Water the Seeds of Joy

Water Seeds of Joy - plants by window growing in pots

“Let’s water the seeds of joy!” I just told my writer friend as we signed off our daily 5/5. It’s Saturday and it’s almost 7am, 6:55am to be exact. It feels good to be up earlier and getting our 5/5s, our quick dip into our novels, out of the way. I actually thought of three scenes that haven’t been written that could be added into the novel revision for later.

Yesterday, my friend reminded me that showing up for ourselves like this, showing up for our fiction, was actually action towards watering the seeds of joy. A meditation teacher and Buddhist studies professor, my writing friend had taken this from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.

I realize that working on my novel, on any creative writing, is an act of watering happiness, of watering seeds of joy.

Also this morning, I woke up with the realization that taking action on stuff I’ve been procrastinating, out of usually the most irrational of fears, is also part of watering the seeds of joy.

Stuff I Want to Take Action On:

– Finally writing that draft to help a friend.
– Work tasks I’ve been putting off for clients related to social media posts, podcast work, copywriting, ghostwriting blog posts, transcribing interviews, book reviews
– Truly doing more work on my novel, especially with the novel revision tasks on scenes, characterizations, dialogue, structure, plot, research on timelines
– Other creative writing I’d like to write, edit and submit (to add to the Literary Rejection Tracker I’m gonna make in either Google sheets or my bullet journal)
– Earn more money by actively searching for another client or two. Or a gig/job. With the goal of helping my family and helping others (I’m inspired by this article about Keanu Reeves and his approach to money — wow.  Just wow. Instead of making money the end-all-be-all reason to be “successful.”)
– Having an honest “Money Meeting” with myself and partner about how much more money we need to earn to truly feel financially secure and not stressed out about bills
– Learning how to spend less and budget, having a better relationship with money
– Planning my week, quarter, year (thanks Aypril for telling me about Kate Northrop’s DO LESS book and planner!)
– Tax related stuff (ugh) for my freelancing business – writing, editing and virtual assistant work
– Getting back to people on email, calls, texts, IG, FB, WhatsApp. (Now why are there so many ways to contact people now? More ugh.)
– Organizing all my post-its, file folders, organizing my laptop desktop
– Unsubscribing from newsletters and shrinking my 40K emails in my in-box
– Planning meals so I don’t get bored, feel deprived, or eat out
– Reading the books and articles I’ve been wanting to read
– Doing the many e-courses I signed up for (or truly let go of ones I know I’ll never do)
– Coming up with an exercise plan I can follow most of the time (that isn’t taxing on my body and hormones as a woman in her late 40s)
– Cleaning out my closet, donating stuff,
– Signing up for places and/or orgs to volunteer that I care about

Why Taking Action Is Important to Reducing Stress and Fear, Helping to Water the Seeds of Joy 

Taking “action”, Marie Forleo says, “is the antidote to fear.”

Every podcast and book I’m reading talks about how STRESS is the major culprit to inflammation, even if you’re eating all the right things. If you’re so stressed out, it can wreck your gut, your ability to even digest nutrient-dense foods, so the more I can reduce unnecessary stress in my life, the more mentally and physically healthier and happier I’ll be.

I realize that much of my stress in life comes from anxiety about what other people will think, a form of social anxiety. Fears about perceived judgements, criticisms and rejection. So I take on more and more stuff. I promise others and myself that I’ll do x, y and z. I give out dishonest yes’s when I should have given out more authentic no’s.

Now my life has become a mountain of perpetual procrastination. Procrastination that leads to shame and guilt and stress. I begin to think negatively of myself, worried even more about what other people must surely think. Especially now that I’ve let so much time pass by and still haven’t gotten back to them, missing deadlines, often even ghosting people and feeling more and more like an asshole.

Yesterday, I heard Kate Northrop (in her DO LESS cyclical planning workshop) say something that really resonated with me:

“Procrastination is your body trying to keep you safe.”

