Posts filed under desire map

do what you must :: when you need to find the flow.

This past month has been one of the most stressful I've experienced in a long time. A few days ago, on a Story Sessions call discussing Rilke and the importance of artistic rhythms, I had a moment of clarity I decided to turn into a mini-series on the blog about doing what you must. The first post can be found here

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If there has been one word that captures this season of my life, it's the word flow. 

Rhythm. Movement. Shift. Drive. Change. 

Every where I turn, she reminds me of her presence. 

It would make sense, then, that most of my moments of clarity have come when I'm actively engaging in motion.

.::.

It's three in the morning, and the third or fourth time I'm taking our dog out for a walk. There aren't very many thoughts pressing in outside of let this be the last time please and holy cow can there BE any more trees left on this property that you have yet to sniff. 

But I feel a dissonance. 

I let her lead me around the complex, forcing my eyes to stay open, and when we trudge up the stairs and I fall into bed I think for a split second I need to change something. 

Bianca Broos tells us in a Coaching the Coach meeting that dissonance can be one of the best teachers. My ears perk up and I jot it down in my notebook. 

Teach me, then. I think. 

The words come later that evening as I fight for control with my dog's leash.

It shouldn't be this difficult, I pout, wrapping the leash around my wrist and giving her collar a slight yank.

And then I pause. My girl stops with me, looking up and giving me a questioning glare at the interruption of her squirrel chase. 

It shouldn't be this difficult.

.::.

I've been discontent with the direction of this blog for a while. 

I knew what I wanted: to encourage artists, to be real about the creative process, and to blog candidly about my experiences with creative entrepreneurship. What I didn't know was how to get from where I was, stuck, to where I wanted to be—caught in the flow. 

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. - Rainer Maria Rilke

In our last call for the spring session of Story 201, I had us look over this quote and consider it for ourselves. Was our life a sign and witness to the impulse within us? Were we truly digging for a deep answer of what it is we must do?

I knew my answer even before pausing the camera and allowing them time to reflect. I needed to find my flow. I needed this — in all of the definitions of that word — to not be so difficult. 

And I'm not speaking of the difficulty surrounding risk and growth. Change and movement always require a shift, a breaking of sorts. That hurts like hell and isn't easy, even if it's for the best. I'm speaking of the difficulty of trying too hard.

I'm speaking of the moments in which we choose to bleed out instead of asking for help. 

I knew there was a shift occurring within the clarity surrounding Story Unfolding. I knew it would probably look a lot like restructuring and rebranding. 

It also looked a lot like hope, and felt a lot like flow. 

.::.

I was skyping with Bianca when I told her, "you know, this past weekend was the first time I gained clarity and acted out of my vision instead of necessity. Every other moment of decision-making it's been because of someone telling me what I should do or offering a suggestion." 

She tilted her head. 

"Tell me about that. What were you doing?"

I laughed. "Um. I was knee-deep in eCourses. I was taking notes and answering the difficult questions. I was thinking about my language and my brand and what my vision is for Story Unfolding's future. It wasn't how we could make this as big as possible or involve this person or that figure. It was hat is Story Unfolding at its core?—I wasn't concerned about anyone else's opinions. I needed to know for myself." 

.::.

Here's a spoiler: I found my language. 

I have a lot of work cut out for me. But for the first time, I'm okay with feeling driven. I'm okay with the movement. It's not overwhelming anymore; it's breathtaking. 

And if it were a color, it would be golden

 

This is one of the things I'm most excited about—the redesign of my newsletter. A weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and inspiration about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. Come join us?

Posted on July 24, 2014 and filed under creative entrepreneurship, desire map, this-here blog.

do what you must :: when it's more than a rash.

This past month has been one of the most stressful I've experienced in a long time. A few days ago, on a Story Sessions call discussing Rilke and the importance of artistic rhythms, I had a moment of clarity I decided to turn into a mini-series on the blog about doing what you must. This is the first post. 

The rash started on my knee. 

