The Trick To Winning

Have you heard the old adage, "slow and steady wins the race"? This idea contradicts many a modern mindset. We like to do things quick and effectively. We like maximum productivity. I know I do. Yet parenthood often takes us on the scenic route. Winding, yet beautiful. I write stories by stealing bits of time through out the day. A few minutes of peace at the keyboard during nap time. A line in my notebook at the library, crouched on a tiny chair, my knees knocked against the toddler table. Occasionally I will carve out enough space to find the flow and discover a new arc to the story line. This so-called flow state is what fiction writers live for. This is how we get our stuff done. I dare to believe that if it weren't for the flow, novels would not get written. But when you're a full-time mother, the flow state will inevitably be interrupted by a child waking or a school pick-up or a sibling battle.

Generally, I close my notebook or my computer and I am unsatisfied. As if I haven't gotten enough done. As if I am never getting enough done.

This belief no longer serves me. I am ready to replace it with something new.

The truth of the matter, anyways, is that I do get stuff done. I have improved my writing by writing and editing and reading and writing more. I will continue to work on my craft until the time comes to publish a novel. And when I look back on these years rich with uncertainty and sweet babies, I will regret none of it. The universe gives me exactly what I need, when I need it, whether it's motivation or ambition or support or chaos or a fire under my ass or a book deal.

I think the trick is to be satisfied, even fulfilled, by little bits of progress. They add up. There is no race. The only competition is with the person in the mirror. If you never give up, you have already won.

This is day 9 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Behind Closed Doors

So much to do so little time. Ya feel me? So many books to read and stories to write.

So many faces to kiss and smiles to feel.

So many experiences to have and restaurants to try.

So many sites to browse and things to know

So many cities to visit and songs to sing.

So much creativity pulsating behind so many closed doors.

I like to put myself in the bird's-eye view and soar overhead. I try to stay on this peninsula we call San Francisco while I am here in body, because if I don't, I might get lost out there.

I see the beaches and the tall trees and the harrowing hills. The Golden Gate Bridge and the Victorians and Coit Tower, and then I go deeper. I see people walking and running and talking. I see them tapping away at their computers and moving across the land because they always have places to be. I see them wanting, wanting, wanting so much. I see their creative energy bolstered by mine and vice versa. I see our work weaving in and out of each other even if we're not sure how or why or what the end result will be. I see tapestries of thought, intricate patterns emerging, ideas becoming things, an invisible and indivisible underbelly of love.

The work you do in your mind is the work you do for the mind. The work you do from your heart is the work you do from the heart.

I hope you know where you fit in today. I hope you can step back and admire your patch in the tapestry, whether it be tangled and tight, or lovely and loose. I hope you know your value. I hope you do work and I hope you own it. I hope you do things that scare you. I hope you aren't too scared to back away.

I hope today is your perfect day. I hope you embrace imperfections as perfections, and death as life. I hope you see two sides of the same coin. I hope we can all understand the paradox that in order to create, something must die.

What are you creating? What's happening behind your closed doors? Have you thought about opening them?

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Becoming a San Franciscan

I'm obsessed with people's stories. It's why I love novels and Instagram. Long stories. Short stories. Everything in between. I enjoy living in a dense city because of the human energy. I loved it when I studied in Rome in 2005 and I love it living in San Francisco in 2015. I'll gladly take the downside, the overwhelming swirl of it all, to get the upside, the imagination awakened. Every where I go, the people are fascinating. If only they knew how I notice all of them. Their wrinkled knees and red-rimmed eyes and aching smiles.

There's a lot going on. Time occasionally slips into a vortex. Hours whoosh by, leaving my hair messy and my clothing soiled. I shrink literally and figuratively from the demands of motherhood, even as it fuels me with the deepest well of purpose, reasons why I must be strong, why I must sleep and eat and take care of my self every time I get the chance. My husband's job, bless it, takes him away from us more than we like. But the job is also the reason we are in San Francisco and I wouldn't change any of it.

