Claiming My Name

When I was born, my mother gave me a common name.  She did this intentionally, as she had grown up with an unusual name and it garnered her more attention than she’d wanted.  My mother has always strived to blend into the background, to not call attention to herself when in public, to not stand out.  She gifted me with a name that she hoped would provide such a life for me: Jessica. The second most popular name for girls born in 1984 (second only to “Jennifer”, the name people most often mistakenly call me when they forget and just remember the “J”).

Unfortunately, my mother had given birth to a little girl who feared blending in, who desired attention, who wanted to stand out and be noticed.  She gave birth to a little girl who loved being a freak, a weirdo.  Of all the unique snowflakes out there, I wanted to be the most interesting, the one that everyone stopped and stared at.

Things were fine until I started high school.  In elementary school, I’d been the only Jessica in my class.  But in high school, there were at least seven other Jessicas in my grade.  I shared most of my classes with at least one of them, if not more.  And I started to learn to wait.  If a teacher asked a question, I would raise my hand.  But if they called on “Jessica”, I waited.  It might not be me.  It might be one of the other Jessicas.  I would wait.  They might not mean me.

As an adult, I’ve worked in several different places, or joined different groups.  I grew accustomed to hearing the following at job interviews, and on my first day at work: “Uh oh, we already have a Jessica.  We’ll have to call you something else.”  At which point, they would come up with my new “work name” so that they could easily identify me from the Jessica that had already established her dominance just by being there and having the same name.  I was a second-rate Jessica.  They already had one of me, and now I was extraneous.

It’s funny, I never realized the toll that had taken on my life until the last day of Hoop Path Retreat.  In Hoop Path, we start each session with blindfolded movement.  This particular day, Baxter had opened the space by reminding us that we are not our jobs, we are not our clothes, we are not our children, we are not our bodies, we are not our emotions, etc.  But under that blindfold, I made one more connection.

We are not our names.

I realized that all of that learned behavior…feeling like no one really wanted to talk to me, feeling extraneous, feeling like anyone acknowledging me probably meant to acknowledge someone else…I realized it had worked its way into my subconscious and had manifested as my reality.  You must not mean me.  I’m in the way.  I’m unnecessary.  If any one of us were dead weight, could be easily abandoned, it would be me.  I let myself land in second place, despite a longing to be in first.  I let myself take second place in communities, in relationships, in work environments.

I made those connections and they hit such a powerful nerve that I sobbed heavily under my blindfold for an entire song.

Last year after Hoop Path, I started creating my own Maidan* story.  I knew how old my Maidan was, how she felt, what she wanted, but I didn’t know her name.  I figured when the right name came to me, I would know it.

Under that blindfold, making those connections, I knew exactly what her name is.

Her name is Jess.

I am not my name, but I still love my name, and I have the right to own it.  I have the right to relish hearing it called by others.  I have the right to stand out.  I have the right to be unique.

Over the years, I’ve taken on nicknames from time to time, usually given to me by others.  Nicknames stick to me very well, and I embrace them, usually because I embrace the people who gave them to me.  Even my own mother hasn’t actually called me “Jessica” since I was four.  In recent years, I’ve joined the burner community, a group of people fond of renaming themselves to better fit the self the identity they’ve developed for themselves.  I have more friends that go by nicknames than their real names, to the point that I don’t even know some of their real names.

I do not need a “burner name” because Jess IS my burner name.  I am Jess.  That is the me that I identify with.

The next time someone dares to tell me, “Oh no, we already have a Jessica,” I will say, “The hell you do.  Bitch, you ain’t seen a Jess like me.  I guarantee you I’m the only one you have.  And that’s what you’ll call me.”

Because I deserve it.

*In Hoop Path “mythos”, the Maidan are an order of holy women who used hoops and hoop dance to connect with and understand the world around them.

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In Defense of Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer: Gives away her music. Does what she loves. Lives her dreams every day.


(Photo by Mark Wagstrom)

She’s recently come under some extreme scrutiny for inviting volunteer musicians to play with her on tour stops. The thinking seems to be that since she raised so much money from her recent Kickstarter project, she doesn’t have the right to not pay these people. A lot of her fans appear to be turning their back on her because of it. Some are saying the people who volunteer are being suckered into playing for free.