At first, I thought it was a heat rash. (Hello, Texas summer) When it didn't go away like other heat rashes, I thought maybe a cut was healing.

And then I woke up one morning clawing at my neck. When I looked in the mirror to see what could be going on, I found tiny red splashes of irritated skin staring back at me.

Hello, stress. How are you? So nice of you to visit. 

I did what I normally do: complain, try not to scratch, and use an inordinate amount of cortisone cream. One morning I kicked my sheets off of my legs and started scratching feverishly, watching as tiny bumps formed underneath the red streaks left behind by my fingernails.

Nothing was working outside of an insane lathering of aloe vera, and well, that just got sticky.

After a few days, the spots on my neck faded and my legs were calming down considerably. And then? It was everywhere. My legs. My stomach. My arms. My neck. My chest. 

The redi-clinic couldn't help me, saying it was eczema and for me to use lotion. When I finally connected a new laundry detergent appearing shortly after the rash, I decided to throw that one out and get an old stand-by we'd used before.

It wasn't until a sleepless night had me googling allergic reactions to every single thing I'd used in the past month that I connected the culprit: arnica. 

A magical little gel-like substance that solves any muscular aches, it also can provide horrific reactions to those allergic to ragweed (raises hand). I felt simultaneously hopeful and frustrated. 

Especially because I had even taken the pills. 

This was more than just your standard allergic reaction. 

After a trip to the dermatologist and a hefty dose of steroids, I started noticing a slight improvement. 

But this story is not about a rash.

.::.

For the past week, I've had to keep my skin as hydrated as possible. This meant stopping what I was doing throughout the day to rub lotion onto my legs, my arms, my stomach, my chest. 

Talk about forcing embodiment. 

Every day, I took a handful of lotion and in circular motions, massaged these pieces of me that normally don't receive so much attention. After a few times, I started talking to them. Letting them know that I see them, and I notice the rash, and I love them anyway.

It was a profound moment of mothering myself. 

Rashes are a thing for me. I don't do well when there's something going on with my body in which I have no control. I would say you could blame my past for that, but it's also a healthy dose of fear of the unknown and my need to have things in a certain order. 

I've gotten better over time, but there's nothing that will send my anxiety spinning then seeing something I can't stop. Itchy skin is up there on the list of triggers. 

I used to think I'd be a horrible mom because of this. Kids get rashes. They just do. I know this—as a teacher I saw plenty of funky skin conditions. 

But I also had the lysol spray handy.

I had friends tell me that it would be different when I was a mother, that it wouldn't matter because this was my kid and he or she was uncomfortable and that would be my priority, but I knew myself. I knew the way my mind played tricks on me. I wasn't so sure I would hold so much grace. 

So it's fitting that my first round of mothering was meant for me—for my skin and knees and arms and neck that were red and angry with a reaction coming from within. 

It was the only way I could calm down. Sit on my bed and breathe. Pull out the lotion and breathe again. Use my thumbs and fingers and work out the tired muscles tense from stress and worry. Whisper safety and healing and love. 

Only then could I begin to see connections between stress and how my body was reacting. Only then could I begin to understand that maybe the allergic reaction was yet another way of my body reminding me that I needed release.

And that's when I remembered it'd been weeks since I cried.

Posted on July 23, 2014 and filed under creativity & rest, desire map.

creating a map out of your jealousy.

A little over a year ago, someone launched a project and it gave me feelings. I copied + pasted the link and sent the page to my then story-consultant-friend-coach and wrote in incomprehensible language how disgusted I was with this guy's latest attempt at brilliance. 

He sent back an email within a few minutes saying, "let's talk about this tomorrow." 

I remember snarling at the computer screen the next day. That white-hot feeling of why didn't I think of this boiling up and over into my words.

"I mean, it's not like they're actually doing anything." 

My friend chuckled under his breath. 

"Sounds like you're jealous." 

I paused. 

