I wish I had something profound to say about my experiment of deactivating my personal Facebook timeline for 3 months. Perhaps an epiphany, a revelation, a complete transformation. But none of that happened.
What did happen, early on, was isolation, depression, and migraines. There was nothing comfortable about Facebook withdrawals. I found myself checking my phone over and over throughout the day, with nothing to look at. Total disconnect set in. How would the world know I existed, if I wasn't visible on Facebook? What were my "friends" doing? How was I going to keep current with the days' events? Those first 10 days were a killer!
The bluetooth stereo system in my studio saved me. The speakers are rad, loud, and sometimes those on the bottom floor of my building could hear whatever was coming from my art studio. Music has always been my lifesaver. It helps sooth anxiety, which I am also prone to have from time to time.
So, I selected random Apple Radio Stations, and listened to a whole bunch of music that I've never heard before. I am now a big fan of Afro-Celt. But I also reconnected with Ska, Punk, and Reggae. A mixture of Enya, The Clash, The Shins, Talking Heads, Leonard Cohen, Jack White, French Opera, Classical, and a mixture of everything else in-between, put me in a realm of creativity beyond my own imagination.
Music stimulated my flavor of artwork. Pouring paint on canvas, splattering, and tilting the canvases while they dried, created not only a wild mixture of color and texture, but also put me right there in it. I literally found joy watching paint dry. I had several canvases going at the same time. Without a plan of what I was going to make, I allowed the art to show me what it wanted.
Some days I painted actual scenes, mostly houses and landscapes. Some days I covered canvases all in black, or white, and made layers of paint, scraping the canvas. Some days I used a trowel, spread gauze for texture, sponged excess paint off and dabbed crumpled paper towels on almost-dry paint. Every day, for 3 solid months, I painted something.
I took photos of the creative process, and the finished product. I made an Instagram profile just for my art, to have a place where I could go back and look at my little world. I made the art for me, and scrolling through the photos of my own art calmed me, inspired me to make more, and motivated me to dream bigger.
After the first month of Facebook liberation, I decided to jump back on for a day or two. It was Christmastime, and I did miss most of those I only get to see on Facebook. I posted new profile and cover photos. I made a post about Christmas, and suddenly likes and comments exploded. It was nice to see I wasn't forgotten. I deactivated again, but hopped back on for New Year's Eve, with something I wrote about my feelings on letting go of 2020. And again, I was not forgotten.
A few days ago, I felt lonely so I reactivated Facebook and saw that someone I knew had died. He was a good photographer, and an even better person. I was devastated. I immediately looked for photos he had taken of me, during the past 3 years and a half-dozen photo shoots. I found a few that I had taken of him, and I started to cry. I went to his Facebook timeline and saw posts from his family and friends, remembering him in the same way I did - an overall good guy who would help anyone in need.
Since then, I stayed on Facebook, but I don't look at it often. I posted photographs yesterday of the snowstorm in the little town of Jerome, Arizona, where I live and work. I check on those I love and care about in the morning, during coffee-in-bed. Then, I get on with my day, staying active with photography, modeling, painting, taking care of Leo and Mazie (the amazing French cats), and living a blessed life with Sir Steven. Keeping it simple is important to me. Maybe that's why I decided to deactivate Facebook in the first place.
I'm sure I'll get off Facebook again. But what I did learn about myself was this:
I guess that's as profound as I'm going to get today.
Now, it's time to go create something.
Thanks for reading.
𝙳𝚊𝚢 𝟺𝟻 𝙼𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝙹𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚗𝚎𝚢
Anxiety and depression are no joke. I've struggled with them as far back as I can remember. Over the years, I have tried a variety of ways to heal the trauma that caused my PTSD symptoms to flare up, including a lot of therapy, a 12-Step program and other things that have resonated with me. Shamanic healing, Reiki treatments, Full-Moon and New-Moon practices, lots and lots of yoga, hiking the red rocks of Sedona, becoming Vegan and growing my own food, detoxing from everything, reading, singing bowl therapy, gong bathes, writing and meditation.
After nearly 20 years of continuous healing, including recovery from anorexiaa, I was shocked just a few months ago, when, for whatever reasons, I was triggered in a catastrophic way. The anxiety was paralyzing. Then, the depression set in.
