Breakdown of an Emotional Breakthrough (and a hoop!)

Let’s do the hoop first, because everyone loves to look at the pretties:

This was a custom order, delivered last night. Very well received. 🙂 Many thanks to my friend Lissa for helping me out to make sure the hoop got delivered on time!

ONTO THE BUSINESS PART OF THIS POST: I haven’t been blogging much the past week or so, and I wanted to explain why. It’s not for a lack of ideas, I’ve got ideas for posts scribbled on random scraps of paper, saved for when I would sit down at the keyboard again. But I felt I needed to make this particular post first, before making any of the others.

You see, I had an enormous emotional breakthrough this week. I mean, with giant, sopping globs of tears and snot and bawling at myself in the mirror while I mentally told myself (and believed) how wonderful I really am.

It happens.

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw some of this breakthrough occurring in real time.

It started with a blog post by Sarah Wilson. The title was “Possibly the most reassuring life advice I’ve been given”, and I clicked on it, figuring some good advice couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t realize I was clicking on a post that would lay out my greatest insecurity, the one I keep under the table and very rarely even admit to myself, in mind-numbing clarity. Nor did I expect it to tell me that the very personality traits that cause this insecurity are to be celebrated, not admonished. And I certainly didn’t expect the post to hand me the title of a guidebook for finally making peace with said insecurity.

The Personality Traits: I find something interesting, I get very excited about it, I commit to it and dive into it headfirst. I do everything I can to try to form a career, a living, off of this new thing I love. But the thrill always wears off and it always become something I do and enjoy, while the sparks of passion grow fewer and far between. And I leave a cloud of frustrated friends and family in my wake, who thought I was really going to do something this time, wondering why I stopped when I was doing so well.

The Insecurity: I’m then left wondering why I’m never happy with the idea of just getting a regular job like everyone else. Why I have to keep searching for something that truly fills me up, rather than just something to pay the bills. Wondering if my failure to be motivated by the paycheck is going to get me in serious trouble one of these days. Wondering if I really am lazy, a flake, a letdown. Thinking that there must be something wrong with me, because I can’t seem to find that one thing that makes me want to get up in the morning. Instead, I jump from thing to thing to thing.

I’ve grown to accept that might just be how I am, that I may never be interested in just one thing, that my passions will change and I’m just along for the ride. But then where does that leave me, as far as making a living goes? How do I do what I love, when what I love is never consistent?

Let’s get back to that blog post. It turns out that I am not the only person with this “problem”. And it turns out that it is not a problem at all. An amazing woman named Barbara Sher has labelled us “Scanners”, and she wrote a book about what it’s like to be a Scanner and how to deal with it, embrace it, and find work that won’t kill you. It’s called Refuse to Choose, and I was able to wait exactly one day before I caved and ran to the closest Barnes & Noble to get my own copy.

I devoured it. And I cried more than once reading it.

Here’s what’s up: Scanners love learning, and they learn very quickly. They tend to get what they want out of something simply by learning as much as they can, then moving on. Bosses tend to be impressed with how quickly these people pick up on their jobs, and want them to stay. But once a Scanner has learned the job, the “fun” part is essentially over, so the job becomes boring. And boredom is like death to a Scanner.

In addition, Scanners are hesitant to commit to any long term career, because they fear that they might be missing out on something else they’d really want to do or learn.

This explains, clearly and succinctly, my entire work history thus far. I find a simple, non-committal job because I want the flexibility of free time and a malleable schedule. I go through the training process quickly, learn the ins and outs of the job entirely, and have a blast doing it. Then the boredom sets in.

Or I’ll get a job because I love the idea of having a job like it: I wanted to work in an office with my own cubicle because I’d never done it before. I wanted to work at a yarn store. I wanted to work for an independent business owner. I don’t really want the job for the sake of having it forever and ever. What I want is the experience of having a job like it. And the pattern is the same: I love the job at first, I soak up every new thing like a sponge, I learn it quickly and make myself almost invaluable. But by then, I’ve had the experience. I now know what it’s like to work at X place doing X job, and I’m done. But I’m still there.

And so I quit. And I feel great relief while friends and family lament. And hearing their laments causes me to second guess myself, am I a failure? A commitment-phobe? Doomed to be a bum stuck in crummy high-school summer jobs for the rest of my life? And my self-esteem plummets, without me even realizing it.

But what Barbara Sher’s book made me realize, what brought me to tears in a fit of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love, is this: I am NOT a failure, a commitment-phobe, or a loser.

My brain is too hungry to specialize, to curious to settle down.

