OMG. Can you BELIEVE what he just did?

It’s madness I say! All this talk!

Be yourself.

Follow your bliss.

You can be or do anything you want.

…and then…

Did you SEE that dress she was wearing?!

Yeah, but you can’t make money at your art. You have to get a real job.

THIS is how it’s done.

I’m not good / pretty / rich / smart / connected enough.

Pure insanity! …this cognitive dissonance of declaring that we simultaneously have freedom and also must abide. Can we not see the disastrous effects judgment – certainly of others, but most insidiously of ourselves – wreaks? Is there any way out?

I wonder…

What could happen if we:

* unfurl, instead of bind

* celebrate, instead of constructively criticize

* unarm, instead of protect

* radiate, instead of compete

* affirm life, instead of deny it

* loosen, instead of furrow

* shoot from the hip, instead of prepare

* witness, instead of evaluate

* accept, instead of tolerate

* breathe

What if we stopped judging every little damned thing we see? What if we stopped deciding if everything fits neatly into either the Good or Bad column? What if that voluptuous woman wore that dress like no one’s business, painted her way into a living, and did it all on her own terms?

THEN would we shut up that petty little voice in our heads?

What if, I mean, really now…imagine if The Last Judgment wasn’t some day of reckoning, some hierarchical accounting of our sins, layered with the gross humiliation of guilt and blame and deeply rooted shame…and instead was simply…

The very last time we ever judged?

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Just Another One Of The 13.9 Million Unemployed

Unemployed. Out on a limb. Yep, that’s me.

I cashed my last paycheck 15 months ago, back in the middle of the recession. On purpose. With purpose.

I had a good job, a great one, even – with a prescription plan, dental checkups, three-day weekends, and a 401K. It was rollicking, good fun and I knocked off by 4pm, at the latest. The company’s prestige was stellar, my colleagues were exceptional, and there was opportunity for growth. The wine flowed. Have I mentioned the magnum of ’82 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, uncorked just for me?

People thought I was out of my mind, people who had lost their home, steady income, health insurance, a chunk of their retirement account, their sense of security and self-worth. Why the hell would I willingly walk away when worlds were crumbling?

Because great was not good enough.

Because when the market is down, I’m like Warren Buffett.

Because there’s no place like the right time. And it was my time.

Once, a few years earlier, the CEO, this restaurateur who built his empire from the dining room floor of a neglected neighborhood all the way up to the skyscrapers of Dubai, poked his head into my office and greeted me with a rhetorical, “Hey, Kellie! Workin’ hard?” before he turned and continued walking down the hallway.

“No,” I replied. “Not really.”

Mid-stride, he hesitated. Uh-oh. I had caught him off guard.

Now here’s the guy who signed my paychecks, and probably didn’t appreciate my cheekiness, but truly, I wasn’t working hard. Work hard is what my dad did – a veterinarian by day, a farmer at night. It’s what the lobstermen do here in Maine, hauling traps in dangerous weather. It’s what moms do everyday. It’s what he did, twenty years prior, when he opened his first place, when he took a risk on real estate next to a methadone clinic and earned the trust of each customer, one by one.

That’s what I really wanted to do, take a risk. Not support someone else’s vision, but manifest my own. And for that, I’ll bloody my knuckles, scrub the basement with a two-bristled brush, and sell my soul. For it was my soul that was banging on the bars, begging to be filled. I left those spreadsheets and time cards to be filled by someone else.

Now, pour a jigger of my former boss’s entrepreneurial sensibility over ice, add a dash or three of my tendency to disregard the financial and cultural climate, garnish the rim with a dusting of dreams… and voilà! Here I am, taking an emotional gamble and it’s the hardest damn work I’ve ever done. But did I have to launch my rocket during the recession? Couldn’t I have waited for the terra to be a bit more firma?

Nah. What better time to cliff dive than when the economy is weak and I’m feeling strong. Better odds that way. I’ll grow despite, with less resistance, as everyone’s running for cover. The vine must struggle? I’ll leave that to the viticulturists…

Not to say it hasn’t been scary.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of feeling vulnerable, looking stupid, being rejected.

Overcoming these? Not so easy.

How about getting Lyme disease without insurance in these Tea Party times? Or paring down, living on $12,000 a year? Then figuring out how to build a website, a platform, a freelance income, a brand new life?

THAT’S sweat equity.

