I Am Brave Journal

A 30 day journey to self-love and bravery

Day 1 – Brave

Today I am starting a new project to be braver in my writing. Up until now, with a few exceptions in my Essays and Musing section, everything I have been posting is from many years (yes, even decades) ago. This morning I set a 30-day goal for myself to complete the transfer of old poetry and essays and begin the process of working on new writing, adding something to this every day.

I’ll make no guarantees that it will be worth sharing, and if it’s not, well, I will pre-apologize for wasting your valuable reading time.

I do believe that our stories are who we are (even the false ones we tell ourselves for survival’s sake) and that it is important that we share them. We never know for sure whether our stories will bring comfort or healing to those who need to know they are not alone, or if they will bring hostility back to us by people who seek you use our stories to hurt us. Either way, I am reminded that it is important to share and to allow myself to be completely vulnerable in doing so. I know, on an academic level, that being truly vulnerable is a true act of bravery, and on that account, I have lived far too long without allowing myself that.

I read recently that one should never tell anyone what they’re going to do; that they should just do it and let everyone be shocked and awed. But, I don’t care about shock and awe. I want to be held accountable and in stating my intention here I feel like, perhaps, I will better hold myself accountable to my daily practice.

Day 2 – Commitment

30 days can be a long time or no time at all. All it takes is one day to set yourself up for failure. I’ll be driving 16 hours+ this weekend and so that will likely muck up the schedule that I’ve set for myself, so I will have to make extra effort to stay on task.

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has 

The good news is that I have already planned to bookend my day with the practice of studying Intention and writing my journal/blog. Yes, I am keeping them grouped for now as I think the practice of writing for myself, in no matter what form, is what is most important now.

I am going to enlist my friend Joann in this endeavor. It will be a big help as she is a reader and will help me stay on track and hold me accountable.

My Commitment: To write in my blog/journal every day for 30 days.

Day 3 – Self-Aware

Today I focus on looking inward. This might prove difficult and I seem to be suffering technical difficulties along the way. I’ve been updating passwords and getting locked out of email accounts and even WordPress this morning. I wonder if this is just the universe testing me to see if I will stay the course. I am determined, even if the technology gets in the way.

Today is about knowing my self, as I really am, warts and all. My greatest strength and biggest weakness. This is what I believe of myself:

My greatest strength is my ability to adapt to new situations, new places, new people. I embrace change as truly the only constant in the world. I know in a very intense way that everything is temporary, pain, elation, losses, wins, the rush of new love and the dismal woe you feel when love is lost. In my years on this planet, I have learned to embrace my emotions as they come to me, feel them, examine them and then eventually let them go, because I know more are coming; good, bad, it’s actually best not to judge, just experience.

My biggest weakness, (by my estimation, anyway), is my inability to face conflict, especially interpersonal conflict. For whatever reason (yet to be discovered) I tend to freeze and get tongue-tied, unable to speak my truth. In truth, I’ve been blessed most of my life to have very strong relationships with very loving and supporting people. The downside to that is that I assume everyone will treat me with the respect and love to which I am accustomed. I think I literally am dumbfounded when faced with toxic people.

Fortunately, or not, depending on how you look at it, I’ve really only faced truly toxic and damaging people about 5 times in my life. Things ended badly, which of course is to be expected, but they ended and I am, using my greatest strength always able to adapt.

I’ll have to give this more thought, of course. If you know me and have any thoughts about my greatest strength and biggest weakness, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll try not to cry too hard!

Day 4 – Being Present

Today is about being present. Decidedly not my greatest skill. I am a person who is cursed with overthinking and re-analyzing the past instead of being mindful of the moment I am in. I don’t think I worry too much about the future, in that, I have a much more “come what may” attitude. That may actually why I’ve had such a hard time in the past setting goals and intentions for myself. On some level, I think that the best things that happen are unseen to us before they happen. I also really, truly believe that things do work out as they should, even if we take a longer, more scenic, route than we need to.

“There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”

– Leo Tolstoy

Regarding the past. I don’t think I really live there, but I do tend to revisit it more than necessary. There are relationships there that I do still feel attached to, people I think I may never be quite over, and so I think of them often. I have to remind myself more readily that they probably are not thinking of me and that their present lives have no place for me in them. In truth, there is longing for bits and pieces of what was and what might have been. I know intellectually that much of that could be a made-up story, that I use as a coping mechanism. A story that tells me that because someone loved me, someone can again.

Today, I will try to breathe myself back into the present when my mind wanders too far off places.

Enough – Day 5

Knowing I am “Enough” is tough for me. I would say it is likely the number one thing that holds me back from the life I really want.

I know that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and  “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, (they’re clichés because they’re true). In my life, I’ve heard every description of my external self from I’m ugly, too freckled, too skinny, too fat, too pale to pretty gorgeous, cute, beautiful, even “hot” and “sexy” which usually confounds me and makes me very uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, the latter descriptors are certainly great to hear but because the earlier descriptors are so ingrained in my brain, they, more often than not, ring false and even somewhat manipulative.

All of this leads to my feelings of worthiness when it comes to love. More, specifically, someone loving me in the truly, madly, deeply kind of love. I have had two marriages, both of which left me feeling less and less worthy of love. They fed my insecurities, which, to be sure, were already well-developed. I take responsibility for that, I allowed it to happen and I may have even perpetuated it on some level. Since then, for 17 years, my insecurities have sabotaged multiple attempts at finding love again.

