Category Archives: Life

When Your Art Gets Ruined

Many years ago, I took a class from Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in E.T. At the time, she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood and consequently, was holding acting classes and life coaching seminars, one of which I stumbled upon.

Those weekend seminars fascinated me, but one particular experience stuck with me all these years. It was a rather jarring watercoloring exercise.

At the news of doing an art project, I immediately grew anxious. Definitely not my forte. Dee got everyone settled in with the proper acoutrements and told us to paint whatever we desired.

A miracle happened that day in July because somehow, I created something worthy for a lobby in a Marriott hotel. Sure it was an 8×10 watercolor on paper done in 15 minutes crouched on the floor, but I remember being extremely proud of what I had created. I was ecstatic.

Then Dee tells us to take our watercolor and hand it to the person next to us.

The guy next to me was a sketchy, struggling actor who looked hyper-paranoid and super emotional. I had zero interest in handing my precious artwork to someone who was probably going to be on the 6:00 news before he got cast as an extra.

Dee then instructed the group to use our watercolors to destroy the piece of work we just got. Paint all over it! Make it as ugly as you can! Do whatever you want! The Emo-guy holding my opus lit up – he slashed brown and green all over it before she stopped talking.

I’m horrified. My heart breaks. For the first time in my life, I did something artistic that I loved, that I was proud of and I had to watch it get destroyed by some emotionally unstable hipster?

The moment Emo-guy stoically handed my piece back, I felt broken. Dee tells us to really look at that piece. And then she calmly tells us to take our watercolors and to “fix it”.

How do you fix something that seems hopeless? Those first few moments felt tedious as I struggled out of paralysis into action. But my brush somehow found a color and a place on the paper… and then another color and another place… and ten minutes later, I looked at my watercolor and froze.

What I did the first time was good. But what I ended with that day – after fixing it from the brutal artistic trauma it endured – was actually FAR BETTER.

When Dee got blackballed in Hollywood, someone “ruined” her art. But it was only because of that incident that she got into doing the life work that brought her to her true purpose in life. She wanted to impact people on a spiritual level. Being an actress was fine, but being a coach, speaker and writer was a far greater contribution to humanity.

Recently, my “art” has been getting ruined. My plans for life changes keep getting hijacked. I’ve been stuck in “fix it” mode. So tonight, I pulled out my watercolors and I painted. And I remembered that session with Dee. I remembered that a ruined plan is simply the layer beneath something beautiful that I haven’t created yet. From destruction comes inspired greatness.

The ruins and broken pieces are what generates inspiration, creativity and brilliant new paths. Every broken situation is simply a call for us to dig into our creativity. A nudge toward something better.

Perhaps the ruined art, the fiasco at home, the loss of a job, or the mishap on the dance floor is simply an invitation to be greater…. to become more than what we ever thought we could be. We might just surprise ourselves.


JMW_Turner,_The_Sarner_See_(Lake_Sarnen),_Evening_c.1842,_watercolor

I Was Naked on Stage

Last night I was cast last minute to pose as a nude statue at Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, CA, where classic works of art are recreated using live models. When I arrived, they showed me my costume. It was a g-string and a wrist cuff that was used to tether my wrist to the stand I was posed against. The remainder of my costume was a bucket of bronze paint.

My job for the evening was simple. I was to hold a pose for 90 seconds on stage. But this isn’t a typical show. An audience of 3000 people would have all eyes on me; and most of them would have binoculars so they could study me closely in my pose. I’m 41. What 40 year old woman wants 3000 people studying her naked body with binoculars?

Well, I did. This has been a dream of mine for several years and I finally got called. I wanted to do it because it was such a unique experience. Especially at my age. The other nude models are usually in their 20s. But I got to do this at a point in my life when most women would say, “Oh hell no” and hang up.

But certain things had to happen in order for me to have this experience.

