Letter #8: Is Your Project Important/Meaningful/Cohesive? Wrong Question

While working with one of my creative midwife clients on a performance she is creating, a thought that hasn’t been in my awareness in awhile came up. It hit me the first time when I was in English classes in high school, or maybe even middle school.

Though I loved English class for the most part, (being adept with words and reading) I was also often frustrated by literary analysis, it’s talk of symbols and themes. "They" - the literary analysts, critics and sometime my teachers,  spoke of these authors with a kind of awe based on how much they had pre-meditated in their novels. They were able to interpret the heck out of everything, highlighting the brilliant themes and symbols in the text, which to me, felt contrary to the actual creative process. 

Yes, themes and symbols show up in novels and songs and whatnot, of course they do. 

But were they all premeditated? Sculpted from the get-go out of some very specific and rare brilliance?

I have a hard time accepting that. 

Because in my experience, themes and symbols and greater resonances emerge in the making of the thing. They aren’t placed upon it like jewelry, or necessarily in the floor plan at the start of the journey.

Themes and symbols and resonances emerge organically in the creative process because all of those things are inside us as humans living in the culture we live in at the time we do, with the influences we’ve had from other people, books and television - and so we can’t help but include those things in the worlds we create in our art. 

What does this mean, practically? 

It means that what you are working on doesn’t have to be all figured out before you get started. 

 

Is it Important enough?

Is it Cohesive enough?

Is it Meaningful enough?

 

These questions are death traps for your creativity. They do not belong anywhere near the making of a thing that you are going to call art. 

(They are allowed to come nearer to things that you might call “content” - but for art - keep them away!)

Trust that what unfolds from the fullness of your being is Important and Meaningful enough. And the Cohesive part? Save it for your editor. Whether that editor is you, (with some time and space removed from your creator) someone you hire, or a trusted friend or colleague. 

In a healthful, creative state, we are self-organizing beings. We pull together meaning and cohesion out of the events around us. This is an integral part of our lives - and thus makes it's way into our art. 

If we can trust that this is so, that we are meaning-makers, then we can trust that whatever comes out of us organically, we will be able to find form and organization for. 

Don’t let the fear of what the literary analysts or critics will say about your “cohesion” or “depth” get in the way of starting your project. 

Trust in your wholeness - and the meaning will emerge.

Love,

Kerri

Letter #7: Me Too

Me too.

He was a visual artist and I didn't call him out publicly because I loved his work. I didn't want to ruin him in case it really was just a one time thing.

I warned close friends, but never showed up at a gallery and made a scene (like I wanted to) or called him out on the internet. Or took the painting off his website of me that he was still working on years later and reclaimed the image of my body, at least symbolically.

Instead, that experience was the straw that broke the camel's back. The assault + silence that joined in with my years of bulimia to finally make it so I couldn't sing without pain. (I know the assault was connected because the first performance I DID sing without pain was about two year later, after telling a therapist for the first time the full story).

So he got to keep his art. I lost mine.

I'm grateful now for the resilience that it forced me to develop - in my art, health and spirit. Does that make it acceptable? Hell no.

I was lucky. I found mentors and teachers who could help me - and because I graduated college a year early had some money that could go to healing experiences like doing my one woman show and getting trained in StoryHealers and the vocal therapist. If I had been entirely on my own financially, I don't know if I would have healed. Literally. Maybe I would have eventually found that therapist who let me pay $60 a session (still a stretch) - but would it have been enough? Did I need every other experience too? I'll never know.

I used to feel bad because I had such an intense reaction, "it's not like I was raped or anything..." I thought. But it doesn't matter - trauma is trauma. When it happens to you and you are shamed into silence, it's still a fundamental loss of personal power, toxic to the body and soul.

I hope this movement sparks something. It's not about hating men. It's about being so tired of being disrespected and treated like objects, which comes from the patriarchy, which fuels it all. Forces men them to deny their softness and sensitivity and feel immense pressure to perform and prove their dominance over women and other men.

Can't you see our culture has to change?? For all of us?

Letter #6 - Vulnerability, Asking Questions and Strangers

At 6:02am, the block is quiet. 

There is a man in a black hoodie and black pants with a rolling garbage can and a broom, picking up the trash between cars. 

