In this week’s installment of ‘Shiny Sparks,’ I spoke with Meredith Myers (The Majestik Lioness). Meredith is a heart-based healer and teacher of metaphysical wisdom, meditation, and self-worth. I asked her how she maintains her connection to spirituality.
“I’ll trade you my Barbie for 2 of your My Little Ponies.”
“Ok, but you can’t have Twilight Pegasus.”
“Well you can’t have Barbie and The Rockers, just one of the regular ones.”
My sister and I championed this phrase. It was our secret handshake.
Then, when we were older:
“I won’t tell Mom you set the trash can on fire if you let me borrow your car. And no takebacks.”
My sister is 19 months younger than me, so if I accepted this offer I’d be breaking the law. And really, she was playing dirty with this negotiation.
I hadn’t set the trash can ablaze on purpose. After school one afternoon I was in my parent’s office, talking on the phone, probably to a boy. I was probably chattering, excitedly. He was probably pretending to listen. I’m not a person who just sits and talks on the phone. I fill the space with a mindless action: doodling, shuffling a deck of cards, typing random sequences on a word document, and then when I got older, smoking cigarettes. This time, I was lighting matches. I’d strike the match, watch it burn down until the flame almost met with my fingers, and then I’d shake it out until the ember became a black trail of sulfur smoke. I guess I didn’t let one of the matches burn out long enough because my one-sided chatter halted when I smelled the rancid odor of burning paper. I hastily mumbled “I’ve gotta go!” to my boyfriend, and barely got the phone back on the hook when the smoke detector started screaming.
My sister came running. “Chris! What happened?!”
“I accidentally set the trash can on fire!”
We were latchkey kids. A common part of being a kid in the 1980’s. Our bus stopped in front of our house at around 4 p.m. and my mom didn’t get home until almost 6 pm, so our late afternoons were filled with freeform adventure, mostly in the form of television, unsupervised snacking, and long phone calls with boys, which our mother hated.
Instinctively, I ran to my parent’s room and grabbed the jug of distilled water that was always on the iron board. I doused the flames.
The fire alarm screamed, and my sister was panicking. It was a brutal and invasive irritation, and I think we both feared that somehow there would be some sort of record that it had been set off. That our dad would come home early from one of his week-long business trips and know it had happened. We had no idea how to stop a smoke alarm from alarming, so we did what I must’ve seen on television: we hit it with the end of a broom handle. The scenario is always the same in these fictions: the broom handle hits the alarm case, the alarm case breaks, the batteries fall out, and the noise stops.
I frantically jabbed at the white plastic disc, which was attached to the ceiling. It was harder than the movies made it look. I could hardly reach it even with an extension. I failed to stop the screeching and instead punched broom-handle sized holes in the ceiling all around the smoke detector. I can’t remember how we got the damn thing to stop wailing, but it eventually quieted. We waited for the phone to ring, for the fire department to show up, for Dad to pull into the driveway, but instead it was just silence, my sister and I, the smell of burnt paper, and pure adrenaline.
I told her, “I need to clean up the trash can.”
I returned to the scene only to see that all the water I’d used to extinguish the flames had leaked out the bottom of the rickety, old school metal bin. Dark, sooty stains puddled out onto my mom’s newly installed, light gray carpet. And the clock was ticking. She was due home in less than an hour.
We devised a plan in which I held the trash can over a bucket while we carefully lifted our contraption and moved it down the hall, down the stairs, wincing at every slosh, until we got it out the back door and dumped the soot in the mulched garden bed. I used the water hose to rinse out the remaining evidence from the bin, and my sister dried it. Then it was back upstairs to the office, where we used old cleaning towels and Formula 409 to frantically scrub the soot out of the carpet. Next, I furiously vacuumed the spots to dry the carpet, begging it would be sufficient to go unnoticed.
“What about the holes in the ceiling?!” my sister cried. Her anxiety in the moment only proves our eternal bond, despite our ongoing sibling rivalry. She had not caused any of this carnage. If our efforts to cover up my dumbass actions were unsuccessful, she wouldn’t have been the one in trouble.
“Well, Daddy always uses spackle for holes,” I said.
