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Four Easy (Not Really) Lessons

I’ve officially been on sabbatical for two weeks (out of the eight weeks I’m taking), and I can already tell you that time off, while extremely important for self care (and for getting things done, like packing up this house and moving our home elsewhere), is also a valuable learning tool.  What could one possibly learn from an unpaid vacation?  Read on, Dear Friend….

Lesson #1: Prioritize Your Priorities

The primary purpose of this sabbatical is to pack, move, and then unpack and settle in.  So what does one do when one is not actively engaged in packing, moving, or unpacking? Those first few days of my “time off”, I had zero clue what to do with myself!  I even went so far as to look at sites on what to do when one retires, all of which had three things in common:

  • They all suggested taking up a hobby.
  • They all suggested taking up a sport.
  • They all suggested getting a part-time job.

Which left me wondering: if you’re so bored now that you’ve retired that you need to develop a hobby, take up a sport, and gain a part-time job, then why the hell did you retire in the first place?  This got me thinking a lot about my own priorities, and about priorities in general.  

Most people have a list somewhere in the back of their brain (or, perhaps, if they’re lucky, in the front of their brain) of the things that are the most important in their life.  Now, these may be things that are truly important–things without which life becomes bland and/or unlivable–or these may be things that are peripherally important–things that are necessary to facilitate the truly important things.  My experience of abject boredom during that first week of my sabbatical made me take a long, hard look at my own priorities, and sort through and differentiate the truly important from the peripherally important.

So what is truly important?  In the interest of not boring you to tears with the details of “my little life”, let’s answer that question in an “across the board” fashion:

  • Peace
  • Love
  • Happiness/Fulfillment

Yes, I know that might sound trite, but I have found it to be an ultimate truth.  The hippies in the 1960s got it right: so long as you have peace in your life (a life free of drama llamas, including yourself!), love in your life (whether from a beloved, or from family and friends), and you are happy and fulfilled (able to do things that make you smile and laugh, as well as feed your passions), pretty much anything could happen in “your little life”, and you’d still come out relatively unscathed on the other side of whatever happened!

Boredom, at its deepest core, is a feeling of emptiness: it’s that thing we feel when we’ve lost sight of our priorities, and forget for a moment to simply enjoy the peacefeel the love, and focus on happiness/fulfillment.

Lesson #2: Plenty Is As Plenty Does

We live in a society where the word plenty somehow automatically equates in our minds with monetary wealth, but when it’s all said and done, ultimately, money is one of those priorities which is peripherally important.  Money is a thing which may help facilitate those three things that are truly important, but it doesn’t lie at the core of any of them.  Plenty, on the other hand, often does.

Plenty is actually defined as “a large or sufficient amount or quantity; more than enough”.  

I ached over the need to take this sabbatical, because I was afraid it would interfere with my previous definition of plenty: i.e., plenty of money to pay my bills, help out around the house, and purchase the furniture and things we’re going to need in our new home.  What I have found over the course of the past two weeks is that I have exactly the same amount of that particular definition of plenty, whether I’m working my tail off every day or not.  Meanwhile, when I’m not working my tail off, the really important plenty has increased three-fold: I may not have plenty of money, but I do have plenty of peacelove, and happiness/fulfillment!

The bottom line is: plenty is as plenty does.  When you sit around focusing on money as the definition of plenty, all you ultimately wind up with is realizing precisely how poor, financially, you actually are.  In the process, you also end up killing peacepushing away love, and feeling sad/unfulfilled.  However, when you focus on the really important plenty, you find yourself doing plenty:  enjoying peace breeds more peace; recognizing love breeds more love; focusing on happiness/fulfillment breeds more happiness/fulfillment!

Lesson #3:  Don’t Complain, Explain.

To complain is to explore a situation by focusing on the most dissatisfying or annoying parts of that situation, whereas to explain is to explore that same situation by focusing on the most relevant and meaningful parts of it.  Complaining shatters peace (it is the ultimate drama llama bait!), annoys love (it pushes people away), and denies happiness/fulfillment. On the other hand, explaining can actually bring about peace, foster love (as it encourages people to listen and then attempt to meet genuine needs), and lead to happiness/fulfillment.

