The Purpose of Envy

Nobody enjoys this feeling. This distance between you and who you think you are meant to be. The people and places who show up to remind you of the gap. The sickness in your heart when you come close because you still cannot cross the space between here and there. You feel stuck in the quicksands of Now. I know all about it, my friends. Do you?

I passed through San Francisco three years ago this month. July 2012. I was here without being here. I felt intense longing for more of the city. I sensed something beneath the surface that vibrated on my frequency. It didn't really occur to me that I could live here, too. In retrospect, the envious longing I felt for San Francisco was the first hint that my path would bring me here.

Envy acts like a hint from the universe. Envy tells us about our heart's deepest desires. Envy helps us reach beyond what we thought could be possible. Because we see someone else doing it or we see another place achieving it and we realize that anything, anything is possible. We realize we miss big things by thinking small.

Envy can also dampen our spirits and break our resolve. Envy can throw us off track. Envy can trick us into thinking we need something to be happy when truly nothing can bring us happiness, because happiness is not a destination. Happiness is the way.

I hope we can be happy enough Now to cast aside fear of envy, so that we may pay attention to it and explore where it's coming from and why. There's no use in numbing the tinge because chances are good that it will never go away. We can drink and forget, but when we wake up, it will be there. Waiting with a Cheshire grin.

The universe tickles our respective fancies in mysterious but purposeful ways. We can spend our lives running, or we can spend our lives chasing. What will it be?

This is day 13 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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Life And Death Transformation

On the evening of Mother's Day, complex emotions and utter exhaustion induced sleeplessness, my head buzzing with metaphysical possibilities. I'd just finished reading "After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?" by Claire Bidwell Smith, the pages containing a litany of profound revelations about death and the afterlife. Claire helped me excavate a knowingness from deep within: there is no such thing as death, not in the sense that our souls leave these bodies and we cease to exist. Death is a transformation. There is consciousness after death, even if it looks and feels different than we look and feel while animating a human body.

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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?

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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.

The Bright Side

Sometimes I have the distinct sense that the universe is looking out for me. As if my life is a partnership between me and the ether. And like any relationship based on love, whether it is between lovers or friends or family, the universe has the power to hurt me, and it will hurt me. But it also has my back. I didn't get the first home I applied for in San Francisco, but I did land in the best place for my family.

I had some negative experiences as a working woman (from 12 hour days and 45 mile commutes to a good solid Ponzi scheme), but those experiences made me that much more inclined to travel, explore, excavate my dreams, and do what I actually love.

I was never skilled at the dating game, but I ended up marrying the perfect man for me.

I feel deeply called to be a writer which is not necessarily an easy career to break into, but I was born with the persistent gene so at least I know I will never give up.

I was also born with the indecisive gene, but I've recently discovered that I am never indecisive about the things that truly matter. So when I catch myself in a vacillating state, I can flip the proverbial coin and/or go with my first instinct and know that I made the "right" decision. (Or know that maybe there is no "wrong" decision.)

I've struggled to balance my life and also build my business, but because of my openness about this struggle, I may have found some business partners who are strong in the exact ways I am weak.

I get the worst kind of hangovers, my body cannot handle more than a bit of alcohol, but because of this I stopped binge drinking.

I had unhealthy eating habits and a negative body image from a young age. In my attempts to lose weight I discovered a passion for health and wellness. Now I am (generally) mindful of the foods I eat and the example I'm setting for my daughters. I've also learned to celebrate my love of food rather than try to fight it.

I have mild scoliosis and a high risk of osteoporosis, giving me extra motivation to make physical fitness (and good posture!) a priority.

The list goes on. Call it a silver lining or the bright side. Call it providence or fate. Call it God or the universe or the ten thousand things. Just call it something. The struggle is real. "Good" and "bad" are in knots so that we cannot have one without the other.

Can you think of something painful that changed you for the better? Do you believe that the universe has your back? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com. I'd love to hear about it. 

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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Are you doing what you love today?

Have you found something that makes you so clearly happy that you wonder how you ever survived without it? Things like family, sports, creative outlets, maybe your home or community or even a great job.

But then life gets in the way and you stop running or painting or staying ahead at work or paying much attention to your spouse or kids. Something of this variety happens to all of us now and then because we are human. A distracted breed. We are interesting and beautiful because of our mutability.

It's not our fault. We have so much to experience. Too much. So many ends to tie up. Too many. (At least it often feels this way!) Billions of unique balls of human energy are firing through the atmosphere at every given moment, getting tangled in one another, inspiring and maddening and exciting and teaching one another.

Every time I drive on the highway these days, I'm struck by my fellow humans, all of us in our respective cars, these hunks of mineral protecting us from one another so that we can fulfill our individualized agendas. Perhaps our life purposes. We have places to go. Down highways and across skies and up mountains. We are smart. We lead complex lives, rich and sumptuous with love for one another and for life itself.