You are enough, just as you are. Each emotion you feel, everything you do in your life, everything you do or do not do… where you are and who you are right now is enough. It is perfect. You are perfect enough. ~ Melanie Jade

Day 6 – Prepared

Day 6 is a day late…and its theme is “I am prepared”. A little irony there, because I was not prepared for the 10-hour drive on Sunday to cause the ensuing jet-lag I felt on Monday…hence, no journal entry.

So today, I commit to preparedness and recommit to writing every day. Since my goal is to write every day (not necessarily here, but I feel that writing here keeps me accountable) I did write in my companion journal, at least partially. I set incremental goals for the remaining days (24).

In order to stay focused on the task at hand, I’ve decided to not try to play catch-up and do the Day 7 practice, until tomorrow, so I can let this lesson marinate a bit.

I wish I had something profound, or life-changing, or perhaps even remotely interesting to say here, but in truth, I am writing now for the sake of keeping my commitment. Hopefully something amazing will come to me today and I can share later, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

Cheers!

Day 7 – Heroic

Heroic is a rough word for me. It means sacrifice, efforts that lead to the betterment of mankind, putting oneself in danger to that end. Bravery on the other hand, in my mind anyway, can be internal, more about facing one’s personal fears and facing them and defeating them. In that sense, I feel I’ve been brave in my life, but not necessarily heroic.

But today is about being heroic in forging my own life’s destiny and I am supposed to think of myself as the hero of my own story.

“If you are not the hero of your own story, then you’re missing the whole point of your humanity.” – Steve Maraboli

In that sense, I guess I have been the hero of my own story for many years. When faced with tough decisions, I did ultimately step up and fight for my life, created the best life for my children that I could on my own. After 5 decades on this planet, I finally bought a home of my own. I fulfilled a childhood dream of vacationing in Italy (alone); something that made me a hero to many women, who never considered traveling alone.

Most of the time though, it didn’t feel like bravery or heroism, it felt like a necessity, the only option, and sometimes, pure obligation and responsibility. I guess it’s heroic to do things, even if they feel thrust upon you. I’ll have to keep working on accepting that.

Day 8 – Capable

Somewhere along the way, I quit dreaming. I can’t point to an exact moment that it happened. I think it happened incrementally with a few momentary bursts of quitting what was directly in front of me. Looking back, on the moments that are clear moments of quitting, I see that it was just when I was starting to feel success in my pursuits.

What sticks out most in my mind was when I quit acting. I quit because of an ultimatum from my ex-husband. It was in his mind, because it fit his needs, that I needed to choose him and my family or acting. I chose my family. It ultimately, along with many other issues, ended the bond we had and my marriage ended, but I would never not choose my children.

What still haunts me to this day, is the question of why my life and my dream was worth less than his? I do feel like I was on the cusp. I was feeling like there was a possibility of real work. Work that mattered, work that made me feel like I was being taken seriously, work that made me proud of my path. But, I gave it up, with one fight, with one demand.

If it was worth so much to me, then how could I give it up so easily. I told myself that it really wasn’t important. Looking back, it was and I gave up far too easily.

“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” – ROMAN PAYNE

Since that time, I’ve been working in the “real” world, mostly in tech, but with a brief stint in running a local NPO and dealing with city politics. I’ve had a measure of success, put in place initiatives and companies that have been successful and have had long-lasting value, but in all cases, I have been helping others fulfill their dreams.

There is a reward in that. I love seeing people I work with, and ultimately come to care about, succeed, and in many cases, it does feel like my success. But it has never been “my dream”.

When I was young, before I had children and husbands, and responsibilities outside myself, my head was full of dreams; places I would travel, careers I would have, great things I would accomplish. I didn’t want fame necessarily, but I did want a voice, a sense that I had accomplished something greater than myself, that I left a legacy; something tangible.

I try to remind myself, that my life isn’t over yet, that there is still time, although it seems to be waning. That dreams can come true if only I could figure out what they are. I know I am more than capable, as I have aided many others in achieving theirs.

It’s why I am on this journey; a 30-day goal to write something (besides email) every day. In truth, I am hoping it will open me up to dreaming again, to find a way back to that young girl who saw a world wide-open to her and her imagination.

Day 9 – Vulnerable

Many years ago, I learned in a very real way that to be truly vulnerable is the bravest thing you can do. Since then, I have experienced moments of great bravery in my life and also moments of great fear. Sadly, I am currently experiencing the latter.

Except for on these pages, I have of late been in a semi-seclusion, brought on by the recent end of a friendship that was surrounded by a good-sized circle of friends. It has felt a bit like a divorce, with people choosing sides, even though I asked no one to choose. It’s not my nature. In my life, when asked to make a choice, I’ve always chosen the person who didn’t ask me to choose. It’s been a good lesson, a reminder really, that not everyone responds to life the way we do ourselves.

It’s really only been about a month, but I am still playing it over in my head. I know that I was dealing with a classic narcissist (something, I’ve done over and over in my life, eventually I’ll learn to spot them early), who has used my vulnerabilities against me (which is what narcissists do). I think I am most upset at myself for not seeing the signs earlier, to not recognize that I was being manipulated and that this person’s feigned and even somewhat dismissive interest in me, was really nothing more than a power grab. But here’s the rub…I don’t care one iota about power or winning people’s love and adoration over another person. So, I walked away from the whole group, knowing that the only story they will hear is hers, and I will be some kind of fake monster. I have to be okay with that, and I will be eventually.