Amanda wrote a blog post defending her position, the TL;DR version being: “YOU don’t have to play for free. But I hope you won’t criticize me for wanting to, and hope you would try not to criticize or shame other musicians for making their own decisions about how to share their talent and their time.”

Some of these people volunteering to perform with Amanda might never be able to get on her stage if she were only taking paid performers. For those people, performing with Amanda is a dream come true, and the sheer magnitude of that experience* outweighs any possible paycheck. In that regard, Amanda is doing those people an incredible service.

Experiences like that are worth SO much more than money. This is the key point that her nay-sayers are missing. And at the end of the day, regardless of how you feel about Amanda, each and every one of the volunteer musicians made the choice to be on that stage. No one twisted their arm. They had a reason for doing it and that reason clearly outweighed the desire, or even need, for a paycheck.

It comes back to that dirty word, “should”. Lots of people think Amanda “should” pay her volunteer performers. The only people who are angry about it are those who feel she’s doing those people a disservice.

Ask the volunteer musicians themselves if you think she did them a disservice. I’ll bet none of them would say yes. How they feel about their choice is all that matters. Telling them they “should” feel mistreated when they don’t is the only real disservice in this situation.

Here’s the deal: Amanda never truly asks anyone to work “for free”. I’ve been to her shows. I’ve watched her pass the hat around to help support the artists on the stage with her. I’ve put money into that hat.

Amanda started her career as a busker. Frankly, as a fan, I LOVE that she crosses those busking roots over into her stage shows. I admire her for wanting to share the stage with people that LOVE being on it.

If the hat doesn’t get passed around (which is, as it seems from her blog, sometimes at the discretion of the artists themselves), she takes them out for dinner. She buys them a drink. She allows them the opportunity of the rush of playing a high energy show for a very enthusiastic crowd. For a performer, that can be a pretty amazing reward.

As a fan, I have always paid for Amanda’s music, even when I could have gotten it for free. If the music came at a suggested price, I would always pay a buck or two more. Even though I don’t have a huge income, it’s important to me to support her, because a) I love her art, b) she inspires me, and c) I want her to be able to keep doing what she’s doing.

I can only assume that every fan who contributed to her Kickstarter felt the same way.

Amanda has always done things her way. Her career has always been an extension of her theater and busking roots. Money she earns may go to staging flashier shows and packaging fancier products, but Amanda is a street performer at heart.

If we, as her fans, admire and support that and give her money for those reasons, why should we demand she does things differently just because she “has money now”?

Why are we so quick to support someone who’s struggling, then knock them down when they’re not? If she hadn’t earned a million dollars on Kickstarter, we would love the fact that she’s using volunteer performers, touring from the groud up, inviting people to share the stage with her. But since she “has the money”, now we don’t.

She even broke down her expenses for the album and tour, and people are still complaining.

Frankly, it makes NO SENSE to complain about an artist making so much money. The only reasoning I can see is that the people complaining are upset THEY don’t have that money. Perhaps they don’t feel any one person “should” have that much money. (There’s that dirty word again.) But we, the fans, are the ones that gave it to her, because we love the service she provides.

As a fan, I WANT her to have as much money as possible. I WANT Amanda Palmer to have the means to fulfull any dream she concocts. I WANT her to be able to perform and present her art the way she chooses. I WANT her to stick to her roots and tour the way she’s always toured, amping up the awesome with her increased income. I WANT her to continue to create and inspire, and for these reasons, I will always happily give her my money and support what she does with it. Especially when she says shit like this: “If I wind up truly loaded someday, it means I’ll probably buy an abandoned church somewhere and turn it into a free 24-hour circus brunch bar for everybody. Cross your fucking fingers. We’ll all win.”

Another underlying reason for my support is this: The idea that if she can do it, I can do it. Supporting Amanda Palmer is, in a way, supporting my own dream.

Here’s where I want to get a little personal. I’m a hoop dancer. I’ve gone back and forth trying to make my living off of it. Maybe someday I will, maybe I never will. I have occasionally made decent money teaching and selling handmade hoops, and for a while I was also performing.