Then comes the real effort. Maintaining health, cultivating creativity, releasing stubborn obstacles, and breaking habits with gripping roots of steel. It takes commitment, fortitude, perseverance… and a plan. You have to know what you want to get what you want.

First, know thyself. And that is the hardest work of all.

I give thanks every day for all I do have, especially my solid support system, for without loving friends and family (and those random kindnesses of strangers), these challenges would feel a lot more like struggles.

At the end of it all, being one of almost 14 million was NOT on my wish list, but it will undoubtedly lead me to become that one IN a million.

Just like the ’82 Bordeaux. I’m sure of it.

Besides, with markets continuing to crash and real estate still iffy, you’ve got to invest in something worthwhile, right? Might as well be yourself.

Once In A Lifetime

I was driving from Warren to Camden the other night when it washed over me: I feel like I’m living inside a David Byrne song: as if some large bird swooped down 10 months ago, lifted me on its back and deposited me squarely in this new life.  Or maybe just the opposite – not in a midlife crisis kind of way, but in a finally! all is well, but how did it happen so effortlessly kind of way?

Who ARE these people? How DID I get here? (and, strangest of all, why does it feel so much like coming home?)

   “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
     And you may find yourself in another part of the world
     And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
     You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
     You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Too often, men (never women, make your own conclusions here) ask me: “Soooo, how is it that an attractive woman such as yourself has never been married?” Statistics trumpeting the benefits of marriage to our esteemed male population aside, I’m often stymied as to what they’re really asking. Am I lesbian? A radical feminist? Unlovable? A runaway bride, perhaps? A maneater? Or maybe too choosy or demanding?

I always find this question partly annoying (why am I not asked if I’ve ever run a business, had children, or, even been in a long-term relationship?), and partly amusing (it gives me a chance to don my contrarian outfit, poking around to find out how much they’ve really given the venerable institution serious thought). I guess I’ve just heard one too many stories of someone walking down the aisle like it’s a plank.

Once, I learned a man was asking because he was on the way out of his 8 year marriage, claiming he’d just been riding the wave of … isn’t-this-what-people-do-when-they’re-in-love? … “We met, dated, moved in, and next thing you knew we had a wedding, a mortgage, and … there I was, wondering, My god! How did I get here?” I think he was desperately seeking permission to leave, and that it would all be okay in the end.

     “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
     Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
     Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
     Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Looking back on my childhood in the 70’s, there weren’t many successful models of happily ever after around me, so I never idolized some future wedding, frosted with buttercream and white lace. There was nothing I particularly wanted to be when I grew up, either.  Those pressures of today – prepping at preschool for the Ivy League – were absent. Instead, life then was much like it is now, like all good spiraling cycles do, coming back around and placing happiness in the form that we learned it first, at our blessed feet. I learned young to be content and interested and make my own excitements;  the independence that followed led me on grand adventures both far flung and romantically. For that, I am thankful my (divorced) parents left the big picture choices for me to paint, never imposing their successes and failures, but granting me the wherewithal to navigate by pointing out the moon and the stars and the sky above.

    “And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
     And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

When I was eighteen or nineteen, underage at a local bar, I chatted up a guy who’d graduated a few years before me. I had a crush on him in high school, and now that I was all grown up (in my mind), I wanted to impress him with my college sophistication. But right out of the gate, in answer to my eager and bouncy greeting, “How ARE you?” he replied, “Same old, same old.” Regrettably that was not the last time I heard those words. Disappointment crashed like a Ming vase.

     “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Perhaps I only entered into relationships that had an expiration date, for fear I’d end up fighting and married, despondent and divorced, or like the sad sacks at the bars I tended. If I wasn’t heading into the mystic, nevertheless, I had love and lust and sweet guys and bad boys and romance both lengthy and fleeting, but I always knew deep down that I wasn’t a keeper.

     “Water dissolving and water removing
      There is water at the bottom of the ocean
      Under the water, carry the water
      Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean
      Water dissolving and water removing

Or was I? Whenever accused of being noncommittal, I resisted the notion. I’ve developed decades-long friendships, deep loyalties to my workplace, and a steadfast curiosity about the world that I indulge with vigor. Yes, I had my Houdini moments; I could bolt with the best of them. But over the years I explored the wheels and dials of my inner timepiece and discovered lasting commitment to truth, freedom and aliveness. Socrates, Jefferson, and Emerson left nourishment and I ate at their examined table. Once I put myself first, deliberately instead of haphazardly, peace reigned.