She said her own focus right now is on “healing my central nervous system. Her focus was to…

Find tools to “activate the parasympathetic system, to rest and restore,” tools such as:

  • Shaking – Honestly, I have never heard of this or tried it. But I just watched this video I found via Dr. Google. It’s a technique called TRE. (Not Time Restricted Eating, which my partner and I like doing most of the time, but this TRE stands for Trauma Release Exercises.)
  • Breathwork  – “Your breath is filling out your back ribs” (How Kate describes it)
  • EFT/Tapping – This I’ve tried taking a virtual writing and tapping retreat once with Kate Marillat that was really healing; my other writing friend in Hawaii also introduced me to Nick Orner’s free tapping summits
  • Yoga  – I used to do this a lot, but hardly do it anymore, except once in a while when I can’t sleep or relax, I’ll pop on one of these Yoga with Adrienne sleep videos before bed.

Here are some tools I’ve learned that activate my parasympathetic system, that water the seeds of joy:

  • Meditation – This is usually done once to twice a day before I’m in fight/flight mode to help me learn how to have more spaciousness in my life, to quiet my mind before the day begins, and ideally a second time in the afternoon around 2 or 3pm — I learned this via ZIVA, which combines breathwork, mindfulness, meditation and manifesting into one sitting; but as of late, have been having trouble fitting the second meditation in
  • HeartMath – This really has the ability to make me feel relaxed in a few minutes, especially when I combine that with remembering a person or animal or time and/or place that gives me bliss, and I remember that time I did LSD, truly integrating this one-time experience in my life and imaging that into my cellular memory; another memory is of a dog we fell in love with named Merci at the RV park in La Paz, Baja Sur, Mx, who sat on our RV mat every morning, tail wagging, waiting for us to appear.
  • Massage – I really need to do this more often. Seriously. I don’t remember the last time this even happened. Actually, it was a year ago on my birthday in Mexico, when we were still living full-time in our RV, while passing through Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. I had an energy healing combined with some massage, plus a reading via the Mayan Calendar with a former-writer-turned-energy healer-and-shaman.
  • Walk with peaceful/healing/inspiring music – Like this.
  • Creative Writing  – When I’m really in the flow like the time at April’s online writing retreat, when I felt expansive, not constricted, eager to create and explore, no sign of fear. Or Kiala’s online writing circles where she presents us with a prompt, often from her creative writing prompt deck or Tarot card.
  • Doodling/Art Journaling/Collaging via Soul Collage – My other writer friend who is also a creativity and business coach has amazing creativity online classes and retreats. She’s the reason I was able to transition from working as an English instructor at a community college (a job I simultaneously loved–for my students–and hated–because of ridiculous rules, bureaucracy and my then-crippling-social-anxiety) to a remote freelance and location-independent worker who mostly does client work wearing nothing but PJs–or sweats–most of the time.
  • Bullet journaling – Planning or tracking or taking notes in my bullet journal calms me down like meditation does; I get such pleasure out of tracking and planning by hand. I’m a lover of minimalist bujos. Especially hers. My own bullet journals tend to look sloppy and not so minimal. But hey, I like to try.
  • Being out in nature – Like many of the times we were living full-time and traveling in our RV, boondocking next to a river, a desert, a canyon, a lake, the beach, the sea, the ocean, under the trees, on top of a mountain.
  • Psychedelics like psilocybin or LSD used with the intention to heal. The one time I did it as an adult at Burning Man a few years ago, it was better than any spa experience: no worries about time or ego, just plenty of love and compassion for self, seeing the world through child-like eyes with wonder and awe. It was truly better than any spa experience I’ve ever gone to. To let go of any anxiety or worry about anything or anyone: now that is true freedom, true bliss!
  • Brainspotting – I was a guinea pig for my therapist friend, Karen, who had me try this healing tool that immediately made me feel relaxed. Amazing just how moving your eyes on the X/Y axis can help you to stop stressing so much, within minutes!
  • NADA Protocol – I can’t believe I stumbled onto this free community wellness hour in Austin via the AOMA graduate integrative school of medicine that offers this acupuncture protocol that helps with addiction or healing emotional trauma. You sit in a circle of strangers as interns stick paper-thin needles into your ears and you meditate in silence for 30 minutes or so, followed by a guided meditation and visualization through Julia. Funny story: I actually discovered her while searching in MAPS’ directory for therapists/healers who can integrate psychedelic experiences shortly after attending MAPS’ first psychedelic science summit in Austin this past November. Her website listed her free community wellness hour and I decided to go. Now I have designated Wednesdays for self-care when I can happily go sit with strangers sticking needles in my ears in sublime silence!
  • Playing music – Either on the piano, keyboard, or guitar. We used to have a keyboard but it’s somewhere buried in our storage unit. But when we first began our RV trip, Darrell picked up a steel-stringed guitar so we could possibly learn it as a family. Except for a few times we tried to learn in front of a campfire in the Southern California desert, we’ve largely abandoned it, using the guitar as a decoration in our new apartment. Well, last night, after listening to a podcast with Abel James discussing music’s role in neurofeedback and neuroplasticity and their combined love for playing music, I had a sudden craving to learn how to play guitar. I can read music from years as a kid playing piano and Jehovah’s Witness songs for my mom on demand, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand how to play a guitar. That changed when I discovered Fender last night. I started a free 14-day trial and decided it would be a gift to myself. The hours flew by and I actually learned how to play my first chords! (I.e., G and C chords). And I played a riff from The Rolling Stones: “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. Talk about activating your parasympathetic system!
  • Prolonged Fasting with Low GKI (2 or under) – Around Days 3 or 5 I tend to get into a state of utmost euphoria, noticing how vivid the colors are in nature, more aware of my senses. The anxiety is gone, especially social anxiety, and I just feel calm, grounded and focused without much internal drama or rumination. Note: When my husband had cancer in 2014, and I wrote about it here, and was using a therapeutic ketogenic diet formulated for cancer, he aimed to have his GKI where Thomas N. Seyfried recommended it to be: As close to 1 or under as possible “to blast insipid tumors.” While doing my last 7-day water-only fast, there were several days my GKI was hovering under 1, and those days I was especially calm in my mind!
  • Eating Keto or Carnivore with a Low GKI (3 or under) – If I’ve been staying fairly strict keto or carnivore, and build up a string of days with a low GKI, I tend to notice that I’m less stressed or anxious, able to focus more. I recently experimented with going off carnivore for a week after going for 30+ days and this past week, my GKI has shot up sky-high, at 55 or 60 (I check and track my GKI via Heads Up and Keto-Mojo), or a non-existent GKI due to zero or “lo” ketones on my Keto-Mojo and higher than usual fasting glucose numbers above 100 mg/dL; remember that you are in ketosis when you have a GKI of under 9. Even my functional nutritionist reminded me to anticipate potentially stressful situations by lowering my GKI. She has seen the GKI graphs I send her via Heads Up. And knows about my many years of tracking that marker, as well as how I’ve noticed a correlation between higher anxiety and depression when my GKI is high or completely non-existent due to having zero ketones.