I have never once been paid for a performance. I have never once been upset about that. I’m not a professional and I may never be one. I’m not rich. I have bills to pay, too. But I love the experience of performing, and hearing just one person say they enjoyed watching me makes it worth my effort.

I never really considered the exposure vs. paycheck argument until some well-meaning friends brought it up and planted the seed. I’m friends with a lot of performers who DO strive to be professional, who DO want to make this their living, and who DON’T want to do unpaid gigs if they can help it. I have nothing but respect for these people. They are doing amazing and admirable things with their lives.

Unfortunately, I am not driven by a monetary bottom line.

My currency is experience. My currency is happiness. If I manage to make some money off of those things in the process, it’s a bonus. Money has never been a driving force in my life. I have quit jobs that “paid me what I’m worth” to work more happily for ones that “didn’t”. SHOULD they have paid me more?  SHOULD I have been more upset about it? Maybe. But I DIDN’T CARE. The worth of my piece of mind was so much more important than an extra dollar or two (or even five) an hour.

Still, I let the fact that I wasn’t getting paid keep me from new performance opportunities. Eventually, it contributed (with a mishmash of many other factors) to my slow disappearance from the performance circuit.

And I didn’t even realize it until I read Amanda’s post.

I have missed out on a lot of joy, a lot of experience, a lot of happiness based on the idea that I “should” be paid for it. On the idea that my performing for free hurts everyone. However, when it comes down to it, the only person whose happiness I can control is mine. If performing makes me happy, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or less of an artist for doing it for free. It makes me happy, it makes the people watching happy. There was a currency exchange there; whether or not others recognized that currency is irrelevant.

Thank you, Amanda. You continue to inspire me. You continue to motivate me. And in exchange, I will continue to support you.

*Let me emphasise here that I am talking about the EXPERIENCE of playing one of these shows, not any potential EXPOSURE. That’s a whole different argument.

Month 2 – Gratitude


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For the second thirty day chunk of happiness, I’ve chosen to focus on gratitude. It’s so easy for me to forget that I intentionally chose to have another desk job in order to save up for teacher training. Instead I get stuck in the whole, “Blah, having a job sucks” spiral, when in reality, I could be flipping my attitude around and feeling grateful for the fact that I have a means to fund my dream.

I’m still going to yoga every day, but I decided to add daily gratitude as my next 30-day “layer” of happiness, so to speak. I took some blank pieces of paper, stapled them together, and created a little Gratitude Booklet.

Since I love doing things incrementally, I started the first day by picking one thing I was grateful for (I picked Green). I then went through and added one number on each page, the final page is numbered 1 through 60. Even though I’m only spending thirty days “focusing” on gratitude, I want to keep in incorporated in my daily routine, just like the yoga. So, like the yoga, I opted for 60 days, adding one thing each day. After that, I plan to put together another Gratitude Booklet where I list sixty things a day. My hope is that it will keep me busy the whole day, so that I am constantly seeing things and thinking, “Oh, I’m grateful for that! How lucky I am that this is in my life!”, and writing it down.

I’m halfway through, on day fifteen, today. (Which means, if you’re keeping track and I explained well enough, that I had to list fifteen things.) I’m trying to list different things each day to push myself to really realize just how much I actually have.

For some reason, this exercise is harder than it has been in the past when I’ve done it. Usually, it instantly pulls me into the present moment and turns my focus on abundance rather than lack, and I can list things forever. Right now, however, it seems like a struggle to come up with my lists each day. I don’t know why this is. On days when I am excited about something, it’s easy. For example, when I went to see the Hooping Life in Austin (which was FANTASTIC and well worth the wait, by the way), I filled the page with ease.

I’m finding that I have a mental block that’s keeping me from viewing work favorably. It’s almost as if something in me doesn’t WANT to be grateful for work. Like admitting that work is a good thing will somehow be admitting defeat, or joining the dark side or something.

