Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NaNoWriMo Update

We apologize for the inconvenience, but this update will be interrupted so that we might bring you the preceding spiritual growth update:

This year has been the year that I have discovered (repeatedly) my tendency to commit to things I thought would be long-term that do not turn out that way because, essentially, the committment was not necessarily my best option.

Or maybe I should say that in attempting to commit to certain long-term projects, I have learned a valuable lesson and moved on quickly.

For instance, a business venture that provided me with a kitchen full of lovely cooking aids and motivated me to redecorate (hanging curtains was the big one) my home and make it homey again did not provide me with the business opportunity I had originally imagined it might, and so I let it go to pursue other, more exciting opportunities for personal growth.

Or, in this particular case, a month-long novel writing project lasted three or four good solid days and then dissipated like a mist. However, I will note that I also got my daughter on board and she now has about 40,000 of the 50,000 word goal completed...not to mention a story that sounds really compelling!

Those are two larger examples, but this kind of thing has been patterning in my life this year. I start something, thinking it will lead one way, and I follow it down a rabbit hole of discovery and learn something almost completely unexpected.

In the past, I might have labelled these outcomes as failures, being the rabid perfectionist I had known myself to be, but now I have a greater appreciation for these kinds of things. It reminds me a little of the MasterCard commercials that have become part of our collective unconscious. But rather than dollar amounts, I find myself listing experiences that lead to a cumulative discovery that is "priceless," or that, in other words, I would not have experienced had I not had the benefit of the other seemingly tedious accumulation of events.

So for now, I'm trying to just go with the flow that these experiences suggest to me, and I realize that I have learned a valuable lesson in courage. Previously, I would have been too terrified to even start the larger projects, but I have now given myself permission to try things out and decide if they are "for me" or not. Some things have not been for me—for instance, writing a novel in November (in a year when I have company and am cooking for Thanksgiving no less!); but some things have absolutely been for me—such as, painting and dancing!

I'm also forgiving myself for all the times in the past that I berated myself for starting something and deciding it wasn't for me and calling it "quitting." I've learned so much about how it is absolutely necessary, for an authentic and joyful life, to follow your own preference. You may say, "Well, elementary my dear Watson," and you would be right, but sometimes people get lost when they don't have a history of support for their preferences. I believe I may have been one of those people. Luckily, I have found my way out of the maze of people-pleasing and into the bright, verdant meadow where I can happily chase the butterflies of my personal preferences.

It's such a relief to know that the earth will keep spinning even if I do things that other people don't approve of or judge me for, and to be released from the tragedy of trying to fit in with others' expectations of what a life should look like.

But wasn't there supposed to be an "update" on my writing progress?

For now, we'll just say I wrote almost 6,000 words, discovered a great character, released a lot of pent-up dramatic thoughts, and chose to focus on the six or eight other things in my life that I prefer more. This November was not my month for a novel.

And that's perfectly O-K!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So I Said I Wanted To Write...

I am continually surprised and encouraged by the way that, if I am listening, the Universe is constantly answering my questions, or offering me advice, or just plain looking out for me.

Ah. So I said Universe again. I could have said Universal Love, or God, or God's Love, or the Inimitable Life Force, or Great Spirit. What my heart feels when I use Universe is majestic, magnificent, wide-open and ever-increasing spaciousness. The amazing Consciousness that we all inhabit as Sentient Beings. In other words, all that Is. The Great I AM. But I digress.

Just yesterday, I told a friend that I had signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month) of 50,000 words, in the shape of a novel, in 30 days. I told her that I'd had lots of "book ideas" and lots of ideas about what writing is or could be in my life, but that I'd never felt confident enough to really start anything.

Fear monkeys. You know. (Remember this one?)

So this collaborative frenzy of writing takes the pressure off...AND gives you a deadline. You basically just write. Fast and Furious: Imagination Drift, as it were. No pressure. (ha!)

But seriously.

And if you are able to write the 50,000 words, you upload the scrambled file to their servers' counting machine and it pronounces you a winner and you get a certificate! Neato, right?

When all is said and done, you don't even have to let anyone else read it, let alone publish it. And edit the thing? Foggeddaboudit! You don't ever even look at it again if'n ya don't wanna. You just have to let your guard down and allow your creative mind to let loose and write.

So, I also told my friend that I'd heard, here and there, throughout the years, that all you have to do is "write what you know." You see, I've wanted to do science fiction in the past and quit because I thought I had to do all my research first and then write. Well, the serendipitous part of this digressive tale happened today at lunch while I read my Writer's Digest magazine. (This is the magazine I get in the mail without ever having asked for or paid for it, to my knowledge. One day, it just started coming. Go figure!)