I am head over heels for San Francisco. The city by the bay. Paris of the West. The Golden city. Fog city. Rainbow land. Call it what you may, this place is magical. Today I drove west and found myself suddenly under the fog and it was so fresh and cool that the mist felt like something out of a storybook. Lord of the Rings mist. Hogwarts mist.

I drove home the long way, along Ocean Avenue and I didn't pull over to get a good picture, but I did taste the Pacific air and gaze oceanward at the stoplights. The fading sun slashed a few white clouds the color of a peach. It was only the hint of a sunset, but it was enough.

My heart often catches on these slices of heaven. The severity of life's beauty. The heartbreak of it. Because nothing lasts. On a cellular level, I will be a different person in seven years. I will look similar to the current me, but if the next seven years are anything like the previous seven, I will feel oceans away from this current iteration. I often notice that I am mourning the fleeting smallness of my babies, but it is not just them changing. It's me, too. It's everything. Never before has transience been more apparent.

San Francisco is a city of transplants. People come and they go. Sometimes they come back again. It is a city of International residents. I hear accents everywhere. Australian, South African, British. German, Chinese, Spanish. I try eavesdropping on French conversations at the gym and I am disappointed by how quickly they speak. I feel myself craving France, but that's another post.

Here, the architecture is quaint and the art is unexpected and the people are lovely. I am enchanted by the hills and besotted by the vistas and reverent to the ocean. I have been here five months and I've barely taken my first chip at the tip of the iceberg so I'm still unwrapping the reasons why I love it, and the ways it's loving me back.

Now, I am anticipating the storied cold of the coming San Francisco summer. I feel that perhaps anything is possible under the blanket of fog freshly churned by the vast Pacific. It contains a purity I want for my life. A clarity of thought, word and deed. A washing away. An emerging of new.

It must be spring.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Where are your holes?

"And the child brings again a fresh quality to life. Every child is primitive, a barbarian; now the mother has to civilize. Every child is a barbarian, remember; he is animal, wild. And the mother has to give him culture, has to teach him the ways of life, the ways of man. It is a great work. You have to remember that – that your work has not finished, it has started. Take it joyously!" - Osho

I started thinking about intentions. It seems we can boil our multitude of motivations down to a few key intentions. The deeper I go, the more I recognize my desire to help other people. Not because I think I have some kind of special authority or knowledge, but because I do not. My struggle is precisely the point. My struggle exists so that I can write my way through it. By writing my way through it, I can help other people.

Maybe. If I can get out of my own way.

The more we get out of our way, the more people we teach. We each of us have our own methods of teaching, our own things we feel called to teach, and practice, so that others will learn by example. A lawyer is under oath to practice the law so that she may lead her clients to follow the law. An accountant helps people to manage their money. A salesman educates his customers about the value of his product. A barista in a coffee shop is there to make sure you enjoy your coffee, and your morning too.

The lessons can be both subtle and glaring. They come through only when the teacher believes in the importance of what she's teaching.

I've grown tired of the cliche that motherhood is hard. Hard doesn't even begin to describe it. Hard is a ten mile run or a job interview or a bad date.

I like Osho's description better. It is great work.

Motherhood runs a long, winding gamut. I can only speak from my position on it. So let's be clear on who I am: I am a full-time mother, that's 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I have a growing career, but not a paying job. My husband, the money-maker, often travels and I am left to parent alone. I have two children at home all day but for the 9 hours per week of preschool for the five year-old. On some occasions, I have a third glorious child. I always have several bodies to care for--to clothe, feed, bathe and love--though my husband eagerly shares in this work when he is home.

I am endlessly vying for time to write sentences, fragments of sentences, poems, blog posts, essays, short stories and entire novels.

