Monday, October 24, 2016

Vulnerability = Eating Alone At Taco Bell Without Looking At Your Cellphone

If you had asked me a year ago, “What is the definition of vulnerable and how does it make you feel?” I could not have answered your question. Really, I had no clue.

But today I can tell you that eating alone at Taco Bell without looking at my cellphone makes me feel vulnerable. And I know I am not the only one, judging by what other people do while they eat alone.

Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It has taken a while, but I can recognize when I am feeling vulnerable.

Going inside to eat by myself at Taco Bell is hard. I’d rather go through the drive-thru, order my Burrito Supreme and small Mountain Dew, and find a place to park and eat with the windows rolled down. (Yes, I am an introvert.)

Sometimes, though, I think I’ll just go in to eat. I order, find a place to sit, and pick up my phone to look at Facebook before I take the first bite. Before cellphones, I always carried a paperback book to read.

I loved the day I walked in and saw two of my friends eating there. They invited me to sit with them. Courage has its rewards at times.

Last week, I realized I felt vulnerable when I walked in and ordered. And, because I felt vulnerable, I decided to sit at the table and eat my burrito without looking at my cellphone. I made the choice to stay in uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure without avoiding, shutting down or numbing the emotion by reading Facebook. I leaned into the discomfort and sat with vulnerability.

The first person I noticed was a man in work clothes intent on his cellphone while he ate. He was the only other person there by himself. A woman sat at a table with her elderly father while he told her stories. An employee brought out their order and gave it to the woman and her father. They looked up in surprise, saying they hadn’t heard their number called. I know she didn’t call the number, just cared enough to deliver it without so they wouldn’t have to interrupt their conversation. Two women engaged in excited conversation as they caught each other up on their lives.

Nothing dramatic happened. Just life. Life I would have missed if I hadn’t chosen to spend a few minutes in vulnerability.

I am learning that staying in vulnerability when I feel it makes me more open; open to people, open to circumstances, and open to life.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Re-discovering Creativity

I spent last weekend in Santa Fe for the Women Writing the West Conference. I looked forward to connecting with old friends, meeting new friends, and being inspired to write again. What I didn’t expect was to re-discover my creativity.

The first speaker on Friday was Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. Julia and her book were completely new to me. This is the 25th anniversary of the first printing of The Artist’s Way. She explained “Morning Pages” – basically, writing three pages first thing in the morning of whatever comes to mind. (I finally understand what all of my writer friends are doing when they mention morning pages on Facebook!) I bought The Artist’s Way and began my own journey of morning pages this week.

Through reading the book and writing morning pages, the first thing I’ve learned is how I have shut down my creativity. Perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking have boxed me in. My realization – Wow! I have really closed myself off to the things that matter most to me.

When I decided to write “The Book,” the project I am ten years into now, I made it my focus. I heeded the advice of other writers: write every day; get up and write first thing in the morning; keep your focus “You don’t have time for that.”

I let go of things in order to write. I started writing the book as nonfiction, changed it to creative nonfiction at the suggestion of an editor, and finally ended up at historical fiction. Historical fiction feels right. It is what I love to read. But I had never written fiction. So, I had some learning to do. I created a story arc. Other events in my life affected me and I became depressed. The pressure I put on myself for the book to be perfect began to get me and I became blocked.

Therapy helped not only my depression and anxiety, but with writing my book. In fact, that is the reason I am still seeing my therapist once a month. I am not there yet, but I know it is within reach now; especially after last weekend.

Julia Cameron writes about filling the artistic well. And I know that is where I got of track. I kept letting go of creative things I love doing because “You don’t have time for that.”

To fill the well, Julia Cameron suggests an artist’s date once a week. The first one she mentions is going to the dollar store and buying silly creative things. So, today I went to Walmart thinking I would buy a coloring book and colored pencils. I know adult coloring is the rage, but it feels silly to me. And, I know I can’t do it perfectly. Oh, just the right thing to open myself to creativity.

After finding the coloring book and pencils, I walked down the sewing aisle.

And there, on the bottom shelf, lay the most beautiful skein of royal purple yarn. 

I learned to knit when I was a child in 4-H. My mom taught me at first, later I rode the bus after school to go to my best friend’s house. After eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich, Donna and I sat knitting while listening to Waylon Jennings and other country music playing on the radio. Donna’s mother helped us when we made mistakes.

I enjoyed knitting and eventually received a grand champion ribbon for a vest I knit. I taught knitting to some younger girls in 4-H, too.

 I continued knitting off and on through the years, but half-finished projects started to wear on me. Finally, after making a mistake on a baby blanket for a friend and never finishing it, I gave up knitting twenty years ago.

Until the skein of royal purple yarn called to me. My mind flashed back to knitting with Donna, teaching others to knit and knitting during blizzards. I picked it up and caressed the soft yarn and knew I wanted to knit again. Maybe a scarf? I found knitting needles and rushed to the checkout with a smile.

At home, I found a pattern for a scarf on the Internet. It took a couple of times to get it started right. The first time I added an extra stitch and ripped it out to start over. But soon my fingers flew into knitting as though they had never stopped.  

Creativity, texture, color, memories, connection. Ahhh.