I believe with all my heart that the truth always wins, love always wins, and that the people who are meant to be in your life, the ones who truly see you in all your beauty and your pain, stick with you loyally and faithfully, and the ones who don’t; you just have to send them on their way with love.

Day 10 – Curiosity

Courage takes curiosity…I hadn’t really thought of it that way until this morning. I’ve been trying to figure out when I stopped dreaming; when I stopped having personal ambitions that reached outside my work goals or family or friends needs, or even the needs of people who are in some periphery of my life.

I quit being curious, at least in a playful sense, I think. I let day-to-day life get in the way. My only outlet seemed to be the research I would occasionally do on Ancestry.com. I have to admit, it was one of the few things that got me excited about the world outside my somewhat insulated life. I loved finding little tidbits of information and stories about my ancestors; finding pictures of where they lived, dreaming and sometimes even planning trips to those places.

I’ve always had a wanderlust. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to travel. Even as early as 7-8 years old, I wanted to be a flight attendant (stewardess, back in the day) just so I could be on a plane. I dreamt of exotic places even before I knew what or where any of them were.

I remember very distinctly, in the 3rd grade, reading a story about a little boy in Italy, the country shaped like a boot, and knew that I had to go there someday. It took me 40-something years, but I made it, for six glorious days. I saw Michelangelo’s magnificent statue of David, (top of my bucket list) and cried in public as I often do when face-to-face with art I love.

I was lucky to travel all around the US, Canada, and Europe during my last job. I saw a great many things, I never thought I would, but always wanted to see. The whole of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which seemed so tall until I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower, where it seemed minuscule. I got a photo of the Mona Lisa (a dare), went to the home and studio of my favorite sculptor, Rodin (and yes, I cried in public, again).

I toured the UK on a coach and sat on a bench in Stratford-on-Avon and visited the birthplace and place where Shakespeare was laid to rest. I visited the birthplace of my 3 times great-grandfather in Edinburgh and saw, but failed to spit on, the heart of Lothian. I toured the Tower of London where another ancestor fell to his death, trying to escape.

I’ve been very fortunate, but for whatever reason, I still have so much more I want to do. I’ve been accused of never being satisfied, but the way I look at it: if I was meant to be satisfied I would be. So here I am now, without the job that took me so many wonderful places, and left to my own devices. For some time I did lose my way, but I think this journey is working to help me find my way back. The writing has inspired me to write more, the dream of travel writing is being backed up by a course I’m taking to learn the travel writing trade. I am exploring and researching and reading more about exotic and not-so-exotic places: learning my way back to my curiosity and my ability to dream and make those dreams a reality.

Day 11 – Compassion

Compassion…I thought to myself, “Oh, this will be easy, I am by nature compassionate”. I have little trouble showing genuine compassion. But then the rub…compassion to myself.

That is harder. Compassion to combat fear, stress, and anxiety. Compassion to forgive me and empathize with myself for feeling those things. That is decisively more difficult. I believe that most people are their own worst critic, well I used to but I have unfortunately met a number of people who think they are without fault in any scenario, but that’s an entirely different issue.

I’ve learned to love and nurture my inner child, forgive the sins of the past, my own and those of others. But I still struggle with forgiving me, as I am now, for the struggles I face in my daily life. Struggles I think I should get over and move on from easily haunt me and I beat myself up over it. I see lessons, playing themselves out, long after I think I’ve learned that lesson and I realize that I must still be missing something. Recurring themes, I know that’s where the lessons lie. Is the lesson that I need to forgive myself?

Day 12 – Calculated

Being calculating has a negative ring to it. Somehow it’s become a word that indicates an underhandedness in planning. It’s often prefixed by the word cold which makes it seem even more negative. I meant to write this entry on Saturday morning, but I hit a roadblock. I don’t know if it was my preconceived notion of the word or I was just tired, but I had no thoughts on this. I decided to marinate in it a bit.

This morning, a conversation I had over the weekend with an old friend that I hadn’t actually spoken to since the early 1980s, came to the forefront of my mind. We’d communicated briefly and occasionally on social media, but hadn’t really had a conversation. He had hit a wall in his life and didn’t know what to do next. We got on the phone because texting just wasn’t going to work.

For 5 hours we talked, sharing our stories and trying to make sense of what he was going through and what his next steps should be. To me, what always made sense was, you cry, you grieve, you wake up the next morning, get dressed, go about your usual business and you repeat over and over again until your new life becomes, slowly and steadily, over time, a natural reality. I’ve been mostly able in my life to live through tragedies and losses by knowing deep inside that things will ultimately get better, and so I’ve not been as calculated in creating my next steps as having been faithful that if I kept moving forward, things would simply work out. I know now I’ve been lucky in that.

For my friend though, his nature is different from mine. He does at this point need to make a calculated decision not only on how to move forward, but to move forward at all. The recent setback has him in a tailspin, but the truth if the matter is that he stopped his life nearly 20 years ago. Two life-shattering things happened to him within a period of six months, one that devastated his career and one that devastated his family. He says now, he should have fought, instead, he just laid down and gave up. He let his professional reputation be ruined. He was shamed and broken and went into hiding. He lost himself, he gave himself over to the imagined (and maybe not imagined) opinion of others and went into hiding, insulating himself from the world. He admits now that he spent these years with so much bitterness and shame that he lost the core of who he is. He’s not forgiven himself or those who hurt him and abandoned him when he was most in need.