Anyhow, today’s goal is to take action on some of the tasks I’ve been putting off due to fear. I think the more I can chip away at taking actual action to face the fear, and fit in tools of bliss like the ones mentioned above throughout my day, and life, the healthier my mind and body will become. (Not the LSD, of course, as I have no idea how to even begin to get that stuff, nor do I believe that I’ll need it in the near future–just the mere memory of that day can activate my parasympathetic system!)

Fuck You Fear sign - to help water seeds of joy

A Reminder About Fear for Myself 

I can either …

Fuck Everything And Run (F. E. A. R. – the very definition of procrastination).

OR I can

Face Everything And Rise (F. E. A. R. – the very definition of a badass!).

You know what? I choose to be a badass today! I choose to water the seeds of joy.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Channeling the Spider

Channeling the spider on a web

While at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, last year (when we were still living in a RV full-time as a family last year),  I did a Mayan energy healing with a woman named Azenet who had quit her job as a journalist to become a Shaman and energy healer. Using the Mayan calendar, she gave me a reading. Having never done anything like this before, I was skeptical at first. She talked about closures and circles. But she also talked about animals that came up for me. One of them was the spider. She said the spider was brave. It had the courage to leap before it even knows where it’ll land. The spider, I realized as she spoke, was a symbol of courage and facing one’s fears. Instead of being scary, this little creature was inspiring in its many abilities, to spin beautiful webs, to leap from soaring heights into the unknown.

How can I be like the spider and spin a web without fear or internal drama, just do the thing, and weave projects and tasks into completion, to close the unfinished circles in my life and find closure? Projects like my novel and other writing I’ve been yearning to finish. Being able to earn more money but in a way where I know that what I’m doing is actually helping others?