The writer of the article, "Falling Down the Rabbit Hole," said that only writing what you know can limit the writer to her "conscious mind...stuck in the straightjacket of [her] conscious perception of reality. This is totally contradictory to creativity, which by definition brings into existence that which hasn't been before. Your experiences can be a jumping-off point for your writing, but the key is to not be a slave to the known."

That was a useful clarification for me, but in addition to another article in the same magazine that discussed the tandem efforts of the left and right brain during the writing process, I felt like the Universe had given me a pep talk and then winked at me. So I listened to much of the advice in this issue with the focus: "Get Creative Now: How To Fuel Your Writing." And I thought, "Yes. I am doing the right (write?) thing by signing up for this novel marathon session."

It's good to feel like your on the true path, right?

So I have this germ of an idea that is a deep, dark and hidden idea. I've thought about it before but the artistic censor in my mind says, "Don't you dare! You write that and you'll be putting a pseudonym on that puppy if, and I mean IF, anyone even wants to publish that rubbish!" (Yeah, my censor is gooooooood at what it does!)

But now, picture me all squinty-eyed, with a set jaw, staring down the censor like it's "Church Lady," a comic character I can almost laugh at, saying, "You dare me? Are you talking to me? Yeah? Well just you watch. Say hello to my little friend, this novel idea, see. I'm gonna make it happen. You watch. You'll see."

So. Am I determined? You bet. Am I scared? You bet. But I'm ready inside in a way I haven't been before. Because it's all for me. You may never read what I write next month, but that's ok. It's the writing that matters most. To me.

I'm ready to write for myself! And that makes me proud. YAY!! It feels great to know you're growing and to know that Universe is right there on your side when you decide to say YES to the desires of your heart. And that's SUCH a good feeling.

(Even though I'll be writing 2,000+ words a day for myself, I'm guessing I'll still have things to say about the process at the very least, so I'll keep you posted!)

In parting, I share this quotation with you to remind myself again of the truth about writing (I used to tell this to my writing students was SO encouraging to me to hear this from a writer I truly admire!) :

All first drafts are shit. You must allow yourself to fail. You only write a first draft in order to have something to revise. ~Ernest Hemingway

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's Behind Those Six-Pack Abs (Literally)?

Just wanted to share a fitness tidbit with you today.

So I'm in that weight training class that's mostly cardio, right? Well today we went through a practice run of the weight training fitness test. (Thank goodness we did the practice cardio fitness test muscles are on the wimpy side when it comes to these "norms" that are expected of us!)

There are four tests for women: bench press (55lbs.), lat. pull (50lbs.), arm curls (25lbs.), and sit-ups (incline bench). For all of you who read that and thought, "Yeah, and?" I congratulate you on your physical prowess! For the rest of you out there groaning along with me, let me tell ya, I'm groaning the loudest right about now.

I did all but arm curls today. And the repetition "norms" for a woman of my weight (142lbs.) are as follows: bench press (13 reps), lat. pull (23 reps), arm curls (21 reps), and sit-ups (26 reps). For those able to meet the norm, an 80% grade awaits. That's right folks. To get an "A" in this category, one must exceed (and how) the average number. But enough complaining. Really, looking at it now, away from the gym, it doesn't seem quite so bad I suppose. But keep in mind that there is no age adjustment for these norms, only weight. Ok, I think I'm finally finished whining!

So the thing I wanted to share with you specifically related to the sit-ups. I did ten, People, ok? But what I noticed again is that my abs tend to bunch up in a ball when I do sit-ups, and I know that's not good, so I wondered about the physiology of that phenomenon. And then I wondered what effects my "classical" or longitudinal c-section might be having on my AB-ilities.

That sent me off to the library for some online research. I started with the effects of the c-section on the abs and came across a published and lauded professional who suggested that crunches can actually distend the abdominal muscles because they only work the rectus abdominus, or the long muscle extending between the ribs and the pubic bone, aka. the "six-pack" muscle (yes, it's one, big, long muscle). And even working overtime on the obliques (side muscles) isn't enough to offset the pouchy look!

Apparently, there is a much more important group of muscles that lie deeper and are responsible for flattening the abdomen—the transversus abdominus (and less so, the lumbar multifidi). These muscles are often ignored, or at least undertrained. And one thing I have learned in my weight training class is that if you're going to train one set of muscles, you must equally train those muscles which perform the equal and opposite movement.