I took a breath and glanced over the website again, this time through an analytical eye. Great design—check. Great copy—check. Impressive backers—check.

My voice dropped to barely a whisper.

"Maybe a little." 

He grunted in appreciation, both for my honesty and his intuitiveness. I leaned forward swiped my mouse back to the home page of my laptop so I could see his face on Skype. 

"But listen. That doesn't make sense. I don't want to do this. I don't have the slightest interest in what they're hoping to accomplish here."  My nose wrinkled again. "This feels sleazy. Manipulative, even." 

He told me to think about it. To allow myself the notion that maybe—just maybe—this jealousy was trying to tell me something. I got quiet for a moment, allowing my eyes to scan over the website one more time and really listening to my body — 

Where was I feeling the anger and jealousy? 
What was that telling me about anything? 
How would I act on this emotion now?

I sat up straighter. 

"Oh my god. I know what it is." 

He looked at me and raised an eyebrow, waiting. 

A smile played at my lips. 

"This jealousy? It's showing me I can do this. There's nothing about what this person did that isn't within my reach. Even more, I can do it better. I know I can. This website is amazing, but there's a better way to support writers and artists. I feel it in my gut." I tapped on the desk with my finger. 

"So...." 

"I'm not frustrated because he's doing it and I'm not. I'm frustrated because I can see a way to do it better and right now, I don't have the resources. I don't have the Big Name backing me. I don't have the fancy website. I don't have the perceived value because of ridiculous prices."

"They are kinda ridiculous." he nodded.

I looked at my friend. "But this doesn't have to stop me, does it?"

"No."

I leaned close again. "What if I did something different? What if I gave space for authors and dreamers and artists to grow and thrive with no expectations? What if I became the counter to this offering?"

He leaned back in his chair and rested his hands behind his head.

"Elora my friend, you just became an entrepreneur." 

I laughed and pointed at the screen. 

"You did this on purpose." 

The whole side of his face lifted with his shoulder when he shrugged. "Maybe a little bit." 

.::.

Jealousy is fierce. It can take you out before you even know what hit you. 

But what if you can take that emotion and turn it into a map? What if you could ask the emotions threatening to ruin your day hey—I see you, show me more. How can we grow out of this? 

It takes skill. It takes the practice of breathing and flipping the switch of feeling everything in your bones to an analytical mindset. When this happens, something strange comes out of it: instead of discounting the feelings and emotions, you're giving them the platform to speak. 

Before, they were just banging around trying to get you to listen. 

Now? They'll come at you a little softer, maybe even offer a moment of clarity with open hands. 

It's a practice of embodiment, giving space and name to everything you experience within this flesh and bone. It doesn't mean it won't ever happen again. I can't tell you how many times I've felt the curly fingers of envy threaten to dismantle everything I've built. But since learning about this concept, I've started making maps out of my emotions. 

Sometimes, fear shows me an overstepped boundary. 
Anger points to the practiced skill of owning my voice.
Frustration reveals a better rhythm for my problem. 
And jealousy? Well she always makes me work even harder but it's in the best way—she's the one who helps me stand up to my full potential. 

.::.

The project that launched doesn't exist anymore. I think about it every once in a while, how it served as a catalyst for me to buckle down and work. I never saw this brand as competition, there were too many holes within their system for me to take them seriously. But I learned from them — 

I learned about launching too soon. 
I learned about mistaking market research. 
I learned about biting off more than you can chew. 
I learned about watching who you partner with in joint ventures. 

But most of all? I learned that the easiest way to watch your hard work crumble around you is to start focusing on what everyone else is doing. You don't build a house doing research on how everyone else built theirs—you do it brick by brick with the dirt under your fingernails and sweat on your brow and the hope blossoming in your chest.

Head down, eyes focused, only coming up for air. That's how you get things done. When the emotions bite, close those eyes. Find where you're feeling the pinch. Say hi and ask for what it wants to show you. 

And when the map is revealed, you move.

Have you ever had a moment where emotions threatened to take you out? Tell me about it in the comments! 

