Why We Focus on Fear

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of riding a bike. I have a somewhat irrational fear of flying over the handlebars and cracking my head open.

Now of course that is a real thing that could happen, but it’s never happened to me in the past. I was never one of the kids who rode their bike to school. I had a blue Schwinn beach cruiser, like so many other kids in my neighborhood, but I was only allowed to ride it on the sidewalk, around my cul-de-sac only, never crossing any streets. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? I think I inherited my irrational fear from my mother.

These days, I live less than a mile from the bike trail and I own two bikes: a cruiser and a hybrid. My husband is an avid road cyclist who has completed century rides and puts miles on his  bike two or three times a week. I would love to go with him sometimes, or to go on some cycling adventures when we travel. But I can’t keep up.

I’ve always been content to take a few rides a year, down to the beach or just along the trail. Truth be told, I usually wake up the next day with aching shoulders because I white-knuckled the handlebars the entire time.

When you’re focused on the fear

Recently a couple of my friends started riding with a women’s cycling group at The Unlikely Cyclist, a local women-owned bike shop whose mission is to get more women on bikes. My friends talked about how fun the group rides were, and what a great complement cycling is to yoga. They asked me to join them on a group ride.

“Oh no, not me!” I chuckled. “I could never do that. I have real bike fears!”

“Why?” asked my friend Jessy. She already told me she overcame her own biking trepidation when she lived in Thailand and had to ride her bike through literally life-endangering traffic to get anywhere. No big deal. “What scares you about it?” she asked.

Me: The traffic. Getting hit by a car. Changing gears. Downhill speeds. Somersaulting over the handlebars. Cracking my head open.

She (with kindness and not an ounce of judgement): You can’t focus on the fear. Focus on the good parts. What do you love about riding a bike? The sights, the sounds, the smells of being outside? That’s what I love.

I went home that night and pondered. Is it comforting somehow to focus on the fear rather than challenging it? Fear is a real and helpful thing: it’s what keeps us from stepping over the edge, touching the hot pan on the stove, or maxing out the credit card on a Nordstrom Rack shopping spree. (Oh, is that just me?)

Fear keeps us safe. But if unchecked, fear can keep us from experiencing some really awesome things. I think it’s easy to focus on the fear because it’s such an easily accessible emotion, tied to habits or inhibitions that go way back, like the blue cruiser rules of my childhood. But what if we looked that fear in the face and asked it to explain itself? Where does it come from, and is it valid?

I mean, danger is literally always around us. I could fall out of a headstand in yoga class and break my neck (literally) or have a severe allergic reaction to my food or get hit by a bus or ANY NUMBER OF HORRIBLE THINGS.

If I lived my life in a state of  fear and anxiety about what danger could befall me at any given moment, I could not actually live my life. Besides, just because it could happen, doesn’t mean it will.

And here’s the real truth: many of the bigger fears I have been holding on to and dreading my entire adult life have come to pass in the last year: my dad was diagnosed with dementia, I had to clear out and sell my childhood home, move both of my parents into assisted living facilities…it all happened. It’s still happening. I was always afraid of this stuff–I mean, it has tortured me from the back of my mind for years. I knew it would be painful and I knew I would have to deal with it.

Some of my worst fears came true, and some didn’t. There were surprises, good and bad. The thing is this: I had no control over 99% of what happened in the last year. I’m sure that’s true for whatever is coming in the years ahead too. I am not in control.

And that is exactly what fear is based in: the feeling of being out of control.

So how do you overcome fear?

One way to deal with fear, according to this MIT study, is to recognize that your brain can only focus on one main thing at a time. So an effective method of getting over a fear is to focus instead on what you CAN control.

Or as my friend Jessy suggested, focus on what you enjoy instead of what is freaking you out.

So I challenged myself to stop focusing on the fear. I joined the Beginners Group Ride and I wore my helmet and super-tight, padded shorts and I learned how to signal a turn and pump my brakes.

More important, I started redirecting my attention and focusing on the experiences I love when I ride my bike: seeing the moon rise on an evening ride, watching the sun set over the water of the back bay, feeling the breeze on my skin, meeting new friends and moving my body in a new way.

When I am on my bike, I bring in what I have learned from yoga: I breathe through the hard stuff and I tell myself that I am safe, even when I’m careening down a steep hill.

Because the reality is, I don’t know what’s coming around the bend, on the road or in my life. I might fall. But I can’t white knuckle it anymore. That’s no way to live.

Instead, I choose to jump in with both feet. Or in this case, both pedals. I also choose to limit the risks of my imminent demise by wearing a helmet and riding safely and responsibly.

So today I’m buying myself a road bike. Look out world, here comes another girl on the road. I’ll be aiming to keep a light grip on the handlebars.

Why we don’t say anything when there’s so much we could say

Let’s just get this out of the way—this is not a lighthearted, inspirational post. There’s plenty of that here in this space, but this ain’t it.

This is something I started writing almost a year ago, when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction and every day in the news we heard about some new “hero” being felled by claims of inappropriate behavior.

That’s what we call it, right? Because it’s more polite, it’s easier on the ears than calling it what it is: harassment, assault, degradation, molestation, rape.

We’d rather lump it all into one category and call it ‘inappropriate’ than to get specific.

Well, I’m gonna get specific. Because I’m all done with not saying anything. And I’m rankled by blamers and shamers who complain about not telling soon enough, or wanting justification for holding our stories close to us.

This is my story. Or part of it anyway. I didn’t say it before because I didn’t feel like adding my voice to the chorus. But now…I do. This is what I feel like saying right now.

