Keys

Keys and I have always had a complicated relationship. I grew up in a small town and my folks grew up in an even smaller town. I don’t know about no one ever locking their doors, but we rarely did. Keys were a thing grown-ups did. I rarely locked the house I raised my daughter in. I rarely lock my car. But I love the look and sound of keys, especially old ones. I have trouble throwing them away, even if the building or car they open doesn’t exist anymore.

They still signal doing grown up right
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The problem with keys is they don’t follow me everywhere like a besotted puppy. They stay behind – usually right where I left them, dammit—instead of being where I need them. I have become adept at breaking (or weaseling) my way into places – apartments, theaters, churches, schools – without my keys. I have climbed piles of old tires, boosted myself off car hoods, dropped to basement floors, jimmied locks and woken caretakers.

But keys and I had a particularly rough morning today.

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The Return

Like most people, when I first started practicing centering prayer, a form of Christian meditation, I struggled with “thoughts.” Centering prayer involves letting go of thought and allowing the mind grow quiet for a set period of time, let’s say 20 minutes. But we can’t really stop thinking – it’s what makes us human. So in centering prayer we focus on a word or our breath and let the thoughts come and go. When we catch ourselves getting distracted by a thought, we gently return our focus to our word or breath.

featherWhich all sounds well and good. In theory. In practice – and least in mine – it often sounds like this. Inhale … exhale … inhale … exhale … inhale … ex – man I am hungry. And I didn’t pack any lunch. Have to go out. Did I bring any cash? Ugh. I hate putting every little thing on my card. I’ll have to run to a cash machine fir—crap! I did it again! Crapcrapcrap. Inhale … damn, and I was doing so good, too … exhale … I don’t even know why I bother … inhale … I should have just gone to lunch early … exhale … If I’d gone to lunch early I could have taken a walk around that park by the river. That would be just as restful as  — crap! I’m doing it again!

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Dealing Anxiety: In the Moment

This post is Part 2 of a four-part series on anxiety. You can find some general thoughts about anxiety in the Prologue. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Please seek medical help if you need it.

I rarely have anxiety attacks, at least severe ones. For me anxiety is more a constant companion, a white noise that grinds me down and colors all my decisions and actions. Every so often, though, it all becomes too much and my heart races, my stomach churns and my throat tightens.  I pace and can’t concentrate and sometimes I even am tempted to emit a high pitched moan-whine-groan hybrid noise. Not pleasant. Continue reading

Dealing with Anxiety: The Prologue

This post Part 1 of a four-part series on anxiety. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Please seek medical help if you need it.

The last month or so has been stressful for me, and it’s only ramping up. The details are not important right now. Stress is a reality in everyone’s life – it never actually seems to leave, it just ebbs and flows. And the particular stressors I am dealing with are nothing new for me. It’s almost like we are becoming old friends. Well, maybe not friends. More like familiar enemies.

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Inner Critic Doll

Inner Critic DollSometimes you get a nudge from the universe. And sometimes that message comes in the form of a cute, squishy doll.

The past few weeks, I have been wrestling with my Inner Critic. I used to think of the Inner Critic in terms of something that got in the way of my writing by stifling my creativity. But creativity is more than just producing a story or a painting or a song. I’ve always believed that – or at least said I believed that – but I lately I have been developing a deeper appreciation of how living life and moving through the world is a creative act. And how my Inner Critic effects the way I do that every day.

I think of my Inner Critic as the part of me that is working overtime to keep me “safe.” And not in a good way. It’s almost like the Inner Critic was once burned on the stove and is now determined to keep me away from all stoves – ever, for the rest of me life – oh my god watch out for the stove! – using whatever means possible. The Inner Critic is heavily invested in what others think, winning favor, scoring points, gathering things, meeting expectations and being in control.

The Inner Critic isn’t all bad; its job is to keep us in check. Continue reading

Working With Your Inner Critic

At last night’s enneagram workshop we talked about the Inner Critic. While some there seemed to wrestle with the concept, it is one that, as a writer, I was familiar with. The Inner Editor, I call it. I first was able to put a name to it thanks to Chris Baty one of the founders of NaNoWriMo and author of the NaNoWriMo primer No Plot? No Problem! That book not only helped me name the Inner Editor, but made me realize I could control it. I could tell it to go away for a while. I could ignore it when it was not being helpful. I could tame it.

Even those of you who are neither writers nor enneagram aficionados probably have a sense of what I am talking about. The voice that tells you what you are doing it wrong. The nagging, harping voice. The voice that comes out at 3 am and wakes you up just to tear you down. The voice that makes you second and third and fourth guess yourself. The voice that shames you for just being you.

We all have an Inner Critic. Continue reading