Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here on Monday and Tuesday. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair.

"ONLY ONE THING IS MORE FRIGHTENING THAN SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH, AND THAT IS NOT SPEAKING IT." Naomi Wolf

"We are called human beings, not human doings."
Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

"The way to do is to be."
Laotzu

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs..(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
Theodore Roosevelt


Friday, June 26, 2009

Meeting the Muse

Just a quick post to let you all know I just emerged from my retreat at the Coast. With Mark David Gerson's book, "Voice of the Muse" as a guide, I had a most remarkable experience--life-changing shifts occurred in my psyche. I am still in Portland, Or, leaving tomorrow morning for home. I will definitely be writing more about this experience once I land and re-group. I will only say for now that I can't wait to get home and begin my new writing adventures. May the Muse be with all of us.
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Writing Retreat

For the next few days I will be out of communication. I am at the Oregon Coast, one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on the planet, for a writing retreat. No internet access. No cell phone tower. Just Mother Nature and my own creative energy.
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maintaining Balance

It's hard to maintain balance while traveling. Different routine. Small, tight space for stuff. Dealing with other peoples' moods and quirks and idiocyncrocies. Dealing with them dealing with mine. Woke up wanting to go home, even though everything is quite wonderful and I love the friends I'm with. That feeling tells me I'm off balance, but not sure why.

The energy in the world is strange. Iran is erupting in revolutionary behavior. Our economy is still tanked. My 66-year-old friend is struggling with financial worries vis-a-vis retirement and will he have enough. There's no way of knowing how long we'll live.

My energy is scattered. I'm grieving the loss of a three-year relationship with a teacher; I'm struggling to maintain my weight and manage food while away from home; I'm anxious about missing my book blog class assignments while away; and I'm excited about new projects brimming on the horizon.

So maintaining balance is a challenge. Just need to keep reminding myself to get grounded and centered and keep bringing myself back to that space. And do the best I can in each and every moment. That's all any of us can ask of ourselves.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 22, 2009

Titles

Coming up with titles seems to be in the air. One of my fellow bloggers is trying to name her travel memoir. The friend I am visiting is trying to name an upcoming event she is hosting. And I'm trying to name a singing group. When I detach from the noise and static and chaos of every day life, and open to creative energy, anything can happen.
Blessings,
Karen

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crazy Enough

My friends took me to see a show today called "Crazy Enough." It's actually a memoir in music. A woman, Storm Large, speaks and sings her life. She is an amazing writer, singer, and entertainer, and I was moved in ways I never have been just from reading memoir. If she ever takes this show on the road, it is a must see.
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Spiritual Home

On the plane from Albuquerque to Portland I spent the time reading and talking to my seat mates. As we drew close to Portland, I turned my attention out the window, hoping the flight plan would take us past the Columbia gorge and magnificent Mt. Hood. I wasn't disappointed. The 11,000 ft peak poked through the dense clouds and as we got closer, I felt as if I could reach out and touch the snow-capped mountain. I can't really explain how I feel about this mountain except that it feels magical to me. When I look at it, my breathing slows, there is peace in my heart, and I feel my spirit expand.

Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Traveling Day

I'm traveling today, on my way to Portland, Oregon, my spiritual home. The 10 years I lived there were transformative ones. When I left Portland in 1994, I was so depressed I didn't see any reason to keep going. But Spirit whispered to me somewhere in the Mojave Desert that I wasn't done yet and so here I am, blissfully content, filled with gratitude that I listened to the words of wisdom. Are you hearing yours?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vacation

On Wednesday I leave for Portland, Oregon for a 10-day vacation. I lived there for 10 years, from 1984 to 1994 and still miss the lush green foliage, magical Mt. Hood, the Japanese Rose Garden, the Columbia River Gorge, and the ravishing beauty of the Oregon Coast.

I've been in a writing slump since my memoir, "Following the Whispers" was launched in February. All my energy, focus, and attention has been on marketing the book. Well, and recovering from shoulder surgery, helping a friend deal with her dying mom, and living an active life with my hubby.

Trying to find a balance so that I can write, market, and live has eluded me. The vacation is more or less a retreat. Two of the 10 days will be spent at a beach house in Rockaway, Oregon with my dear sister of the heart, Clara. We intend to do workshops together, based on my story and her forgiveness work. This will be a key part of my marketing strategy for the memoir.
Outlines for two other writing projects are also on the agenda: one, a guidebook on aging, tentatively titled "Things to Remember When You Start to Forget," and the other a novel that has been floating in my head for 15+ years. That's the one that has me stuck--having never written fiction.