It started a long time ago, I think. I grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales and happy endings. I bought into the Prince Charming theory wholeheartedly, and by 14, I was pretty sure I was going to meet him any day. But even at 14, I had already learned to be careful with boys, let alone men.

I had been followed around by the kid who lived next door for a few years by then. He was a big, tall kid whose only friend was the school janitor. Whenever he’d see me in the common area at school, he’d tail me to wherever I was going. Once, he came up behind me and slammed me into a locker, whispering, “I’ll get you, you bitch.” I kicked up my heel and caught him in the balls and he left me alone after that.

At 14, my best friend was a guy who was often my defender and confidante, but also memorably told me I’d never get a boyfriend if I didn’t lose some weight. He was already having sex, sometimes with other girls who were my friends, and they were all ostensibly thinner and prettier than me. I definitely didn’t fit into the norm in my school, and I guess he was just letting me know–don’t expect too much looking like that.

At 14, a family member I considered a brother molested me, while telling me repeatedly that he was in love with me and we were meant to be together. He was 17 years older than me, and married. It started off innocently enough, with him saying I was so pretty, and asking what was wrong with the boys at my school and why didn’t I have a boyfriend because who could resist me? Once he grabbed my ass. Once he kissed me on the lips. Warning bells went off but I told myself I was being ridiculous and I truly believed he would never hurt me. Until he did. Even after I talked him out of raping me, the next day he grabbed me and shoved his tongue in my mouth. I tried to beg off family gatherings after that, but there was one party where he tracked me down and shoved me up against the kitchen wall. He grabbed my shoulders and asked, “Why are you being such a bitch to me?” As if the whole thing never happened. But it did.

Years later, when I told my family what happened, I was deemed a liar. I was told his side of the story was that I had tried to seduce him. That I had asked for it. At 14. Which I guess in the eyes of some family members, meant I deserved it. The most common question from family members was, “Why didn’t you ever say something before?” as if that somehow meant that because I didn’t speak up at 14, I was making it up. He said I asked for it, but he also said nothing happened. The reason I came forward was because I agreed to testify against him in his trial. He had been arrested for raping his daughter. She was 5.

At 15 and 16, my body started to develop and I finally got the attention of some of the cute boys in school I was interested in. They used to ask me if I could touch my elbows behind my back, or they would knock my pencil out of my hand and then watch me bend over to pick it up so they could look down my shirt. I laughed right along with them, even after I caught on to the joke. It felt good to have them notice me.

As a grown woman, I have been ogled, catcalled and groped in public. It has been fairly common for me to have to redirect a man’s attention, even in the boardroom, back up to my eyes to break his unwavering stare at my cleavage. At one corporate job, my male boss (and former mentor) screamed at me about my incompetence until I cried and then he told me I was trying to manipulate him by crying. He once said to me, “I guess you hurt the ones you love the most” as a form of what I suppose he considered to be an apology for his ‘inappropriate’ behavior. In many executive meetings, I have been called “sweetie” and “honey” in front of an entire room and have had everything from rate discrepancies to profit margins man-splained to me.

And that’s not all of it. Of course, there is more to my story. But it’s enough, don’t you think? And that’s not even considering the experiences of my female friends, and colleagues, and family members. It seems every woman I know has some version of this story. Any of it, all of it, is enough.

Maybe it’s because of what’s been happening in the news lately, when each day reveals another man we held up has crossed the line, but I have noticed how often older men feel comfortable getting in my physical space. Cutting in front of me in line, cutting me off in traffic, or practically stepping on me to get where they’re going, as if I don’t even exist in the space they are trying to inhabit. I have no patience for it anymore.

We have to do better than this. We have to teach our young men not just to respect their female counterparts, but to speak up when they see that others are not. Yes, we also need to teach our young women to respect and defend themselves too, and that it’s never funny when the joke is on you—so you don’t have to laugh along.

I suppose what gives me hope is that I have been fortunate to also have so many good men surrounding me in my life, especially my incredible husband. He was raised by a strong woman who taught him so much about respect. Because of him, I know it’s possible for men not to just claim what they want and assume it’s theirs for the taking. I live with a considerate, respectful and deliberate man who is just as outraged about all of this as me.

I guess that’s my happy ending. And I’m more than grateful for it. But I’m still pissed off that it took all of that other bullshit to get me here.

So why don’t we say anything when we could say so much? I can only speak for myself. I’ve said some of this to some people, over the years. I’ve told my story when it felt right for me to tell it. Not to damage someone else’s reputation or create drama. But because what happened had real consequences, for me and for my life. I hope somehow it gives someone else comfort, or pause, or cause for contemplation.

I am the writer of my own story, and I choose when and where to share it. There is certainly good intertwined with the bad; lessons learned all mixed up with fear and and anger and sadness. Let’s give space to those who want to talk, and respect to those who don’t. There is room for everyone’s stories, all in good time.

Why Curiosity Matters

Picture of a bridge

Picture of a bridgeToday marks three years since I resigned from my corporate job. I had no plan. No other job lined up, no exotic vacation planned, no lottery winnings to cushion my leap. But I was disruptively curious. Why did I no longer have the energy or desire to do anything creative anymore? Why was I so miserable if I had everything I should want? My Curiosity would keep me awake at night, with questions like “Is this really what I’m meant to be doing?” “Isn’t there more than this?”

Don’t get me wrong. I was truly grateful for all of the prosperity I had. But that’s not what this is about. It’s not about “crushing it” or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about the potential consequences of ignoring your Curiosity. Of blocking out that inner questioning whisper that keeps asking you…are you sure you are okay with this?