Logically, I know that’s not the case, and that it would be much better for me emotionally to look at work from a place of acceptance rather than resistance, and I’m hoping my gratitude lists will help with that. And if they don’t, at least I’ll be reminded on a daily basis that I have plenty to be grateful for, and I also have ten more months after this to get to that place.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

The Happiness Project


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I recently finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book was my reward to myself for not quitting my job in January. It didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting. I certainly liked the CONCEPT of the book (taking a year to explore happiness and what that means to the individual, and how to create more of it), but I really didn’t like the author and the things she chose to work on for her happiness project. I read the whole thing (despite wanting to give up because it was making me more upset than happy at times), and while I enjoyed the chapter where she focused on writing and books (clearly her passion, so it made for the most interesting reading), and some of her conclusions at the end of the project, I didn’t enjoy her overall tone and default attitude about things. Particularly the way she acted as if it were such a huge task to not yell at her husband all the time. *shakes head*

Regardless, the project is a good idea, and like Gretchen says repeatedly in the book, “Everyone’s happiness project is unique.” That is very true. I am definitely NOT Gretchen Rubin (I probably wouldn’t even be friends with her), but I do know what makes me happy.

I also know that recently, due in large part to working behind a desk, something I swore I’d never again do, I haven’t been the happiest person in the world. I haven’t been the happiest me I can be, and I know, because I have experienced real happiness, and this ain’t it.

I’m working behind a desk in an effort to save up for the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training I’ve wanted to attend so badly for so many years. I’m working behind a desk in an attempt to earn a job that will help me keep my promise to myself to never work behind a desk again.

In an ironic twist of fate, I am sitting in a chair (which is horrible for your body) eight hours a day, answering phones and directing calls for the healthcare system. A system I myself constantly buck in favor of doing yoga and eating healthy.

The job has made me so miserable that I hadn’t been going to yoga, I’ve barely touched veggies, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gained at least fifteen pounds since being here. (They said I would, too. With an almost bizarre sense of pride, while showing off their fitness equipment, even, they laughed as they mentioned that we new hires would likely gain the “company fifteen”.)

In other words, I’m in danger of succumbing to the system I’m working for but otherwise carefully avoid. It’s a battle with my conscience on a daily basis, that’s for sure.

I keep telling myself that if I can just stick it out, the reward will be so wonderful and I will be so proud, but the cost is a year of misery.

Reading The Happiness Project reminded me of something I already knew: That I could not settle for a year of misery, I had to figure out how to get and STAY happy during this time. I can’t just wait for happiness until I get to teacher training. I have to BE happy when I get there. Or else it won’t make me happy, either.

I had started a new 60 day yoga challenge on January 11th, and I realized I’d inadvertantly started my own happiness project. I’ll be approaching mine differently from Gretchen. Instead of picking a whole bunch of things to focus on each month, I’m picking one. One thing, for thirty days. The goal is to have each thing carry over into the next month, so that by the end of the year, I’ll be more in tune with my own happiness. And instead of doing it each month, I’ll do each thing in thirty day chunks.

Included in this happiness project is blogging, because I’ve realized just how much I gain by blogging, even if no one reads it. Whether I like it or not, there is a writer living in my head that won’t leave me be. When I was a kid, it would narrate everything I was doing for a future novel. These days, it narrates everything I think for a future blog post.

Blog posts I’m not writing.

Hopefully blogging again will help clear up some of the mental clutter I’ve gathered since having this job, and also inspire me to think thoughts that would inspire (in turn inspiring me) others rather than depress them (or myself). Blogging regularly, though, is not on the schedule until May. Before that, I’ll be working on some other projects (and blogging when I can make myself).

My happiness project is as follows:

Jan 11th – Feb 9th: Yoga – Go to yoga every day. (completed)

Feb 10th – March 10th: Gratitude – Write down things I am grateful for in my life as it is every day, to remind myself how lucky I am and that everything is perfect as it is. (in progress)

March 11th – April 9th: Food – Re-introduce veggies and juicing into my eating habits.

April 10th – May 9th: Hooping – Hoop every day, and post videos at least once a week.

May 10th – June 9th: Blogging – Blog daily.

June 10th – July 8th: Meditation – Meditate for fifteen minutes daily.

July 9th – Aug 7th: Hug Nation – Watch back episodes of Hug Nation daily, download Halcyon’s Morning Meditation and listen to it in the morning.

