“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” ― Anaïs Nin
I arrived in Positano for a writing workshop with Dani Shapiro. I was jetlagged, hungry and unprepared. I needed to sleep, eat, unpack and read through the manuscripts my group was about to critique.
So of course the first thing I did…
…was take a selfie.
To listen to some, you would think that the selfie is a Pandora’s box that we innocently (or not so innocently) opened to unleash evil, sickness and despair into the world. If you’re been known to take a selfie from time to time – or twenty selfies immediately deleted from your camera for every portrait of yourself you don’t hate – are you a narcissist? click here
“We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize that we only have one.” ― Tom Hiddleston
I learned that someone I deeply respect might have less than a year to live.
This is not a proven fact, he was careful to say, and he doesn’t necessarily believe it. He’s been in this position before, in his twenties, when a difficult medical procedure saved his life. That could happen again — if certain circumstances fall into place. That is not impossible.
But when he thinks about the future now, he said, his voice rueful and matter-of-fact, he no longer sees himself in it. click here
This is the transcript for a talk I just gave at The Instigator Experience held in Los Angeles. Note: I went onstage carrying a snake.
So you might be wondering who I’m wearing. [The snake's] name is Felix…
I bought my first snake ring about ten years ago, at the jewelry department at Barney’s. Then when my divorce became final I bought myself a bling bling divorce ring, also in the shape of a snake curling up my finger. Last year I posed for a photo session with a yellow ball python, wearing black leather pants and little else. One of those photos is the cover photo in my blog.
I liked the snake rings because I thought they were cool, and maybe because they reminded me of Cleopatra, and Cleo was my girl. Except for the part where she killed off family members. I think killing off family members should be avoided generally, that kind of thing tends to ruin the holidays. When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time called me Eve, because he said I resembled her in some famous painting he could never remember the name of or the artist who painted it. click here
So Sheryl Sandberg has launched the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign. The idea is that boys who assert themselves are called ‘leaders’, while girls who do the same are dismissed as ‘bossy’. Quit telling a girl, any girl, that she’s ‘bossy’ and she will no longer be afraid to speak out in class. Thus, or so the reasoning goes, she will become a great world leader.
I can’t really relate to this.
Unlike Sandberg, I was never called bossy as a kid (or as an adult). That’s not my style, even when I am the boss. But I don’t think that anybody who knows me well would say I have a problem speaking out or declaring a passionate point of view.
In the tradition of highly creative kids in small towns all over the world, I didn’t fit in at the best of times. I was sensitive and dreamy and in my head. I read obsessively. I answered questions about Spot and Jane in reading group and then sat at my desk with my Agatha Christie novel and pondered good and evil.
The bullies found me early.
In first grade, it was an oversized, older kid named Phil. In fourth and fifth grades, it was the equally oversized Ross, who introduced some confusion into the matter when he asked me to go with him. That was our version of what was once known as going steady. A boy would send you a note that said WILL YOU GO WITH ME CHECK YES OR NO. Where boys and girls were actually going when they were going with each other was maybe not so glamorous — the Mac’s convenience store on the corner was a popular hangout for the wild ones, born too soon for Starbucks, with their swagger and rebel cries and ability to throw back shots of blue Slushie — but that seemed more or less beside the point.
From sixth grade on, my bullies were girls, the kind who didn’t look or seem like bullies at all. They were bright, socially sophisticated, popular with kids and liked by grown-ups. They made my day-to-day life so miserable I eventually begged my parents to transfer me to another school. The fact that they were sweet, middle-class white girls didn’t change the fact that they were (at least to me) domineering and mean; if anything, it helped them get away with it. click here
If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light. — Lady Gaga
In a recent post on Positively Positive, Danielle LaPorte asks an excellent series of questions:
“Escaping? From what? Your Pain? Or your Power?”
She makes the point that
“Continually staring down your demons can be an act of avoidance all its own.”
Shadow work – at least as I understand it – isn’t about staring down your demons so much as giving them a name, a nod of recognition, and a place at the table that is otherwise known as your psyche. The very act of putting your attention on something – on bringing it out of your unconscious and into your conscious – transmutes it. It releases new energy.
