In late October, I received an intuitive ping to take a selfie. Then I got a second ping that said take one every day and post each of them on social media. I’ve learned to pay attention to those pings, so I complied.
But I wasn’t particularly happy about it.
I wasn’t all that happy about receiving an intuitive message from the Universe directing me to take photos of myself and then share them. I dislike selfies. I’m not fond of seeing myself in pictures. I gave up wearing makeup in the early days of the pandemic. There were a variety of reasons why I felt a frequent urge to slap myself upside the head instead of pointing my iPhone at my face.
But intuitive pings come for a reason. They’re guidance to help us shift past or through something that’s blocking us. Pings are signposts that tell us something we need to learn.
What I needed to learn was to GTFOver myself. I needed to stop hiding in my introverted closet, which had become even easier to accomplish with a global pandemic. I needed to learn how to be visible and in the process, maybe from my example, someone else would learn how to be visible too.
So I committed.
30 days of selfies…
The original ping didn’t give me a timeline, which is often the way with messages from intuition, so I decided I’d do it for 30 days. There were days when I almost forgot to snap a pic. There were days when I knew exactly what I wanted to say in the caption I wrote to go with each photo. There were days when I really, really wanted to stop.
But I persisted.
Learning how to be visible is a lesson I’ve avoided most of my life. I was bullied almost every day for five years in elementary school. That experience taught me it’s simpler, and safer, to be a wallflower. I’ve been struggling with that chaotic vibration for years because it’s not actually my nature to be quiet or demure. I’m a tiny person with a big voice and a ridiculous amount of energy and light. My energetic vibration is high and yet, before I submitted to the GTFOver Myself Project, I was suppressing that vibration.
Taking a selfie every day for 30 days ripped the door off the hinges and released my energy and light. I learned to stop worrying about what others thought of me and instead, just BE me.
Which is a key component to living a life of joy and ease, in touch with your feelings, by the way. When you can BE who you’re meant to be, joy and ease become immediately accessible.
With joy and ease…
We all have lessons to learn while living this human life. Learning to be visible is one of mine. Taking daily selfies not only allowed me to BE who I’m meant to be, it also helped me to feel more comfortable in my own skin. And I think we could all use a little more of that.
This lesson will always be a work in progress. I’ve stopped taking and posting daily selfies because I GotTFOver myself, for which I’m grateful. I’ve now shifted to a weekly selfie practice because I found I enjoyed smiling at people from their social media feeds.
I found I enjoyed sharing my joy with the world.
What lesson do you need to learn that will ultimately give you joy?
I originally wrote this essay over 8 years ago when I was working corporate and shared it on my old site, hilbitwrites.wordpress.com. At the time, there was a lot of WTF going on in the ladies restroom at the office. A couple weeks ago, I shared it with a friend after she grumbled about the bathroom situation at her job.
Apparently, some things never change.
The purpose of sharing it again now is to offer you a laugh (we need more of those this pandemic year). Also, it may just make you super grateful to work from home.
Laughter and gratitude: two surefire ways to feel more joy and ease.
How to be a bathroom ninja…
Disclaimer: This essay may get me kicked off the internet. If you’re easily offended, or find discussions of pooping something that shouldn’t actually be discussed, this essay is probably not for you.
As the title suggests, this essay is about bathrooms. Specifically, public restrooms. More specifically, the woman’s restroom at my office. If I don’t get kicked off the internet, I may be banned from using the work bathroom.
That might not be a bad thing. I have a feeling the restroom at the local Target is cleaner.
A little back story…
There are rules for using a public facility, even if the “public” is limited to your co-workers in a private office building. At least once a week, I or one of my girl friends is subjected to a random but offensive bathroom violation. We’ve reached the point where this is so out of control, we run to tell the others what happened. I think it’s a matter of misery loves company. But these incidents are often humorous. And who can’t use a good laugh in the middle of their work day?
I’ve posted some of these to my Facebook status. My sister-in-law tells me she plans to set up a lawn chair in my work restroom if she ever gets to Chicago. I don’t blame her. It’s the best tourist attraction in town.
My goal with this essay is to point out the most common violations and the rules for avoiding them. I realize I’m going to give away some secrets but removing the veil of mystery surrounding the “Ladies Room” is necessary in the interests of public education. How violated each of us may feel when subjected to any of these infractions will vary among individuals, so feel free to pick and choose the rules you follow. Just remember…the rules are now public, so we’re all going to be expected to step up our game. And, if you decide you want to print these out and hang them on the stall doors of YOUR work restroom, go right ahead. Please just attribute it to hilaryclark.com.
