dating myself.



jack in another form...

this is a picture of jack (who fully owns his name) and what became of the pieces i cut out to make jack's smiling face. i guess that is a sign that i am growing up that it seemed silly to throw away the extra pumpkin. so i roasted the oddly-shaped pieces and the seeds with some old bay seasoning and a spice mix i picked up in isreal and then mixed it together with pasta and sauteed greens from my weekly produce box which comes from the always-charming timor bodega.

i'm also excited for my halloween costume...i'm going to be a jellyfish!

man i think it's been at least 10 years since i've gotten into anything having to do with halloween and i'm not sure what's gotten into me this year. well, i do have a few ideas. i'm doing the artist way program right now (it's an awesome 12 week program that gets you in touch with your creative self). actually, i'm co-facilitating a group of yogis in doing the process. i've done it two times before but never fully finished either time. this time though i have this extra level of responsibility of making sure i do all activities and exercises.

as i've written about before, i like the morning writing part of it and it's been part of my daily practice off and on for the past six years. but there is another part of the artist way called "the artist date" which is much more challenging for me. all it consists of is taking myself out to do one fun thing by myself once a week. it should be easy, but oh my, it causes me so much stress. i can never figure out what i want to do and as soon as i decide i immediately start making excuses about how i really should be writing emails or catching up on working or calling someone.

the first week, i really had to hold myself to taking a sunny afternoon in meridian hill park. i was not excited about it but rather felt something like dread. i packed way too many books in my book bag and as i rode my bike over there, my dread turned to anxiety--kind of like i was going on a first date. but the afternoon turned out to be nice. i read yael flushburg's amazing new book of poetry and lay quietly on the blanket and took some time to examine some leaves close up and flipped through a book of vintage dog photographs that has sat on my desk for sometime. then i got up and went home and wondered what all the nervousness was about.

i've had three dates since then and each one has provoked the same kind of anxiety so much so that i've come to know i am doing my date right when i feel this way. i've figured out that if i am scared, then i am going into vulnerable territory and i think this is what these dates are all about.

but why? why can i have fun with other people and work by myself by not be able to have fun by myself? i think it's all a question of generosity. i am very good at giving to other people. i come from a long-line of people pleasers and have learned well. the up side to this is that i really do enjoy sharing kindness and seeing its effects on my friends and strangers. unfortunately though, the same family lineage is also full of passive aggressive people who don't know the first thing when it comes to taking care of themselves.

my pattern is that i will give and give and give to other people until i felt exhausted. this exhaustion can sometimes turned into a deep anger which wells up in me (people pleasers can't express anger of course) until it comes out in an awkward, inopportune way that leaves hurt feelings. it usually happens with the people that i love the most. yuck.

so the way that i've found to help this is to start taking care of myself in as many ways i can think of and the artist dates are the truest expression of that i can see. i think its scary to me because on some level i'm still not sure i am worthy of all this time and attention and fun. it challenges a lot of the way i have been brought up and is making me change the whole way i do business in my life.

but since i've been making myself push through it, i've been noticing some really nice changes. i've been expressing my emotions in a much cleaner way (nicely worded emails asking for what i need instead of long periods of silence followed by martyrdom) and people have been responding so well to my requests. i've also been noticing that feel like i have much more free time and my prosperity has been kicking it up a notch. (i must share--i actually got a really expensive medical test refunded to me out of the blue today--when does that ever happen?)

so if something about the idea of two hours just for you to get out and take care of yourself each week scares you, then i suggest you give it a try. we all think we have to work harder to change ourselves but i really don't think that is true. we are a culture of over-workers and i don't think we are any closer to enjoying our lives. i think real change comes with incredible self-care and a compassionate curiosity about the way we are put together.

i believe that once we take the time to listen, we naturally know what we need to do. that's the easy part. the hard part is acknowledging that we really do have something to say.

ps: carving jack was my best artist date yet! i felt like i was eight again.