Every Field Must Lay Fallow

Every Field Must Lay Fallow

Maybe you are in the middle of a dry spell so severe your lips are parched.

I’m sorry. I know that feeling — that sinking, empty, aching feeling — and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But I know that eventually it will end. And you will live through it. I’m sorry I can’t say how long “eventually” will be, but I do know that you will get your mojo back.

You are an artist.

And sometimes artists endure extended periods during which it seems as if nothing’s happening.

It ’s called acedia, meaning “spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui” or “anomie in societies or individuals, a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals.”

And it doesn’t mean you’re dead inside.

It just means that you’ve temporarily lost the ability to feel joy in your work. Which is sad.

But if you accept this dry spell as a stage in the artistic process, feeling fully confident that no one and nothing can ever take away your identity as an artist (after all, they haven’t been able to make it go away yet, have they?), you just might survive.

Maybe this is the time to pursue some of those other things you always say you want to do. Volunteer more. Have lunch with friends.

Take a temporary job in a field that ’s of interest to you. Spend more time with children. Read all those books you’ve got piled up. Plan a trip. Sit on the couch with the television off.

Whatever happens, don’t give up on yourself.

Eventually you will get a little tickle. An idea will whisper to you. You’ll catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if . . .” and you’ll be off to the races again, productive, happy, and rejoicing in the renewal of your vibrant, creative voice.

Dream Big, Lush, Vivid Dreams

Dream Big, Lush, Vivid Dreams

Disappointment is, literally, failing to keep an appointment. Which is why I think it hurts a little more than the other bumps and bruises of life.

When you feel disappointed, you are feeling deprived of something you thought was already in motion. If you’re feeling like you have an “appointment” with a promotion or a successful presentation or a new love, having that thing not work out is especially crushing because it was kind of a done deal inside your mind.

And that old saw about “don’t get your hopes up, and that way you won’t get disappointed,” is the biggest bunch of hooey I’ve ever heard.

First of all, it’s a bad strategy because it plain doesn’t.

If something you want doesn’t work out, you’re going to be bummed whether or not you had anticipated the failure.

And missing an opportunity to have delightfully high hopes seems. . . churlish.

I understand the impulse to say, “I just don’t want to get hurt again.” But guess what? You’re here to get hurt.

We’re here to try again. and again. and again. We’re here to gain resiliency.

So I say go ahead — get your hopes up. Dream big, lush, vivid dreams. Imagine your ideal of success with the full knowledge that reality may never measure up.

Then when things do work out, you haven’t wasted one moment tamping down your enthusiasm. And if they don’t work out, well, then, you are free to feel the full force of your disappointment. Which may or may not be as bad as you had imagined it might be.

I bet that if you stacked up all your disappointments you would you would find that very few of them make you think, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t even tried that.” I bet you would mostly think, “Well, I sure learned a lot.”

And that’s the other thing we’re here for: our soul’s education.

Nevertheless, disappointments can leave deep scars. And some disappointments take longer to heal than we’d like, even when we know we “should be over it by now.”

(Over it by now? Says who? What is this mysterious global time frame on getting over things? Honestly.)

Disappointment is a wise and valuable teacher. It acquaints you with grief. Grief, said the Greeks, is the daughter of anger and sadness. These two powerful emotions need to be felt, explored, and lived through.

Otherwise we are only a living shadow of our true selves: pretending we don’t care about the things we care about most.

So there’s a time to cry and a time to stop crying.

photo credit: A.K. Photography via photopin cc

A Prayer for Hoping against Hope

A Prayer for Hoping against Hope

And as you stand there

Hands clasped in front of you

Eyes downcast

Concealing the disobedient pounding of your heart
It dawns on you:

Here we go again.

And while you no longer allow yourself the long, elaborate
daydreams in which everything works out perfectly,
You catch yourself thinking: Well, it could happen.

And though you have long since given up making bargains
with God,

You find yourself whispering: Please.

And since you have — years ago — quit telling
Anyone anything about anything
Because honestly,
The things people say, such as,

“Oh, it will happen for you, I just know it!”


“I have a friend who went through the same thing and then one
day, just like magic. . .”


“The minute you stop wanting it, that’s when it will happen.”

Oh. Okay.

So you haven’t told a soul.

Except, after long consideration, your very dearest best friend.

And you know the odds are against you.