There is a lot of trash. 

I know what that's like because I've done it myself. I'd like to stop and ask him how often the block gets cleaned, who employs him (I see no city paraphernalia), but I don't have time.

Exactly one minute to catch the train, I say good morning and keep walking.  

On the train I sit next to a guy about my age, also in a black hoodie and black pants. My outfit too. He is black, I am white.

I am reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, because I saw it at the library and realized I hadn't read it yet. He is reading Dont Sweat The Small Stuff. Another book I've never read, but might as well have. I want to start a conversation with him becauseI glance and see that he's on a page about gratitude. But it seems such a personal thing to intrude on - anything to do with sincere personal growth with a stranger. And let's be honest, a stranger that feels even further away because we are not the same race. I don't say anything to him. 

Why is it so much easier here on the internet? 

I think about the conversation my husband and I had the other night, in the Lyft on the way home from the airport.

Not light conversation. Not heavy either, exactly, but personal.

This surprised me because while I will have almost any conversation in public, he prefers not to. 

We were talking about talking, actually. Conversation and what it feels like to be listened to - and not listened to. 

I've known for awhile that I am not the best question-asker. My curiosity about others is deep, perhaps so deep that I find it hard to begin. If we haven't already attained the "anything is askable" relationship, I just don't know what to ask in the meantime, and so I don't. I worry sometimes that this makes me seem aloof. Sometimes, to be sure, I am...or turned off by them, or bored. But much more often, I just literally don't know what to ask. 

My husband is the best question-asker. It's one of the first things I loved about him. It amazes me every single time, how he makes others feel welcome with his questions.

Because of the reasons above and also others, like knowing that I wasn't supposed to ask questions as a kid, made me different. And out loud, in this cab, I worried/asked if maybe sometimes he didn't feel heard by me. 

But that wasn't the case - ever, he said. Naturally, we have passed the "anything goes" barrier. I feel no hesitation or fear of rebuff. 

We had, in that cab, one of the most thoughtful conversations we've ever had. 

And then something beautiful happened. Our driver, new to the states, with cumbersome but clear English asked us if he could ask us a question. 

Yes, we said. 

Are you married? Boyfriend/girlfriend?

Married, we said.

Oh that's good! Very good. I just have to tell you - you speak very nicely with each other. It's special. I didn't hear everything, but I can just tell. Very special. 

We said thank you so much for saying something and asked him about his family (okay, Charlie asked him about his family)...he said he had two little ones. We talked about them and my nephews for the rest of the ride home. 

It was beautiful. 

It was so lovely to be witnessed. 

The incredible love and communication that I am thankful for every day doesn't often get seen by others so intimately. In a cab, it's almost as if the driver isn't there, so he "caught" us - and I am so happy that what he caught was a true representation of our day to day. 

I want to get better at asking questions. At reaching out in the real world and noticing things about people, starting conversations. 

I want to remember that driver, the warmth and courage he had to be a witness, to share some of himself and do it even in the uncertainty of being outside of his native language, Urdu. 

He took a risk to connect on a "too personal" level - and I want to remember that and find my own times for it - maybe even at 6am on the subway, with people who don't look like me, even if we're wearing the same outfit. 

Maybe that's my opening line: "Hey, we dressed alike this morning." Then, if he seems game, we can get into the gratitude stuff. 

Letter #5 - Practicing What I Preach

Sisters, I have been having quite the internal battle. Whether it’s mercury retrograde, all the short-distance travel I’ve been doing between New York and Vermont, or just your regular old run-of-the-mill self-questioning, it’s been a month of going back over things. 

Making decisions, then changing them, then iterating on them, and then changing them back to what I had originally decided. 

All in pursuit of finding what feels right. What feels stable and exciting. What feels like the true next step. 

When I get in my body, I can feel it. I can feel the joy, the trust coming through me.

When I get in my head, the progress stops, I worry. I wonder if I’ll ever make up my mind. 

Can anyone relate?

They say you teach what you need to learn - and I think that’s true. 

I also believe that the lessons you have to learn in this life are often sometimes your greatest gifts, and it’s part of the evolution of self to grow into them. 

And so, when I get too jumbled, I go deeper into what I am here to teach. 