Vacations are a great way to disconnect from daily life, re-group, and come back re-charged and energized. So from 6/17 to 6/26, posts on this blog will be short and sweet--updates on the works in progress, reconnecting more fully in July.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jealousy

For as long as I can remember, I've had a problem with jealousy. Never satisifed with my appearance, I envied other girls. I wanted long straight hair rather than short curly hair; I wanted to be 5' 7" rather than 5' 3 1/2; I wanted smooth, olive-toned skin, not fair, freckled skin. The list could go on and on, but I'll spare you. There was always someone prettier, smarter, more talented, a better friend, wiser, ay yay yay, if I'm not careful, I'll get myself into a snit.

Growing up, feeling less than everyone else on the planet was my state of being. Now, not so much. But jealousy still flares up now and then and stops me in my tracks. Like being envious of writers who were talented and lucky enough to find agents and have their books published traditionally. Or being jealous of those who find self-promotion easy and effortless (time-consuming, maybe, but not an emotional hardship).

What I've learned is that if I'm feeling jealous, it means I'm off balance. Because when I'm centered, I know that each of us is unique. We have our own talents and gifts to offer the world. And that I am a loving, kind, caring human being with good intentions and a good heart.

I read somewhere that comparison is an act of vengeance against ourselves. So when I'm feeling envious, I'm literally attacking myself. The key is to catch the feeling in the moment, bring it out into the open rather than allowing it to lurk in my unconscious, where it can fester and cause negative feelings. Then I can apply another 12-step slogan: the 3 A's: Awareness, Acceptance, Action. Once I'm aware that I am feeling jealous, I need to accept the feeling. Oftentimes, if a feeling is negative, we tend to deny its existence. From acceptance flows right action. I can either work on improving whatever it is I am jealous of, or accept my limitations in that area and move on.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 12, 2009

Comfort Zones

I like comfort. I have my comfort foods: tuna fish, mac and cheese, (although I never eat that any more), chocolate, spaghetti and meatballs. These are foods I remember from childhood, a time when I used food to comfort the anxiety in my stomach. I also have my comfort spaces in my house (the recliner where I do my writing with my laptop, the right side of the couch in our living room, my bedroom). I like my clothes to be comfortable (hate wearing bras, but gravity makes it a necessity these days--sorry guys). Romantic comedies are comfortable, as are old classic movies and books.

My hubby is comfortable. He loves and accepts me no matter what I say or do (and believe me I've tested him, poor thing). My friendships are mostly comfortable. There are a few that require some discomfort sometimes, such as when I have to speak up to defend myself or someone else.

Mostly, my life is comfortable. My having published a memoir now requires me to step out of my comfort zone in order to promote it. This means speaking to strangers about myself and my life and my work. If I were giving a talk, this wouldn't be out of my comfort zone. But one on one, at a bookstore, for example, it would be.

I had to ask myself: what is the discomfort about? Here is what I came up with:
  • They will be rude to me and just walk away
  • Worse, they'll yell at me for accosting them
  • I'll be humiliated and embarrassed in front of others
  • They'll say, "Who are you to think I should buy your book?"

What if these things happened? Would I die? No. Would I survive the humiliation? You bet I would. Would I be able to stand up for myself if someone started yelling at me? That's questionable - it depends on the day and my mood that day.

As to the last question, my answer would be simple. My intention in writing my book was to help others dealing with similar issues to mine. I've overcome a lot of pain in my life and I've put it down on paper. That's who I am.

Role-playing worst-case fears helps me see that there really is nothing for me to be afraid of. Stepping out of my comfort zone just might place me further along the path of who I'm becoming.

Blessings,

Karen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going with the Flow

Life is life and it sometimes throws us curve balls when we're expecting fast balls (can't believe I'm using a baseball metaphor). Growing up in a dysfunctional family where nothing was as you would expect and you never knew when you'd get slammed or when your dad would start screaming over something he'd never reacted to before, I had a tremendous need to control my environment, to try to fix everything and everyone around me, to maintain status quo.

It took years for me to understand that those things are simply not possible. The 12-step programs have a slogan they call the 3C's: I didn't cause it; I can't control it; and I can't cure it. The it refers to alcoholism, but it applies to many other things in life as well.

