Would You Give Yourself This Gift?

Yesterday I spent practically the entire, glorious day in the warmth and glowing light of my little studio here on the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat. Complete with an audio book and a wall heater that lets me keep the room at Bikram Yoga temperature, I found myself in earthbound heaven.

I love those days. I love days that should go on and on and yet I know it cannot be. No matter how much I may enjoy that particular species of day, were I to partake of it every day, it would change from a treat to a burden.

My hands would ache, I would wish for different food and different diversion and more company and more demands upon my time.

So it is with any divine element of our lives. Whether it is chocolate or ice cream, a nap or a ride in the car, even holding hands with your favorite someone gets stale and sweaty-palmed without at least a bathroom break.

I loved my day yesterday, but it was because of the many days preceding it when I had obligations and more company than one could possibly imagine. I loved the day because it was a change, a shift, and because of those things, it was a gift.

I like gifts.gift

To my way of thinking, pain exists so that we can know pleasure. The overburdened schedule is paving the way for the sheer luxury of the hour without obligation. Hunger is the delectable spice that takes a dish from good to glorious.

Yesterday was exactly what I’d been waiting for and all the more enjoyable because I know that today I am back to my obligations, to my hours in the car and tending to the needs of others. Life at it’s best is give and take.

My perfect day of indulgence was suited exactly to my taste. It involved sushi with my boys and the company of my favorite dog while I created in my studio. No doubt your secret indulgences are different, but only in the details. You need them just as much as I do. The question is not what you will do.

The question is will you make the choice to do it? The question is do you like gifts?

Like, share, comment, tweet and for hell’s sake, the world will not stop turning if you take some time off and eat a Chick-O-Stick.

Shall We Watch My Brain Explode…

As I am told, there’s the part of the computer that stores information and there’s a part of the computer that runs the stuff up front. Since computers are little, magical boxes to me, I compare it to the conscious and subconscious mind. This may or may not be accurate, but it’s my party and so that’s today’s playlist.

From what I understand about the face and the back end of the computer, if the computer appears not to have too much going on superficially, but remains slow anyway, it is likely the “subconscious” is busy working on things that cannot be seen.

Being productive, moving and succeeding, these are all imperative parts of human nature. Laziness, I have read, is a myth. Everyone of us enjoys the pleasure of a job well done. If someone isn’t performing, there’s a reason and it’s not usually sloth.

It is for this reason that I am currently intensely frustrated. I want to see fruits of my labor. I yearn to feel the success of many hours of work. But my “computer” is running slow these days and I’m pretty sure I know why.

You see, I have some life changes, some course corrections on a pretty foundational level, to process. And so, everything else in my world is running at a slower pace.

Brain-OverloadPerhaps the most important work we do in this life is the work that goes on behind the counter, backstage, behind the scenes in the secret coves of our minds. We process, we contemplate and all the while the façade continues to function to a slower or faster degree. Just because the appearance isn’t what we’d desire, doesn’t mean the most important work isn’t being done. That which cannot be seen often rules the world.

I will certainly continue to push forward, struggling to produce the results my goals request of me. But until I free up some space on my mother-ship or mother-board, ram or processor or whatever, I’ll give in to the need to do the basics and I’ll give my subconscious the room and the time to do what needs to be done.

It’s all we can ask, really. Every day is a winding road.

Like, share, comment, tweet and cut yourself some slack. And by that, I mean, cut me some slack;)

What You Don’t Know ~ Michelle Church

The adventure of dating oneself is a journey of twists and turns. It is simultaneously edifying to take the time to know the inner workings of one’s own heart, and it is exhilarating to go out into the world and discover other lives and others’ thoughts without the lens of being with your friends or family.

The solo date is an art and a sacrament.

Over the last week I’ve had more time to date myself than normal and every time I have new zealandhad the luxury of talking with people I will likely never see again. One such encounter was with Carrie, a French café owner who told me, “I thought I knew what green was until I discovered in New Zealand what I had never seen before.”

Another encounter was with Warren, a 92-year-old WWII veteran, who prayed for me and for my family at my favorite supermarket. Still another was Chris, who tutored me on fixing the sticky drawers in my cabinet and regaled me with stories about the 900 odd teenage mothers who passed through her home and into lives they couldn’t have had without the aid that was given to them.

Each one of these interactions, as well as others along the way, has humbled me in a way I never could have imagined without them. I had the fortune to listen to them, be heard by them and to commune in a way that gives meaning to life and depth to living.

We travelers on the lonely path of life are funny creatures. We aver things that can only be guessed at and we make judgments along the way about worthiness and wisdom, our own and that of everybody else. We judge with barely a glance into other people’s lives and psyches. We imagine solutions to problems we’ve barely tried to understand.

