My Inner Worlds
John Denver’s song never made much sense to me when I was younger. At one point someone mentioned the high was from drugs, but I didn’t grow up in an environment that explained drugs and didn’t understand the connection. My family listened to John Denver because the lyrics were clean and safe for our conservative home.
Now that I’ve been in the Rocky Mountains for over 24 hours, I understand what John referred to—altitude sickness. I’m weathering it better than Matt is, but I still have to catch my breath if I walk too quickly while wearing my backpack. Last night I woke in a panic unable to breathe, but after realizing it was just the lower oxygen level creating that feeling in my body, I fell back asleep. Matt barely slept and isn’t handling the high very well.
This morning we drove down to Longmont to meet a friend for lunch at Sakura Japanese Cuisine (amazing food and wonderful owners). We were amazed at the difference in mental clarity and the ability to breathe. Estes Park, Colorado lies 7,500 feet above sea level. Longmont is at 5,000 feet. My precious husband and I are used to oxygen levels found at an elevation of 315 feet—a huge difference.
We are supposed to hike in the morning with another friend. I’ve already warned her that we need to enjoy a nature walk or a mild hike. Matt thinks we can handle a real hike, but I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll get to post pictures of one of us fallen to the dirt trail or having to be fed oxygen in the back of an ambulance.
Four years ago we successfully climbed the Alamos Vista Trail near Santa Fe, New Mexico, a hike that began at 10,000 feet above the sea and ended at 11,100 feet. So what has changed? Does age make that much of a difference? Are we really that out of shape compared to our 44-year-old selves? My goodness, but this makes me rethink my lifestyle choices. I work at a desk (and love my job), I write in a comfy chair, I play Dungeons and Dragons once a month—again in my comfy chair. And I practice yoga two to three times a week. Possibly I don’t have enough cardio in my physical activity.
Tune in post-vacation to see how I mix it up exercise-wise. Something has to change if Matt and I are going to hike Machu Picchu next spring. We have seven months to kick it into gear so we aren’t passing out in the Andes.
Last week I took vacation time from my day job to visit Denver, Colorado for a consulting assignment. I had a blast doing my normal work in a different environment, making new friends and experiencing a potential I’ve not yet explored—being an independent consultant and traveling for my work. (Note: I’m not saying I’m going to do that. It was just fun to feel the possibilities as I wore that hat.)
The eight-block radius I experienced downtown was amazing, and yes, that’s about all I saw for four days. My colleague and I worked long, hard hours, and we accomplished a lot. It felt great, but was intensely analytical, as you would imagine for a CPA. So I’m devoting this week to my fun side.
Most of you know I’m a gamer chick—formerly into Neverwinter Nights and World of Warcraft. Now my gaming consists of monthly Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing sessions, hosted in my living room for the past six years.
As you may imagine, I take my CPA skills seriously. At work, I’m good at my profession. In play, I will organize a group until people beg for mercy. Last month my adventure notes were six pages long. Typewritten, single-spaced. It was actually a feat for me—normally my notes are only four pages. This past Sunday I spent the entire day editing those notes down to six pages and collating all our stuff into a massive Excel workbook I keep so we all know what the heck is going on when we play.
And what do we play? Pirates! Who knew you could dungeon crawl underwater? My character was voted captain of our ship a year ago, and I wasn’t happy about it. I game to get away from life, and being a pirate captain seemed too similar to being a manager of people. How would that be fun for me? After a while I found my sea legs (ha-ha) and now play Captain Lia as I want. Lia acts like there are three captains on board ship, much to the annoyance of my two friends who remind me there can be only one. I don’t care. I’m the captain and get to do what I want.
Speaking of getting to do what I want, I am exploring a barbaric, physically strong nature. In real life I’m your typical CPA, although I’d like to think I have some personality. On gaming days, I’m a barbarian and hear me roar! Literally. Lia roars and intimidates the crap out of those who need to surrender. Our crew family doesn’t like to kill anyone we don’t have to, so Lia gets a lot of opportunities to improve her scary voice.
Which is quite helpful to me. I’m learning how to let myself be heard. Using Captain Lia as a sandbox, I can explore that side of myself in a safe environment with friends. If you are looking to grow certain aspects of yourself, I’ve found my many years of Dungeons and Dragons transformative.
Now off to plunder…Arrr!
