vulnerability

Doggone It, People Like Me

The end of self-help

I’ve always had a hard time doing daily affirmations – especially when I can’t get Stuart Smalley‘s voice out of my head. However, they’re an important part of the Artist’s Way process, so I’ve been waking up early every day and doing them.

The trick is finding the right one. If you keep repeating a line that means nothing to you it’s just boring and meaningless, but when you find the right one it can cause a physical reaction (chills or even dizziness).

My favorite affirmation is: I am a creative, passionate person. Sweet and simple, but very hard to say.

For a long time I thought I wasn’t a true artist because when I watched movies about painters they would always attack the canvas like they were driven by an uncontrollable desire to paint. I’ve never had that.

And movies about writers usually show the writer as a depressed, lonely soul (usually an alcoholic) who obsesses over every word while their relationships crumble around them. I’m not like that either.

So at some point in time, I must have decided that if central casting wouldn’t pick me to play a crazy artist I must not be a creative or passionate person. It sounds stupid, but believe me you’ve probably done something similar. The sub-conscious is a strange beast.

I would like you to count how many negative things you tell yourself in one day. Count all the little things like: I’m always losing my keys (I’m absentminded), I can’t believe I ate that whole burrito (I’m out of control), I’m such an idiot (I’m such an idiot). Or it can be bigger things like: I’ll never get that promotion (I’m not good enough), he would never be interested in my (I’m not worthy of the love I want).

You’ll be surprised by how many negative affirmations you tell yourself. Why is it crazy to tell yourself positive things, but absolutely normal to knock yourself down? Why not spend just a little time telling yourself some positive things?

If you’re having trouble finding the right affirmation here’s a great motivational picture to help you:

All You Ever Need to Know

Look into this baby’s eyes. Could you ever say or do  anything to hurt him? No, it’s impossible. This baby deserves to be loved and protected.

Every single person starts off just as beautiful, innocent,and magnificent. They deserve to be loved and protected. They deserve to be treated like a precious gift. However, as we grow up we do get hurt. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, but nevertheless, it’s never warranted.

We figure out how to survive; how to go through life without getting hurt. Sometimes our defenses help us but other times it keeps us from getting close to others. And usually our defenses end up hurting other people even if we don’t realize it. Hurt people hurt people.

If you can look into a person’s eyes and forget about who you think they are now, and just see the beautiful, innocent, magnificent being that’s inside them I guarantee you’ll treat them differently.

Now if you can recognize this innocent beauty inside of you, it’s possible to stop criticizing and doubting yourself. Imagine how different we would all treat each other if we did this.

How can you not love her???

Find a picture of yourself where you can see how happy and innocent you were as a child, and keep it in your wallet. I started doing this, and every now and then I look at it and remember that I need to take care of myself, and that I need to show as much love towards everyone else. I’d highly recommend it.

This is one of the lessons I learned from The Living Course. I took this course 4 years ago and it had a profound impact on my life. I’ve assisted with 6 courses since then, and I still get so much out of it. I first came up with the HeSo Project during a TLC course when I realized how little I think about what would fulfill my heart and soul.

I wish everyone could experience the joy and self-empowerment that this course brings into the lives of everyone who takes it. If you live near New York or Michigan I urge you to take the course. I know the world will be a much better place if everyone could do it!

Why Challenges are Necessary

A wise, old man stood with a bird perched on his arm. When the bird was about to take off, the man pulled his arm away, and the bird fell to the ground. Why? Because the bird needed the resistance of the arm to push off.

This is how I’m choosing to looking at the recent financial challenges of starting my own business. I need resistance before I can take flight. Knowing that I can’t afford to produce the BeddyBye product the way I originally designed it is making me rethink the design. I believe that I will come up with a smarter, sleeker, more profitable design because of this set back. I’ve already gone back to the drawing board – my kitchen table.

Sometimes it’s good not to have all the money you need. I remember when my mom first started to produce shows she happened upon a musical that was in the workshop phase. She loved it instantly (even though there were major flaws in the story), and if she had millions of dollars to spare she would have produced it immediately. Instead, she needed to work with the writers to improve the story line in order to get more investors interested.

Ultimately the project dissolved because of creative differences, but the script ended up much improved, and during the process my mom  was exposed to another show that she is now producing (which is going to be super successful, just you wait!!!), and she met lots of people who will help her succeed as a producer. If she had the money right away she would have produced a show that probably would have flopped, and she would have wasted millions of dollars. Not having the money forced her to learn and grow, and now she’s ready to take flight.

If it sounds like I’m pushing this “challenges are great” shtick it’s because I am. Right now I’m in a phase where it would be very easy to drop the whole project. That is why I need to convince myself that this is all for the best. My hope is that this can motivate you when you reach a difficult phase in accomplishing your dream.