How could I channel the spider’s courage into my own life?

The Role of Resistance

A woman punching resistance in the early morning - the role of resistance

What is the role of resistance?

Why do I resist doing some things that I say I want to do?

Yesterday, while listening to my writer friend’s WhatsApp message about her resistance as of late to meditating and journaling, she said that she wasn’t sure why she was resisting it so much. That perhaps, it had to do with something she needed to chip away at. Listening to her personal struggles with resistance of something she once loved made me think of my own.

What does resistance mean? What does it mean to resist? There is that saying that actually came up yesterday in the HeartMath AddHeart call: “What you resist, persists.”

Resistance as a noun brings to mind a group fighting against an evil force and injustice. The Resistance in the movie Star Wars, for instance. They were rebels in orange cloth jumpsuits fighting Darth Vader and the Emperor and their faceless armies dressed in hard white plastic armor. The hashtag #Resist calls to mind everyone that is progressive and liberal fighting against the forces of -isms right now in our country in the Age of Trump.

But the resistance I’m talking about, that my writer friend is talking about, is internal. A resistance of the inner kind. It’s something like a knot that forms and rises from within, becoming more and more stubborn in its desire not to be unraveled. It forms a hard knot that grows larger with each day.

For me, the resistance from taking action makes me rot inside. Whether it’s a work thing, a writing thing, or getting back to people, I get into a rut. It’s difficult to remember how to unravel this rock-hard knot, and I begin to resent myself and others. I rant or I run. I ruminate. I can easily become ruthless and reckless and then filled with regret. Until I repent like the Prodigal Son, retrench, remember, recommit and begin to rise again. A lot of it, I’ve realized, has to do with the fear of rejection. To be resilient, we must face rejection. To remember that every day, every minute, you can reset. You can remember your why and your role in life. Then you can truly relax.

So today, I remember. I reset. I recommit. I’ll face this resistance inside me and rise.
I’ll face rejection in the face to become more and more resilient with each day.

Self Experimenting is the Key to Building New Habits

woman with hands in front of her for self experimenting habits post

Now that I’ve successfully finished my 7-Day Wake Up at 5AM Challenge, I’ve decided to embark on another self-experiment: Waking up at 5:30 am for 30 Days. (Today is Day 1.) After 7 days in a row of getting up while the skies are still dark, I’ve realized that I truly thrive in the early mornings. I enjoy waking up earlier, feel like I get more done rather than popping up out of bed at 7:30am or 8am, or whenever, groggy and out-of-sorts, already feeling out-of-time before the day has truly begun. There’s also a study that talks about “the role chronotype has on proactivity.” The key to successfully building new habits, I am realizing more and more, is self experimenting.

I am a massive self-experimenter.

Honestly, this is one reason that I believe will keep me alive and healthy for a longer time than if I just passively let life happen to me. If you know me, or have followed me on Instagram or have been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m constantly experimenting on myself.

Ketosis.

Carnivore. (Today is Day 41 of a 60-day nose-to-tail carnivore challenge.)

Fasting. (On Feb 3, I finished my fourth annual 7-Day Fast for Autophagy/Cancer Prevention)

No alcohol. (I’ve gone 41 days without a sip of wine. Yes, I’m pretty stunned at how clear-headed I feel in general. Really helpful in the depression department to abstain from drinking most of the time.)

Writing.

Fitness.

Meditating 2X/day.

Productivity.

HeartMath.

Morning and sleep routines.

Rejection.

Even our full-time RV Life (when we got out of our comfort zone, sold our house to start anew) was a massive self-experiment, something I’m realizing in hindsight.

With each experiment and challenge done, I feel more courage to try new things in my life, more willing to get out of my comfort zone. As a result, I can see the benefits on both my mental and physical health, plus increased energy and confidence.

I wish I had tried this much earlier in life. But this year, as I turn 48 years old, I am determined to reach more goals than I ever have, by building on all the good habits and routines (via self-experimenting) to becoming limitless and unstoppable. Yet at the same time, to forgive myself and have the utmost of compassion for self when I fall off track. Combined with self-compassion, there is always the gentle reminder to get back on the train with a forward trajectory and growth mindset, never to let too many consecutive days go by to slide back into mediocrity again.