So, it was back down the stairs, out into the garage, where we madly searched for the miracle paste. Back upstairs, my sister held the small step ladder while I clumsily globbed into and over the holes, praying no one would notice. My broom handle attack had also cracked the face of the smoke detector, so I spackled that too. When I noticed the shade of white in the spackle was different than the detector’s hue, I used my craft paints to try and blend the color.
Finished, sweaty, and out of breath, we stood in a weird, silent expectation just long enough to realize it still smelled like smoke and burnt paper, so we turned the ceiling fan on and opened all the office windows.
We put away our crude instruments. We waited.
My mom got home at her normal time. She was happy to see us. We talked about school, and ate dinner, and watched our evening programs, and told our dad goodnight from whatever city he had traveled to that week and got ready for bed. Throughout the evening, my sister and I shared furtive looks, expecting that any second Mom would ask us why the carpet was wet, or why the windows were open upstairs, or why all the distilled water was gone, or why we were being so nice to each other…but she didn’t. It was a wildly uneventful, normal suburban evening in middle America.
So, years later when my sister brought up the small fire as a bargaining chip to take my new car, and my brand spanking new driver’s license, I agreed. Not because I was thought I’d be punished or because I believed she’d actually tell on me. I agreed because despite our complicated sisterhood, and our startling differences, she’s always been my partner in crime. This pattern of negotiation created a stable bridge for us to be united. She’s the only person in the world who really gets my wacko genius, and she’s the first to step up and protect it. Every time. Unconditionally. When we’re united, we’re unstoppable. My trouble is her trouble. Her pain is my pain. Forever and ever. No takebacks.
I launched the Shiny Sparks article series on January 29th, but I haven’t been as consistent as I expected. I’ve had a few life delays, extra meetings, lots of book events (hooray!) and I lost my momentum a bit. Instead of making myself wrong for it, I’m examining the creative process as I experience it. I’ve noticed that when I’m launching something bigger, when I’m creating new things that have the potential to bring more light into the world, obstacles arise.
Has this happened to you?
I remember back before my mommy days I would take the occasional weekend trip with one of my friends. We’d carefully plan our departure times: who’s driving, where are we meeting to pack the car, what time, how long, which snacks. Excitement would be high, and then we’d hit a snag. Traffic would be crazy on the way out of town, or we’d miss an exit and have to loop around the highway. One of us forgot something crucial and we’d have to run back or stop somewhere to replace it.
This became such a predictable pattern that one friend and I (we traveled together a lot) would joke that because we had some obstacles and had to work harder to get on our way, it was a sign we were going to have a fabulous trip. And it was always that way – despite those challenges in the beginning, we’d spend days in joy, laughter, and bonding. Memories were implanted. Love grew. And because we had those experiences, we brought that energy into the world in a way only we could have channeled.
Given that our results were so often positive and joyous, I started to question this pattern. Is it a necessary part of the creative process? Is it a lie we’ve bought into? I’m still experiencing it in my life, and sometimes it seems that the more I’m stepping up and out with my honest expressions, the bigger the obstacles that show up.
What has changed is my perspective about it. These days I know that if I keep at it despite setbacks, I’m destined to succeed. And I’m aware that what I perceive as a setback is often the creative idea giving itself time to grow and flourish.
In the space between my last weekly post and today, I’ve received an idea I’m excited to explore. For a while going forward I want to use this weekly series to examine the creative process from different perspectives, backgrounds, and approaches. How do we as creative people really stay connected to our own inspiration and motivation? What keeps us from operating on auto pilot and really living our creative lives consciously?
I’ve curated some artists and writers in my life, and together with their contributions to the series, we can watch snapshots of the collective creative process. Actively engaging in the creative process and sharing that with others, learning from how we all keep at it, and celebrating collective success brings me tremendous generative energy.
What about you?
What keep you inspired?
What keeps you from operating on auto pilot in your creativity?
I look forward to the conversation…
This week my husband was out-of-town for 5 days, and I was basically a single SAH Mom. I realize there are families out there who do this on a consistent basis, but our family doesn’t, so when one parent is gone, our kids are definitely affected. My husband is extremely hands on, and we share responsibilities equally, so I was affected too.