Aug 8th – Sept 6th: Creativity – Start and work on This is Not a Book daily.

Sept 7th – Oct 6th: Friends/Socializing – Go to Open Stage every week, make efforts to attend other social gatherings.

Oct 7th – Nov 5th: Writing – Write every day, participate in LJ Idol.

Nov 6th – Dec 5th: Knitting – Start a new sweater, and/or work on the Masters Knitting Program from the Knitting Guild Association.

Dec 6th – Jan 4th: Singing – Sing every day. Possibly in front of people.

My Life as a Balloon Animal

This post is part of my blog-a-day for Camp NaNoWriMo. It was suggested by my friend Lisa, who gave me the above title and freedom of interpretation. Feel free to suggest a topic of your own!

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I will never forget the first time I saw someone making balloon animals. It freaked me the hell out, because I thought for sure the balloons would pop and the sound would accost my ears and make me want to cry. I hated the sound of balloons popping.

I still do, actually, but at least it doesn’t make me want to cry anymore. It just makes me very nervous to be around balloons. You can imagine how terrible it was for me to work in the floral department at a grocery store, where I had to BLOW UP balloons. Which would sometimes pop if they got too full or had an imperfection on them. I got to where I could see the imperfections and would stop the inflation process immediately to grab a different, hopefully better, balloon.

But I digress.

I can’t remember where I was, or who was making the balloon animal. I just remember watching in terror as they twisted the balloon around itself. How could this be working, I wondered? You put pressure on a balloon, it pops. That’s the way it works. It doesn’t make any sense at all for this balloon to not be popping, it’s going to pop any minute, I just know it, he’s twisting it way too hard, oh my god oh my god oh my god oh, hey, look, a poodle.

pink poodle
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It was absolutely fascinating. Even after they handed me my new balloon poodle, I kept waiting for it to pop, for the latex to realize it had been twisted too hard and burst in my hands.

It didn’t, of course. Instead, it took up residence in my room, where it slowly deflated, but never popped.

It still makes me cringe to watch their creation. The twisting seems unnatural, you can hear the rubber squealing against itself as the twister works, threatening to give way.

It defies logic.

But it makes sense, in a way. To start with something so simple, so basic, and to put enormous pressure on it. Pressure that could cause it to break, to give up, but instead, that pressure transforms it into something completely new, something amazing and unfathomable.

Sounds kinda like a metaphor for life, I hear you say. Can’t put anything past you.

I can’t help but think of my own personal twists, moments I thought might crack me, ruin me for good. But they didn’t. It’s always the hard stuff, the tricky stuff, the stuff that makes you cringe, that turns out the best results. “That which does not kill us,” as they say. It’s the sort of stuff that makes you realize you’re in the hands of someone or something that knows what they’re doing, even when we’re screaming at it all to stop.

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In 2005 my life turned completely upside down, the path I thought I was on came to an abrupt halt when I realized I did not want to marry the man I had been with for the past six years, I did not want to have his children or grow old with him, I in fact wanted a life of my own. I’d been fighting and resisting the thought for months, and it turns out, so had he. But we only knew life together, and breaking that bond produced waves of terror that knocked me to the floor in fits of violent misery.

I know now that it was just a twist. The Universe tweaking my life into a new shape. A better shape. I can’t imagine exactly where he or I would be now if we’d stayed together, but I imagine our worlds would hold quite a bit of unhappiness and regret.

More twists when I made the decision to leave the people whose arms I fell into when I needed solace from that event. Twists when I truly opened my heart again only to realize I’d opened it to entirely the wrong person. And, most recently, a twist when I broke my promise to myself that I would not get involved with my roommate. (You know how that one turned out, he’s sleeping right now in our bed, getting rest before we move into our new apartment.)

Each twist led to something better, something that put my life in a new direction, shaped me into a different, happier, person. Someone who is better equipped to bring joy to others, despite how comfortable I might have been if I’d stayed in my comfort zone and never let the change occur.

I like my balloon animal life, and have come to accept the twists for what they are. Plus, knowing how much work it took to get there truly makes you appreciate the end result.

balloon art
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Cycles of Self-Respect and Self-Neglect

I haven’t been posting too much recently because I haven’t been in the best of moods, but I’ve felt that if I’m trying to post stuff that makes other people feel good, I should probably feel good myself.