I know for me, there have been times in my life when I’ve frozen in fear when faced with difficulty, devastation, and grief. Freezing is the third side of the fight or flight model that is rarely talked about. Freezing can be a self-imposed prison. If we don’t force a thaw, by regularly re-igniting our own flame, (there’s no guarantee that anyone else will light it for us) we can stay frozen forever. It can get comfortable in that cold place, especially if you throw a blanket over yourself and bury yourself in the anger, but that is not life, and certainly not a life worth living.

I pray my friend’s fire is re-igniting and I think it is.

Day 13 – Ambitious

Since I was a young adult, I’ve been called ambitious. The funny thing is, I never felt particularly ambitious. I always wanted to do good work, be it as an actor or artist or as an employee. I’ve had dreams of entrepreneurship, and have worked, and am currently working for other entrepreneurs, but I’ve never really felt brave enough to dive into the deep end myself.

Obligations and the responsibility of raising my children on my own, never allowed me to feel like I could take that big a risk. I had to be steady and responsible. Interestingly enough, now with that part of my life over (as much as it can be when you are a parent) I don’t really feel that drive. I think that if I truly wanted it, there would be nothing to stop me.

What I do know that I want to do is see more of the world outside my four walls, my neighborhood, my city… I’ve been lucky to travel as much as I did, but the truth is I feel that I’ve barely whet my appetite. So this is now where my ambition lies.

I guess the lesson here is that I am ambitious, just not for the things most people would consider the spoils of ambition; wealth, power, fame. I am sure those things would aid me in my wanderlust, but since they are not wholly necessary to it, I’m happy to leave them behind.

Day 14 – Determined

Wow – The universe works in mysterious ways. Today’s theme is “determined” and I am writing this about 15 hours after I normally write, but, given today’s theme, I am determined to do this before the day is finally over.

It’s been a rough one, largely a fault of my own. I woke up last night with a slightly sore throat and then after falling back to sleep, over-slept. I skipped my usual morning routine of doing the daily study, writing in my journal and then writing a blog post here. A post that reinforces the lesson for the day.

So here I am, feeling beaten by the  rush of the day, the loss of the morning routine, that’s been building a habit of writing in me. So, habit broken, I’ll have to re-group tomorrow bright and early and set things right again.

While I’m here, not really doing much more than going through the motions of writing (I’ll likely be very ashamed of this in short order) I am going to finish this and start tomorrow fresh, hopefully with a higher insight than I am capable of tonight. If you’ve made it this far, bless you, and if you haven’t you won’t know that you missed not a whole lot.

until tomorrow…

Day 15 – Resourceful

WooHoo! Halfway point in this 30-day journey…Starting fresh today at the start of a new year. It’s been well over a year since I abandoned this journey. Today I kick things off again and hopefully build a stronger habit.

Several years ago, upon releasing a new album, in what I think was over 5 years, Johnny Rzeznik, of the Goo Goo Dolls was asked what took so long and he responded (I paraphrase) “I had to go have a life, and then screw it up, so I’d have something to write about.” So that’s my excuse… kind of. I don’t feel  like my life is screwed up, but the last year and a half has been a roller coaster of relationships built and torn asunder and a new love that challenges me and fiercely believes in my talents and skills. I feel fortunate in that, but know that historically, I have always written more when I was sad and lonely, so even this, will be a bit of a challenge.

So today’s lesson is about resourcefulness. I actually first did this entry on 8/17/17 and reviewing what I wrote I see that what I focused on was using time as my most valuable resource. My goal at the time was to carve out writing time in the morning and time to study in the evening. So this morning up early, dressed and fed, I am embarking on building a new habit. (again…sigh)

Over the last 2 weeks I was on a work holiday and took some time to read a book my daughter recommended. The War of Art, by  Steven Pressfield. It was a great read; simple and to the point, but profound as well. He wrote a lot about the muse, which I found fascinating, since this blog has always been entitled “robin’s muses” and yet, I’m not sure that I ever actually called out to my muses.

This is the prayer he recites every morning before beginning to write:

“O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.” – from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence

So, as I embark again on this endeavor to write every day, I will arm myself with the time to write before I have to begin my workday (still gotta pay the bills) a petition to the muses to light the path and open the road to the words I am meant to write, and the wise words of those who have gone before me, who inspire and cajole me to put words on paper, and fulfill my purpose on this planet.

Now is not time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Day 16 – Focused

I see why this was the day, about a year and a half ago, that I stopped this process. Focus is probably the most vicious attacker on my productivity. Even now, I am struggling to not look at my work laptop or phone, to make sure I am not missing something important.

I got a late start this morning, which for me, kicks off the day in distraction. I did the deed that always sets the day off on the wrong foot, I looked at my work email before sitting down to write. I told myself while making coffee that I wouldn’t, but I did.

It’s funny that this is somehow a confessional on my lack of focus, instead of a practice in focus…well, maybe it is. Trying hard to stay focused on this piece of writing is a practice in focus. A meditation on my keyboard as it were. And yet, immediately after I typed that, I looked up to fix any misspellings.

It seems, I need to restart my practice of meditating first thing in the morning, even if I do wake up late. The world and all my responsibilities will not disappear if I take a few extra minutes in the morning to gather my thoughts and clear my mind before embarking on my work at hand. I know I will be better for it. And so will my work.

I always hope when I write that I am able to release some tiny bits of wisdom that will inspire or at least ring true to my readers, Today that may not be the case, as I just spent the last few minutes admonishing myself.