There is always a new day to begin again!

I am all about optimizing my life, performance and health. Now at my age, in my late 40s, completely free of prescription medications, I am surprisingly more happy, mentally and physically healthier and youthful than I ever was in my 20s and 30s. The future looks brighter even as I age.

An Accidental Discovery

What I am realizing the most is that what you eat and drink (and when you don’t) is the most important contribution to your mental health and energy levels. This was an accidental discovery that came about when my husband found out he had cancer at the end of 2014. That’s when we began using keto and fasting to help shrink his tumors, along with the chemo and radiation he was doing. I had begun to notice the connection between food and mood back in 2012, when I mostly cut out flour and sugar from my life, following more of a Paleo/Primal approach.

Simply cutting out gluten and sugar most of the time helped me ramp off all meds for depression, anxiety, bipolar type 2, ADHD and asthma (back before 2012, I had asthma so bad that I was on Prednisone almost every month, and was a regular at the ER, getting nebulizer treatments). But when I got into ketosis along with my husband at the end of 2014, both of us measuring our fasting glucose and blood ketones every morning, as well as the ratio between the two numbers (GKI – glucose: ketones index), my mental health became significantly better. Because I was now burning ketones and managing my insulin (also diagnosed with “prediabetes” in 2014), I wasn’t on that rollercoaster I used to be on when I constantly fed myself refined carbs at almost every meal. Like bread, pizza, pasta and noodles, cake, cookies, pies, french fries, hash browns, pancakes, donuts, bagels, pastries, croissants, dim sum, rice, tortillas, wraps, juice, smoothies, soda, sweetened coffees and teas, and more.

And when I tried carnivore eating in 2018, it took my mental health into even better levels. So this year, I’ve been, along with my husband and another good friend (who has type 2 diabetes) trying out a 60-day nose-to-tail carnivore way of eating as a way to start off the new year right, and also as a reset, an elimination diet, to set the tone for the year. I plan to get blood tests done to check insulin and inflammation levels as I wind down my 60-day carnivore experiment. Then go back to a more keto/paleo/primal way of eating for a few months, followed by more blood tests. Talking to my nutritionist, we decided that this would be a good way to tell which way of eating is better for my individual body at this time, based on my own biomarkers. I’m looking forward to making more self-discoveries about my own body and health in this way!

This year I plan to become even more healthier than I was last year.

Also with the food and fasting down as a foundation, I’m finding I have more energy, confidence and stamina to stack on even more positive habits into my life. This year, I also plan to become more of a writer than I have ever been — to finish my novel and find more courage and confidence to submit more writing to publish and share. I’m taking on more experiments and challenges to face, to acclimate myself to rejection, failure — to ultimately become more resilient and mentally healthier.

Life shouldn’t decline with age. Instead I plan to go out with a freakin’ bang. Happier and healthier with each experiment attempted!

 

Photo by Nathan DeFiesta on Unsplash

Reflections on My 7-Day 5AM Wake-Up Challenge

Clock depicting 5am - wake up challenge

It’s Day 7 of my 7-day 5am Wake Up Challenge. I’m here up before dark, actually blogging. I guess it’s a substitute for my usual Morning Pages done via 750 words (my favorite place to journal or write — I love the feeling of a glaringly white blank canvas that belongs on someone else’s server).

This morning, when my alarm rang at 5am, I decided that from here on out, I’d get up instead at 5:30am. That way, I have a little more time at night to wind down, aiming for lights out at 9:30pm to get a full 8 hours of sleep. I’ve been noticing that I tend to sleep around 7 hours, in general. Back when my Oura ring was working, that’s the trend I noticed in my history (since November, it stopped connecting after an update, so I need to contact their support to get that fixed — I actually feel naked without it, sad that I can’t measure my Deep Sleep or HRV anymore).

Waking up at 5am for 7 days in a row has helped me realize that I thrive in the early mornings. I actually got more done, work-wise and writing-wise, than I’ve ever done before. Especially when I wait until the afternoon to begin working or writing, I find myself petering out earlier, followed by perpetual procrastination. It’s funny how all the little emails, newsletters, texts, podcasts, YouTube videos, or news links can spiral into yet another unfulfilling day. I don’t want to live like that anymore, hijacked by other people constantly. I want to live a more intentional life, directing my attention with intention of my own design.

