I Show Up – Good Stuff Happens

Yesterday, I set up a table hawking my book, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance at a Discover Your Potential local event, hosted by PowerOnWithLimbLoss.com, for folks with limb loss and other physical challenges. The program included personal stories shared by kids and adults with physical challenges, vendors with information about health and healing, prosthetics, accessible vans, bikes, archery equipment, adaptive yoga, wheelchair basketball, and rock wall climbing. It was the first event of this sort I’d been to with the hopes of not only promoting my book, but meeting others with stories similar to my own. I was excited, yet didn’t want to get my hopes up – what if it was a bust? Gotta be ready for anything, I told myself.

As I got out of my car wondering who I’d find to help me carry in my table and box of books, I was greeted by two beautiful young men, one of whom was sporting two above the knee, mechanically-slick protheses. The guys were brothers with a business aimed at designing prosthetics, and tools to repair them, hoping to give their clients maximum input in the building and maintenance of their mobility aids. The bionic one of the duo also had a flesh-and-blood hand with fingers permanently bent in toward his palm. He effortlessly picked up the table in that hand and amazed me as he strolled in to the venue, loaded down with gear and smiling, as I wheeled in my chair and his normie brother carried his own load. We laughed and joked about our situations and shared excited hopes for the day ahead. I later learned he was an Afghanistan IED explosion survivor, and filled up with tears–of sadness yes, but mostly with that full heart feeling of amazement at the human spirit’s ability to thrive despite horrific circumstances–as he recounted the story. If nothing more happened that would’ve been gift enough for having made the effort.

Not so fast, though. During the program part of the day, I heard the stories of three amazing kids, all amputees, all under eighteen, and all triggered that same joyous full heart feeling. One young boy had two half arms with rock wall climbing abilities, a personality and presence bigger than life itself, and a desire to be DJ. The middle-school boy had been legless since birth, a medal-winning and NIKE team wheelchair basketball star who performed hand stands on various surfaces, and professed his intention to become a medal-winning skier this year. Lastly, we heard from a teenaged girl who lost her entire right leg to cancer at age five. She’s a NIKE team swimmer, hoping to make the paralympics, and a successful half-marathon finisher times two. Already, I’m over the top in gratitude and inspiration.

I sold a few books, got many compliments on my cover art, and the pictures I displayed of my own dinosaur prosthesis from the 1960-70s. I met and chatted with people with new limb loss, seasoned amputees, family members, professionals dedicated to making life easier for those of us with altered bodies, and recreation enthusiasts eager to share their innovations in adaptive equipment of all sorts.

So much had come of the short day, I was content. It was way more than worth my time. And then–the rock climbing began. I watched, secretly wondering if I could do it. Would my arms come through for me? Would I get halfway up and lose strength, feel embarrassed and have to retreat? Could I even make it up one hold? Would the sling hold me? So many questions and a big fear of failure and humiliation. As if trying isn’t good enough. I have to remind myself that trying is much more than good enough when I get out of my own way.

So I tried. Kristen, the lovely young woman from the local university Adaptive Sports program, was encouraging, gentle, supportive–a true delight. She strapped me into a special harness designed to provide more support for the back and prevent me from tipping to the right where my leg and pelvis are missing. I was belayed, and Kristin climbed along side me. We made contact with the wall and immediately I was climbing. I had to help lift my foot with my arm onto the outcroppings at some points, but, with what felt like minimal effort, I ascended–all the way to the top. I’m delighted, proud of myself, and just maybe I’ve found a new challenge to keep me inspired and fit. We’ll see if I keep to my promise to myself to attend the two upcoming adapted climbing workshops at the university. I’m pretty sure I will–they’re on my calendar!

Here’s a sneak peak thanks to the photos of a sneaky pal:

 

 

Do I Really Look Like That?

This is a high level problem, for sure – nonetheless, one of the most difficult things in my life is seeing pictures of myself, especially when they’re published somewhere the whole world can see them.  It’s rare that I even minimally like a picture of myself – it doesn’t help that I’m a master at closing my eyes, even in cellphone photos. If I like any photos, they’re usually snapped when I have no idea it’s happening.

That said, I just reviewed twenty-three pictures from a “photo shoot” (the words send shivers up my spine) I had with Eva, my Joy Ride editor/publisher/Jill of all trades, a week ago. We’re looking for a photo to compliment a Facebook page I’m in the midst of launching to support the book. As I review each one, artfully re-fashioned by Eva, that little bugger with the big voice inside my head continually critiques: your hair is a mess, you have so many wrinkles, that outfit makes you look fat, your not smiling, on and on. The voice takes over and it’s hard to quiet it enough to allow for my more reasoned self to have a say. It’s a deep inner anxiety that rises up out of nowhere to shoot down even the most flattering photo, and it takes all the courage I can muster to challenge that shouting critic, look with an open heart and mind at the photos, and be even ‘just okay’ with how I look.