For example, if you train your hamstrings, you must also be sure to train your quadriceps—the idea being that the muscles work to move the bones at the joint and that the motion goes in both directions. An imbalance in the muscles causes instability in the joint, and instability is the "bad word" when it comes to physical fitness. Now there's no joint in your abdoment, of course, but there is a push-pull relationship between the outer abs and the inner ones.

So not only do these hidden abdominal muscles stabilize the lower abdomen and back, but they also (especially the transversus abdominus) cinch the waistline and pull in the gut. And the basic exercises for this inner group are isometric, meaning that you hold a static, or unmoving, position and then release, so they are somewhat "easier."

Perusing ten or so websites related to exercising these muscles, I saw the repeated recommendation to cease the other ab exercises, like crunches and sit-ups, for 4-6 weeks in order to allow the underdeveloped muscles to catch up, thus creating a much greater strength and stability, and possibly even reducing the waistline in the process (sources say percent body fat in the region contributes to exterior evidence of the effectiveness of these exercises)!!

The really cool thing is that you can do the most basic of the exercises even while driving, and I do an awful lot of driving!

If you're interested in the one easy exercise, click here, or if you'd like a range of exercises with a suggested program, click here. But please remember that old addage: before beginning a new exercise program, do consult with your trusted health practioner. I am only sending you off on your own research starting point by providing these particular links. Always do what's best for you, ok?

I'll keep you updated, so if you'd like to wait and see if it really works, I volunteer to be your guinea pig!

Keep smiling!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Food for Thought

Ok, so I know it's a cliche, but it's all I could come up with at the moment that the little box labelled "title" beckoned to be filled. I think we'll survive it.

So for the past few days I've been thinking a lot about what I eat and trying to decide if anyone cared or if there was some larger significance to my thoughts dwelling on what I was ingesting. You'll have to let me know if you care or not, and I will write a while and see if there is, in fact, any larger significance to my recent preponderance of mental energies. (Overly dramatic words are fun sometimes, ya know?)

I guess I recently started thinking about food even more because I had to think up something new to eat for breakfast. You see, I eat eggs just about every day for breakfast, and have for several years (lets say four) because I am pretty much useless if I don't have a significant amount of protein for breakfast.

Now before you start thinking, "But eggs have so much cholesterol!" let me assure you that my cholesterol levels are fine and I have no issues there. Actually, eggs, like avocados, have gotten a bad rap in this country for being "bad for you." Well. The people who say things like that get paid to keep you sick and pumped full of pharmaceuticals, so be careful who you listen to.

But if we weigh all traditional breakfast protein items, eggs, in my book, win every time. Think about it...what do we eat (in America) for breakfast protein? Sausage. Bacon. (This order is based on the Southern pecking order to which I am now completely accustomed.) Oh, and ham or Canadian bacon. Did I miss anything? Compared to pork, fatty pork, or fatty salty pork, eggs come out on top, right?

The other problem with people eating eggs is that most people have trouble eating eggs without cheese (based on my observations). In fact, most people eat their eggs in breakfast sandwiches from fast food restaurants (eggs plus super fatty fake cheese--partially hydrogenated vegetable oil patties is more like it--and gobs of bread) or in huge omelettes busting out with other meats (see above, oh yeah, and add cheeeeese!). I guarantee that if you ate two eggs cooked in virgin olive oil with only spices, fresh herbs, or vegetables in, on, or next to them, you would be fine--assuming you didn't already have cholesterol issues (and I mostly say that because I don't want anyone to die from listening to me).

But I suppose that's only for those folks who are useless without protein for breakfast and not everyone is like that, so this may only be trivia for those type of folks.

But as I was saying, I was tired of two eggs for breakfast, which I most often have with fruit, and so I went on a mental quest to find another source of protein. Well, we eat grown-up chickens A LOT for lunch and dinner, so chicken was definitely out of the question. And beef is rarely on the menu at all, so that wasn't making the list either. What does that leave? You guessed it! FISH!

So my oldest daughter and I (the younger one reports she's one of those people who doesn't need protein for breakfast) experimented with "breakfast fish."

Like I said, I usually eat fruit with my protein and I've tried fish with fruity sauces and toppings before, so that was my logical conclusion: fish with fruit. That week at the grocery store, there just so happened to be the most appealing family-size packages of tilapia sitting in the refrigerated case. I thought, Hmm. Never noticed that before. It must be fate. Back at home, looking through the pantry, I came across the jar of Harry & David Sweet Mango Chutney (they don't make it anymore!) I'd been saving for just such a fortuitous occasion. And so it was settled. Fresh tilapia with mango chutney it was.