The entire process of selling a house, packing your belongings, finding a new home, and then moving your stuff and unpacking it into said new home sucks.  I’m not talking a little amount of suckage, like “wow, rainy days really suck”, I’m talking major, industrial vacuum cleaner level suckage, like “you stubbed your toe on the couch so hard you’re now bleeding? Man, that sucks!”  The whole thing is a bigtime complain vs. explain opportunity.

I’m not gonna lie: I spent most of the period just prior to taking this sabbatical complaining.  I complained about the lack of sleep I was getting, due to early call-times by our real estate agent for showings, as well as other issues.  I complained about the size of the yard at every home we looked at.  I complained about having to put my much-loved stuff in storage.  I complained about having to take the cat out of the house in ninety degree heat on short notice.  I complained about how the entire business of having to keep the house spotless for showings while also having to pack impacted my work schedule. I complained, and complained, and complained.  Consequently, there wasn’t a moment of peace to be had: I officially became a drama llama.  I drove my Beloved bugnuts, which had some serious ramifications in the love department.  I was constantly unhappy and unfulfilled, and pretty much on a mission to get everybody else on the unhappy/unfulfilled bandwagon.

And then something wonderful happened: I stopped complaining and started explaining.  I’m still not getting enough rest, but in two more weeks, we’ll be in our new home, and I can sleep whenever I please (between unpacking and homemaking, of course).  The yard at the new house isn’t exactly huge, but you know what? It has an actual tree, and less yard just means less to mow!  I am presently staring at blank walls and mountains of boxes, true, but all the stuff that’s already in storage is probably safer for the move than the stuff presently sitting in boxes in my office, so now I wish I had packed it all from the get-go! We may have had to take the cat out of the house on short notice, but guess what? We made new friends!  Finally, in keeping the house spotless for showings, I discovered there are more fulfilling forms of work than my work-work: making Suzanne smile is the most rewarding thing in my corner of the universe!  Guess what? Now I have peace, and I realize just how deeply I’m surrounded by love, and I’m as happy and fulfilled as the loudly purring cat who is presently asleep in my lap!

Lesson #4:  Your Stuff Should Tell A Story

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two weeks (and the months prior) deciding which things to throw away, and which things to actually wrap lovingly in bubble wrap and put in boxes.  As a borderline hoarder (who is in love with a chronic purger), that has been a really tough process for me.  As an artist, I have a desperate need to be surrounded by pretty things. That has made putting things in boxes very tough.  I also tend to attach memories to things (more on that in a moment), so throwing things out is very hard for me.  As the boxes have mounted to fill our entire storage space, and now my office as well, I find myself wishing I had learned the previous three lessons sooner than now….

Because if I had, I would’ve realized: your stuff should tell your story.  If it doesn’t actively tell your story, or if it doesn’t help you tell that story, then you don’t actually need it in your life.  When I say it should tell your story, I don’t just mean that your stuff should somehow be symbolic of your actual autobiography. What I mean is way deeper than that: it should tell the story of what you wish and want your life to be.  It should represent a deep expression of those truly important priorities we talked about in lesson onepeacelove, and happiness/fulfillment.

This theory came into play a lot when I was cleaning out my desk.  Obviously, my desk is where I do all of my day-to-day work for Iaconagraphy.  It is also where I keep all of my important documents (like Michelle’s birth certificate), my myriad notebooks for online gaming, and all of my snack food.  Betwixt and between all of that, there are also a thousand dead lighters, a vast collection of character-shaped erasers, and various other flotsam and jetsam from my life (such as saved movie tickets and things “I might scrap one day”).  In short, apart from those important documents, there was a lot of crap in my desk!  There were legit six boxes of cookies in my snack drawer!  Six boxes!  

As I was going through all of that stuff, it occurred to me that the vast majority of it was autobiographical, but patently did not tell the story that I want or wish to tell.  It was autobiographical in that yes, I really like cookies, I smoke a lot (I have to, to maintain the necessary intake of coal tar to keep our disabling psoriasis on at least an even keel), I like quirky things, and I really enjoy scrapbooking.  But the story that all that stuff told was not the story I want or wish for: instead, it was a story of getting fat, being annoyed (because there are few things more annoying in life than a dead lighter), putting my own quirkiness in a drawer or on a shelf, and never having time to do the things I really enjoy.  So the cookies went to that great cookie graveyard in the sky, and the lighters joined them in the trash bag.  I kept the erasers as a reminder to stop putting those quirky parts of me in a drawer or on a shelf, and I resolved to actually scrap the things “I might scrap one day” as soon as we’re settled in our new home.