Thankfully, this gut wrench has lessened over the years as I’ve strengthened the friendly, compassionate voice that resides along side the bugger. But some part of me still wishes I looked different and still has to work to overcome the negativity. I’m not even sure how I want to look; it just seems like the bugger wants to pooh-pooh any and all looks. I like life in motion, animated and fluid. Photographs memorialize moments, capturing amazing moments we may have missed given the way our lives often seem to pass by so fast. Still photos give us the opportunity to remember all sorts of moments with all of our senses and with our hearts, as we open ourselves to seeing the whole of the scene that was captured. We can re-experience the motion and animation that surrounded the moment, and can feel the spectrum of emotion from sadness to joy to rage or surprise that was unfolding as the the shutter closed around the scene.

Looking at the photos Eva took last week, I’m remembering our outing, the day, the weather, and our playful bantering as we attended to the task of taking the photos.

I’ll share one of the photos and a quote from Pema Chodron that speaks to the battle that sometimes rages inside, as my little bugger and my more accepting self spar.

Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right or when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live. 

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Finding Focus

I’ve been feeling scattered, unmotivated, and noticing pangs of rejection since only one of the four emails I sent out asking for media coverage of my book elicited a response. Based on what I’ve read about marketing books, I understand that even one response is super. However, the feelings that nobody likes my book, and I’m foolish to have thought that anyone would, are still there. Past experience tells me I have to acknowledge all the feelings or I’ll drift into indifference and let the whole marketing mess fall away into the background. But it won’t really fall back there – it will gnaw at me and pollute any joy I might feel from other experiences.

That said, what do I do? I truly am in a transitional place and, unlike the last two years when my focus was clear and had a tangible outcome (getting my hands on a real, live paperback book with my name as author on the cover), I can’t see a tangible focus for this marketing effort. All I see is how little control I have over what happens. No matter what I do. Even if I can clarify what my message is, which feels like a daunting task right now since my head is swirling with equal parts negative and positive self-talk, I don’t see any solid outcome to focus on. Everything feels out of my control: how many books I sell, how many of the folks who buy books will write reviews, who in the big world of book reviewing will review and promote my book, etc.

Marketing is hard work and it takes consistent effort and willingness to feel the pain of rejection. I recently started reading Kathleen Gage’s free eBook, Hit#1 on Amazon. All she talks about is what one has to do, mentally and in tasks everyday, to make a new endeavor meant for mass consumption successful. A few weeks back I wrote a blog about my solid commitment to this year of marketing, but now as I  face myself I want to quit. I want to say “it’s not up to me, I’ve released it and whatever is meant to be will be.” I want to give myself permission to be lazy, to let it all go, to avoid the rejection I may feel if nothing comes of my efforts. To allow myself to say “it doesn’t matter.” And, in many ways, it doesn’t matter. I never intended writing the book to be the start of an ongoing business endeavor, or one that would bring fame and fortune. So, whatever comes of it is fine. But I wonder if I can muster up the courage to like myself enough to invest the energy it might take to distill a message, to let myself acknowledge that my life has had meaning, and the lessons I’ve learned might be helpful to others. Can the part of me that does like myself and that can hear that others like me, too – can she hear the positive without being discouraged and downtrodden by the sometimes constant criticism that another part of me likes to continually spew in my ear? Am I willing to embrace most loudly the encouragement and love I clearly feel from family, friends and the whole cosmos? Am I willing to use that positive energy to keep at it despite my confused and scattered mind, and unclear focus?

It occurs to me that this might be a big part of what my message is: we have to somehow know that, despite our feeling out of control of outcomes, we best serve ourselves by showing up for our lives – as consciously as is possible at any given time – and listening for clues as to what to do next. What fork in the road to take, what box to check, what experience to pursue. Noticing how opportunities present themselves, and how we need only say yes and be willing to engage with as much of ourselves as we can. We have to like ourselves enough to participate and find a way to play in our daily lives. Sometimes showing up and engaging is difficult, we don’t feel like it, or we have to face things we’d rather not see, or remember, or discover about ourselves or the world around us. Right now I’m thinking I don’t want to see what I have to do to market my book. None of it feels like play. Instead, I feel overwhelmed by Ms. Gage’s intensity and drive. Social media intimidates me – I want to dismiss it as an awful symptom of our time. Self-promotion scares me and raises many questions about why anyone would be interested in reading what I have to say. But this opportunity (brought to the forefront by the book marketing dilemma) to clarify what in life is important to me is compelling, and feels like an important road to go down. Although it’s tedious and unpleasant presently, it may provide important clues to what I want to pursue as this year of transition unfolds, and leads me to yet another chapter in my joy ride.

