Take the Joy Quiz … Your Heart Wants to Tell You Something

journal2I am off to spend some time in self care up at my favorite hot springs. Yes, I’ll bring a bit of work along but the focus is homepage on quietly spending a bit of time with myself. What are you doing to take care of yourself today?

May I recommend my Joy Quiz? It’s a sweet set of questions that really helps you stop, relax, and see what your heart and soul want today … Enjoy!

You can find the Joy Quiz here.

Why We Obsess

bonbon.FBThese days my default obsession is Downton Abbey. Embarrassingly, I think of the Crawleys as family. I wonder from week to week how Edith is going to find her man, whether Mary will fall for the right guy. I think fondly of Tom and how real he is. And, of course, I worry about Mr. Bates and poor Anna.

What could I be doing with all of this time I’m busy obsessing? Oh, getting things done. Like writing.

It was just like this with my iPhone until I gave it up for a dumb phone. I was spending way too much time playing Words With Friends and checking email.

This is the way my minds works – always looking for the next distraction. Perhaps yours does too?

We live in a distracted, obsessive culture. People get ‘hooked’ on Angry Birds, Instagram, chocolate, texting … even good old Facebook. And we do it because we crave the instant pleasure that comes with each hit. It’s so much more fun than reality.

Yet at the same time we generate a lot of shame with each obsessive move. (“Do NOT eat that last piece of chocolate … for God’s sweet sake, at least leave ONE!’)

In some way we crave the familiar crutch of shame as well. Our obsession becomes a way to hide from and even bully ourselves. And so we stay small. And safe.

I notice this habit – this need – as I return from grieving the loss of my relationship, my daughter and then my mother.

I no longer need th shame, obsession, guilt, and the general desire to make life difficult that was once so familiar. This is what is great about a massive reset like mine. You get to look at every aspect of your life with fresh eyes – and redo what doesn’t fit. So gone was the iPhone and my other compulsive behavior.

But please note, I didn’t just wave my magic wand and be done with it. I had to go in, spend time with myself, and learn what was driving my various obsessions. And then I had to forgive myself, learn why I made those choices, and even get some help. Only then was I able to move on, this time with some clarity and support.

In  this new place has been … emptiness. (Well, okay, give or take a few Downton Abbey episodes.)

What happens when you lose the need to distract and obsess is you become present to life itself. And you discover the incredible joy in, say, sitting peacefully on the deck at night, under the stars, listening to the frogs and the rustle of birds on water.

You realize that life observed in its simplicity is incredibly full.

Nothing’s happening. All is well. Things are calm. And it feels amazingly rich.

In letting go of so much, I find I have built a powerful reservoir of peace. I think it may have been the purpose for all that loss. In this new place I find I am better able to live my purpose in the world, and I am far happier as well.

Our habit in life is to mire ourselves in huge amounts of stimulation, drama and obsession. Then we raise our weary heads and decide we must ‘get away from it all’. Which we do – only to leap right back into the fray once more a few days later.

But what if your life was as calm as a retreat? What could you step away from today … just as an experiment?

On the other side of obsession is limitless freedom. Plus the simple joy of life unplugged. Why not give it a try?



What Would Shirley Do?

Remembering Shirley Temple Black, I reprint here a tribute I wrote to her in 2013 …

shirley_temple_FBLately I’ve been thinking about a childhood hero of mine, Shirley Temple. I spent hours and hours watching her pluckily tap dance down the steps of her mansion or street busk with abandon with buddies like Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.

Now as I ponder my life, I can understand why I was so attached to Shirley. Again and again, the theme emerges.

There was the kindly father figure – a fellow creative, joyful soul who exudes love, such as Bojangles. Or any number of winsome bachelors who needed a little girl in their life. Then there is the archetypal angry mother, played out by grumpy governesses and orphanage owners, or aunts who want to sell little Shirley to slavery.

Again and again, Shirley rises to the occasion, busting through obstacles. Winning over the nay-sayers. Smashing stereotypes by being the one fun-loving, irreverent kid in the orphanage. She keeps showing up as the original powerhouse little girl.

This was female liberation long before its time and I couldn’t get enough of it. How I loved it when Shirley would save the day … because that was me.