My gorgeous, beautiful, astonishing brain will never want to stop learning, and why should it? Why should I force it? Why not celebrate it, let it play with its own ideas, let it relish life and all it has to offer?

As for what I should do job-wise, the book was very helpful. I don’t feel like I need to find something and settle on it forever anymore. I have some ideas, but the most powerful came when I read the section on a particular breed of Scanner, the “Serial Master”.

These Scanners love the challenge of learning and mastering a new skill from the ground up. Once they’ve grown competent, however, they’ve gotten their reward out of the process and begin to scan the horizon for something new.

This is me to the letter. I love a good challenge. The reason I’ve got so many finished rough drafts lying around came from the challenge of NaNoWriMo, to write a novel in 30 days (and then, friends who saw how fast I could write and challenged me to complete even greater word counts in even shorter lengths of time). The reason I ran a 5K came from the challenge of interval training myself up to it with Couch to 5K.

I realized reading this section that the same drive for mastery is what pushed my manic, addictive practice sessions with hoop dance, knitting, even Dance Dance Revolution (oh yes, I’m AWESOME at DDR, you should play me one day). With these skills, I saw what mastery looked like, decided I wanted it, and set out to get it.

What happens, though, is that eventually, I reach a point of diminishing return. Once I get good enough, improvements are smaller and more gradual. While some people are content to spend the rest of their lives honing their skills increment by increment, I reach this point and crave the process of learning something new all over again. I realized that I subconsciously set a goal for myself when I start out, an “I want to be good enough to do blah” sort of thing. Typically what happens when I reach this goal is my enthusiasm for practice begins to wane, because I’ve gotten to where I wanted to go. I’ve gotten what Barbara Sher refers to as my “reward”.

When I read the book and realized that all of this is not only okay, but the way I am supposed to operate by my very nature, it unleashed a torrent of emotions and self-doubt that I knew I’d been supressing somewhere but could never identify clearly enough to work on fixing them. It’s amazing how just giving a name to your fears and insecurities can help the process of healing.

Oh, and Barbara had a very specific career suggestion for the Serial Master breed of Scanner: Motivational Speaker. My jaw literally dropped reading that, because it seemed so obvious while being something I might have never given myself permission to think about seriously. But given the amount of people that have come up to me telling me how much they love my blog, and how inspired they’ve been by the posts, and the amazing and unexpected way the How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping article has taken off, I think she might be on to something. It’s given me renewed joy to work on this blog, and to look into what small, first steps I might take to trying out some public speaking.

Maybe on the Open Stage?

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Inspired By Awesome – Jessica Mullen

I’ve been reading Jessica Mullen’s blog almost non-stop since I quit my “day job”, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s full of inspiration and ideas for making each day better than the last!

I stumbled onto Jessica’s blog when I was browsing through the backlog of Gala Darling’s “I Want To Be” posts. From time to time, Gala will feature a professional from a particular career and interview their journey getting to that point. I was actually looking to see if she’d ever done “I Want To Be…A Freelance Writer”, but I didn’t find that post. What I DID find was: “I Want To Be…A Lifestreamer!”

I had no idea what, exactly, “lifestreaming” entailed. I could guess, though, and it intrigued me enough to click on the article.

Turns out Jessica and her wife Kelly run their own School of Life Design, with lessons on how to build your life via your thoughts, and how to turn your website into the outward expression of you. Lifestreaming made immediate sense to me. One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is how to keep my “professional” life separate from my “personal” life (or my online life). I’ve always come to a stalemate with this, because I feel like every aspect of my life is so intertwined that it doesn’t make sense to try to separate them.

The concept of lifestreaming was like an excuse to stop the struggle of holding that barrier up. Make MY LIFE my work. Duh. How long have I been telling myself some form of this? I’ve constantly told myself to make my heath, yoga, hooping, whatever is most important to me my Real Work, regardless of what “day job” I might be holding down at the time. Reading Jessica’s site was like written permission to stop the niggling guilt monkeys in the back of my mind telling me that it might not be okay to live that way.

For some reason, putting a word on it, especially a word that can mean just about anything, gave it the legitimacy I needed to embrace it. I realized that pretty much all of the people I admire most are lifestreamers! Amanda Palmer, John and Hank Green, Kevin Smith, all of these people live their lives publicly online, constantly weaving their work with their lives. Their lives ARE their work!

In my poking around Jessica’s site, I also found The Popular Podcast, which she and Kelly have been doing together for years. Watching some of the episodes, I remembered that I had seen it somewhere before, a few years ago. Someone had linked to it somewhere on the Intarwebs, and I’d clicked and watched. But I hadn’t delved much deeper than that at the time.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, where something I find on the Internet then comes back a few years later and turns out to be really important and helpful to me. It happened with Halcyon Styn and his Hug Nation, as well. It’s always a little weird, yet synergistic, when it happens. It’s like, okay, the Universe keeps shoving me towards these people, and at the time, I wasn’t ready to hear what they had to say. But something out there knew I needed them, and it led me back at exactly the right moment.