Another thing I love about waking up early is that the words tend to tumble out easier. I’m less prone to fear. The usual muzzle around my mouth is barely noticeable. I realize that this is also part of facing fear in the face: getting up early and tackling stuff that you tend to put off because you’ve caved into fear, distraction and fatigue.

I really love waking up and feeling like time is on my side. Instead of tumbling out of bed at 7:30 or 8am, scrambling to the kitchen to make breakfast for my kid, already feeling behind. Waking up early allows me to meditate, write, journal, plan my day, check my GKI (or lack of one, like I have today, after going off carnivore and keto for two days–but I don’t let myself spiral out of control for more than two consecutive days), exercise and/or read something inspiring — all before the sun comes out!

If you haven’t tried this 5am wake up challenge to start your day early and want to read more reasons why you might want to try it, read this article.

 

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

A New Writing Plan: A Year of Rejections Without Fear

Blank notebook with pen to write without fear

My writing friend and I have a new plan. Now that we’ve been showing up daily for our novels and fiction, we’ve decided to start submitting our work more than we ever have in our writing life. We are planning to face rejection in the face this year!

Since Dec 2019, we’ve been showing up daily for at least 5 minutes a day to work on our fiction, which has now bloomed into even more writing time (we’ve since added Friday Pomodoro, and 2 Pomo Sundays, and once a month all-day online writing retreats with April, and last month, I began adding a “Novel Day” of my own on Thursdays to carve out even more time for my novel, with no client work to be done on that special day.) It’s funny how just five minutes a day of novel or fiction writing with my friend has whetted our appetite for more.

This past week, we both met the deadline to apply for Bread Loaf (deadline last night). If we get in, it’ll be a 10-day writing conference in Vermont come August. And by the end of February, we’ve marked our calendars to  to submit something to the Paris Review (I mean, why the hell not?). Then by May 14, Granta. I’ve also recently become a member at Electric Lit, and plan to submit there too. We’re going to submit like mofos and face fear, face rejections in the face!

I figure, at this point, what do I have to lose?

Like I’ve written about previously, I’ve been inspired by Jia Jiang’s 100 Days of Rejection self-experiment and wrote up my own version of it in my bullet journal to track: 100 Rejections Challenge. I just added my intentions to submit to Paris Review and Granta in there. And one of these days, I’m gonna look into Medium.

All these years, I’ve written so many different stories, both fiction and nonfiction. But I’ve been so afraid to edit and polish those stories — to submit, to publish. Last January, in fact, I wrote a long blog post about my second 7-day fast, but it’s still sitting here in my WordPress/Blog waiting for me to hit “publish.” (Funny how I’ve had no qualms about fasting for 7-days but had no courage to post it on my blog.)

This year is different. I’m tired of being afraid.

This is my “Bring On All the Rejections!” year.

I’m going to channel this Sylvia Plath quote that my writer friend sent me earlier this morning when we wrote together via Skype:

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

— Sylvia Plath

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

More Morning Rambling: An Experiment with Rejection and Anxiety

Morning Sky and Morning Rambling blog post

It’s almost 7am and outside the once-black sky is now brightening into blue. I’ve been up since 5am on this Valentine’s Day morning. My show of self-love today is to allow myself to more morning rambling.

It’s my fourth day waking up at 5am, part of this 7-day challenge (if you know me, I’m motivated by challenges, now on Day 37 of a 60-day carnivore diet with my good friend, fueled by ketones and a sh*t-ton of energy).

This morning I’ve been up: meditating, planning, writing — but mostly reading.

I’ve been up reading inspiring and motivating stuff, like this article about artists and writers who swear by waking up early as the secret to their success.

These days, I’ve been incredibly inspired by Jia Jiang, who I learned about in the book about social anxiety, How to Be Yourself, by Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D. As I learned in Ellen’s book, “Facing your fears is called exposure.” And that was what Jia was doing when he decided to embark on a self-experiment project to face his fears, which resulted in a book: Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. He had been an entrepreneur who lost funding from a key investor. Beginning to lose faith in himself, he came up with what would look to anyone to be an absurd idea, to set rejection as an actual goal every day for 100 days, asking complete strangers for strange requests, such as borrowing $100, posing as a mannequin at a clothing store, making an announcement on a Southwest flight. All of this to make him realize that life isn’t as hard as we make it out to be.