I pan-cooked my fish in a large, glass-covered skillet, lightly coated with virgin olive oil, on medium heat. When the fish was halfway cooked, I slathered the thick, sticky chutney on the tops of the fillets and continued cooking until it was white and flaky (in total, about 15-20 minutes). Voila! Breakfast fish. Of course, I could eat this fish at any time of the day, but it goes down nice and easy in the morning with that fruity flavor.

Did I mention that my oldest daughter doesn't care for fish but she will eat this with a smile? Mmm-hmm, it's THAT good. We liked it so much, we ate breakfast fish probably eight out of the last ten school days. And that frees me up to have boiled eggs for lunch!

Well this turned into a long musing on fish, and I still have other food on my mind, but I guess that's good enough for now. And I would have to say then that the larger significance may only be that same message that keeps coming out of me in different forms: start with something you love.

You can't stick to the humdrum routines and find joy in your life. Sometimes you just have to break out and break it down to your own personal basics. You need a diet? Start with the food you love...well, the food you love that you know is good for you anyway, capiche? Who knows what you'll be eating for breakfast when you choose from the list of what you like and what feels good rather than just the "acceptable" list of breakfast foods.

All this talk about food is making me hungry...and I've got two more hours before lunch. Oh yeah, and my lunch is boiled eggs, so you know what that means. I ate breakfast fish today.

Hey, let me know if the subject of food is as interesting to you as it is to me, ok? I love food. Eating is one of my all-time favorite things to do, but it may not be the best thing to write about. I'm willing to accept that.

Have a great day and eat something you love that is good for you! You'll be happy that you did.

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Standing on a Hill of Diamonds, Looking for the Gold Mine

We say "diamonds are forever" and "worth your weight in gold" so it's no wonder that when I first read the line that I have taken and used as my title for today, I just didn't get it.

I thought it was a win-win kind of thing. There you are, standing on all that long-lasting stuff, like building your house upon the rock, setting your sights on the gold—of accomplishment, of experience, and yeah, sure, of value.

Nope. Unh-uh.

What Anne Wilson Shaef, author of the daily devotional Women Who Do Too Much, says is that we don't see the forest for the trees. In other words, we go striving for what we already have, yet fail to recognize. So in this particular case, she suggests that, all things being equal—like diamonds and gold—we tend to go searching for the mere hopes of finding the richness we, in fact, already possess to excess. It's easy to see that a hill of diamonds is a ready resource of measurable proportions, whereas rooting around for a gold mine which would then require extraction efforts, in the face of the guaranteed fortune in front of us, would be a titanic waste of time, energy, and life itself.

It reminded me of what I said the other day about not being consciously aware of the magnitude of the gift of the human body, mind, and spirit. It's a hill of diamonds we stand on quite frequently, looking off into the distance to find those perfect accessories to go with it. Face it, we all do it. We ask ourselves, "What good is it to be trapped in this body if I can't have/do/be that?"

Ok, now I'm not saying that we can't take our human organism out for a drive and see what she can do. No, what I'm seeing as the distinction is that yearning that we beat ourselves up with. The literal, "What good is it?" The idea that what we have right now isn't good enough and what's the point anyway? It's the difference between following the joy and the passion in your heart and being driven by wild desire (or being driven wild by desire) for something that seems unreachable--but that's either because we expect perfection or we want instant gratification, or both!

I'll use myself as an example.

I love to dance. Now, at 37 years of age, I take dancing lessons. (You hear the judgment already, right?) And boy is it ever easy to sit back and watch people who have been dancing for five, ten, or even twenty years or more and think, "Well heck, I kinda suck! Will I ever learn this stuff so I can dance as effortlessly as they seem to?" (Or forget watching...try dancing with an experienced partner and having these thoughts come racing in when you inevitably flub it up!)

But if all I focus on is the end result and I allow myself to be discouraged because I don't have it right at this instant, then I miss out on the joy of dancing now. The fact is, I dance like someone who has been taking lessons for less than a year. And that's the's just a matter of fact. I have to allow for the journey. Right?

Repeat after me: "Life is the journey, not the destination." (Have we all heard this enough times now that it's about as "out of the box" as that worn out tag line itself?)

And I have to say that I dance much better when I don't think about doing it perfectly but rather let myself feel the be the dancer, dancing. (And I won't even get started on how my golf swing improves when I just do it!)

But it's so easy to forget the diamonds under the soles of our shoes (I nod to Paul Simon) as we trudge behind the pillar of clouds in the distance that always remain in the distance. The secret to loving the heck out of our lives is to live them right now. To find the perfection in each moment. To just "be" our way along the path.