Definitely the case with Jessica Mullen, I’m incredibly grateful to have come across her site when I did!

Lessons Learned From Jessica Mullen:

-Let go of your fears and trust that you are taken care of

-Post / talk about / think about the things that you want more of in your life

-Your life is your work!

-And much more. Not done learning from this inspirational woman!

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Hoop Technique DVD – Post Viewing Thoughts

For a blog with a header full of shots of me hooping, I sure don’t post about it very much. Despite identifying first as a hooper and letting everything else fall into place, I haven’t done much with my hoop lately. I teach my weekly classes, and I’ll pick up my hoop and spin it for a bit, I probably do something with it at least every other day. But I haven’t had a very good, deep session with my hoop for a while.

The Hoop Technique DVD created by Rich Porter and Vivian Spiral is something I’ve been looking forward to since I first learned about it at Hoop Camp in September of ’09. Rich and Spiral have easily been two of the most influential hoopers in my personal journey, and the thought of them combining their unique styles in any way, much less an instructional DVD (which is half flawless instruction, half inspirational work of art) thrilled me beyond all reason. I went all stupid fangirl on the project.

I finally received my copy in the mail today. I had somewhere to be, but as soon as I got back, I popped it in the player and watched the whole thing, both discs, all the way through.

There is a certain energy that infuses my hooping when I’m in the same space as several other passionate hoopers. It’s the quickest way for me to tap into my flow and reach a practically transcendent state. It’s the reason I am willing to drive halfway across the country to attend events. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that energy at home in my living room before. But I did today. After the DVD ended, I picked up my hoop and spun and felt it.

Man, did I need it. And while I had high expectations for this DVD, I don’t know that I expected it to elevate me to that state just by watching it. Maybe it’s because I’ve had the honor of sharing space and energy with several of the hoopers interviewed on the inspiration disc, and watching their footage made me feel their presence in a way I normally can’t. Maybe it’s that I’ve felt somewhat disconnected from the hooping community recently, and I haven’t felt an authentic way to tap back into it, yet all of my reasons for doing this and loving this community were evident in this DVD.

The community is such a huge part of hooping for me. It dawned on me while I spun in my zone tonight that I don’t know if I could hoop in a vacuum. When I started hooping, I was mesmerized by all of these incredible people. I watched their videos and wanted to move the way they moved, but more than that, I wanted to live the way they lived, in a seemingly endless state of passion, health and vibrance. Practicing in the hoop unlocked so much of that for me, a path I am still walking, and the primary influence for this blog (cutting through the fear that keeps most of us from letting ourselves live that way).

Without the community, the influence of those people, I don’t know that hooping would be as meaningful to me as it is. When I hoop, I feel a connection to everyone who’s ever influenced me, every teacher I’ve had the honor to learn from, every soul who’s blessed me with their energy in a dance space, every spirit I’ve connected with as a result of the “plastic circle”. That is what keeps me in the hoop, what keeps me excited. The people, the energy they share, the way the hoop changes lives.

These months I’ve felt somewhat defunct in hooping energy have stemmed from trying to find that grasp on why I hoop (it’s not for fitness, I know that much, and my soul grates every time I’m forced to sell my classes that way). Watching Rich & Spiral’s beautiful and much needed contribution to this powerful community recharged me. In my dance tonight, I felt all those souls merge in me, the energy practically streaming out of the screen and channeling through me in a direct line of energy. I don’t know how they did it, but Rich and Spiral captured everything I love about hooping and hoopers and put it in a DVD.

Thank you so much, you two. I appreciate all the effort that went into your creation, it was all worth it. If anyone out there needs a spiritual hooping recharge, check out the Hoop Technique DVD. It does not disappoint.

It’s Okay to be Good

There’s been several times in my life when I’ve held myself back from something, not for fear that I wouldn’t do well, but rather because I feared I might do too well. I used to take voice lessons, and I can remember countless times in practice when I would hit a note perfectly, and then tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to have that perfect note because I’d never hit it before. Which is an insane thing to do to yourself, until you think about the fact that once you’ve done something well, you have no excuse to not do well from that point on. It’s easier, and arguably safer, to hold yourself back and stay in your comfort zone.