I dance, or take a yoga class, or take to the woods. I use my voice. I play. I breathe. I move. I connect to my truth. 

And from that place, I act. 

I hit publish. 

I set the calendar. 

I commit to the process - and I don’t second-guess it. 

I say yes and I show up and I re-evaluate later. 

This doesn’t just happen automatically, or because I will it to, exactly. There is something more to it. Something I can’t explain about when that moment happens, that clarity moment of no turning back. 

It looks like, 

Experimenting with what direction I’m going in, 

Going back and forth, feeling my way into it

Getting frustrated with myself

Returning to center

Moving my body, moving my energy and my emotions

Relaxing into a happy place, often a cafe with a good vibe

Then write.

Then decide. 

And there’s this knowing that it’s the final decision.

There will be no more questioning, just steady, faithful action 

Toward my intention. 

And I know that no matter the outcome, it is a journey I am supposed to be on. 

It is a path I am meant to embody

Becoming the next best version of myself

Claiming my creative expression, my leadership, that much more

And practicing what I preach.

GUMPTION.

My first videos teaching publicly about GUMPTION come out on Tuesday. The next GUMPTION Catalyst Circle is starting on September 25th. I don’t know what 5 women will be joining, but I am excited to find out. 

 

Love,

Kerri

Letter #4 - Getting It Wrong

Today I’m thinking about getting it wrong. 

“Getting It Wrong” was a writing prompt I used to start off my online women’s writing group (sign up here). I set the timer for 5 minutes and my hand hit the page, quickly outlining all of the things I had gotten wrong in the past week.

The overlong poem I read out loud, realizing how much editing I still had to do only in the speaking of it. 

The 25 seconds of video footage that got lost when my memory card ran out of space and I didn’t realize it until I was working on the final video in iMovie and it was too late (and let’s be honest, much too frustrating to re-shoot!) 

I thought about the way I failed, once again, to keep my clothes contained in my hamper – my silly habit of putting clothes I might wear again on top of the hamper instead of folded and back into my dresser. The floor gets messy, I don’t have time to clean it. I feel guilty for taking up shared space with my disorganization. Getting. It. Wrong. 

And yet, getting it wrong doesn’t feel as horrible as it used to. 

Looking back on this week, getting it wrong feels more like opportunity to be creative.

That poem that kept saying the same thing again and again unnecessarily? It just needs another pass! It became clear in the saying it out loud what was alive and what wouldn’t be missed, so I edited it!

In the video. Well, it was just 20 seconds – and I still had the correct audio. Instead of forcing myself to re-shoot, I admitted the mistake in a cheeky title frame and threw some relevant photos up to go with the audio. Boom. Done. Ship it. “Close enough for jazz,” as my husband would say, and I agree. 

It’s all just improvisation. Yes, and. 

What’s next? 

Where does this lead me? 

What can I do with what I’ve got right now?

And it’s beautiful. 

I'll admit, it’s a lot easier for me to have that attitude with creative endeavors than it is my out of control hamper situation, but even that…I might be able to play with. 

Let’s see if we can do it right now.

Maybe I decree a new rule for myself. 

Nothing gets placed on top of the hamper. If it goes into the hamper it must be washed before I can wear it again. No exceptions!

This will encourage me to actually put re-wearable clothes back into my dresser because I don’t want to be wasteful and wash clothes that don’t actually need washing. 

I think I just solved my problem. (I’ll let you know how it goes!)

See?

Improvisation. Lightness. Playing with it rather than judging it so much. Or blaming myself so much. Or fixating on getting it wrong. 

Like worrying about an instagram post before I post it wondering if it’s interesting enough. Then posting it, seeing that maybe it wasn’t interesting enough and wanting to delete it (how many likes means it was interesting enough, Kerri? What’s the threshold?!) But then NOT deleting it. Because fuck it! YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT ALL THE TIME.

I got a lot “wrong” this week – and I also got a lot of things done.

I practiced giving a Universal Health Principles session to a new person. I tried bouldering. I created my first nicely made videos around The GUMPTION Test, I put out three of these letters. I figured out why my plan for the next GUMPTION Catalyst Circle wasn’t feeling right and then created a plan that fixed what was bothering me about it, I….could probably keep going, but I won’t.