And still

You know that life is not a numbers game and
The Lord does, indeed, move in some very mysterious ways and

Haven’t you earned —
And there you stop short.

Because life is also not about earning or deserving,

And it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve tried or how much you’ve
sacrificed or how positive your positive mental attitude has

What matters is reality.

And reality says: It’s possible.

So you dwell in possibility.

Between the dark and the daylight.

No longer storming off, slamming doors, and swearing, “Never

No longer crying out in agony because you had been so sure this
was It.

No longer elated by another promising sign.

You are here now.

Committed to enjoying the ride.

Trusting in the friendliness of the universe.

Awakened to your heart’s desire.

Knowing that there is no such thing as false hope.

All hope is real.

Real. Hope. Now.

It’s all we have.

And who knows?

Perhaps the best really is
Yet to come.

Bouncing Back From Disappointment: Really Gettting Over It (Step One)

We all get disappointed sometimes.  And mostly we follow a pretty simple process of feeling tremendously upset, thinking about it way too much, then finding some way to comfort ourselves and then moving on.  With the help of some friends, some carb-heavy comfort food (or herb tea or martinis or double-chocolate
fudge crunch ice cream
or whatever your narcotic of choice may be…) and perhaps a period of true unbridled wallowing, we get over it.


But some disappointments linger.  Some become a permanent part of our internal landscape.  Some even feel as though they have become part of our identity, and we almost can’t imagine letting them go, even though they cause us so much pain.

Here’s the good news: you’re reading this.

That tells me that you:

  1. Actually WANT to get over it
  2. Can at least sort of imagine that you COULD get over it
Welcome to Bouncing Back from Disappointment: Three Strategies to Really Get Over It. 

I hope we’re going to make some good progress
here – I can’t guarantee anything, but I have seen people make some miraculous shifts in very brief amounts of time, so I
wouldn’t rule anything out.  Now, it’s not possible to “unthink” something, and you can’t not feel the way you feel
about something.  There’s no magic pill.

But you can
unscrew the bolts a little bit on the ideas that are keeping the experience both fixed and

(One possible exception:  Grief.  My
experience is that other kinds of pain and disappointment can shift and move
but grief – even old grief – just sweeps up on you and feels for all the world like it just happened this morning.  So I want you to be working on a specific
frustration or disappointment or failure here, and I want you to pick one, but
if it’s a Grief, then maybe, just for the purposes of today, pick another, less
knotty one.)

Everybody have one particular disappointment in mind?  Good.

Maybe it’s just a little one: I over salted the
turkey meatloaf the other night and I’m a little disappointed in myself.

Or a medium one: I’m still so bummed I
never finished college, or that we got outbid on that house.

Or a big one: I got fired.

Or a really big one: I still can’t
believe he or she had that affair.

Now, let’s get a
reading here:

On a scale of 1-5, how disappointed are you about your

1 = Actually, I’m mostly
over it

2 = Still stings a bit

3 = This causes me some pain when I think about it

4 = Ouch! Ouch!  Ouch!!!!!!!

5 = I almost can’t imagine EVER being over this

Are you at a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5?  Whatever it is, just guesstimate and write
down the number.

It’s important that you be honest with yourself about your level of disappointment.

Sometimes we can get caught up in Enforced Optimism (“Oh, it’s all good…”) or Depressive Diminishment (“It’s no big deal”) and I don’t want that.  I want you to haul the monsters out from under the bed and look them in the eye.  Be straight with yourself.  There’s no sense pretending that you feel all yippee-skippy when you don’t, and there’s no sense hanging on to a disappointment from which, you discover, you are really mostly already recovered.

STEP ONE: We Are Not Amused (but maybe we could be…)

So the first thing I want you
to do is give this event a new, more disastrous name.  Really exaggerate.  Unleash your Inner Drama Queen.  Go for it.  Write it down.

“I blew the presentation,” could be
re-named “I’m Headed For The Poorhouse For Sure!!!”

“I fell off my diet,” becomes “I Am
The Walrus, Koo Koo Ka Choo”

“I didn’t finish my novel,” becomes “I Will Never Be A Real Writer Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever”

Got it?
Be melodramatic.  Make yourself laugh.

It’s great if you can do this with a trusted friend who can laugh with you.)

How does it feel to give it this extreme name?  What do you notice?  What shifts?