Obviously, I had to fit the part. Nude statues typically have to be lean models. Here a strict diet and exercise paid off for me. It awarded me an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have had. As we age, we get tempted to “let ourselves go”. Letting ourself go can mean letting go of opportunities. I’m trying to stay youthful, strong and adventurous enough so I can live life fully – whether it means doing crazy acroyoga poses, hiking Machu Picchu, or shamelessly dance-walking.

When I heard they needed someone to fill in, I jumped on it. I called them and offered to sub. Opportunities oftentimes have very small windows. You gotta act fast when the window opens (or inspiration hits).

Lastly, I didn’t care what others thought. I didn’t care about my body being judged through binoculars. I didn’t care what others thought about me flaunting my little naked body on stage – because it doesn’t matter to me. I’m in charge of my life; your opinions and judgements don’t derail me from doing what feels good to me. I don’t give others that much power over me.

Therefore, when I got the call back asking me to perform as Bubble Dancer, I said yes. I said yes to checking a box on my bucket list. I could have said no due to fear, insecurity or judgement, but that would have been letting ego control me.

When I stood posed naked behind the curtain, waiting for it to open, I remember being struck by how perfectly calm and and solid I felt in my skin. In that moment, I understood what it felt like to be vulnerable, and yet free of ego and fear. And THAT was the truly phenomenal, unique experience of my evening.

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Bubble Dancer by Harriet Frishmuth

Why I took down my rainbow picture

I was among the first to update my Facebook profile with a rainbow tinted picture. But I removed it this week for good reason.

Originally, I did it to show support and express my personal joy in this evolution. I wanted to show that I was separate from the masses who disagreed. But then I read posts from friends who were struggling with this ruling. I read them out of curiosity… to see if I could understand why they didn’t see it the same way I did.

One thing in those posts struck me quite deeply… I saw their pain and anguish.

I was reminded of the pain I felt each time gay marriage was ruled down. They were experiencing the same thing I felt when elections went against what I felt was the best for humanity. But I didn’t have to see a visual reminder all over Facebook shouting, “Yay! Gay rights loses again!”. It would have hurt my soul to have seen that blasted everywhere, especially since it went so solidly against what I felt was right. And right now, there are a lot of people feeling that exact pain.

Pain is pain – regardless of whether we judge it as being deserved, rightful or justified.

This wasn’t people celebrating a Super Bowl win; this is about a belief that touches the very fabric of our souls.

When Michael saw that I changed my picture, he asked me why I did it. I thought that was a really stupid question… but then I started thinking about it. What purpose did it serve?

What I started noticing is that it created an overt separation. These friends clearly supported gay rights. Other friends didn’t change theirs, which left a question mark… did they or didn’t they? It was hard to tell. And in some cases, people got unfriended over these profile changes. These profile pictures quickly unmasked many people.

In a world where we struggle to find connection, oneness and common ground with others, I felt like the rainbow pictures were putting a spotlight on our differences. In every community I am part of, I saw this sudden separation.

I would love to live in a world of like-minded people. But I don’t have the luxury of hand selecting the people in my world. I get to live in a blended community with people of all kinds of beliefs, religions, practices and experiences.

I realized that I didn’t want to be separate from those who disagree. It’s okay with me if they do – it doesn’t threaten me nor what I know to be true for myself. I’m finally solid in my beliefs and I respect those who are as well.

My beliefs about equality, freedom and spirituality deserve the same respect as my friends beliefs about God and the Bible. I cannot let ego delude me otherwise.

I believe in equality for all. And it’s taken me a long time to embrace respect for all – despite the differences. And this is one way I feel that I can practice that.

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The Beauty of Being a Beginner

Tonight I was a bold, wildly enthusiastic and utterly chaotic dancer. I did my first Zumba class. Despite being a reasonably skilled partner dancer, my technique, timing and ability to follow basic choreography was exceptionally low tonight. But I had gung-ho spirit, an adorable outfit and unwavering determination to survive 60 minutes of random bouncing.

Tonight I was a beginner. And despite having skills in a related area, I was immediately humbled by this new world. From the start, I was chronically behind and lost. I looked insanely stupid as I randomly flailed, kicked and hopped along to the up tempo songs (Elaine Benes would have beat me in a dance-off). Half the time I was so lost, I just kept bouncing while I tried to figure out what the move was.