Sometimes it is hard to drag myself out, once it grabs ahold of me. I feel myself sinking, and it seems there's no way out.
Logic tells me that triggers will happen, they may never go away completely. Yet, I have the necessary tools to practice whenever I need them. However, logic doesn't matter when I'm in the thick of anxiety and depression.
I decided to dedicate time to self-care. What other choice did I have? It was serious, and if I brushed it off, or felt the urge to "just toughen up", I would flounder. I chose to eat well, I drank a lot of water and tea, slept a lot, and spent hours in aroma-therapy baths. I reached out to those closest to me. I did not isolate.
What really saved me was getting back into my meditation practice, which I had neglected for a couple of years.
You see, I once had a morning ritual, a daily practice, that I adhered to. However, I tend to drift away from it, from time to time. A couple of years is way too long to be away. But, I reminded myself that I am human, and it is all about progress, not perfection. My OCD doesn't help much either. With that said, I continue to be on this road of self-realization and healing. When the thought "I'm okay now, I don't have to do anything anymore" creeps into my mind, I know I'm in big trouble. That is usually when I drift away from what keeps me grounded, balanced and centered. There will never be a time when I don't need recovery.
Today is Day 45 of consecutive days in a meditation and journaling practice. And there's more - I created an altar 45 days ago too, adding to it whatever resonated with me. It's full of crystals, trinkets, antique keys, little Buddha statues, sage and candles. There is an Our Lady of Guadalupe white candle, a Day of the Dead woman, Guanyin, photos of family members (here and beyond), and a huge wall rosary hanging on the wall above the altar.
Twenty days ago, I downsized from a house to an Artist's Retreat. I'm in a cozy room with my two French cats, Leo and Mazie, taking in gorgeous views in a historic building in the town that I love. The day before I moved in, I saged the empty room, opened the windows and sat on the window-seat. The sky turned dark, blustering winds picked up, and a thunderstorm rolled in. I watched the storm from as far as Sedona, over the Verde Valley and land right on top of Jerome. This is my favorite weather.
As I stared out the window, feeling the wind and enjoying the scent of the rain-soaked desert, I noticed something different. Although I had only moved no more than a half a mile away, the new view from my Artist's Retreat windows looked like Europe. (Trust me, I know how weird that sounds too.)
I had a clear view from here, instead of from where I was before. There were absolutely no obstacles in my way. The winding road was below me. The buildings looked like an old-world style of architecture. Where in the world was I?
Taking in the sights and sounds of the rainy afternoon, I felt a shift in energy, and it was big. Suddenly, anything that was no longer necessary in my life, simply melted away. Like a mountain of sugar (which is toxic, by the way), and with each gentle raindrop it dissolved little by little, until it was completely gone.
You know what happens when you make yourself your first priority? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that no longer serves your greater good disappears, vanishes, goes away. That includes inappropriate loyalties to toxic relationships, people, places, and things. I shed the weight of what held me back, purged a lot of stuff, got rid of the things I no longer needed, and brought all of my focus back to me.
Honestly, I started doing these things 6 months ago, but it wasn't until my anxiety came out of the blue, that I had no other choice but to go deeper. Sometimes, anxiety and depression can be a blessing, if I look at it the right way.
It is always important for me to remember that "this too shall pass." Nothing lasts forever. I have no expectations, and I'm enjoying my life more than ever.
I am grateful for this day, and everything it has to offer. I am manifesting my best life yet, and looking forward to what's coming next. I am grateful for my Artist's Retreat, those whom I share my days with, and for the another pain-free day.
Here's to another 45 days... 45 years... of self-care and meditation.
Thanks for reading,
Check this out: You can find my works-in-progress, the 𝙼𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚅𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝙰𝚛𝚝𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔, by following me on Instagram 𝚊𝚝 @𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚋𝚢𝚣𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚔𝚊.
"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you."
Do you remember hearing that as a kid? I do. It didn't make sense then, and it sure as hell doesn't make sense now. The truth is what we say to each other, and to ourselves, can, indeed, hurt. Criticizing and judging anyone is not cool. It's hard to believe in the year 2020 that grown-ass adults need to be reminded of that, but apparently they do. Choose your words carefully, because they will come back to bite you, and that is a promise.
