What Do You Really Want To Do?

That is the question.

It is a question I grapple with a lot.

It sounds simple at first. Of course you know what you want to do. But do you, really? Can you separate what you really want from what you think you should want? Or more to the point, what other people think you should want and since you want other people to approve of you, you adopt that as your wish? Yes, you might have to read that through one more time.

My backyard Hammock

Complicated as it is, I would say that what most people want is for other people to approve of them. And there lies the problem. This is often something people are not consciously aware of. It’s so ingrained to want approval that we often make choices based on what we think others’ reaction will be, without questioning whether it’s something we deeply desire.

I haven’t written a blog post in months. I’ve thought about it often. Various topics have run through my mind. But I’ve been too busy. The nagging feeling that I “should” write a blog post has continued to bother me. Why? Because when you begin engaging with people online you “should” keep it up on a regular basis. And I admit, I have let things slip. The truth is, I’ve been trying to do too many things. I know I have to cut some things out and I’ve been at a loss.

So this question: What do you really want to do? This has been hanging over my head. Every day. For months.

The underlying topic of pretty much all my blog posts has been self-care. I love this topic. The importance of self-care never goes away. You never get finished with self-care, just like you never get finished eating or sleeping. It’s an essential part of life. There are so many layers to it. It comes up in big and small ways around everything we do.

It fascinates me because I am always craving more self-care. I fantasize about taking myself to the coast, going for a walk in the woods, lying in my hammock reading a book. But all too often, I put these things off because I’m trying to get other stuff done. And I’ll tell you, there is an endless amount of other stuff to get done. When I am exhausted, worn out, overwhelmed, even burned out, the question always comes up. What can I do to take care of myself? What do I really want to do?

The quiet spot in my driveway

One of my projects is writing a book on self-care. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t had time to write blog posts. My previous posts inspired the book. There’s a lot to this topic. It’s important for our health, for our well-being, our sanity. It’s so important to take care of ourselves because it’s so easy to get worn out and have nothing left to give. You are no good to anyone when you are burned out, including yourself. Especially yourself.

My favorite books are about people’s journeys. I love memoirs and self-help books. These books help me feel less alone when I realize how other people have struggled and how they coped. They give me ideas and inspiration. And they inspire me to write my own stories. It is why I am writing a book on self-care, as I spend every day and every week exploring the issues around this. I am also writing a memoir about two very difficult years of my life when I attempted a career change that was not right for me. It was the ultimate in doing something that everyone approved of but was not a good match. There were some big realizations I had that I want to write about as I tell the story. It was quite a journey and I will someday finish that book. But I have put it aside for the time being to focus on the self-care book. This is how I end up with too many projects.

Relaxing on my patio

The more I write about self-care, I keep seeing an underlying issue. And that is, we get very strong messages about what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to look, what we’re supposed to want, what our families should look like, what the progression of our careers should be. These messages affect our choices. Whether the messages come from our parents, our teachers or even our close friends, everyone has an opinion on this. Whether the message is to conform or to be a rebel, people have very strong opinions. One only needs to take a quick look at social media, to the abundance of selfies to see how important it is for most people, to have approval. “Look at me! And for God’s sake, like this post!”

So, what happens when you want to do something that perhaps no one understands?

First off, it’s not necessary to tell people everything you’re doing. It’s perfectly okay to keep parts of your life private. In fact, it’s a good idea to have privacy around some of the things you do, just so you don’t have to think in terms of how you will be judged.

Here’s the thing. You are totally okay exactly the way you are. No matter where you are in your process, it’s okay. Whether you are on your way to developing a new skill, a new career, creating something, or choosing to take it easy and not do anything new, it’s perfectly acceptable. It’s your right as a human being to be however you want to be.

As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you have a right to living the way you want to live.