Anyhow, I have become quite smitten with the idea of facing fear in the face. As someone who has been quite timid my entire life, I’m really sick of letting fear rule my days. Before long, it’ll be all over, this life. So what do I have to lose? Also I’m realizing that much of my anxiety and fears stem around what other people might think; thus, my particular anxieties have everything to do with social anxiety. And I’m sick of letting this anxiety rule my life.

Recently, it delighted me to no end to read that Patrick Stewart’s habit to beat anxiety as an actor is to say out loud,

“I don’t give a f*ck!”

before he steps onstage every night. In his interview with Rolling Stone magazine (February 2020), he says that Duncan Ross, his acting teacher once told him: “Patrick, you will never achieve success by ensuring against failure.” So now his habit is to say that phrase, an incantation (in my opinion) against fear. And you know what? Here’s what he has to say: “It works. It takes away anxiety, stress, and all those stupid wasteful things that don’t help you at all.”

One of the reasons I’m up this early at 5am for the fourth day in a row is because I was inspired by Jia and his challenge to wake up early. And as someone who is trying to fit more writing into my life, to finally finish my novel, as well as put other writing out there, it’s become more apparent that a lot of successful writers write in the morning. In January, after I woke up at 4am to take a friend who was visiting me in Austin to the airport, I parked myself at a cafe to write and work. Being up while the sky was still dark, before most people were awake, energized me like no other time. There is something magical about the early morning hours. I began to crave having that extra time for myself, before I even do work for clients. To carve out this space and time for me and my own writing — what a heavenly treat that was!

This entire week, I’ve been working on my novel every morning. Whereas before it didn’t seem there was an end in sight, now I feel encouraged by the possibilities. I know I will finally finish this year!

(On that note, I’m going to go work on my novel scene list, set the timer on the pomodoro, and summarize for 25 minutes. Just 25 minutes. I can do this!)

ANYTHING can be done, one thing at a time:

1. But you need to first set an intention (I am going to stop and do ___.)

2. A container of time (ex. I’m setting a timer–a pomodoro— for 25 minutes).

3. Add some motivating or focusing music.

4. Ask yourself what are 1-3 tiny steps I can take to get started?

5. Then tell yourself to “Go!” (And if you add a dose of Jia’s badass courage to face your fears of rejection and failure, you, too, can become “Rejection Proof!”)

A lot of the above has to do with mindfulness. Whether it’s getting through a run or a workout (one step, one rep, at a time), writing a novel (one word, one scene, one act at a time), or copywriting (just one small step at a time, first a sh%tty draft, one line at a time, then a “done is better than perfect final edit”).

Jia Jiang is motivating me to try experimenting with rejection, with welcoming “no’s” into my life, to look at fear in the face. So many things are swirling around in my brain, around trying things I’m usually afraid to do.

Some of my biggest fears when it comes to rejection:

1. Writing to publish

2. Submitting and pitching my writing to _____ (magazines, contests, literary journals, residencies)

3. Publishing articles on Medium and elsewhere

4. Finally hitting “Publish” on a draft that’s been sitting in my Medium account from over a year ago about how I used LSD for the first time as an adult in my 40s, combining it with carnivore, fasting, ketosis and having the most healing time in my life, despite once been diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 with debilitating depression, now mentally happier and physically healthier without any meds.

5. Talking to strangers and making small talk/eye contact

6. Being in big groups (parties, conferences, etc.)

7. Chatting on social media, Slack, Zoom meetings.

8. Asking for a rate increase

9. Applying for other jobs/gigs/courting new clients

10. Taking improv and other creative classes

11. Texting/emailing friends back (afraid too much time has already passed)

12. Traveling alone

13. Making new friends in a brand new city

 

Inspired by Jia Jiang, I wrote up a “100 Rejections Challenge” for myself in my bujo, as a place to log all the tasks that make me uncomfortable and fearful, just so I can practice this facing of possible rejections in my daily life.