Two weeks ago I realized I couldn’t live with my frayed purse strap any longer. I bought my current handbag three years ago around my birthday. I had splurged, not really needing a new one back then. I probably don’t now, but I feel like my professional demeanor is called into question if my accessories are less than perfect.
I spent a miserable hour in the mall looking at ladies bags and the gaudy trend some of the really expensive ones have this season (or maybe it’s always been that way). After much obsessing, I purchased one black purse a little bit bigger than what I want, and one deep red wristlet that just looked too cute to pass up. This is why I don’t often shop—I base my decisions on “cute” and “I could use that for this one random event I might go to in the next year” instead of using my trusty logic.
When I make a decision, I usually feel good that I can click a task off my list. Not so with this purchase. It opened a pandora’s box of insecurities within me. This purse will represent all that I am to strangers. My professional competency will be judged based on this black shoulder bag, and you know what? I’m better than this Coach Chelsea cross body.
So I pulled up multiple browser windows and spent an entire week searching for the bag that represents all of me. Matt watched my crazy, frenetic behavior from the sidelines as I ordered yet more purses so I could judge them side-by-side and get their feel. Is this one me? Does it say, “You just hired me for a consulting job and paid a bunch of money to fly me cross-country and I’m worth every penny?” Sadly, no. The purse didn’t. Because purses can’t.
Matt, my beloved husband, an incredible therapist, and a deeply intuitive man gently asked me one evening as we walked the dogs, “Have you thought about what a purse might represent?” I gave him the blank stare. No, I obviously hadn’t searched my soul for a deeper meaning as my OCD reigned. But dang it. As soon as he said that, my little inner voice flashed a picture of the creative space deep in my belly that’s just waiting for me to put my valuable stories, words and energy into it. I saw the orange fire casting a comforting glow in what I named my “creative cave” a few years ago when it presented itself in cold, dark gray. It now has an incandescence that somehow has grown despite my inattention.
The compulsion I’ve felt to find the right purse was a misplaced need to put my treasured gifts and talents in the safe and nurturing environment of myself. My inner confidence and ingenuity represent who I am, not a fancy leather bag to heft around crap I don’t really want with me.
I’ve decided to train myself to use a clutch purse that barely fits my phone, sunglasses and keys. I returned the large shoulder bag I bought and gave the red wristlet to my sister, who oohed and ahhed over it because she needed a new one (and it really is cute). A perfect ending to a story about a woman finding and accepting her personal power.
Do you have a happy ending to an issue you’ve struggled with? Are you still encountering blocks or denial on your journey to wholeness? There are plenty more in my bag of tricks, but this one is enough for now.
Spring is just around the corner, night taking one more breath to whisper its final goodbye. With this last kiss, we can all wake from our hibernating selves and inhale the growing sunlight.
At this time of equinox, I shake off the cobwebs in body and mind, in hearth and home. The tradition of spring cleaning came from days of old when we relied on wood-burning heat sources and the light from candles to keep the darkness at bay during the long winter nights. I never really understood this need for spring cleaning until I had to light an apartment using candles for three solid days during a snowstorm (no power means no heat and no light). Afterwards I discovered black soot all over the beige walls, covering my white trash can and any other surface that smoke and its crud can cling to. It took a lot of scrubbing to get my home clean. That experience has made me incredibly grateful for electricity and the modern conveniences that come with it.
The past three months have been intense for my self-identity. I’ve cleared many old thoughts and beliefs that don’t work for me and probably never did. I’ve begun to abandon behavior patterns that destroy any chance that I’ll be who I want to become or accomplish the pursuits that bring joy into my life. There are some things that I’ve let in—that little creative girl who got stuck at some point in childhood, but now wants to join the game; that fearsome weird-looking part of me that others may not get, but that is essential for the work I crave to do. Now that dark and light will balance their energy in a moment’s passing, I also will bring equilibrium to those now-empty spaces and find more effective places for the new aspects of my self.
Every spring we have the opportunity to emerge from our winter caves and see the potential that quietly grows during the dark, still season.
What have you seen or experienced that you want to strengthen in yourself or in your home? How can you feel more love, joy, and gratitude for who you are and who you can be a year from now?
This past week was a pretty balanced one. Yoga tired me and reminded me I need to take it slow as I build my practice back to what it was last fall. Work offered unique opportunities, but allowed me to stay in my quiet zen-like office for as long as I wanted. I felt good and in my flow.