So, in no particular order of importance…
If you feel the need to play music on your iPhone or iPod while using the public restroom, go ahead. Just know it is NOT masking the sounds coming from your stall.
If you decide to break out in song after completing your business, again, go ahead. The acoustics in most restrooms are pretty fantastic. But consider your song choice with care. Don’t choose to sing Tomorrow, unless you’re pondering your next visit. Instead choose something commemorative of the moment, like Memories. And please be aware: suddenly bursting into song may startle any other occupant, shocking a fart into the atmosphere, thereby adding a noxious element to what would have otherwise been a cultural moment.
If you protect your precious bottom from whatever resides on the seat with a liner or several layers of toilet paper, please think of future visitors. Do the courteous thing and ensure all remnants of sanitary barrier have followed your business down into the bowels of the sewer. Don’t leave even a square to scare the next unsuspecting user when she enters the stall. No one wants to touch someone else’s safety paper, even with the toe of a shoe.
In a similar vein, make sure you leave the seat dry. I’m talking primarily to the squatters here, but all of us leave the occasional drip. Dry is nice. Wet is not. Even with a paper barrier, the dampness seeps through. Sure, it might be back-splash and purely potable water, but there’s no way to know that when you’ve planted your ass in a small puddle.
If you’re prone to shedding, please use a toilet paper square to brush those lonely locks of hair into the bowl. And I’m not just talking about the hair on your head. This is why waxing was invented.
These particular situations compound the intrinsic filthiness of my work restroom. Each day, one of the janitors has to pour water down the floor drain to eliminate the sulfuric scent of rotten eggs. And it’s too bad they haven’t figured out a solution to the gnats. It’s disconcerting to be sitting there, minding your own business, contemplating the fate of the nation, and gnats start swarming around you. It’s enough to give a person a complex.
One of my friends has done some traveling. She informed me the porcelain holes in the ground she encountered in Peru were cleaner than the restroom we use at the office. Even if I don’t get banned from the bathroom here, the one at Target is looking better and better.
On any given day, I suspect most of us aren’t too worried about our personal space. Until we enter the bathroom. (Ed. Note: this was written WAY pre-pandemic; nowadays, keep that 6’ between you.)
Once we enter the bathroom, we become islands and want vast acres of space between us and the next person. If you enter a bathroom and the only unoccupied stall is immediately next to an occupied one, leave. Come back later. If you’re desperate and you absolutely, positively must go right that moment, practice your Kegels. One of those stalls should open up soon and you can grab one without a neighbor.
While you’re at it, hold off on conversation. I’m happy to talk to you when we’re both at the sink, but I’d rather pretend neither of us exist when one or both of us is in a stall. There are plenty of places for a good long chat. Most of those places have much more comfortable seating that a cold porcelain throne.
My same friend also traveled to the Dominican Republic where the public use cozy little rooms, fully enclosed for glorious privacy. I imagine it to be a little condo complex of bathroom stalls, pristine and secure, with latches that latch and the illusion you’re sitting on the commode in the sanctity of your bathroom at home.
Most people know of, and make full use of, the courtesy flush. It’s used to mask any noise that may be emanating from your stall. It rids the room of acrid smells. If you’re afflicted with an EBM (explosive bowel movement), or Ass-plosion, the courtesy flush serves as cover for what is surely an awkward experience. Particularly if someone else is using the restroom, or the restroom is located right next to peoples’ work space, the courtesy flush is the polite thing to do. Sure, everyone knows why you’re doing it.
It’s still considered good etiquette.
Except when the courtesy flush causes water and whatever else is in the bowl to splash back on the user. Or on the floor. Or on your feet. Or, as happened to me, on your shoulder. I was wearing a sundress. I had to take a sponge bath at the sink. What the hell?
If your boss gives you a work space next to the restroom, it probably means he or she doesn’t like or respect you very much. Sorry to be so blunt, but you may need to rethink your job. I overheard this conversation in the hall one day:
Person 1: I don’t like sitting next to the bathroom. I can hear the pooping.
Person 2: (Stunned silence.)
I learned later that Person 1 was the same person who experienced an EBM, then struck up conversation with someone while still in the stall, trying to explain it was the coffee.
With joy and ease…
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into my writing archives. Feel free to share far and wide – everyone should learn how to be a bathroom ninja!
This year has worn me out. It’s also been the most glorious learning experience, with multiple pivots down different paths. There’s one final pivot for me before the year’s up.
