Beginning again, again: Revisiting Visible and Real

mindmapI’ve been thinking about this space a lot recently (I’m seem to say that a lot). I’ve been thinking about what to do, whether to stop writing here, or what’s keeping me from that process.

One evening, while I was driving, I wondered what my connection to “visible and real” is, and why I couldn’t either jump in or let go. Thoughts and ideas poured through my head. Once I was parked, I started mind-mapping it out, with my journal draped across the steering wheel.

Clearly… there is connection and thoughts.

And then, a friend on Instagram asked about using visibleandreal as a hashtag, but knowing that I have a connection to that (it’s also my user name over there)… I again got to thinking about what it is this space means to me, and how the connection she has to the phrase is in the same spirit as why I started this blog and this adventure.

There have been a lot of reasons I’ve held back. Lots of wondering what others would think if I changed things (yet again) on the blog; what does it mean that I had such a hard time rallying people in the very beginning (so much so I couldn’t give away spots); why should I even try?

And yet… I’ve been participating with Saundra Goldman in her #continuouspractice invitation the past 26 days (only missing one day so far), and being able to get a little bit of space in my head to really sit with all of this (and everything else that comes up) has been really helpful. I’m able to acknowledge the brain weasels, as one of my friends calls them, without getting as wrapped up in them.

I have to remember I don’t have to do everything, all at once. This transition – this newness – can come as it feels appropriate. That I don’t have to restructure everything, or post every day, or or or. Those are ideas, they aren’t required. They are simply ideas.

I have a choice in how to proceed. I can do it on my own terms, at my own pace. There is freedom in knowing (and practicing) that.

* Also, Saundra has done a follow up on four reasons #continuouspractice is helpful and you can start now.

Doing everything wrong: Shame, truth-telling, and writing it out

From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

This is probably one of the hardest posts here at Visible and Real. And yet, I feel like there’s an elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. Because I think it’s blocking a lot of things around my writing, about my showing up to this space (and other spaces), and I don’t like the way that feels. It’s not that I dislike writing book reviews – I’m actually enjoying it and sharing some of my new reads and old loves with you all. But, I miss posts like THIS one (which is a post that comes to mind frequently for me when I think of this space), where I felt I was real. I miss feeling real in this space.

So, let’s talk about shame, vulnerability, and {hopefully} moving forward.

The irony is not lost on me that this post is publishing exactly two years after my most popular post, the “unveiling” of Visible and Real classes. That I started this blog in March 2012, let it languish, and then dove back in and started writing more regularly when I wanted to start a business teaching writing practice online. Early posts are scattered, trying to be everything to everyone, throwing in this and that. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – and yet, I was trying. I kept trying to put everything out there, and yet, I also know that I didn’t take the time to build a tribe, as They say you should. I didn’t have a Brand. I didn’t have a Platform. I was doing Everything All Wrong. And then, six months later, I said I was backing off of the workshops, etc. Cue shame, which creeped in and told me how much of a Failure I was and how I fucked it all up and did it All Wrong. It made me question everything I did in this space.

For me, shame often manifests in anger (not shown online), jealousy (not shown online), frustration (not shown online), and avoidance (cue the months of crickets and fits and starts of writing). There was all of this shame, self-loathing, and uncertainty of what I was doing and all this smashed together Stuff I had tried to do (and didn’t work). I wanted to make it work. I tried the best I knew how. And I appreciated the time I got to spend with those first few groups – small but mighty. Yet, I didn’t stick it out – for so many reasons.

But, every time I came to this space, I was reminded of the ways I had Done It Wrong and attached that to who I was (and what I was worth). Perhaps it isn’t such a surprise that this is a bit of a problem and makes for showing up hard, if not damn near impossible. Writing, storytelling, trusting myself and my own truth became difficult, because I felt that’s what I had been doing in creating this space and chasing my dreams of creating space for writing practice, and I did it ALL WRONG. It didn’t work. So, if it didn’t work, was I just blowing smoke?

Confession: I give up pretty easily on a lot of things, especially when it gets hard.

This was yet another instance. This was another place where I Gave Up and I walked outside of the arena. I couldn’t take it and I was Unworthy. {This is a message I have fought with, given into, and believed for much of my life.}

Confession: All of the good grades? All of the performing? The giving up when iI’m scared of failing? It helps keep me feeling Worthy of the grace, love, and beauty I am surrounded by. If I don’t fail, if I do everything Right, then I will be Worthy. I feel it is required of me to be the Bright Ray of Sunshine to make everything better and to not cause waves. And if I am not Worthy, I move in one of two directions: Complete Shutdown or Overperforming. {Either end of this pendulum is exhausting.}

And failing causes waves. Struggling with depression and self-injury causes waves. Being angry causes waves. Wrestling with the jealousy and feeling like I will never make my dreams come true causes waves (internally and externally). And yet, the experience of this all is the very storytelling that I was seeking to do here. And yet, I couldn’t show up and tell this truth – it would cause too many waves. {And to be honest? I also began to feel that because I couldn’t make dreams happen, I shouldn’t have them at all. Easier, my brain told me. I forget that sometimes, my brain lies.}

20140721_120032791_iOSOne of the things I have been trying to do is to work through some of this – through lots of writing, art journaling, and really trying to get down to the blood, bones, and sinew of what has kept me from being fully present here V+R the past year and a half. What is this that keeps me from this – and how can I work through it, on my terms, with my own truth?