I enjoy special one on one time with my children. But if I’m honest, I’m spoiled by the partnership my husband and I have created and after 4 days with no break at all from the littles, I was hungry for some quiet time. My youngest was actually sick all week and my oldest was extra needy because she was missing her daddy. On Saturday morning I had a moment where I felt like just getting in the car and running away! I’m sure I’m not the only mom in the world who has experienced this, and because of that, I want to share a few motivational quotes and images about motherhood that help ground me back into my heart center, and help me remember why I even chose to be a mom in the first place. Because let’s face it: motherhood is crazy, messy, challenging, frustrating, and burnout can come quickly.
As I’ve mentioned, part of the purpose for this blog is to share my own struggles so that others can find motivation and a deeper sense of purpose. Sometimes inspiration has to come from simple sources and within a 5 minute time frame. It’s not always a grand adventure. Here are my shiny sparks for the week.
This image and quote helps me to take it easy on myself when I’m listing all the ways I think I can be doing better. The truth is that right now our little family is actually struggling financially, and we’re having a hard time replacing lost income. When I’m centered in myself spiritually, I know that money should be the least of my concerns, and this helped me to remember that. Kids are so simple, right? All they really want is our attention and love.
Why does carrying a sleeping child to bed always feel so sacred?
This image helps me remember the quiet place I have inside that knows the moment I’m in is exactly where I am supposed to be. And the outside world and my concerns about what’s next just disappear.
My son is at that stage of wanting to do everything himself. In the moments I allow myself to let go and not be such a control freak, I see him becoming his own little person. It’s inspiring to see kids develop from infant to toddler to kid. I can’t wait to see what they become.
Ok, we’re all fibbing if we say we haven’t felt this way! This was me on Saturday morning!
This image is one of favorite paintings in the world. Every time I see it, I feel my heart swell with the love I have for the two little souls that chose me to be their mom in this life. This painting successfully dampens my selfish nature and makes me want to work harder to connect to my children.
So, there it is. Motherhood kicks my butt sometimes, but I wouldn’t change it. I’ll tell you a secret: I actually never saw myself having children, but life had different plans and here we are with two strong souls to care for. I’m changing for the better, whether I like it or not.
If you’re a mom and you’re reading this, I hope you have an amazing week of ups and downs. I hope you can find the grand adventure within the mundane.
I want to talk about community.
The dictionary defines community as:
- a unified body of individuals
- a social state or condition
There is an implied consciousness behind it.
And the word togetherness:
- warm fellowship, as among members of a family
- the quality, state, or condition of being together
They are ideas that sound easy enough on paper, but I’ve found that actually creating community and togetherness takes tremendous inner transformation.
Sometimes in my enthusiasm, I come on strong in relationships. I go full force, straight forward with no pause to think if the other party needs or wants that amount of energy. Sometimes I make a mistake in thinking that because we have common interests or are members of the same community there is an automatic bond. I forget that things take time to build. The same applies to personal interests and challenges: it can be all-or-nothing.
People that I admire or look to as examples tell me to “let go.” Let things flow. Don’t try to always have the answers. (Insert a sigh, eye roll, or scream.) This is a challenge for me. The cycle of negative tape plays in my head, where I imagine the worst case scenarios of what will happen “if”…
My chest tightens, my energy gets small and trapped and I feel like I can’t breathe. My brain plays the common trick of convincing me that if I can control everything, I won’t have anything to worry about.
This approach doesn’t yield good results, so my focus in the past few months has been to take the hard advice: let go, let things flow, and don’t try to always have the answers. It requires constant vigilance. It’s baffling how quickly I slip back into trying to do everything myself and the chaos that often follows the decisions made in this state of mind. I have some challenges in my life that are so familiar: old patterns, old thinking, all of it the same old garbage that I can’t seem to break free of. I feel broken, helpless to change myself.
This is where I think community and togetherness come in. This is the energy behind the contemporary trend of crowd-sourcing: we can do it alone, but we’re so much stronger when we do it together. When we invest in something as part of a group of like-minded people, we want to contribute instead of expecting a return.
