When I Felt Beautiful

Today’s prompt for #Reverb14 is “When did you feel beautiful this year?”

Victoria Musgrave Sunglasses

Tough question because I spent most of the year not feeling very good about myself. I didn’t feel ugly per see, just not beautiful. Af the beginning of summer, I discovered I’d put on just enough weight to make some of my favourite summer clothes just a little too tight. This didn’t crush me, but I was disappointed. I’d looked forward to wearing those clothes and didn’t want to buy new clothes. However, I wasn’t really motivated to lose a few pounds, so I made due with the clothes that did fit. So, I didn’t feel beautiful.

I felt beautiful only twice in the last year.

The first was when I participated in Vivienne McMaster’s Be Your Own Beloved photo walk during World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon last July. If you aren’t familiar with Vivienne’s work, she offers a couple of courses on how to use self portraiture to see yourself with kindness and love. The photo walk wasn’t about taking beauty shots, but a few simple techniques, such as camera angle and being aware of light, can have a huge impact on how you look. The photo walk was a great experience and I managed to take some shots that I liked. It was really all about being playful and looking kindly upon myself. It wasn’t about being pretty – just seeing and liking myself just as I am.

Then, in August I decided I needed new pictures for my website. I shot a few photos while standing near Lake Ontario, but the light was too harsh and I was squinting in every photo. Plus, I had lipstick on my teeth!

I tried it again a few days later in the evening when the light was softer and I was delighted with the results. Great light changes everything. I used my 35 mm camera with a 50 mm lens to get a blurred background. I also used fill flash to balance the light on my face with the light in the background. I also shot a few images while sitting on my balcony – again in defused light.

I’d like to be clear that I wore minimal make up and didn’t use Photoshop to “fix” my face (remove lines, wrinkles, etc.). This is me – just taking advantage of good light.

PortraitWaterHair
I look at the photos and can hardly believe it’s me. Damn, not too shabby for 42!

At the Start

Latte and a cupcake

At the start of 2014, I was full of hope and vague plans. There were books and articles I wanted to write. E-courses I wanted to launch. I wanted to apply for an MFA in creative writing.

Being an inveterate journal writer, I kept writing down all the things I wanted to accomplish. And wrote them down again and again.

None of these things happened. I spent months trying to make plans to accomplish these things but I felt like I was trying to walk under water. Nothing could quite seem to come together.

That’s the problem – and benefit – of being a journal writer. If you flip back through the pages of your journal, your patterns and habits stare back at you.

By September, I’d had enough of the perpetual gloom. I was tired of being tired and sick of the self-doubt and fear that had taken over my life. I went to see my doctor, a woman in whom I’ve entrusted my health for over 20 years, and told her how I felt.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression, put on a mild anti-depressant and began seeing a counsellor. I am so glad I reached out for help. It is such a relief to no longer have to carry the burden that is depression all by myself.

The grey curtains of depression have begun to part. The plans I had back at the beginning of the year are beginning to come to fruition. New plans are coming together. I’m now offering one-on-one creativity coaching – something I hadn’t dreamt of offering at the beginning of the year!

AltarCandle

It took me awhile to decide to share my personal journey with depression here, but I believe whole-heartedly in removing the stigma of mental illness.

After all, if we fall down and break a leg we wouldn’t hesitate to go to the doctor, so if our minds don’t work right, why would we hesitate to do the same?

If you think you have depression, I urge you to speak to a doctor and get help. I don’t advocate for one treatment modality over another, but I believe any kind of help is far better than trying to go it alone.

You are not alone. You are going to be okay.

Owning My Wings

Three years ago, I sat in my office on the top floor of an office tower and watched a pair of hawks spiral across the sky, riding the updraft. I had achieved everything I thought I wanted in my corporate career. I wore pantsuits to a fancy office, had an assistant, and a nice salary. By conventional standards I was successful. I should have been happy, but I was not. Those hawks were free to soar above the city, and I felt anything but free.

Mabel Magazine Victoria Musgrave

This is the opening paragraph of my personal essay in Mabel on how I came to own upbringing as the daughter of creative entrepreneurs and that above all I value the freedom to a live a life of my choosing. My freedom is more important than security.

Would you like to read the rest of my personal essay? Please consider purchasing Mabel Magazine, Issue 2. It costs $25 USD or $39 for Canadian orders, plus shipping. Yes, this isn’t a cheap magazine. However, unlike most magazines, this one isn’t being bankrolled by a huge media conglomerate that can afford to run a loss, or make loads of money on advertising. Mabel was created with a lot of love and perseverance by Liz Kalloch and Stephanie Renee to share stories by and for creative professionals.

This is a beautiful magazine packed with inspiring stories and gorgeous images. Think of it more as a keepsake instead of a magazine.