Reclaiming some lost aspect of yourself gives you a bigger, deeper range of colors from which to create the day-to-day responses to your life.
There’s a gorgeous quote from Rilke:
“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” click here
“You’re still going to get criticized, so you might as well do whatever the fuck you want.” — Kathleen Hanna
Shame researcher and bestselling author Brene Brown writes about her sense of panic when she realized that her TEDxHouston talk was going viral. The “quick and global spread” of her work exposed her to the less-than-charming side of Internet culture. Comments like:
How can she talk about worthiness when she clearly needs to lose 15 pounds?
Less research. More Botox!
She may believe that she’s enough, but by the look of that chest, she could use some more.
If I looked like Brene Brown, I’d embrace imperfection too.
Keep in mind that Brene Brown wasn’t trying to make a living off her looks. She doesn’t act or model. She wasn’t even claiming to be pretty.
She’s a freaking shame researcher. (Researchers — and writers, for that matter — are not exactly known for The Sexy.) click here
because we are what we make
because the world is your studio
because there is joy when you master the tough stuff
because failure teaches you
what you didn’t know you needed to know
(+ mistakes are an art)
because you have the right to reinvent yourself
+ pain is just a sign your soul is changing
because you live in that squeeze-space of creative tension
+ it’s groovy
because you press the collective soul-nerve
because the universe is infinite
– but we are not.
There’s that thing you want to do. You know the one. Maybe it’s a course you want to take (or make and sell online), a skill you want to learn, a place you want to go, a person you want to ask to dinner.
It’s the blog you haven’t started yet.
It’s the half-finished manuscript on your hard drive that you haven’t touched in six months.
It’s the saxophone that you almost – almost – learned to play.
It’s the martial arts studio or dance studio or yoga studio you always pass on the way home and never quite manage to check out – even though you’re curious.
You get where I’m going with this.
We talk ourselves out of the stuff that we really, really want to do.
We think we’re being sensible. We have our reasons. No time/ no money/ no talent/ no obvious pay-off in my career or my love life. Don’t want the commitment, the obligation, the responsibility. Don’t want the humiliation of being really sucky at something I’ve never done before. Don’t want the tedium of being a beginner. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of success. We had some traumatic saxophone/yoga/writing/puppet-making incident in early childhood. Somebody told us — when we were too young to recognize how wrong they were, how full of absolute bullshit — that we are not creative. click here
No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities. — Joseph Campbell
In the movie FIGHT CLUB – maybe you’ve heard of it – a character tells his disciples, in a tone of righteous fury, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake! You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile.”
He got that half-right.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of a narcissistic culture that we seem to equate unique with “be the same as everybody else, just in a better, superior, award-winning kind of way.” When this kind of conformity/competition becomes our main focus, we, perhaps ironically, tend to end up feeling more alone.
We say to each other, If everybody is special, nobody is special! If everybody gets a trophy, nobody gets a trophy!
Not to knock competition – it has its place – but maybe we’re missing the point.
We are lousy at separating essence from ego. We ignore the former. We stroke the latter.
“Among the things I’ve noticed in working with people through the years is that a majority of them never really take the time to discover what is unique about themselves,”
writes author/speaker/teacher Caroline Myss. click here
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance,
and there is only the dance.
– T.S. Eliot
When I was a teenager I thought about getting a yin-yang tattoo. You know, the kind that looks like this:
(Twenty years on, and I’m still thinking about a tattoo, although maybe an infinity symbol on the inside of my wrist.)
I knew in a vague kind of way that the symbol stood for opposites: the masculine and the feminine, the dark and the light, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, that kind of thing. One side defining the other, balance, “you complete me” and let’s burn some incense while we’re at it.
I began to understand how it’s more complicated than that.
We live in a culture that has its own warped version of opposites: the private sphere versus the public. The former is domestic and feminine, the latter is worldly and masculine.
But unlike night and day, this division is manmade (in the true sense of the word). Although it reaches as far back as the ancient Greeks, separate spheres didn’t emerge as a distinct ideology in our culture until the Industrial Revolution moved the official workplace from in and around the home to the factories.
Women stayed put and men went off into the world. Both genders worked, but only one was paid. click here