When shame and the desire to hide meet #continuouspractice

IMG_6314Yesterday, I was reading at clinical and this sentence stopped me in my tracks.

Alienation is shame on steroids. It is the extreme, unshakeable feeling of being “less than” and unlike normal people. (From It’s not you, it’s what happened to you: Complex trauma and and treatment by Christine Courtois)

It’s something that rattled through me like a freight train, and I was considering throughout the day.

Fast forward to today, when I’m sitting at my kitchen table, staring at my journal. You see, I haven’t done my #continuouspractice writing in over a week… and I felt shame up to my eyeballs. Questions about my self-worth, my ability to do this (and it’s interesting to note how quickly the “this” spirals out to include everything in my life, not just practice), about posting on Instagram and having to acknowledge that I hadn’t been writing… I nearly set my journal in the pile of stuff next to me and start doing my homework. Why continue? You’ve already messed up, it’s been more than just one missed day. It’s NINE! You’ve screwed it up.

And I told myself that I didn’t have to write, but that I missed it. That I could do 20 minutes then start work. And so, I did. And in the space of writing practice, I realized that this throw-my-hands-up-and-run-away response is not unfamiliar; nor is the stream of put-downs about that response. It was a wake up call how quickly shame responses lead me to alienate, to pull away and pull back. To make myself invisible, as though that will make the shame go away.

Usually? It doesn’t. It just becomes a ghost that haunts me, about why I can’t do something (anything), and it freezes me in my tracks.

In practice, I reminded myself I have a choice. I don’t have to continue doing #continuouspractice. I can continue. I can start back at day one or keep going from where I was. I can choose to hide. I can choose to be honest about these feelings or I can shut down and try to ignore them. There are many ways to go. I have the power choose.

So today, I chose to show up to myself and my practice. To show self-compassion {yeah, it’s been busy and you haven’t made time to do this} and accountability {don’t run away from this, even if it seems “easier” right now – show up}, recognizing self-compassion and accountability are not mutually exclusive.

I can choose to hold both.

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.

Honoring process and product

In some ways, I see the irony of this post as a “milestone” post (number 300!), when I struggle so very much with the process of this blog. The negative self-messages of what a “horrible” blogger I am, because I am not posting new content all of the time. Yet, I also work to make sure I have something to say before posting.

20141210_183839000_iOSOver the past week and a half, I’ve been working on what is my last master’s paper for my program. It’s a doozy, really. It’s essentially the culmination of the last three years of learning, formation, and experience, wrapped up in a metaphor. This is the earliest I’ve ever started a paper, honestly. But, I knew that it was important and would take thinking, integration, and lots of edits.

I’ve been doing most of the work on my computer, because it was to be 12-15 pages and while I type quickly, I didn’t want to get to the end and be typing frantically and have lots of typos. Plus, I tend to do most of my academic work on the computer. It’s a different way of thinking for me.

Anyway, fast forward to this morning, 7:00 AM. I chose to sleep last night instead of pushing through like I had the night before. I still had anywhere from 2-5 pages to write, and then the editing to do. And yet, unlike most times, I felt a sense of calm about it.

This is my process.

ImageThis is what I do most of the time. It’s the eleventh hour (or pretty damn close), I’m not quite done, and there are books scattered around me, cups of water and coffee, piles of paper, and a hundred PDFs open on my iPad. It looks like chaos, sometimes feels like it, too. And yet… this morning, I trusted myself to print it up, get out my favorite blue ballpoint pen, and start scratching all over it. You’ll get to page count. You’ll know when it’s done. I start working, get up to stretch. Stop for a moment, think. Get up and grab a book from the piles on my desk. Start back with my blue pen.

I set an alarm for an hour and a half before it was due, just in case editing wasn’t done. I finished half an hour before that, giving me two full hours to do electronic edits and final reference touch-ups. And, with an hour to spare, I hit send and had a visceral experience of that pause just after the out breath and before the inhale.

This is my process.

When I stop fighting what it has to look like and instead honor what really is my own way of getting things done, there is less pressure and less anxiety. There is not the same welling up of OH MY GOD IT’S DUE IN TWO HOURS AND I’M NOT DONE YET!!! I’ve lived in that space most of my academic life, scrambling to finish. I often thought of it as procrastination and being a horrible student. While there is some of the former in there, this time I didn’t judge it. I just knew to start earlier so I had more going into the final push. That noodling around is just as much a part of the process as the scribbling with blue ballpoint pen.

When I stop fighting what I think it should look like, I can look around and laugh at myself in this crazy process. I can prepare what I need to beforehand, rather than frantically looking for my resources or having to pull together my reference page. (Which, really? Often takes a super long time.)

What would owning your process mean for you? What would letting go of what that process “should” be look like for you?

Bearing witness to the journey

Last week, I was reading a zine by a friend of mine that spoke to the power of having another bear witness to the journey we take around this planet. He wrote about the painful realities of losing that person and how little the surface evidence shows the depth of connection.

Since reading it, something inside of me cracked open around bearing witness, around having others bear witness, the power that holds, and the ways that we do (not) bear witness for ourselves… and the ways that shame saps our courage to show up and tell the story of the here and now.

How do we allow ourselves to be seen, even to ourselves? Are we willing to be awake enough to let the truth shine through? Because sometimes, that truth isn’t all too pretty, but it’s the reality of our lives. I’ve been working with Mara Glatzel through e-courses this summer and earlier this week, she (re)posted a blog post that was about finding the beauty in our daily lives – including the rough edges – and the power of building community around that truth telling.

meditation cushionAnd that’s the clincher – the ways that people come into our lives and help us to see, understand, and experience the world with us. Even in their own versions of it, they may be able to be closer to that truth than anyone else. There’s power in being able to show up to our lives… how much more powerful to have someone stand in that with you.

Perhaps this is part of all of the practices I hold and try to create containers for… meditation, writing, art journaling, yoga, running. To find ways to build space to bear witness and allow the truth of life to bubble up, rough edges and all. If I can’t show up for my own stuff, how much harder is it to do so for others?

Recognizing that this act of showing up, being honest – this is bravery in action. And that that is the practice I practice for. Because I can’t do it out of nowhere.

I practice to bear awake witness to what matters in this world. Myself, others, good things, hard things. This is practice.

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?

#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.