That's what we're really looking for anyway. The hill of diamonds is there for us whenever we live right from where we are at any given moment. It's not out there in a land far, far away. It's here. And now.

Still not sure what that means? It's taken me a good ten years or so to really understand this idea for myself. Now I'm in the practicing phase. Are you practicing?

On that note, I would like to share a quotation with you from one of my favorite inspirational authors, Mr. Mike Dooley:

Live your dreams now, to any degree that you can. With every purchase. Every decision. Every hello and goodbye. Every assignment. Every conversation. Every meal. Every morning, afternoon and evening. And never, ever, ever look back.


Go on.

Do it now, and have FUN!!! :))

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

In Awe of the Human Organism

Today I decided that I want to track all kinds of steps I make on my journey. I want this blog to become more of a journal of my emerging life of well-roundedness.

In other words, I'm going to get out of my head every now and again and tell you what I'm doing and not just what I'm thinking!

So today was an amazing day for me because I had a physical epiphany that went something like this...

My weight training class includes a cardio fitness test at the end of the semester that could be one of three specific tests: a 3 mile walk, a 10 mile (I think) stationary cycle ride, or a one and a half mile run/walk. Any of these needs to be completed within an acceptable amount of time according to a chart which varies based on age alone. Certain times also fall within certain letter grade levels.

I chose the one and a half mile run for my fitness test, and, of course, I wanted to run it in the "A" range, even though I am not being graded. Competing against averages and my "potential" according to the chart is ok, right? At any rate, I wanted to run, and I wanted to run fast enough for a gold star.

Now I chose the run because I love to run. My abilities before the class began, and my penchant for cigarettes, would have said otherwise, but the spirit of the child within me adores it. When I was a young girl, I ran and ran and ran. In elementary school (4th-6th grades in particular), my friend and I were the fastest runners and we would play "chase" with the fastest boys and routinely outrun them--for a while at least. And, back then, neighborhood tag was the out of school game of choice and we just ran EVERYWHERE! The wind was always in my hair, and cooling off my overly red cheeks (the Irish in me perhaps?). When I was running, I was happy, and when I was happy, I was running. And since then, most of the happy dreams I've had at night while sleeping involved running just for the pure joy of it.

So that's why I chose running. And I also quit smoking and told myself I would run instead. I didn't know how, after all these years, but I just knew I wanted to run again.

The very first week of classes, we went out to the track for our initial practice run...not even the full distance, but just to see where we were. Now, setting aside the fact that on that day there was at least a 100% humidity level in addition to a temperature above 90 degrees, I could not run one time around the quarter mile track. I don't even think I made it halfway. I'd quit smoking less than two weeks before that day and I could feeeeeeeel it. Ouch.

So it's been approximately five weeks since then and we went out today for a full practice run. The weather was fabulous--for us here in tropical Texas anyway. It was just under 90 degrees, and the humidity was more like 50% (aaahhhhh!) and there was even a BREEZE! It was lovely! And I was ready! I'd been practicing on the treadmill ever since that first day of doomed running. Two days ago I had run a mile in less than twelve minutes, and I could feel the power rising up gradually even from just the week before. But I was worried that running outside would slay me because the treadmill felt so much easier.

You must know that good news is did read the title after all, right? :)

Ok. So I'm totally proud of myself today because I ran the whole mile and a half (no walking) in just under fifteen minutes! YAY!!!! And yes, dear readers, that is in the "A" range! Woohoo!

I was amazed that my body had come so far so fast. I observed a moment of silence, when I could breathe quietly again, apologizing to my body and saying a prayer for having abused myself for so long with cigaretts. And then I thought, "Look what I can do in six weeks' time!"

Now it's not like I'm running marathons or anything, but I would venture to guess that I have not run a mile and a half straight since before puberty. Not even in track that one spring in tenth grade when I tried to be athletic and ended up with shin splints that were so debilitating that I quit. And when I did run, briefly, for the team, I was a, but not for long. So I feel like I have a whole new body and I'm almost forty!

My next goal is to do a 5K. Unfortunately, I can't make it to the Run for the Cure race this Saturday because I have golf class, but maybe the next one in town. (There's always a 5K in town!)

But truly, this accomplishment, for me, is the kind of thing in life that can change it forever. I mean, I'm just not the same person I was six weeks ago. Taking care of myself from the inside out gives me such a feeling of strength and perseverance. I had the thought afterwards that we just don't realize how fortunate we all are. We could have nothing but the skin on our bones, and yet we would still have so much!