I have a lot of difficulty allowing myself unproductive time. Wherever I got those messages that I should be getting things done, they are very deeply ingrained. One of my biggest self-care practices is to allow myself to do nothing. To simply rest. I have set up a number of resting areas around my house because this is so essential to me. Yet, I struggle to take advantage of them. I have a hammock strung up in my backyard, a chaise lounge on my porch and another chaise lounge under a tree, down my driveway. These are all very attractive places to relax. I am embarrassed to admit how rarely I take advantage of them. My goal is to spend some time relaxing in one of these spots every day, but honestly, I am doing well if I do so once or twice a week. Everywhere I look, I see things that need to get done. The garden always needs weeding. I’m always behind on my writing projects. There are too many papers on my desk than need sorting and discarding. My closets need to be cleaned out. My emails have not all been read. On and on it goes. I cannot wait until everything is done to relax. Otherwise I will wait forever.

What do I really want? Honestly, it’s to feel less pressure. And that pressure comes primarily from within me.

When I realized I didn’t feel like writing a blog post I gave myself permission not to write posts for a while. The world would not come to an end if I did not write a blog post. Instead I focused on the book when I had time to write. I have a great critique group where I get wonderful feedback. The process of crafting a good book fascinates me so this is clearly a project I want to keep.

All the books I have about writing say that you need to have a writing routine, so you can get so many thousands of words written every day. I do not have a writing routine. I don’t want one. I just want to write when I feel moved to. So that’s what I do. Maybe I will never finish my book. It’s okay. I am not depending on my writing to support me, so these things really don’t matter. Even though I can see the ghosts of writers shaking their fingers at me, telling me I won’t amount to anything if I don’t get my writing done, I know ultimately it doesn’t matter. I am not living to gain their approval. They are, in fact, my own spooky creation. I am not living to gain anyone’s approval. How freeing it is to say that! I am not living to gain anyone’s approval! I needed to say it again!

Each day that blooms is fresh. Each day is an opportunity to do what I really want. Or to not do things I don’t want. Regardless of the expectations.

My work schedule provides a little structure for which I am grateful. I am someone who needs a little structure. But beyond that structure I get overwhelmed trying to do way too much. My biggest challenge with time is narrowing the list down so I can spend more time lying on the chaise lounges, and rocking in the hammock.

What is your challenge? What do you really want to do that you have not yet made room for?

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What is Radical Self-Care?

Part of the secret to radical self-care is knowing exactly what the right recipe is for your unique, particular needs. If you think of your life as a dish at a fabulous culinary feast, what are the ingredients that make it as delectable as possible? What spices and seasonings are going to make it taste both delicious and satisfying.

Someone asked me the other day, “Why ‘Radical Self-Care?” “What do you mean by the worwoman relaxing on grassd ‘radical’?” The word ‘radical’ means extreme. And I choose to call it radical self-care because sometimes it really takes an extremely big effort to take good care of yourself. Particularly if you are in a profession or play a role in your life where you are taking care of others, it can be almost wrenching to stop giving, step back, take a breath and figure out what it is that YOU need in order to recharge. And the next step is to set aside the time to do something just for you. It is very easy to get burned out when you are giving all the time and even though intellectually we know this, it still remains a challenge. So how do we do this?

I’m sharing with you what I have learned on this wild trip through life. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt (pink Himalayan sea salt, of course) and tweak it so that it works for you! Know that your life may require different ingredients but what I hope you get from these posts is the importance of knowing what your unique flavors (needs) are. And that it’s really essential to give that to yourself. This may sound simple on the surface, but we spend a lot of time doing what is expected of us. And we can get caught up thinking that our entire value has to do with living up to everyone elses expectations. This can be so deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize it.

After quite a few decades of working very hard to please others – clients, partners, friends, family, you name it, I started realizing that I had to take control of my own well-being. Because no matter how much I did it never felt like enough. I had goals that were difficult to attain and even when I did they didn’t satisfy me like I thought they would. Basically I had bought into our very driven culture, even though I had carved out a professional niche in the field of relaxation. Ironic, isn’t it?