In my own little life, she gave me hope. She proved that you could be ‘too much’ and come out a victor! You really could overcome the forces of evil – like the mean kids at school.

In reality, Shirley was a victim of the Hollywood studio system. Making movies from age three to her retirement at 12, she was making up to eight films a year and under grueling conditions. At her peak she was earning her family $300,000 per film.

In the Thirties. During the Depression.

Shirley singlehandedly saved Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy as she became their top grossing star for years on end. Again and again, she helped several million people get over their worries. Which was why FDR famously commented, “As long as we have Shirley Temple, we’re going to be alright.”

But what did she get for it? A measly $13 a week in spending money, and a father who embezzled all the funds in her proprietary bank account.

In my own life, I was leading a similar battle at home. And like Shirley, I was highly underpaid.

It was up to me to save my mother from her chronic depression. It was up to me to keep Dad happy so he wouldn’t pack his overnight bag and vacate to his men’s club in New York … and stay there. Like the characters in one of Shirley’s movies, Dad was one of those winsome bachelor pals. Mom was the evil orphanage owner.

I grew up and basically forgot about Shirley Temple, but somewhere deep inside, I must have internalized her message. Because over the decades I did begin to apply more and more of Shirley’s pluck to the forces of evil in my life.

Gradually I got to move from being a victim to being more proactive. Just as Shirley herself went from being married to an abusive alcoholic at age 17, to being happily remarried to the love of her life for the next gazillion years. Not to mention becoming the Ambassador to Ghana among other things.

So I am here to say to those of us who were also ‘too much’, there’s gold in them there hills. You truly can be unabashedly yourself. All reports are that Shirley really WAS that fun-loving, perky, uber-gifted little genius she often played. And without a tad of shame.

Shirley’s gift was an unabashed glee at doing what she did well – delighting all those around her with her half-scamp, half-old soul zest for life.

Thank you Shirley Temple. Your gift was huge and we loved you for it.

Long live the child actor in all of us. She who has one foot in play, and the other in saving the world.

(And do let me know your thoughts on this … )


How (and Why) Not to Run From Your Pain

sad guyLast night I dreamt about a magical woodchuck who jumped in my car while I was driving. The woodchuck – whose tail was straight out of a cartoon – was actually kind of cute. And annoying, like a little brother.

And what did I do? I tried to kill it.

‘It’s a wild animal!’ I told myself with alarm as I began slugging away. The woodchuck looked at me, bewildered, and said “Ow! That hurt.” He rubbed his head with his little paw; he was on the verge of tears.

I began flailing at that poor woodchuck because I assumed it was out to get me. Rather than stop and learn more, I imagined the worst.

The woodchuck was actually in my dream to help me. It represented healing work I’m doing right now that puts my teeth on edge and annoys the hell out of me.

My magical woodchuck showed me how I want to bash through this healing while I’m driving ahead … without giving my healing – and the pain that comes with it – its proper due.

Our pain is nothing less than our most profound teacher, and it is up to us to treat it as respectfully as we can. Instead, we want to run from it or bludgeon it to death.

We’ll do anything but stop, look that pain in the eye, and introduce ourselves. And why would we? We’ve been trained to do quite the opposite.

A recent MacDonald’s commercial I saw offered the perfect solution to disappointment, shame or frustration. A Stepford waitress appears out of nowhere, offering a raspberry-topped Frappuccino on a tray.

In other words, lots of caffeine, sugar and saturated fat should do the trick nicely.

No wonder more than one third of all adults in the U.S. are obese. We are all just running from our pain … and straight towards the next Frappuccino.

Emotional overeating is the legal hit of heroin of our era, the ‘acceptable’ snort of cocaine. It’s an addiction that knows no boundaries and crosses all lines. And while emotional overeating is not the sole reason behind obesity, it could be what feeds the other big cause: compulsive screen time and inactivity.

We need to be willing to slow down, feel our pain and let the magical balm of our soul heal us. Which it always, always will … but only if we let it.

I can say from personal experience that no pain is larger than our capacity to take it, heal from it and grow from it.

It’s always an even match. Even when we don’t like it.

What pain are you avoiding today?

I invite you to invite it in to learn from it … grow from it … and so move back towards Joy.