Posted on July 11, 2014 and filed under creative entrepreneurship, desire map.

risky business and peonies.

When I got married and it was time to choose an arrangement for my bouquet, I had no idea where to begin. I'm not the girl who likes roses. I mean, they're pretty and all but a little over-stated. Despite my hemming and hawing and mentioning that I kinda like gladiolus, the florist nailed my bouquet. 

Since then I haven't gotten much better. I just don't know much about flowers. I know I love bougainvilleas. I know chrysanthemums make me happy. The Texas highways in the spring are my worst distraction. But there was never a flower that made me suck in my breath and get all misty eyed because of the beauty. 

That is, until I came face-to-face with a peony.

Before I saw them in the floral section of our local grocery store, I had only heard about them—I'd never actually seen one. The moment it happened, I knew. This is the one—this is my favorite. I want them always.

.::.

A few days ago, I texted my business coach and told her these past few weeks have felt like a crash-course in an advanced MBA program. When I started The Story Unfolding, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Workshops and seminars on high-brow literature? Yes. Courses about writing and getting your work out there? Sure. 

Owning my own business? Bringing on multiple brilliant coaches to expand the reach? 

...hold on just a second. Let me grab my inhaler and some gin & tonic.

In the beginning, I researched my ass off. I worked with a story-consultant who is also a friend and brilliant and worth probably ten times his pay in what it means to build strategy within my brand and social media reach. It helped—within the eight weeks I worked with him my mailing list doubled and I gained deeper clarity on what Story Sessions, a branch of Story Unfolding, meant as a community. Within three months of his coaching I launched Story 201, the Story Sessions' subscription began, we brought on interns and coaches, and in January, the website went live. Somewhere during this time, I began whispering to other people I have a business.

For six months, every single development was built out of necessity.

- Story 101 members wanted a class that went deeper into the technicalities of writing. So I developed Story 201.
- The Facebook page for Story 101 members was getting cluttered with noise and there was a lack of focus within my purpose as well as those staying—so I created the subscription, opening up opportunities for weekly prompts, write-ins and more.
- Subscribers wanted a place to gather off the FB page—where we could offer the public a peek into our community and what we're creating. The blog was born and members gained access to a private page where additional resources, prompts, and inspiration were dropped.

All of it was good—great even. But everything went so fast the research and hours I spent on developing Story Unfolding seemed light years away. 

So I dug in. 

I came up with core values — rhythm, beauty, depth, luminosity, freedom, belonging and abundance. I drafted a coaching agreement for the brilliant women who are now independent contractors and trained coaches under Story Unfolding. I watched videos and listened to podcasts and read books from CEO's who paved the road before me. 

I remembered—and clarified—my why. 

It was hard. I fell under resistance and got migraines and stress rashes as a result. I led a retreat for Story Sessions' and came home more exhausted than I've ever been in my entire life only to jump right back into blogging and prompting and meeting the next week.

I fell. A lot. 

I bumped into my own fears and learned how to articulate my wants. I took the time and listed out my core desires — golden, rooted, abundance, embodied + sensual, la loba, rhythmic — and refused to flow with anything that went against these and my values. 

And eventually, it led me to a confidence I didn't know I possess. There is still much to be done. But I can—and will—do it. Story Unfolding is only just beginning, and after a year of tremendous growth intermingled with plateaus, I can't wait to see where the community will be in a year.

There's no limits to our dreams and what we want if we're willing to put in the work.

.::.

2013 was my year of risk. It was the year I jumped and started a business. It was the year I self-published Every Shattered Thing. It was the year I found myself underneath the safe exterior I desperately held onto because of past hurts and mistakes.

So when my word for 2014 revealed itself as soft. I thought maybe the risks were over. At least the big ones. I thought this was the year I learned about who I am really. And it's happened. I'm more embodied, more rooted, more confident than I've been in my entire life. 

What I forgot was that learning about yourself—your values, your wants, your desires, your beliefs—this is always a risk.