I’m going to end here, with the following quote, and go find a dark quiet place and see if I can’t get myself focused before I embark on anything else.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Day 17 – Progressing

No matter how slow, every step forward is a still a step forward. While I took a break from this practice, I comfort myself in knowing that I took other steps that propelled me towards my goal of living a more creative and vibrant life. Some were most certainly missteps, but in those, there were lessons and opportunities for growth.

I learned that some people, although they seem to want to nurture your creativity, really just want to take advantage of it and of you. While you need to let go of the people who would do you harm, you need to hold on to the thing that they saw of value. It’s hard, when you’ve been mistreated in your talents to hold on to the want to explore those talents more deeply. It’s much easier to run away and quit, hoping something else will come along.

I am forever haunted by the things I quit, the “what if”s that could have been, had I not given up my voice and my expressiveness when I was young. Had I known in my 20s what I know now, would I have faded so easily into the background, given up what made me special, in order to please those that didn’t care to please me.

Even now, I face the want to quit a project I am engaged in, because I am feeling handled, my vision invalidated and feeling again as though I am an employee, rather than a creative partner. I will face the challenge this time, and drive the project to completion. I don’t know where I’ll go when it’s done, but I swear to myself, that I will keep progressing in my pursuit of a creative life.

Day 18 – Adventurous

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” – Belle – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

This one line is why Belle is my favorite Disney princess. In this she mirrors me. I look at here, animated and all, and I see myself. Her life isn’t about her beauty, but the beauty she sees in the world around her, and in fact, in the beast.

Being adventurous is about being brave, but it’s also about being curious and open to what lies ahead, that perhaps you have no control over. It’s taking a leap, when you have no idea if there is solid ground or a giant cliff in front of you. It’s knowing that even if you step off the cliff, ultimately, everything will work out just as it’s supposed to. You might need to ready yourself for a hugely different outcome than you expected.

I remember as a teenager, a summer trip, traveling cross-country on a Continental Trailways bus from Tucson Arizona to Manchester New Hampshire with my mother. It seems crazy now that we did this, but it was truly one of the most special trips of my life. I got to see a side of my mother that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma the following February, so the fact that the trip bonded us together, the way it did made it all the more special. Looking back, I know it was so brave of my mother to do that and I am so grateful that she did.

The one thing she did though, that decades later, I got really mad at her for, was denying me New York City. As a theater nerd, I was so excited about getting to stop in New York, but my mom never let us go outside the bus terminal. She said it was too dangerous. Decades later as I first stepped foot in NYC, I fell instantly in love with hustle and bustle and the crazy energy that is New York City. I know that in reality, NYC of the 70s was a lot seedier than it is today. But I still felt robbed on some level.

How different would my life had been if I had gotten a little taste of that energy at a young and such influential age? I don’t know if it would have made me braver or more scared. It’s something I’ll never know for sure. But I do know that, to feel a different heartbeat in a city you’re experiencing for the first time does alter you.

I’ve been so blessed to travel to a lot of wonderful cities across the US and Western Europe and I do know that every place I’ve been has altered me, engaged me and inspired me in ways, I would have never been by simply reading a book or watching a video.

So here’s to adventure, the ones that take us somewhere we’ve never been and the ones that take us into an ever deeper knowledge of our brave self.

Day 19 – Optimistic

Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been and look at what could be. – Marsha Petrie Sue

It’s Tuesday, but I feel like I am beginning my week in earnest today. Yesterday was rough. After coming off a weekend of the Tucson Fringe Festival, which was pretty non-stop since Thursday afternoon, I was exhausted. I guess I don’t have the same stamina I used to have when I was running conferences. Admittedly, my job now is not physical AT ALL, and I am just plain out of shape.

I am excited though, as a newly elected member of the Fringe Board of Directors, I am looking at an exciting two years ahead of me. I feel like there is a lot I can contribute and I finally feel, at long last, like I am finding my place in Tucson’s community. The weekend for me was a chance to volunteer, and ask a lot of questions, trying to get my bearings on where the festival has been, where it’s going, and most especially where my skills and experience can offer the most aid.

I guess I am writing about this today, with the theme being optimism, because the festival and my new relationship to it is certainly filling me with optimism. This is the kind of challenge I’ve been missing in my life. Finding work, albeit volunteer work, that will help me be part of a larger community that is building something I believe to be of great value.

All the artists I met this past weekend truly inspired me. I was able to see a half-dozen or so shows and talk to the artists afterward and work with some really fun and amazing people. I laughed hard, and cried hard, and in truth, that’s what theater is supposed to do to you.

I am convinced I am on the right path, I am positive, that wherever this leads, I am meant to end up there.

Day 20 – Outgoing

And by the way, everything is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~ Sylvia Plath

Sharing our stories. To my thinking, one of the most important things we can do in this life is to tell our stories. The stories of our failings, the stories of our victories, our great loves, our biggest (or smallest) heartbreaks. Whether it’s in love, in business, or in everyday life, our stories, like ancient parables and fairy tales are full of life lessons, not only for ourselves, but for those with whom we share them.

Sometimes sharing our stories can be rather scary, especially when they speak to the core of who we are. Over the years, I’ve told my stories in essays and poems that exposed some of my deepest places; the scars I bear, on paper, as it were. More often that I expected, friends told me how much my words meant to them and how much they related and that they knew they weren’t alone in the world, that someone else had experienced the same things they had. Other times, people used my stories against me, assuming that a state I was in many years ago, was still at the core of who I was as a human being, as though, I could not possibly have grown, evolved, become stronger through many great lessons.