My life is crowd-sourced. People who love me more than I deserve at times contribute to my potential. They look past my flaws and over-sharing and child-like enthusiasm and see my light. My parents accept my out-of-the-box lifestyle and support me in more ways than I can write in an essay. Sometimes I’m so committed to my own point of view that I can’t even receive this love. People in my life show me their heart and I reject it. Or I twist it to fit into my own understanding of what it means to share and miss an opportunity to experience the growth that can only come from admitting that I don’t know.
As I write this I’m in the middle of a situation that has an open ending. I don’t know how some of the challenges will resolve. But in the past few weeks, I’ve had people step forward to offer a hand up in ways that I would have never imagined. And it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. Somehow, I’m in the right place at the right time and an opportunity is presented through people and places that surprise me. So far, the results have been far better than my original plans. I’m humbled by my small perspective. I limit my reality if left to my own devices.
My crowd-sourced life is a wonder. I am in awe of what we can accomplish when we set our egos aside and commit to a common goal. My relationships are stronger when I step back a bit and let things build organically. My fears of not being loved are replaced with the knowing that sometimes love shows up in minutia, but is no less grand. If I get out of the way, I don’t miss it.
When I decided to take my blog more seriously, and really treat my idea as the magical possibility I know it is, I wanted a simple way to plan the weekly content. I want consistency and ease for myself so that I don’t self-sabotage. I also want to create the blog/website that I want to read. So, the idea of a “Monday Motivation” came forward, and this will be my weekly interpretation of that.
I want to share a few things that have inspired me this week. I know myself pretty well these days, and I’ve observed that if I don’t actively seek out inspiration, I let my creativity take a back burner. Well, since the publication of my book, and some personal challenges this year, I find I’ve got a bigger desire to maintain a level of creativity that actively pushes me toward greater personal expression. Here are this week’s shiny sparks: 1 book and 1 documentary that ignited my creative fire.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
This non-fiction book offers funny, inspiring, and poignant insights into the art of living your creativity. Author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert delivers sparkling observations of brave and joyous creative action. She shares a story in the beginning of the book which sets up the whole idea of “Big Magic.” It’s a funny, fascinating, enchanting story that will delight you. I was completely hooked! In each section: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity – the creative process is dissected, reorganized, and put back together in a way that makes you just want to go out and make your dreams actualized. I loved the book. It took me a long time to read it because I’m a mom, but it’s a page turner. I related to many of the stories, and now that I’ve finished it, I feel like I have a deeper and more spiritual understanding of my own creative process. I also have a stronger courage inside to pursue my vision with more joy. I highly recommend it.
Theatre of Life, directed by Peter Svatek
This documentary, currently available on Netflix, follows chef Massimo Bottura, who is opening an unorthodox soup kitchen – gourmet meals for the needy from food waste at the 2015 Milan Expo. I enjoyed learning about Massimo Bottura and his work when I watched the Netflix documentary series, Chef’s Table, so Theater of Life was an easy sell for me. Massimo Bottura is a fascinating person with a positive and adventurous outlook. Theater of Life is a captivating meditation about waste. The story is intercut between Bottura’s experiences opening the kitchen (the Refettorio Ambrosiano), and the personal lives of 6 people he feeds. The homeless people and refugees interviewed have incredible stories to share, and each of them do so with elegance, acceptance, and urgency. Despite their hardships, they maintain the hope that their lives will improve and their dreams will still come true. Their time together at the soup kitchen, the “Refettorio,” is not only a delicious meal, but also the opportunity for friendship, camaraderie, and support. Bottura enlists the helps of 60 chefs from about the world, and 19 of them appear in the film. (Including one of my favorites, Ana Ros. You can watch her episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix.) Directed by Peter Svatek, this film will leave you contemplating the idea of waste, and what it means to be a helper in the world. It left me wondering what kind of world we’d live in if everyone with the resources would be willing to contribute so much to others? At just 90 minutes, you can watch this after kiddo(s) bedtime or in short sections. I was moved by it, and I am excited to recommend it.