Body-shaming is a term I learned about not too long ago. Here's the official definition, according to Google Dictionary: expressing mockery or criticism about a person's body shape or size.
There was a revolution in the modeling industry in 1998, when Emme became the first mainstream plus-size model to achieve commercial success when she was contracted by Revlon. (By the way, the term plus-size isn't used anymore in the professional modeling industry.) Models, Ashley Graham and Tyra Banks became very vocal about their distastes of the label, and prefer the term Curve or Curvy model. But why have labels at all? A model is a model, period.
This is where I come in, and why I'm writing this blog.
I stumbled into my modeling career quite by accident seven years ago, when a photographer/friend wanted to test out some new lighting equipment. If you follow my blog, you already know the rest of the story. However, for those of you who are not familiar with it, here's the short version: the photo shoot in January of 2013 gave me the gift of being able to see myself for the first time, and I'm not talking metaphorically. For those of us who suffer with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it's a real thing. I literally, physically, saw myself for the first time through the lens of my friend's camera.
Anorexia is no joke. I have never met an anorexic that chose it on purpose. And I have definitely never met one that wished it on anyone else. It is a horror show in the mind. It is a psychological disease with physical symptoms, like starving, purging, over-exercising, and a whole slew of other things. In my experience, it became a life-or-death decision to choose recovery in my early 40's.
Recovery has not been easy, and even into my 12th year, symptoms still creep into my mind. The results can be catastrophic. I make the decision to live my life deliberately, every single morning when I wake up. I choose it every day, because if I don't, I can spiral quick. The rabbit hole is never a healthy place for me to go.
I earned every single pound, every stretch mark, and every roll. Let me say that again:
"I EARNED EVERY SINGLE POUND, EVERY STRETCH MARK, AND EVERY ROLL."
I am alive and well, but it all came with a price. The disease left me with permanent physical damage, something that I am made aware of every day. I chose self-care and a healthy lifestyle.
Why do I model? Actually, I model nude more often than not, and there's a really simple reason why: body acceptance. Yep, that's a term too. It is accepting one's body, regardless of not being completely satisfied with all aspects of it. With recovery comes acceptance, and for me that meant accepting the one thing I despised the most - my body. Modeling, in general, keeps my therapy moving forward. It has nothing to do with vanity or the photographs themselves, and has everything to do with mental health, feeling comfortable in my own skin, practicing self-care and learning to love myself on a daily basis. Modeling is all about the experience of it, how I feel about myself during it, which is always positive.
I blog about this subject a lot, and I post some of the photographs online and on social media, because they always, always reach someone out there who is struggling or suffering in the same exact way I was. I am all about empowering women, every shape, size, age, ethnicity, no matter where they are in the world. We are a sisterhood, we are here to build each other up, not tear each other down. This is one of my life-missions, to share my experience, hope and strength with those who haven't found theirs yet. A young lady contacted me this morning, after seeing the short-version of this (including the photographs) on Facebook. I responded, because that is another way we help each other, by being present and in the moment, offering a listening-ear and directing those in need to a safe place to begin a healing journey of their own.
With all of that said, I have never received any type of negativity about what I do, or why I do it.... till now.
I'm human, and what I would really like to say is, "I'll call the bitch out because, well, she deserves it!" But when I read her message a couple days ago, what I did instead was, said a little prayer for her. I totally understood that her negative message had absolutely nothing to do with me. It's all about her. I don't take things personally, which is another thing I practice on the daily. People deflect on others what they don't want to see in themselves. So, here's my public response to her:
"Dear woman: I am sorry you are not feeling good about yourself. I know how that feels too. I wish you self-acceptance, self-love, and a positive body image. If you need help finding it, look inward. I hope you find peace."
Body-shaming doesn't serve any purpose, and just makes people feel bad about themselves. For those of you who think it's okay to call someone fat, or worse, just stop. Look at yourself instead. The world has enough problems, a lot bigger than this. Focus your energy on making a difference elsewhere.
