February 2017: My Crow Month

I’m sitting in a cafe in Copenhagen, alternating between staring off into space, watching the people, and allowing the words in my head to make their way out into the world. It’s almost 10  AM here and I’ve witnessed the first rush of people clear out and a second wave of folks roll in as I sip my triple latte. The first wave of folks came in groups and spread out while having lively conversations.

This wave is filled with folks like me, alone with laptops fueling some work time with caffeine laced milky drinks.

Working in a cafe in Copenhagen is different from trying to work at a Starbucks in Dayton or DC or Dallas. I’ve tried it often as a solution to filling my extroverted well, but I can never really concentrate. In the average Starbucks, people get on phone calls and talk too loudly or assume that you are fair game for conversation, even if you’re a stranger. I discovered that I need silence to really write…

Yet, I am on Day 4 of my working at this Baresso, and have broken my writer’s block. There seems to be a different etiquette here than in the US. Folks may nod in greeting to a stranger but don’t attempt to strike up a conversation. Even those who know someone may greet their friend or colleague and then go off and work at another spot. The vibe seems to be utter respect for each person’s relative bubble.

Or maybe, the reason I broke through that writer’s block is that we left the month of February behind us…

About the Crow

As I mentioned in January, I got a Animal Card Reading from Sara Magnuson where I was given an animal a month to serve as my guide and theme. This month was again, spot on.

The Crow is the Keeper of the Sacred Law, a balance of Dark and Light with the ability to traverse between the worlds of the Living and the dead, they honor family groups (and even have funerals for each other), and are also considered a bit of a Trickster. The underlying message that Sara got was that it would be the month where I came out of my hibernation and firmed up my own boundaries, determining what was right and wrong for me. An opportunity to shore up my edges.

“Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside.”
–Henry Cloud

Back to back trips to John’s mothers and my father’s definitely helped me shore up my edges and get crystal clear about needs, boundaries, and how to keep my sacred truths. I was able to be present for all aspects of family: as a daughter, a sister, and an in-law and how those roles are balanced in the truth of what is necessary to nurture and nourish the family that John an I have created.

When you’re in a creative dry spell, it’s sometimes easier to take a step back and look at the body of work you’ve created, how you desire to add to or round out your body of work, and also examine what works for you…and more importantly, what doesn’t really work for you. This also ties to those sacred boundaries and the space between worlds of who I used to be as a writer, who I’m becoming, and who I desire to be.

Oh, Mr. Crow, you Trickster. Well done.

What I’m Reading

I read twelve books and finally shelved one  of my morning books – Henri Nouwen’s Sabbatical Journey.  There weren’t any huge “standouts” as far as books I wanted to recommend to EVERYONE, but I enjoyed everything I read for a variety of different reasons.  Cozy mysteries are a great thing to read when life is stressful…and the lovely Alexandra Stoddard’s Living a Beautiful Life, something I’ve read before, spoke to me in new ways. I needed that quiet grace.

Turning the Microscope on Myself

As I mentioned earlier, this year, I am determined to do at least one extreme act of the self-care each month. I can’t make an impact in the world or with my work if I turn a blind eye to my own life.

My intention for February was to get back into an exercise routine of some sort. The only way I can be honest about it was that I utterly failed. I managed the intention well during the early part of the month, but the travel through me. I had planned for ending the month of February traveling here, but those trips to Chicago and Dallas added eight days of actual travel to the middle of the month plus the time and energy of preparing for and recovering from those trips: packing, laundry, mail holds, etc.

I love to travel, truly, but it isn’t as glamorous as it seems from the outside. An immense amount of energy – physical, psychological, and emotional energy goes into any trip, especially trips as emotionally charged as those to visit family.

In addition to the aforementioned focus on movement, which was about the creation of a new habit…I also had on my list to get myself to the eye doctor. Wearing contacts means I should go annually, but it’s been two years since I’ve been.

I’ve worn glasses since the 8th grade  and contacts since 10th grade. In all honesty, my prescription hasn’t changed since I was in my twenties….well, until my recent need for reading glasses has begun to make itself known. I’ve had “readers” for a couple of years that I toss on with my contacts, but my glasses?

