[New Year, New You] Week 10: What Motivates You

This week’s writing prompt is about finding what motivates me.

Given that I’m currently taking part in four challenges (Body Positive Yoga [physical & artistic], Cannonball Read 10 [reading & writing], posting my top 10 favorite albums [it’s silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s helping keep me going with regular reminders of things that inspire me] and this New Year New You [writing]), I’d definitely say “A Challenge” is high up on the list of things that motivate me.

Achievable, understandable goals are definitely on the list. If the goal is too big, or I don’t understand it well enough, it gets too muddled and too big and I give up. Sometimes, for bonus points, before I even start!

Connection is also something that motivates me. Nurturing healthier connections, learning, growing with those connections.

On a related note, surrounding myself with people who are motivated and also want to learn and grow and be healthy motivates the fuck out of me. My therapist and I have taken to calling the amazing circle of women that I’ve cultivated open, honest tribe ties with my Amazon Network. Because they are truly Amazons and I love them all in different ways. They motivate the hell out of me to be a better person and to love myself along the journey, and both are so necessary.

Music can motivate the fuck out of me, whether I’m listening to it or I’m playing/singing it, music has always been a driving force for me. Currently, this song from my past just popped up this week and is motivating me to keep going:

Adjust Your Dreams/Shining My Flashlight by Christine Lavin

What can you do
When it is clear to you
That your dreams
Will not come true

Where can you go
When everything you think you know
Disappears from view

You can hang your head
Roll over and play dead
Curse the world
And all it’s evil schemes

Or you can
Adjust your dreams

Just a trace of gold in the leaves today
There’s just a touch of gray in my hair
The stream along this road runs a little colder
There’s a hint of a chill in the air
The blue sky is fading into purple
Late afternoon is gliding to a close
With my hands on the wheel
I wonder how it feels
If you’re the last bloom of the summer
Or the first autumn rose

So I pull off this highway
Drive these winding roads instead
Thoughts of the bad years
Disappear ’cause up ahead
Off in the distance is a strange and soothing sight
The mountains look like sleeping manatees this cool September night

I leave the car by the roadside
And I hike up that hill
Stars circle in slow motion here
As they always will
A million miles away
From where I was this afternoon
I wrap my misgivings in a tune
While I’m Shining My Flashlight On The Moon

 

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[New Year, New You] – Week 9: Lessons

This week’s writing prompt is one of reflection. Has it really been 9 weeks since I started this? It feels like longer. Well…technically, it has been longer. I started on December 28th. That means it’s been 14.5 weeks. Which makes sense, since I lost about a month to the explosion and resulting dumpster fire from my old job. But we have to keep on keepin’ on, right?

So I picked back up and now I’m mostly on the weekly schedule, give or take a day or two. But still….it feels longer than even that 14.5 weeks. There’s just been so much that’s happened. Said dumpster fire, a break up, heavy conversations and considerations about how I need to move forward with Relationships, starting a new job, starting to write more frequently (six out of seven days this week!), asking for lots of help, working through a  fuckton of fear, changing perceptions about many people I thought I knew, ceasing kink for a while to reassess my foundation and communication, picking it back up slowly, all those resulting conversations, reclaiming my Pagan roots and practicing more, financial and health concerns, a national conversation about SESTA/FOSTA, Stormy Daniels, and the latest chucklefuckery of 45. It’s been a fucking LOT.

What have I learned? That I have to keep going in the direction of the next best step. That incremental change is more than good, it’s necessary. That even though I may want certain things right now or be afraid that I’ll never get them/there, I have to slow down and, as we’re told at work, trust the process.

Oh, if only one of my first therapists could see me now. Richard was the first person I came out to. And I was fucking terrified. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I was being raised by an activist mother who taught me that I could be whatever I wanted, and I knew she’d love me no matter what my sexuality. But I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about being, at the time, a lesbian. And forget trying to tell my dad. That was not something I’d have courage to do until about twenty years later when I handed him an invitation to my poly wedding – to one man (whom I was already legally married to) and one woman. I figured two closets for the price of one invitation, right?

But when I was sixteen, I had some serious arrested development and bone-level terror. Of myself, the world, the future. Richard was one of the kindest, open people I’d ever met and I felt comfortable with him. Still, I was scared. I think it took about two sessions for me to say the words aloud. And I couldn’t look at him when I did it, because I was so afraid of what I’d see in his eyes. Disgust. Derision.