I had recently read both The Gifts of Imperfection and Big Magic, and the issues of choosing curiosity over comfort or fear kept coming up for me. And finally the inner whisper of Curiosity became more like a persistent directive, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So I did it. I resigned from the safety and security of a comfortable office job, and I cracked open the vault of my life savings. I took some time off, and I reconnected to all of the curious creative desires I had been neglecting. I painted, I traveled, I spent long afternoons in the park. I tried to let Curiosity lead me wherever it wanted to go.

Trying new things became my new job. New museums, new restaurants, new hobbies. I fed my Curiosity a daily diet of “never done this before, let’s try it.” I even started this blog, to chronicle my adventures and see what would happen.

Slowly, very slowly, I started to remember who I was. I felt the dense fog of not listening lift and some of the lightness return.

And now, three years later, I have a thriving business I created myself and I get to make and do a ton of really cool and creative things.

I'm making space for the unknown future

But as my calendar has started to get crowded again, with client appointments and meetings and classes and you know…time to do the actual WORK, the fun and creative time gets pushed aside.

Yes, I still calendar all of my creative stuff too, like crafty classes or artist’s dates with myself. And I know how important it is! But I’m going to be honest here: if a client calls, those creativity times are the first appointments to get bumped. When you’re a small business, your livelihood tends to take precedence over any and everything else.

Why do we stop listening to Curiosity? Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s that we’re just too damned comfortable right where we are.

But here’s why Curiosity matters: if I’m not following my Curiosity, my creativity suffers. My Curiosity is what opens me up, lets me play, experiment, and find joy. It’s like a beautiful flowering plant. If I don’t water and feed it occasionally, it withers away.

And I’ve already killed enough plants, so I’m not letting this one die.

I owe a lot to my Curiosity. These are just some of the adventures I never would have taken if I wasn’t following my Curiosity:

  1. Started my business, Purple Ink Creative
  2. Traveled to NYC solo
  3. Attended Craftcation (and made a ton of cool crafts and crafty friends)
  4. Became a yogi and then a yoga teacher
  5. Taken classes on kayaking, soldering metal and Reiki
  6. Learned to love papaya (work in progress)

Clearly, my Curiosity has led me to some exciting and amazing places. And my business depends on my creativity. I can’t serve my clients well if my creative juices aren’t flowing at full capacity. Plus–a happy me is a creative me. So on this third anniversary of my own Independence Day, I’m reminded that I need to pay some attention to my Curiosity.

How can we choose Curiosity over fear or comfort?

  1. Listen Up

    Start listening to that inner whisper when it says “is this really okay for you?” or “don’t you miss being creative?” or “hey, that looks fun, try it out!” PS: If you’ve been ignoring that voice for a long time, it’s going to take some practice to start tuning in again. Just start by noticing when it comes up for you. It might be more often than you think.

  2. Ask Questions

    When you say no to something automatically, PAUSE. Ask yourself why. Be curious. Can you say yes instead? Why don’t you want to do it? Maybe, just maybe, try on what it feels like to say yes instead.

  3. List It

    Make a list of all the things you have ever wanted to try. Make another list of things you have no interest in EVER doing and then ask yourself what it is about those things that make you avoid them. Maybe you’ll move some over to the “TRY” list. I’m a big list maker, but even if lists aren’t your thing, try it. It’s a great, quick way to organize your thoughts. (Maybe it’s the first new thing you can try!)

  4. Leap & Learn

    Now you just need to actually DO. Be brave! Start small! Try a vegetable you’ve never liked. Check out a new restaurant, book store or morning walk route. Read a new book, listen to a new podcast, sign up for a new class. Take note how it feels. Are you pulled towards something? Explore that more.

  5. Ignore the Resistance

    Remember that pesky Resistance? It’s going to tell you that you’re being silly, irresponsible, ridiculous, etc. Thank it for the warning, and let it go. Get back to your work of being curious.

Bonus points if you keep a journal during this curious time and document for yourself how it feels to try new stuff. I promise you will enjoy looking back on your journey. And it will help remind you when you occasionally lose that sense of joyful Curiosity how important it is to go and find it again. And please come back here and tell me how it goes. I’m so curious!

What Resistance Feels Like

Have you ever listened to what your inner critic actually says to you on the daily?

Mine says stuff like, “Wow, you’re really terrible at that.” “What makes you think you can do this?” “Who do you think you are?”

It’s now week 4 of my 200-hour yoga teacher training. When we started a few weeks ago, one of my wise teachers (the indomitable Colleen Hieber) asked us all to think about what resistance looks like. We had to write down an answer to this question: “What stops me from completing what I want to do?”

Now we’re a month in and last week I got a peek at that Resistance first-hand. I’m fairly comfortable and confident in my practice at this point. I’m not an expert or an advanced student, but I no longer doubt myself much in class anymore. I know my limitations and my strengths.

But learning to teach others how to do yoga, specifically how to cue them to bend themselves into these shapes with Sanskrit names, is a WHOLE other ball of wax.

My mind goes completely blank. I know the pose, but I don’t know how to tell you to make it with your own body.

And then my mind starts sounding off with some pretty harsh reprimands, such as “I can’t do this.” “I’m no good at this.” “How come I’m not getting it?”

Then I move on to the justifications: “I don’t really need to teach. I’m not even sure I want to teach. I don’t need to do this.”

Ah, Resistance.