Even on the days that I do almost everything right for them and for me, I still often feel that something is missing. Something I don't notice until I get to the end of the night and it's not there. In its place is a hole. I think this is why so many binge eaters tend to consume their calories at night. They try to fill the voids with food in their attempt to become whole.

When I run into troubles with my family, I start looking for the triggers. Some of them are easy to find, but many are not. Maybe she's not getting enough social stimulation or he's coping with the changes. Maybe she's teething or she's not eating enough whole foods. Maybe he's under a lot of pressure or she feels unseen.

Today my girls and I exercised and we went on adventures and we connected with other parents and kids. Today we cooked and cleaned and walked and read books and played.

Today I disciplined. Today I tried again to teach my little animals the ways of the world--the importance of bathing after you blow out of a diaper and apologizing when you cave to the compulsion of stealing.

Today I spoke to strangers. Today I corresponded with friends. Today I posted lines from a poem to Instagram in an effort to connect with other poetry lovers.

But when I got to the end of the day, I felt a deep well of sadness rise in me. Beyond my duties as a mother, I struggled to see my worth as a human.

That's when I started thinking about intentions, and how I can help other people. Which brought me here. Back to my words.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

Since I do not have a paying job, my holes often exist in my net worth, in my isolation, in my writing career. Writing novels is a huge risk. There are no guarantees. Many artists, particularly women artists, have to work extra hard to be seen.

Part of filling my holes is sharing and connecting with my blog readers.

Part of filling my holes is writing as much as humanly possible.

Part of filling my holes is reading as much as humanly possible.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

As always, I am available via email, lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com, and I love hearing from you.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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We're all messed up

When this life feels like a hierarchy, I don't like it. But what else can we be? How can we exist here and now in this heavily populated existence? We don't live on farms, miles apart. We don't grow our own food and ferment our own grapes. Generally we are entertained by popular musical artists and prime time television and mass-produced fiction words than our own pianos and imaginations. We drive one another around and serve one another dinner, hedging for more, curating our prettiest moments to share on a universal bulletin board. We are tangled and torn. Our soft spots snagging on one another's sharp edges. Scrambling up, falling down. Looking for a place to settle. Believing and disbelieving that our place in society says nothing about our worth as human beings. Learning, and breaking, and growing strong where we were once weak.

I love wearing red lipstick because it makes me brighter and louder even when I am feeling quiet and shadowy. I don't have to look how I feel. I can be anything anyone anywhere I want to be. So long as I respect reasonable limits.

The truth is that I don't always like myself. Sometimes I distinctly dislike myself. I'm sick of talking about myself. But my life and my thoughts are fodder for my art. Perhaps, if you can relate, this isn't a bunch of narcissistic bullshit but rather a mirror that reveals something far more important than a flat image trapped beneath the looking glass.

Friends are like mirrors, too. My best friends know me so well. From my vices to my dreams to my privileges. When I sit across from them I am turned inside out and even though my insides are messy and scarred they show hints of something promising. I see my friends, too. Their talents as they discover and hone them and use them. We feel conscious of our imperfect selves and jealous of one another's creativity but mostly just admiring. We see one another for what we are and we are beautiful. And hopeful.

I'm listening to the audiobook of Lena Dunham's memoir. She's brilliant and I love her. She exposes so much of herself, I don't know how she does it. I also love her show, Girls. I love how she portrays modern youth, calling us out for our somewhat crazy spoiled reckless behavior, breaking hearts (our own and others) like a man with a loaded gun on a rampage. As a dear friend (not the one pictured below, however) recently said to me, "we're all messed up, we're all crazy. But we're also beautiful and creative and amazing." An ironic statement seeing that it came from a seemingly perfect mormon mother, the homecoming queen of my high school, an athlete and a cheerleader. Someone I've always admired, even in the moment she beat me out for senior class secretary.

Could it be our flaws that make us our most beautiful and cherished and powerful selves?

Hegarty says that fearlessness produces creativity.

