My mother-in-law Jody passed away October 23, and her funeral was last Thursday. She was 88 years old, so she did have a good long run. But her last year or so was pretty rough. Dementia had started to set in and her physical health was also failing (I think the two were related).
As the family begins to clear out her house—she still lived in her tiny house in Branson, Missouri, up until the end—we’re amazed at how much STUFF she had. As a child, I think she often went hungry; the amount of food she hoarded was mind-boggling. We counted 19 bottles of pancake syrup, 12 bottles of juice, and 19 bottles of barbecue sauce. Jody had the curious habit of writing on each item the date she purchased it and how much she paid. Flats of canned corn, and on each: 39¢, September 9, 2014; nail clippers $1, July 7, 1997. She made meticulous notes on everything: the amount of lime she used in her vegetable garden in 2003, where she purchased it, how much she paid; the flock of Canadian geese she saw fly overhead April 23, 2007; who was pictured in this faded black-and-white photo from May, 1938. She saved bread bags, twist-ties, dozens of plates from frozen microwave meals, photos, cards, song books, and gifts she didn’t want to use or give away with a note “gift of love from Roger & Michelle.” We’ve found nine gallons of bleach, at least five bottles of hand sanitizer, and literally thousands of pony-tail holders and bobby pins.
Several times she apologized to her kids, saying that they’d have a hell of a time going through all her stuff when she passed. I remember her telling me in anguish, “I can’t throw it away!” She wasn’t kidding, she really couldn’t. Whatever her reason, it was too painful for her.
I’m telling you about Jody not to poke fun at her—she had her faults, but no one loved bigger and louder than she did. When I first met her, over 30 years ago, I was blown away by how much love I felt from her.
Helping to clear out her stuff made me think about how much I’m still hanging onto. Sure, books and photo albums are easy to rationalize keeping. But what about those boxes in the back of the closet, the ones I know I need to go through. Eventually. Or that stack of stuff on the corner of my desk I still haven’t done anything with? Separately they seem inconsequential, but each item has its weight, and collectively they can weigh heavily on my day-to-day mind. If my expiration date is tomorrow, my family will have to deal with all this stuff. It’s motivated me to get busy.
This feels a lot like the transformational inner work I did a couple of years ago, with the 100 Days of Creative High Growth program. The process of cleaning your inner “house” and letting go isn’t exactly comfortable, and certainly isn’t easy. But man-oh-man does it feel good when you’re finished! Lighter, brighter, more peaceful, free. I’m honored to be teaching this course myself starting January 21, but only to a cohort of 6 people maximum. You might be ready; you might not. I’m here for you if you are.
In the meantime, what are you hanging onto still, that you really don’t need? It might be time to clean house.
The departing flight to Santa Fe this morning had been delayed by almost two hours. Nothing could be done about it; the pilot called in sick and the new pilot was stuck on the runway in Chicago. I was in the last boarding group so I knew I had time to visit the ladies’ room before I got on the plane. (Premier member of the “itty bitty bladder club” here.)
I went straight out of the stall to the sink directly opposite, and reached for the soap.
“Excuse me. ExcUSE me! EXCUSE ME!”
Almost from a distance I heard her. I kinda wondered who she was talking to. I’m just going to wash my hands, surely she’s not talking to me. Wait, she’s talking to me…?
I froze, my hand hovering under the soap dispenser, eyebrows raised, not knowing exactly what was happening. The woman to my left was upset about something. I turned to look at her.
She pointed, “That’s my sink!”
My eyebrows went a little higher. Really? “It’s just a sink. It’s ok.”
“It’s MY sink!”
Even her posture was indignant. She was somehow upset that I had stepped in front of her sink. I don’t recall ever having someone claim a sink in a restroom before. Maybe she’s not all there, and this is a big deal for her. “My humble apologies.” I moved aside to the next sink over.
As I washed my hands, I thought about the possible reasons why someone would behave so possessively toward a sink in a public restroom at an airport, and drew a complete blank.
Drying my hands, I tried to make my voice as soothing and calm as possible. “I really hope your day goes better.”