I realized this week that I may have a particularly vocal Resistance that is speaking up because it’s not used to being poked too much. It kind of gets to run the show in my life.

As a freelancer/small business person, I don’t do things I’m no good at. I do the jobs I want to do, and typically I accept those jobs and get excited about them because I’m pretty sure I’m going to do an awesome job at them.

Sure, I stretch myself and learn new skills from time to time, but on my own terms. I don’t have a boss assigning me a new project I have no choice but to complete. I don’t answer to shareholders who want to move in a new direction. I do the work I want to do, for the most part, on my own terms.

So I was feeling pretty crappy about my progress in teacher training, but I drug myself to my favorite Monday morning yoga class with Colleen, still brooding a bit about my sucky teaching skills.

We got to the part of class where we do handstand drills. In fact, that day, she challenged us to do one-minute holds. And it was hard, but I did it. Then she says to us, “Remember when you first started coming to my class and you couldn’t do a handstand? Now you can hold it for a minute. Can you appreciate that transformation?”

Aha! Lightbulb moment. Because I remember exactly how I felt two years ago in her class, thinking, “Handstands, is she crazy?!” The first time, I don’t even think I tried to do one.

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demans your whole being.

My Resistance said, “You’re too old.” “You’re too weak.” “You’re too fat.” “You could never stand on your hands.”

That voice was strong. I believed it 100%. But the rebel in me wanted to try anyway. At first, I would kick as hard as I could, and THUD, hit the wall behind me, if I could even kick up at all. Then one class Colleen asked us “Have you noticed what you’re saying to yourself as you try to kick up? Can you change that dialog?”

It’s amazing how when you tell yourself you can’t do a thing, you then in fact, actually can’t do it. You prove yourself right. And the cycle perpetuates.

So I changed that conversation. I would say to myself instead, “I am light. I am light. I am light.” Over and over again, and that was the only thought I allowed in my brain while any type of inversion was being attempted. I meant it in both the divine and physical ways.

And I stopped arguing with my Resistance. I told it instead, “I hear you. I might really suck at this. I might fail. But I’m going to try anyway.”

I remember my sense of utter delight and wonder when I actually got upside down.

Cut back to what I wrote that day when asked how my Resistance shows up for me and what stops me from finishing something I want to do. I said:

  • I think it’s too hard and I can’t do it.
  • I check out when I feel like I’m not doing something really well.
  • I get overwhelmed and my energy drains.

Check, check, and check. Thanks for coming to yoga teacher training with me, Resistance. Glad to see you made yourself comfortable.

How to handle the Resistance

Sound familiar? If so, here’s what I plan to say to myself next time this happens. Maybe you can try it too.

Here’s the deal, Resistance. I understand you just want to protect me. You don’t want to see me fail and my ego get crushed. But you know what? My Curiosity is in charge for awhile. We’re going to try a few things that are going to make you uncomfortable. Everything will be okay, I promise.

Because whether it’s standing on my hands or figuring out how to explain Downward-Facing Dog (that’s Ardho Mukha Svanasana to me) to a beginner, I want to try to learn something new.

Let’s see what happens now. I’ll keep you posted. For more on my yoga journey, check out when I fell in love and the decision to start teacher training.

P.S. Part of the reason I recognized Resistance is that I just finished reading The Big Leap, which is all about how you have an Upper Limit Problem you don’t even realize. It’s definitely worth a read.

musings of a yoga teacher trainee

musings of a yoga teacher trainee

Being enlightened means as you wake up more and more, you become sensitive to the world around you and within you…Waking up to the world, feeling yourself as only a part of it, and loving the interpenetrating parts that make up all of life is the goal and gradual fruition of spiritual practice. —Michael Stone, Yoga for a World out of Balance

When I started this blog almost three years ago, I promised I would take you with me on my newest adventure: leaving my corporate job and seeing what happens next. I had no plan, no safety net…just a little bit of savings and a desperate desire to find my way back to a more creative life.

Since then I’ve shared some of my travels, the creative classes I’ve taken to get my mojo back, and talked about what it takes to start your own freelancing business.

Then I got so busy with said business that I forgot to stop and chronicle some of these adventures.

I’ve also talked about my growing love for yoga, and that has led me to a new adventure: I’m training to become a yoga teacher.

Now before you roll your eyes and wonder if it’s possible for a person to check every box on the cliché checklist, let me tell you: I’m not sure yet if I actually want to teach.

And I am still 100% committed to my business as an author and marketing consultant.

But I love this thing called yoga so much that I want to learn more. Every time I learn something new about it, I crave more. For the last couple of years, I have been going beyond my usual weekly classes to seek out more information in workshops and other forums. I’ve studied Reiki and inversions and yoga philosophy–but I’ve really only scratched the surface. There is SO much more out there to learn.

So I committed myself to 14 weeks of training, which will ultimately lead to a 200-hour yoga teacher certification with the Yoga Alliance.

I am learning sanskrit. And anatomy. And all about chakras and ayurvedic principles, how to cue poses and read the room and look for misalignments.

It is a LOT of information. I come home tired and excited and overwhelmed and did I mention tired?

I don’t know where this is leading. But I know I love the journey.

It was not an easy decision to make. It’s a significant investment, both in time and money. At first, the pragmatic side of me could not wrap my head around it. “But why would I do this?” I asked my teacher. “I can’t come up with a practical reason.” She laughed and said, “Because it will change your life.”

Ultimately, I made the commitment because it’s what my gut (and my curiosity) told me to do. The timing was right, I adore my studio and the teachers who are running the program, and it just felt like the right path for me to follow.