Today, I promise myself I will look for the opportunities to play as I roll around in my current state of confusion and orneriness. Maybe I’ll find that confusion and orneriness, in and of themselves, have playful qualities.

Therein lies a clue to my dilemma, and maybe to my message: love the place you’re in, aka “love the one you’re with” by Stephen Stills.

Joy Ride 2018: The Marketing Journey

As so many things do, the title of this post came to me one day as I awoke. It was right there in the forefront of my brain, or on my eyes, or someplace where those things we know or need to know show up. That morning I felt fully ready for the next phase of this book writing, publishing and disseminating journey. I wrote Eva, my editor, an email that morning declaring “I guess I’m ready to believe I have it in me.” I was referring to the kind of self-selling it takes to see if a self-published book is of any interest to a world outside the writer’s small circle. Eva says it involves being a kind of motivational speaker, reaching out to the various audiences that may be interested in the details and the over-all message of my journey.

The idea pushes a few of my buttons – one being the notion that I believe I have something to say. Isn’t that sort of conceit? This is a lesser theme in the book – this notion that one can and must embrace one’s strengths (and weaknesses) and share them openly, accepting praise and gratitude from those who respond without diminishing those responses. I realize that in writing a book and, more so in telling others I wrote it, I’m opening myself to all sorts of responses from others. And so, I will for certain have to prepare myself to be the gracious recipient of whatever comes my way while this next year unfolds – whether it be praise, gratitude, questioning, dislike, or even silence.

And silence – the silence of others who I know have bought the book but have not mentioned anything about it to me – is difficult. I’m mostly confident that I’m open to any and all comments, reactions, questions – flattering and unflattering – and want to hear all of those. The catch comes when I’m with known book owners who are saying nothing while I want to hear something, anything. What do I do? Do I ask if they’ve read the book? If they have read it, they know so much more about me than I know about them – and what are they thinking? If they haven’t – will they? Did they just buy it to be nice to me? There’s this space surrounding me and those who have bought the book that’s palpable to me. It’s an energy that connects us and is totally mysterious – a delight in one way and frustrating in another. I’m doing my best to live in the place of delight today.

Back to the 2018 journey – I’m both ready, as in committed, and not so ready, as in squeamish about self-promotion and the prospect that nothing will come of the effort. Because I know that nothing comes without commitment and effort, I will do all I can to make Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance available to any and all people who might be interested. I will write a query letter for the media and independent reviewers; I will join local book reading events; I will create a FaceBook page; I will continue writing blogs and updating my website; I will enter any writing contests Eva suggests; I will submit excerpted sections to publications that may be interested; and, after the holidays, I will send an email out to all those who have supported and encouraged me by buying the book asking them to write an Amazon review. And most importantly– I will do my best to let go of all attachment to a particular outcome and open myself to the wondrous possibilities.

Goethe says it best in this quote – and I so know this is true from a place deep within. Wishing you dreams, love and peace in 2018.

“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Post Launch Mania

I read a review of the book, Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, in this week’s local Sunday paper. Mr. Kagge is a Norwegian explorer, author and publisher who’s been searching for the ultimate silence for many years. He trekked to the South Pole in 1993 and was alone there for fifty days and nights.

The newspaper article quoted him as saying, “When you start you have all the noise in your head,” and by journeys end, “you feel your brain is wider than the sky…To be alone and experience the silence feels very safe, very meaningful.”

That same day I had a massage with a wonderful masseuse friend with whom I spill my guts about my mental and physical state before we begin. That morning I was reeling from the overwhelming response to my book launch from local friends and acquaintances, family living clear across the continent, and New Jersey high school classmates spread far and wide. I’ve been getting emails, calls, requests for additional books that many want to sent to their friends and relatives. The outpouring of support and encouragement is at once humbling, exhilarating and exhausting! My head was like a bus full of screaming kids – yelling at me about how I wasn’t responding to emails or getting books to people quickly enough, and I was remiss in not ordering more so I wouldn’t run out, which I did before I filled all the requests people had made. Those notorious voices accused me of scheduling too many things – a DanceAbility performance for a local non-profit, Christmas cards and packages to finish and mail, on and on. As I lay on the massage table I felt like I just consumed a gallon of pure caffeine – me, a decaf coffee drinker! As Sadie methodically moved her experienced, healing hands over my flesh and reaching far down into my muscles and bones, I felt the reality of the quote seeping into my body and mind. Suddenly there was space, my cells had calmed down and time seemed endless.