I’m done being a runaway writer.
Tell me more…
For the past 3 years, I’ve been on a path to be a life coach (I’ll ignore the various niches I tried and use the broader term for now). In late 2017, I enrolled in a year-long coach training school, excited to learn new skills which I believed would open doors to entrepreneurship and freedom.
On some level, that belief came true. I started my business in early 2018. I learned about marketing. I made lots of connections. I evolved and grew personally.
But the one area where I never quite succeeded was building a client base. I’ve had a few, and they were and are delightful human beings. I’m blessed and grateful they chose me to be a part of their journey. However, I discovered the work didn’t satisfy me in the way I’d anticipated.
That’s because I remained in a state of denial, one I’ve occupied since childhood. I wanted to work for myself but I refused to allow myself to consider the one dream I’ve always had. Instead, I tried to fill the void with something more “practical”, like being a coach.
Denial is a river in Egypt…
From as early as 4th grade, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. In that dream, I saw myself penning (these were the days before computers) fabulous novels and delightful children’s books, a famous author with New York Times Best Sellers under my belt.
Through high school and university, I took every writing course I could fit into my schedule because I had to write. You’d think college essays and blue book exams would have satisfied my writing itch, but nope, I wanted more and I chose it.
But even with this dedication to extra writing assignments, and a vision of writing for a living, I still wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I graduated from college and went to work, because that’s what responsible adults do. I didn’t have the financial reserves to pour myself full time into writing a novel and I couldn’t get a job as a writer.
Looking back, I don’t think I even tried. I suspect I thought no one would hire me. Funny how we’re our own worst enemies, isn’t it?
I figured I’d write on my lunch breaks and at home in the evenings and on weekends. I sort of did. The writing came in fits and spurts.
I polished a children’s story I’d written my last year in high school. I started a novel (or three). I tried to find an agent to help get that children’s story published. When I didn’t succeed with getting representation, I allowed defeat in the door. That was a couple decades ago.
Since then, I’ve had numerous blogs. Some private. Most public. I’ve started more novels. I’ve written a couple more children’s books. I’ve continued to write poetry (and published a book of my favorites). I’ve always written but I gave up the dream of calling myself Writer, Author. I told myself I didn’t have it in me, to tell the stories that play in my mind, and then send them out into the world.
Then a recent conversation about joy and ease and what I really want opened that door marked Defeat. My lifelong dream of being a Writer, of being an Author, came floating out from behind that door and lit up my energy center with the vibrancy of a neon sign.
I’m done denying.
I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.
When I re-dedicated myself to my fiber art practice in 2014, I knew I’d start a blog and website for my art because I knew I’d need to write about the work I was creating. This is that site. It will remain that site.
In recent months, I’ve begun posting other essays here, beyond my art. I’ve written about being an artist. I’ve written about creativity. I’ve written about joy and ease. I’m going to keep doing that.
And now I’m going to take it further.
I’ve released the coaching business – again. I’m done looking for clients. If someone wants to work with me in that way, they’ll find me and we’ll talk.
Instead, I’m going to focus on creating my art and my writing. I’m going to share that writing with you, an essay a week.
I’m looking forward to writing on a variety of topics – from living a life of joy and ease to creating feelings out of fiber (my textured fiber paintings) to finding the absurd in the ordinary. My writing will continue to have a spiritual twist to it and I’m giving myself permission to insert the snark and occasional NSFW language that’s part of who I am.
From time to time, I’ll share excerpts from the books I’m writing, too.
Because I am an Artist, a Writer, a Poet, a Joy and Ease Believer and I am done running away from the dream I’ve had all along.
With joy and ease…
I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey to claim my Writer’s identity. I’ll still write essays to inspire because that’s what I do. I’ll also write essays to make the reader laugh or think or dream, maybe even argue. I want to share my stories with you, like I share my poems when I publish a new artwork.
When I finally accepted life is meant to be lived with joy and ease, the decision to be the person I’ve always dreamed of being became clear.
So I hope you hang with me. If you’d rather not, you can always unsubscribe. I’ll be sorry to see you go, but I want you to be true to yourself as I’m being true to me.
(P.S. Please don’t be hasty to depart if that’s what you’re thinking!! I’m sharing an essay next week that’s some of my best work. It’s a humor piece on the absurdity of the ladies’ room. I promise you’ll laugh your ass off. 😉 )
New work! I recently completed (Feeling) Depression so today I’m sharing photos of this new textured fiber painting. I’m also sharing a little about my most recent experience with depression and the valuable lesson I learned from this feeling.