Flamenco changed my life

From Photobucket

I came to Spain to learn Spanish, eat Paella, see some Gaudi, and drink Sangria. I did not plan to see Flamenco. I thought is would be really cheesy. Women in frilly, red dresses dancing around and snapping to over-enthusiastic guitar strumming. Count me out. But Mike kept saying he needed to see some authentic flamenco, so we asked around and heard about  a great underground flamenco club. There were plenty of signs all around Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada for the “authentic” flamenco experience- 40 Euros for dinner and dancing. For some reason I couldn’t imagine the original flamenco dancers performing in front of dining tourists.

The place we found was in Granada, on Carrera del Darro  called Le Chien Andalou. It was only 6 euros, and it blew me away.

We walked in and it was a brightly lit, white-washed cave, about forty feet deep, ten feet wide. The stage was only about 8 by 10 feet. We were told to get there an hour early to get a seat. When I walked in, I was skeptical. It was almost empty. We sat next to a guy from Colorado, and I thought, oh great this is a tourist trap. By 10 o’clock the place was jam packed. All of a sudden the lights went down and a chubby, balding, blond haired guy walked on to the stage with his guitar. When he began strumming, the room fell silent. If you closed your eyes it sounded like two or three people were playing. When I opened my eyes I was captivated by the faces he made. He looked evil, almost possessed by his guitar. His name is Josele de la Rosa.

Next the singer and dancer joined the stage. The singer was a young, pretty blond. From what I read about Flamenco singing, the singer is supposed to be old, haggard, and lived through a lot. I didn’t think this young girl could cut it, but the second she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. Her voice was so rich, deep and raw. Most songs were just one line sang over and over again. It became hypnotic, but the subtle changes each time were heart-wrenching. After the second song I realized I was crying. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by singing in a dive bar. The singer’s name was Fita Heredia.

While Fita was singing, the dancer, Almudena Romero, was sitting in the corner in the standard, frilly, red dress. She seemed antsy, like she couldn’t hold back her dance moves, but she wanted to let the singer have the lime light. Then, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she stood up and if people weren’t crying at that point they didn’t stand a chance. She transfromed from a smiling, laughing young woman to a powerful, intense, fiery vixen. The look she gave the audience was something I had never seen before. Something like, “if you ever hurt me I will rip each one of your fingers off and feed them to you.”

I have never seen such raw emotion before in my life. With each movement of her pinky, with a flick of her hair, with a hip pop she was able to say a thousand words. At this point I was a mess. Not only was I crying but my nose was running uncontrollably. I wasn’t even sad, just so overcome with emotion. She was able to show such vulnerability in her face, yet her movements had the strength and bravado of a bullfighter. The dance got faster, and more erratic, and almost violent, until the stopped suddenly and the lights came on. I looked around and to my relief I wasn’t the only one reduced to tears. Nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes with napkins. Even the guy from Colorado. He said it was far better than Eric Clapton, a performer he’s followed his whole life. Mike was speechless. He’s a musician, and even he was blown away by the performance.

It was something so pure, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. If I lived in Spain I would become their groupie. They made me want to take flamenco classes. A strange desire for someone who can’t clap in rhythm.

I’m a liar

OK just a few posts ago I went on on about the advantages of being alone. How it hightens the senses, builds character, pushes you out of your comfort zone. Well Mother Nature must have read my post and thought to herself, “oh really, Tracy? You love being alone? Alright then I´ll put a hurricane in New York of all places so that your boyfriend won´t be able to meet you on time, and you´ll get lots of extra time alone.”

First off, I hope everyone is safe in New York and New Jersey (yes, I care about New Jersians too) and that there isn´t extreme damage. I know people are getting effected far worse then I am, but this is my blog and if I can´t be self-absorbed here, where can I be? Just when I was starting to think I would go crazy being alone for another day, and the only thing that was cheering me up was thinking I would see Mike soon, I find out that no planes are leaving the northeast coast. I go out to dinner and I´m surrounded by loving couples spoon feeding each other and I just want to smack them. I´m remembering what it was like to be single.

I left Salamanca yesterday and arrived in Madrid around 5. It´s a great city, but I don´t think I´m giving it much of a chance because I´m walking aroung with a cloud over my head. I was supposed to meet Mike Sunday morning and then we would go to San Sebastian together. Since he won´t be arriving until the day we were supposed to leave San Sebastian, I guess that´s off. I could go alone, but I´m tired of doing romantic things alone. Drinking a bottle of wine is romantic when your with your boyfriend, but it´s just sad when you´re by yourself. I want to be angry at someone. It be so much easier to curse someone off, but it´s just nature, and you can´t get angry about that. Or at least it´s pointless. Damn you wind and rain!