I had a girl-trip planned with one of my closest friends, one of my sisters of the heart. We were going to spend a few days in Seattle and then three days on Orcas Island in the San Juans. But her 88-year-old mom has pneumonia for the upteenth time and is just not recovering this time around. We've cancelled our trip, although I'm still planning to go to Portland, OR for 10 days. But I've told my friends there I might have to cancel if something happens or I might have to come home early.

It's a hard lesson to learn to go with the flow. It means not being emotionally attached. It means being flexible. It means being able to alter things in an instant. Life can change in a moment. Going with the flow allows me to make the spiritual, emotional and physical shifts required when that happens.
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shyness and Self-Promotion

Being shy makes it harder to self-promote. Now some of you might be thinking, she can't be shy. She gets up in front of people and sings, for goodness sakes. And dances. At parties, she's laughing and having a grand old time. But shy I am, trust me. It became painfully clear to me on Saturday when I participated in a self-published author event at Page One, Albuquerque's largest independent bookstore.

Once a month, Page One allows self-published authors to set up a table (for free) and sell their books. Although I hosted my book launch there in February, this was the first time I went to this event. There were two other authors there, both of whom had been doing this for three years.

"Is it worth it," I asked Jim, a retired search and rescue volunteer who has written a novel about his adventures.

"I guess I have averaged about a 1/3 of a book a month in sales over the three years," Jim said.

Gulp. We sat. Jim accosted every single person who entered the bookstore with, "Hi there. We're local authors peddling our wares. Want to take a look?"

I wanted to crawl under the table. I can easily speak with people if they come up of their own accord and pick up a book. But I cannot, will not, do not want to try to stop them on their way to whatever they came in for. This made me realize that I am the same way at parties and group gatherings. I do not initiate conversations, although I am perfectly fine if someone comes up to me and starts talking.

How does this affect me regarding self-promotion for my book? It means I won't be going to Page One's monthly event any time soon. It's a waste of time and energy. I will, however, begin to set up speaking engagements at associations relating to the issues in my book. I will begin writing more articles and essays pertaining to topics covered in the memoir. And I will continue the internet marketing that is actually working, one book at a time.

My epiphany around being shy and self-promoting is that the process must be organic for me to continue doing it, playing to my strengths and avoiding things that highlight my weaknesses.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 8, 2009

Listening to the Whispers

I think it's about time I started listening to the whispers. After all, I wrote a book about it, didn't I? But in order to listen, I must take a time out, stop doing everything I'm doing, and get quiet. The whispers cannot come through the noise of the internet, the television, listening to music, singing, dancing, or whatever else I choose in a particular day to spend my time doing.

The only "doing" activity that promotes the receptivity of listening is journal-writing, because there, I am only listening to my own thoughts. It usually begins with getting down all the chatter cluttering my brain. All the hurt feelings, frustrations, anger, sadness, that has built up inside. Pouring all that emotion onto the page brings it from inside of me, up and out where I can release it into the universe. From that empty space, the whispers come.

Saturday morning I woke up with the blues from the previous day gone. But I still needed to pay attention to those feelings--to discover what led to them. I'm still working it through, but I can tell you it was about not listening to the inner voice of wisdom. I don't know about you, but for me, the consequences of that are not pleasant.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 5, 2009

Beating the blues

Depression is insidious. It creeps up on you without warning and before you know it, you feel as if there is a wet blanket draped around you, your legs feel like they weigh two tons apiece, your heart sits heavy in your chest, you can hardly muster the energy to breathe, and your body feels as if it is super-glued to the couch.

I've battled depression before and won. Usually it's been situationally triggered, like when I lost custody of my four-year-old son, or when my second husband fell in love with my best friend, or when I fractured my ankle in three places and couldn't walk for months.

It's not quite as bad this time around. And I can't pinpoint a trigger event. I'm just blue. Low energy, not quite stuck to the couch. I do manage to get up and do my physical therapy, walk around the park behind our house, run errands. But I have to make myself do all these things.

This weekend I'm going to go back to an old, powerful therapeutic tool - journal-writing. With my trusty notebook and pen in hand, I will write about my feelings until I become clear about the malaise which has descended upon me. Until then, dear blog pals, I leave you to your weekends and wish you a good one.

