On Motivation and Inspiration

Contemplation

I Don’t Need More Motivation, Inspiration, or Positivity Stuff

Seriously. I don’t need more motivation. I don’t need to be more inspired. I don’t need to read (or make) any more lists and journal entries about how I’m not doing enough.

Sometimes, I think our culture wants us to buy into the illusion that if we can read enough self-help articles and enough memes with pithy and inspirational quotes, that little switch in our brain will flip to the off position and magically send us out of our funks and freak outs and push us into action.

See,  the thing is that nobody really wants to talk about it when it comes to being motivated and inspired, successful, productive, our ‘authentic selves’ or all those little buzzwords and phrases that have come into vogue: you are as you are until you’re not. Period. As Popeye said, ” I yam what I yam”. I begin to change when I want to change. I become different when I want to be different. I grow when I’m ready to grow. I put things into action when it’s time to put things into action. There’s no secret. There’s no timeline. There’s nothing I can do differently sometimes.  That’s just how it happens.

But really, what I believe I need more than anything is: the grace to be wherever the fuck I am while I’m there. 

letlifehaveyou

I Don’t Get to Control Everything

I’m not an automaton. I can’t just create motivation when I don’t have it. Sometimes I’m going through something. Sometimes life happened. You know that thing we’re all involved in? Life.  It teaches me things and schools me about stuff and even makes makes go the long way around for my biggest pain-in-the-ass lessons. It makes me so anxious, I squirm in my seat and so uncomfortable in my skin, that I want to escape, go away, disappear.

I used to escape by drinking copious amounts of alcohol and snorting white powder up my nose. When I didn’t do that anymore, I used food; pretty little petit fours and other sugary French pastries mostly, until my body blew up to a hefty quarter of a ton. Not only that, I learned that I had given my pancreas a run for it’s money too with all that sugar and I was diagnosed with diabetes.

What helps with the anxiety is remembering the first rule I learned in Cocaine Anonymous when I was learning how not to get loaded because life happened: I don’t get to control everything. In fact, hardly anything at all

I’ve learned that I can do what I think I should be doing or everyone else thinks I should be doing every single second of every single day until I’m tired, worn,  and broken, but if the words don’t show up on the page or the artwork or the ideas don’t want to come whooshing out, they won’t. I can show up every day with my best and brightest intentions, but if it’s not the time, it’s just not the fucking time.  I just end up “shoulding” all over myself. I need to remember to give myself permission to be a human being, not a human doing.

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I Am the Same Until I’m Different

I’ve also come to know this: Experience cannot always be manipulated and yet, I don’t behave as though I know this truth. Sometimes, I try so hard to manipulate and control my life, to turn creativity into a productivity game I must win, or try to shortcut success because someone else said they have, to attempt to process emotions and map uncertainty as if they are journeys to be traveled as the crow flies.

I don’t get to game the system of  my life. I just don’t. I don’t get to control every outcome and circumstance as a way to never feel the uncertainty and unpredictability of something that’s often beyond what I understand. It’s the basis of being present: to show up as I am in the moment and let that be enough. Even if it doesn’t feel that way.

I learned that 30 years ago, and yet, I don’t consistently behave in a way that supports that way of life, 30 years later. Somehow, I forgot and made it complicated. Somewhere, I learned to fill every minute with productivity tools and read bullet-point lists on how to kill off my own natural, human impulse. I often forget that I am as I am until I’m not. I am the same until I’m different. Sure, I can move that a bit further by working at healthy habits and show up to my life in a way that fosters growth, but I sure as hell can’t control time.

Time is the one thing that we often forget to accept.

 senselater

Maybe It Will Make Sense Someday

Living with a “condition” like depression teaches you that things are dark until they’re not. A lot of my own unhappiness stems from the belief that my life should be different than it is.  Really.  I just said that. I’ll say it again: A lot of my own unhappiness stems from the belief that my life should be different than it is. I have come to believe my self-loathing and self-hatred comes from this idea that I should be able to change my circumstances, that I should be richer or thinner or better or happier.

While accountability can be empowering, it can also lead  resentment and bitterness that I don’t need to be holding onto. I remind myself sometimes that putting in my best efforts and giving myself the reminder to let whatever happens to happen–and to work at not feeling so directly and vulnerably tied to its outcome– is the best thing I can do for my sanity. Opportunities, blessings, and gifts don’t always look like we imagine they will nor do they arrive in the way we think they will.

I don’t need more motivation or inspiration to create the life I yearn for. I need less shame around the false idea that I’m not doing my best. I am learning to stop listening to people who are in vastly different life circumstances and life stages than I, who tell me that I’m just not doing or being enough. I’m learning  to let time do what it needs to do. I’ve learned to see lessons where I once saw roadblocks. I’ve grown enough to understand that right now becomes inspiration later.  Right now is the important thing. Wherever I am right now is what becomes who I am later on.


universe

What Is It?