This is all good and well. Until we start dropping ends because we've picked up too many. And we feel like we're in a horror movie because our heads are spinning. We can see in every direction, all of the possible paths. Some call them parallel universes. And because there are many different directions to take, we get confused. We say yes when we mean no. We say no when we mean yes.

It's easy to lose the way. The way is completely subjective, after all. What you love will be different than what your mother or father or brother or sister or partner or best friend or enemy loves.

In this day and age, distractions are as abundant as opportunities. We have to stay mindful of our daily activities. Are we staying true to our heart's desire?

I'm interested in this idea of focus. Focusing on what you love most and not letting superfluous distractions steal too much of your most finite resource. Time.

Why is it that we often have to force ourselves to do things that we love such as exercising, writing, even socializing? My cousin loves salsa dancing as much as anyone can love salsa dancing. But as a mother of two battling Lyme Disease and chronic pain, she rarely gets the opportunity to go out and dance. She's been out of the salsa scene for so long that she's hardly looking forward to attending the annual conference in San Francisco next month. This was something she used to anticipate for months prior and savor for months afterwards. And I'm sure that once she gets to that conference and onto the dance floor, she will enter the flow, that state of being from which artistic expression arises.

It's about momentum. When we get into the habit of doing what we love every day or every other day or every week, that's when we know I could never survive without this. So why do we try?

Are you doing what you love today?

Please tell me what it is YOU love in the comments or send me an email lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you! 

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

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The difference between burnout and resistance

After yesterday's post about resistance, Wendy asked some questions that got me thinking:

Here's the question I've been struggling with though - how do you know the difference between burn out because you've been doing too much for too long and resistance? I think there is a difference, but I think the first can very easily turn into the second without you noticing as you begin to recover. How do you know when it's time to kick yourself in the can again?

Using this blog as an example, sometimes I neglect it because life gets in the way and generally I don't feel bad about this. This is not a for-profit blog. I need breaks. Breaks are human.

But I've seen it happen again and again, when I take a break I lose momentum. I turn inwards and I forget how to hit Publish.

If I'm writing in my journal instead, I tell myself it's all the same.

If I'm working on a novel, I tell myself my time is better spent.

If my kids are out of school, I tell myself I don't have time.

Time seems to be the #1 reason resistance has given me.

But time is a man-made construct, we can manipulate it however we want.

Maybe the trick is spending less much on each blog post. Blogging, for me, is less like a craft and more like a hobby, a ritual, even a memory bank. Spending too much time on pointless tweaks and self-sensoring leads to burnout and then resistance.

Still, I do think breaks are good and often very much needed. Like I said, when you pick up again you may be further along than where you left off.

Here's another example: I was working on a novel and I had 91k words when I stopped writing. This was months ago, January or February. I got stuck and then I had another baby. But then the other day, without warning, the ending came to me. I wasn't thinking about the story, I had no plans to continue it. I had all but scrapped those 91k words. Was it resistance that kept me from excavating this story, or was it burnout?

Maybe burnout lurks when we're spending too much time editing and not enough time creating. Maybe burnout arrives when we're forcing ourselves to finish something that's not working. Maybe burnout happens for a reason.

But there's no good reason behind resistance. There's nothing behind resistance but fear.

I knew I had to come back to blogging because I felt resistance towards it. Like I posted yesterday on Facebook, Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art: "Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you're feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there's tremendous love there too." Blogging is fun for me. I'm a thinker and a writer and I enjoy thinking and writing and discoursing about personal growth and the human experience. I lead a rich life of motherhood and mindfulness and I feel compelled to revel in these experiences, and remember them and share them. Maybe by examining my own mind, body and spirit, I can inspire other people to do the same.

It's a blurry line between taking a break and succumbing to resistance, but in general, I think breaks are short and resistance is long. Breaks feel deserved. Like the couch after a long day or a protein shake after a tough work out. Resistance feels heavy. Like clutter or debt or a grudge. Burnout happens because we've been at it, resistance keeps us from going at it.

Resistance comes when I take "it"/life/myself too seriously. Expectations erase joy, and in turn, creativity.

Has your burnout become resistance? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. 

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

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Have you heard of resistance?

Have you heard of resistance? Resistance is the force that stops us from doing what we want to be doing.

The force that feeds fundamentalism, addiction, hate and depression. A proliferating fungus, a tumor of stagnant energy, a cloud that suffocates our brains and chases our hearts every time we so much as think about doing it. Whatever "it" is.

Maybe the resistance comes in the form of silence. Maybe in the form of distraction. Maybe you don't use your voice even though you've found it. Maybe you don't ask for help even when you know who to ask. Maybe you type the words but you never send, or never post. Maybe you have a demanding day job or children at home and you never make the time.

No one is going to give you the time. You have to take it. If you feel in the seat of your soul that there is something you need to be doing whether it be swimming daily or playing team sports or writing a story or painting a picture or traveling the world--and you're not doing it--you have succumbed to resistance.

Sometimes we bury our desires under so many layers of ego and opinion and appearance, that we forget what they are. But we can't ignore the tug at our hearts.

Something's missing.

Society, loved ones, corporations, jobs, bosses, other people, they usually have ideas on what we should be doing. Where we should live. How we should live. People are quick to speak, declaring what is best for us, what we need, what we don't need. They believe themselves the authority and because they don't have ill intentions, because they probably love us, we might think to listen.

But the only person who knows what's best for you is you. Only you know where the resistance hides, and what it's hiding.

When I saw the Dalai Lama speak, a man asked him a tough question. The Dalai Lama responded, "I don't know." His audience of thousands waited patiently for him to continue. He did not. He demonstrated that it's okay not knowing. We don't need to pretend we are authorities. We don't need to know everything. We can feel our way through darkness when we don't know the way. We can cast aside our egos and revel in the mystery.

I enjoy growing older because I feel as if I am growing into myself. Growing stronger into myself. So that when someone tells me what to do, I know that I don't have to listen. When someone says something about me or makes a judgment either implicit or explicit, I don't have to believe them.

They don't know me, not all of me. I know me. And I know resistance. And I know that when the resistance builds up like plaque on dirty teeth or toxins in the blood that the only cure is not a deep cleaning nor a drastic detox, but time. And when I grow bored of whatever it is that's scaring me from blogging or writing or submitting, whether it be exposure or self-doubt or judgment, I can start again and be further along than where I left off. Because overcoming resistance is a story in and of itself. 

"Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you're feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there's tremendous love there too. If you didn't love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn't feel anything. The opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference."

-- from the book that inspired today's blog: "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield

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Lessons on Optimism

You've probably heard that "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it"---the sentiment of Charles R. Swindoll, an evangelical Christian pastor, presumably a man of faith and optimism. In the second volume of Anaïs Nin's diary, she cites two different people who proclaimed that her diary would never be published. Stuart Gilbert, a famous literary scholar said: "You have the makings of a Proust. This is too natural and will never be published." Denise Clairouin, a French translator of novels, said: "The diary will never be published. People can't bear such nakedness. You are so much in life."

Of course, seven volumes of Anaïs Nin's diaries were eventually published, making her a feminist icon of the 1960s, a woman studied and celebrated and often quoted.

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The thing is, she started seeking publication of her diaries as early as the 1930s. It took thirty years to see her diaries in print and yet she never stopped writing them. Some of the closest people in her life fought to break her dependence on her diary--her mother, her mentor, her lover, her therapist, her friend. But it was her diary who became her best friend and confidante (wikipedia). She wrote 15,000 pages, which today fill two four-drawer filing cabinets in a Brooklyn bank vault.

She didn't need the permission of others, not even her loved ones, to fulfill this deep calling. She gave herself permission to do it. May we all be so bold.

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May we all stop thinking about what it is we are supposed to be doing, how we are supposed to be parenting or working or spending or living. Forget about what you've started and what you've promised, not for always but for now, and think about what you freaking want to do with your life.

Maybe you want to quit your corporate job and move to the country where your children can run free.

Maybe you want to move to a bustling metropolis and devour culture with every one of your senses.

Maybe you want to live like a monk and write poetry.

Maybe you want to tell your boss to fuck off (maybe in polite terms, maybe not) and then go start your own company.

Maybe you want to create pockets of passive income so you can travel the world and work 4 hour weeks à la Timothy Ferriss.

Maybe you want to break up or get together or have children or stop having children or read more or kiss more or sleep more or move more or write more.

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I think you should do what you've always wanted to do. Give yourself permission. Don't seek it outside of yourself. Be inside your body. We feel trapped beneath the skin for a reason, right? There is a time and a place to transcend the skin, but right now, while pressed against this earth, it feels good to be grounded in our bodies. Who we are, what we want to do, what and where we feel called to live.

If we don't follow these tugs, these whispered callings, we're not playing with the universe. We deprive the greater good of our individual goodness, our gifts, our passions. No one else is me or you. Our DNA is 99% the same but it's that wild card of a 1% that makes each of us irreplaceable.

I wonder what these comments about her diary being unpublishable did to Anaïs Nin, if anything. Obviously she didn't believe them. She believed in herself instead. Do I believe in myself? It's a question I keep asking.

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Anaïs Nin famously said: "we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." An optimist sees opportunities, notices blessings. An optimist takes criticism as fuel rather than bullets. An optimist knows that she can do a whole lot with her reaction. If Piper Kerman had wallowed in her prison sentence rather than immersed herself in it and written about it, we wouldn't have my new favorite television series, "Orange Is the New Black"

I'm talking to you as much as I'm talking to myself, perched upon a soapbox of beautiful intent: I hope you believe.

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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.