But there was none of that. There was only warmth and a slight gleam in his eyes. Through more sessions, I think he said he had an idea of what I was trying to get out but wanted me to get there on my own. He was very big on “the process”. Everything was “a process”. It used to make me so mad. When he was about to say that something was “a process” I would glare at him and tell him he better not be about to tell me it’s that fucking p-word. He would chuckle. But now over twenty years later, I’m learning how right he was. You can’t read a book all in one second. Or listen to a song in a second. Things aren’t instantaneous. They take time to plant, cultivate, water, grow, flower. It’s a motherfucking process.

That’s probably the thing I’ve learned all too well over the past few months. That fucking process. And an important part of the process is starting.

One of my favorite books is “The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation” by Dan Millman. It’s a short book that packs a punch about a guy who goes for a hike in the woods and winds up meeting a mountain sage. She takes him on a journey that’s marked by a few different chapters/laws that have major life lessons as titles. The Law of Action opens with the mountain sage telling the narrator to pick a direction when they come to a spot in the woods where the path diverges in three directions. The narrator points at one path. The sage repeats herself and tells him to pick a path. He points again, saying he chose that path. Getting more irritated, the sage tells him yet again to pick a damn path already fer fuck’s sake. Finally, he gets it and starts walking that path.

This has stuck with me for nearly two decades. Action is a requirement to get things that I want. I have to deal with, talk about, fucking process, and ultimately do. Walk in the direction of my dreams. Y’know, once I figure out what the hell they are for this part of my life.

Song of the week: “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the
Pain
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you build me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer

 

 

[New Year, New You] Week 8 – Asking for Help

I’m getting better at asking for help. Which is awesome, because this week’s writing prompt is about asking for help and I’ve already done it a few times in the past few weeks.

Here are the ways I’ve asked in the past few weeks:

  • asked a friend for help with writing check-ins so I can motivate my ass with some accountability
  • asked a friend for some help with spellwork
  • saw my therapist again and asked for help with figuring out what I’m looking for in terms of healthier relationships
  • asked nesting partner to take care of dinner twice this week and do a small round of grocery shopping
  • asked a friend for help with figuring out and talking about things I’m looking for in D/s and sex

I’ve also offered help to friends if they needed anything that I had bandwidth/spoons for, so it totally goes both ways. But I’m also learning not to just give and give until I have nothing left. It feels pretty damn good to be able to open up to accepting help from people I trust and also having them follow through.

There are a few other things coming up I know I’ll have to ask for help with, so I’m gearing up for that, as well. Overall, this might be a short post, but I’m glad for it’s being a writing prompt for this week. It’s important to be receptive to asking and accepting help on your path, especially if you’re on a path of discovery, adventure, change, and growth.

Song of the week: “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs

Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent.
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me.
****
Spare me? Don’t spare me anything troubling.
Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Speak to me and let our words build a shelter from the storm.
Lastly, let me know what I can mend.
There’s more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see.
Trust is what I’m offering if you trouble me.

 

Advanced Cartography: Rewriting Maps & Navigating Cars, Love, and Polyamory/RA

When I was sixteen, I had to take a test at a local community college. My mom and I were dirt fucking poor – on welfare, food stamps, housing assistance. Her old car was hanging on by a thread…no heat and this was in a bitter fucking winter, one of the windows wouldn’t stay up so we had to pull it up every once in a while, radio was broken.

We tried to make a game of it, though. When it was really cold, like the day I took the test, we would pile blankets across us and pretend like we were going on a sleigh ride. The car died on the road leading into the community college. I got out and pushed it until we got to a hill further in and we coasted into a parking space. Took my test. I passed (somehow with the second highest score in the state) but honestly don’t know how because I was trying not panic, thinking about how we were going to get home with the car, y’know, not working and all. My mom kept trying to reassure me as I went in that she would take care of it. And she did. She called my dad. My dad owned a body shop and helped us fix the car. This might seem like NBD, except they’d been divorced at this point for about ten years and neither were the other’s favorite person. But. We were out of options and my dad did it to help me.

I’ve never had a new car. I’ve never even bought my own used car. The cars I’ve had all were given to me, and I realize how fortunate I am in that. The downside is that they are usually high in mileage, or wrecks that my dad fixed up and gave to me. Most lasted for at least a year or two, with their myriad quirks. One decided it didn’t want to go in reverse anymore. That was a fun challenge, to try to always park in such a way that we didn’t have to back out of anywhere. One had a “police door”, as we called it. (The back door had child locks that apparently decided they wanted to stay on all the time so the door had to be opened from the outside.) Another became possessed and started repeatedly activating the power door locks…while I was driving.

I was also incredibly fortunate to have amazing almost in-laws who then became my in-laws and who gave me their gently loved cars with high mileage. I still have one of those cars. She’s lasted longer with me than that marriage did, ironically.