We have started our studies with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and this is one of my favorite quotes so far:

If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude towards them does that. —Sri Swami Stachidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

So I choose to be liberated. To build the life I want to live. As my studies continue over the next few months, I know there will be revelations and breakdowns and breakthroughs. When I have a moment to stop and reflect, I promise to keep you posted.


How to get yourself out of a tailspin

The room went eerily silent, and 24 pairs of eyeballs were pointed at me. Anticipation was hanging thick in the air like a humid summer day.

A few months ago, I did my first official reading of my bilingual book for kids, Enchanted Forest. I was delighted to be asked to do a reading and signing at the Children’s Museum in La Habra.

I was so excited about it, that I fretted in the weeks leading up to the date. How would I read it? Would the audience be expecting me to read my story in Spanish too? What if the kids don’t like it? WOULD ANYONE EVEN BE THERE? If an author reads a story in an empty children’s museum and there’s no one there to hear it, does it still exist?

So I did what any former actor would do: I rehearsed the daylights out of it. I read the story aloud to myself, and to the captive audience I have at home. I watched YouTube videos about author readings and I saw how others did it, which incited a whole OTHER list of questions. Should I have a PowerPoint? (Do kids really need a PowerPoint presentation to hear a story?!) Should I have some music? What should I wear–a dress (this is what an author looks like, kids), jeans (I’m cool and casual, see?), a costume (woohoo! I’m a creative type!!)

That’s just the reading. Then there’s the signing part. Do I have enough books? How many is too many to bring? But I don’t want to run out. Do I have a good Sharpie–one that’s not flattened out and all dry and flaky? How will I carry my stuff into the venue? I need one of those rolly cart thingys to lug all my author stuff around…

We are talking #nextlevel anxiety here. I was working myself into a tailspin about one little reading. That I volunteered to do.

And I was really, truly excited to do the reading! I just wanted it to be perfect.

But at one point, I had a moment of clarity and realized what I was doing to myself. I was trying to control the outcome of something I had absolutely no control over.

I started thinking about ALL the things I do this with. Ever since last year’s election, there has been a cloud of uncertainty and anxiety following me around like a curse. I don’t think about it every minute of every day, but I do listen to podcasts and read news stories every day that have me seriously fretting about the future of our country and the world.

Add to that the other stuff that’s swirling around in my head all.the.time., like my biz goals, work for my clients, traffic on the 405, new story ideas, the grocery list for next week, healthy meal prep, yoga inversion poses that challenge me, finding decent gluten free pasta, and on and on. And all the things I forget to remember, like shutting the freezer door all the way, replenishing the dogs’ biscuit supply and setting up lunch with that friend I said I would call three weeks ago.

I know you all have the same list of a thousand things running through your brain all the time. Don’t you?

Well, I’m calling it. IT’S TOO MUCH.

Some of that stuff I can control, but some of it (most of it), I absolutely cannot. And even if I could, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

Case in point: here’s what happened at my reading.

I did not leave 45 minutes early, as planned. Traffic stunk. I got there just barely on time to an empty room.

I took some deep breaths.

The room started to fill up. Slowly at first, and then in little rushes. It wasn’t a full house but there were at least 20 people there. Kids and parents and grandparents…it was kind of awesome.

I took a few more deep breaths, and then I just jumped in. I read my story and to my delight and surprise, no one threw any rotten tomatoes or insults at me. In fact, I think they kinda liked it. A few of them even wanted to buy my book and take a picture with me. Pretty cool.

So as I drove home, I started thinking about what I could do in the future when I get myself into one of these anxious tailspins, and I came up with these three keys. I sure could have used them before this reading, but I think they actually can be used for anything.


  1. Lower the stakes and narrow the scope.

    Dial back the drama already. Ask yourself, “If this thing doesn’t turn out the way I want, what is actually going to happen?” No doubt the world will NOT end, your life will not be over, and your life’s purpose will emerge unscathed. So lighten up a bit, will ya?

  2. Define your intention.

    If you don’t know already, ask yourself why you’re doing this thing. What do you want to get out of it? When you’re done, how do you want to feel?

  3. Crack a smile.

    Try to have a little fun. Whether you’re reading a book in front of a bunch of toddlers, or speaking to a crowd of a thousand, nothing is THAT serious. Think of something that makes you laugh, or find a little humor in the situation. Seriously, it’s not that serious.

Got it? Good. Now take a breath and go conquer the world. And PS, I’m happy to report I have since done many public reading and signings for both Enchanted Forest and my next book, Enchanted Castle, and somehow the kids always show up and seem to enjoy it. Imagine that!


Things I Had To Unlearn


When I took the leap from corporate to freelance work a few years ago, I was both frightened and empowered. I knew I had gained some valuable knowledge and skills in my corporate job, and I was confident I could provide valuable assistance to other businesses.

But I didn’t realize I needed to UNtrain myself in order to be a successful consultant.

My approach, my mindset, and my attitude all needed some serious adjustments, and it took me awhile to figure that out.

So if you’re thinking about taking the leap from corporate to freelance, here are some ways you can shift your mindset before you take the jump.

  1. Multi-tasking is Masochism

    In the corporate world, everyone seems to have this in common: too many projects, too many meetings, not enough budget. Am I right? So we end up hiring candidates who are multi-tasking warriors. We even ask them about this specific skill when we interview them: “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple projects on a tight deadline, and how you handled that.” Sound familiar?

    Chagollan_Samantha_multitaskingMulti-tasking can (and has to!) work on a corporate team, where different team members are assigned to various projects, and a manager keeps everyone on task and on-time.