What I learned from those experiences is that I need to tell my stories anyway, no matter how they are received. I am not responsible for how my stories are interpreted (that’s more about the reader, than myself). I must trust that if I am compelled to write about my life, or counsel a friend from my own experiences, that the words will do what they do and beyond that I have no control.

The stories of our lives matter, and not just to us. That’s why, I’ll continue to tell my stories and listen to the stories of others until I no longer have the breath in me to take them in or send them out.

Day 21 – Humble

Humility is a funny thing. On one hand, too much humility, or feigned/false humility is really just a rouse. Too little humility (or arrogance) is really just Resistance at work. Both are annoying, not only to ourselves but to those who are witness to our lives. Both keep us from doing the work we are meant to do on this planet.

Recently, I read the book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and was smacked in the face by the truth that Resistance had overtaken my creative life. Considering Resistance as a sentient being, a real and living part of our psyche, with the intention of tampering with our creative self to stop growth and productivity, I realized how much my resistance was wrapped up in my false humility and in my arrogance.

About 20 years ago, I was given an ultimatum by my ex-husband to give up acting or give up my family. At the time, I felt I was on the brink of a real career surfacing, I was starting to get cast is small projects and I was working on my craft with real dedication. In some ways, I believe it threatened him, and in others, it was just inconvenient to him. Because I loved my children more than I loved myself, I gave up acting and in truth, gave up even trying to pursue a creative life at all. Clearly, the choice ultimately didn’t save our family or my marriage, and to top it off, I convinced myself that by choosing his needs over my own creative life, I had abandoned my gifts and had lost them completely. A deserved punishment for a great sin.

Even after our marriage ended, I became so entangled in day-to-day life, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over the heads of my children and me, that my creativity sat mostly dormant in me. Occasionally, I would get a surge and write some poetry, as it was the easiest and most private way to release some creative energy. I didn’t write to share, just to release.

In recent years, with my children grown and living lives of their own, I found myself alone and not remembering how to even dream of a creative life, much less living one. The lie I told myself years ago, that because I gave up my dreams, all my gifts were removed from me and placed on someone else, was still playing over in my head every time I thought about picking up and starting again. I have been my own worst enemy and because of this lie and false humility that came with it, I lost all sense of bravery.

But, recently the other side of the coin started at work in me. About 9 months ago, I had a morning where I was overwhelmed with the desire for a creative life, to find my creative tribe in my new home. I had been here in Tucson for nearly 4 years and really had only one friend living a creative life. We were trying to keep each other inspired, and still do, but I felt I needed more, the tribe, I mentioned.

Within 24 hours I had a notice from meet-up to join two groups that piqued my interest, a film group, and a poetry group. It seemed like a sign, so I joined them both. Since that time, I have written a 1-minute screenplay, directed a short film (still to be edited), hosted a podcast on the arts in Tucson (something I want to do more of) and have joined the board of the Tucson Fringe Festival, the place where I really feel I have found my tribe.

With all this goodness, came the smack-in-the-face realization, that I have been completely arrogant about the training I received in California, and have looked down my nose at the talent and opportunities in Tucson. I have been so judgmental, really without reason, and the truth was, that lack of humility was in fact Resistance at work. I have been bamboozled at both ends.

Today’s topic of “Humble” was timely and much needed. I have been living out in the open under the cloud of false humility and deep inside harboring false arrogance, both Resistance, and both meant to silence me. Knowing this, and having the clarity to finally see it means I need to be steadfast in my ability to recognize it and work past it.

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing. ~ Anais Nin

Day 22 – Gratitude

I’ve proven time and time again, that I am not great at the practice of gratitude. While I do believe I am a generally grateful person, and I don’t take the life that I have been blessed with for granted, I do admit that when tasking myself with exercises to practice gratitude, I don’t have much follow-through. I have a gratitude jar, a gratitude journal, I even set alarms on my phone to prompt me to stop in my day and say things I’m grateful for. I’ve found myself repeating the same things over and over and much like sense memory, once you start using the same memory over and over, it loses its power to move you.

I’ve been advised to be grateful in the morning, grateful at night, before bed, grateful 3 times a day. Oddly enough, the effect it has on me is to make me less deeply-grateful. I try very much to keep negative feelings at bay in most situations and I think in those instances, rather than verbally acknowledging that I am grateful for all the great “other things” perhaps I need to focus on the beauty in what I’m finding negative and be grateful for that.

Day 23 – Risky

Today’s a day when I feel myself only thinking back to the times I’ve taken risks that made me feel brave and fearless. Leaving Tucson in 1988 to head back to California, not knowing 100% what waited for me, but knowing that while the risk was great, staying in the world I was living in, was ultimately going to swallow me up and there would be nothing left of the real me.

It seems without too much deep introspection, that the times I was truly brave and took giant risks were when I felt that escape was my only choice. A wholesale alteration of my life and the world I felt trapped in. So now I wonder, is my primary motivator a feeling of entrapment. I have to at this point say that it is.

In my mind, that is not ideal and something I need to work on. I see that escape is not as beautiful a reason to take a great risk as actual passion would be. It’s safe to say that recent risks I’ve taken were more in pursuit of finding or chasing my passion. I wonder though if I’ve spent so much time trying to build a life that I didn’t need to escape, a world built and run on my terms, that I settled for less than a passionate life. My own practicality, while seemingly wise, prevented me from taking the risks that might actually lead to an extraordinary life.