My flow broke when I returned a call to one of our stakeholders. I’ve never truly interacted with this particular woman and regretted the need for a conversation after ten seconds on the phone. This lady was filled with spiky, intense, destructive mojo that absolutely destroyed my peace of body and mind. She argued and actually told me she didn’t care what I had to say (I was explaining financial policy that is out of my control). Ugh. After attempting to be gracious in a no-win situation, she finally allowed me to hang up the phone. But that didn’t disconnect the attachment that formed between her energy and mine.
I’m a Reiki Master, and I’m in tune with energy around me. It has taken years of practice and awareness to balance myself, body and mind, in different environments and tough situations. The effects of this woman’s lack of regard and stabbing intent sat heavy in my gut for hours. Even writing about it brings the feeling back. Eventually I found my equilibrium and went on to have the peaceful sort of day I love and enjoy.
Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend and relayed this story. She and I met 16 years ago in Reiki Level I training and became fast friends, taking our remaining classes together to become Masters. She reminded me of one of the symbols we learned: Raku. Reiki is based on using symbols while allowing the universal energy to flow through the practitioner and into the person/animal/situation needing healing or wholeness. A Reiki teacher uses Raku to separate her energy from the student after attuning the student to a new level.
Duh. What took me hours to accomplish on my own could have been done within minutes if I had used Raku to separate my energy and emotions from the woman-on-the-phone’s spite. I need to have this symbol on my cork board so I will always see it at work when I end a phone call. If something isn’t in front of my face, I tend to forget it. I trained hard to become a Reiki Master, but I’ve allowed some of that knowledge to fall into the cracks inside my skull. It’s time to dust off the Reiki symbols and see if there is a new and improved way to use them in my life. If I can rediscover a cool use for Raku, then surely more tricks await my creative spin.
What ways do you find effective to keep healthy, safe boundaries with those who think they can intrude into your emotional space? Reiki is one way. I’d love to hear about others.
Spring seems like it’s already here, not necessarily because of the weather (although it helps). But because my job has eased up. I don’t have to run on pure adrenaline, and my body has mostly recovered from that spike that got me through the winter busy season. My creative brain is wakening. I feel it perking at the oddest times, usually when I can’t sit down and write. The frustrating part about art—my muse and my schedule don’t often align. But when they do, it feels like magic.
Magic, did you say? I haven’t gotten back into my stories or fiction yet, but my monthly Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game has burst with renewed fun. Captain Lia is not a magic-user, but her two best friends and pirating buddies are. The D&D world is steeped in monsters and enchantment and sends me to a place where I can play with aspects of myself. It’s not always safe to try something new in real life, but a fantasy setting where harm really can’t occur is the perfect way for me to try on different hats or perspectives.
Consider the pirate stereotype…salty, villainous, greedy, most likely missing some teeth. However, my friends and I have created a way to play pirates that doesn’t go against our real-world principles. Lia leads a ship whose crew is considered family. She would die before allowing harm to befall anyone aboard the Skull fleet. She also won’t allow raids on villages; instead, we seem to give our bounty to those in need. Definitely not a pirate thing to do. I get to be a barbarian and a bad-ass in battle. It feels empowering to kill two monsters with one swing of my mighty sword. Historically, I’ve played magic users and always had to stay in the background during fights due to my delicate constitution. Now I get to play a physically strong character and stretch those muscles within myself.
Do you have a space where you can experiment with who you are and feel safe doing so? I’d love to hear about it.
This is my beloved cherry tree—the bottom picture taken this afternoon. Since Matt and I bought our first house, we have had a cherry or weeping cherry tree in our yard. Technically, we had a weeping willow at one of the many houses we’ve bought and sold, but I’m going to count it because it was beautiful with its languishing branches.
I prefer the cherry in full bloom, bright pink flowers decorating the outside view from our meditation room. Last year I developed a color blend of fountain pen ink that looks like a cherry blossom. I’m smitten. And I want those blooms back. Creating a color blend for “snow gray” doesn’t spark my creative muse.
My journal holds a record of when I first spot color on the tree each winter (thankfully it doesn’t wait until spring to rise from the underworld). February 7 is the earliest date I’ve noticed, exactly three weeks from today. The latest is towards the end of February, but I don’t want to wait that long this year.
Some part of me wants to make a philosophical analogy about our inner selves looking like this tree at different times and seasons in our lives. But the part of me that has been working non-stop since Christmas doing CPA stuff says, “Stop writing. Take a nap. Watch TV. Your brain is tired.”
Like the cherry tree, I’ll be back in February…when my workload is more normal.