A few weeks ago in a couple of the online homeschool groups I’m in, moms started posting a very similar request: “Help! I’m a first year homeschooling mom and suddenly nothing is going right. Continue reading → Creative Februarys
Twas the night before Christmas
The topic was stress
Two bloggers were writing
Their posts still a mess…
Hey Karin. Merry Christmas! Can I stop by and bring you some breakfast?
Thanks, but I’m on a deadline. #toobusy #nostresseating
I teach at a homeschool co-op once a week. A group of parents get together and teach about 100 kids from preschool through high school. Kids can take anything from belly dancing to British Literature. I love being there and tapping into a huge network of creative and resourceful parents.
One of my contributions tot he co-op is to teach a creative writing class for seven to nine-year-olds. It is truly one of the best things I do all week. It just so happens that across the hall from us during that time period is a music class for some of our youngest students and their parents.
This past week, my kids and I were working on creating poetry, when all of a sudden there was a horrible shriek from the classroom across the hall. It quickly became apparent that one small musician was having a meltdown of monumental proportions. Her mom was with her the entire time and quickly removed her from that classroom, moving her down the hall to the unoccupied nursery.
A few minutes later, I needed to leave the classroom to get some additional supplies, and as I walked by the nursery. As I passed by, I was struck by the most stunning image. The young girl, who is about two, was still stuck in a full-blown temper tantrum. Her mother was sitting in front of her, perfectly calm and practicing active listening skills as the little girl sobbed and spoke, fairly unintelligibly, I would imagine, while struggling to regain control. And here was her mother, clearly listening, not judging, not telling her to calm down, just listening.
It got me thinking about those times we, as adults, melt down. It happens to the best of us occasionally. Maybe you yell, maybe you drink, maybe you watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer for hours on end while eating eight cartons of Chinese take-out. People don’t melt down randomly, it’s a build up of frustrations, little and big, that we stuff down until they pile up. Eventually, if you keep it up, you run out of room to hold it in- that’s when the meltdown happens. How quickly we personally recover depends on how long it takes for us to listen to ourselves, without judgement or without asking ourselves to do something we have no ability to do, like calm down or get over it. Meltdowns are a way of saying that something is very wrong, that our needs can no longer be ignored for the sake of politeness, appropriateness or because we’re choosing to put other people’s’ needs ahead of our own.
Some of us need to practice active listening with ourselves which may come in the form of journaling or running or painting. Some of us need stillness and silence – meditation – to truly listen to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but it’s much harder for me to listen to myself without judgement, without harping on all the reasons I should have it together, or shouldn’t have lost it in the first place, that it is to do the very same things for the people around me. And all those judgements, all those “shoulds” and reasons to beat ourselves up don’t help us find our center or right us. They just keep us in the vortex of the storm.
The simple wisdom of this mom to not try to change the situation or judge or ask of her daughter something she simply wasn’t capable of in that moment stunned me. The act of being present in the frustration and the pain and to just listen stuck with me in a way I don’t think I’ll easily dismiss. I hope the next time I find myself in the middle of a personal meltdown I have the ability to just stop and listen and hear what it is I am so desperately trying to say.
This is day 22 of the National Blog Posting Challenge.
Today marks a perfect storm of creative inspiration for me. I’ve got a road trip, live music by my favorite band and lots of laughter with great friends. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way talks a lot about filling the well. You can’t draw from your creativity over and over again without also having a consistent way to refill the well. So, I get to do that today, a lot. It’s fantastic.
Filling the well doesn’t have to be time-consuming, expensive or exotic. Sometimes, just a simple walk or time in my garden works wonders for me. As does getting lost in a bookstore, wandering through a yarn store or playing my guitar. Lots of options to fit my mood or how much time or energy I have to devote to it. I always encourage my clients to keep a list of what fills them up. It’s important to have it handy otherwise we end up trying to fill our well with things like Candy Crush or Facebook or the Lifetime Christmas movie marathon. Not that any of those things are bad in and of themselves (I’m currently stuck on level 197 though…), but they are not going to refill your well. They may provide a distraction or a bit of respite from a long day but they won’t sustain you through the last hundred pages of your novel, a new business venture or your first major gallery show.
Figure out what fills your well and then do it – a lot. Funny, I wrote a blog recently about being happy – same advice. So, being one who is trying to learn to take her own recommendations, I’m going to go fill my well. I hope you get to do the same today.
Today marks Day 15 in the National Blog Posting Month Challenge. My goal is to post every day during the month of November. Check back frequently and see how I am doing.
Tonight finds me a little under the weather. I’m not full-blown sick, just a little achy and tired and sniffly that a slight cold and a too busy day will create come nine o’clock at night. It was a full day filled with children singing in choir and a soccer game and a party and lots of drive time and I’m glad to be done, in my pj’s and wrapping it up for the night.
It’s not a terribly creative night for me. That’s okay though. I am here and I am posting. I always say it doesn’t matter what you’re doing creatively, the most important thing is that you show up. So I’m showing up – and while this post won’t win any awards, it does move me towards my goal of writing every day for 30 days. It’s not a huge milestone today, but we get celebrate all those things that move us forward.
So yeah me for showing up when I’d rather be asleep already and yeah you for whatever steps you’ve taken today towards your goals, no matter how large or small.