(As I always do, I’ve written a poem that goes with this piece. To read it, please visit my poetry website – www.piningforpoetry.com.)
I’ve experienced depression my whole life and have been fortunate to be able to manage it without the aid of medication (although I have always remained open to taking an antidepressant if the depression became persistent).
My depressive episodes typically only last a few days. Shifting myself up and out of the grey blue space was managed by focusing my attention on something outside myself. This practice worked for years.
I don’t know if it’s this pandemic year, or relocating across country in the midst of said pandemic, or general loneliness, or something more that produced an extended sink into the depths of depression this past summer. It’s likely some combination of all of these. All I really know is I began to feel blue in late summer and it evolved into feeling grey as summer became fall. The grey space remained until mid-October.
During that time, I kept showing up for my business. I kept showing up for my art. I kept showing up for myself and for those who love me. The one thing that helped me cope with what felt like a lost, lonely broken heart sunk deep within the grey was creating this piece.
I started it in mid-September, when the depression was fierce. As I created this artwork, I immersed myself in what I was feeling. I let tears flow when they came and I sat in the numbness when that’s all I could sense. I chose colors that matched how I felt, surrounding that fuchsia broken heart with all the shades of depression.
I took my time with this fiber painting, stitching when I could, #15minutesatatime, and as I stitched, I found myself rising up from the grey depths into the waves of the blue and eventually into the pure light of delight.
Feelings have so much to teach us, if we just let them. There are lessons to learn even when in the depths of depression. My art practice allows me to examine those feelings and from my study, evolve. Creating Depression out of fiber taught me the true purpose of life: we can choose to live with joy and ease.
And that’s what I’m doing now.
With joy and ease…
Depression is available for purchase for $1800 and would look fantastic on the wall of your home or office (or home office 🙂 ). If you’d like to own this piece, you have two options:
When everything you do feels like a struggle, it’s hard to believe life is supposed to be filled with joy and ease. And yet, that’s the whole purpose of life.
If you’re feeling rudderless…
If you’re drowning in that sea of struggle, convinced you’ll never feel joy again, convinced nothing is ever easy, you need support. Support is critical to reconnecting you to purpose. Support is how I did it for myself and it’s what my business is centered around now.
When I was stuck in a place where work and life felt hard, I was depressed, angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I was unwilling to really talk to anyone about I how felt because I didn’t want to bring them down into the depths with me.
But this was the wrong approach. That became clear when my negativity began to leach into my relationship with my guy. Something had to change.
My guy knew I was unhappy. It was impossible not to know it, but while he expressed encouragement and gave me hugs, he also grew really tired of hearing me say “It’s fine” when it clearly wasn’t. Really, how fine could it be when I was cranky, angry, and weepy all at the same time? Dinner isn’t particularly delightful when the person across the table pouts the whole time. It’s a wonder he stood for it as long as he did.
He called me on my shit one day and I started talking, sharing my thoughts and feelings about how conflicted I felt. Deep down, I knew nothing was supposed to be as sad and difficult as everything seemed to be but I couldn’t see a way out.
That conversation led to others. As we talked our way through what I was really seeking, I found hope. Once I found hope, I was able to see my situation more clearly. Once I could see clearly, I discovered all the ways I was blocking my own joy and ease.
With clear vision, I hired a coach and was then able to create the mindset shifts I needed to leave struggle behind, in every situation, in every experience, and in every thought. Now, even when I’m doing something I’ve never done before or my day is long and full of work tasks, I feel joy and ease. Consistently. And that makes life amazing.
Start by talking to someone who has your best interests at heart. This can be your partner, another family member, or friend. Keep in mind this person may be biased towards keeping the status quo (because that might be easier for the other person) so give serious thought to who you choose. I started with my guy, but eventually, I knew I needed greater and unbiased support.
Next, consider working with a coach to receive that unbiased support. This is the work I do with my clients, providing a safe space to work through the struggle, opening the mind to discover the blocks, and then helping them create the mindset shifts they need to live a life of joy and ease.
Finally, do the work you need to do to release the perception that everything is a struggle. It’s easier to do this work when you’re supported and encouraged, when you work with someone who can see what you can’t see. You’ll shift much more quickly and the work will be easier to do.
With joy and ease…
If I can go from literally decades of push and struggle to consistently feeling everything is joyful and easy (even the tough stuff), you can too. The whole point of getting support is so you don’t have to keep doing it alone. Give yourself the gift of working with a coach to expedite your shift from struggle to ease.