Sometimes I believe I might not be the person I need to be to be in order to accept the desires I have, yet. That ‘yet’ is important because I believe that sometimes we have to let ourselves evolve into the place where we can allow what we want to happen to transpire.

Let’s just say that I want what I want when I want it. So much so, in fact, that I’ve made myself sick and tired and miserable in order to achieve it. What would happen if I just allowed time to do its thing? Maybe my motivation isn’t the problem. Maybe, just maybe, it’s that boulder I keep pushing up the muddy mountainside that only grows steeper, more slippery, and taller the more I push.

I believe there’s magic in the Universe around us that works in ways we can’t understand. We can’t control it. Often, we have to just let it be, to take a fucking step back for a moment, to stop beating up on ourselves, and watch how it works. One day, right now will make sense even if it makes no sense at the moment.

Trust that. Believe it.

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Mostly Silent

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So. Here I am. I am poking my head up again from my rabbit hole and looking around. I haven’t written much publicly for nearly a year.

I’ve dredged my Twitter account up out of the muck and compost. It was still growing- a little. The dirt is knocked off of the root-ball, the Following list is pruned back and it looks so foreign now. It’s like a new phone or a new tablet. You have to get the hang of handling one without opening a gazillion tabs and windows.

I am contemplating simplifying my Facebook life. I’ve culled through my Friends lists. I am no longer interested in how many friends I have nor how many likes I receive on anything I post or re-share, if I ever really was. I am only motivated to visit my LinkedIn account these days to update contact information or resume particulars. Pinterest and Instagram get a passing nod every week or so.

Yet, culling through old posts and re-tweets and looking at the things I was interested in, the things I shared, the loves I thought I had; the work I used to pour myself into just a few short years ago; I wondered where that grown-up girl had gone. I certainly know what she was hiding from in all of those topical posts and re-tweets. I know what she was hiding from herself.

At least now I do and that’s supposed to  help me to feel ahead of the game. I don’t. In fact, I often find myself standing in the middle of somewhere I’ve never been, not feeling very ahead of anything.

Anyway, whoever that grownup girl was she’s gone and a woman has returned in her stead. My mother said it not long ago while  commenting on a recent photo of me : “there’s something about…well, I don’t know…you look just…different”. Personally, I think I just looked happy and more myself in that photograph than I had in the past.

The truth is that it’s been a hard year. I’m happier but its been a hard year.

I’ve been everywhere within but not very many places without; I’ve changed my mind about things—the big things—to the point of confusion; I’ve doubted everything I’ve ever known, and then what I thought I would learn instead, left me doubled over with too many questions that I hoped would organize the dark in me.

But alas, they did not.

I often found myself wondering if I was a mistake—if my existence was entirely faulty from the start; designed for destruction and disappointment. I wondered if my choices were all wrong, if moving again- free as we were- was a good idea. I started second-guessing myself again. Something I hadn’t done for a very long time.

Maybe it has something to do with the way I feel I can’t find my purpose in this world or the way I seemed to lack any sense of direction; floating, untethered to nowhere. Or maybe it was the embarrassment of failing over and over again, even though I worked hard enough; certain I deserved the hatred I was stitching into my flesh simply because I felt I had nothing to offer, nothing to give and nothing to show.

It was probably a little bit of everything that got the best of me and it could all come down to the fact that I am (and always have been) full  of passion, curiosity, expression and heart— creating the fear of what I would become regardless of what I did or didn’t do.

Maybe that old fear told me to relocate, run away,  instead of the hunger for newness and encouraging the vicious habit of hoping to become small enough to be permanently lost in the world. That the thought of completing a brief task that should be effortless, but actually makes me want to hide my phone in the closet. It was completing a simple but important task, like taking care of emails, staying in touch with those who care for me, scheduling a doctor’s appointment,  deciding what I wanted for lunch, getting out of bed or simply answering a text, that vexed me seriously.

Just when I thought I was doing a good job (of becoming nothing, that is), my sharpness found me, inspiration struck, and a little movement shifted my perspective.  Every time I have jumped into the darkness before me, smacked the jagged bottom of my own hell, and exploded into a mess of everything I had never wanted to be or feel, without fail, I learn. I grow in spirit and wisdom.

As it turns out, taking the same violent, spiral down enough times has taught me a thing or two.

Perhaps, at my age, I still haven’t found exactly what makes me happiest, but I’ve learned what happens when I pursue what does and I know what doesn’t. It could be I haven’t figured out exactly who I am, but I’ve learned exactly who I’m not, stopped trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be— and am who I am every single day.