That said, at least I learned something about myself. As much as I love traveling, I prefer being with people I love. If a genie said, ¨I´ll give you $10,000 so you can travel around Asia by yourself right now, or I´ll let you have one night to snuggle up watching Dexter with Mike.¨ I think I´d have to take the latter.

Well I´m sure I´ll be in a better mood soon. Sorry for whining.

I´m staying at the Cat´s Hostel which is the quintessential hostel. My room has 14 other people. Everyone´s here to party and get laid. I don´t know where they´re expecting to get laid when there´s only bunk beds and your neighbors are about 6 inches away from you, but perhaps they´re more creative than I am. The hostel is a converted arabic style mansion from the 1800s, so there´s an amazing central area (I´m forgetting my architectural terms) with a fountain and original tile. Right now I´m typing in the dungeon. I assume it´s an old wine cellar but the walls are painted black and there´s a low vaulted ceiling.

Yesterday I went to the Prado. It was amazing to see Las Meninas and Garden of Earthly Delights in person. Also Caravaggio´s The Decension was there on loan. I think it´s really strange how people look at paintings from a distance. I´m always standing as close as possible to see the brush strokes and what colors the artists used, and the different techniques. I´m the person the guard is always yelling at to step away from the painting. But you can´t see all those details in a textbook. In one the paintings of a bunch of saints, one of the saints looked exactly like Robert Downey Jr. It makes me think that he was indeed a Saint, and he sold his soul to the devil to be a famous actor for all of eternity. Think about it, Iron Man would have ruined any thesbian´s career, and yet, he pulled it off somehow. He´s had more comebacks than, well, I don´t know. hmmm.

Well this gave me a story idea, so afterward I went to a cafe and wrote 20 pages of the outline. Yes, I was drinking red wine, yes, the streets were coblestone, and yes, there were people next to me smoking and philosophizing, so I guess I had a pretty European evening.

The little Piper who couldn´t

That´s Paco on the left after getting the same note wrong 4 times in a row

There are some great street musicians here. But I´m not going to write about them. I´m going to tell you about the worst street musician I´ve ever seen. I´ve nicknamed him Paco. Paco plays the recorder. He wears brown tights and  a military vest every day. He has a mullet that´s shaved on the sides (business in the front, party in the back, army on the sides).

He plays one song, and he doesn´t play it well. He usually comes to the outdoor restaurants right after a great acordian player, or violinist is done. He walks around to every table playing three or four notes off key and then asks for money. Usually people cover their ears and ask him to leave.

I´ve watched him  since the day I arrived in Salamanca. I figured that was the first day he received the recorder and that eventually he would get better. Nope. He´s still just as bad. For all I know,  he´s been playing that song for years. I watch him at lunchtime. I´ve never seen him get paid once. However,  I have seen people offer him cigarettes or beer and ask to talk to him. They probably ask him why he plays the recorder.

So what is the point of telling you this? What sort of HeSo lesson can I glean from this? He obviously loves playing his recorder, and nothing is going to stop him. It doesn´t matter if no one pays him, and if no one likes him, he´s going to play his recorder. Can you imagine being that passionate about something? Can you imagine inspiring people not with your success, but with your perserverance? Let´s all try and be like Paco today. I´m going to go shave the sides of my head now.

Paco getting into a groove

Getting over fear

A wise man once said, (I´m paraphrasing here) ¨If you´re afraid of being poor, walk around for a day in threadbare clothes and only drink water and eat a crust of bread. At the end, say to yourself, is this what I´ve been so afraid of?¨

How many times have you done something that you were really afraid of and then laughed at yourself because it really wasn´t hard at all? It´s insane how much we let fear control our lives. If you think of all the things you´ve ever wanted to do, and then asked yourself why you didn´t do it the answer is probably fear.

Here are the three fears that have inhibited me the most:

Fear of poverty

Fear of criticism

Fear of being alone

In the past, I have prioritzed avoiding these fears over fully embracing life . For instance, I didn´t like my last job, but I worked there for three years because I made lots of money, and I wouldn´t have to face the fear of being poor. I have kept my mouth shut when I had something important to say, because I was afraid that I would sound stupid. I didn´t even want to have a blog because I was so afraid of exposing my terrible spelling and grammar to the world. Gasp what would they say! Since I´ve been in Spain, the computer I´ve been using doesn´t have spell check set up for English, so I have certainly had to get over my fear of criticism to write these posts. In High School and College I befriended people  who I didn´t like or respect because I didn´t want to sit alone.

Before coming here I decided to face the fear of being alone head on. First of all I came here alone. Besides for the first day, I have had every lunch and dinner by myself. Don´t worry I´m making friends, but I made a conscious decision to grow comfortable with being alone. Before, even just the thought of eating alone in a restaurant  would have made my skin crawl. In the past if I went to a restaurant with a friend and they got up to go to the bathroom, I would immediately feel like everyone was looking at me, and thinking oh poor girl, she has no friends.