And from the start, I was totally okay with this. Looking stupid? No problem. Being totally lost? Who cares! I was reminded that as a beginner, there were only 3 things that mattered.

I showed up and I got in the game. You know how many people never become beginners in the first place? Think about how often you hear someone say, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to try rock climbing!” or “I would LOVE to learn tango!”. And they NEVER get around to just showing up the first time and giving it a shot.

I didn’t care how I looked doing it. I know I’m a beginner; it ain’t going to look pretty and it isn’t going to be perfect. I gotta be okay with that. Go ahead and gawk… At least I’m DOING it and not just watching someone else have all the fun. You get total freedom to look stupid when you are a beginner because no sane person expects it to look perfect. You included.

Engage enthusiastically. Okay, so I spent good chunks of the first class facing the wrong way. But I kept bouncing along and even if I wasn’t doing the right move, I was at least doing some kind of movement. And I got in the front so I could see the instructor and myself in the mirror. Which was super entertaining (read: mortifying) for me to witness. Regardless, the point is to try everything (within reason) that is thrown at you. You might impress yourself.

Being a beginner is always humbling. And that’s a beautiful experience that I need to chase continually throughout my life… maintaining that humbling beginner mindset. Where I show up and engage enthusiastically without caring what others think. And with Zumba, I loved every minute of it.

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Zumba honestly is a super easy and fun workout… Definitely give it a shot. 🙂

A Lesson in Stopping

Three weeks ago, I got a concussion. I fell during an acroyoga pose and landed hard on my head. That afternoon, I knew something was wrong – a weird headache, a sudden intolerance for music, and trouble processing information. Basically, I stopped listening anytime Michael said more than 2 sentences.

Monday came and along with it, an important conference call I was leading. At the end of that hour, I hung up the phone and I knew my brain was done for the day. I alerted work that I needed to take a few days off. I packed up and headed to the beach to stare blankly at the ocean for the rest of the day.

Normally, I would have powered through the week and ignored the temptation to give myself some rest. But this time, my brain was in charge and it was clearly saying, “NO MORE.” So I stopped.

Based on my cursory research on concussions, I knew I needed to rest my brain so it could heal. I had to fight the urge to read, do crossword puzzles or write action plans for upcoming projects. I had to resist having deep, complex, internal conversations and debates in my own head. For once, I must ignore the desire to dissect troubling social issues and puzzling behavior of others.

I struggled through every moment of this. I couldn’t turn my mind off. Recent changes in my life had amplified my mental energy to a state of jumbled chaos that needed thoughtful, strategic planning. But the concussion forced a pause in my life.

Gazing upon the ocean, this pause began to make sense. I hadn’t done a good job of taking vacation time I really needed to stay refreshed and energized. I had overwhelmed myself with work projects, new interests, and developing a whole new skill set – some fun, and some for work. I had grown scattered, unfocused, ineffective.

I was upon a major life transition and I was rushing into it from a burned out, chaotic energetic state. A concussion, which forced me to stop, rest, and recharge, was exactly the pause I needed to clear my mind and rejuvenate my spirit.

The concussion, just like any other injury or sickness, was an invitation to pause and rest. It was also an invitation to honor my body. For once, I truly honored the stop sign. I realized that I need to do more of that so that next time, it doesn’t take a concussion for me to give myself the rest and rejuvenation I truly need.

Young woman in towel on beach looking into distance. rear view

istockphoto.com 

 

 

Facing the Wrong Way

I’m taking a local vacation this week; staying in an oceanfront room in Laguna Beach. The view couldn’t be more perfect from our room. This morning I went to the balcony, set up my computer on the table, sat down… and 30 minutes later I realized something very odd. I was sitting with my back to the ocean. I could see all the other guests on their patios gazing peacefully upon the ocean. But I had my back to it.