Comfort can bring complacency, really it invariably does. I have a comfortable life now; a nice house, great friends, a sweet family and yet I still hunger. There was a time when I thought it greedy to want more. I felt guilty for wanting more and yet, what I wanted more of is more of myself building, creating, making a difference outside the four walls of my home.

I think that’s always been a longing I had, but I haven’t had the bravery to live my own dreams, merely living in the dreams of others, feeding and nurturing their dreams, all the while forgetting that I once had dreams of my own.

Part of this journey is to lead me back to the place of my dreams. I see myself making some little steps to that place. I think I am still resistant to believing that I can live a life I used to dream of and often miss. I do feel like I am getting closer, but There’s more…I just know it in my bones.

Day 24 – Persistence

Well, this is a kick in the pants way to get back to the completion of this 30-day project. It’ll ultimately be 30 days, but it’s taken way too long to get to that place of completion.

Clearly, persistence is not my strong suit. I wonder why it’s so easy for me to get side-tracked and forget the importance of reaching my personal goals.

I am painfully responsible for other people and their needs. I am capable of saying no to things, but once I say yes, I’m kind of ride-or-die. Sometimes even to my own detriment. I loathe quitting when someone else is counting on me, but I throw my goals aside so easily.

Even now, as I write this, I am thinking about a project I am helping out with and writing this while I wait for a response from her.

Today, I write out of strange obligation and to chastise myself for my lack of persistence. It’s been a day for that. Realizing how far I’ve distanced myself from my creative self that I feel like a fraud even pretending that I used to have a modicum of talent. Why are my fears at taking a risk so overwhelming?

I sat in a meeting today with women who are actively involved in theater and they were talking about going on auditions knowing they were going to have to say no to the part, and I thought, “I would love to go on an audition, just to say no.” And then, as soon as the words were forming in the thought bubble over my head, I reminded myself how long it’s been since I auditioned for anything, over 20 years, and I realized how much that terrified me.

I wonder if I am really so afraid of rejection, or if I’ve just become so entrenched in the idea that I gave up long ago and there’s no going back.

It seems to me that I have been persistent…In doubting myself, my talent, and my right to step back into that world after such a long absence. I know I won’t solve this here, in a few hundred words, but I do think it’s something I need to put some thought into.

Day 25 – Resilient

I’m still here, after a long break, to finish this task. I don’t know why I keep stopping in this journey, except that I let things that I care about sit by the wayside while I take care of things I don’t really care that much about, but feel obligated to do. I also think I’ve just been afraid of writing in a non-anonymous way, so I haven’t written much at all.

I recently started an experiment to write one haiku a day. I’ve been fairly consistent on weekdays, because I keep a bullet journal in front of me on my desk. On the weekends, I rarely sit at my desk, so I am less likely to keep a journal page on the weekends. Something I need to re-consider.

Resiliency, the topic for today. I know I am resilient, because I’m still here. I pause, but I don’t quit. I sometimes retreat, freeze, cower, but I always get back up again. I move again, I keep on keeping on. Slowly sometimes and sometimes rife with procrastination, but I do come back.

What I have had to face recently, is that there are so many unfinished projects in my life, screenplay only a third of the way done, books started and stopped because of some stupid minute detail I couldn’t make a decision about. So this is my first step to finish one thing. I am going to learn to complete a project before moving on to another. Once I finish this as a daily practice. I will find my next venture. Another guided journal, perhaps. I have many journals given to me by friends who want and encourage me to write, so maybe that’s what I am supposed to do.

I need to develop resiliency and a toughness for myself when it comes to being consistent in my writing. I think part of this will have to come from allowing myself imperfections and instead replacing it with the ability to trust that the right words will come. if I just keep moving forward.

“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”

― Elizabeth Edwards

Day 26 – Eustress

Eustress
noun
moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the experiencer.

I learned a new word today. I’m actually shocked this word has never entered my lexicon. If it has, I blame senility for letting it slip away. While the word is new to me, the feeling of eustress is in my bones. It’s been central to my life.

While I wouldn’t describe myself as a risk-taker in the excessive way, and I don’t have any desire to put myself in extremely dangerous places, I do think I possess a healthy sense of wonder and adventurism. I’ve long been accustomed to travel, eat out, go to the movies by myself, and the truth of the matter is, I really enjoy it.

Some of the stressors that come with these activities; getting lost, wandering aimlessly, being looked at and spoken in an pitying way, being over-looked when trying to seek assistance, are all things that I hear are barriers for many to face the world alone.

I have friends that would never consider going to a nice restaurant or a movie theater alone, much less take a solo trip to somewhere they’ve never been. But those are some of my favorite things to do.

Years ago, after my divorce, not having any desire to date, I decided that if I were going to still do the things I loved, I was going to have to learn to do them by myself. In truth, I have gone to the movies alone for years. I love sitting in a dark theater, by myself with a bag of popcorn and raisinettes and getting lost in another world. But that’s easy. It’s easy to be alone in the dark. Movie theaters aren’t that judgmental.