I began making a point of doing simple things to slow down, disconnect from my own self-imposed hamster wheel and started treating myself with the same quality of care that I have given to others. And here in these posts I have broken it down into steps.

Hey, I write these posts as much to remind myself as I do to remind you.

Please come along with me and use these posts to jump-start your own loving practice of radical self-care. Let these thoughts be the catalyst to give yourself the life you deserve. In essence it is very simple. And this means that true inner contentment is totally within your power.

Radical Self-Care Step Two – Time

Our Most Precious Resource

Can I borrow some of your time? I’m a little short.

It doesn’t really work that way, does it? Whereas I have a savings account with money that I can accumulate until I’m ready to spend, time is always passing. It is constantly being spent, whether it’s on something I absolutely love, dealing with necessities, indulging in a bit of foolishness or even on things I don’t like.

How do you spend your time?

Young cute girl sleeping on pillow in fresh spring grassDo you save it up for juicy experiences of pleasure? Do you manage your life efficiently so that you have the most amount of time for the things you really love to do? Do you sit quietly, observing the slight breeze making the leaves dance in the trees, so you can feel its slow, gentle passage?

Or do you blow it frivolously, not even realizing where it went until you notice that suddenly you are all out of time.

This is something I am becoming acutely aware of. It’s like a secret treasure that has been there all along that I never even paid much attention to.

This became very obvious to me recently, when I was struggling to fit in all the things I wanted to do: all the projects I wanted to accomplish, the friends I wanted to keep up with and the realization that I had very little breathing space. There was so little unscheduled time. I rarely had days where there was no agenda, no appointments, no errands. In fact, I almost never have days like that.stream

I started thinking about that being an unmet need. And how luxurious it felt whenever I had a few hours just to myself, with nothing in particular I had to get done. How insanely delicious that was. And the way I would try to hang on to it, as the minutes slipped by, until it was over and I had to move on to the next thing. I would look into the future, wondering when the next block of uninterrupted privacy would emerge. And that’s when I started regarding my time as a very precious resource.

So now I set aside blocks of time where I take getaways by myself, with two or three days at a time that are just for me. Sometimes I stay in bed until noon, lost in a good book. It’s hard to even describe how heavenly that is!

Once I started going away I found myself becoming greedy, wanting to do this more and more often. I think I value this sacred time almost more than anything else.

I am more aware now of how valuable time is, and how easily it can get squandered before we even realize it’s gone.

This is really about honoring our relationship to ourselves. No one cares when you run out of time. Nobody feels it but you. No one can give it to you but your own careful planning.

And it costs us absolutely nothing. Except mindfulness.

Radical Self-Care Step One – Journaling

“Tell me Everything” She Said. And I Did.

One of the tools I have used for as long as I can remember is journal writing. From the very earliest age in high school when the entries were more like poems of coming of age torment, I clung to my tiny notebook. It was as though it were part of my body, clutched tightly underneath my arm. Certainly, it was part of my soul.

As time evolved, so did the journal. Julia Cameron, in “The Artist’s Way” recommends that we write three pages every morning. She even suggests that they be pages we don’t ever read again, so rather than try to do a beautiful piece of writing, she advises us to let every bit of icky goop just pour out, so that, in essence, we could be free of it. It was from her encouragement that my journal became my “free therapist.”

Now my journal writing has become a session for transformation. After writing, I am never the same. It is the place to pour out the swirl of contradictions that do their gyrating dance inside me. Thoughts of desire, hope and angst are released into those pages, clearing my head, opening my heart.

JournalBut there’s something else that happens when I write in my journal. Thoughts and ideas that completely surprise me come up. Just like in a person-to-person therapy session, when you are speaking and suddenly you have insights that surprise you, because for the first time you are actually verbalizing a feeling, the same sorts of light bulbs go off when journal writing.