Lord, I’ve had those things since 2008.

It was time to invest in a new pair and while I was making the investment, it was time to take the plunge into the world of Progressives. It was also the time to buy something more fashionable than wire rimmed small spectacles.

I’m still not sure about the “look” of these, but I do love them for the ability to SEE everything so well.

I also made the switch the daily disposable contacts. I wear my glasses more in the winter than I do my contacts, but this gives me the ability to skip all the solutions and cases and such when I do wear them. Plus, FRESH LENSES every time!  I love them.

And, I can’t forget about taking the time to get a facial when I was in Texas.

Just like needing reading glasses, my skin needs a different approach as I  age.  I needed that professional evaluation of my skin, and sure enough, she chose different items than I would have. I see AGE SPOTS and she saw that I needed to be better hydrated, which would reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.She suggested I begin a double cleanse process to feed my skin, including an oil based wash, which I purchased before I left.

She also left me with a list of items to begin transitioning to – a wash for skin refinement, a stronger moisturizer, and a BB Oil instead of a regular facial oil. I’ll need to work the other new items in my budget…and as I use up what I already have.

I do need to take better care of my skin. It’s so easy to skip taking make-up off at night or skipping the wash/ moisturize cycle on the days I don’t wear make-up. And, it reminded me how much I miss the Ultraluxe line of skincare.

Being on travel, I haven’t yet decided what my ACT of CARE for March is going to be. I have some follow-ups from previous months, but I do have some ideas.

When It Comes to My Creative Life

I made the decision to join InCoWriMo and while I didn’t write a letter every single day – especially when I was in Dallas – I did write extra letters and cards to equal 28 pieces of correspondence in February.

I had also planned to get ahead in my writing for work, but I basically just kept up with my bi-weekly deadline of a blog post and newsletter. I am feeling challenged by stepping IN and OUT of a “coaching voice” and then trying to get back to a different style of writing.

I haven’t gotten back to either book project yet…and I hope to be a little more devoted to that process this next month. Oh, and I’d like to go through the submissions for The Mother Book before March 15th.

Time to head out of the coffee shop and take a walk.

March 1st is considered to be the first day of spring in Denmark…when I leave here to head back home on the 9th, I’ll be taking that with me.

January 2017: My Bear Month

One recurring desire came to me over and over again last fall: the desire to surrender to the rhythms of the earth. In our modern day society, we seem to have gotten away from allowing the natural world to set tone and rhythm to our lives.  We have access to pretty much any kind of food year round. We no longer rely upon the sun to set the beginning and end of the work day thanks to electricity. And thanks to central heating and air, it doesn’t matter what Mother Nature presents to us in the form of weather, as we can be a comfortable 68 degrees pretty much every day.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I am seeing that I need the cycle of nature. I need breathtaking spring blossoms and the brilliant colors of fall trees. Beyond the cycle of nature, I find that I connect best to the age-old earth customs of the Celtics and the following of the Wheel of the Year. It feels logical, like coming home in a way. Maybe because I see the logic in tying festivals and holy days to the earth’s cycle. Maybe it feels like home to me because when I got the results of my DNA tests, my ancestral ties are Irish, British, Scandinavia (70%+).

My Intention and How It Played Out

Most of my autumn was spent focusing on the harvest, taking some of my best work as a coach and turning it into real books. All I could think about as I neared the completion of the project was that I was going to burrow into the season of winter by doing what ancient cultures used to do: rest.

My timetable for the season of rest was from Christmas/Yule until Candlemas/Imbolic. The symbol of the return to working the agricultural cycle begins with Imbolic with Brigid as the Patron Saint / Goddess.  The general idea was to not begin any new work towards my body of work until it was time to plant new seeds (February 2nd). To not worry about building my list or SEO writing. To not worry about when I would publish my next book. To maybe not even write a single line of coaching advice.

I had set aside the week before Christmas to write as much “consumable content” for my coaching practice as possible, but frankly that didn’t work out exactly as I had planned. What I did before Christmas, though, was to create a plan for the first quarter of 2017 and also choose the art for each piece. Even though I didn’t get it all pre-written, having the list of topics and the art ready to roll did allow me to have a sense of rest instead of hustle.