Next, I want you to write down a really minimizing name for your event.  Brush it off.  Spin it like a crooked politician. Or imagine you have an eccentric great-aunt who hears about your disappointment and just waves it away with a word.  What does she call it?

“Nobody’s buying my product,” becomes “Well, This Has Been Some Fascinating Market Research…”

“I’ll never get another date,” becomes “Oh, Pish Posh, Silly Old Dating, Who Cares?”  

“I’m chronically disorganized,” becomes “I Am So Creative With Where I Put Things!”

Again, write them down and notice how each one feels.  (Don’t worry – you can always go back to the same way you’ve always felt.  No pressure.)

just experimenting with perspectives here, so you don’t need to actually believe your new names for this event, but you do need to acknowledge that there may be some alternatives to the lonely, empty feeling you’ve allowed the memory of this event to trigger in you.

If you like this Step, then keep going:

– What would your dearest, best friend call this event?

– What would your Guardian Angel call it?

– What would a poet call it?

– What would a late-night infomercial spokesperson call it?

– What would a gypsy fortune-teller call it?

Experimenting with different names can remind you that when it comes to your own life, you are in a position of choice. 

You get to decide what you think about it.  

And that can move you from feeling like a disappointed victim to feeling like the confident, empowered, creative genius that you truly are.

NOTE: I’m curious – what names did you come up with?  Please comment because I’d love to hear them!

Coming soon: Step Two!

Don’t Think While You’re Feeling

Don’t Think While You’re Feeling

Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

Don’t call ex-lovers when you’ve been drinking.

Don’t think when you’re feeling.

Let’s say you have a disappointing day.  Everything is going wrong.  Bills, parking, people, money, friends, the very streets seem to be out to get you.  You feel alone, sad, furious, frustrated, exhausted and forgotten.  You think, “That’s it.  I’ve had it.” And you decide to turn your back on your life and start over.

The thought of which depresses you even further.

Or maybe you’re ill, or in physical pain.  My friend Chris gets a cold and suddenly his whole life feels like a pathetic joke in which nothing good can ever happen.  When his body is weak, his thinking gets weak, and it’s hard to ignore the dark thoughts that are one of his “symptoms.”

Or maybe your illness is actually a hangover; post-alcoholic depression is no joke.  Even if you are not suffering from the physical effects of drinking too much, your brain may be.  And in it’s weakened condition, your brain is liable to throw out an awful lot of negative thoughts.  It’s perilously easy to believe negative thoughts when you’re hung over.

Or perhaps you are in the middle of a truly awful situation.  When you have lost something or someone you love, be it a person, an animal, a place, a job, a relationship, or even just your idea of the person you thought you were, you will grieve.  According to the Greeks and Sam Christensen  “Grief is the Daughter of Anger and Sadness”  and “Revenge is the Son of Anger and Sadness,” – an evocative conceptualization, huh?  When we are caught in the strong tides of circumstance and emotion, our cognition is affected.  And not, as you’ve probably noticed, for the better.

Has this happened to you?  When we’re in the extremes of an emotion, it’s all too easy to tie those emotions to thoughts, and those thoughts certainly feel real.  But they are not.  The thoughts you have when you are operating at a low vibration are a fraud.  They are the devil, sneaking in when you’ve left the doorway of despair open even a little bit.

People who make decisions when they’re upset are called Drama Queens.   They live in a turbulent, tumultuous world in which nothing can be relied upon, because they allow their ever-shifting feelings to make their decisions for them.

In the same way that alcoholics and addicts constantly “change the rules,” Drama Queens also create an environment in which no one ever knows how they will be received.  Will there be hugs and kisses and a face wreathed with smiles?  Or glowering?  Or mean-spirited remarks?  When people come to understand that they cannot rely on you, then will begin to avoid you.  Maybe not right away, but eventually they will decide that your erratic, unpredictable behavior is just more trouble than it’s worth.  You have become a person without integrity.

So, you know…Don’t be that way.

If you’re feeling low, you have a few choices:  you can just lay low, you can can wallow in it (see “How To Wallow”) or you can try to keep your chin up and soldier on.  But really, don’t make any big decisions or rash moves until you’re done feeling your feelings, OK?

NOTE:  If you’re feeling low for more than two weeks, go see your doctor and don’t leave that doctor’s office until you’ve gotten some help.

So, what lessons have you learned about “not thinking while you’re feeling”?