My cars and I bond. I love them dearly. I remember the one that had the pair of dice by the dashboard light because one of my exes had a penchant for Meat Loaf and an adorable sense of humor. I remember the one that I fell in love with because it was deep green and had curvy lines like a zaftig woman’s body. I love(d) all these cars because they were freedom to me. They got me places I could barely dream about when I was little. Out of bad situations I couldn’t get myself out of when I wasn’t old enough to have a car. They are the place where I feel most comfortable, in some ways…I can have intense discussions, sing, choreograph burlesque routines (from the waist up and in my head, of course), see new places, get to sacred spaces, meet up with people who are important to me, help the people I care about by bringing them places or things. Even to this day, when I think about being without a car, I have to fight multiple panic attacks.

Like I said, though, they all had/have their quirks. Sometimes those quirks are repairs I can’t afford to make but don’t technically have to. For example, a cosmetic dent from a hit and run I didn’t even know happened until I got out of work. Since there’s no one to hold accountable and I didn’t have money for health insurance at the time, let alone cosmetic car repairs, there was no way I could get a new bumper. Also, it wasn’t a safety hazard, so it was low on my and my dad’s priority fix list.

One of the most nerve-wracking things about these cars, though, is taking them through inspection. Because often, with older, high mileage cars, the check engine light was on. Or going off and on. I’ve recently been told by a friend that this is usually just a faulty gas cap and if you make sure it’s secure and tightly sealed, all will be well after a day or two. This wasn’t knowledge I had, though, over the past two decades of driving. Which meant that most of the time, I figured it was something I didn’t have money to fix, so I had to pray that the car held out until another one came along or until my dad was able to have a friend fix it. There were short term fixes we learned for various problems. Or sometimes we would get lucky and the light would go off and we’d race to the inspection station and try to get it through before the light came back on and we flunked before they checked anything.

“Quick, get it in before it starts throwing codes!” was the rallying cry.

Sometimes we got lucky and passed. Usually, when we did, the check engine light came back on a few days later. But it was okay. (“Okay”). The old sticker had already been scraped away and a shiny new sticker put in its place, marking the car as valid. It was the stamp of approval so we didn’t have to worry constantly about the cops pulling us over, regardless of what the light said.

Old, out of date maps

Lately, I’m finding an odd parallel between how I was taught to procure cars and what I learned love was supposed to look like. A high percentage of people I’ve been attracted to share some of these traits from formative relationships in my childhood:

  • work-a-holic
  • obsessive personality
  • presently or previously addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other types of highs
  • charming & charismatic (for my magical friends, glamour for daaaaaayyyyyssss)
  • unpredictable
  • being showered with affection then starved for attention and when/if I can manage to ask for some I’m too greedy or demanding. Or selfish
  • being hurt and told it’s my fault. Or that it didn’t happen. Or having it be ignored
  • being in constant vigilance so often I don’t even realize it’s become a normal state as I deal with one fucked up situation after another because shit just keeps happening
  • low emotional intelligence and communication
  • long periods of unavailability
  • anger issues
  • not seeing or interacting with who I am, just what they see me as and what I can do for them
  • abandonment

Shit, when it’s spelled out like that, it’s not all that attractive. But…they manifest in such intriguing ways. Dancing eyes. Saying all the right things. That work-a-holic thing is “just dedication”. Obsessiveness can be so sweet at first when it’s directed at you. So if you look at these Relationships in a certain way, in the right light, on a good day, after an amazing scene, they look fine. The statuses on social media seem accurate. They’ll pass inspection. To the outside world, the relationship is up and running, doing well. Only the people inside it know the anxiety of the seeing the metaphorical check engine light on, or knowing that the symbolic heat doesn’t work, or that you really wish a particular damn window would stay up, especially when it’s fucking snowing outside. It can get really fucking cold and sad when this happens.

And if the check engine light isn’t on, there are times when it feels like these relationships are on the verge of throwing “relationship codes” – different sex drives, lack of communication, goals and ideals not lining up, wildly different kink drives, no pick up…play, fixes we can’t afford to make because they live far away and gas is expensive and we all live elaborate lives. So many codes that can spell disaster for trying to pass the test. For trying to convince yourself that you’ve got a little more time. That maybe it will all work itself out and the light will stay out.

And then I read this post by Page Turner.

This paragraph really hit home:

Yes, I drank and actually enjoyed terrible coffee for years without knowing it could be any different. And now I drink coffee that’s rather snobby compared to what I grew up on. But the same thing happened with love. I was just happy to have anybody in my life. I didn’t know what it was like to be really appreciated. To be cherished.