    But when you’re a freelance consultant, you are team member, manager, and project manager all in one! And if you try to multi-task different client work, you will end up disappointing your clients and wanting to throw your laptop out the window.

    You have to take each client, each client project, ONE at a time. I use my Google calendar to schedule out EVERYthing, from client work to workouts. And I know myself well enough now to know that my sweet spot is taking on one to three client projects in a week. And when I block out time for a project, I only work on THAT project during that block of time, and nothing else.

    Because–here’s the beauty of freelancing–I can hang up my Do Not Disturb sign. My boss isn’t calling. My team isn’t knocking on my door. I am truly in control of my time, so I make sure to devote my full and complete attention to each project, and I do my best not to get distracted.

    PS: Do yourself a favor and schedule some free time in-between those project blocks too. A 5-minute Vitamin D break or a 15-minute walk around the block ensures you’re ready to give your whole mind and focus to the next project too.

  2. It’s All About Me. No, Really.

    At my last job, I managed a team, so I was always talking about what “we” accomplished or achieved together. It was so ingrained in my vernacular, actually, that a recruiter for another corporate job I was considering before I decided to freelance called me out on it. “Your resumé is great,” she said. “But who is the ‘we’ you keep mentioning? I need to know what YOU personally contributed and achieved.”

    As a freelance consultant, humility is NOT a virtue. I had to get comfortable talking about the knowledge I have, the praise I have garnered, the skills I have that make me unique and knowledgeable.

    I had to learn how to toot my own horn. Not in an arrogant or boastful way, but with a confident certainty that helps my potential clients realize that what I have to offer is what they need. Every initial client consultation is a job interview. So you’d better be ready, and shelve that humility for a bit.

  3. A Little More Flow, A Little Less Hustle

    In corporate land, you often don’t have much say in which projects you work on. Most assignments are given to you–by your boss, your boss’s boss, etc.

    As a freelance consultant, you have the freedom to choose whatever projects and clients you want to work on. Awesome, right?!

    But there is a common problem for many of us freelancers: feast or famine. Meaning, oddly enough, one month clients are knocking down your door like crazy, and the next you are knocking on THEIRS begging for work.

    I don’t know why those flurries occur (cosmic energy? quarterly budgets?) but I can attest to their absolute existence.

    So as a freelance consultant, you have to come up with your own ways to ride out the waves, because there’s no big boss to come hand you your next gig.

    Here’s what I’ve learned: I schedule my hustle into my flow. When client work is leaner, I start to schedule in time for networking events, polishing up my social media game, and learning new skills. Yes, I put those things on my calendar too.

    And you know what inevitably happens when I start connecting and learning? I meet new clients. I learn new stuff to attract new clients. And my regular clients start calling again too.

    The key is not to panic–or park yourself on the couch to Netflix for a solid week either. Keep doing your work, and the tide will come back in.

  4. Make YES Your Favorite Word

    Just Say YesSo often in my corporate job, I had to find ways to tactfully say no. There wasn’t enough time, or budget, or resources to do some of the projects I really wanted to do. Of course there were some I was happy to say no to also.

    Now that my time is my own, I try to say yes as much as I can. Time is still money, so I can’t say yes to everything. But when I am approached to volunteer for an organization I admire, or to attend a new event or networking group, or even to have a conversation with a head hunter when I’m not in the market for another corporate job–I say YES. Because you never know whom you might meet, or what connections you might make that lead to the start of something wonderful.

    I still listen to my gut and if it doesn’t make sense for me, I will politely decline. But I really like to say yes now, because I can. And it feels so much better than always saying no.



For more on making the making the leap from corporate to freelance work, see my post on the 5 tools you need to know about, and what it really means to work from home.

And if you need some help with marketing, writing, or editorial, come on over and see me at Purple Ink Creative, I’d love to help!








How Hot Yoga Saved Me From Being a Hot Mess

The Restless Raconteur/Hot Yoga


If you had told me last year that I would willingly enter a 100° room and stand on my head, I would have laughed loudly and ungraciously at your expense.

But the joke would have been on me, because, surprise—I am in love with hot yoga.

In fact, as of today, I have taken 47 classes in the last 90 days.

It all started with a quiz I took from the Chopra Institute to determine my ayurvedic type. Turns out I am Kapha-Pitta, and when I looked up recommended exercises for my type, hot yoga was among them.

Hmmm…I pondered how this was possible, since I will take ice over fire any day. I’m always warm, my body temp runs hot, and what I hate more than anything else about the other types of exercise I’ve tried is how HOT I get.

So voluntarily raising my body temp PLUS working out? Sounds like a horrible idea.

Then a brand new studio opened in my ‘hood. Spectra Yoga is everything I could wish for in a studio; the teachers are knowledgeable, kind and helpful, genuinely invested in your practice, and the facility is clean and light and has a totally welcoming vibe.

So I took my free week, and I tiptoed into it. I went to a regular class first, no heat. Okay, I’ve done that before, no biggie.

Yoga quoteThen the first time I went to a heated class, I freaked. I got there early and the room already felt stifling to me. I sensed a little seed of panic starting to worm its way up through my gut. What if I melted into a puddle? Or passed out? Or burst into flames? I took a place by the door just in case.

But the strangest thing happened, and it was none of those feared outcomes. Instead, I lost myself for that hour. I forgot what time it was, how hard it was, or how much I was sweating. I was just in it. For 60 short minutes, I lost track of all the thousands of little things that were running around my mind like an untrained puppy.