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Unfortunately, the truth is, I’ve been in something of a slump. I haven’t been going to yoga, I’ve been eating lots of ice cream, and I’ve been spending hour after hour locked in front of my computer watching Project Runway on Hulu. (By the way, I’m officially out of Project Runway episodes to watch, does anyone happen to have seasons 1-6 on DVD that I could borrow and watch obsessively?)

I’m getting dizzy spells when I stand up and I’ve broken out in my yearly summer rash. I’m a non-stop itch machine. Green and I are trying to move out of our apartment and all I want to do is lie on the floor and play Animal Crossing. (That’s not true, all I want to do is lie on the floor and watch Project Runway. But I’m out.)

In addition, I’ve noticed my waking temperatures (which I’ve been tracking every morning since going off the pill) are extremely low, in the 95 – 97 degree range. This could be a sign of thyroid issues, which might explain my dizzy spells, my rash, and why I’m lethargy-prone. I really don’t want to get it checked out, though, because I’m terrified of a positive diagnosis, and I do not want to be on thyroid medication.

The tipping point came yesterday, when I broke down in a fit of tears for no discernible reason.

And all this time, I’m thinking, “I should really blog about something,” but I’ve been avoiding blogging about my miserable mood because Jessica Mullen recommends only blogging about what you want more of, and I certainly don’t want more of my miserable mood. The “post-what-you-want” method works in theory, except for the fact that avoiding posting because I’m not in a great mood is just making me feel worse, and less authentic.

The truth is, I am a cyclical being. Ever since I started to be more health conscious, I’ve gone through cycles of being super on top of things and feeling great, to lying in slumps of absolute misery. It happens. I think it’s almost worse to get my hopes up thinking THIS TIME it will be permanent, because then when I fall off the wagon, I spend extra time beating myself up about the fact that I’m not being healthy like I know I should (and can) be. Which sets me back even further.

So my new motto, which I’ll repeat once more, is: IT HAPPENS. There are times when I let my health slack and I pull inward, staying home more than I go out. It happens, and I know I’m not the only one it happens to, either. So perhaps reading about my current temporary setbacks might make someone else feel less guilty about their own, because I think it is natural to be cyclical. It can’t be summer all the time, there has to be winter to balance things out.

Learning this stuff is a lifetime journey. Living healthfully, especially in a society that promotes dis-ease and quick fixes, is tough.

The good news, however, is that the more years I spend learning about health, the shorter my slumps get, and the longer my good stretches last. If nothing else, I can look forward to the fact that it can only get better from here. Not only that, but because of how much I’ve learned in the past, I know exactly how to fix it.


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My constant search for curing the problem and not the symptoms will never end. When I get to the point where I feel so bad that I know it’s time to get back on track, I ultimately find articles or books that point me in the right direction. This time, I’m giving cutting out sugar another shot. Five years ago, I did it for a month, but I ate lots of fruit and honey and felt miserable the entire time. It turns out that honey and fruits are just as bad for your system as refined sugar.

The stars seem to be aligning on this one: I know it’s sugar that’s slugging me down, and I’ve been reading Sarah Wilson‘s “I Quit Sugar” series on her blog for tips and support. Incidentally, Sarah Wilson also blogs about naturally healing and living with auto-immune disease (which includes thyroid issues).

The icing on the cake: A friend of mine on Facebook announced that she’s about to start her own 60 Days Without Sugar Challenge, and would anyone care to join her? Well, I love me a good challenge (and this one comes with a prize for the winner! A $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com, heck yes!), so I’ve signed up. The challenge starts July 6th, but I’ve already started, because I’m sick of feeling terrible. If anyone else wants to try this with me, check out Sarah Wilson’s blog and we’ll rock this out.

During slumps, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary, and that you have the power to get yourself back on track. At the same time, it’s just as important not to beat yourself up. We are human beings after all, and if the worst thing we’re doing to ourselves is having a few pints of ice cream and sleeping late for a month or two in between long stretches of honoring our bodies, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

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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?