For a couple of years I was in college, training for a completely different profession that did not at all suit me. I was doing this because the economy was crashing and I was terrified that I would not be able to survive as a massage therapist. They were the hardest 2 years of my life. So tough, that when it was over the only way to cope with the craziness was to write a book about it, which I will someday publish. The way I managed the stress was with a journal writing routine. Every Sunday morning I went to a local café bakery, got a cup of tea and a cinnamon walnut croissant and wrote in my journal. It was a holy ritual where I wrote about my tough week. I ranted about the things I was hating. I voiced my fears. I wailed about my absolute total misery.

Each session ended with a list of things I was grateful for and a list of prayers for the coming week. It kept me sane. Because, you see, even though I was in an environment where I did not fit at all, each time I wrote I came back to myself. The journal helped remind me who I was. And even in the midst of recalling the worst weeks, I remembered the parts of myself that I loved. In fact, writing in that journal was a pure act of self-love. Some part of me was saying, “Here, let me take care of you. Have a nice cup of tea and a croissant and tell me everything.”

And that, dear friends, is the way we use the “Free Therapist” journal to heal. Do you journal?

P.S. I love to hear your comments and please add where you are from. Thanks!

Massage, Life and Everything

Hello everybody,

I have resisted having a blog because I wasn’t sure I would always have a new topic in mind. People tell me that if you have a blog you have to post regularly, like EVERY week, and I found that really intimidating. So after much thought and much time passing I have decided to do a blog anyway and write as the spirit moves me.

Goat Rock BeachA blog can be like an open letter. I like that idea. I can share my thoughts and you, in turn can share yours in the comments section, and that way we can have a more active conversation. Because I do think we can learn a lot when we engage with each other. I think the point of life is to work together to make the world a better place and to make life easier for each other. However we choose to do that. The Internet certainly helps connect people from all over the place and that makes life interesting. So when you comment, please share a bit about yourself.

Grounded in my beliefs about business – of any kind, really – is to be true to yourself and do things in the way that feels right to you. Authentic. Real. I think that’s true about a massage practice and it’s true of most businesses. People become attracted to your unique personality, your style of doing things. One of the truths is that everyone doesn’t have to love you or want to be your client. Some people may be turned off. But that’s okay. Because all you really need are the ones who do find you helpful and healing. You just want to fill your practice. You don’t have time to see everyone in the world, anyway.

One of the hardest things for me was the sense of doing everything alone. That’s part of the challenge of a solo practice. You walk in to your quiet office and there you are. The massage table is made up. Your oil, lotions and aromatherapy essences are laid out, you check your schedule and see that in 4 hours you have a client. You look outside your window and see the traffic slowly going by. There are a few people on the street, waiting at the crosswalk, on their way somewhere. The city is in motion and you don’t have a client for 4 hours. You think about the bookstore down the street. You wonder if it’s too early to go get some lunch. You sit for a while, looking out the window, watching people go past, in their cars, on foot, on bikes. And you wonder what you should do. Someone could call at any moment wanting to come in immediately so you have to be ready. But right now you don’t have anything to do for 4 hours.

Have you ever had a day like that? This is the kind of thing I want to explore with this blog. How do we best handle our challenges? Every massage therapist I have known in private practice has found that aspect of a solo practice challenging. One of the reasons I wrote my book Successful Strokes and made the Facebook page and started this blog is so people working by themselves would feel less alone. I wanted them to have someplace to go for ideas and inspiration. That’s what I would do during those lulls. I would read inspiring books. I would use that time to do spiritual practices like meditate. I would use that time to write in my journal, which I call my “free therapist.”

Sometimes I would go to a nearby health club and work out. Often I would go for walks along a creek that went through the town where I had my office. These were times I would visit other business owners who worked nearby to see who else was having a slow day and wanted some company.

Other days I would use that time just to relax. I would listen to guided visualization recordings to uplift my thoughts, to help me feel full and prosperous and transform my state of mind.

But enough about me. What do you do to recharge?

P.S. Please let me know you were here. Say “Hi” and where you live in the comments section. Thanks!