As to the actual resting part? I suck at resting. Rest feels…idle. Yet, in looking back, I didn’t entirely fail.

About the Bear

One of the items I purchased for 2017 was Briana Saussy’s Book of Hours. It’s a lovely tool to serve me in the coming year, with a series of writing prompts based on the stage of the moon and the location of the planets. Bri recommended one of her colleagues, Sara Magnuson, who was offering a Year Ahead 12 Card Animal Reading.

Now, let me preface this by saying I don’t get just any old reading from anyone. A spiritual reading of any kind – Tarot, Goddess, Medium, Etc. – is an invitation into your very soul.  There are few I trust with this kind of access. I go by gut, but sometimes, you have to trust those you trust to make recommendations.  I trust Briana, so I gave Sara a chance.

I know she was perfect for me because the card she drew for January was The Bear. A creature that hibernates to represent the month when my number one spiritual intention was to rest.

But did you know that bears also process new life while they are hibernating? Papa bear impregnates Mama Bear before it’s time to hibernate, but all the goods just float around waiting until winter to unite and create new life. Then, while Mama Bear rests, her baby (or babies) develop and then are born come spring.

“In the psyche, the bear can be understood as the ability to regulate one’s life, especially one’s feeling life. Bearish power is the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert, or quiet down into a hibernative sleep that renews one’s energy for the next cycle. The bear image teaches that it is possible to maintain a kind of pressure gauge for one’s emotional life, and most especially that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all the same.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés (from Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype)

I may not have rested in a literal sense of sleeping more or not working at all. But I did step back to renew my energy for the next cycle of my life. The bear is both gentle and protective, and that’s what I did with my own soul this pat month. I treated myself kindly. I protected my heart and soul. I set firmer boundaries, especially in the realm of social media.

The month of the bear was a good one for me. I made solid choices and decisions for the good of myself, my home life, and my business life.

What I’m Reading

One of the ways I dealt with not wanting to be idle yet rest was by reading. My body rested while my mind savored. I finished fourteen books this month.

  • Nine Books were fiction, mostly mysteries. I enjoyed everything fiction I read, especially The Dollhouse and A Study in Scarlett Woman. Oh, and Stalking Jack the Ripper.
  • One book was poetry. One was inspirational/non-fiction. One was creative non-fiction.
  • I read two biographies: The Magnolia Story about Chip and Joanna Gaines and Lauren Graham’s I’m Talking As Fast as I Can.

I’m still reading Carrie Fisher’s last book (The Princess Diarist) as well as a couple of other books I’m rotating out as morning reads.

Turning the Microscope on Myself

As I mentioned earlier, the number one act of self-care this month was to go back to eating meals that don’t contain soy, gluten, or dairy. I would say I’ve been 99% true to that intention. I had an order of polenta for lunch yesterday that had a dash of cheese in it (and trust me, I could tell about thirty minutes later). Weight wise, I lost three or four pounds. My joints feel better and I’ve only had a couple of twinges in my hands and hips.

My intention for February is movement. I can’t deny that I sit too much. I can’t deny that I need to get back into shape. Aging and gravity is not always kind to our bodies, so as part of movement, I also need to get back into my weight routine. I know that over-doing a goal and saying “I’ll work out every day” is setting myself up for failure, so my commitment is simply to work out more often (which will mean at least three days a week to be “more”).

When It Comes to My Creative Life

I made the decision to join InCoWriMo, which is a commitment to write a letter a day for the month of February. Letter writing is a good thing for my creative / writing life. I wrote more about it for Modern Creative Life. I’ll be writing to friends, officials, and strangers.

I spent some time on both of my Works in Progress this past month, but I wouldn’t say I was devoted to either one. Writing hasn’t come easy to me this month, yet I keep reminding myself that the intention of the month was to rest and only write when I had the urge…

My friend, Jen Lee, is working on a new project and I’ll be managing some of the logistics for the project. It is an honor to be a part and it will be fun. It also gives me an opportunity to study story-telling from another aspect of film instead of ink and paper.

Today is Imbolic and the time to begin planting seeds for the next harvest.