Don’t. You are not doing yourself any favors this way. I have lost out on so many chances because I didn’t want to let myself be as good as I could be. In my yoga practice, I’ve cheated myself out of so much progress and benefit by holding back in a posture that I felt unfit to move forward in. “I feel like I could go further today,” my body might tell me, and then my brain kicks in, “But you suck at this posture. So stay where you are.”

I really started to experience freedom from this fear of being “too good” when I started hooping. There were plenty of times, especially in the beginning, when I would hold back for one reason or another. Typically, because I didn’t want to appear to be better than the friends I’d been learning with. I would cheer their moments and discount mine.

If you catch yourself doing this, especially with something you are passionate about, take steps to break yourself of it. Start in private. Carve out some time and some space where you are completely alone, and go for it. Push your limits, push your comfort zone, try something that you don’t feel like you “should” be able to do because you’re not at “that level” yet. Forget that levels exist. No one is watching, no one is judging, be good. Be amazing. Get comfortable with the feeling.

The next step is tougher, but important: When you’re ready (and maybe even if you’re not), be good in front of someone else. You can start small here, too. I did it by going out to the park to practice my hooping. Other people could see me, but they weren’t my main focus. It usually took about fifteen minutes of warm-up to get to that place where I felt confident enough to be good. But eventually, people started approaching me and telling me they liked watching me. Don’t let this scare you, and don’t humble yourself. If someone approaches you while you are openly being good, say “thank you” and smile. They may ask you questions. Don’t be afraid to share. But don’t ever say, “I’m not that good” or “It’s really nothing”. You’ve been working hard. Let it show.

From here, you can take your goodness anywhere. If you want to, you can share it with your friends and family, you can branch out and find communities of people who support the goodness of their members, or you can just stick to the park. But take steps to strip away that fear. You’ll be surprised how much else unlocks for you when you let yourself be good, and ultimately, that’s what we’re after. A small jumping off point, an opening to let the good things in your life that you are worthy of rush in. Embrace it, enjoy it, and do not be afraid.

“I know you’re tired. I don’t care. Do it anyway.”

The above quote comes from Baxter of the HoopPath. He’ll say it when we’re waist-deep in some intense hoop workshop, we’ve been hooping our asses off for at least an hour and he throws a challenging exercise our way. And when we feel like we’re about to die, like we might collapse in exhaustion if we don’t stop hooping soon, he’ll throw it out there: “I know you’re tired. I don’t care. Do it anyway.”

It always makes me smile, and takes me back to that center, that part of me that LOVES being inside the hoop. It takes me out of my head and throws me back in the moment: “If you didn’t love this,” I tell myself, “you wouldn’t be here. So enjoy it!”

There might be some people who cringe at these words. They may come off as rude, insensitive, uncaring. They are, in fact, the exact opposite. When Baxter says this, it’s coming from a place of deep compassion: He knows what you’re worth. And he doesn’t want you giving up on yourself just because maybe, in this one moment, you might be a little tired. Push. Find what you’re made of. You’re worth it.

I’ve always been drawn to teachers like this. Teachers who don’t let you slack off, not because they’re dicks who want to assert their authority, but because they don’t want to see your potential get wasted in a pool of lethargy.

This is why Bikram is my chosen yoga guru. His class, in the hot room, with the vigorous dialogue, the constant movement, is meant to test you, to push you, to help you find out what you’re made of. If you read his books, he tells you that he does it because he knows what will save you, and he cares enough to tell you the truth.

It’s so easy to let yourself slide. It’s so easy to let yourself believe something is too hard, or that you can’t do it, or you’re too tired, or whatever your excuse may be. I know this because I do it all the time. And it’s just as easy for a teacher to agree to our laziness. It makes them well-liked, compassionate, and easy going. But it also makes them forgettable.

Think about the teachers you’ve had. Do you remember the ones that let every little thing slide? The ones who didn’t seem to care that you spent the entire class passing notes with your friends in the back? Or do you remember the ones that made you think? The ones who pushed your limits? Do you remember the ones who had absolutely no reason to care about you, and yet somehow, without explanation, they did?

Of course you do. Of everyone I’ve ever talked to, there’s always “that one teacher” who knew just the right motivation to get them moving, get them thinking.

Thinking of Baxter’s words has literally been what’s gotten me out of bed to go to yoga the past few days. I’m in the second half of my sixty-day challenge, and getting to class is starting to require a little digging. But I know if I get there, it will be worth it. However, it helps to have that little push out the door.

What have you got on your plate that you’re putting off, avoiding, letting fall to the wayside? How is it helping you to not do it? How much more do you have to gain if you just dig in and start? Don’t let lethargy, laziness, or a bit of hard work scare you off. I know you’re tired. I don’t care. Do it anyway.