The human organism, not just the body, but the whole package of mind, body, and spirit, is an outrageously fantastic gift that we each possess. And we have complete freedom over how we will utilize that total package. Think about it. Nothing you could buy is as intricately designed, created, or functioning as the body you inhabit for your whole life. Even on a bad day, or with limited functionality and/or resources, we are all just miracles of life itself inhabiting the earth.

So yeah, today I'm just in complete and total awe of the human organism, and I can't wait to see what I can do with myself next!


© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Friday, September 28, 2007

When the Three-Finger Rule Stalks Me

Do you ever feel like the Universe is trying to communicate with you about the mystery of your own existence?

Do you ever feel like it is conking you on the head with that information?

Yeah. Me too.

The thing that keeps conking me on the head is this "three finger rule" I talk and blog about fairly regularly. I mean, I get it, ok? When I point my finger at someone else's behaviors or faults, those three other fingers are unmistakably pointing right back at me, telling me I do it too, and how, and reminding me that I need to shut up and worry about my own business.

Please put down the finger and step away from the condemnation and nobody will get hurt.

So WHY OH WHY do I keep pointing fingers? Why, I ask you????

Human nature...blah...nobody's perfect...blah blah...momentarily taking the attention off of your own flaws...blah blah blah!!!

As always, there's a sticking point. (If there's one thing you can count on in life, it's the sticking points!)

I believe the reason I keep pointing fingers is that I honestly believe I've discovered that one fatal flaw in others that I simply don't subscribe to in my daily living. Ha! You can hear it sticking already can't you?

So yeah. I'm pointing my finger because I still can't see myself. I'm still hopping around, like my anti-hero Rumpelstiltskin, thinking I can't possibly be mistaken--that surely I've outsmarted the Royalty and I will get my way at last and have the last laugh.

Not so my friends. Not so.

The more convinced I am that I do not possess the dreaded trait, the more surely it is sublimated most deeply in my life. In other words...I just can't see it because I've hidden it so well. Not just from others, but also from myself.

All I can say is that I'm so glad I didn't post the draft of the blog where I lambasted the world around me for being devoid of this one particular quality. Eating one's own words is never a pleasant experience. And it doesn't help with the personal credibility either!

So trust me when I tell you that the more you shriek and stomp about how something really pisses you off in others because you are soooooooooooo good at not doing the same thing yourself, the more the Universe is waiting to boomerang-toomerang-zoomerang you.


Right in the head. From behind or right between the eyes. It matters not. It's still a humbling zinger nonetheless. And I promise you. Your time will come. It's a law of human nature to project disdain onto others for the purpose of diverting attention away from the only being capable of making a change. We do it to make ourselves feel righteous, but if we would just put on our spectacles, we would see that the specks in our neighbors' eyes don't compare with the wood in our own.

The bottom line is that we have to be still and pay attention. Notice what we want to point at and then notice our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Finding our own flaws is rather like sneaking up on a wild animal--let's say a big cat who lives in the dense jungles. First we find evidence...the scat of our behavior. What do we leave behind...what are the residuals...the by-products? What do we keep pointing at? Once we know the big cat lurks nearby, we have to watch, watch, watch for signs. They won't be obvious, but they will be there if we are patient and keep our eyes peeled.

Eventually we see the glowing eyes, the pearly teeth, and hear the low rumble in the chest that lets us know the cat is right here, right now. We see the wild thing in our nature that needs taming. We see the dark side of ourselves. We see where the other three fingers have been pointing all along.

Only then can we stop pointing elsewhere and either acknowledge that we are all flawed somehow or start working to tame the tiger. Either way, the focus is back where it belongs...on the one person whose circumstances and responses and actions we can actually do something about.

So quit pointing and take a safari into your very own soul. You won't believe what you'll find in your own jungles!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Low Pressure Area*

Hey y'all, do you ever hate to do something just because it's expected of you? Is there a name for that particular condition? Label or no, I am a complete lame-oh when it comes to what I now use quotations to call "responsibility." Commit to something completely? Ok, but only if it's fun, man, and not if anyone else can have expectations of me.

Dude, like WHAT is my deal?

I mean, I feel like a complete washup as an "adult in society" but, maybe my husband is right--for me it's just a matter of redefining responsibility to fit in with what it means to me rather than what society-at-large "says" responsibility means. Which I guess is a nice way of saying I don't fit in, but what I know deep down is that I haven't gotten comfortable in my own skin. Haven't formed my niche yet. And the more I keep trying to play by someone else's rules, the more I rebel. The more I try to discipline myself, the more I dislocate or disassociate from the world at large. Sure, I may not be "normal," but by the same token, "normal" may just never work for me and faking it sure as heck is NOT cutting it.