I’ve been reminded that I am not the only person in this world who feels this way. I am not the only person who struggles along a path that isn’t clear most of the time. I am not the only person who’s carried self-contempt for being so blatantly lost and sad.

And that’s precisely why this almost silence is coming to a close. Its served its purpose and in a way that only I can truly appreciate, I think, and it did what it needed to do. Asking it to stay any longer would probably undo the small steps and great strides  I’ve made upon hitting that cold, jagged, dark bottom.

So here I am. It’s been a hard year.

I’ve lived through it— without a therapist. And I’m no more worse than I was before. Now, finding myself guided by gentle hands up and out of the darkness again,  I can’t help but think that there must be others out there who, like me,  know this place too well—that desperate plea to reach someone, to be seen.

This post could be be their sign. Maybe mine will be the first words they read, the first hand they grasp to lend them comfort or strength. Perhaps this will let them know that although the ascent is a tough one,  they are ready to take it—one ridiculously small step at a time.

I know I am.

More will come.

And Time Stood Still

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Note: Originally written January 20th, 2016.

David Bowie’s music and influence has been a part of my life in some way since I was 11 years old. When I was a kid, he was bigger than life and inspiring at the same time. I remember seeing him on TV with Marc Bolan, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. I went to the library and listened to Hunky Dory, Aladdin SaneThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from MarsPin Ups and Diamond Dogs for hours and hours, transported into the worlds he created. When he retired Ziggy Stardust and introduced the Thin White Duke, I was well on my way to adolescence. I gobbled up the dark and acserbic albums Station to Station, Low, and Heroes and by the time my father brought home a poster for The Man Who Fell To Earth in 1975, I was a full-fledged teenager full of drama and angst listening to Fame, Young Americans and Fascination on new FM radio.

The year I got my first fake ID, I sang along to Ashes Ashes, Scary Monsters, and Fashion as my best friend and I drove around Hollywood bowiejumpsuitin a giant Ford Fairlane. Under Pressure, Let’s Dance, China Girl, Blue Jean and Dancing in the Streets were the soundtrack to a lot my life. I bellied up to the bar, held court with a Long Island Iced Tea in one hand and a cigarette in another. I experimented with my sexual identity, snorted “poppers” and danced until I could no longer stand.

And when it was time to let go of the drink, leave the drugs alone and change my life in 1987, Never Let Me Down stayed in my Walkman. I saw the Glass Spider tour as it stopped in Los Angeles the same year. It was the first I show I saw completely sober. Black Tie, White Noise, I Feel Free, and The Wedding Song punctuated my early sobriety with a little wisdom and freedom I had never known. Then there was silence and I was left with the old songs to comfort me until 2013 when he released The Next Day, which I listened to obsessively as I too, recreated myself.  Indeed, Bowie had a running soundtrack during some of the most poignant and life changing events of my life.

Then there were his films: Labyrinth, Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, Mr. Rice’s Secret, The Last Temptation of Christ, Basquiat, The Hunger, Jazzin’ For Blue Jean, Absolute Beginners, better served in another post.

When I opened my newsfeed the day before yesterday and saw he had gone on, away from here, I was just half surprised. I’d seen the Lazarus video, just few week or so ago and I commented to my sweetheart about how deeply it disturbed me and I hoped that it wasn’t a goodbye. It sure seemed that way though, especially when I paid closer attention to the lyrics. It disturbed and unsettled me for reasons I could not pinpoint then. It wasn’t that it was so unexpected because on some level I realize that life isn’t permanent and my most loved and cherished life changers will eventually move on to somewhere else. Indeed some have, Lou Reed, Freddie Mercury, and Steve Strange come immediately to mind but none affected me as deeply or profoundly as Bowie’s death.

lazarus

Look up here, I’m in heaven

I’ve got scars that can’t be seen

I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen

Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger

I’ve got nothing left to lose

I’m so high it makes my brain whirl

Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York

I was living like a king

Then I used up all my money

I was looking for your ass

This way or no way

You know, I’ll be free

Just like that bluebird

Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free

Just like that bluebird

Oh I’ll be free

Ain’t that just like me

With his death, “our personal and collective inner landscape has shifted and we’re trying to come to terms with it” as Annie Lennox pointed out. His presence was always with me; a mainstay. I could always depend on Bowie for new and exciting. He never faded into the background; never forgotten. The hole his absence in the world leaves takes my breath away. What the legacy of his presence gave us, leaves me in awe especially when I thought about it as I laid in the dark last night waiting for sleep to come, elusive  and fleeting as it was.