What Are Fears Afraid Of?

Recently, a few things happened. One is, I learned to relate to some aggressive sheep dogs. The other is that I played an open mic. I’m realizing that working with fear is less about solving a mystery or scaring it away or ignoring it, and more about making friends. 

Let me explain the sheep dog scenario. I live part time at a ranch, and there are a few sheep dogs. They are doing a job, which is guarding the sheep. The sheep happen to be right outside of my front door. So walking my dog anywhere quickly became a problem.

If you are any type of perceptive, you probably notice I have a lot of pictures of my dog up on the blog. That’s no accident. I’m his biggest fan. I love the ever-loving Hell out of him. I don’t want him getting bit up, beat up, or intimidated by some dogs based on a misunderstanding of the threat he poses to some sheep.

What I did at first was just run from them. That didn’t work, they felt powerful and chased me. I then started carrying a stick to raise in the air and scare them if they chased us. That sort of worked, except sometimes they got really angry and truth be told, that stick wouldn’t do much if they wanted to attack me or my dog. Then I tried something else, which was to come outside to actually greet them alone before walking my dog.

You know what happened? They freaking loved it. The girl one even let me pet her, which is nearly unheard of. She gets happy to see me in the morning now. The boy one does as well. They say hi to me, get excited, and then they leave us pleasantly alone while we walk by the river. They don’t even bark. If they do, I say their name, and they stop. It’s that freaking simple.

The open mic. There’s another one. A small handful of my friends have heard me play and sing, even though I’ve been doing it for more than ten years for just my own amusement. It’s not a side of me I show very much, yet have always yearned to in some form or another. Since joining Soundcloud, where things are safe and distant, I’ve learned that my lyrics really do have a great impact on some people. That’s a great feeling.

I was half-watching a movie called “The Waitress” last night (Nathan Fillian is in it, come on how could I not), and one of the things the main character Jenna said was “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

That’s exactly how it was. I became addicted to wanting to share, wanting to share my words with whoever would want to hear them. Plus I like getting over fears and hesitations. So I did the open mic.

Image

A new song about feeling proud of what you are even when it’s not much comparatively:
http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/until-its-done-by-jennifer

Before going, I addressed my fears one by one. I knew that if someone went before me and sounded amazing, that I would tap into a feeling of “I’m super proud that I get to offer something very different” instead of “oh jeez I’m going to just suck compared to them.”  I meditated, I even played in front of my boyfriend for hours and had him talk to me and try to distract me while doing it because I knew my mind would attempt such things later. I met every possible fear in a friendly way and worked with it so that when I was there, I felt prepared.

It went wonderfully. I sang three songs, I made some friends, I plan to go back and do it again next week. A few months ago, I would have probably bet my dog’s right front paw that I would never do an open mic for at least a few years. But working with my fears has really made my world feel bigger.

The way that I faced the fear of singing in public and really chose to want to work with it instead of run from it or fight it was very similar to how I finally learned to be less scared of the dogs. Maybe fears are as afraid of us really looking at them as we are of them. Maybe they are more afraid of someone being nice to them than of a direct challenge, because it’s amazing how fast they can scatter once you make up your mind to just let them do whatever they want after they get a friendly “hello” from you.  It’s easier than a battle or feigning ignorance, because even if you aren’t looking, they still have a strong prey drive.

How about you, have you overcome any fears lately?

Do you like to do things that are scary, or a specific type of scary? 

Do you ever look at your fear or fight it, or try to learn about it to dissolve it?

Hope everyone is well!

Curiosity, Meet Convenience: Hidden Stories

Remember that feeling in middle school where you introduce a friend to your parents, and you feel torn in half as you suddenly  realize there are different and sometimes incompatible versions of yourself to keep track of? Sometimes that feeling still happens when you introduce friends from different circles to each other. You are different versions of “you” with both parties and suddenly you have to find the middle ground, and it’s not always comfortable.

Blending Worlds to Deepen The Depth of the Moment

I am many people throughout the course of the day. Sometimes, I am mindful and curious and aware and gentle. Other times, I’m fast, furious, focused, and indulging in the convenient.

But the other day the two worlds met. I was eating a corn tortilla and found myself wondering how many people’s lives were involved with the whole process of making them.