I like what Julia Cameron says about the difference between discipline and enthusiasm, which I conveniently and, for me, appropriately, translated into obligation and inspiration. It's the difference between external motivation and internal motivation, and for some reason, the lesson I have chosen to be confronted with in this lifetime until I get it "right" is how to choose enthusiasm and inspiration rather than mere discipline and obligation. There's nothing wrong with being disciplined and obligated, as long as it is with and to something that is your heart's desire. I am determined to discover and to live an inspired life—guilt-free.

Aye, there's the rub. Guilt-free.

At any rate, here's what Julia says in her lovely book for guilt-ridden, blocked artists, a.k.a. The Artist's Way: "[Enthusiasm] is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving recognition of all the creativity around us. Enthusiasm (from the Greek, 'filled with God') is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work. Far from being a brain-numbed soldier, our artist is actually our child within, our inner playmate. As with all playmates, it is joy, not duty, that makes for a lasting bond" (153).

And so that's exactly what I'm a-gonna do! I have signed up for a variety of continuing education courses at the community college and I'm going to jump in and just do some of the things that I've been dying (literally) to do for YEARS!

I'm taking two art classes, one is Design (line and space) and the other is painting. I have had dreams of Painting for years. (Running too, but I have to stay off of the cigarettes—and I pretty much quit the day I signed up for my classes, no coincidence that happiness equals no desire to self-destruct!)

I'm also taking a Jazz class because I've learned lately that I just LOVE to dance, and Jazz will not require a partner—the only frustrating part of taking Two-Step lessons these last couple of months! And then I will be taking a full semester of Tennis and six weeks of Golf because I love to be active and have always felt unable to be involved!

And, I'm also taking a Yoga class that meets only once a week for an hour because that's another class that has been calling to me.

My first thought was, "My goodness! I can't possible do ALL of those fun things in one semester can I?" Silly me I told myself. OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!! And I purposefully am taking these courses as continuing education because I don't want a "grade" put on my creativity. I just want to DO and enjoy the DO-ing! Low pressure.

My second thought was, "You're spoiled!" Silly me I told myself. IT'S ABOUT TIME, RIGHT???!!!! LOL! I mean really. My inner Censor was working overtime to try to get me to put the pressure back on myself and conform to misery. To avoid choosing what I really want right now, just because. I have "permission" for goodness sake! In other words, there's no reason why I can't enjoy the heck out of my life for a while. Low pressure is what I wanted and now I've got it!

Can't wait to start the DO-ing. One week from today I will be in the path of following my bliss. And hey, I may not LOVE everything, but gosh it's gonna be fun to find out what unfolds!

I'll leave you with an image. Hopefully you've had the blessed opportunity to see this and enjoy it—I know that not everyone was a follower of Jim Henson after all, but this is just so contagious!

I have described myself as feeling like this on the inside from the moment I decided on which courses to take and hit the make payment button. Remember and imagine if you will, Kermit the Frog, especially the Kermit of The Muppet Show era, when he is joyously excited about something (usually a guess introduction) as he throws his wiggly arms up over his head which is thrown back with his mouth wide open shouting, "YAAAAAAAAAY!"

That's how I feel. No pressure. Just JOY!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

*The whole post was inspired by the lovely Texas weather (I always start with the title). All I've heard about for months is the Low Pressure Area hanging over Texas that has kept our grass from drying out and burning but has kept other people soggier than they would like to be and seems to be egging on the hurricanes that are forming this year. Yeeeehaaaaa! I don't so much mind it, but it has been in my mind meteorologically as well as psychologically! :)

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Whole Lot of Something

I’m sure you’ve all used the expression, “a whole lot of nothing,” but have you ever thought about what you’re saying? Personally, I’ve always thought about it in terms of not getting much in return, or in terms of unfulfilled expectations, or, on a positive note, what to do on the perfect relaxation vacation! But today I began to think of it in a more substantive way.

My sister gave me a book for Christmas called Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much so that we could be “thinking about the same thing every day,” if only briefly. That way, when we talk on Tuesdays, we might bring up something that stood out during the week and we’d have a similar frame of reference as a starting point. (Not that we ever need help thinking of things to talk about, mind you!)

I thought it was a great idea, but I didn’t really believe that I was a woman who did “too much.” I knew that I tried to tick off several items on my daily list, but those were “normal” things that wives and mothers and teachers had to do every day for heaven’s sake!