In this, I have also needed to recognize my own culpability – the ways I shut down, the ways I tune out, the way I stick my head in the sand and keep trying to make sense of the world through lenses that are Not Mine. The ways that I give up and stop doing the work (whatever that means in the moment). I had to accept that I was making a choice in not showing up… and that showing up would require me to be brave.

This isn’t something that has come up overnight. Rather, this process has been prompted by my own desire to be braver, my work with my therapist, and what seems to be a message coming through in blog posts I’ve been reading, courses I am taking online this summer. And, frankly? I am sick of avoiding this space, of feeling this shame weighing down my shoulders. Heavy heavy heavy on these shoulders – it’s no wonder I’ve been having issues the past few weeks.

This shame has become a burden I can’t carry anymore. I won’t. And I have to keep remembering that this brave is a process, that this showing up is a process – again and again and again. It is a process to make the choice to stand on my own ground. It is a practice to stand in the arena and share truth vulnerably.

the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause

~ from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne (1910)
courtesy of Brené Brown’s blog post on the wo/man in the arena 

This is my life right now – battling the demons of Shame and Not Enough. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the amazing truth I read through other blogs, through books, through music, through conversation, and through learning to stand (wobbly) in my own truth – it is that coming forward and sharing {dare I say it, to make it visible and real} helps work through these demons and move forward.

Expectations, resistance, and unfreezing

I have a confession to make. I have a love/hate relationship with fiction, especially recently.

I’ve had a story/character kicking around for a few years, have talked about it here, with others, part NaNoWriMo, trying to flesh out (and finish) this story. I declared 2014 the year I either finished the damn story or put it to rest.

I’m realizing that it’s not as easy as that, though.

I meet weekly with M. Fenn for writing dates, and rarely anymore do I write fiction. I want to. But I don’t. Fiction is not my easy go-to place. I feel out of place and uncertain in that world.

This past week, Beth wrote a post at her blog about fiction writing. And it hit something for me. It made me start thinking about fiction writing again. It made my fingers itch for words. Yet, there is still resistance.

Like I said, love/hate.

I’m also in the midst of a final paper. Basically, it’s about my career journey, how I found my way to my program, using some of the theory we’ve learned in class to frame it. And I realize that, in so many ways, this is the kind of writing that sets me on fire. It’s the writing that I’ve done for most of my life as a journal-keeper. The stories I’ve told were my own, as a way to make sense of my world. Throw in framing it through my academic lenses sometimes? Mmm, that often makes it feel more like home.

2014-01-19 20.30.31

I’m still thinking about how I want to deal with this, if at all. But, I find myself writing in my journal that I do want to show up on the page. I want to see what is there. Whether that is fiction or not, I don’t know. (I also recognize that I’ve been saying this a lot over the past year or two. Is there a difference this time? Who knows?)

But I realize that labeling the type of writing I want to do (fiction, brilliant, seen, good, non-fiction), the expectations those labels put on me means there’s more pressure to Get It Right. And the stories inside get stuck.

I’m tired of it. I miss the words, because it feels like it’s been a long time.

Heavy expectation do not allow me playfulness that any act of expression requires. I’m still thinking about how to lighten up, how to show up and allow myself the freedom to look a fool on the page.

Do you experience heavy expectation frozenness? If so, how do you (or might you) bring playfulness into your work?

#365feministselfie – One month in…

While I may not always be good with following through on challenges (or e-courses), I’m still trucking along on the #365feministselfie challenge for the year. I have been amazed at looking through the photos over on Instagram. It’s been amazing to see the reality of women’s experiences – both the highlights and the tough days.

imageOne of the things that struck me this week was how the selfie was able to catch sparks of something that I hadn’t recently had the chance to see… having the selfie allowed me to see myself from another angle. Don’t get me wrong – seeing myself daily has been hard. To acknowledge (and let go) of that voice in my head telling me that I am being narcissistic, selfish, blah blah blah. It’s been a challenge to notice it regularly. Because things, in general, have been hard. I’m finishing week 4 of school and feeling rundown (already… yes, already).

I know I’m stretched too thin. Sometimes, it’s been hard to be anything but glum in my selfies recently. But one of the selfies this week caught that little spark and showed it to me when I needed it. Even now, this is probably one of my favourite pictures from the year so far, because it captures something that hasn’t been a full fledged experience as of late. The camera was able to catch that joy-filled, kind of sassy, lighter, laughing Steph.