Doing those things feels way better than sitting stuck in perfection. 

Halle-frickin-lujah!

Wishing you a week of getting it wrong, so you can give yourself a chance to get it right. 

Love,

Kerri

Letter #3 - Facing my shadow, brought up by the eclipse

Like many of you, I read a slew of astrological articles related to the Great American Eclipse, wondering what massive shifts it would hold for me.

I felt them happening in the two weeks between the full moon lunar eclipse and the new moon solar eclipse in Leo.

Something was shifting – a new discipline.

My home was getting upgraded and reorganized, with better furniture and better use of vertical space. My readiness and commitment to sharing GUMPTION with the world was becoming clear – it’s time, it’s time, it’s time. A drumbeat behind me.

But also, with it, came the shadow.

The shadow I had been told might rear it’s ugly head on the eclipse, which I so wanted to keep at bay. To use the day as a high vibe tool – meditating and setting intentions and the like.

I find it absolutely hilarious right now that I did nothing of the sort.

Okay, well, I did do a bit. I wrote what I was releasing on one page of my journal and what I was bringing in on another page and just after the eclipse I tore up the page of what I was letting go. I also performed a Universal Health Principles session on myself, which brought up and released my fear of the world ending and gave me the permission, “I allow my dream to live in the real world.”

Swiftly after that, things fell apart.

In the car all morning, coming back from my 1st wedding anniversary celebratory trip to Vermont, I was not very much in my body. I had spent the weekend indulging in wine and sweets and had meant to get back on my usual healthy food track for the week.

But in the afternoon of the eclipse I was so caught up in my head, I fell into old patterns. Patterns of confusion and overwhelm, refusing to move. I ate too much, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, dinner out of a can of soup and a whole chocolate bar all in one go. Compared to the binges of older times, this was nothing. And I forced myself to mentally not feel so bad about it (the physical feeling bad happens anyhow, but your brain can do quite a bit to keep it in perspective). I also binged on my guilty pleasure tv show, Gossip Girl, which I have almost finished for the second time. I am sure it will be my last, but something in me just wants to indulge in the drama and beauty and lust of New York City high life. In some ways, it’s a show that reminds me how far I’ve come since I moved to New York at 18, and since I first watched the show at 22.

And then I went to bed, disappointed in what I had let the day become. I thought I was over all of that and ready to bring my vision into the world. Morning of the eclipse, I had even written and shared:

I am ready for the quantum leap of this eclipse. I am ready to share my gifts at a bigger level than ever before. I am ready to raise the awareness of the wholeness, harmony and radiance inherent in our world and our bodies, and train myself and others how to connect more deeply with it and express it.

 I am ready to speak more freely in where my studies and experiments have taken me in 2017 - into abundant joy, exuberant discipline and ever-expanding consciousness.

I am ready to claim what I have learned and be humble in all I have not.

 Ever-seeking. Ever-deepening. And also, so deeply at home in the quiet of my soul, when I tune into innate wisdom and guidance that is always there for me.

 Words are beautiful - and I have no delusion that I dwell here most of my day - BUT, accessing it at all, and slowly growing it's portion of the pie of, say, Monday, August 21st, is an intention I am setting. And claiming it with words, publicly, may be bolder than any secret I've ever revealed in story or song.

 It has, at times, been so difficult to show the innocent faithful hope of my heart, for how much I bought into the lie that cynicism and intellect is the more advanced viewpoint. It is not. Magic and wonder and perfection have always been afoot in the construction of our cells, let us claim it.

 

And then I devolved into claiming the couch.

Ha!

Immediately humbling for sure, but here I am writing from the other side. The Wednesday after the eclipse, in which Tuesday started in a similarly confused and overwhelmed place. What is the RIGHT way to bring my vision forth? Can I plan this so well that I never have to make a mistake, get it wrong, or fail? Can I?!?!?

 But luckily, with the help of my own advice (I do teach people how to get out of their heads and into their wholeness after all!) plus a synchronistic Facebook Live from Sarah Kleiner (thanks, lady!), I got my groove back. I got outside for a walk, did some exercise, shared my truth, then took a show and set up my video camera. With just half an hour left before I had to leave, I started speaking from inspiration around the thing I had known I was supposed to create, but kept turning over in my head on how to do it perfectly.