With love,

Signature

P.S. Issue 1 is sold out, so don’t hesitate to purchase Issue 2. Think of it as a Christmas present for yourself or for a special creative person in your life.

P.S.S. I’m not an affiliate. I just love Mabel and think you will too!

A Fresh Start

PinkRoseBud

Ihave been blogging in this space on and off since 2011. I must admit that my purpose hasn’t always been that clear, because I have divided my time between doing work that pays but doesn’t light my fire and the writing and photography that sets my heart free.

My last freelance website content project wrapped up a few weeks ago and I’ve decided I won’t be actively pursuing new projects. If my current clients contact me for work, I’ll certainly work with them, but I won’t be pursuing new clients in this area. Instead, I’ll be pursuing the types of projects I’ve always wanted to do – travel writing, photography, personal essays and journalism. When I graduated from journalism school all those years ago that was the kind of writing I most wanted to do. I had the naive hope that I could change the world. I cling to that hope, even if it is naive.

I’m also excited to begin offering creativity coaching for writers and other creatives. Over the last couple of months I’ve been coaching myself to really push forward with creating work that has intense personal meaning for me. That means I’m going to be more revealing here – share more of what I’m learning as I continue on my creative quest. It is just possible that what I’m learning will be of benefit to others.

A couple of months ago, I recognized that I was depressed. I’ve had depression before, but it still took me awhile to recognize that the grey curtains were closed and that I needed help. I reached out to my doctor and am now taking an anti-depressant and seeing a counsellor. Slowly, the curtains are opening and daylight is starting to peak through.

To celebrate my fresh start, I’ve spruced up my online home with a new design and a new logo. Lots of new things will be coming soon – new blog posts, some special offerings just for my newsletter subscribers and a new writing e-course that will launch in the new year. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter below to be the first to know.

With love,

Signature

The Courage to Change Course

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you might remember that I’ve been working on a memoir about living on a sailboat as a teenager. I’ve completed two full drafts, but it just hasn’t come together. I’d read through what I’ve written and it just doesn’t feel satisfying. It doesn’t feel like a book. This was a huge blow, since I’d actually quit my job to write the book.

Foggy-Path

But I had to accept that the memoir wasn’t working. I also had to contend with the reality that my family didn’t want to read my book. Logically this wasn’t surprising as the sailing trip was really difficult and ultimately led to my parent’s divorce. But emotionally this was a huge blow.

I contemplated letting go of the book altogether, but I still knew that I had the makings of a great book, despite the failed memoir. Then I looked at what I’d been reading over the last year. Young adult novels, such as The Fault In Our Stars, The Hunger Games trilogy and others. The books are well written and sophisticated, not childish at all despite the teenage characters and themes.

I realized that I could take elements of my teenage experience and write a great YA novel. It would free me to take the story any which way I want to go. I wouldn’t have to be faithful to the truth or my family members’ feelings – since they don’t want to read it anyways.

So, the book has taken a major course change and instead of feeling defeated, I feel revitalized. Some of what I’ve already written can be reused, but I’ll also be writing lots of new material.

The easy thing would have been to just quit the book and move on to something new, or even get a new job. But it has become very clear to me, despite the setback, that I am a writer. That I am committed to writing books and that this setback is a normal part of the process. I am also committed to running my own freelance writing and creativity coaching business. I will continue on the path. Famous writers such as Juno Diaz have had to kill books that they’d ages working on. This is all part of the process.

I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year and this has given me the perfect opportunity to dive into writing the novel. I like the idea of a deadline and I plan to have a new first draft completed by November 30. Writing feels fun again.

Finish the Year With A Bang

Book-Edits

Fall has always felt like the time for a fresh start. Perhaps it was all the years of going to school, university, college and the countless professional development courses I’ve taken that have all started in September. It is a time of new ideas and big plans for the future.

This September is no different. Today, I officially started Advanced Creativity Coach Training with Dr. Eric Maisel. I’m really looking forward to deepening and building my practice.

As an adult, September also means that there are only three months left to the year. Three months left to finish all of the big projects I wanted to accomplish this year. Yesterday, I got some great advice to achieving those projects in Pam Slim’s newsletter. (Do sign up. It’s great.)

To summarize, her advice is this:

  • look at the calendar and get very clear on the real amount of days that you have to work on your project. Mark off holidays or any other events that are not going to be work days.
  • Take a look at the list of goals you wrote back in January 2014 and figure out which ones are still relevant and doable before the end of the year.
  • Draft a plan for the next 30 days to actually get the work done. Write your To Do lists with action words. (instead of book, marketing, etc. write “draft chapter 1, contact clients for testimonials, etc.)

In the interest of accountability, here is what I plan to do for the rest of 2014.

  • Finish writing the book and send it out to potential agents and publishers.
  • Finish writing and launch my introduction to journal writing e-book.
  • Prep and set a launch date for my e-book/course on using journaling to overcome body image issues.
  • Finish the creativity coach training and develop my marketing plan to let everyone know what I have to offer!

That means finishing the very last edits of the book and starting some exciting new projects.

What is your fresh start for the rest of this year?

Let’s not let 2014 go out with a whimper – let it go out with a bang!

How I am Moving Beyond Fear

Promoting myself has always provoked fear. I have a long history of being looked at in a way that wasn’t positive or encouraging.

I was born with a mild form of spina bifida (a condition that puts most people in wheelchairs). After having surgery as an infant, I suffered no health effects at all. Yet, I still had to endure annual check ups at a teaching hospital that were frankly more for the benefit of student doctors and interns than me. When I was five years old, I remember being led into a room and made to stand in front of a group of men in white coats. My dress was pulled up so they could study my back. They talked in medical terms over my head. Cold fingers touching my back. The unspoken message was “you are different” and “you are defective.”

Selfie-Jul14

This message was reinforced by a second grade teacher who made me stand up in front of the class and tell everyone what was “wrong” with my back.

To be honest, my parents were much better, although I don’t think they intended to hurt me. I remember my mother telling a complete stranger all about my back when he wanted to know why I was so small. I felt violated and humiliated.

So, suffice to say, I have a tough time being seen. It’s impacted many aspects of my life. I chose to pursue communications instead of journalism because I’d be behind the scenes. I enjoy figure skating but rarely do competitions because being seen and judged has been pretty rough.

Own the Story. Control the Story.

So, here I am today with stories to tell, a book that is nearly ready to go out into the world and an e-course to promote. I need to step out past my fears and allow myself to be seen.

It comes with the understanding that unlike when I was a child, I control my story. I decide what I share. I’ve also decided to own my story. By sharing my deepest hurts, I diminish their power over me.

I open myself up to new experiences and new people, knowing that I have the power to engage with those who come from a place of love and compassion, and that I can shut out those that don’t.

Make Friends with Fear

I recently watched a short video with Jonathan Fields and Clay Hebert, who talked about making friends with fear. Until recently, I thought fear was something to either avoid or conquer.

Instead fear could be seen as a sign that you are going in the right direction. After all, if you really didn’t want to do something, or care about something, you wouldn’t feel fear.

I’m not talking about the fear of falling when you are standing at the top of a cliff or some other form of physical fear – that kind of fear keeps us from doing something stupid and getting hurt or killed.

I’m talking about the fear of writing a book, fear of sending out a blog post, fear of quitting the job and starting a business – or someone sort of challenge that pushes us out of our comfort zone.

These are things I care about. So, I fear the fear and take baby steps towards my goals. I’m slowly pushing my fear boundaries outward, trusting that my fear will slowly evaporate as I achieve my goals.

My fear also slowly evaporates as my blog posts and other offerings are met with positive feedback from people I admire and care about.

I have received snarky comments and that stings, but I don’t value those people, so after a little sulking, I hit the delete button. After all, it’s my blog, my space, my home. I control how it gets furnished.

How do you move beyond fear?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Share your story!

My Journal Writing Practice

Iwrite in my journal almost every morning. I used to write in the evening, but that was more an occasional practice. Then, several years ago, I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and she advocates the practice of writing Morning Pages – three pages written long hand first thing every morning. Morning pages is more a form of free writing, or stream of conscience writing.

Journal page & Wild Unknown Tarot Card

I still write most mornings, but my journal writing has evolved over time. First of all, I don’t have a set page count. Sometimes I write only a page or two and other mornings I write four or more pages. It really depends on how much I have on my mind.

Many morning, I jumpstart my journal practice by pulling a single Tarot card and using its description as a way in to writing about what is on my mind and how I’m going to face the day. My favourite Tarot desk is The Wild Unknown. I love the hand-drawn images and nature symbolism. The cards speak to me. However, if you are not into Tarot cards, you could also use a daily Bible passage or other spiritual passage. There is no right or wrong – just what speaks to you.

My journal is a safe place.

This launches me into my daily writing. I write about what I plan to do for the day. I write about my hopes and fears. I write about encounters with friends and strangers. Could I have done something different? As a writer, I sometimes write about what I’m going to write about and sometimes this evolves into writing a rough first draft of a blog post or an article. I like it when that happens. My journal is a safe place so when I feel stuck in my writing, it is a great place to explore without any pressure or commitment. The writing in my journal is for my eyes only, so it doesn’t matter if it is “good” or not.

