That's the goal, to survive your gift • A Writing Devotional
It’s been a while. I designed it so. If you’re in a hurry, skip to the 39sec video summary. Otherwise, cuddle a warm cuppa and enter a wonderland of fire palming, story shards, and surviving one’s own gift.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur or writer. I never dreamed, period. I never knew that “having a dream” was even a thing! “Hmm, that must be something white people do,” I chalked it up to. So then why would I carve out 6 uninterrupted months solely for devotional memoir writing?
The convergence started over a decade ago, without my knowing of course. In my late 20’s, I was so desperate, DEFCON-5 desperate, to be anything other than invisible. To be seen, to be heard, 9 nanoseconds would have sufficed. But no. I had no one to see me. I had no one to hear me. Completely irrelevant, perpetually inadequate, and thoroughly insignificant I was.
A tiny fistful of well-meaning humans tried, but they didn’t have the EQ or communication skills to meet me. I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. No safe place. No safe person. (It’s not random that I became “the safest place on earth to remember who you truly are” for others.)
So I confided in tree pulp. Unlike the sapiens*, paper doesn’t retaliate. Paper met me. Every time. Paper kept my secrets. Without fail. Paper held the splats of my ink dissolving acid tears, never demanding anything in return. Paper became my only amnesty, where my pain would not be used against me in a court of law. I burned every journal entry before the sapiens could use my truth to burn me at the stake.
What was my crime? Existing. What were my secondary charges? One count of: Failing to be the best white man I should have been. And one count of: Failing to become a 7-figure ATM dispenser by age 24.
* “The sapiens” are, you know, the morons, assholes, critics, and predators that crawl the earth in mass unconsciousness.
Around 32, after a wretched Saturn Return, an inner volcano blasted in a desperate wish for deep, deep meaning and vast, vast impact. And it wanted it done not just yesterday, but the day before yesteryear. (Sigh. So much desperation, and often…) The shooting magma felt as if I’d been given a terminal diagnosis and 7 months left to live. It was a matter of life and death. I just didn’t know what “it” was.
By then, I had been marinated in the whimsical fantasy of the 4-Hour Work Week (time + financial freedom), stewed in the industry reality that you are nobody without a New York Times bestseller, and peppered with delusions of authorship.
I bewitched myself into believing that authorship would generate invitations to partner up or be featured, at a time when marketing felt like molasses crawling up Everest during an avalanche. I’d never been included before. This could be it, my only chance to be wanted. I bewitched myself into believing that a large readership would generate a thick “love moat” to safeguard me from the sapiens. I’d never been protected before. This could be it, my only chance to be safe.
So I bought a "How to Write a Bestseller" e-course and sat down for “it.” I'd devote an entire summer to writing and emerge with a bestseller by September 21st, the autumn equinox. #soconvinced #sonaive #lifedoesnotworkthatwaylittlegirl
I wrote an hour a day like "they" said to, knowing I work waaaaaay better in bulk. But "they" knew everything and I knew nothing, so they won. Ugh, it was the worst 3 months of my professional life! Writing knocked all the wind out of my business sail and siphoned all the oxygen out of my social life, travels, hobbies and love life. I felt flicked off the face of the Earth untethered and had to claw at ambling protons to doggie paddle back from outer space.
So naive and delusional. So why, oh why, would I do it again, for half a year no less? Masochism? Meaning? Madness? Genius? Read on… you’ll pick up wisdom on how to survive your own genius/madness combo. 🤪🥊
The yearning for meaning and impact kept spewing magma with a ferocious, “You have NO time left. You HAVE TO make a difference NOW, mother f*cker!!!” (It would be 7 years and 7 months until I could name that voice in under 5 letters.)
As I kept tumbling around the entrepreneurial washer and dryer, I static clung to a few oddballs and playpals. “Huh, so this is where us lost socks end up,” I marvelled. Namasocks!
I co-worked with one particular co-sock and she'd always pick the coziest spaces, with tummy teas and tasty treats. Our time together felt like cashmere to my bone chilled Lone Wolf. It all felt like “carbonated holiness” (– Anne Lamott), which apparently is known as joy. Joy?!? What's that?!? Never heard of such a thing. Fun?!? Never heard of that either. Connection?!? Wait, what is this foreign language you speak of?
For my entire life, people loved, even took a number, to study next to me. Now I see why. Grounded discipline is contagious. Fierce focus is contagious. But I was also starting to see that discipline and focus alone would not get me "there."