And for those of you who think you're going to stop me from doing what I do by body-shaming me, you're in for a big surprise. I AM NOT STOPPING. I have come too far to go backwards. But I do have a solution: do us both a favor, and stop following me. Unlike, Unfollow, Delete, Block. Do it, and make it quick! Next time, I won't be so nice.
Thanks for listening.
Jerome Artist & Councilperson Candidate
As usual, I have a big idea.
My vision for this quaint little art-town includes revitalizing what's already here, and expanding upon it. What better place on earth to promote the arts, than in the small historic mining town of Jerome, Arizona.
There are some serious gems here on the mountain, including a theater room and old auditorium, located at the Historic Jerome High School, which is also where my photo studio and art classroom are located.
I'm psyched about being a part of the formation of a theatre group here in Jerome, maybe take a stab at acting and singing. What I see happening is a wide array of local talent, showcasing musical performances, plays, dance, poetry readings, you name it.
I was recently interviewed by the Wicked City Chronicles. Check it out!
I am running for Jerome Town Council, as the "Artist Councilperson".
Here's a Little Bit About Me
My name is Susan Gregory, I am 54 years old, the mother of two adult children and one grandchild. I was born and raised in Connecticut, and moved to Arizona in 1989. After 20 years in the Phoenix area, I move to Sedona. I journeyed up the mountain of Jerome in late 2016, where I opened Red Bench™ Gallery & Photo Studio at the Old Jerome High School Art Center. I became a resident after that, living happily in a house on The Boardwalk.
I am an artist, a photographer, a writer, a model, and a social justice advocate. I love books, music, movies, hiking and creating art using a variety of different mediums. I have extensive experience owning and running businesses, excellent multi-tasking and time management skills, and I thrive where details are concerned. I am also tech savvy, utilizing social media, website work, and creating marketing and promotional materials for the events I design and host. I guess you could say, I have a diverse skill-set.
I am a strong believer in service work, which is how I live my life - it keeps me grounded. I have volunteered over the years for a variety of non-profit organizations and community functions, started programs in Sedona, and was a member of the Social Justice Committee at a local Sedona Church for quite some time. I was a board member of the Sedona Area Homeless Alliance for a couple of years, which ended in December, 2019. When I saw that the Town of Jerome was in need of Council members, I decided to run.
I love this little town. Jerome feels like home to me. Giving back to the community is important. I am running as the Artists' Councilperson, focusing on preserving the future of the arts in Jerome, which is always near and dear to my heart. I am particularly focused on the revitalization of the theater room at the Old Jerome High School, and being a part of the development of a local theater group, involving music, dance, and performances. Meeting new people and helping out where I can is of great benefit to me, as I enjoy being a part of solutions. My simple philosophy is this: if you love where you are, do what you can with what you have, to make a difference in the lives of all concerned. I feel Jerome is a family, and I am blessed to be a part of it.
You will see me walking around town on most days, even in the rain and the cold. You can't miss my pink hair, or my colorfully painted art car. Don't be shy - introduce yourselves to me. I want to get to know you. If coffee is involved, that's even better!
I am grateful that you took the time to read this. There is so much more, obviously, to say. But for now, this is my casual introduction, and I am pleased to make all of your acquaintances.
Jerome Town Council Candidate
Monday, November 18th, 2019
This is what gets me through the day, no joke.
A fellow-writer friend sent me a message this morning:
"How do you do it? With just the things I know you've gone through, how do you come out on top? What do you do to motivate yourself every day? I've got so much I want to do, and yet for some reason, still let things not get done. Any suggestions?
"What do I get done??" I asked.
"Come on, you've been knocked down, picked yourself up, and started a business. What do you do to motivate yourself?
"I don't do anything. I just love what I do." I replied.
"Thought maybe you had some ritual to keep you going."
Immediately, I thought about what I do every morning when I first wake up. And then the list went on from there. This is what has evolved from 10 years of practicing lots of different philosophies, ideas, programs and exercises. This is what I sent to my friend:
I make a mental gratitude list in my head every morning. I say it out loud to myself, usually when I'm in the bathtub or shower.
Meditate and Visualize.
Create my day.
Make the bed.
Wash the dishes.
Pick up around me.
Never leave a mess.
Take an action.
Put together a project.
Start gathering the pieces.
Let go of all expectations.