By the time shavasana rolled around at the end of class, I was hooked.

So I came back the next day. And the next. And when Spectra ran a Summer Challenge, I signed up.

And that’s how I made it to 47 classes in 90 days.

I didn’t win the Challenge. Not even CLOSE! But I was so happy this morning when I made my little X on the leaderboard and realized that more days than not this summer, I’ve been on my mat.

And I’ve discovered that no matter what class I take, whether it’s a vinyasa flow, hot yoga, or yin class, I almost always walk out feeling calm, happy, and ready to face whatever is coming up next in my day.

I’ve learned that the bliss of shavasana, that little bit of complete rest at the end, can stay with me.

I hesitantly confessed to my dear friend, yoga teacher Natalie Moser who shares her insight through her amazing blog PranAbundance, that I wasn’t doing shavasana right.

I felt kind of ashamed to tell her that I wasn’t really letting go of all my thoughts in those few blissful moments of silence. I swear, it’s actually when I get some of my best ideas. Anything I was struggling with before class, or a decision that needs to be made…the answer will inevitably come to me in those silent moments of clarity.

And then I run out of class and make notes on my phone so I don’t forget these sparkling ideas that bloom up during yoga. Natalie assured me I am not committing a yogic sin, so I feel better about that part.

I’ve been playing around with yoga for the last 20 years. I even remember buying my first Rodney Yee video, when I was too shy to go to a class and wanted to learn in private. But this is the first time I’ve ever really felt connected to the practice, and it’s really resonating with me.

And as a freelance consultant, my yoga class is often the only time I speak to or see other humans during my work day. I look forward to the interactions and conversations with my teachers and fellow students.

So I’m going to keep going. Tomorrow, and probably the day after too. I’m going to keep sweating and sighing and stretching and reaching for my edge.

And I think the most important thing I’ve learned in trying hot yoga is this: don’t knock it until you try it.

It’s good to shake things up once in awhile. And to move outside of my comfort zone. After all, that was my intention when I started this new journey.

Next up on my list to try: Aerial Yoga. Wish me luck. 🙂

P.S. There are some great articles out there about why shavasana matters, and the benefits of hot yoga. If you’d rather do your yoga at home (where you can control the temperature!) check out two of my fave online programs: doyouyoga and yogaglo. That’s how I found my way back to the mat!

You should also check out the wonderful musings of one of my favorite teachers at Spectra, Colleen Hieber. She puts it all together: mind, body and spirit.





The Freelancer’s Tool Kit: 5 Must-Haves


Being a freelancer can sometimes feel like you’re stranded on a deserted island. And it’s up to you and only you to figure out how to paddle outta there.

But the reality is, there are a slew of tools and teams and tips out there to help you navigate the shark-infested waters.

When I started my freelance consulting business, I didn’t know where to begin. How do I find new clients? How should I track my time and bill those clients? How in the world should I put together a new client proposal? Is anyone else in the same boat?

YES. There are lots of us freelance consultants and solopreneurs out here—more and more every day, actually.



And there are a ton of helpful resources out here too. Here are my must-haves and tricks of the trade:

  1. Find Your Tribe

    When I first started, my good friend Heidi Fiedler of helloheidifiedler.com wisely suggested I check out the Being Boss podcast and Facebook group. This podcast for creative entrepreneurs has led me to SO many gems and discoveries, from software I’ve adapted, to tips on owning your expertise and scheduling, work/life balance, and everything in between. It was incredibly helpful to know I was not alone in this game, and the support from the online community is amazing.I also joined the Freelancers Union. It’s free, and there are links to benefits and discounts for freelancers, as well as job postings, networking events, and great articles.

  2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date

    Podcasts: Whatever your area of expertise is, I guarantee you there’s a great podcast out there about it where you can learn something new. For me and mine, I love Being Boss (see above), and the newly released Season 2 of Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons.
    Blogs: Likewise. Everyone’s got a blog these days, haven’t you heard? There’s one out there for you. I love Quick Sprout by Neil Patel for helpful and researched-back marketing tips, and I like checking in with the Bad Yogi for all things yoga.
    Publications: For my part, I subscribe to Chief Content Officer from the Content Marketing Institute. It’s super helpful for marketing/content folks like me. I also follow AdWeek  and Seth Godin on social media, and am always asking my friends and associates who THEY are following (see #5).

  3. Get Your Tools

    I am in love with Paydirt, which allows me to track my time and invoice clients seamlessly. My inner task master loves Asana for project management, Canva for social media graphics, Iconosquare for tracking Instagram metrics, and Pexels  and Unsplash for free and unusual stock images. There are new tools out there ALL the time. Please refer to #2; you will already know about these fancy new tools because YOU stay on top of your game. 🙂

  4. Go Get Some Work

    Flexjobs is a great place to find listings in all industries for part- or full-time work from home listings. All are vetted, so even though you have to pay to join, I think it’s worth it if you’re looking for a long-term position that allows you to work from home. I’m often asked by fellow writers and editors how to find job postings, and I tell them to look on social media! There are Facebook groups out there that exist solely to list legit, posted job ops. Just search for it! If you’re a writer/editor like me, you can also join the Editorial Freelance Association and get emails with job listings as they are posted. The annual fee is nominal, and they are a great resource for comparing standard rates, educational workshops, conferences, and more.

  5. Keep Meeting New People

    Network, network, network. Despite all these job listings I have access to, most of my clients come from word-of-mouth or people I actually meet at networking events. People are so much more likely to hire you after they’ve met you in person and can tell you know your stuff. Network After Work has events nationally, or check with some of your tribe (see #1) to see what groups they belong to—or start your own!