Everything I pack now is weighed against the question: does this tell my story as I wish or want my life to be?  I have a feeling this new lease on life is going to lead to a lot of throwing things away during my unpacking process!

So what dowish or want my life to be? What’s my story?  Once upon a time, there was a guy who had to die to learn how to live.  He loved the ocean, he loved a beautiful, brilliant woman (who loved him in return), and he also had the love of good friends and extended family.  And one day, he realized the ocean wasn’t someplace you go; it’s a feeling.  So he decided to surround himself, and the beautiful, brilliant woman he loved, with that feeling every day.  He realized the call of the gulls as you lie on the beach is really friends talking to friends, so he decided to be a seagull, and finally embraced his wings.  He discovered that cleaning and homemaking and creating beauty all around him gave him the peace he craved, so he decided to do those things all the time, instead of the things he had been doing, which made him perpetually cranky and constantly reminded him that he was financially poor, making him very, very sad.  He finally understood just how loved he was, and he basked in that, the way sunbathers bask in the sun.  And the dead man who learned how to live and his beautiful, brilliant woman, and his good friends and extended family lived happily ever after, and they were all fulfilled.

What’s your story?

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Welcome to 2016!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I certainly did (well, up until the last bits, but I’ll get into that in a minute).  I was very blessed to get to spend time with all sides of my family, both North and South; there was plenty of fantastic food (always my favorite part of anything–more on that in a minute as well), and the gifts both given and received were wonderful.  We also got to go and do some really special things, like Zoo Lights at Stone Zoo, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the IMAX, and a special screening of one of the Christmas episodes of Doctor Who on the big-screen in Danvers.  There was also time for introspection, and the opportunity to start taking how I run my business to the next level: which starts today!

One of my favorite holiday moments came as we were huddled around the table in Peabody as a family, and discussing our plans for the coming year.  My heart-adopted son, who is often brilliant, smiles across the table at me, gives me a double thumbs-up, and says “New year, new Mishy!”  Which got a resounding “Amen” from me and a returned double thumbs-up.  That kid gets me in ways that sometimes nobody else does. You see, underneath all these words in my blog, and in my books, and on Facebook, and underneath the charismatic Tarot Counselor, and the ordained minister, and the artist, there’s actually a woman who is shockingly unsure of herself; a woman who constantly second-guesses herself.  And I’m never going to get anywhere if I stay that woman, because that’s not being honest with me, and worse still, that’s not being honest with all of you. So, yes, “New year, new Mishy!”

I started to realize my need to “revamp” myself right before I took my holiday vacation.  I was in a fit of depression that there was no way anybody outside my immediate sphere was going to get to see (well, at least until this big reveal, like right now).  That caused me to take a deep, long, hard look at myself, and at my issues, and realize something very important: I’m just not comfortable in my own skin, but I hide it very, very well.  I’ve worked with some of you out there on similar issues, and I know that those of you with whom I’ve worked will find that very hard to swallow.  But I can come to you the way that I can, and help you the way that I can, precisely because I’m going through the same thing, and have been, for a very, very long time.  That realization led me to take some of my own advice, that I’ve given to some of you: I looked back on my life, and tried to find a time when I was comfortable in my own skin.  What I ultimately found was that I was far more comfortable in someone else’s, and that someone happens to be lavender….

Those of you who know me well know that I am a long-time roleplayer, and a dyed in the wool nerd-geek, so you won’t find it at all surprising that I might find inspiration in a character I played once, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  You see, that’s where the lavender skin comes in: her name is HiraaniL’una, and she’s a Twi’lek priestess, dancer, pilot, and martial artist who I created at SWG. I lived in her skin for five years, until the game closed down in 2011.  There was something about that little lavender lady that had a mind-boggling effect on people.  Folks would literally gather in groups from all across the galaxy to watch her dance (even calling in guildies who were “stationed” off-world in such far away places as Mustafar or Restuss on Rori).  Everywhere she went, she caused something of a stir (which meant I completed Theatre Quest in record time!).  The other side effect of that, however, was that I was instantly in tell-hell every time I logged in: I literally couldn’t play for talking to people.  She was like a freaking people-magnet.  Why? Because she was charismatic, confident, and brilliant; all the things I want to be, but most of which, I’m not.  While the “tell-hell effect” seriously compromised my playtime, it’s something I desperately need right now in my business. I need to be a people-magnet, like Hira, yet I lack her charisma and her confidence.  I’m far more comfortable in her lavender skin than I am in my own, so it’s time to slip back into it (in a manner of speaking), five years on.