Keep moving on to the next project without skipping a beat. I don't let things get me down, ever.
Drink lots of water.
Listen to good music all day long.
Limit phone time (I barely ever talk or text.)
Limit social media (use it for work.)
Stay off the computer (unless working.)
Read articles of interest every day.
Be present in every moment.
Make time for my closest relationships.
Schedule self-care days.
I don't do it all. I delegate and empower others.
I pray before every meal, giving gratitude.
That's about it. He asked me what a "self-care day" meant. This is what I said:
My self-care day looks like this:
This morning's message chat with my friend sparked this Blog, and it was a good reminder to myself. I guess I do have rituals, and I do know what I'm doing, even though most of the time I don't realize it. By the way, it's not like I have a rituals checklist everyday either. These are the things I do on a daily basis without thinking about it, they just come naturally.
What am I doing today? Well, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, and I'm on Ritual #5. I'm putting together my business's 2020 marketing plan.
A Past Chapter
You know that moment when you instinctively know that a part of your life is done? For me, it's something I can't force, and most of the time I don't even know it's over. It just hits me like a ton of bricks. I literally wake up one morning and it's blindingly clear.
I re-read parts of The Secret Butterfly Trail this morning, and that's when the ah-ha moment happened. That person, the one I used to be, doesn't exist anymore. Just like I'm not 10 years old anymore, that version of me is gone. It's the same as the version of me that existed 10 years ago - she is no longer. That life is just a memory now. I am a whole new person. I don't resemble who I was 10 years ago in any way whatsoever.
I think that's part of the miracle of life, that we keep growing and moving forward, whether we want to or not. And it always sneaks up on me, when I wake up one random morning and realize I am not who I was before (thank goddess!)
That's where I'm at today, looking back on that person I was and feeling a little sad. I don't miss her, you can bet on that. But there is a melancholy about it, a little bitter-sweet feeling. I am so far removed from her, that I can look at her as if she is a separate entity. A ghost, maybe. A hologram, perhaps. It's a relief that I no longer carry her burdens. And it's reassuring to see now what I couldn't see then. A lot of hard work has paid off, and now it's visible to me.
All of that said, it is now time to let go of her in every way. The Secret Butterfly Trail is a glimpse into a short period of time when she existed. Mind you, when I write a book I burn the journals from which the material came from, which is why I write in the first place. I journal and journal for years and years, then a book is born. Afterward, the journals are burned in a little ceremonial thing I do for myself, and then I can move on with my life. Writing, for me, is an ongoing therapy.
A new book is incubating now, the growth process is very real. Some days I feel bloated, almost like I'm pregnant, getting ready to birth this thing. No joke, it's like that. It's always like that when I'm busy writing a new book.
What does all of this mean for you?
I'm clearing the shelves, making room for what's coming next. and I mean that literally and figuratively. I have a limited supply of paperback copies ready to go. I want them gone before the new book is released. Autographed copies are just $25 online (this includes shipping in the U.S.). Once this supply is gone, there will be no other signed copies left.
The Secret Butterfly Trail is an easy read. Straight out of my journals and straight onto the pages. It's also part of a series of books I'm writing called An Ordinary Life., which began with God Knocked Me Off My Bike, released in 2010, which is being re-edited. Here's a short description of The Secret Butterfly Trail:
"Troubled by my past and seeking a new life, I suddenly found myself homeless and meandering through the heart of the Midwest. From New Mexico, I traveled to Michigan to live with my son and his family. With nothing but a bike and a backpack, I made my way following the trails of southwestern Michigan. Two thousand miles away, my ex-husband’s suicide drove me into the winter of my deep despair. Reconsidering the choices I had made in my life, I did what was for me, the unthinkable. I traveled back to my hometown in New England which I had left 21 years earlier. On a quest to find a final resting place for my ex-husband’s ashes, I found more. In death, he led me back home to face what I had run from in the first place – myself. This is a story of death and rebirth, of despair and hope, the journey of my lifetime." - Zushka Biros
Of course, The Secret Butterfly Trail will remain for sale on Amazon, Kindle, Nook and iBooks, indefinitely. But the paperback copies I have in my studio will not. Once they are sold out, I will not be reordering any more. Buy the book for yourself, or as a gift for someone else. It's easy, just click HERE, select "Autographed" and follow the prompts.