I would love to have a car I don’t have to worry about, but I don’t really know any different. I’ve never had that experience of new, fresh, and smooth. Waiting, saving, and picking exactly what I want. It’s always been what’s available. Buying a new or even used car has so far been entirely outside of my realm of experience.

Likewise, I don’t have a lot of experience with consistently being loved in a way that feels right to me once the NRE has worn off. My current dream is to eventually, when I’m looking again, find more capital-R-Relationships that could maybe turn me into a love snob. For most of my life, and especially the past few years, I have been stunned that anyone wanted to be in a relationship with me at all (capital or not). I’ve gotten into a Relationship or two because people were available and interested, and I was definitely interested, too. But I didn’t think too much about what it all meant and how it all fit…and if it fit at all. If they had the same values. If what we were looking for lined up. And if they loved me the way I wanted and valued me. Because it’s been a hard path to realize that just because someone wants you, doesn’t mean they value you. Or just because someone loves you doesn’t mean that they love you in a way that you want to be loved. Love itself doesn’t make relationships last. Likewise, it’s a hard road to open yourself up to people who might could love and/or care about you in ways you’re realizing you want, because those ways don’t look like ways you’re used to.

Figuring out how to navigate love is confusing as fuck to me

Especially because being without a relationship in polyamory used to make me panic nearly as much as being without a car. How would I get physical touch? Would I ever play or make out again? Would anyone love me again if I’m not already in a Relationship? Like they say it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, it’s easier to find people when you already have them, right? It’s taken me a really long time to realize that much of these thoughts are severely co-dependent. A good friend gave me a copy of “Co-Dependent No More” and even though I’m bristling at some of it, I know that’s because it’s all too familiar and applicable to me and my life. The more I want to throw it across the room, the more I know there are lessons that I need to learn.

There’s a quote in the chapter I just started that says “I’m fiercely independent…as long as I’m in a relationship.” That gut-punched me. I’m terrified to be alone…and yet I’m also craving to live alone for the first time in my life. I’ve run out of bandwidth and spoons for capital-R-Relationships. I finally know that adding a new Relationship isn’t going to fix anything (ask me how many times I had to do it to figure that out… *headdesk*)

As I skew more and more towards relationship anarchy, though, I’m trying to learn how to be in relationships (friendships, chosen and blood family, etc) that are what I create with the other person, not about what society tells me any of it should look like. That I get to ask for what I want instead of trying to fit things into a certain box or taking what’s in front of me, like the cars I was given, because they’re what’s available.

And yes, I do know that relationships aren’t actually cars

Cars are not people. In fact, in the words of a dear friend to me recently, “You are not a car. You are a person.” They were referring to someone I was interested in, who had a propensity for “chasing cars”.

I get it. (Still totally needed to hear it, then, though.)

But.

There’s a similar feeling towards them both given how I learned to view them in my life. And I realize this might not be universal, but it’s what I’ve got. First, I learned a very specific way that getting a car looked. Similarly, I learned early on what love looked like. All the “driving” in between is a combination of amazing, exhilarating, utilitarian, pedestrian, and thrilling. And then, when the paralyzing fear that the relationship’s or car’s life end is coming, I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to pull the plug. Like I said in a recent post, I don’t have a lot of skills built up in breaking up. When I don’t know where my next “car” is coming from and I have no money (or energy) to find another, saying “this is not working. It’s time to stop” feels so…wrong. I never fully learned how to embrace my own autonomy and strength to say, “nope. This ain’t working. I’d rather be alone than deal with this. I will figure it out from here but this sure as hell ain’t gonna continue.” I just…wait for it to just die. Or for something bad enough to happen.

There was one time when I found out a partner cheated on me; I literally packed all my shit and was states away before they got home from work. I had made it clear it was a hard limit and I’d leave if it happened. Hard limit was crossed. I was gone. That equation was so simple.

But what do you do when the equation isn’t simple? When there isn’t a bad person? When you love someone but you don’t want to continue in the way you have been? When you want to try to preserve some parts of what you love about and with that other person and you’re afraid that if you bring up changes you’d like to try, you’ll break everything and lose that person? I know, I know. I can’t control how the other person will react or feel. And that’s where communication comes in. And believe me, I’ve been having some really hard fucking conversations lately. Conversations that felt like it would be easier and less painful to just rip my fucking heart out and throw it out the window. Conversations that made my whole body tense up, even though it might be a good change. Conversations that were a long time coming and hurt like hell but also felt like an immense relief to finally have and come to an agreement.