It’s funny how the tiniest things can make me fearful sometimes, induce stage fright, such as responding back to people on social media, texts, Slack messages. How making a simple ask from GoFundMe donors to help a grieving friend can make me want to run into a corner, drink wine and numb out with movies and/or bread or sugar. The thought of writing a Medium article or pitching a magazine editor makes me want to vomit. Sometimes, when I’m really off (like when my GKI is in the 50s or non-existent), even making small talk in the elevator with strangers makes me feel as if I’m jumping off a cliff without a parachute. Parties with people, even good friends, scare me. Reading my own writing aloud at literary readings have always been preceded with many glasses of wine. Once the structure of a workshop or class is over, I don’t know what to do with myself, my safety behavior is to run and hide, wishing I had an invisibility cloak to wear. Afraid to be found out, that I’m just a socially inept human being unable to interact normally.

I’m embracing rejection today.

“I dare you to reject me!” My insides are shouting. “I welcome it!”

What if I welcomed rejection every day this year? What would happen? What could possibly happen? Really?

 

 

 

Photo by YUXUAN WANG on Unsplash

Waking Up Early

Clock that shows waking up early

I’m up early again. Day 3 of my 7-day challenge to wake up early at 5am. So far, I’m doing it! Can’t believe I’m up so early, but once I’m up, it feels damn good to plan my day and write before anyone else is up, before the sun dares to even peek out.

Outside it’s dark (it’s now 6:19am) and I’ve already had half a cup of coffee, meditated, checked my fasting glucose (87 mg/dL :), ketones and GKI, planned out my day, tracked habits in my habit tracker, and am now typing out Morning Pages. Such a good feeling! I really love the energy of the early morning. That is, when I’ve slept well. Yesterday morning, I didn’t feel quite as refreshed as today or the first day I awoke at 5am. But what a difference a full night’s of rest makes! I feel ready to slay my day!

I’m going to try this self-imposed 7-day challenge to wake up early at 5am to see if my writing life improves. So far, I’ve been kicking ass (powered by ketones and caffeine), getting up early to write, getting some novel scene list exercises done, even some blogging here, before making breakfast and lunch for my kid. I love waking up when everyone else seems to be still asleep, the outside skies pitch black, except for the occasional glitter blasts of headlights on the streets below. This year I am devoting to writing, to a more literary life, to finally finishing, revising, and querying this novel.

I’ve got this!

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

Song I’ve fallen in love with while writing this morning, found on Spotify: Salam – Souad Massi

The Practice of Rejection Exposure

photo of woman with hands - for rejection exposure post

The other night I came across a fascinating account of a guy who decided to practice his exposure to rejection. His name is Jia Jiang, and for 100 days, he challenged himself to getting rejected in public, something he was deathly afraid of, having been rejected in public as a small kid in elementary school.

I’ve decided to, inspired by Jia Jiang, to start my own 100 Rejections Challenge. Inside my bullet journal, I numbered 1-100 and decided that anything that could possibly end up with a rejection, could go in there.

Bullet Journal with 100 Rejection Exposure Challenge

Applying for a writing conference like Bread Loaf, for example, is going in there.

Asking others to help out a grieving friend for the third time was another.

Writing up a draft for a client knowing that it may not be well-received went in there too.

At some point, I’m going to try higher-stake ones, such as querying my novel, writing Medium articles and hitting publish (even if no one ever claps for it)…

Pitching and submitting pieces and ideas to magazine or literary journals…

Going to a social event and talking to at least one stranger.

Taking an improv class and not rushing home as soon as it ends.

Perhaps joining a writing group or signing up for a writing class here in Austin.

Posting a poem on my blog even though I’m the furthest thing away from being a poet (here we go: see below).

My intention for this challenge? To be more brave, more courageous, more badass. To be fearless, I must be able to face fear in the eye and say, “You’re not as scary as I thought.”

On that note, here is my attempt at a poem I wrote earlier this morning (having gotten up at 5am to try a new habit to awake early to write, a la Toni Morrison):

Early Morning Poem

Scrabble words photo from Rejection Exposure blog post

I spent the morning drenched in words
For an hour I sat, saturated in poems
three women poets
Lost in words
Laced in lust
Love like lace
lulls a lullaby
of lavished imagery

Not a waste
this morning
scaffolding my day
a foundation built
with nothing more
than words
sweet letters
strung together
details and descriptions
divine time
before most
are even
awake

 

Insert Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Featured Image Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash