writing

I Write, Therefore I Am

Yesterday, I wrote about my New Year’s intention of helping myself more than others, and my dedication to creating the life that I want for myself.

To be clear, what that means to me is- I want to generate income from my writing so that I can travel and work from anywhere in the world.

I know a lot of folks who may think that’s a pipe dream. But tons and tons of people are doing it every day, and there is no reason why I can’t be one of those people.

When I got back from my trip to Bali, I committed myself to writing every single day, even if it’s terrible, even if I don’t post it. So far, I have kept that commitment (except for a couple days here and there over Stressmas and New Year’s holidays).

I have tried, so many times in the past, to have more self-discipline when it comes to my writing, but I had so much trouble making it a daily habit. I waited for inspiration to write, and sometimes then I wouldn’t even write! Part of that is because I had so much anxiety residing in me, which used up so much of my energy and focus, and replaced it with self-doubt and insecurity.

But the other reason it feels different this time is because I am approaching it differently. In the past I was “shoulding” all over myself. Now, I have a clear idea of what I want and am approaching it as if my life- the life that I want for myself- depends on it. Because it does.

I can’t expect to have a writing career if I treat writing like it’s a chore to be avoided. So now, with this new approach, I honor the craft and the time spent working on it. The more I stay with my daily commitment, the more my relationship to my craft deepens. I am slowly developing a reverence for all that it is and all the places it will take me. And now, my writing almost feels like it’s its own entity, like it’s a deity that presides over my life. It’s like my Mother Mary.

I show up at the altar of my art, and I say my prayers by putting words to the page. Instead of hearing the sounds of monks chanting, I meditate on the sound of my keyboard tapping as I type, feeling such joy and gratitude as the sound washes through me.

A lot of the self-doubt has been exorcised, but not entirely. It still shows up in funny ways. I am not immune to Imposter Syndrome. Whenever a friend tells me that I’m a good Writer or compliments any of my writing, I think some variation of- they’re just saying that to be nice.

I have been writing my entire life. Since the age of six years old I have been receiving praise for my writing skills. But for so much of my life I dismissed it. I knew I was good at it, but it wasn’t anything that I was interested in. My love was music. I’d write loads of song lyrics and poems, but it was always with the idea that I wanted to be involved in music.

Back in 2009 when I went through my big life transition/transformation, I realized that even though I love music and always will, it’s not what comes naturally to me. And, so often, what resonated with me the most were and are the lyrics, the words.

That’s why I love Hip Hop so much. It is the most brilliant, ingenious, clever, and intelligent use of words that music has to offer. And most Hip Hop has a really positive message to spread on top of that. I remember a few years ago an article circulated, (I think it was from the New York Times, but this is the closest I could find), which discussed a study on Hip Hop and the English language. The study concluded that Hip Hop employs a more complex use of the English language than Shakespeare. (I didn’t need a study to tell me that).

But I digress; I spent most of my life not believing that I could be a Writer, when I was, in fact, already a Writer.

And recently I became a member of the National Writers Union. It’s not the most exclusive club in the world and I didn’t think much of it, until I got my welcome packet in the mail, which included a membership card that I was not expecting. It was a proud moment for me, because it was one step closer to establishing myself as a professional Writer.

I posted about it on social media and I got all kinds of congratulations. But the whole time what kept running through my mind was- Any real Writers who see this will know that it’s not that big of a deal and the fact that I’m acting as if it is a big deal just proves that I’m not a real Writer.

I am literally a card-carrying Writer, yet I catch myself thinking that I’m not a “real Writer.” What does that even mean! Real Writer?

I write. Period. Therefore I am a Writer.

Having my daily practice helps to disengage that old, outdated belief, and reinforce the new belief that I am, in fact, a Writer- because I write. And showing up to work every day demonstrates my dedication and keeps the action and energy flowing in the direction I want to go.

Because, as I have said many times before, when I am living in my Truth, I am placing myself in the flow of all else that is true. And the more I show up to this life every day, the more I am actually in the life that I am creating.

And that feels pretty damn good.

None Of My Busyness

In just a few more days it will be one month since I’ve been back in California. I have settled pretty seamlessly back into life here.

I was expecting more of a culture shock when I returned, but I actually felt the total opposite. I just kind of felt nothing. My first thought upon entering my driveway on the way home from the airport was, “so, like, that’s it? I’m just here now?”

Everything was exactly the same as I left it. I knew what I would be coming back to. Yet I was still surprised I didn’t feel a stark contrast in my environment.

But I did feel a stark contrast within myself.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to Bali was a deeper awareness for the senseless busyness that seemed to be everywhere in California. And it didn’t take me long at all to notice how exhausted I was with trying to keep up with it all.

When I first learned mindfulness a few years ago, I discovered how detrimental busyness really is. It’s being stuck in a state of doing instead of a state of BEing. It’s an endless chase of the next, instead of truly experiencing what IS.

So, learning all of that, and immersing myself in the practice of mindfulness, I really shifted my way of living. I retired my busyness. And it changed my life, in the most beautiful and profound way.

Unfortunately, I felt like I was the only one around me who got this. So I became passionate about wanting to pass on this new knowledge to people. I wanted others to get to experience the profound shift that I did.

But after several years, I finally realized that not many other people are that interested in it. They may be interested in what happens after the shift, but doing (or not doing) what it takes to create that shift was more than anyone was willing to participate in. I couldn’t even get people to show up- in every sense.

So, I found myself in a space where not many other people were. And that’s just it- there was space. I had created so much space in my life to be able to actually live and thoroughly enjoy my life with those I cared about, but it seemed like nobody else had created that same space. Everyone was too busy.

I started to feel judged for not being too busy. Like busyness was some sort of standard and I didn’t have enough going on in my life to actually constitute a life. But my life has been very intentional. I created space for people and things that I cared about. They just weren’t showing up.

So I’d run around trying to keep up with all of the busy people around me. But I can’t run that fast. Nor do I want to.

So when I got to Bali, and gained distance from what my life had been, I finally realized just how much I had been chasing unavailability, and how deeply exhausted I was from it.

Because I had been chasing that unavailability my entire life.

Starting from childhood with my family, then sticking with what I knew, recreating the chase in almost all my other relationships, of any context. And it all ended up directly reflecting into my career (or lack thereof), my finances (or lack thereof), and my issues with trust (or lack thereof).  It was all just a metaphor for my relentless chasing of unavailability.

I have done so much work around this stuff. I couldn’t believe I was still so engulfed in such an old pattern.

I worked so hard for the approval of abusive people who could never be pleased- people who only knew how to take and not how to give. They were bottomless pits of “not enough.”

I worked so hard to try to make a satisfying living and life for myself in a place that has never felt right for me, despite how breathtakingly beautiful it is here. I worked so hard to prove myself- to others (and therefore myself). I worked so hard to try to gain permission to just be Who I Am.

I worked so hard to heal from the years of abuse, control, and manipulation. I worked so hard at cleaning out the toxic drudge that lived within me. I worked so hard to become the best version of Me that I could possibly be.

And once I became a better version of Me, I worked so hard at trying to stay healthy. I worked so hard to try to keep good people in my life.  I worked so hard at trying to make so many other things (or people) work, when sometimes they just didn’t.

I kept working and working. And I loved that work! But I worked so hard only to find myself still working so hard.

No wonder I was exhausted. I’ve spent so much of my life working so hard.

And the grand irony is that the harder I worked and the more I chased unavailability, I myself became unavailable. I was unavailable because my energy was focused elsewhere- on unavailability. I was consumed by unavailability.  And I wasn’t available for anything (or anyone) that was available, which includes the relationships that I want, the career that I want, the bank account that I want… the life that I want.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my life. But there is much of my life that has felt like it’s just been waiting for me to step into it. All the while my back has been turned with my energy and focus on all of the things and people that were unavailable.

And the thing is, all of the unavailable people that I have been chasing, in various contexts, are busy with their own chase. They’re not actually inhabiting their own lives.

Neither was I.

Even after all that work.

So, when I got away from all of the unavailability, and took a big break form the chase, I was able to see just how hard I had been working for so much that didn’t work for me.

I went to Bali. And I let go.

It took a couple weeks, but I settled into a flow. I didn’t have to try. At all. People and places and circumstances just showed up. Because I was available for them. Everything just fell into place with such ease. Because I let it.  The life that had been waiting for me was finally being lived.

Then I had to leave. And go back to a home that has never really felt like home to me, a place that no matter how much the sun shines has never felt warm to me, a place where no matter how little crime there is has never really felt safe for me, a place where no matter how many decades I have spent there I have never felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I have felt more of a sense of longing than belonging here.

So when I came back to California none of that felt any different. But I felt different. And therein lies the contrast.

I’ve been back for just about a month and I am still getting used to the new skin that I’m living in. I am getting used to experiencing being able to approach situations with ease instead of anxiety, with curiosity instead of fear. I’m getting used to no longer chasing the things (and people) that don’t work for me. And I’m getting used to the feeling of being completely and genuinely ok with it all.

Experiencing the contrast really helped me gain perspective on what I was really returning to. I was not planning to return to unavailability, no matter how prevalent it may be. I was returning with a renewed focus. That focus being on two things- writing (and finding a way to build a sustainable income doing that), and how to get back to Bali as soon as possible (based on finding a sustainable income that will allow me to do that). Those are pretty much the only things I have the energy for anyway.

I no longer have energy for the chase, even if I wanted it. It’s not there anymore. I have exhausted it all. That resource has been depleted.

My energy is now being spent creating, instead of working, on allowing, instead of chasing, on taking steps, instead of running… on living the life that’s been waiting for me, instead of perishing inside a life I don’t even want.

And I finally, truly feel ready and available for all that I’ve ever wanted.

~Maktub~

Writers and Coffee and Gays, Oh My!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Part of the reason, ironically, is because I attended a writer’s festival last weekend, and it really took a lot out of me.

When I first contemplated this trip, and bought my Lonely Planet guidebook, I was pondering what time of year to go. October was what felt right. So, I looked in the guide book to see if there were any special events happening in October, and lo and behold, there was an international writer’s festival happening. The Ubud Writer’s and Readers Festival.  That was a clear sign. So, I planned my trip for the month of October (which then became part of September and November as well).

Yet, I did not buy my ticket for the festival. I thought I might volunteer, because anyone who knows me knows I love to volunteer, plus it would save a chunk of money on the ticket. Yet, I did not apply to volunteer either. This is what I do. Or don’t do.

Actually, scratch that. Change the language. This is what I used to do. One of my forms of self-sabotage. I’d hem and haw, procrastinate (i.e. push things further away), and in the end, make it all much harder on myself.

So, I hemmed and hawed, and deliberated for five months– from the conception of this trip until a few days before the event. Then, finally, I had a moment with myself when I thought about how good the experience would probably be for me, and reminded myself of the fact that I decided to come in October because that festival showed up… and now I was really thinking about not going? Old patterns die hard, and before they do they can be quite cunning.

I looked into volunteering again, but I was too late. The application was closed. So, with loving support from the The Brit and The Other Brit, reminding me that this would be a gift to myself and an investment in myself, I charged the ticket to my visa card. As soon as I did that I realized how silly it was for me to consider not going.

And the theme was “Tat Tvam Asi”, Sanskrit for “I am you, you are me.” Which is so fitting for me

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I’m so glad I went. The funny thing about events like this is that I usually go into them looking for inspiration from others, waiting for someone to say something that pushes me in a certain direction, but often what I get out of it is not anything that anyone else says, but a yearning to be a part of the conversation. Hearing questions asked to the speakers and really wishing I could be up there chiming in my own answers. Because I have something to say. And I have valid responses to people’s questions. And that is a pretty clear indicator to me that I truly feel like I belong in that role. Not from a place of ego, but from a calling, deep inside me.

There were a lot of incredible Writers, Speakers, and change makers that I had the privilege of seeing. And a lot I missed because they conflicted with other panels I wanted to see. But there was nothing that anyone said that shifted anything for me. It was what I had to say, and the yearning to say it that brought me closer to my role as a Writer.

But I still must mention some of the highlights of the event. My absolute favorite was a guy named Mayank Austen Soofi. A gay Indian man with a personality akin to Sophia Grace from the Ellen show. I have not read a word of his work yet. I tried to buy his book at the festival, but it sold out (so happy for him!). That tells you how much people loved him. He was hard not to love. He had the most pure, raw, joyful, exuberant, and magnetic personality. I really wanted him to be my friend.  Readers, please check him out!! I plan to get his book when I get back. He is a special soul and he deserves support and success!

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I really wish I had gotten a better picture of him

 

Another favorite was the award winning writer, Mitchell S. Jackson, who wrote a novel based on his real life journey from crack dealer to Writer, and Professor at New York University and Columbia University. I swear my affinity had nothing to do with finding him attractive, and my weakness for brown skinned men. Of course not.

I absolutely love real stories of people transforming their lives.  And from the book excerpts he read, it seems as though there’s a rhythm, almost a beat, to his writing, which is quite intriguing to me as well. Plus, anyone who knows me knows that I find the brain to be the sexiest part of the body and intelligence is a huge turn on, but I swear my attraction to him (and based on the way he looked me up and down, I think it’s safe to say the attraction was mutual) was purely professional. Yeah, totally.

My one other favorite part of the festival actually had nothing to do with writing. It had to do with something very close to many writers. Coffee. There were many food booths there, and one coffee booth hidden way back in the corner. My first few days I wanted to caffeine up before I arrived. But on the last day I just wanted to go straight to the festival and decided to get coffee there. I am so glad I did, but so bummed I only discovered this place on the last day.

Coffeenatics is a coffee company out of Sumatra. These guys came from Sumatra to Bali just for the festival. And they were not only one of my favorite parts of the festival, but some of my favorite people I have met on this trip.

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They were the best!

I walked up to the booth and one of the guys immediately said, “You look good! I like your style.” Motioning his finger up and down in the air. Now, I’m a smart, intelligent woman, a deep thinker, a spiritual being. I believe I have a lot of wisdom and insight to offer the world. I also carefully picked out my flowy Balinese outfit that day. So, it made me really happy to have my efforts recognized. After all, fashion is still a creative process.

That was a nice way to begin our interaction. Then, as I waited for my coffee to be made, I walked into the grassy area to discover a lovely, peaceful hammock, just waiting to cradle me. When I imagined coming to Bali I was hoping there would be a hammock involved at some point, when I exclaimed about the hammock the Coffeenatics said, “Go lay in the hammock! We’ll bring the coffee to you!” As if they hadn’t already completely won me over! The only thing that could’ve topped that would’ve been if they started fanning me with a giant banana leaf. I officially loved them at that point.20161030_101659

I lay in the hammock for a few minutes, but at that point I actually was more interested in hanging with them then hanging in the hammock. So, I left the hammock and sat by them for a bit. They then offered to fill my water bottle with cold water, which is a big deal for a several reasons. Hydration. Hydration is important, especially for us whities who aren’t used to this heat and humidity. Trash is a big deal here on Bali. And it really sucks to have to keep buying plastic water bottles. (That was my one real complaint about the festival- they need water refilling stations). So, it was awesome to be able to get my water refilled and not waste another plastic bottle. And it was cold! Most refillable water is in big 5 gallon jugs that of course aren’t kept cold. So, cold water is a bit of a luxury. Oh, and there was lemon in it!

Did I mention the coffee was good too? I visited them again later in the day and had my lunch over by them. In the big scheme of things I only spent a short amount of time with them, but I felt like I instantly had new friends, and they made me want to go visit Sumatra, and of course stop by their café when I do. That’ll be the next time I come here.