One of my co-socks introduced me to The Artist’s Way. And my gawd... Life. Forever. Changed. Especially on “Empath down. I repeat, empath down!” days, I wrote Morning Pages by hand, until I was vacant of all thoughts, expunged of all tears, and/ or jilted by a hand cramp. Go big or go big, right? Morning Pages power washed my mental driveway, sometimes up to 7 pages long, and met me with a therapeutic silence, stillness, and clarity on the mirror lake of “I got this.”
Add to that the trickle of heartwarming feedback from you on my shared stories (way more than on my teaching tools). And add to that my desire to build consistency muscles, via a weekly blog regardless of content crappiness, published in dingbat font for all I cared. And I acquiesced my butt to chair for a second summer of writing.
This time, I secured an oxygen mask by pairing up with two separate writing buddies and belt buckled to Earth by bulk writing in 4hr chunks (2hr co-writing sessions plus 2hr solo right after). Maybe "they" don't know everything, and I know some things 🤔. Maybe I could infuse the joy and delight I experience with my co-sock into these co-writing sessions.
Over the next 2 years, my writing drifted at sea, bobbing on the curling foam of “I don’t got this.” Searching for a book structure was like sliding down a Parmesan grater butt naked, sometimes head first. I just couldn’t find the red thread to string my writing (or my life) together. Ugh, how I envied Christmas trees, with their garlands of popcorn, popcorn, cranberry, popcorn, popcorn, cranberry. Structured. Simple. Threaded. Hmph.
Then after a Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat, I stayed at a boutique B&B in Antigua, Guatemala, with my room overlooking the volcano. I inhaled the crisp mountain air, morning sunshine, total stillness and silence (super low tourist season), and nutritious breakfast in the garden. Then a tsunami of gratitude crashed over me. I dropped my spoon, raced to my room, and ugly-cried out 86 profound lessons on freedom. I had heard of authors "downloading" their book, but never thought it'd apply to me. "Does it always involve so much flying snot?" I wondered. 🤔
I turned it into a gorgeous coffee table book, with now 104 lessons on freedom matched to 104 photos from the 104 countries I once stood in. I was super proud of the finished product. When i showed it to a soulsister with 20 years in the publishing industry, she lovingly asked, "What's the message? What's the value-add? Why would a reader buy this?" I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Cue self-shame toilet flush.
This was my very best work, the ALMIGHTY culmination of everything that I am, that I know, that I'm capable of. It has no message; cue "Not good enough!" trout slap. It has no value-add; cue "Not good enough!" fly swatter. It has no reason for being; cue "Not good enough!" smack down. This. Is. Indeed. The end. Boom. I dropped all this publishing non-sense off the cliff. F*ck you*. I'm done. Forever. #sodramatic (*Until this day, I don't even know who "you" was.)
When I saw pregnancy photos of my co-sock, we caught up on a long leisurely call. She shared how she and her coach co-created a funeral ceremony for her unpublished book because she was choosing motherhood (think 3 babies in 4 years) over the book. I thought that was mind-blowing genius, while I just tossed mine off a cliff and gave it a finger on the way down. She added, "Maybe my story isn't finished. And that's why my book isn't finished." Whoooooom, a sonic boom of truth shook my every cell. Maybe my story isn't finished either. I walked away with a newly bloomed permission to just live. To just be happy.
Two years later, amidst all this living and happying, now in my mid-30's, an unplanned move to Spain unexpectedly led me to plant medicines. (Or did The Universe plan it all along? 🤔) Never even heard of such a thing until 6 months prior! Over 3 consecutive full moons and 10 ceremonies, stories spewed out of every orifice. My popcorns and cranberries fireworked all over my inner circle, who cried from shared grief and/or laughed from sheer absurdity. I called it craughing (crying + laughing), very wet all around!
Never had I ever experienced the raw power of storytelling with me as the storyteller. (Nom, nom, nom, I see how addictive it can be.) So I rescinded my "F*ck you*. I'm done. Forever.", bought Scrivener, and convinced myself that I am now an official writer. (Ha! As if.) Over another 2 years, I crawl-sobbed my way through transcribing 3 full journals from those 3 plant medicine full moons.
After folding in heaps of unpublished Gdocs and blogs, I yielded 1.08 million words. I wanted to die. Not because writing forced me to see how devastatingly broken, exploited, violated, preyed upon, used and abused I was. But because writing forced me to see how I kept breaking my own heart and abusing myself. One million and eighty thousand shards of heartbreak and self-abuse.