It was a needed reminder. One that keeps me trucking and reminding myself that I need to light that spark a little bit – in part through taking care of myself.

And somehow, it strikes me now, that taking care of myself also means showing up for myself  so that I can be reminded of other parts of myself… even when (especially when?) it’s hard.

Dreaming big and keeping on

2014-01-21 09.59.26I’m supposed to be working on a case presentation report.

I’m having a hard time focusing today (this week).

I think there are a lot of reasons, but one major one? The excitement of starting the semester is over and reality of taking three classes, working part time, doing clinical, participating in two research groups, and trying to maintain some sort of practice(s) in my life has come crashing down (along with hormones, but that’s another story).

Overwhelm, of a slightly different flavor than I’ve previously talked about, abounds. But, the same sort of emotions come up. If I’m honest? It comes down to truly doubting what I have to offer this world and if I can do all (any) of this, because I’m letting the overwhelm elbow out the energy of Beginning. At the start of things (including a new year), I tend to feel a huge surge of I CAN DO ANYTHING! I dream big. I dream and make a whole list of what I want to do.

In my experience, it can be anywhere between a few hours, days, weeks, or months later,  but evening, reality and the realization that expectations I have are super high. It’s not that I can’t do it – but I can’t do it all at once and get where I want immediately. The dreaming big settles into questioning, doubt, fear. The reality of getting the work done hits me, and I am frozen with uncertainty.

I have to laugh in that knowing way, because if you’ve ever participated in National Novel Writing Month, you know how hard week 2 is. The freshness and excitement of week 1’s start is over, and you are stuck in the middle slog of Why am I doing this, again?

So what I find myself asking in the middle of this all – how do I keep going? How do I hold on to that fire while plodding along? How do I keep myself from freezing out of uncertainty and fear? And I think, sometimes, it’s a different answer for each project, for each person. Acknowledging that this is part of the process is helpful. That I go through this, a lot.

And the recognition that when I let fear stop me, fear wins. And that?

That is not what I want. Fear never gets to win, in the long run.

How do you keep yourself going during long-term projects? How do you keep fire for what you are doing?

#30dayjournal – day 1

Jessica Maya and I are friends over on Instagram. I have come to appreciate her pictures and writing inspiration. Recently, she told me about Roots: a #30dayjournal project- a free 30 day series of creative journaling prompts from Lisa Sonora Beam.

I did the first prompt today and was really surprised at what came out. Writing about beginnings, I ran smack into the topic of fear. I actively worked to keep my seat, to remain at the page, when all I wanted was to distract myself . If this is what came up on day 1? Here’s to 29 more days of exploration.

2014-01-19 20.30.31From my writing today:

All the lists, the expectations, all the unneccessary bullshit. What happens when I let it go?

(How do I let it go?)

New beginnings are refreshing and so heavy with expectations – I see white pages and think of all the bad things that could happen, all the ways I stumble, fall, screw up – and it makes me freeze in place. … New beginnings, so full of possibility, full of the realization of how it might all go .

Breathing through the anxiety. New means things I don’t know, things I don’t “have a handle on” – and yet new means possibility. To dwell in that world is scary.

fear puts a damper on things. fear eats away at my confidence. i have to fight against it every day.

(What happens if I stop fighting it? Instead, invite it in, allow it – know it has something to teach me, allow it to be a teacher, but not a tyrant – what face would I give to fear if I allowed it, along with my fledgling assertiveness, my kindness and empathy, my curiosity?


Huge thank you to Lisa Sonora Beam for her generosity in hosting this series.

Body image, mirrors, and #365feministselfie

I don’t know where I introduced to the article about #365feministself (here it is), but starting January 1, 2014, I began participating over at Instagram (@visibleandreal).

I’m not sure what compelled me. I’ve tried doing Project 365 a few times, documenting daily moments of my life. I typically would forget until the end of the day, so I got a lot of my feet under covers in bed. But, this? This scared the jeebies out of me, in part because I would be seeing my face, every day, for a year. And yet… that’s part of what compelled me to do it. To see the grays that filter through my hair. To see who I am, daily.

Because, honestly? I avoid mirrors. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror and hate having my picture taken. The words that go through my head when I catch sight of myself … it’s harsh. And even though I admonish friends and acquaintances “No negative self-talk!” when those things come out of their mouths, the internal chatter doesn’t get such a quick shut down from me.

Enter #365feministselfie – a reminder that it is a feminist stance to accept who I am and what I look like (as I am, in whatever moment), that I needn’t look a “certain” way (read: magazine beautiful). That I can appreciate who I am, as I am, just as I do for my friends and those I follow on Instagram.

And when I click the hashtag on Instagram and see all of these beautiful, real faces of women across IG, I appreciate it. I value the brave it takes to be seen, and realize this is part of unfolding – allowing myself to be seen.

How do you allow yourself to be seen?

smiling self
Unfolding into who I am, daily, through pictures. Will you allow yourself to be seen?