So that's why I'm wearing red lipstick and telling you about my insecurities. After all, I have no reason not to like myself, but sometimes I just don't.

Maybe you understand.

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

Powerful Beyond Measure

When Simone, a dear reader, sent me an email to offer support and wisdom for my recent interstate move, she said, "no need to control or fix or worry. All needs are met, and they always have been." I knew I wanted to hear more so I asked if she would share her story about moving across the country and how it changed her. Here it is. Enjoy. My plan was simple, move to Los Angeles, spread my professional wings a little further than I was able to in Philadelphia and then, perhaps move back to the east coast.

The first 6 months here, I unraveled, and my plan disappeared.

I became a person I didn’t recognize, like or want to be around.  I was shedding, crying, self-loathing and withdrawing from all the parts of myself I thought I knew and recognized.

2 months into my move, I became introverted and disillusioned. The expectations I had for myself were unrealistic and full of ego.  In Philadelphia, I wore a lot of hats, accomplished some pretty hefty goals and had a lot of titles. I had a BA in journalism from Temple University and an MS in arts administration from Drexel University.  My resume was 3 pages full of outlined experiences, and I cared a great deal about those achievements. They validated me, boosted my courage, and gave me a fantastic sense of self-esteem. Or so I thought.

By month 3, I had been on quite a few interviews, with no call back.  I didn’t understand. I had all the experience, qualified – many times over qualified and nobody wanted me. I was quickly learning that all that used to matter, didn’t matter anymore. What was wrong with me? Was I not enough? What was going to be my fall back plan? I had no job. No real sense of how to get around LA without a GPS (which depressed me) and no creative outlet. I was stuck. It was hard for me to see outside of the cloud I had created for myself. I was drowning in doubt, worrying about going back to Philly and what that would look like and what others would think.

I didn’t recognize myself and had no idea who I was turning into…

I desperately needed an answer, a sign a reminder, warning – something! I wasn’t at all sympathetic to the person I was becoming. I was used to always falling on my feet, while lining things up so that if plan A didn’t work, there was always plan B. I was used to being in control.

Little did I realize, I was that sign I was asking for.

After drowning myself in job applications and interviews, I welcomed any distraction.  I do not remember quite how I stumbled upon the author Marianne Williamson, but I will forever be grateful that I did. The first book I read by her was A Return to Love and digested it within a few days. I was new to the idea of speaking to the Universe, meditation or envisioning how I wanted to feel out of life, rather than what I wanted to happen or do in life. (That’s an important difference)

So, I called out. ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ It felt weird, and I was resistant. I struggled with releasing control and believing that all my needs would be met, without a tangible plan. That knowing (of the unknown) scared me, but I was willing to try.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –M. Williamson

Was this true? Could I have been afraid of all that was waiting for me to experience? The thought of me being fearful of success or that my wildest dreams and ideas could actually manifest was silly to me.

Me?

Truth is; I was. The Universe gave me exactly what I needed. I needed to sit down and be with myself. Take a real good, long look at who I was, in that present moment. Forget goals, ideas, or dreams. I was a control freak, a perfectionist, and I felt like the world owed me because of the work I put in – I had a huge ego. With so many thoughts flooding my mind, I began to journal more frequently and meditate which became a beautiful distraction.  My thoughts changed from why I moved to LA and what I wanted to accomplish to who I wanted to become and what I wanted my life to mean.

I was here.

I was talented enough. I was experienced enough. I was opening my mind to possibility and definitely not afraid to learn what I didn’t already know.  I stopped rejecting what wasn’t about my life and became more open to what was happening and good about my life. I was exactly where I needed to be. I began to simply enjoy and look forward to every day.

I changed my attitude and approach.

I released the need to control or even worry about what direction I should take. I began to carve out time for reading, writing, job searching, discovering LA, talking to family and friends without shame or embarrassment and that became my routine.

I landed a job by month 6.