I never imagined I’d need therapy for my therapy. Oy. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that:
Whether writing drowned me in grief, roasted me in rage, whirled me in anxiety, or buried me in depression, I kept going for you. You were my “someone else.” I did it for you. I did it all for you, mother f*ckers!! (Wait, did Ellany just call us a mother f*cker? Yes, yes she did.)
In early 2020, while on trial separation with Spain, for irreconcilable bureaucratic incompetency and assholery, The Universe blew me like a feather in the wind to Buenos Aires (which literally means “Good Wind.” I see what you did there, Universe). Then, wabam! A global pandemic, 6 straight months of lockdown, and almost 2 straight years of border closure.
All projects were shot, especially writing, because this empath was drafted as an air filter, to inhale the terror, rage, grief and smog of humanity and exhale fresh peace. I know how you feel, Amazon Jungle, it’s an invisible, perennial and thankless job. I never consented to be part of a 10-pack of disposable air filters with next day shipping. I never consented to be discarded once grimy, and replaced by the next shiny empath. But hey, we don’t always get to control how the sapiens use us or how The Universe summons us.
A year later, in January 2021, when the worst blew over (ha! as if), I saw an exit ramp, “This is it, my chance to quit writing!! I’m done cutting myself with shards of my own grief. Done, done, done.” But… The Universe wouldn’t let me. It pecked at me like a ravenous woodpecker after a bender. Have you ever been pecked at? Owie.
Alright, alright! You win, Universe. You. Win. Since it was finally socially acceptable to hermit at home, encouraged even by global Heads of State, I decided to rip off the bandaid and finish a goddamn manuscript by end of 2021, dingbat font and all.
Still no red thread, I kept making random snow angels on a frozen lake of shards, popcorns, and cranberries. A a Human Design Generator, doing something was better than doing nothing. Months and months passed. Then oh! I noticed two distinct categories of stories:
wounding stories of trauma, neglect, abuse, etc. (blue post-it) and
- healing stories of antidote, reclamation, triumph, etc. (yellow post-it).
I lay back in the snow and resumed – angel arms, angel skirt, angel arms, angel skirt. Months and months passed. Then oh! Within yellow healing stories, I noticed 4 distinct types of knowing. So I tagged them by:
- mind-knowing (cognitive understanding),
- heart-knowing (felt comprehension),
- body-knowing (lived experience) and
- soul-knowing (transcendent recollection).
Whenever a story carried multiple types of knowing, I brought out the big guns and cement screws to bolt my inner Perfectionist back into her coffin.
As such, I tagged 301 stories up the wazoo. I validated my taxonomy by hiring a Communications Director in September 2021 and working with her to assemble a writing sample clustered around joy. It worked! But i knew the ball was back in my court to select the next cluster.
Hmm… now what? Back to snow angels? Nah, I got a better idea! Let's tag each story by its level of juiciness.
- a stone sticker for “Hmm, interesting” stories
- pink blossom sticker for “Wow, no way!” stories, and
- big ass pearl sticker for “Holy super f*ck!?” stories.
The answer to my wazoo was… more wazoo! 🎉
Was it insane? Eh, subjective. Was it hard? Nope, because the combo of my Overachiever + trauma Flight Response + neurodivergent Gifted Adult + crucified Martyr + child of immigrant packrats (raised in cobwebs and black mold) + OCD + yielded a natural talent for organizing/tidying my stories and an aversion to actually writing/truthing them.
By now, it’d been 7 years and 3 months of tail chasing grind, since my first space clawing summer. I had 301 wazoos to the exponent wazoo. And I didn’t even want to be a writer in the first place! What. The f*ck.
Then one day, as I was watching a Youtube video on the immune system, wabam! I saw it, the tip of the red thread!!! I saw how each blue wounding story magnetically wiggled toward a specific Wounded Child archetype, like white blood cells to invaders. It just knew where to jiggly go.
What if, then, each yellow healing story served as antidote to the wounded archetype? 🤯 What if this applied no only to child archetypes but wounded adult archetypes too? 🤯🤯
Like a unikitty on crack, I pawed at the tip until the entire ball of yarn unraveled. In my fervour, I hung myself with the thread twice or thrice 😬. But hey, still alive.
I’d been working with clients on archetypes for fiiiiiive years. I knew my 12 Sacred Archetypes, light and shadow, like the back of my paw. I couldn’t believe that my red thread was right in front of my whiskers 5 out of the 7 years of seeking.