I feel a deep love for the beauty of the ocean and the beach. But I’m also here all the time… it’s nothing new to me. I’m deeply grateful for the ocean every time I see it, but this time, I seemed to be ignoring it.

This made me wonder what else I SAY I am grateful for that I am also “turning my back on”. My words sounded great, but my actions didn’t line up today. I was facing the wrong way. Literally.

On this particular visit, since I was here “on vacation”, I decided to really SEE Laguna differently. Pay attention to all the details I have missed over the last 15 years. I’m focusing on actually seeing things and not just gazing over them in my cocky stroll to point B.

But to do that, I have to face the right way. Where else in life am I turned backwards? Am I facing the right way with my fears (that would be head on, towards them). Am I facing the right direction to the gym (where I really should be 3 times a week). Am I facing the right way in my relationships (investing time with those who energize me – and vice versa)? What about personal development? For me, facing the “right way” means I’m learning something new every day and actively practicing loving-kindness and compassion in all I do.

I need to start facing the right direction. For me, that means focusing on what matters so I can DO what matters.

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A Birthday Ritual for a Transformative Year

I turned 41 yesterday. Not a special age, but recent changes in my life told me that this was going to be a year of big changes and transformations. 41 is also a prime number – perhaps this means this year will be unlike any other. So I created a birthday ritual that empowers me to take command of the upcoming year.

  • First I set my intentions for the day (an excellent daily ritual). I’ve learned the power of taking command of the day by doing this. It makes a huge difference when I do this with emotional power and intent.
  • Then I did my gratitude challenge; I wrote down 100 things I was grateful for in my gratitude journal. It’s my way of saying “thank you” to the universe. It also set an energy that uplifted me and put me in a state of peace, confidence and joy. It reminded me of the true beauty of my life. One thing I’ve learned is that virtually everything in our life ends up being a blessing in some way. Seek to find the blessing and you’ll live in gratitude easily.
  • Next I set my intentions for the next year. This is like placing an order so the universe knows exactly what to deliver to me. If I listen to signs, show up and take action when inspired, and say YES to opportunities, these things usually happen just as intended. If you want to amaze yourself, give it a shot.
    • What do I want to accomplish, experience and feel over the upcoming year?
    • What do I want to attract into my life?
    • What do I need to let go of?
  • Lastly, I set my manifestations for the coming year. This expands on the intentions by filling in my emotional reaction to having experienced my intentions as desired. I don’t write about exactly “how” things will work out; I keep the focus on what I want to feel and experience. Therefore, I write as if these things have already happened and I do so in a journaling fashion, which allows me to infuse the writing with a lot of emotion (which is the secret to doing this effectively). A lot of my manifestations sound like this: “I am SO EXCITED that I got to do xyz – it was EXACTLY what I wanted and I had so much fun doing it!”.

Afterwards, I took a moment to pause. I put everything down and gazed quietly at the ocean and the brilliant blue sky before me. I took a moment to rest my heart, mind and soul and marvel at the wonder of the world, on this beautiful day, in this precious life.

That very moment – and the year ahead – looked beautiful to me. And I knew my birthday year was off to a phenomenal start.

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Sometimes a dance is “not just a dance”

I was approached at a dance last week by a guy who was ecstatic to see me. He said still remembered a dance we shared 8 years ago; he even recalled the exact song. Later that night, I was reminded by a friend that he too has never forgotten the first dance he had with me. He remembers all the details of that dance even though it was ten years ago. It still sticks with him.

I was baffled. Why did these memories stick with these guys after all these years? This is when I realized that sometimes a dance isn’t just a dance. Sometimes it’s an experience. And we don’t forget experiences. We forget events, encounters, conversations and situations – but an experience sticks with you.