From the plastic wrapper they came in to the fields the corn was grown in to the design of the package and the light switches at the factory that pumps them out. How many people were involved? Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions if you really got right down to it (since each piece of the factory was made in another, and those people were technically involved with these tortillas…you get the idea). Who turns off the lights at the factory, what do they eat for dinner when they get home from work?

Singing Songs to the Cows

I spend half my time in a rural area. I sit on the porch and watch cows. One of them has big white spots and he’s going to turn into food someday. I watch him graze and let my heart ache a little with the awareness of his imminent demise that he has no idea about. He’s just eating grass in the sun.

But someday, people are going to eat him. They will taste the burger and not think of the girl that sat on the porch, folded book on her lap and spiderweb-filled mini-guitar singing songs to the cow as he nibbled on grass by the river. They won’t think of her or her story at all, just the food on their plate and other things on their mind at the time. How could they possibly know about her, never even mind what she had for dreams last night or for breakfast or how she gazed curiously at her corn tortillas.

I wonder about these stories that can infuse our convenient moments with curiosity. It’s easy to buy a package of corn tortillas, but it’s also possible to have curiosity for them.

Loosening the Grip of Our Own Story

In the past few days since the corn tortilla incident, I have applied this type of curiosity to other things and moments that otherwise can feel rather habitual. Brushing my teeth, making coffee, walking around the grocery store. And I’ve discovered something wonderful.

Stories are everywhere, curiosity can always be kindled. Every item on the counter, every car in the lot, every person walking by- stories on top of stories on top of stories.

It’s fun to jump into another story to see the context of our own. It can get us out of our own head, and it can bring some magic to an ordinary moment. It can also be great fuel for the imagination for writing stories and songs or working with a business problem in a new and creative way.

I feel moved to share this little tidbit because it has really stuck with me, and getting to stuck in our own story can sometimes limit us in terms of what we imagine. Imagination is great, use it whenever you can, especially when it can bring you a greater amount of gratitude and appreciation and awe for the little things in life like corn tortillas. glowy jen and zeek on couch

Are there convenient things that you take for granted a lot that may contain stories you never even imagined?

Do you think that it would be fun to look at life with this type of curiosity sometimes, or would it just make things too complicated?

Do you stare into lit up windows and wonder about the people who live inside and what they might be like?

I hope everyone is well 🙂

 

Valentine’s Day: Four Steps to Make It Hurt Less

Valentine’s Day is coming, and if there’s one thing I know about this day of red and chocolate, it’s that it can be a big let-down. Whether you are single, in a relationship, married, or divorced, it can really just be a festive time for you to beat yourself up for one reason or another.

This post is here to address some of those reasons and to remove some of their power.

Some people are going to have a hard time on Valentine’s Day because they lost someone that they love. Some are going to have a hard time because they are single, others will have a hard time because even though they are with someone, the actual celebration of the Day is going to fall short of what they want.

When there is recent trauma involved, this advice may not apply, especially if the loss is recent. Speaking to a professional would be good if you are in that situation. In the cases where someone is being let down by this day because of anything other than physical loss, the pain of Valentine’s Day is going to come down to one thing: Our expectations.

Step One: Identify Why It Will Most Likely Suck

If you are single, then why does February 14th have to suck? If you are in a relationship, and you and your partner both have to work and won’t end up with a dozen photos to paste up on Facebook at 7:45pm, does that suck? Your expectations may say that it does, but it really doesn’t.

The trick is to identify why you think Valentine’s Day might suck, and tackle them. Figure out what it is in your thought process that tells you what this day should be. Then realize that it’s all false. Every last drop. This day is subject to your decisions and values, just like every other day.

Maybe you are supposed to get a beautiful bouquet of tulips or bacon roses. Maybe you are supposed to have a fancy dinner or breakfast, mimosas, a great adventure, a romantic meal out complete with glowy pictures to put on Instagram, really great sex with fancy lace underwear and no stretch marks. These things are not love, they are not human connection, and they are not a recipe for fulfillment. They are aiming at some values that we all share, but they miss the mark in more than a couple of ways.

Step Two: Figure Out What You Value

Remember that a value is not a goal that can be pass/fail (Like, I’m going to have a fancy dinner tonight) but more of a way that you see the world (I value appreciating the taste of my meal as I eat). The values that you have about Valentine’s Day can be explored to figure out how your expectations can be questioned and your values met.

What do you value about this day and the meaning of it? Is it the love, the connection, the feeling of being loved? Is it the togethernesss, the fancy items, the sex? Whatever it is, pin it down, put it on your table of mindfulness, and look at it with an open heart.

You can get any of those things on this day whether or not you are in a relationship, whether or not you and your partner can spend time together on that day, and whether or not you are even on the same side of the world as them.

For me, this day will be slightly painful because me and my partner cannot spend it together. We will both be working in different towns, and because of my new job I can’t simply decide to take the day off and make less money in order to spend time together. I’ll be alone in a place I barely know while he works till the late hours. It’s also our anniversary. So I know it’s going to fall short in some ways of my expectations. But I also know that I can find the values that I place on it, and nourish them in new ways.

Step Three: Get Creative on Nourishing Those Values

Use your imagination. How might you nourish the value of “being loved” if there is not a partner to love you? Maybe you can call someone that you feel close with. Tell them ahead of time that you would love to talk to them for at least an hour on Valentine’s Day. If you plan now, you can have a lot of people to talk to during the day to offer and receive love and support.

Take a few hours and do whatever you want without thinking about what the people on Facebook would think about it. In fact, vow not to even mention it on Facebook. For all they know, you are too busy to post a status update because you are busy getting a massage in a Hilton Suite with your new fling. Show yourself love as you would show someone else love. We all know we have to learn how to do this for ourselves before we do it for someone else.

Buy yourself some fancy underwear and wear it around the house. Make a mimosa for fun and sip it while you watch the clouds roll by. Do something for you. It’s easy to say and it sounds cheesy and ridiculous, but take a second to really think about spending an entire hour just letting yourself be. Draw, paint, cook, dance, sit, nap, eat, pet the dog, sing the songs you liked when you were 15, make silly faces at the TV, do push-ups and count out loud in funny voices, wear your hair differently, dye it even. Do whatever you want, and do it for you.

You’ll be having more fun than people on forced dates who pause every five seconds to get the perfect picture so that their acquaintances know how much fun they’re having.

Step Four: Realize You Are Not Alone

This is the most important step. No matter what, no matter how February 14th is going to suck for you or not live up to the meagerest of your expectations, you are not alone. There is another human in the world who shares your pain. Maybe you can send love and compassion to them, since you understand what they are going through.

I hope that you all are having a great week and that if Valentine’s is going to bring any pain, that at least some of it can be averted and transformed into your own fun day that happens just the way you want it to, on your own terms, nourishing your own values, and making you smile!

Are you looking forward to Valentine’s Day?

Do you know someone who may be suffering on that day, someone that you might want to reach out to?

Do you always have fun on February 14th no matter what?

 

http://soundcloud.com/samfranklins-2d-page/god-forsaken-town-c-2012#

Running Toilet: The Rorschach of Household Problems

The other day, the toilet at my part-time house was running for too long. I had to turn the water off, and figure out what was wrong. I gave my dad a play-by-play of the situation over the phone as I turned the water on, flushed, and watched what happened in the back part. It was fun, connecty, and educational.

And it got me thinking. What if this was a metaphor of something?

In some schools of thought, you can view your house as a reflection of your self. If you always have trash piled up before taking it out, maybe you have a problem with letting things go. If you have too much food and can never fit it all in the cupboards, maybe you can use a better system for taking inventory of your day before adding more things to your schedule. It’s rather endless and fun, and I don’t really do it.

But this running toilet was interesting. I didn’t realize that you could just turn the water off to make it stop running, turn it back on, use the toilet, and then turn it off again. It was like empowering magic.

Do I have something that’s constantly running in my mind, something that ends up doing more than it should and causing problems because of it? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. It’s called fear about the future. It’s always running, overflowing, doing more than it needs to.

A small amount of that fear can be fine in some situations. It helps me to be careful, to be safe, to take account of what’s happening and choose my actions accordingly.

But too much of that fear constantly running is just a waste of energy and creates an annoying noise in the background.

So I started applying what I learned about the toilet’s water system to my own fear. Turn it off. Twist the knob, make it stop. I can turn it on when I need it, but there’s no need for it to be running constantly.

I did that, specifically in relation to some dog issues that have been arising in this house, since it’s a ranch and there are many dogs and my dog’s a little nuts. I am constantly afraid that he’s going to get super hurt, but I also want us to be able to play by the river and have fun and get exercise.

I shut the fear off temporarily. I went to the river, I felt the ground under my feet and the sunshine and all the things that were not fear. It went fine. The fear came back, but then I went to the river again the next day. The fear didn’t come back that time.

And now, the toilet doesn’t keep running. Maybe it will again, but for now it’s working great. At the same time, I try to learn about the water pipe of my fear. Where’s the knob, how far to the right do I have to turn it before it stops? Can I find it in the dark if I need to? And can I notice the times when it actually doesn’t run for too long and appreciate them?

Just some thoughts.

Are there household problems that you feel could relate to your own mind?

Do you ever see your house as a reflection of yourself or is that just new-age hippie crap?

If you had to pick one random thing, like dishes in the sink or dust on the shelves, and relate it to your mind, do you get some ideas of things that pop up?

Hope you all are well 🙂

In the link under the picture is a song by Tom Waits called “Yesterday is Here” that I covered with a distant friend. Actually trying to “sing” was new for me, and I’m rather proud of how it turned out! Shuttin’ off the fear is fun!

Why I Love Loving What I Hate (AKA, Reality Doesn’t Pick Sides)

A lot of my favorite people had a hard time growing up. Some of us were made fun of by our friends, some had abusive family situations, some suffered real hunger and fear of imminent death and some suffered with extreme states of mind.

A lot of my favorite people have learned from these struggles, and have found a way of becoming inspiring because of it. And some of them are going to someday, I can feel it.

Recently I told a friend that I felt really confident about my new job. He suggested to really savor the feeling and write about it because “someday, you might really need it.” When my ravenous insecurity hits, I want to remember how it felt to feel confident and capable.

In the spirit of that encounter, I want to share something that I’ve been feeling good about lately, which is my ability to identify, appreciate, and learn from my hatred of some things.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my studies of academia and real life, it is that things are rarely black and white. One person full-heartedly believes one thing and someone else believes the opposite, and reality has never once really chosen a side. It has a compassionate ear in both directions to anyone who cares to listen.

So, my hatred of things is something that I’m pretty sure is not ever completely accurate. My insecurity, fear, anxiety, and repulsion is often times a red flag for me to look closer.

“I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight… I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

What’s really going on here? I mean, really?

Oh, right, reality doesn’t pick sides. It just is. Lots of things at once, like a minestrone soup. You can eat it in many ways. Maybe you eat the carrot pieces first because you want to get them out of the way before you get to the chunks of potato, or maybe you eat all the noodles first because you love them and want to throw away the rest anyway. Who knows. There’s lots of ways to eat it, and it’s all there when you care to look at it. If you try eating it in a new way, something new may emerge. Maybe you like carrots more than you used to when you slow down and savor their flavor, maybe the taste of asparagus is exactly what you needed. Can you even put asparagus in soup? Anything’s possible.

The more curiosity that I hold towards things that are unappealing, the more that I learn. I learn about my fear of a certain type of situation, I learn about what other nuances exist in it. This helps me when I want to write fiction, it also helps me when I want to work with people who have more extreme fears, anxieties, phobias and repulsions than I do.

We can all relate to each other. It’s really not that hard. And yet, it’s scary. It’s scary to relate to someone with depression when you feel as if you are happy. What if they bring you down? Well you know what? If you are avoiding relating to that person, I would question the authenticity of your happiness all together. Happiness based on protection from the things that are quote-unquote “not happy” is not any type of happiness that I would want to be a part of. No siree.

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
Pema Chödrön

So as I step into a feeling of confidence with my job, and take a gentle inventory of the most useful things I have to offer myself, my curiosity about my hatred is one of my top faves. At least for now.

What about you, have you learned from hardship in your life? Do you feel like it has made you a better person in the long run?

Do you like relating to people with love even if they are in a hard place in their life right now?

I’m curious. As always, thank you for reading. You guys truly rock.