The next day I met with Mary, my long time Authentic Movement partner, for our regular weekly practice. She’s a somatic practitioner and teacher experiencing a recent acceleration in requests for her time and wisdom. It seems the two of us are often moving with the unplanned intention of returning to ourselves and allowing our bodies to speak about what they need. My movement that day began with a deep, seated forward bend during which I covered my ears and was immediately transported deep inside myself. As the silent twenty minutes of movement unfolded I played a game with my moving self with the theme of reaching far outside my boundaries – exploring, searching, seeking – then coming back in to find a way to connect again to that deep place within. When my twenty minutes was up, I spoke about it with Mary as part of the movement practice, noticing how important it felt to return home to that deep place of silence, to never let myself get so far outside of that place that I feel I could lose control of who I am at the core. This is an ongoing challenge. I love being in the world –  socializing, offering myself as a volunteer, doing my best as part of my work team and lately, responding to all the support, encouragement, praise and requests about my book. And, I need and love to slip into that place of silence, when my brain becomes “wider than the sky…and the silence feels safe and very meaningful,” in the words of Mr. Kagge.

And so – I’ll sign off with a promise to remember to re-member myself, lest I’m no good to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Yikes – I’m launching a book

Just three days until November 30, 2017, my official Book Launch Party. It’s been planned since October 30, the day the book became available on Amazon, and until today it seemed soooo far away. Not so now…

Thankfully, my inner worker-bees have been waking me up two or three times a week with all sorts of ideas about what I should say, what to read and how to “be me” at the event. It’s funny to think about having to plan how to be me – seems there’s very little else I can do. Still – a mind like mine likes to make sure all angles are examined before I forget every last one of those angles and enter into what is most always an improvisation in the moment as it happens.

That said – I’ve prepared an outline (which changes as the dreamscapes do each night) and I’ve chosen several passages to read. I’ve rehearsed in the mirror what I might say as I offer a toast. (For years I’ve indulged in talking out loud to my image in my bathroom mirror, or in the rearview mirror of the car, when I need to work out a problem or plan a strategy. It’s amazingly comforting, and although I rarely remember what I say, it seems to help me get my thoughts together. In addition…I enjoy making faces at myself!)

These impromptu mirror engagements have helped to get the wheels turning about exactly (although, I know there is no exactly since all things change as each nanosecond passes by) what my journey has been and continues to be about. For today, and I think this will still be what’s up on Thursday, I’m thinking to focus on how the journey over time, and the journey of writing and publishing the book, has been largely about re-membering my body and in so doing, embracing it’s amazing wisdom. It’s not that I forgot my body, because I was very much involved with the physical functioning aspects of my body from early on. The physical challenges of making my way on one leg were a source of fun, and a kind of creative outlet. I enjoyed finding ways to do things that would appear difficult or even impossible for someone missing a leg. And, although I tried hard to deny and dismiss my emotional body, I never was able to fully forget it. I just relegated it to a deep, dark place inside and decided, repeatedly, to ignore it. Thankfully, the powers that be – God, the universe, other co-pilots, like dogs or paint brushes – continually poked me along the way, reminding me that there was something I’d yet to consider in my quest for wholeness. The pokes came disguised as panic attacks, friendly advice, offers of adventures that bore unexpected insights, dreams and other things too numerous to mention and too compelling to ignore for long. They encouraged me to continue plodding, skipping or just walking until I discovered dancing – which is what I realized I was doing all along, just like we all are.

After all – life is a dance and that dance is the art, and the wisdom, and the message of each and every one of our bodies. To live is to dance! Ha – now isn’t that fun?

It’s a new day…

…and I’m a published author! My first book is Joy Ride a memoir of my decades long journey to self-acceptance. That journey seems pale now as I ask myself what’s next? Why did I write the book and where will the next chapter lead me?

The months from completing the manuscript to publishing have been a whirl wind of re-reads, tweaks, nit corrections (my beloved editor, Eva’s, word for those text bugs that show up in the oddest places), arranging the launch party and thinking about marketing – something that scares me some and just plain rattles my insides more. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d write and publish a book. I never kept a journal or diary and, honestly, never even read that much. I have enjoyed books (Autobiography of a Face and With or Without You are a couple of memorable ones) along the way – mostly in spurts of reading with long spurts of not reading in between.

Getting back to what feels like the marketing monster, I’d like to go with my usual pattern of thinking: what ever happens with the roll-out of the book is what is meant to happen. But then, I realize that if I don’t purposefully tell people about the book, no one will know it exists – especially these days with so many books being published every day. Which means the newest leg of the journey is getting comfortable enough with my accomplishment to let the universe know, and taking responsibility for doing my very human, grass-roots part to make that happen. It’s about launch parties, readings and announcements for sure. And it’s also about hearing and believing what my readers tell me and owning my deep desire to share my inner and outer adventures with others in hopes that we all might continue to create our own lives as Thomas Merton says in the quote below.

I’ll close this post with two quotes that have recently popped out at me. Till the next time…

“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives.” Thomas Merton

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” Desmond Tutu