I do not know how to solve the problem of believing we know what we cannot possibly know, other than to acknowledge we cannot know. The best we can do is, to imagine love is the solution to all of life’s most complex questions and then to go out and spread that love as liberally and as quickly as is humanly possible.

Warren prayed for me to find joy and to know Jesus. Chris showed me how to do that. And Carrie? She taught me that I think I know the beauty of life, but I can’t know it, not until I can somehow be everywhere and see and do everything.

Until then, I’ll stick with what I learned from Chris and Carrie. And I’ll wonder what I might learn from you if only we had a bit of time together.

Like, share, comment, tweet and be the change you wish to see in the world.

The Sermon On The Couch

Recently I read a comment by a highly successful artist who said hanging her own paintings in her home would be like talking to herself. Because I admire this artist so much I thought I might emulate her. Then I realized that she was hating on one of my favorite pass-times, talking to myself, and I disregarded the idea completely.

Usually I cannot be heard in deep conversation with myself, though my son did walk into the kitchen the other day as I muttered after tasting the mashed cauliflower, “This is not my best work.” Which it wasn’t. Too salty, not enough umami.

While I will occasionally mutter something to myself, usually my self talk happens right here in our little corner of the blogosphere. I tell you things, but really, I’m telling me things. Michelle Church actually happens every day for me. You know, the same sermons over and over again, but I need them, so I repeat them.

Were I ordained to preach...
Were I ordained to preach…

Today’s “sermon” involves one of my favorite topics, which is to say, one of the topics I must repeat to myself over and over again: If your task is insurmountable, don’t do it. Just do the first thing that is required.

After weeks of houseguests and family obligations, all of which I enjoyed, I find myself with boatloads of email and mounds of tasks. This makes me anxious and I have been considering watching every episode of every season of Gilmore Girls because I never saw even one the first go-round.

The Universe complied with my need for appropriate fall weather and I am looking out the window at the ancient maple waving in the wind and rain and dropping her leaves like natures own strip-tease. Which is to say, “Where’s my couch? I need to sit/lay down.”

With hillocks of things put on the back burner long enough they are beginning to smoke, just the right weather for a procrastinator as well as a quality Netflix binge available to me, you are now imagining me on my couch. Aren’t you? Admit it.

But you would be wrong. I listen to myself and the surest way to beat the Demon Inertia is simply to begin. Do a little something. Take a baby step and if you’re not exhausted from that, take one more. Then definitely get a snack.

Being overwhelmed is a part of the human experience, inertia too, that unforgivable tart. With a little self-talk, some caffeine if it’s “real bad” and a baby step here and there, we shall overcome, my friends. We shall overcome.

Like, share, comment, tweet and if you can’t bring yourself to get off the metaphorical or literal couch, at least do a few deep breathing exercises. It’ll help. I promise.

The Bliss That Is Your Autumn

The leaves are dying brilliantly and the air cools degrees in minutes. The 150-year-old tree in my yard is carpeting the lawn and by the end of November there will be a layer so thick that we will have to haul it away in the tractor. After back breaking hours of raking, that is.

And yet, I love this season above all other seasons. I love the bite of a fresh apple. I love sweaters and pumpkin pie. I mean, I really, really love pumpkin pie. Love it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are ten things I love about the season.

1. I love that it’s dark longer in the mornings and earlier at night. It’s cozy.
2. It’s dark and cozy and it begs me to unfold the wool blanket on the end of my couch. I love wool blankets.
3. The hardcore season of young family traditions begins in the fall. Homemade doughnuts on Halloween and orange rolls on Thanksgiving. It is a season of deliciousness.
4. I love a pumpkin patch. The chilly air and children squatting over the pumpkins as they examine them for perceived perfection.
5. It’s true I’ve been a bit self-congratulatory about how little television I watch, but I love flower farmerwhen my favorite shows start up again and it’s dark outside and I can justify a little couch potato behavior. Don’t jugde.
6. The smell of wood smoke in the air elicits a primordial response and it smells like safety and it smells like home.
7. Stew. Delicious, beef with carrots and potatoes. Stew equals autumnal happiness.
8. It is easier to take a nap on a cloudy day than on one that is sunny. Not that I take naps. Like yesterday.
9. It is easy to feel grateful for whatever kind of home you have when the winds start to blow and the weather starts to change. The coming of fall makes gratitude that much easier. I love easy gratitude.
10. I love the chill in the air and how pink it makes our cheeks. I love wearing scarves and drinking hot tea. I love a hot shower on a cold morning and I love the in-between of the season. It’s not summer but it’s not winter and it is transition. Autumn is possibility.

Like, share, comment, tweet and feel the love of a Pendleton wool blanket.

Are You As Needy As I Am?