Blessings,
karen

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Living our Dreams

Last night I realized a life-long dream. For those who don't know me personally, I turned 60 in April. But ever since I was three or four years old, I've wanted to perform on stage. Like many little girls, I took ballet and tap-dancing lessons. But when a strange man molested me when I was seven, the dance lessons disappeared, along with any dreams of dancing, or singing, or doing anything creative. I shut down. If you are interested in more of that story, please visit my website, http://www.followingthewhispers.com/. There you will find an essay called "Frozen."

I didn't dance again until I was 16 and began folk dancing (cultural dances from countries around the world). That stopped when I married at 19. Didn't dance again till I was in my forties and met my current husband at the Albuquerque folkdance group. However, when I was 56, just after my graduation ceremony from college in 2005, my brand new Schwinn bicycle slid out from under me when I hit some gravel, and my right ankle shattered, fracturing in three places.

Laid up for almost a year, the depression nearly did me in. But one day a catalogue came in the mail, announcing continuing education classes. One of them was a singing class, something that had comforted me throughout a turbulent childhood. I signed up. It is a perfect example of the old saying, when one door closes, another opens.

Singing with the other members of the class wasn't a problem, but when I had to stand in front of anyone, my throat closed, my heart hammered inside my chest, and my voice came out cracked and off pitch, mostly because I could hardly breathe. For three years, I worked hard to overcome the old emotions and feelings that emerged when I become the center of attention.
I knew if I was going to publish my book, I would have to speak in front of audiences, and singing became my way to get comfortable being in the spotlight.

Last night my childhood dream came true. As part of an ensemble group that gives concerts at retirement communities, we performed for an audience of approximately 100 folks. In past programs, there was always one wrong note, or I couldn't put out enough energy to really do the song justice--something invariably happened to keep me from feeling good about what I was doing. Last night, however, I had a blast, and I could see that the audience received my song really well. They were smiling and mouthing the words, swaying in their seats, as I sang the song Doris Day made popular, "Everybody Loves a Lover." Google it if you don't know it.

No, it's not Broadway. And no, I won't become rich and famous singing and dancing. But I sure as heck had fun, and, I think, gave some pleasure to older folks who just don't get out to see shows anymore. I guess dreams don't really die. They may lie dormant, but somewhere deep inside, they are there, waiting.

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Standing Up For Yourself

Years ago I attended Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, even though neither of my parents drank. My partner at the time did grow up with an alcoholic mother and he attributed many of his problems to that. One day he came home after attending one of these meetings with a handout - a list of characteristics children share who grow up with an alcoholic parent. I don't remember the entire list, but the two I remember distinctly were:
* We guess at what normal is
* We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves
I don't have too much trouble with the first one, since it no longer matters to me what someone else's definition of normal is. I just need to make wise decisions for myself that meet my own code of ethics and fit my values.

The second one, however, still plagues me. I am so afraid of hurting or angering someone else, I tolerate inappropriate behavior for way too long. Then when I finally realize I need to do something about it, I feel guilty because I might upset someone else. Recognizing that this is an old, automatic response, I came up with this: It is not my intention to hurt you. It is my intention to take care of myself.

How do you handle standing up for yourself in situations where someone gets angry or defensive?

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quandries - Part II

A few days ago I wrote about quandries, particularly the quandry of handling what I consider to be a toxic relationship with someone who is teaching me a skill. That blog received the most comments of any I've posted thus far, so I imagine this situation is not unique to me. Advice differed. Some thought the negative person was put in my life for a reason and I should hang in there and learn the lesson. Others thought life is too short to tolerate negative and personal attacks and I should learn the skill elsewhere. Both were correct.

I've pondered this, meditated, talked with friends, and prayed about it. I've been with this person for almost three years now. Here is what I have learned:
  • Apply the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • I cannot change anyone else, only myself. I cannot control anyone else, only myself.
  • I need to look at my own responsibility and behavior in this situation: Am I being kind, loving and thoughtful or am I provoking negative responses somehow in my actions or in my communication?
  • What are the whispers of wisdom telling me?

I love and care about this person very much. But the negativity is outweighing the positivity of the relationship. I truly don't have the energy I believe it would require to continue to try and make this work. I feel drained and depleted after each encounter, sucked dry. I do not believe I am provoking this response--others in our group feel the same way. Lastly, the more I think about making alternative arrangements, the more my body and soul relax and lighten.

Thank you all for the kind words of wisdom. They helped guide me to a decision that feels soul-right.

Blessings,

Karen


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