There you go: Tribe, Skills, Tools, Jobs and Networking.

All you need to succeed. Oh, and one more thing:


Community is key.

Is there nobility in doing it alone? I don’t think so.

And here’s the straight up truth. You shouldn’t do it alone.

Sharing resources, knowledge and tips of the trade is really the name of the game. So if you can’t find your tribe, create your own! I was recently invited to join a group of lovely lady entrepreneurs and it’s amazing. Everyone brings different skills to the table, and we can all help each other out.

For my fellow freelancers out there, I’d love to hear what must-have tools and tips you would add to this toolkit? And for those of you just starting out or not yet freelancing, what are you grappling with? How can I help? Leave me a comment below and let me know.











How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

Can you remember a time when anything was possible? When we were kids, and there were no limits to your creativity and no bounds to what you could create with your imagination?

I can. It’s a distant memory, but still one I can just grasp with my fingertips if I try really hard.

I can almost even remember a time when painting was just simply fun for me. My favorite part about it was always mixing up the colors; starting with two or three bright hues and ending up with six or more variations.

But as I grew older, and everyone else’s opinions started to matter more than my own, I lost my love for painting. The trouble always came when I had to actually put those beautiful colors on the canvas. I was just too afraid I would screw it up. So I taught for awhile, finding it much easier to instruct others at art than to put myself out there. And then, more than 20 years ago, I put my paintbrushes away. For good, I thought.

Then one day I saw a stunningly beautiful image in my Facebook feed, presented by Elizabeth Gilbert. The painter was Tracy Verdugo.

It was all loose interpretation; vibrant colors, thoughtful subjects, and what looked like flowing, beautiful ART.

My curiosity was piqued; I did some digging and found Tracy’s online Paint Mojo class. I connected immediately. Her style is not just about painting—it’s like therapy.

Tracy Verdugo
The incomparable Tracy Verdugo, at Crescendoh Studios in Santa Ana, CA

See, her whole process is about letting go, and not getting too attached to anything you put on the canvas. I know, right?!

I took her online class more than a year ago, when I was still working my corporate job and looking for a weekend creative outlet. It’s a 6-week class, packed with information, techniques, videos, and homework. It took about 3 weeks for me to get completely overwhelmed.

“I can’t do this,” I whined to my ever-patient husband. “It’s too haaaaaard…” I wailed, sounding like spoiled brat.

Letting go is never easy. For me, I loved the part where we dripped a rainbow of acrylic inks on the canvas and then turned the support so they ran and bloomed together. But the next step was to cover up some of that glorious color, and I just couldn’t.

I could. Not. Even.

I had grown too attached to that splattered, colorful abstract mess.

So I put the paints down, and I left that canvas to sit on my easel, in my studio, for months and months.


Then Tracy came to town. And I knew I had to face my fears and go to her in-person class. Because I knew she wouldn’t let me stay attached.

Time to face my fears.

The first day, I got there 5 minutes late. I certainly didn’t want to be the first person in the room! Much to my dismay, I was one of the last to arrive. All the “good spots” were taken.

“We’ve got room over here!” I heard, and looked up to see two kind women beckoning me over to their table.

We started chatting, and they told me this was their first time painting. Ever.

I marveled at their courage, and decided I’d better quit my whining and get down to business.

The next three days were incredible. I let go. Tracy had us writing poetry, and splattering ink across our canvasses, and the only thing we had to “work” on was our reckless abandonment of any preconceptions. We were all part of the same tribe, these ladies and I. Some of them were artists by trade, and some of them weren’t. We were of all ages, from all different areas around the country. But we were all trying to let go.

I felt like a new me in that class. I splattered. I smeared. I tried really hard to not try so hard. With my headphones in, I got down on the floor and I gave myself over to it. I did not allow that familiar critical voice to come in and spoil the fun. I just painted.

I came home covered in paint and exhausted every night, and slept like a baby.

Turtle painting by SChagollan
My finished painting: my swimming turtle

When it was all over, I had created a big, fat, colorful mess of a painting, and I LOVE it.

Is it perfect? NO. Is it proportional and well-rendered? NOT REALLY.

But you know what? I really don’t care. And I’m not just being flippant about that. I really and truly don’t give a flying *F* if anyone else likes my work. Because it’s not for them. Or for you.

It’s for me.

And I’ve realized, in the weeks since that class, that that’s how I want all my creative work to be.

Just like that lovely artist said to me not so long ago, “this isn’t my bread, it’s my roses.” YES. Exactly.

So if you want my advice…go take an art class. Any old art class. At your community center, or your local “wine and paint” place, or a ceramic studio or an online course. It’s incredibly freeing, empowering and fulfilling to express your creativity.

And I promise it will help you get your mojo back.

Finding my love for painting again has reminded me of that kid-like feeling of possibility and imagination, not just in my artwork, but really in all aspects of my life and work.

That mojo is some powerful stuff.

P.S. Looking for more inspiration, or not quite ready to pick your brush up yet? Check out these 5 Books To Start You On A Creative Path. Or listen to Liz Gilbert’s new season of the Big Magic podcast for inspiration—it’s bound to give you courage to take the leap into creativity.

P.P.S. Yes, I finally went back to the canvas I abandoned in Tracy’s online class and…I did it. I painted OVER it. 🙂 It’s still a work in progress. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

And please, leave me a comment below telling me how YOU get YOUR mojo back! We’re all in this together. We creative spirits have to support one another!