So I began teasing apart what makes a dance an experience – and not just another dance…

  • Being fully engaged in the relationship with my partner (every song evokes a relationship dynamic)
  • Building a rich, dynamic and captivating story 
  • Jointly channelling the energy of the music and merging with my partner in doing so
  • Unconditionally embracing and enjoying my partner throughout the entire song
  • Showing that we are “in this together” – We are sharing responsibility for the entire dance, protecting each other, seamlessly covering for each other’s mistakes, etc.
  • Being raw and authentic; letting them see what I really feel in my soul (and experiencing what is in theirs)
  • Actively listening to each other, honoring each person’s contributions to the conversation and building upon them. Dancing is about communication, not just movement and personal expression.

Basically, it’s about connecting in ways that go beyond what occurs in a typical dance. I don’t think anyone wants to be forgettable. And yet, most of what we do in life has become easily dismissed from history of our lives. Why? I think it’s because we hesitate to truly connect on anything beyond a superficial level. We play it safe – but nothing interesting ever happens in that arena.

A lot of us struggle to connect at the deeper levels in dancing. Sustaining eye contact in a dance can be extremely uncomfortable for most people, so that level of connection doesn’t get experienced for many dancers. Emotional connection and storytelling is generally avoided unless you are performing – and even then, it is oftentimes so phony that it feels utterly vapid. The richness of real connection is crucial! Watch professional dancers perform; they look at each other with intense and raw emotion. It’s part of what makes the dance so captivating and connected.

I don’t want to be forgettable. Not every dance will be an amazing experience because that depends on how richly both dancers are willing to connect. It depends a lot on how vulnerable we are willing to be with one another. But when the potential is there, I aspire to immerse myself fully in order to create experiences that people (including me) will never forget. That’s why I dance. I dance to evoke connection that touches the heart and soul.

But this doesn’t stop with dancing. I can apply these very same principles in all my relationships, endeavors and interactions. Being fully engaged, actively listening and unconditionally embracing what is before me are principles I can apply throughout my life. But dancing lets me do practice these secrets of life to amazing music in the arms of dear friends. 🙂

iStock Photo: 23626404

iStock Photo: 23626404

The Victim Statement We All Use

During an argument with a friend last year, I said, “You make me feel so unvalued” to which he replied, “I can’t make you feel unvalued!”. At the time I thought he was just being arrogant by refusing to take ownership for being a selfish, insensitive louse, but… turned out that he had a valid point.

Saying “You make me feel…” is a victim statement. It means you are assuming no responsibility for yourself. It means that you are casting away your adult reasoning skills, your ability to think rationally, your right to evaluate  information and make intelligent conclusions. It means you aren’t in control of anything – not even yourself.

Friday night, a friend commented on my outfit and said, “You make all the girls jealous.” There is a whole camp of girls who have bitter reactions to seeing my midriff or me dancing in my tiny tennis skirts.  I want to be compassionate when I hear stuff like that because I know that comes from a place of hurt, but inside I’m rolling my eyes.

I can’t make anyone feel anything. I don’t have that kind of of power. All I can do is trigger a reaction in you. It is 100% up to you to determine what that reaction will be.

A few weeks ago, I attended a tango milonga. A very skilled dancer was there wearing a skirt with a very high slit. She looked gorgeous! So I watched her dance – and then my eyebrows shot up. As she moved, the slit granted the room a brief view of the crotch of her leotard as she danced. And I had a reaction to that.

At first I thought, “WHOA, that is a bit much”. But before I could start stirring up judgements and self-righteous positions on appropriate dress for dancing, my mind immediately turned it back to me… I asked myself, “Okay, so would I wear something like that?”. I decided probably not… it was more risqué than I was okay with right now. I knew I couldn’t pull that look off with the confidence it needed.

When I looked back at her, I found that my reaction was different this time. I could appreciate her confidence and her boldness in wearing something so eye-catching. She looked fabulous. What she wore was perfect for her. She pulled it off beautifully.

Her outfit could have left me feeling shame (my outfit looked frumpy in comparison), or I could have felt offended, jealous or disgusted. Instead, I took it as an invitation to look at myself, to evaluate what my reaction to her REALLY meant. Part of me envied her confidence and boldness (note to self: keep working on courage and confidence!). Part of me envied how beautifully she moved (note to self: keep working on my dancing!). Part of me simply envied how beautiful she is as a woman (I got inspired to fancy myself up a bit more next time).