When was the last time you were on an airplane? What was the most notable experience about the ride? If you can’t think of something immediately, then, lucky for you it was actually a pretty non-eventful trip. (I’m a pretty anxious flyer so my response to this every time would be “I noticed we didn’t plummet to the ground in a fiery crash.” But I digress…)
Have you ever noticed how few people pay attention to the flight attendants’ pre-flight safety talk? We’re too busy texting the last messages before we have to turn the phone off, or talking to our seatmates. or flipping through the Skymall catalog to see what random but totally awesome items they’ve come up with in the current issue. I try to listen to the flight attendants each time, not because I don’t know the speech by heart. Mostly it’s because I want them to feel like at least one person out there is validating their effort to try to save our lives despite our best efforts to ignore them. One day I realized something really cool about that safety speech: Each time a flight attendant goes through that speech, they give you the most useful piece of creativity/life advice out there.
See if you can spot it:
The cabin is pressurized for your comfort and safety. In the unlikely event of a cabin depressurization, oxygen masks will appear overhead. Reach up and pull the mask closest to you, fully extending the plastic tubing. Place the mask over your nose and mouth, and slip the elastic strap over your head. Tighten by pulling on the ends. The bag does not need to inflate for oxygen to be flowing. If you are seated next to a small child or someone needing assistance, secure your own mask first, then assist the child.
Secure your own mask first.
It’s simple really. Make sure you can breathe before trying to save anyone else. You’re less likely to be able to save anyone else if you are dying – literally and figuratively. To paraphrase an old adage, “If the artist (writer/musician/creative) in the house ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”
In other words, get up in the morning by yourself and write in the silence before you have to make breakfast and get kids out the door to school. Sign up for that yoga class you’ve been dying to take and forgo bringing work home with you once a week. Say no to one commitment you’ve over-scheduled in your life to play guitar with a few friends on a Wednesday night.
Are you aware of what your oxygen mask looks like? Not everybody does or it’s been so long since they’ve used it, they’ve forgotten. If you can’t immediately name three things that feed your soul, fill your well or filter out the negativity in your life, then the first thing you need to do is get in touch with what you truly love in this life. I don’t care if it’s collecting snail shells, writing haiku about barns or Tuvan throat singing, embrace whatever it is and push a space into your life for it.
All those things we really want to do that we never seem to find the time for, the things we say we’ll get to once the lawn is mowed or we’re caught up at work, or once the kids are older, those are the things we should be doing first and fitting everything else in around them. Seriously. I mean come on, you’re doing laundry instead of the one thing that makes you truly happy? I promise, if you shut the door and play your trumpet for an hour, when you come out, that laundry will still be there and you’ll manage to get it done. Or you won’t. On your death-bed, I highly doubt you’ll wish you’d done more loads of laundry.
Secure your own mask first – give yourself just a little bit of what you give away to others. When you can breathe into your own life, spending time doing that thing that makes you happiest, it is so much easier to be present, happy and available for all the other people and obligations in your life that need you to pay attention to them.
If you’ve studied meditation at all, I am sure you’ve heard the term “monkey mind” which refers to the near constant state of the mind to jump from one idea to the next, to the next, to the next in a restless, insatiable sort of way. One goal during meditation is to gain control of the monkey mind. Personally, I would LOVE it if there was only one monkey jumping around in my mind. For me it’s more of a troop of hundreds of monkeys – a really loud, agitated, screaming troop – all of whom want me to focus my singular attention on them.
We’ve all had those times in our lives when the noise in our head is so loud, so all-encompassing, so disorienting that we literally can’t do anything but shut down. Because my brain seems to be always set at eleven this happens to me at least 3-4 times a day. (You should see what happens when I’m actually stressed.) There are moments when the sound inside my own head is so loud, I am almost blinded from too much internal stimuli. I literally can’t figure out what I am supposed to do or where I am supposed to be and I can’t make even the simplest of decisions.
Thankfully, I have figured out a way to silence the monkeys. I visualize it as handing each monkey a banana or draping a blanket over their heads which immediately causes them to sit quietly. It takes a while to get to all of the monkeys- they sit on lots of tree branches and sometimes jump away just as I inch my way out to them, but eventually I quiet them all down. Only then can I begin to work with clarity, purpose and calm.
So, in no particular order, here are the many things I’ve discovered to calm the troops:
- Write down everything that’s bouncing around in my head
- Work on a jigsaw puzzle
- Play my guitar
- Take a walk with my earphones on and the music up loud
- Watch the birds on my feeders
- Stroll through IKEA without buying anything
- Browse through a bookstore
- Sit on my back steps and study my field for animals, birds, etc.
- Take a long drive with my music playing
- Sing at the top of my lungs
- Stand on the deck in the dark, breathing deeply with my arms outstretched while looking at the stars
- Tackle an organizational project
- De-clutter something
- Work on a crossword puzzle or sudoku
- Pat my dogs
- Follow a yoga video
- Ice Skate
- Sit by the water (bonus points if I can get out on a boat)
- Make something crafty
- Fold laundry
- Wander through an antique shop
How about you? Add to the list in the comments below.
Regina Verow is a life coach and workshop presenter who believes we can change the world one tiny creative step at a time. For questions about coaching or to receive a free, no obligation coaching session, email her at Regina@ReginaVerow.com.