She muttered a retort that I didn’t quite catch. I left the drama in the restroom with her.
I learned a valuable lesson awhile back, to observe and don’t absorb.
In the past, the previous version of me would have jumped with both feet into her sticky, contagious anger and absorbed some of it for my own. Perhaps I would have just claimed the sink I had begun to use and ignored her protests of ownership. Maybe there would even be a snarky or heated exchange. I think I would have judged her harshly for the ridiculousness of her comments in the situation. I would probably replay the conversation in my head, thinking of better or meaner retorts. It could easily have made the flight delay feel like torture. I would have definitely soured my mood for the day. In the past.
But because of the work I’ve done on myself, the deep inner work, I didn’t. In the moment, when it could have all gone south, I paused and leaned into the curiosity I felt for her. I allowed the question to form in my mind: What would make her react so strongly and fiercely?
So often we forget that we have the choice how to respond to any given situation. It’s not that your mood determines your reaction. Quite the opposite, actually. Your reaction determines your mood. There’s about one-fifth of a second where we get to decide how we want to be, who we want to be. It doesn’t seem like a very long amount of time, but for your brain, it’s plenty of time.
This means you get to choose—ahead of anything happening to you—how you want to respond. Choose ahead of time who you want to be, how you want to be.
In the small and especially trying moments—like a woman claiming the sink you were about to use in a public restroom—choose to test-drive the best version of yourself. See how it feels; see how it serves you.
I left the restroom still puzzled, sending her a little gift of good juju, sincerely hoping her day improved. I didn’t absorb any of her anger. Nor did I try to make her day any worse. It felt nice knowing that this version of me is becoming more and more my default. (I mean, I’m not perfect, so I do forget sometimes.) But I’m a better human being than I was before because I chose to start noticing.
The first step of any kind of growth or improvement for yourself is to notice.
So, please, choose to notice. Then choose love.
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you!
Your Inner Critic: Enemy or Ally?
Episode 4 was recorded during a live online workshop I led with ADPList participants from all around the world. Join me and my guest, fellow coach and creative, meditation instructor and ordained Tibetan Buddhist, Ericson Proper, as we dive into the subject of your inner critic.
What is your inner critic, and how can you change that critical inner voice from your enemy to your creative ally? You will learn to identify that critical inner voice, identify self-limiting stories, and learn a powerful meditation technique to help transform that inner voice your creative ally. Get comfy, grab some paper and something to write with, and prepare to dive deep.
Becoming conscious of your inner landscape is no easy task. Shifting from unconsciously moving through the world to creating the life you want can be hard work. After all, that's what I help people do with my coaching. I know it's hard because I've already done the work, and it can be a bitch. It's admitting your bad habits, your biases, your laziness and your responsibilities. And then being open to and willing to change.
At the very core of my coaching—my philosophy so to speak—is to be able to look at and live your life through a lens of love instead of fear.
Living your life from fear will never benefit you, will never serve you, and will always prevent you from reaching your potential for happiness and success. But identifying that fear is the first step.
I created this diagram to further explain and to help comb out the hairball that is your emotional state at any given moment in time.
Let's go deeper in, shall we? Looking at your life through a lens of fear, you're focused on that which you DON'T have. This is also known as a scarcity mindset or a fixed mindset. Looking at your past, you feel shame, and hope that no one finds out about that thing. You feel resentment or bitterness for not being given opportunities others may have had. You feel disgust when you remember how you behaved that one time.
These things do not build confidence for your present moment; they undermine it. You feel insecure in where you are, in who you are, and how you interact in the world.
Looking toward the future, you realize that this year (this month, this week) could potentially be worse than last year, and you dread what's coming. You're frustrated at how things aren't shaping up for you. You're worried and anxious about what could be lurking just around the corner to really screw things up for you. Again, all this stems from focusing on what you don't have.