Have you found any new inspirations lately? Feel free to share! If you check out one of these, I’d love to hear your response. I hope your week is nurturing, creative, and inspired. If it can’t be that way all the time, I hope you can at least grab it in moments, and use it to propel you to bliss.
“I said that’s enough!”
“You’re not listening to me!!”
“I told you I needed a minute. You’re pushing me!” my husband yelled before he ran up the stairs and slammed the door.
I sat on the bottom step and cried. I looked for a way to escape the profound discomfort I was experiencing, but there was nowhere to run. Leaving in the car would only make the situation worse.
It was the early days of my marriage and I had taken a small disagreement and expanded it to door slamming and tears. Back then, I was exceptionally good at this.
My husband and I have changed a lot since that day. Knock-down-drag-out fights rarely happen now. When they do, we are both embarrassed and after we have calmed down, will sheepishly wonder how we even got to that point. How had the argument even started?
For a long time, I thought that these passionate quarrels were a sign that we had passion between us. That we were fiery soulmates destined for greatness. Now, I see it differently. And because I am a person who wants to keep the peace, to create peace, and who always (at least) tries to see many sides of a situation, my ability to take a volatile event and make it worse has always bothered me. Why can’t I just stop? Why must I always poke the bear?
A need to be right.
Fear of abandonment.
A lack of healthy boundaries.
Like I said, we have both changed a lot since those early days. I have learned to let go, to be ok with being wrong, and I have worked hard to transform my rage into allowance and patience with myself. I’m better at not needing “closure.” I’ve learned that I don’t need to understand, or even know, every second of my husband’s inner life.
We have also changed because we chose to have children, which inherently changes everything. My kids are the two best teachers I’ve ever had. Children are a wild paradox. They are experts at letting go. They are also experts at poking the bear.
It must, therefore, be a human impulse, illustrated through a common and overused joke: “Don’t press that big, red button! Whatever you do, don’t press that button!”
So what do we do? We press the button and act surprised when disaster unfolds.
How and when did we learn to poke the bear? To disregard blatant consequences and give it one final shot, just to “be sure?” I did it as a kid and younger adult, and now I watch my kids do it. Just the other day my daughter spilled some paint during a craft project and I asked her not to touch it for fear that the paint mess would only spread. So what did she do? She ran her fingers through it and got paint all over her new t-shirt, and became so upset about her new t-shirt getting stained that she actually spilled more paint. I didn’t say “I told you so.” I just cleaned her up and told her we’d get the stain out, and to be more careful next time. And I thought about myself at her age because I see that we are remarkably similar.
The first time I remember hearing the phrase “poking the bear” was when I was about 8 years old. I grew up in the 80s and early 90s – a simpler time when parents left their kids alone in the car while they ran into the dry cleaners. A simpler time when cars had built-in cigarette lighters. I knew those things were hot. I had seen my grandparents fuse countless cigarettes against the gray coils inhaling until the lighter burned hot-orange and tobacco smoke wafted into the air.
This time, at 8-ish years old, I just had to be sure. My mom was inside the dry cleaners and my sister and I were in the back seat. I leaned forward, yanked the lighter out of the dash, and poked the gray coils with my right pointer finger. I burned myself so bad that I screamed, dropped the lighter, and cried. Then my sister started crying because I was crying. And needless to say, when my mom returned to the car, she was exasperated and worried.
“What happened? Why is everyone crying?!”
I showed her my finger. I didn’t have to explain what happened because the built-in car lighter had branded the coil shapes into my finger pad, and in the painful moment of contact I had flung the lighter onto her seat.
“Well, why did you do that??? You know it’s a hot lighter!”
“I just wanted to see if it was hot when it was gray,” I whimpered.
“Well, it is, Christi! Why do you always have to poke the bear?”
Upon reflection, I giggle at the story. I defend my younger self and push it off to curiosity and the childlike ability to be so in the present moment that consequences are not considered. My mom was right though. I think about all of the times I wasn’t, or haven’t been willing or able to let go, and find I’m more contemplative.
I think it’s something we can all choose to change, but maybe we are addicted to physical confirmation. We don’t trust. We have to “be sure.” We can’t help but poke the damn bear.