A funny thing starts to happen when you´re alone for so long.  Instead of feeling like everyone´s looking at you, you start to look at everyone else. I have become more observant. I noticed how the old men here have made an art out of stirring their coffee. They slip their spoons in and out of the cup very slowly, and they do this for 20 minutes or so. It´s almost like a meditation. I noticed how people touch their wine glasses differently when they´re talking to someone they like. I can predict if a couple´s going to have sex or a fight after dinner just by the way they drink their wine!

To be perfectly honest I don´t like being alone. I miss talking to my boyfriend/friends/family. I miss having common references and inside jokes. But I have met interesting people who I probably never would have met if I was with a friend. And I´ve had time to get lost in the streets and do exactly what I want to do. At the end of every meal I´ve made of point of saying, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨

The point is as soon as you face your fears they can no longer control you.  If you´re in a relationship with someone who isn´t right for you maybe you should spend the day alone and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨ Sometimes when we face what we fear the most it´s better than what we´ve been accepting in the past.

So as a challenge, I ask you to do what scares you the most. Don´t go skydiving today. I´m talking about emotional fears. Face your emotional fears and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨If you can laugh after asking yourself that question then it´s time to start changing.

The importance of being vulnerable

You can decide how a conversation will go. Seems obvious, but as a recovering introvert, I have slowly realized this fact. I never thought I had the power to control a conversation, I usually just add on to a subject someone else brings up. But since I am at a school, meeting lots of new people, I have had the opportunity to answer the same questions over and over again. Surprise suprise the more information I volunteer, the more interesting the conversation gets.

Everyone asks me what I do for a living (actually first they ask me if I´m in college which is really flattering, but then it just reminds me of how old I´m getting). At first I was answering,

¨I just quite my job.¨

And their  natural response would be, ¨What do you plan to do next?¨ And I would say, ¨I´m not sure, just looking around.¨

I figured if they were really interested they would ask further. Or I will tell them more when we get closer. Afterall, they´re strangers – they don´t really care.

Writing this blog has helped me realize that strangers really do care. I can´t believe how many strangers have subscribed, or sent me comments (I really appreciate it, by the way (and I really appreciate my friends subscribing too!)). And the reason why people are interested is because I´m sharing something interesting. If I had a blog that said ¨ I quit my job and I´m not sure what I´ll do next,¨ (insert shrug here) there wouldn´t be much to relate to.

This where I did my reflection before writing this post. The Casa del Sal

So recently when people ask me what I do for a living I answer, ¨I quit my job because it wasn´t making me happy and I wasn´t living up to my potential. Now I´m taking some time to reflect on what I want to do with my time on earth. How can I contribute to society, but also make my happiness a priority.¨ Well you can´t believe the difference that makes. People´s eyes just widen. They´ve been given so many hooks. The conversation has been layed out.

This felt like a risky thing to say at first. What if they shrug their shoulders and say, ¨well that´s nice,¨and move on to someone else? Or they can roll their eyes and say,  You must think you´re real special. Just get a job and pay your bills.¨ But no one says this. Usually they tell me how they completly understand what I´m going through. Then all of a sudden complete strangers are sharing with me about how they are unhappy with their job, but they are afraid of quiting, or how they were unhappy but were afraid to start over again, but they´re so glad they did.

I find that the more I share the more other´s feel comfortable sharing their fears, regrets and life lessons.  I always  hated small talk, but that´s because I was the one making it boring. You don´t have to play small when small talking.

The other night I sat down with an older woman from England. We struggled with small talk for a bit, finding that we really had nothing in common, but then she asked me what I do for a living. I gave her my new and improved response. Suddenly her eyes lit up. ¨I went through exactly the same thing after my divorce.¨ She then told me how she worked in HR for years, but after she got divorced she quit her job and had lots of time to do some self-reflection. That´s when she realized how much she liked art, and she began taking continuing education classes in art, until she got her masters, and now she has a studio, and is a quite successful sculptress. She told me she wished she had taken that break to look at her life when she was younger because she felt that she wasted years just going through the motions.

Me at the aqueduct of Segovia. Hope this wall never comes down!

In a matter of minutes we realized how similar we are, and I really appreciated hearing an older perspective on what I´m going through and hearing her afirmation of the HeSo project. None of this would have happened if I just shrugged my shoulders and said ¨I´m not sure what I´m doing next.¨ I´m giving the same information, but now I´m revealing my emotions about it, and that makes all the difference.

If you´re making small talk today I encourage you to share more than you normally would. You´ll be surprised how quickly the walls  come down!