You can CHOOSE instead (and it is very much a choice, moment to moment) on operating from a base of love, focusing on all you DO have. This is also known as an abundance mindset or a growth mindset. Looking at your past, you see everything that's happened to you has gotten you to where you are right now in this moment, so you can be grateful. You clearly see all the obstacles you've overcome; you can have pride in yourself for your tenacity and resiliency. You're so much smarter and wiser now than you were before; think of all the wisdom you've gained. You can look around yourself and be content, knowing this life is a direct reflection of what you've committed to in the past. After all, if you had committed to something else, you would be leading a very different life. (More on this in a different post.)
These things naturally build a sense of self-confidence for your present self. You move gracefully and effortlessly in the world.
Looking toward the future, you have more compassion for the body you live in (as well as for the people around you) and you allow yourself to need what you need without guilt. You are patient knowing that good things are on the horizon for you, and you let yourself get excited about it.
Here's where the magic starts to happen, when you can look through a lens of love at your future and your future self. When you lead with curiosity and start asking questions like what if, and I wonder you start creating the life you want, instead of being just a recipient of the life you were dealt, buffeted along with whatever comes your way. That's why this part of the diagram has exploded beyond its borders: it cannot be contained!
Studies show that if you can create, and consequently occupy (preferably daily), the emotional state you'd be in when you get to the top of that next peak (when you get that new car, that dream job, that awesome relationship, etc.), you can not only get there faster, but you are more likely to enjoy the ride! Further studies show that happier people are more successful, make more money, are healthier and actually live longer!!!
This, my friend, is a magic recipe for success that's firmly grounded in science. If this is what you want for yourself, let's have a chat. Perhaps I can help you get there.
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you!
In this episode, join me and my special guest Sonya Reece as we tackle dealing with imposter syndrome — something all creatives face. You'll learn how to reframe the thoughts that come creeping in unwanted, discover tips for silencing the gremlins, and create new thoughts to help you see what a creative powerhouse you can be (and probably already have been)!
Back in October of 2020, I was honored to pair up with ADPList and Creative Mornings San Francisco and give this Field Trip workshop. It was the first time I had shared any of the trauma I experienced as a child. Based on the comments I received privately afterwards, it struck a chord. I'm so happy to be able to show up in service to others in this way.
What are enneagrams and what do they have to do with Winnie the Pooh? Find out in the latest episode of Deep Dive: Coaching for Creatives podcast.
Episode 001 is a recording of a live online workshop Coach Cami led with over 125 ADPList participants. Join in to discover and put in writing your own big, juicy life goals. You'll also gain perspective on what you've accomplished thus far, map out baby steps for progress toward your goals, and grow confidence for the future. Get comfy, grab some paper and something to write with, and prepare to dive deep.
What's your default way of thinking? It's probably not "positivity creates amazing realities." After childhood, we're wired for skepticism. It takes some serious practice to see that our healing operating system can be accessed only by quieting the inner critic's voice and trusting in your gut and your heart.
Here is an excerpt from You Are the Placebo by Joe Dispenza…
"If you repeat or maintain certain attitudes long enough and you string those attitudes together, that's how you create a belief. A belief is just an extended state of being — essentially, beliefs are thoughts and feelings (attitudes) that you keep thinking and feeling over and over again until you hardwire them into your brain and emotionally condition them into your body. You could say that you become addicted to them, which is why it's so hard to change them and why it doesn't feel good on a gut level when they're challenged. Because experiences are neurologically etched into your brain (causing you to think) and chemically embodied as emotions (causing you to feel), most of your beliefs are based on past memories."
What beliefs are you carrying around with you that no longer serve you? Ask your head, heart and gut (all separately) where the hangup is and how to move past it. You may be surprised to hear what your body has to say.
Thanks for reading!
Throughout my life, and 2020 specifically, I've been collecting phrases and sayings, and even single words, that seem to trigger the best in me. They remind me who I want to become. And from what I've read, both in Personality Isn't Permanent and You Are the Placebo, residing in the emotion of your future self is pretty damned important to actually making those big goals happen. The other awesome thing that happens when you solidly visualize who you want to be: you get there faster!!
So I've made a list of these to help me with this:
Will it make the boat go faster?
Chronic good juju spreader, recovering graphic designer, supporter of all creatives everywhere.