     “You may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”
     You may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”
     You may ask yourself, “Am I right, am I wrong?”
     You may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Recently, a charming and itinerant man asked me how I ended up here. Believing he might understand why I’d move somewhere not knowing anyone, I described the complete reliance on intuition and seizing of the right moment. Instead, he pressed me to ‘come clean’ that I was, in fact, running away from some uncloseted demon or such. Are we so accustomed to fight or flight behaviors that we are unable to recognize a step forward, a Constitutionally protected pursuit, an embrace of beauty and destiny? Is drowning that common?

      “Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, hey let’s all twist our thumbs
       Here comes the twister”

My oldest friend once said that given my propensity for the obscure destinations I head off to and unexpected life choices I make, that the only thing that would surprise her would be if I were to settle down with a husband and raise a gaggle of rugrats. At the time, we laughed at the absurdity, but wouldn’t that be the kicker, the ultimate rebellious move?

     “Letting the days go by
      Letting the days go by
      Once in a lifetime
      Let the water hold me down
      Letting the days go by”

What is true is that I’m at my best in the company of those I care about, especially when in a loving and mutual relationship. I thrive in the sunshine of security. It may just be that I have always believed in only doing it once. And, watch. That’s what will come pass.

The Hydraulics of Spirit

I’m applying for a scholarship to an Entrepreneurial Powwow in NYC next month with Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth and Marie Forleo of Where Women Entrepreneurs Live Rich, Happy & Hot.

As spring is finally making its long-awaited debut, so am I.  This was my application essay – wish me luck!

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I am my greatest victory! I have created a life brimming with curiosity, adventure, and a healthy dose of being contrarian. I’ve been told by others I’m an inspiration, that I’m the happiest person they’ve ever met, that they wished they had my life…so for the past 11 months, since quitting 20+ years in the hospitality biz and dedicating my time to writing and fine-tuned inner work, I’ve been dreaming of a life that’s far, far bigger than where I’ve been.  To get here, I’ve plucked out the dark roots of money obstacles (I actually used to believe that being rich meant compromising your values – crazy, right?), adequacy doubts (How did I ever think this amazing life was given to me & I had nothing to offer in return?), and self- and otherwise-imposed limitations (now I’m sure, down to the bottom of my pink little heart and toes, that all the success, love, and freedom I’ve yearned for is MINE!)

Off~Peak, a blog I recently began (about how going against the tide taught me to go with the flow) is merely my first foray into self-expression.  I’m also chronicling my 500-mile journey, solo & on foot, across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, where this lost soul found spiritual connection (massive Oneness revelation! You breathe, I breathe – we are all the same song: the Uni-verse) and some really fab friends.  Research has also taken residence – I’m kneeling at the altar of playwriting, too – A coming-of-age during-the-Cold-War tale about false illusions is BEGGING me to write it.  I’m heeding the call.

I’ve so much to say.  I’ve so much to share.  I’ve so much to learn.  And I am…

My challenge is overcoming the unknown, but I’m on it! I’m kicking those fears to the curb.  I’ve enrolled in Web Design classes to learn the tech side of blogging.  I’ve gotten on the mat in yoga class and confronted constriction, transforming it into spaciousness! I’ve asked a broadcasting friend to teach me how to podcast, and a playwright friend how to develop structure and direction for the stage.  I’m getting good at asking for help;  I know now it’s a sign of strength.

photoWhat I want more than anything in this moment is to throw on my futuristic power suit (which includes visionary glasses – to see grand possibility with laser clarity, titanium stilts – to stride farther and faster, and my new Kris Carr-cleansed Body of Vitality), thrust out my hand with confidence and grab the outstretched arms of my tribe.  I can ask the questions (SEO tricks? find an editor/publisher? NGO bookkeeping?), all I want is to get what I want to give: a community of creative collaborators, generous think tankers, prosperous prognosticators, uplifting visionaries.

Where am I going? Ever-evolving is the birth of Luminary Foundation, a physical and organizational model that supports social justice and advocates for access around education, the arts, and food security.  With a far-reaching approach and dedicated vision (I’ve some radical ideas about a post-capitalist economy & the emergence of global non-money-based prosperity), this Foundation will shine its brilliance collectively, because only with transparency, accessibility, and collaboration will our best future come to light.

Thank you Danielle and Maria for this opportunity to join forces – inspiration overflows!