The real first test, was a nice restaurant, a table for one. Just because I was single, didn’t mean I didn’t deserve a nice, fancy meal from time to time. I remember reading that you should take a book on your first outing, something to keep you occupied, instead of staring at the couples all around. So I did, armed with a book, I took myself out to dinner at a white table cloth restaurant in San Clemente. I dressed up, I walked in asked for a table, the hostess looked at me and said “For one?” as if I had a communicable disease, and I said “Yes”. I, as was expected, was seated pretty close to the kitchen, but I still had a pretty nice view, so for me, it was a win. The dinner was quite good, and I was proud of myself for being so brave. As in all things, once I faced my fears, it became easier and easier. Now, I don’t even feel the need to take a book.

Since the early days of dipping my toe into the pool of solo anything, I’ve traveled through Italy, the UK and a lot of the US, by myself, and I love the freedom of it. I also love meeting other women, often traveling with a partner who are astounded at my “bravery”. I don’t think of it as bravery. I think of it as good old fashioned luck, that I learned that no matter how scary an undertaking might be, that I am capable and deserving of a fine meal, a gorgeous trip, and time to enjoy the things I love.

Afterword: It’s ironic writing about eustress, at a time when we are all in forced confinement. I am longing to travel, and eat out, and go to a movie. Right now, I feel as though my days of adventure are behind me, and I find myself wondering if there is anything that I can do right now to create eustress in my life. Maybe this is it. Writing, it does cause me stress to sit down and let the words flow…but maybe it is the most beneficial thing for me to do right now.

Day 27 – Confident

I have to be honest here. I don’t think I have ever felt genuinely 100% confident. I think I have always felt, at least on some level, lacking.

I really have racked my brain, and I truly can’t think of a time I was 100% sure of myself, or any decision I have made.

Clearly this is something I need to work on. I think people think I am confident, but the self-questioning and self-doubt is strong here.

For now, here are some quotes about confidence…

“As is our confidence, so is our capacity.”– William Hazlitt

“Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.”– Cicero

“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”– Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Doubt can motivate you, so don’t be afraid of it. Confidence and doubt are at two ends of the scale, and you need both. They balance each other out.”– Barbra Streisand

Day 28 – Changing

I had to reflect today on how I’ve changed in the past month. Truth be told, I had to take a hard look into myself. The last month has taken it’s toll on me. And I know I am not alone. We are all facing a global pandemic. The world is upside down and up until Saturday, I personally didn’t have any worries.

My job is as secure as it could possibly be. I am certainly not facing the crazy boredom many of my friends are. I have a ton of work and since I’ve worked from home for the past 5 years, nothing has really changed fro me in that part of my life. So in that way I know I am completely blessed.

I’ve been making masks on the weekends, but it seems to be slow going. Just like work, it’s hard not to feel unfocused nearly all the time. I am a bit stir crazy; trapped in my own house, only going out for quick runs to the grocery store or pharmacy. Last week I got to spend an hour and a half driving back and forth to my daughter’s apartment to drop off masks, but I didn’t get to see her or my grandson and it hurt so much to be so close and not be able to hug and kiss them. We do visual messaging from time to time and Grayson always demands I come over “right now” or asks to come to my house and then throws a little pouting fit when we tell him we have to wait a while.

I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a 3 year old to understand why we are where we are. I have a hard time understanding. I feel so frozen in my life right now. Unable to make any plans, unable to see an end to this. I make masks and still don’t even know where I am going to take them. I’ll figure that out, but still, I am rudderless.

This is where the change in me lies. I am stuck, at a loss, easily angered and always on the verge of crying. I know I have so much to be grateful for, but I am in mourning, I can feel it in my bones. I wish I could just snap out of it, but I know it will take work.

So, here is where I start. With words. I know words are the key to my healing, the way to finding myself, and my hopes and dreams again. Knowing this may or may not make it to anyone, but knowing I must get the words out.

I am scared, I am lonely, I feel hopeless. But I know one thing for certain. Everything is temporary. We change or we die. I am not ready to die, so I’m just gonna have to change.

Day 29 – Growing

I’ve often said “If you ain’t growing, you’re dying.” and I do believe that. That said, I feel like I’ve been dying a slow death in the past two months. I put myself in self-isolation on February 24. Weeks before it became the norm. I got sick after a long weekend of lots of activity. I do think it was just a little flu. My fever lasted one day and wasn’t excessively high, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t COVID-19. As a life-long asthmatic, I felt the need to err on the side of caution. I’m glad I did, I know I am fortunate, that social distancing didn’t affect my work life at all. Truly, the only thing I am missing is seeing and hugging my children and grandchild, and seeing my girlfriends for our Sunday breakfasts.

Until this week, I was just hiding, locked in a sort of self-imposed prison. Frozen in my own fear. I am still afraid and see myself becoming more of a hermit than ever. Going out only to get the mail or pick up groceries. I’m having most things delivered. But this week, I decided to revive this project. To try again to write honestly about my inner-life, to be brave, even when I am feeling somewhat hopeless.

I know, because we are being smart, and safe, I will see my children and grandchild again. I know someday I will go back to having regular breakfasts with my girlfriends. I will once again care what I look like (and maybe even smell like – I know…ewww…gross, but I don’t let myself get too bad, I promise).

So, while I do feel stuck, I am trying to keep growing, even if it is teeny, tiny, baby steps, right here on this page.

Day 30 – Brave

Right now, Brave means staying at home, missing the people I love, while being trapped in living space with someone I don’t. Right now, patience is brave. Staying inside and investigating my inner self is the bravest thing I can so. And so I will.

Until the day I can go back out into the world and embrace those I love, I choose to be brave in my own heart and mind.

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