Those were my reactions. They were all statements for myself. None of them were judgements towards her. She didn’t make me feel anything. But she triggered some areas for me to work on. In a way, she brought some motivation my way and helped direct my attention to things that are probably holding me back in some way.

Similar to my post on harsh words, everything in life is neutral; it’s how we react that determines whether it serves us or hurts us. We can either glare and gossip or we can ask the person for their expertise in getting what they have. We can accept the person as a motivation to address the part of us that is causing us such negative reactions. If you want to know how I stay thin or keep my abs so flat, just ask. I’ll tell you some things that could seriously change your life and your body.

Every reaction is an invitation to look inward. I find that “sticky reactions” – the ones that I can’t shake off easily – and the more potent they are, are always triggers for something in me that needs a deep level of healing. Sometimes they represent something I’m missing in my life, or something I’m neglecting in myself. Sometimes they are reflections of something I’m doing that I’m not proud of or happy about. My friend who “made” me feel unvalued? That was about me not valuing myself and my generosity. 

I love that at age 40, I’ve finally matured enough to begin changing how I react to triggers. I owe some of that to Bryon Katie’s work and some of it to unraveling my own knots of judgment. Having greater comfort in my own skin allows me to feel fine with other people doing whatever suits them. And it totally empowers me knowing that my judgements are never about the other person. They are always, undoubtedly, 100% about me.

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Karen Kaye – 2014

Why I Didn’t Volunteer This Year

Most years I volunteer throughout the year. Soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Singing at the hospital and visiting patients on Christmas Day. Picking up trash on walks around the neighborhood. Crocheting and donating baby beanies and warm hats for the homeless. Didn’t do any of that this year – except for occasional trash pickup.

The last year was an intense one for me. Between feeling burned out, chaotic friendships, unfulfilling hobbies, health problems, severe diet changes, difficult neighbors, and feeling taken for granted, I had quite the year. This year seemed to be about confronting my own personal demons – over and over and over. I attracted a lot of situations into my life that apparently showed up to forcefully get my attention. I needed to do some healing work in those areas. And that was exactly where a great deal of my energy went this year.

So this year was about me. And that’s why I didn’t crochet a single beanie. That’s why I walked by more trash than I picked up. That’s why we spent Thanksgiving at a swanky restaurant having a glorious dinner with all the fine people who gave their personal chef the day off and therefore had to find some other way to get a hot meal. The soup kitchen hasn’t seen me once this year. And Christmas day, I won’t be singing in a hospital. I’ll be napping on the beach. Because I desperately need a good nap.

This year was a great reminder of how we cannot give when we are empty ourselves. I withdrew a lot this year simply because I wasn’t in a state where I could truly give my time, attention and energy to being there for everyone. This was my year of needing help and support. I simply couldn’t be the provider this past year – I didn’t have it in me to give. I needed my dearest friends to hold my hand this year. I did not have a hand to extend to others.

I never understood why more people don’t volunteer. But now I do. I see how precious it is to have so much in you that you have the ability to give to others. The friend who listens to you, checks up on you, follows up on things important to you… that truly is precious. The person who volunteers 8 hours on Saturday to work with special needs kids… that’s precious.

Really think about that. Those people are sacrificing good nap time to help total strangers. Your friends could be blissfully downing a glass of wine while ignoring their own problems AND yours, but nope – they called you to see how you are hanging in there with your messy breakup. Not many people have the luxury of spending two hours on the phone with you when they have so many things demanding their time, energy and attention.

I’m motivated to get back into having the vibrancy I need to be able to do more of the volunteering that I truly loved doing over the past several years. And I truly do love helping my friends and being there when people need my support or help. But I know that I absolutely have to take care of myself first. My failure to do that this year is what led to my burnout. I didn’t put myself first – until I was forced to do so because I was feeling so broken.

I didn’t volunteer this year because this year I finally volunteered to take care of myself. This will set me up to be able to give even more in the years to come.

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