Did I particularly enjoy my emotional rollercoaster? No. But, I saw it through. Our truth can knock us down, but it is our willing heart that will always be ready to jump right back in! The question is; will you follow?

“Much of our anxiety and stress comes when we’re focused on fear and disconnected from the voice of our inner guide.” –Gabrielle Bernstein

dawn

"When life descends into the pit I must become my own candle willingly burning myself to light up the darkness around me" – Alice Walker

i'm a wildflower. constantly unfolding, learning, experiencing, and loving...in los angeles. - Simone

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Have you been scared of your own beauty? Have you struggled to follow your heart? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you. 

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

Thank you for your beautiful words, Simone!

Lessons from My Children: Be Giddy

These are Lessons from My Children, a new series on the blog. Everything we experience is temporary. Feelings are fleeting and newborns learn how to sit up. Sadness ebbs and flows. Happiness is a choice, a way. Like beauty, success exists in the eye of the beholder.

Children beg us for attention and this confuses us because we think our attention is nothing too special, nothing worth working hard or crying over. We don't always know what our children know. We tend to forget we're all babies, innocent to the mystery of existence. I'm not sure who has more to learn from the other--children or adults?

We call children innocent because they know so little of the world we've spent decades seeking to understand. Including their own cuteness, their own perfection. (Does anybody?) Skyla, now 12 weeks young, bobs around in our arms, her piercing black eyes looking at everything and nothing, taking it all in, this wild world of ours.

But I'm starting to think she knows things I don't. About God and angels and the intricacies of the human face. Things I'm too busy to notice.

Giovanna spotted a butterfly on the other side of the car window and she squealed like she'd seen a miracle.

And she did, didn't she? The caterpillar, who went to sleep and awoke with wings, thinks so.

She dragged me into the front yard because "something happened." Her face looked the way we think kids should look on Christmas morning. But she didn't need a truckload of presents.

I peered between the newly opened petals and what I saw turned my skin to gooseflesh. I felt like I'd become privy to a secret, a certain intimacy with nature. In blooming, the poppy showed us what she was made of. Not just pistil and stigma, but pattern and individuality, every flower exhibiting different interpretations of the same genes.

Not unlike people. Whether you like it or not, your DNA is 99.9% the same as your neighbor, your enemy and your best friend. In that 0.01%, our opinions reside like stubborn rocks and our passions begin and bloom and wilt and die.

There is no one who experiences pleasure as you do. There was no other baby who cried just like you and there will never be another adult who can offer the world what you have.

It doesn't matter what excites you, what makes you giddy, it only matters that you let yourself be giddy over the things that bring you happiness in the eternally fleeting moment, whether it's a flower or an ice cream cone or an unexpected smile. Let yourself memorize faces and stare at patterns until they become something else entirely. Look up. Follow the gaze of children. Just by noticing their enthusiasm I find my heart growing and my mind wandering into uncharted territories where words flow like waterfalls and beauty appears everywhere, as prolific as flowers in the month of May.

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To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

What's creativity?

photo 2 What's creativity to you?*

Creativity is making nursery art.

Creativity is experimenting with modge podge.

Creativity is shopping on Etsy.

Creativity is throwing a party.

Creativity is building little snow people.

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Creativity is planning an outfit for a special occasion.

Creativity is cherry red lipstick.

Creativity is writing letters to friends.

Creativity is crafting a novel without knowing the ending.

Creativity is decorating and re-decorating.

Creativity is editing.

Creativity is Instagramming.

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Creativity is making up the rules as you go along.

Creativity is watching the sunrise.

Creativity is painting just because.

Creativity is concocting green smoothies the whole family loves.

Creativity is wrapping a present.

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Creativity is moving the body.

Creativity is taking selfies.

Creativity is making up bedtime stories.

Creativity is conversation.

*A new kind of gratitude list in which I look at something I want more of in my life, brainstorming all the ways I already have it.