Thank you for taking these books off my hands, and making room for the next case of new books, badass is the new pretty (in lowercase purposely, by the way). Subscribe to my Blog and get the latest updates on the new book, and all the books I'm writing, including how to pre-order before they go live. And thank you all for supporting me through the years, for the wonderful reviews on Amazon, and encouraging me to keep writing.
"Can I pre-order the book?"
"Will it be ready in time for Black Friday?"
"What is it about?"
Well, I can tell you this: No, and no - the book will not be ready in time for Black Friday, nor will you be able to pre-order it anytime soon. Life got in the way. A lot has happened this year, not all good, not all bad. I got engaged to my best friend, moved into the house of my dreams, my business expanded by leaps and bounds, and I got healthy and lost a lot of weight. Needless to say, I have more energy than I've had in many years, my health issues are nowhere near as terrible as they once were, and I have the support of a good man. In a nutshell, it's been one hell of a growth year - on steroids, turbo-charged.
Here's the thing, growth isn't painless. Period. It's been a big struggle for me, an uncomfortable insecure, self-doubting 10 1/2 months. I finally took that leap, jumped off the proverbial cliff while trying to build an airplane on the way down. Entrepreneurship is no rose garden. On paper, the plan looked great. In real life, the paper lit itself on fire and I was left scrambling, with my hair ablaze.
I chose this. I chose every little bit of it. I set a goal in motion three years ago, and I tripped and fell every step of the way. There's no college course or seminar that I could have taken to prepare me for anything remotely close to what I've experienced. Mistake after mistake, there were lots of days when I thought I should pack it up, start over again and go out there and get a job. But I was so far removed from that ideal, I had no clue how to go backwards. Perhaps that was a blessing.
Great mentors have inspired me over the years. I am grateful for the one-on-one advice, no doubt about it - powerful successful women who broke through all kinds of barriers, and made it. So, I was next to make it, right? I think so... right?? (Insert sound of crickets here.)
Okay, so I failed. Not once, not twice, oh hell I don't know, I lost track of how many times. But the one thing I do know is really simple. Failure IS growth. It is falling and getting back up again, and falling again and getting back up again and again. The truth is, I wouldn't be as strong as I am right now had I not failed time and time again.
Mind you, failing is not fun. It can be heartbreaking, even. I don't honestly know if there will ever come a time when I stop failing. Truth be told, if life becomes too easy for me I'll probably get bored. I am an ever-evolving human, destined for greatness by way of the bumpiest road on the planet. And I am totally okay with that. I have had plenty of smooth roads, they get me through until the next big bump blocks my path. And those smooth roads will appear again when the time is right. That time is not now.
"Badass is the New Pretty - what is it about?"
This book is full of stories, journal entries, writings about the times when I thought I'd die, or the world would end (which is the same thing, isn't it?) It's about crawling through the muck and the thorns, digging up whatever needed to be uncovered about myself, exposing it to the light and the storms. It's about stripping away all that was no longer necessary, which was basically e v e r y t h i n g, and getting to the core of what makes me tick. It's about getting real, and I mean really real, not with anyone else, not because of anything else, and certainly not because anyone told me I had to. I did it all through osmosis - an organically natural state of being, brought to yours truly by way of something much bigger than myself. Basically it's about all the fucked up shit I've done over decades of my life, clinging to what I was taught, or what I thought was right, or what I dug my nails into and tried to control. And how all of that got me absolutely nowhere.
Badass, to me, is the letting go and surrendering of everything, starting from ground zero and building myself up from the roots. It is being authentically and originally me, without self-judgement or feeling fearful of what others think about me. Badass is freedom, total liberation from all lies I told myself. And I know I'm not alone. There are plenty of women in this world going through, or have been through, the same thing.
No longer did I care about being judged by how pretty I was. To be a badass means being okay with who you are, shedding the mask and exposing your true beauty - stretchmarks, wrinkles, scars and all (literally and metaphorically). It means speaking your truth about what's real, being fearless and sharing all the parts of yourself that you were told to hide, that you were told were ugly. Pretty has an all-new meaning, now doesn't it?