I’ve broken up with a few people when we both were at the point of “you know, this just isn’t working right now. Let’s go back to being friends. I think that’s better for the foreseeable future.” Sometimes that worked out and sometimes it didn’t.

But one of the things I struggle with is saying all of this:

This isn’t working for me. I deserve and want more. I want to feel valued. Cherished. Desired. Like I’m someone you want to spend time with and make an effort to. I love you, but sometimes love isn’t enough.

Especially since it makes me feel like I’m a failure. If I were better somehow, I could make it work. Just add more duct tape! Adjust your expectations and desires until the little bits you’re getting seem so filling! Hell, if Alanis can feast on scraps, so can you!

Except…after a while, humans can grow accustomed to so many things. Shitty things and  awesome things…we’re remarkably adaptable. But if we keep adjusting our expectations beyond what we actually, really want, we wind up starving, dehydrated, and driving around in a broken down relationship and not wanting to give it up because you feel like you’ll never get another one again.

Seems like a good time for a song cue…

it is enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside the cracks
the pieces don’t fit together so good
with all the breaking and all the gluing back

and i am still not getting what i want
i want to touch the back of your right arm
i wish you could remind me who i was
because every day I’m a little further off

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

“Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing” by Amanda Fucking Palmer

And cue the internet supplying me with advice yet again, in the form of this article making a great case for a good reframing…that of reframing what a “failed” relationship is. It’s a little monogamy-centric for me, but much still applies. This part especially:

“…stripping away the success/failure dichotomy and replacing it with an experiential narrative. You lived, you loved, you learned. Now, what did you learn? This perspective has transformed how I date, have sex, and manage my relationships. I encourage you to do the same.

Rather than focusing on doing everything right, it’s better and more rewarding to view each new person in your life as an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect.”

Letting the right ones in

Basically, I’m learning. And unlearning…at the same time. Trying to unravel decades of behavior and messages in a few months. Having hard convos and doing my best to be honest and to listen to the people I trust. I’m incredibly fortunate to have some amazing people in my life to have awesome conversations with about sexuality, sex, art, gender, kink, politics, and life, who encourage my creativity and who open up to my encouragement, who want to play with and make out and have sex with me, who cuddle me and let me cuddle them, who challenge me and demonstrate healthier ways to love on a regular basis. And who show me all the many ways to love and care about someone. That love and/or caring doesn’t have to be reserved for capital-R-Relationships. That it doesn’t have to look like the fucked up ways I learned it looked like growing up.

It’s funny; last year, my friend Deb crafted a limited edition essential oil blend for Valentine’s Day called “Let the Right One In”, based on the Morrissey song of the same name. I did what I almost never do…I bought it scent unsmelled. I just felt…compelled to. When it arrived, I adored it in the bottle and even more on me. I’ve worn it sporadically though out the last year. It’s always interesting to see who likes the scent on me and who doesn’t. Generally, I’ve found the people who like it are the “right” ones that I’ve been cultivating more fulfilling relationships with and the ones who don’t like it on me…well, those relationships aren’t doing so well right now or have already ended. The poly/RA person in me wishes that it wasn’t a singular subject in the song, but such is life. I sing it and pluralize “one” like below:

Let the right one[s] in
Let the old dreams die
Let the wrong ones go
They cannot
They cannot
They cannot do what you want them to do
Oh…

In closing, I find this Kimchi Cuddles comic that just came up in my “On this day” FB feed yesterday to also be remarkably appropriate:

KimchiCuddles-TikvaWolf-572

[New Year, New You] – Week 7: Shoulder to the Wheel

This week, Deb’s writing prompt is dedicated to doing the hard things. What are the hard things for me?

Eating correctly for two hormonal conditions I have. Exercise. Evaluating relationships and leaving the ones that aren’t working. Pushing my way forward towards the life I want to have.

In her original post, Deb talks about surrendering to this writing Experiment, but that she didn’t always know what that meant, which resulted in getting scared sometimes and a litany of questions in her brainmeats. I’m getting scared, too. Or the fears I’ve had all along are surfacing like mofos. My incessant questions look something like this:

Will I ever get ahead of my debt and live the life I want to? Do I have the courage to stand up and make that life happen? What does that life fully look like? Will I have the strength to leave relationship(s) that are no longer good for me if need be? Will I have the strength and discipline to Master my own damn self? It’s so easy to submit to someone else when I resonate with them, but can I give that same dedication to myself? Will I ever find a Dom(me) who wants me that I resonate with in return? Will I ever be able to put together the career I can only barely conceptualize right now? Will I ever get my craft together after so long away from it? Can I be consistently gentle with myself the way my best friend keeps reminding me to be and also be responsible and make hard choices to push myself to grow? Can I find that balance? Have I actually learned to not get into unhealthy relationships simply because they remind me of what I was taught love looked like when I was a kid? Am I doing my best?