Now, this little “Hira-piphany” only works when you factor in that I created her, so at the end of the day, she’s really me: she’s all the best parts of me; the parts of me that I am terrified, for whatever reason, to fully put out there into the world and embrace in my own human skin.  And, when you really think about it, aren’t we all much more comfortable when we can operate from behind a mask?  Really think about that for a moment. How many women do you know who wouldn’t step foot outside their house if they didn’t have on their “face” (their make-up)?  How many men do you know that wouldn’t be caught dead in public without a specific shirt or pair of pants that make them feel more self-assured?  Consider how rampant bullying is on the internet, precisely because people are hiding behind the mask of their computer screen! Or, consider how people behave at Halloween parties: put a person in a costume, and somehow they become more free-spirited, and more ready to take on the world, don’t they?

There isn’t anything fake about living within a persona, so long as that persona was already you to begin with, as is the case with Hiraani. So I don’t want any of you to think this “Hira-piphany” is somehow going to make what I do less sincere. This is simply the place I need to settle into right now, to better serve not only all of you, but also myself. Because I thought I’d already found authentic me, but clearly parts of her were still hiding in the shadows, afraid of “what will people think”.  As I’m writing this, and being this honest, I have to admit, I’m still a little worried about “what will people think”. But, as my heart-adopted son said: “New year, new Mishy”.  So, here I am, being possibly way-too-honest.  It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

I’ve committed to completely restructuring my life in 2016, beginning with my business, but really, in every aspect.  That commitment was brought sharply home twice this holiday season: on the 23rd of December, and again on the 29th.  On the 23rd, we had to say goodbye to our diva-puppy, Boo.  She had been sick for a few days–we thought it was just heat.  I hadn’t left her side for two days; my entire schedule and every waking moment came to center around that poor little dog. Then, at 6PM on the evening of the 23rd, she began to have seizures.  We rushed her to the emergency vet, but there was literally nothing we or they could do, except make her comfortable, and say goodbye.  The next day was Christmas Eve, and at noon, when Suzanne came home and I didn’t get to announce the usual “Look, Boo, Mama’s home!”, it became vibrantly apparent that having a puppy was part of my “life schedule” with which I couldn’t easily part.  I had already committed myself to restructuring my life (especially my work schedule), and then Boo made it clear to me that I was on exactly the right track.

The night of the 29th of December I got very sick.  I was literally up all night, but I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say: I have diverticulitis.  This doesn’t just mean a temporary change to my diet until I get better; this means permanent changes not only to my diet but also to my exercise.  I am faced with yet another way in which I must restructure my life.  Be careful what you commit to: God might just take you seriously!

Food, and feeling full, are psychologically vital components of my existence, and as I struggle with these life changes that I’m presently being forced to make, I have to ask myself: why?  I mean, if you crave being full, doesn’t that imply that in some capacity, you feel empty? Why, yes, I’m finding; yes it does!  Which is another reason the “Hira-piphany” is so important:  I didn’t feel empty in that lavender skin; only in my own.  She had a dancer’s body (not a Balanchine ballerina, mind you, but athletic), and she danced all the time.  I haven’t danced except when at something where everybody is dancing in a very long time!  Maybe if I can get some of that other “good stuff” back in me, I won’t need to fill me with food; maybe if I danced more often, exercise wouldn’t seem such a chore.

“New year, new Mishy!”  Seeing my boy say that still makes me smile.  As is often the case, he is wise beyond his years, and I’m listening.  Some of the ways in which I’m listening might be more than a bit unconventional, but, hey, whatever works, right?  And hopefully this will mean I can help more and more of you in the coming year.  I’ve already revamped my Tarot Pages, so be sure and check that out, and next up I’ll be doing some tweaking to my newsletter and customer appreciation program, so if you’re not already on that list, please head on over and sign up!  I have projects galore to share with y’all in 2016, including possibly some new e-courses (I’ve always loved teaching!), and at least three new ebooks.  But the thing I’m the most excited about sharing with y’all is new improved Michelle.  I hope you’ll like her; I’ve sure missed her a whole bunch…..