The term, Badass is the New Pretty, is the raw and real female goddess warrior, because that is exactly who we were born to be. It is the metamorphosis, the blossoming of the lotus out of the mud. We were born strong, it was the world that beat us down. We women were dealt a bad hand. Now, we have a voice, we are empowered, we are badasses and we are pretty because of that. Is there anything more beautiful than a woman who is uniquely herself, fearless and self-confident? I'll answer that for you - NO, there isn't.
I'm still assembling my mess, putting my words and stories into some type of order that makes it readable. I'm sharing my disorderly life experiences with you. I don't proclaim to be a guru that will show you the way. This is not a self-help book, and I am certainly not an authority on anything. This book is full of relatable experiences - some, heart-wrenching; some, hysterical; some, downright nightmarish. But all of them, honest, and a common thread that most women can identify with.
If there is anything badass about me, it is the fact that I have no filter, I cut through all the bullshit and lay it all out on the table. I can serve it up just as well as any man. The time of the polite, quiet, little lady is over. I'm here to give us all permission to be exactly who we are - spiritually, sexually, artistically, creatively, any way you want to be. Go make that first million, have a baby, build a house, build an empire - do whatever you were told you couldn't do by yourself. They lied. You could always do it by yourself. And you can always choose to build your life with someone, if that's what you want.
So, here's to all the badass women of the world. May you stay strong, gather your goddess tribe around you, put your feet in the mud, release any and all things that are toxic and no longer serve your vision. Bathe naked in the moonlight, dance every chance you get, eat that slice of cake, travel and set your roots firmly in yourself. Cheers!
Here's the deal - before I can jabber on and on in this blog, we need to get something straight - what the hell is Mercury Retrograde?
The term retrograde comes from the Latin word retrogradus, which literally means “backward step.” As the name suggests, retrograde is when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit, as viewed from Earth. Astronomers refer to this as “apparent retrograde motion,” because it is an optical illusion. The opposite of retrograde is direct or prograde motion. Prograde motion is the term astronomers prefer, while astrologers are more prone to use the term “direct” motion.
So what does all of that have to do with people wanting to hide in their rooms for weeks at a time? Those who dread Mercury’s retrograde motion say that, when the planet travels backward, its power to positively influence these domains is stifled, leading to chaos. Believers in the malevolent power of Mercury retrograde blame the phenomenon for everything from arguments to lost mail or luggage to automobile accidents, and warn people to hold back on conducting important business during this time. Of course, few of us can afford to hide under our beds for three weeks, so for most people, life goes on as usual during Mercury retrograde. And if you choose to be more cautious during this time, well, a little extra caution never hurt anyone.
So what does all of that mean for me? Well, I can tell you this - these past 7 days have been anything but normal. Not that I really prefer normal, but it's been a bit much for me to handle. Nothing outrageous has happened (knock on wood), but holy cow! Talk about one thing after another thing after another fucked up thing!
People not getting back to me, or just not showing up at all; waiting for someone to finish something so I could do my part, but they were waiting on another person to finish their part - the domino effect just won't quit. And it's not just me, everyone around me is experiencing some truly screwed up stuff too. I mean, what are the odds of your dog locking you out of your car when you stopped for gas on your cross-country trip - not once, but twice?? I saw a friend blow up at one of his family members, the calmest guy in the world, mind you. Friends suffering depression, problems at work, disagreements with their family members. My car broke down, literally stalled while driving downhill, and I'm talking a really big hill! my cellphone decided not to work, then it did, and then it didn't again. My WiFi did the same thing, so did my computer. And it was only during the time I needed them so I could get work done. I even had to cancel a workshop, something I have never had to do before.
All of this is insignificant, I know. None of it is life-threatening. There's just a bunch of stupid little things going on all at the same time, making me feel like I'm running in circles. From what I gather, we will be out of Mercury Retrograde after the 20th of the month, just in time for the beginning of the holidays, thank God. I can't even imagine dealing with a family holiday in the thick of it.