I can’t. I give up doing it perfectly. I get it done.

Then, I traveled up to the South Bronx to co-facilitate a workshop called Operation Conversation Cops and Kids, which uses performance techniques to bring together NYPD and Black and Latino kids from the inner city. Being a part of these workshops and the difference they make in the lives of teenagers who are terrified and angry at cops, and cops who are discouraged and angry at how the community and particularly the media views them is so life-affirming. The founder, Dr. Lenora Fulani has more gumption than maybe anyone I know, but that will be a story for another time.

The point is – our shadows and old habits will emerge sometimes. Particularly when the energy is great, or the journey ahead is about to begin – because it’s scary to face so much potential. I caved into old uncomfortable comforts and I’m not proud of that, but I am proud of handling it better than in the past. Of starting anew and taking imperfect, yet inspired action. And showing up for the page today – and for you.

Letter #2 - Trusting My Instincts

I am writing to you from the New York City subway, on a sparsely populated train, heading northwest to Manhattan.

Earlier today, I dedicated myself to writing for one hour, four days a week, live on video so that I would be forced to show up for this correspondence between us.

I invited the women in my writing group to show up as well, giving them the private link so they could join me in spending an hour with their thoughts and words on the page.

I did not come up with this idea, but I've never seen it done exactly like this.

Two male internet marketers that I know and like (they are more than internet marketers, of course, but it's the quickest thing to say about them...) have done this. They've committed to showing up for a certain amount of time and live streaming their writing process, usually for a particular project, like a book. And not just their process, but actually live streaming their writing itself, for the world to watch (or at least, the most dedicated and obsessed of their fans to watch.)

It's a brilliant little accountability tool, but more than that, a compelling hook and certainly a presentation of bravado. I am so confident in myself that I will let you see me write a shitty first draft.

 This display can be done with arrogance or true humility - I don't feel the need to determine what the motive is (I told you that I liked these guys, so you can probably guess that I appreciate their ideas and boldness.)

BUT, the choice did make me realize something about myself and what I want to bring forth.

I have been listening to the advice of white men all my life. Their voices, propped up by patriarchy, have automatically seemed the most trustworthy, and so I have tried to heed their advice.

And its never quite worked.

Or more honestly, it's never felt natural to me - and so I've never been able to sustain it.

Advice like:

 Choose your target and do not let anything stand in your way.

 Focus to the exclusion of everything else.

 Get yourself to the top.

 Out-hustle the competition.

It sounds like good advice. Forceful, deliberate, committed.

But I’ve never been able to do it.

At times, this failure has made me question everything about myself. Am I just not dedicated enough? Am I foolish? Naive?

And, one of the worst insults in our world today: Am I...lazy?

But I know that isn’t true. I am constantly studying, practicing, working to develop myself and complete projects. But I can’t do it to the exclusion of everything else. I can’t force myself to be just one thing and I’m a lot less interested in getting to the top than I am in communicating across the circle to the other people who have gathered there.

Adopting the persona of a hunter focused on one goal to the exclusion of everything else is simply not in my nature. Nor the nature of almost all of the women I know.

I am much more interested in dancing with my passion.

In creating to connect, rather than creating to win.

So when I chose to invite other women to come watch me write, it’s not so they can see my screen – it’s so they can come fill their own cups with writing. So we can support one another with our presence, knowing that commitment to the process, to this moment of creating in community, is the most important thing.

I have been told, a few days after beginning this (forgive my editor’s voice coming in after the initial writing) that even if the women in my group can’t show up with me live, the fact that they know I am holding creative space from 9-10am means something to them. Reminds them of the sacred container of creativity. And that is blowing my mind in a wonderful way.

It’s taken me a long time to trust my instincts, particularly if they don’t align with the opinions of men I see as leaders. Learning to trust myself has been one of the greatest learnings on my journey to wholeness, harmony, radiance. At this moment, I’m sure that it is really the core learning, one that will continue to deepen over time.

At this moment, I am trusting it.

Love,

Kerri

Letter #1 - I have been wanting to write to you all my life

I have been wanting to write to you all my life.

