little girl. Now I realize she has been calling me to follow my curiosity and uncover the hidden jewels.
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Yes!!!! I want to find those treasures and create amazing things because it will be fun!!! (Extra bonus points if I can inspire other people to do the same!!)
I recently stumbled on the Big Magic podcast and listened to the Brene Brown episode. She basically told me that I have no choice but to start creating more things. Here is what Brene said to me last week while I was walking around the East Village:
“The only unique contribution we make in this world will be born of creativity.”
“Creativity is soul work. It’s not about what we do, it’s about who we are.”
So yeah, I gotta get on this.
First, I must start writing down the ideas that come to my head so I don’t forget them. Then I need to take inspired action on the ones that speak to me the loudest. Then I will start creating things. Some of those things I will share, and some will just be for me. Some of those things will be writing and some of them will be other cool stuff. Some of it might not end up being that cool or important, and that’s OK.
“You are not required to save the world with your creativity.” –– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
In case you have not figured it out yet, my word for 2019 is CREATIVITY.
I am going to follow my curiosity and create things out of the ideas that I am no longer going to ignore. I am not going to do a specific number of things. I am just going to do stuff. Maybe it will be one HUGE creative project and maybe it will be 100. Who knows? Did Alice have any idea what she was getting in to?
I am going to kick the year off with the The Artist’s Way. For those who are not in the know, The Artist’s Way, is a “12-week program of exercises and explorations to loosen up one’s artistic self.” (My creativity hero, Elizabeth Gilbert, is a huge fan)
I am on my way to being loose and even MORE artistic!
Welcome to my #YearofCreativity. Let’s see how this goes!
PS: The artwork above is a print I bought on Amazon from Lone Star Art.
I started my year with a complicated plan to “sort of” continue my New Things from 2017 but with the intention to focus more on quality over quantity. You can read the details here but essentially, I had dialed it back to only 18 new things that had to involve one of my five goals for the year: Fun, Creativity, Connection, Meaning, Nature. (I added “leaving my Comfort Zone” later as a sixth goal, primarily so I could count new thing #1 which ended up not being as fun as I thought it would be.)
I soon regretted this plan because I felt like I was being lazy. Well, my higher self does not let me be lazy for too long. In April, I dialed things back up and decided to go on a pilgrimage to find my life’s purpose. That decision changed the course of my year (and probably my life) and got me back on track with the trajectory I set in motion in 2017. Phew!
My life expanded in 2018. I am not the same person I was when the year started. I would say that counts as #quality.
I did 40 new things. Not too shabby. When I sat down to review the list, I realized I had at least five that I never shared!!! See the list here.
I quit therapy after 20 years. There were a few “ah ha” moments in 2018 that led to that decision. I am a huge fan of therapy. I needed it and I healed and grew a lot from it. I think most people would benefit from a good therapist. But I realized this year that I have the tools I need to carry on the rest of the way without that relationship. No regrets so far. I LOVE having my Saturday mornings back. #leavingmycomfortzone
I embarked on a spiritual journey. I didn’t even realize that was happening. I sort of knew I was signing on to work with a spiritual energy healer when I decided to go on the pilgrimage, but I ignored that part. I was like “yeah, we’ll see what’s up with that, but I really just want to solve this thing eating away at me that I should be doing SOMETHING but I have no idea what”. Little did I realize that that THING eating away at me is the Universe sending me messages that I have been ignoring. I am learning (slowly, and sometimes still reluctantly) to believe those messages and pay attention to them. Some of this “spiritual stuff” still does not resonate with me, but some if it is like WHAAAATTT??? That is amazing!!! Much more to come on all of this, I am sure. #meaning
I made amazing new connections. I have a tribe of new fabulous women friends who are also on this spiritual journey with me that I have learned so much from. Dating went in an interesting direction this year. I manifested more cookies than kale (this post will explain what I mean by that) but the cookies were fun I have learned from those connections, too. #connection #fun
It was a big family year. I had all of my nieces and nephew together more than once which was so much fun. I learned about past lives with my siblings (wow!) and spent quality time with all of my parents. (This is extra challenging because they are double divorced and spread up and down the East Coast. I spend a lot of time on Amtrak) There were some intense family moments as well, but you know what they say (and by they, I mean the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh)…No Mud No Lotus. #connection #fun #meaning
I thought I found my life’s purpose,twice, and was then like…hmmm…maybe this isn’t exactly it. This fall, I realized (with the help of my new spiritual friends and various podcasts) that this path I am on IS my life’s purpose. Learning, sharing, growing, paying attention and helping other people to learn, grow, share, and pay attention. That’s it. Don’t try so hard. Don’t think so much. Have fun. Roll with it. Trust the process. The process IS the thing. (Remind me to come back and read this when I forget, again, that the process IS the thing.) #meaning
I didn’t write as much as I wantedto, but I did churn out 13 posts this year. I took a poetry class. I saw a couple of interesting plays. I went to a cool event about music and math. I had the Garden of Eden painted on my body. I started using more emojis . But overall, 2018 was a little bit weak on #creativity
Nature was the category that got the least attention in 2018. My pilgrimage was hard core on nature. I did Butoh in the rain. We did a healing in a field full of sheep. I stared at flowers and trees for longer periods of time than I thought possible. I hiked the Tor, immersed myself in the healing pool of a sacred spring, tried to talk to trees, and hung out with a lot of prehistoric rocks. Since then I made one trip to the New York Botanical Garden but otherwise my life has been mostly #nature free. This is another area for improvement.
All in all, 2018 pretty much kicked ass. I was sick more than I would like, so there are some things that need to be tweaked, but I went pretty hard. I chose 18 for this year because it represented the Hebrew word Chai which represents being alive. I took my life to a new level this year and definitely felt alive! I chose the name Genesis when I was on my pilgrimage which represents beginnings. This year was the beginning of so many things. I look forward to what will unfold in 2019 and beyond. More on that soon….