I am a powerful, independent woman. I keep saying this over and over again. I say it like it is in the saying that I retain or gain my power. I am a powerful, independent woman…

Each of us is many things. Maybe a mail carrier, a homemaker, a wheeler-dealer, a man, a woman a sister-mother-brother-hero-friend. We are many things. But we are not independent. Do you need a minute to process that?

This past week… and two days… Mr Dreamboat was out of town and hardly available to talk. It is no fault of his that when he is on these marathon trips he is barely reachable. When we finally talk he is full of interesting tidbits of interactions and business dealings.

He's just so handsome...
He’s just so handsome…

Likewise, it is no fault of mine that my communication skills do not lend themselves to short chats on the phone. Yes, I do talk. No, there’s usually not much depth to what I share. I don’t know why, it just is what it is, or perhaps it isn’t what it isn’t.

It is because of these trips and this disconnection that I work hard to maintain the appearance of my mantra; I am a powerful, independent woman. But I am not.

My only solace is in the realization that every single one of us needs connection. More than that, we need specific types of connection.

I am always reticent to give marital or relationship advice simply because every person and every couple is unique. Our needs vary, our love languages contrast and the way we achieve intimacy looks very different from relationship to relationship.

That said, none of us are independent of one another. We need contact, collaboration and we need understanding.

Mr Dreamboat arrived home late last night. In just a few days he will be gone again. Before that happens I admit that I will try to influence his schedule in a way that puts me smack dab in the middle of his world. He is my touchstone. He is the best reason in the world I can think of to give up my independence and change my mantra to;

I am a powerful, connected woman. And sure, sometimes that looks a little needy. But I’m willing to forgive myself that.

Like, share, comment, tweet and call your touchstone, whomever and however that looks.

Making The Impossible Your B*tch

I admit that after many years of working out, running, walking and yoga, as well a huge array of time-to-time activities, I consider myself an athlete. Not the kind of athlete I suppose Lance Armstrong would train with, but I don’t think he has much room to criticize at this point, but the – I use my body regularly and feel comfortable in a variety of physical activities – sort of athlete.

runningPerhaps it’s not as sexy as the hardcore kind, but it gets the job done.

Because I consider myself an athlete, it was quite a surprise to me that it was a huge challenge for me to get out on the open road again after a six-month time off of it.

Back in May I ran my third half-marathon. It went just fine. It wasn’t my best run, but it did not qualify as my worst by any stretch. It went fine. Just fine.

After the run I opted for an alternative type of workout. Not so demanding on my system, kind of unusual and you can do it in the car. I kid you not.

The truth of the matter is that I was tired. I was tired of harsh and demanding workouts. I was tired of hours of training and a workout you can do in the car made me happy.

Until it didn’t make me happy anymore. I started feeling anxious for the open road. I started feeling unfulfilled as I saw runners out in the sun. Slow ones and fast ones, middle aged, imperfection like myself, it didn’t matter. I just missed being out there. I missed feeling like an athlete.

I determined it was time to put my Nikes to the asphalt and reclaim the road. Except I didn’t. So I decided I would treat myself to some treadmill goodness, you know, start things out slow. But I didn’t do that either.

It was the power of inertia, the hellish abyss of inactivity and after six short months, I was in her evil grip.

It is a fascinating thing to behold, the magnetism of indolence. I mean, I’m an athlete, right? How could this happen?

Yesterday morning, before I could talk myself out of it, I finally took to the evergreen hills surrounding The Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat and got myself out of her wicked grasp. Good tunes, good shoes and some killer running socks and I owned an hour of moving meditation. It was delectable.

Regardless of a true desire to try something new or something we’ve lost along the way, sometimes it is tantamount to impossible.

But it isn’t impossible. It is simply difficult.

You were made to do difficult things. We are creatures carved out to take on challenges and make them bow to us as we become athletes and artists and the kind of people who change the world, one little impossibility at a time.

What will you do today that you thought you couldn’t?

The Art Of Michelle Church

Every Friday I find myself somewhere in the Northwest, paintbrush and M. Graham watercolor paints in hand, painting my little heart out. Over the last few years I have seen improvements in my work, though I admit there are many miles to go before I feel truly adept.

There is something sacred about the experience of making art. Whether I go with my regular workshop group, find a spot by myself in a local park or recreation area or drive to the island where my daughter now lives, there is something quiet and contemplative about studying the beauty of this world and adding a piece of myself to the mix.

It takes years and years to become a master painter. It takes thousands of hours and study and a willingness to fail. And if one is lucky, if all the stars align and the composition flows, if the colors complement one another, sometimes there is magic.

I have seen people study and I have seen true diligence. Sometimes that is not enough. I believe there is an ingredient so challenging that sometimes the price is just too much.

It is a willingness to surrender.