Since I was a kid, even, when I would sit in the willow tree in our next door neighbor’s yard, either when they were out of town or later, when they left before we did. Their house, second to last at the end of our dead end road, was also bought out by the state to put a bigger road through.

They left about a year before we did, and so I had some time to enjoy peace in their willow tree without their little dog yipping at me to get off the property. And there, my little body nestled between the big branches, I would speak to you.

I would sit in the willow tree and speak to you, narrating my life, some, but also just talking. Telling you about the wisdom hidden in the bark, fancying myself a white Pocahontas with a coloring pad and jean shorts overalls so close to the wise grandmother of nature. I would speak to you then, and I would speak to you later, in adolescence, in another tree. This one less private, by the swings in a condominium complex, but silent enough, and I would cry for all that was wrong with me and confess until I had exhausted myself, or felt resolved. Or both.

I am a writer who has never stayed true to form. From songs, to poems (some for speaking, some for reading) to blog posts and tips and tricks, podcasts and theatre scripts, I am constantly changing. And yet I’ve yearned to have some sort of consistency, a conversation between you and me that can span my life.

Not a “Dear Diary” – I am much too exhibitionistic and motivated by the response of others to keep such a conversation completely to myself. I don’t give the world everything, but I give it a lot. Particularly my shame, because I have found that when I hand over my shame, when I tell a story about it to strangers, I lose it. Poof. What once plagued me feels less lonely. What once trapped and silenced me, I have contained.

So I write and I speak and I carouse around stage and the internet speaking the unspeakable in service of my own freedom. And if it helps someone else feel free – all the better.

And still I am a quiet soul – I do not need to be a rock star, (though I once thought it was my destiny) I just need a quiet room of listeners to stay pin-drop silent while I am with them, sharing something real.

And so this, this letter, this missive I am writing on the journey to wholeness, harmony and radiance, those three words that Joyce once said a philosopher said were the ingredients of Beauty.

Well, it’s what I’m after.

Exquisite, pulsing, glorious beauty in it’s rawest sense, unpackaged for mass market and glowing like a well-loved newborn tasting a peach.

“I want uninterrupted rapture,” Jack Kerouac once wrote, captured in his collected diaries that I loved so much when I was seventeen and thought, “Me too! Me too.”

Powerful presence in every moment, absorbed in the realness and simultaneously transcending it somehow, rapturing in the ride.

I used to think my human body was a detriment to this pursuit, always getting in the way with it’s aches and pains and imperfections. It’s too-muchness, it’s dressing room sobs and desire to consume more than it could contain. I was at war with form, forgetting – or perhaps, never having been initiated in the art of joyful embodiment.

The sensation of the breath moving in and out, the tiny pause in-between, the hairs standing on end, the breeze wicking sweat off the neck, softness and strength. Heart beating to fuel intense movement and bowel releasing to let go of what is not a part of me and vagina opening to a most-welcome visitor and giggles erupting quite spontaneously and the beautiful delight of lying there in bed and appreciating every piece of the orchestra my body had been conducting without me all along. The cell division and the toxin cleanse, the ovulation and the absorption of nutrients, the oxytocin that led me to knowing what is good-good and the sugar crash reminding me that slow and steady wins the race. Everything my body had been doing for my benefit, while I criticized and resented and punished it for appearing differently than what the magazines had flaunted.

No longer separating body parts like a mannequin on display, I am on my way to wholeness, harmony, radiance. I know I am on my way and I want to tell you about it. I want to take you with me through my words and ask that you meet me where I am, each am that I am.

I have been speaking to you all my life in one way or another and now, now I want it captured. I don’t want these thoughts to disappear into the night sky of a condominium complex or the branches of my neighbor’s willow tree, I want them here for people to see. To witness this journey. Not for any reason. I don’t know what it will mean. But I know that reading the innermost quest of others has meant something to me. I know that I’ve been given some kind of expressive gift, alongside time – and among all the other active things I do day-to-day – like teaching and editing audio and instagramming and consulting and making money – well, I have time for this too. This inner journey, made visible.

And so I write. And speak. And I hope you will hear me, but even if you don’t, I’m claiming the correspondence. I’m claiming where I’m going.

Wholeness – Harmony – Radiance.

Love,

Kerri