When I first began keeping a diary at age 12, I mostly wrote down what I had done each day. I’ve kept those diaries and now I can look back and read when I had exams or stayed over at my best friend’s house, but I have no idea how I felt at the time. Now, I try to write about events and places I’ve been by describing them in a way that will be meaningful to me years from now. I also try to describe how those events made me feel – was I happy, sad, anxious or bored?

My journal is my daily companion.

My journal has become a record of my life and a daily companion. And the practice of journal writing has become a form of mindful meditation for me. When I sit down to write, I step out of the stream of my life to take a moment to review, reflect and capture those moments before they slip away.

A How-to Guide to World Domination

WDS-Stage

Last weekend, I attended the 4th annual World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. It was my second time at WDS and it was just as fantastic as the first time. Once again, Chris Guillebeau and his team brought together an amazing group of speakers and performers. We heard from New York Times bestselling writer A. J. Jacobs, who is funny as hell, Dee Williams, who has made an art of living in a tiny house, Michael Hyatt, who gave a very personal and inspiring talk, and Jadah Sellner, who was honest and inspiring.

I’ve been trying to write a deep and thoughtful article summing up everything I learned, but finally decided I would just let the speakers who most inspired me speak for themselves.

So, here is my quotable guide to the World Domination Summit 2014.

Before you begin your quest for world domination, recognize that…

“You are more successful than you think just by getting up in the morning.” Dee Williams

As you begin formulating your dreams, consider…

“How do I want to be remembered?” Michael Hyatt

Once you have decided on your dreams…

“Say your dreams out loud.” Jadah Sellner

You have permission to …

“Go on a journey and ask people to come along. You don’t have to be an expert.” Pam Slim

And, remember that…

Scott Berkun. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

Scott Berkun. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

“You have to be vulnerable to be creative.” Scott Berkun

And…

“Whatever resources you have is enough.” a participant at Pam Slim’s meet up

Jaddah Sellner. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

Jaddah Sellner. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

“Take imperfect actions.”Jadah Sellner

“Create a virtuous cycle. Force yourself into action. This will create a positive feedback loop.” A. J. Jacobs

As you begin making your dreams real…

A. J. Jacobs. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

A. J. Jacobs. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

“Be bold.”

“Fake it till you make it.” A. J. Jacobs

“Don’t let the urgent over take the important.” Michael Hyatt

When failure occurs, and it will….

“Let go of what didn’t work.”Jadah Sellner

When you feel fear, consider….

“How you hold your body has an effect on how you feel.” A. J. Jacobs

Michael Hyatt. Photo courtesy Armosa Studios

Michael Hyatt. Photo courtesy Armosa Studios

“What single brave decision do I need to make today?” Michael Hyatt

Dee Williams. Photo Courtesy Armosa Studios

Dee Williams. Photo Courtesy Armosa Studios

“Be a superhero.” Dee Williams, who showed us how to put on our invisible capes

If you are waiting for some big changes in your life…

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Leo Tolstoy

As quoted by John Jantsch

And finally…

John Jantsch. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

John Jantsch. Photo Courtesy of Armosa Studios

“Make good choices!”John Jantsch

My Quest for World Domination…

Toasting the unconventional life at WDS

Toasting the unconventional life at WDS

Ha! I bet that got your attention! Actually, I am attending the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon this weekend. One of the questions asked of participants before arrival is “What are your goals for WDS?”

First, a little back story. This will be my second time attending WDS. I arrived last year as a freshman, shy and nervous. I didn’t know anyone who would be attending the conference. Or rather, I didn’t know anyone in real life – I knew many of the bloggers and online biz folks I follow and admire would be attending, but they wouldn’t know me from Adam.

But fate was on my side. I met the lovely Vivienne MacMaster in the Vancouver airport while waiting for our connecting flight. Actually, she came up to me because she heard me say I was going to the World Domination Summit while going through U.S. Customs (imagine saying that to a customs agent! Fortunately, he was cool.) So, I had someone to hang out before I even arrived in Portland. Then, Vivienne and I met up with Kristen Noelle, whom I’d met before at the Creative Joy Retreat. Suddenly, I was no longer alone. Through these ladies I was introduced to many of my favourite bloggers – who quickly became my favourite people.

Plus, I discovered that everyone at WDS was warm, open and friendly. It was easy to meet people. After all, we all share similar life missions – to live an unconventional life.

So, here are my goals for this year:

  • To be open to meeting as many new people as I can.
  • To deepen the relationships I have the people I met last year.
  • To come away with new ideas to improve and grow my business.
  • Help set a Guinness World Record for the longest yoga chain!
  • To take lots of photos during the two photo walks I am attending.
  • I’m an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person, so I give myself permission to step out when I feel the need.
  • Try to to buy too many books at Powell’s!

I’ll share photos and thoughts from WDS very soon!