.::.

A few days ago I decided my new found peony obsession would need to be memorialized in ink. I started researching and finding designs I liked and the meanings behind the flower. Fortune is a common theme, as is compassion and bashfulness and love and beauty. But in one description, a word jumped out at me from the page. 

Risk.

I thought about the past few weeks and how crystallized my vision has become for Story Unfolding. I thought about the way the peony petals unfold and risk the falling. And then I realized—unless you risk, unless you sacrifice and say yes or take the time to really dig in to whatever this dream is you have—you're never going to get where you want. It's like my wedding bouquet. I got lucky. The florist made me a pretty arrangement that left me happy. That's not always the case. 

Do you know what you want? Can you articulate it? 

Even more so, do you have the guts to act on it?

As my business coach responded to one of my many texts about time spent on the perils of creative entrepreneurship— "E, if you never risk you'll never be awesome." 

Go ahead. Risking is huge—I get it. Articulating what you want or like or believe is scary. But you can't just stop there. You have to do it. You have to own it. This is what I've learned. 

Even peonies keep their beauty in the unfolding. 

 

If you are at all interested in talking more about how I snagged a business coach and who this brilliant mind is, let me know. Bianca Broos has changed the scope of my understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and from the beginning has believed in me and my crazy-ass dreams. You want her. I promise you do.

Posted on July 6, 2014 and filed under creative entrepreneurship, desire map, soft.

{embodied}

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She asks me the question often—how do you want to feel, Braveheart? 

Sometimes I roll my eyes. Because honestly—how does anyone want to feel? Do they even know? And what's with feelings anyway?

Here's some truth: I'm an inherent feeler and I spent most of my 30 years trying to hide the fact. 

So the eye-rolling? It was more of my "you're getting too close to who I am, watch out now..." But it's never left me. The question, to this day, haunts most of my decision making.

.::.

"So what would it look like to honor this emptiness?" 

The question struck me in the place between my heart and gut. I glanced away from the computer screen. 

This is too close to home. Too much of a needed answer.

I took a deep breath. Let it out. 

"Lots of painting," I said. Another word was vibrating against my bones and I dismissed it. "Probably lots of silence, too. I don't see myself writing a lot because there aren't really a lot of words for what this is..." 

She nodded. "This is not a season of words. I would agree." 

My heart pounded and whispered, giving into the word.

"And yoga. I need yoga." 

She smiled. "I was thinking the same." 

.::.

For an INFP, I do a lot to separate myself from my own desire and longings. I can meditate with the best of them, but I guarantee you it only looks like I'm meditating. This brain of mine works way too fast to grow quiet without lots of stern talking and I'm serious this time. Shut up. Please. Just for this moment. 

You see, for multiple reasons, I've spent my life detached from this flesh and blood exterior. Much easier that way. When your skin holds memory and your veins pump shaky darkness, it makes sense to cut those pieces off. But now, it's begging for attention. 

My arms tingle. Do you feel us? Do you see how you clench your hands when you sleep? 
My lungs demand a breath. Feel that beating? Notice the stillness? 
My feet tap a rhythm. Hear that music? Feel us moving? 
My heart skips a beat. Feel those hands? Notice those butterflies? 
 

Breathe it all in, sweetheart. Every last drop.
 

I close my eyes and stretch my arms above my head and circle down to touch the floor. I breathe deep. Feel every vertebrae shift as I stand tall again and suck in air. Hand above head again and reaching back behind me, I notice how my skin stretches. I breathe in and think of everything I want to feel. I breathe out the memories. The fear. The questions.

I want to feel everything. This is what a friend says on her tumblr. For years that sentence made me wince with what if. Now, it blooms with possibility. 

How do you want to feel, Braveheart? 

The question still echoes in the shadowy spaces inside. Today, I have an answer. 

Embodied. I want to feel embodied. I want to know this flesh and bone.

Posted on January 15, 2014 and filed under desire map, soft.