I like what Deb’s muse had to say to her string of doubts and fear. Her muse sounds like mine, sometimes. The thing that hit me hardest, though, was this part:

You’re changing your insides, one piece of a star at a time.   You can do this.  You need to do this.  This is where you start to become who you want to be.  I believe in you or I never would have chosen you.  Keep pushing, tiny one.  Keep pushing.

So, this week, I will do the hard things. I will start a basic tackling of finances. I will have hard conversations. I will keep trying to delve deep into the questions that scare me and, piece of a star by piece of a star, I will change my insides and start making the outsides match.

A few days ago, I had started talking with a friend about qualities we bring to D/s relationships and qualities we’re looking for in said relationships. That convo is helping me to both recognize that my foundation wasn’t as fucked up as I feared it to be earlier this year. I’m looking forward to continuing that convo. I got through listing the things I bring to a D/s relationship and now I’m thinking about what I’m looking for in a Dom(me) and/or sub. (When I’m ready to start looking again, that is.)

I keep on keeping on with writing, and I’m writing more now since the break up than I had been prior to it. I’m grateful to a great friend who’s helping me stay on task with that in the form of regular, agreed upon check-ins. Writing is also helping me sort through all the shit, so it all works synergistically.

One of the biggest hurdles I’m facing is getting my ass in gear more and eating better for my health and the body I have. There was a post on FB the other day that talked about how the secret to fitness is sitting less. I have to will embrace that and get off my butt more often, especially at work when there’s no one coming in. I stopped walking around the showroom and I have to start doing that more again. I also have to will figure out an eating plan, because this going day to day thing I’ve been doing is not good.

Today, I will also be recording and posting another video of me singing, to fulfill my personal monthly post-a-musical-video-of-myself challenge.

So. Keep on keeping on. I’m changing my insides, one piece of star at a time.

[CBR10 – 4/13] Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

(Cannonball Read book review #4 – original post @ CBR10)

I never thought I’d be reading a sales book, let alone be on my second one this year and have three more in the queue waiting to be read. But then again, life is under no obligation to give us what we expect. It all started with a career change from being and Artistic/Programming Director for a small Event company on the East coast to selling mattresses. That was not the career move I had planned on, but it’s what presented itself and I needed money. My new job gave us a book to read that I did, in fact, read but also loathed about 90% of. Still debating reviewing that book. I shared my issues with that book with my best friend, who immediately found the sales books they respected, hunted down used copies, and had them sent to me. I started reading the Little Red Book of Selling and immediately relaxed. The last book had me agitated about sales, but Gitomer is much more accessible and down-to-Earth. It’s a little dated (copyright 2004) and the reference to a VCR was charming.

The book is laid out into three overall sections. The first section is seven micro-chapters about “Understanding Red Sales…”, then the meat of “The 12.5 Red Principles of Sales Greatness”, and finally six more micro-chapters of “More RED SALES Thinking” to wrap up.

I really liked the way the book was broken up into bite-sized pieces and how humor and cartoons were mixed in to help drive lessons home.

My favorite chapters were:

  • Chapter 1 – Kick your own ass: the principle here is simple. Get your own ass in gear. “You have a responsibility to yourself to achieve.” And he’s pretty brutally honest that “the only way this is going to happen is with self-inspiration, self-determination, and hard work that starts before everyone else gets up and after everyone else has gone to sleep. Kick your own ass is not a statement. It’s an axiom.”  He lays out some negative thinking that leads to slumps, and then follows up with prescriptions to cure said slumps. That all boils down to specific ways to work to turn things around that include studying the basics, talking to customers, hanging around successful people, visiting your mentor, and other active things you can do to invest your time and energy into improving.
  • Chapter 3 – Personal Branding is Sales: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You: I admire Gitomer’s humor. Like the first paragraph of this section is “Personal Branding is not complicated, unless you take a course in it. Then it’s scary as hell.” That made me literally laugh out loud. He goes on to explain what personal branding it and specific ways to do it. One of his biggest suggestions throughout the book is to write and give speeches at local organizations to establish yourself as an expert. In fact, in one of the last micro-chapters, he says that if “you only choose ONE THING that I tell you: Believe that writing will take you from where you are to any place you want to go.” This spoke to me, since I love writing and have a blog already.
  • Chapter 4 – It’s All About Value, It’s All About Relationship, It’s NOT All About Price: In this chapter, he teaches you how to give value and be valuable, including, as above-mentioned, writing in journals, newspapers, e-zines, and newsletters, and giving speeches.
  • Chapter 5 – It’s Not Work, It’s NETwork: All about networking, which was awesome for me since I suck at networking. I always think I’m bothering people. The friend who got me this book keeps trying to tell me to network and reach out to my contacts and I constantly feel like I don’t want to bother them. But Gitomer gave reasons why it’s not a bother and how so many people do it. He also explains part of why I haven’t felt comfortable with it. He defines networking as “life skills and social skills combined with sales skills.” Before this current job, I had no formal sales training, nor experience in direct sales. I’ve had retail jobs, but they were things like barista and cashier. I have life and social skills but am still working to build my sales skills. However, Gitomer gives simple, concrete ways to network that make sense to me and feel much less like I’m being a bother.
  • Chapter 8 – If You Can Make Them Laugh, You Can Make Them Buy: So this chapter opens with a comic of two sales guys talking to one another. One has swirly eyes, indicating he’s high as hell. The caption is the other guy saying to him, “Getting a customer to laugh is a good thing. However, firing up a bong in his office might not be the best way…” Another LOL moment for me from this book. I appreciate the hell out of that. Gitomer himself shows that he’s learned to good-naturedly laugh at himself and gives you suggestions and tips for how to incorporate sales techniques in your sales skills. One of the best, and something my job keeps telling me, is not to tell jokes, but to tell stories. I’m working on those. He does mention to be careful of ethnicity and gender, as in his recommendation is don’t go there. He also says to keep it clean, don’t drag it out, and take small humor risks, not big ones. Safe things to use to mine for humor: children (what they did or said), traffic (what you did or saw), repeating a sit-com or television line (with acknowledgement to the source – points to him for that!), self-stuff (hair, clothes, make-up, shoes), self-abilities (golf, tennis, running, exercise), self-improvement (frustrations climbing the ladder or studying). He also has a section on how to become a student of humor with 15.5 suggestions about that.
  • Chapter 9 – Use Creativity To Differentiate & Dominate: I really liked this chapter because I’m used to being the black sheep and doing things outside of the box, so it was nice to have some validation and encouragement in that regard. Like almost all of his other chapters, learning creativity simply comes down to dedicating yourself to learning about it if you don’t feel you’re good at it and studying it more if you do feel you are good at it.  One of the things he recommends is not having a “pathetic” and boring voice mail greeting. He gives ideas on how to change your voice mail greeting to something more creative. I personally like the suggestion of having your kid record something for you. I’m very grateful for this part of this chapter specifically because I have a fairly unique voice mail message that I have chosen to keep through my latest round of looking for and finding a job. It’s a quote from a 90’s movie I really liked; it’s always gotten the best reactions and I’ve never heard anyone else use it, so it’s fun and makes people think. (Hint: if you liked the movie Reality Bites, you might know what my voice mail greeting is.)

Overall, I really liked this book. The micro-chapters in the beginning and at the end of the book helped ease you into the book and into furthering your sales education, respectively, which I appreciated. One of the last micro-chapters has a self-rating list of the 12.5 Principles of Life-long Learning to help keep you improving, including reading books, attending live seminars, joining Toastmasters, spending 30 minutes a day learning something new, and practicing what you’ve learned as soon as you’ve learned it. After finishing this book, I’m excited to move on to the other Gitomer book my best friend got me: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Sales Answers. 

[New Year, New You] Week 6 – Maps

This “week’s” writing prompt was to visit someplace sacred to me. I put “week’s” in quotation because I’m going reaaallllly slowly with this “New Year, New You” Challenge. Deb pretty much rocked out this whole 23 week challenge by or before now when she first did it and I’m still on, like, week six and I started a week before 2018. Plus, I actually visited said sacred space over two weeks ago and am only now writing about it.

But. Slogging though I may be, I am still doing it. Let’s call it “going at my own pace.”

Also, this year has been legit full of dumpster fires, massive life upheaval, and re-evaluating….oh, I don’t know…everything. I also just broke up with a partner I’d been with for a few years. So no big.

Anyway. Sacred spaces. Cosmograms (Gonna build my own soon). Guidance and omens. Read all about on her original post or handy-dandily c/p’ed below:

This week’s prompt is for you to go some place that is sacred to you and to use the experience to guide you in your work for 2012 2018.  Look for signs and omens everywhere, write down your dream from the night before and if your drunken whore of a Muse (. . .or, you know, your own personal spirits) give you direct input as to where to go and/or how to spend your time there, do what they tell you to do (. . .within reason, don’t get stupid on me now, Charmers) and see where it takes you.