It wasn’t until today (Jan. 30th) that I came across the meditation for Jan. 28th that got me a-groanin’. Right away that should sound suspicious. Yes, it’s true. I was several days behind and read all the missed days this morning to “catch up.” And what hit me first about that particular meditation was that it sounded like something my husband needed to hear, (which, btw, is always a big clue to me that I need to hear it three times as much as he does), so I set it out where he would see it, making sure the book mark was on that page, and, sure enough, he read it by the time I got back from my morning errands (I could tell because the book was flipped over). So, I picked it up and read it again…to gloat a little at how apropos it was for the man who hadn’t gotten to bed until 3:30am that morning because he lets his job rule his life…and that’s when it hit me!

The author, Anne Wilson Schaef, labeled the meditation with the words: "Expendable, Control, and Fear." She says that the fear of being expendable is what drives people to become workaholics—that in making themselves “indispensable,” they convince themselves that they are in control and cannot be “let go”; in a word, they are SAFE. In other words, a man, like my husband, might think, “If I do everything that is asked of me, and then some; and if I check and recheck everyone else’s work and pick up their slack so that everything is done just so, then it doesn’t matter how many hours it takes because ‘this is my job, after all,’ and I don’t want to LOSE it!” But Schaef says that people who are “truly passionate about their work” take the same approach to their other interests—time for “play” or even some good old alone time—whereas the workaholics “work out of fear and try to convince [themselves] that [they] love it.” She says that this kind of fear-motivated behavior is self-abuse and is common in the over-achiever types.

So I asked myself, “How does someone who doesn’t have a job and has commitment issues (me) fall into the ‘workaholic’ category? What do I do so much of anyway?” The answer skewered me to the spot immediately. I do A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING! I do so much nothing that I never get the great big SOMEthing(s) done! My ability to avoid and shirk and dance around big projects with little nuisance-y things has been what has kept me from balancing my life and my time. The little nothings of my average life have been consuming me and keeping me from getting ahead: in my career, in my writing, in my reading, even in my parenting…in everything I say I want to do with my life.

Now, I already knew that this was the do-or-die year for focusing on me and what I want and how to get it. I had my tag words “Discipline” and “Commitment” looming in front of me like my pillar of fire to lead me through the dark wilderness of my present existence into the milk and honey shores of my envisioned promised land. But I just didn’t see that there was “Nothing” standing in my way. All those obstacles I saw between me and what I want for me were just a mirage after all, only, I was creating all of them for myself. I thought that the journey had to be arduous and lengthy in order to be real, but here I was, presented with this “beam me up” reality. The life I want is just a moment away.

One decision is all it takes. Sure, I may have to make that decision repeatedly because it’s an idea that challenges my ingrained habits of perception, but it’s a decision that gets easier and easier to make. This is a profound realization for me because it has such metaphorical connotations in my mind. I’m trying to avoid talking “in circles,” but basically, the idea is that nothing and something are completely subject to our perception, and all that truly matters is that we choose to create the somethings that we want and not waste our time making somethings out of nothings.

For example, it is true that my family needs to eat and that I am the person who hunts and gathers (and cooks) in the family, so grocery shopping is, indeed, something that I must do; however, in light of the reading and writing that I want to do, it is much lower on the significance spectrum than I tend to make it out to be. So, if I don’t read or write on the day I go shopping because I’ve managed to expand that task to the point at which it interferes with my high priority tasks, then I am letting nothing become something and have nothing of substance to show for my dream pursuits.

(This made me think, Oh, the laundry needs to be changed out and I almost stood up! Like I said, I just had this Shazam! moment a couple of hours ago, so it may take more than a day for it to sink in!)

So in other words, if, at the end of the day, my goal is to have “something to show for” my dreams, then I must continually make decisions about what is “nothing” to me and what is “something” to me—or else change my dreams! I say that only because I’ve also learned that there are fantasy-type dreams and there are vision-type dreams. A fantasy for me would be that I would love to be an Olympic figure skater because when I watch them skate on TV, I just know that to feel that amount of power and grace would be fantastic, but I have to admit that figure skating is a sport for younger athletes who have trained copiously since childhood, and, realistically, this does not describe my situation—at least not in this lifetime! On the other hand, a vision for myself, me, in this reality, might include being a published writer. That isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination I don’t think.

But that’s part of what this year, especially, is all about for me: finding my vision. And that’s what this blog is here for—to chronicle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the overs and unders of my journey to becoming what my friend, and author,
Allyn Evans means when she says “Queen.” I am learning to establish dominion over my own life and to fill it with fabulous somethings, all of my own divining. So…

I hereby crown myself a “Queen-in-Training” (QT) and banish the somethings that are actually nothing!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2007, all rights reserved.