Certainly greatness requires practice and study and persistence. But there is a need to abandon the requirement for a certain outcome and allow the paint and the circumstances combined with one’s preparation, to make the magic that is art.

So too must each of us finally surrender to life and to God. Sure, prepare. Yes, study the masters. Absolutely, meditate and pray and attend whatever services your heart requires or does not require. Either way.

And after all that, the magic that you desire, it comes only when you can let it all go. Release your expectations and live in the moment with the view that you have and the tools that are in your hand. Do what you can with what you have and then let it all go.

It sounds like an oxymoron, I know. It sounds like giving in, but it’s not. If there’s one thing that is out of our control in this life, it is life. Tricky little devil.

mona lisaBut when we work toward beauty and love, when we appreciate the miracles before us and then put the unique spin on things that only we can offer, life becomes a daily magnum opus, a masterpiece worth tears of joy.

There is something sacred about releasing our expectations. There is peace in accepting where we are and what we have. It is a miracle to be alive and to accept that this life is your masterpiece.

Like, share, comment, tweet and say a prayer of gratitude that you are you.

Cognitive Dissonance ~ Let The Wild Rumpus Start

I have lived in the Northwest for much of my life. Wide eyed and completely naive, I was 19 when I moved here and have never once regretted it. It is also true that sometimes when the rain is continual and the clouds are so low that the heavens are within reach, I wish perhaps for a trip to the Caribbean or some such sunny clime.

It is for this reason that I cannot understand why the unseasonably beautiful weather we’re experiencing is making me a little anxious.

That’s difficult to admit when I know that probably within the next few days the seasonal norm will begin and the rain will fall and the clouds will migrate here for most of the coming seven months. It won’t take me long to begin aching for sun again.

Which is why it is difficult to understand why the sun is making me anxious. It is foreign, for the most part, for this time of year. It is foreign and that which is unknown to us is uncomfortable. Comfort is uncomfortable when it is new.

And so I sit in the warm, fading sunlight of this beautiful October day. I know it is fleeting and I know it is a blessing. That does not douse the feeling that it is unusual, unknown and uncomfortable. Such is the irony of life.

Certainly this is not the only area in my life where I am finding discomfort. I always find it disheartening that growth is irrevocably attended by growing pains.

Perhaps the sunlight is causing what I have come to understand as cognitive dissonance. I have lived here for many years and I know what it’s like. Except it’s not like that right now. I know I am currently in the Northwest and I know it is October, and yet… the sun is shining and I am wearing summer clothes and it just doesn’t feel right. don’t feel right.

If I’m being honest, and you know I love to be honest, it is more than the sunshine that is bothering me. Cognitive dissonance has taken its toll on my life and I am looking to a future that isn’t as familiar to me as the clouds and rain of the Pacific Northwest.

I would love to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I would love to light a fire in the fireplace and snuggle in for the damp and rainy fall and winter I am so familiar with. But the truth is, the sun continues to shine for now and I’ve never been one to shy away from discomfort… or sunlight.

Just like Max said Where The Wild Things Are: “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Like, share, comment, tweet and bask in the sunshine of life.

wild rumpus

 

 

This Is The Point

It is entirely possible and exceptionally likely that I will never become an internationally famous artist. I know. It’s painful to say it. Don’t get me wrong, it could happen. But…

I like having my dreams. I like imagining glamorous travel paid for by adoring patrons. I like believing I am deeply talented and have all sorts of possibilities lying before me on the banquet table of life simply waiting to be picked up and eating with relish. The verb, not the condiment.

daydreamSo too do I enjoy the idea of being a wildly successful blogger, writer, speaker and coach. These are things I love and so I dream of success, and yes, accolades and boatloads of money. Don’t hate. You do it too, or at least you should.

As much as I love my forays into fantasy, they are not the point. I don’t wake up every morning itching to get to the next destination or praying that the phone call will finally come. I’m not sitting and waiting for my ship to dock and whisk me off to success.

The daydreams are a pleasure but the pass times are the point.

I love painting and creating. I love it. I could do it all day every day. I love writing and it is my most distinct pleasure to coach people into their perfect lives. It makes me happy. I don’t have to wait for anything in order to be exactly where I want to be and do exactly what I love doing.

Along the way, I learn about color and light. I learn how to live my own, best life. I become a better writer and from time to time I travel and meet new people and do glamorous things.

I believe with all my heart that whatever you love, you should be doing it. You should do it and without the shackles of believing that one day, you will be good enough to enjoy it.

That day is now. You are here and the whole point of being here is to learn and love and live fully and with all sorts of lessons along the way.

The point is to be the best you. You’ve got this like no one else ever could and the eternities are chanting your name. You’re famous, wildly successful and being on earth is the most glamorous travel ever known.

Like, share, comment, tweet and come visit, since you’re traveling anyway.