The point of this prompt is more about being open to an experience and relaxing your mind and seeing what kind of revelations you come to.  We don’t all have access to standing stones, it’s about going to a place that’s important to you in your own personal cosmogram – it could be a town, a bar, a church, someone’s house, a restaurant, whatever.  You know your own map.  And it doesn’t matter if your dreams are filled with your boss telling you to buy tomatoes and vodka on the expense account and demanding you mask it so that Accounting doesn’t bother zir (. . .not from personal dream experience or anything) or if all you hear on the radio is Sexy and I Know It ninety billion times on repeat and that the only wild life you see is someone’s Labrador and Red Mini Coopers suddenly seem important, write it all down.  Don’t try to interpret it until you’re writing your blog entry.  Let it marinade by your bedside until you write your blog entry.

Go find adventure.

I didn’t have any dreams of note that night, but I definitely sought adventure and found it in one of my favoritest of scared places: the ocean. My guiding song was from the TV show Nashville – “The Only Way To Get There” sung by Jake Etheridge (playing the character Sean McPherson). Applicable lyrics:

Step out of the shadows
These feelings I will follow
Western wind is on my side
No more wasting time
‘Cause I caught as fever
I’m heading towards the water
Listen to the words inside
No more wasting time

Do you wanna meet me where the sunlight shines, whoa, whoa
You know there will never be a better time, whoa, whoa
The only way to get there is to go

Don’t wait till tomorrow
To throw away your sorrow
You’ll never need to look behind
No more wasted time
If you can read the writing come out from your hiding
Get back to finding what’s true
Let you love be scattered and rise it to the rafters
You will come back better than you knew

Other omens – sign on a church I passed: “Women of courage and action, follow your passion!”

20180224_143855[1]Did NOT expect to pass that on church sign. But it hit me like a hot pink brick truck. There was also the “Play Nicely” art gallery across the street where I had a delicious bulgogi burrito (because Mogo Fusion in Asbury Park is fucking amazing). I took pictures of a bull sculpture on the street that was near a scary old-fashioned clown. It felt like a metaphor of one of my relationships. The clown was behind glass. Unattainable. Untouchable. The bull, however, was outside on the street, free to soak in the rain and the sunshine firsthand. It also has a chain around only one foot. It hit me pretty hard…the metaphor of it all.

I saw a neighborhood alley transformed into an outdoor installation of plastic items all re-purposed in fascinating, bright ways. Then I went and found a gazebo on the boardwalk and took some videos of myself for my February post-a-music-video-a-month challenge. The one that won was me covering “All Fired Up” by Pat Benetar. It still makes me giggle a little to do a folksy ukulele cover of a grrrrrrl rock song from the 80’s and I love it so. I also recorded my a capella rendition of “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. I’ve been singing that a lot at work since one of my area managers found out I can sing and that “Crazy” was at the top of my solo wheelhouse. Given the break up I just had and the devolution in that Relationship, the lyrics would cut me every. single. time.

Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new
Worry, why do I let myself worry?
Wondering what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

Interestingly enough, the wind kicked up right in the middle of it and literally took my breath away a few times. I tried hard to control my pitch but it felt like th universe telling me gently that it was going to take those words away for me. I wouldn’t have to sing them for much longer. Two and a half weeks later, that relationship transitioned back to friendship. Still hurts like a mofo, though.

Anyway, the wind kicked up quite strongly at that point and I had to book it to a friend’s concert. That’s right, Moosejaw Muldoon was playing as part of an art opening that was happening in a BUG MUSEUM.

OMG. Insectopolis is fucking EPIC. And surreal. There were two movies playing simultaneously, layered over each other, for whatever reason. One was always a bug related movie and the other was a more mainstream movie. I don’t know what the first more mainstream movie was, but the second one was Edward Scissorhands. I got some fantastic shots of my friend’s band with this bizarre movie melange being projected behind them, complete with Johnny Depp all Scissor-fied.

Afterward, my friend and I wound up having a snack, talking, and chilling in a cuddle lump. It was a really great day/night that I’m hella grateful for. It helped me unwind from my job, leave the ever-raging-dumpster-fire of my old job behind, as well, and just go where I felt a soothing bliss. To tasty food that was a beautiful blend of flavors, to unexpected and expected art installations, the bull and the clown, the music, the ever-expansiveness of the ocean, and great friends…all reminding me that there is an ebb and flow. It may be rough right now, and the wind may be whipping, but it’s taking things I no longer need away. I’m on the journey. I need to keep going where there is art and music and words, to the people and places that touch the light in my soul. To trust in the tides, and of course, follow my passion.