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The Eightfold Path Of The Super Moon

Perigee Moon March 2011

photo courtesy of Elizabeth Henkel Poisson, Rocky Coast Ramblings

We pay our rent or mortgage on the 1st of each month, contribute to the electric company’s coffers every 4 weeks, and re-up our cell phone minutes on a 30-day rotation.  This cyclical recurrence nearly resembles the orbit of the moon, and places us close to a cosmological rhythm, but isn’t there a better way for us to metronome time, one that doesn’t give ourselves over to the Gregorian calendar but instead relies on a truer beat? Why not attune directly with regular lunar movements?

Several years ago, on sage advice from a trusted astrologer, a friend and I embarked on a monthly ritual to routinely review our mutual progress along life’s meandering and convoluted spectrum, all on the night of the full moon.  Not only does this accentuate a natural order to the vicissitudes of our fortunes, but doing so is like cataloguing our journey, with a trusted and loving witness by our side.  Horizon-sighting is what we call it.

Often we’ve met for dinner, although occasionally our lifestyles necessitated meeting by phone.  We ramble on about our work, our loves and passions, our responsibilities, and our dreams, letting any and all come forth.  (Usually wine is involved; nothing pairs better with Old World pagan mysticism like a good Grüner.)  After a few hours of lubricating our imaginations, we end the night by individually naming what we see on our horizon, as far out as we can reach – a real-time report on what we know to be true, what we already believe inhabits our future.

An important distinction must be stressed to not ‘see’ something  we don’t feel to be true yet, nor call out what we would like to see, or what our fantasies might be.  No affirmations or other forms of ‘acting as if’ are invited.  This isn’t about pushing boundaries or manifesting, but about getting a clear vision of what we already know is possible, all under the regaling light of Diana, Roman goddess.

After we share what our scouts have eyed, we say private prayers of gratitude for the accompanying challenges we know will come, and the comforting guidance they’ll bring, once we surpass them.  It’s amazing when we look back at the previous month and see how far we’ve traveled, or not, and we explore the whys and why nots together.  It’s one of the most enriching activities I’ve ever done.

When I stepped outside this past Saturday, with the closest moon in a score of years, shining substantially brighter, I immediately felt a more powerful presence, and knew this was special.  It didn’t necessarily look bigger, but its light was intense, a brightness that was hard to take in.  I felt I could soar right up to it, that I could be an astronaut, that in fact everyone on Earth could become whatever they wanted to with a moon like that.  So much more seemed possible than ever before.  The night sky was transformed;  more shifted than just tectonic plates.  Indeed, I felt new paradigms crouching imminent on the collective skyline of humanity.

Back inside, I sat hundreds of miles away from my horizon-sighting friend this time and performed our ritual solo.  I clearly saw a finished play on whose research I’m just embarking.  This is a surprising new development along my writing path, for I never considered playwriting a genre within my capabilities, but there it is.  I also saw more joy and happiness than I’ve ever imagined, and although I’m not clear on the details, there WILL be dancing!  There was a simple, off-the-grid house: custom-designed, fresh and airy, filled with beautiful and generous people existing in harmony.

I don’t know how to get there, but it all awaits.

Sometimes we do shine more brightly, the closer we get to our core, and the other night dazzled, both above me and within me.  I felt bigger (and not just because I was bundled like an overgrown snowman against the cold night air.) My horizon tilted vertical, then towered.  The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism appeared anew:  a way to be in bright relationship, not just right relationship, dwelling in and of the earthly world as I do.

  1. (B)RIGHT View ~ I am finally beginning to see things as they really are (or so I think ;))
  2. (B)RIGHT Intention ~ I am committing to the dissolution of anger, desire, and harm, and replacing them with positive, conscious intent.
  3. (B)RIGHT Speech ~ This is hard and easy.
  4. (B)RIGHT Action ~ Integrity is rooting. Walking the walk isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Maybe I should try bouncing?
  5. (B)RIGHT Livelihood ~ The selling of intoxicants is past;  the future is about effervescently expressing what is true for me.
  6. (B)RIGHT Effort ~ This takes unwavering dedication, no small task.  However, my will can be unbreakable when I choose it to be.
  7. (B)RIGHT Mindfulness ~ Not even the super moon can illuminate this mastery, currently.  Maybe I need a tea ceremony.
  8. (B)RIGHT Concentration ~ The monkeys are frolicking! The monkeys are frolicking!

As I choose to orbit farther and farther outside of convention and spin closer and closer to who I really am, I am struck by how easy it is, and how blessed I am to be able to say in all the chaos of present times, “Goodnight, Moon.”

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