To truly honor and cluster 301 stories by archetype, I’d have to actually read my own writing 🤢, no more skimming 🤮. And if there wasn’t much to read, I’d have to actually write it 😨, no more bypassing 😱. I did NOT want to rewalk on 1.08 million red coals. But for you, dear soulsister, I would walk through skyscraper flames (even though I called you a mother f*cker earlier, sorry about that).
So even though it felt like failure-to-launch sneezes, I upheaved the tidy chronological order of my Scrivner stories and clustered them by 12 child and 12 adult archetypes.
Even though it felt like acid reflux up my nose, I picked up each flaming coal, cupped it until I knew which archetype it belonged to, then placed it in its archetypal campfire. To my own surprise, my hands never got burned, since this empath has not shortage of matafuego tears.
By November 2021, I was invited by a friend to give a talk. I weaved stories of narrative medicine, fire palming and the 4 types of knowing. My spoken quilt made many people cry #sorrynotsorry. As I closed the talk with, “Fear not the flames, you are the fire,” I realized:
For the first time, I was not hung for speaking my truth.
I did not die from voicing my pain.
I am done being too much. I am done being not enough.
All this clawing, drifting, treading, filtering, angeling, and palming has converged onto an original masterpiece in-the-making. Who knew?!?
"She moves hearts," was the gift the audience told me they received that day. I certainly never knew!
December 30, 2021 rolled around. No manuscript, not even close. As if. That day, I finally woke up from the vulnerability hangover of the talk, and booked a next day flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. Where better to spend the end of the year than at The End of The World. I booked a swanky waterfront hotel at $650/night, why not. Hours before countdown, I took my inner Victim on a boat ride and chucked her overboard off the coast of Tierra del Fuego 🔥🌎🔥.
This trip was like spiritual CPR at 720 joules of defibrillation, shhh-tung! I didn’t even know I had flatlined. You don’t know you’re dead until after you're brought back to life. It was only after my inner Victim lay in her peaceful watery grave that I realized, though The Universe did summon me to air filter for a year, my inner Victim was the one who perpetrated extreme subservience to asystole.
I took my time coming back. I celebrated the big 4-0 in February 2022, got my coaching clients settled in, and carved out a 6 month long Memoir Devotional to get this f*cking baby out of me!!! I front loaded it with a weekly therapist and back ended it with a whale of a trip, literally!
I swallowed the frog and tackled the last 5 stories I kept avoiding. I knew holding them in was like food poisoning, but barfing them out felt like bone marrow extraction of all the self-hatred injected without consent by the DWG (Dead White Guys). Ayyyyyy!
Then out it stormed: 255 words, the last story never told. Not even to myself. It was the epicenter of rot that lead to every exploitation, violation and predation. I don’t understand. How could one story, barely half a page, have enslaved me for foooooorty years?!?
It rained. Grief. It poured. Grief. Lightning. Grief. Typhoon. Grief. Earthquake. Grief. Tsunami. Grief. Why the f*ck am I doing this?!? Because The Universe won’t let me off the hook. Because I want to be free of the hook. Some go on great quests to find their calling. I want off the searing merry-go-round of mine. (Be careful what you wish for.)
I’d been playing chess with The Universe for years. I made my move, now your turn, Universe. ♟
Universe: Grief is loss.
Me: I know.
Universe: Name what you lost.
Me: Like overall?
Me: Like for every single story?
Me: All 301 stories?
Me: Uuuuuugh. You suck, Universe!! 🖕
Universe: I love you too.
Long ago, I lost my belief that the world is a good place, that humans are good. I lost my innocence, and my appetite for life. I lost things I didn’t even know I could lose, like my humanity, my right to be a person not an object, my identity other than ATM dispenser.
Does it count as a loss if I never had it in the first place? I never had a childhood. I never had any worth, relevance, or dignity. A voice, belonging, permission to be, how do I grieve that which I never even had? How do I file a police report for theft of self-trust, rape of sacredness, or murder of will to live? How many wake up feeling, “Awwwwww, crap. Still here. God dammit!”
So yeah. That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. I was toe tagging every story, every tear.
To review 14 wisdom gems what I excavated from my half year “Memoir Devotional”, aka “Dredging my Psyche for Bodies.”, read 14 Lessons on Devotional Writing (or Business Building)
Live fierce, live free.
(First published Jul 10, 2019)