As far as the rest of the festival, there was a slew of intriguing writers, and amazing activists. It felt really good to be in such an intelligent environment. Some other people to highlight:  Suki Kim, the investigative journalist who lived undercover in North Korea (for I think 2 years?). She is the only person to have ever lived undercover in North Korea. But, because she is a woman, her book is marketed as a memoir and given a pink cover. I’ll just leave it at that.

There was Shandra Woworunto, a survivor of human trafficking. And holy shit. That woman is amazing. After all of the horrific abuses she experienced, she has triumphed with a bright, beautiful, positive spirit.

There was Baz Dreisinger, a New Yorker who has worked in prisons all over the world and does a lot of prison-rights activism. She was so fucking intelligent I just enjoyed hearing her brain make words.

There were some really great auxiliary events, some free and some extra charge. There were workshops, children and youth programs, movie screenings, speaking engagements and poetry slams. I attended the main festival  poetry slam with The Handsome Indian.

The event opened with an Australian Muslim hip hop group. I was excited and had high hopes because I thought their mission was pretty cool (to spread awareness and break the shame and stigma of being Muslim). I had wanted to find some hip hop since I arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t think they were that great. I still give them credit for doing what they do.

The poets, however, were fantastic! It was so marvelous getting to hear people from all over the world bring all kinds of poetry to the stage.

Another highlight for me, which deserves honorable mention, was actually one festival speaker’s partner. I attended an evening event, which was advertised as something way different than it was (there were a few of those). The speaker was pretty boring, but at the end, when he introduced his partner, that was worth it. His partner was bold Balinese man wearing a plaid sarong, platform heals, a huge wide brimmed ladies hat, t-shirt, blazer, and fanning himself with a hand fan. God, I loved him. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Remember I said I wanted to find my gays? (By the way, The Brit turned me onto a spa run by a couple of flamboyant Balinese gays, so I’ve been getting my pedicures there. If there is anything better than just any Balinese person, it’s a flamboyantly gay Balinese person).

The festival ended with a big closing ceremony celebration. I was so tired and worn out from that festival, it was really hard to drag myself out to that last event. But I’m glad I did. That hip hop group performed again, a little better this time, because they had a more of a party crowd vibe to play off of (but still not great). There were fire dancers, more poets, the most adorable MC’s who made me feel like I was at something between a high school rally and an Asian variety show. And then, to close the night, they brought out a band called The Soul Brothers, which I knew would make me happy. I was so low energy I didn’t think I could get myself to dance, but then they played Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai (my obsession band from 2001-2006) and I couldn’t not dance.

If I don’t like the music then I don’t really enjoy dancing that much. But with the right music, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. And I’m not sure if it’s physically possible for my body to not dance when Jamiroquai comes on. Plus, one of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was dance, and I managed to remind myself of that when I was thinking about how tired I was. Just dance, my soul whispered.

They played all kinds of other disco hits, a couple more Jamiroquai songs, and closed out the night with Jungle Boogie, which was probably the most fun song they played.

The second the music ended I was out of there though. I got a ride home on a motorbike taxi with the sweetest older man, named Wayan, who enthusiastically recognized me from the last time he gave me a ride home (I did not remember, which is rare, but he knew where I lived so I guess he was right). He exclaimed what a good arura I have and how I bring good energy to Bali. He gently held my hand to his heart when he dropped me off and I put his number in my phone for when I need another motorbike ride somewhere.

I’m really glad I bit the bullet and went to that festival. It was an investment, and not something I will ever regret spending the money on.

Next year I will apply to volunteer early though.

There is so much more I have to say about my experiences over the past couple weeks, but for now I’m keeping this post just about the festival.

Today is my last day here in Bali, and if I don’t get to a blog post before I leave, I’ll have plenty of time at airports and in flight to get some writing done.

But for now, I’m off to meet up with The Brit and The Mini Brit for one last Bali experience.

~

There was also some incredible art as well.

Don’t forget, you can see more of my pics and video on my Instagram page.