So, for those of us who are extra-sensitive, especially me being a full-blown Scorpio while the retrograde is in Scorpio, fear not! There is hope. Maybe a drink is in order, I really don't know. But, for today I can tell you this: I spent my time in pajamas, on this cold stormy day on the mountain, drinking coffee and listening to good old CD's, while attempting to work from my home-office on my computer. Did I succeed? No, but that's totally fine. I spent the day in a peaceful warm house, grateful for hot water and good food. Now that the evening is headed into night, I'm typing this blog while clothes spin around in the dryer. I don't know about you, but for this former homeless veteran of the gutter, I'm pretty much in heaven right about now, despite how the planets are aligned, or not.
There is no moral to this story. Just that, I was forced to slow down and remember that I am not in control. I am grateful to be alive, for this life that I'm living, for so many things I can't even count them all. And that's better than I've been in many long years. Mercury Retro-what? You've got nothing on me.
Stay warm, sleep well, and thanks for reading.
Look, we only have a limited number of days on this planet. Why waste them living in the beige?
I get it, beige can be comforting (almost). Sometimes the familiar feels safer than the unknown. Sometimes dimming your light for the sake of blending in seems important. And sometimes people spend their entire lives conforming to society's standards. They have trouble identifying who they are and what their true passion is. For them, it is easier to follow than to lead.
I'm not writing this to put people down. I'm writing this from experience. I chose to live in an uneventful mundane existence for many years. If I think about it long enough, I can try to blame it on others. But the truth is we all make choices every single day, every minute of every day. WE are all we have to blame, not out of guilt or shame, but just because we didn't know any better.
For me, I didn't want to rock the boat. I wanted to fit in. I strove to be a part of my community. The only way I knew how to do that was to blend in, like a chameleon. I tried to be like all the other wives, moms, coworkers. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to appear successful. I was insecure, self-conscious. I didn't want anyone to see what was really going on inside me.
We are all we have to blame, not out of guilt or shame, but just because we didn't know any better.
I believe that we are all born with innate abilities and talents to create - to create something, anything. Some of us are slow learners, like me. But that doesn't mean it's impossible to break free from whatever holds us back, no matter how long that takes.
The loves of my life have always been writing and making art. I started at a young age with journaling, sketching and oil paints. But as I grew into the angst of adolescence, my style changed into something edgier, a bit dark and definitely different than pretty landscapes and still-lifes. My tastes in the arts ranged from punk rock, with the soul-shaking voice and lyrics of Joe Strummer, to authors like J. D. Salinger, specifically the book, The Catcher in the Rye; from the funky contemporary artwork of Andy Warhol, to the over-the-top clothing designs of Betsey Johnson.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost. Adulthood came screaming into my life at the young age of 19. Before I even knew what hit me, I was married, had a baby, a mortgage and a business to run. The rat-race had begun, and every day was a "Ready! Set! GO!!" to the finish line - death. Sometimes death sounded like a better solution to me than life. I don't mean that I wanted to die, just that I'd rather close my eyes and fall asleep and never wake up. Some of you will get this, some won't. I had a load of responsibilities, unequipped to handle any of them, and felt like I was drowning most of the time. I wanted so desperately to do everything right, not make mistakes, and to be accepted by everyone.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost.
In a nutshell, I was a ticking time-bomb. I squeezed myself into a little box. It wasn't sparkly or brightly colored. It was beige, camouflaged. I became invisible. I became just like all the other housewives and moms around me. I didn't want to stand out. I didn't want anyone to think I was weird or different. Worst of all, I didn't want anyone to label me as one of those teenage pregnancy statistics. By the time I was 21, I had two babies to care for. Trust me, I got a lot of stares and hurtful comments just about everywhere I went.
Resentments and regrets were swelling up inside of me. My childhood dreams of traveling the world, meeting artists and radicals, and writing books about my experiences were tucked away in my memories until they finally disappeared in the category of "nonsensical things". I learned quickly to become practical and frugal. I got a cookbook and taught myself how to cook dinners for my husband. I stuck to a budget, changed diapers, and did it all with a smile.
It was just a matter of time before I imploded.
My soul was broken.
My record albums got put into boxes. So did my paints and brushes, journals and books. There were more important things to focus on now, like decorating a home (all in beige), grocery shopping for a family of four, balancing the checkbook and paying bills, laundry and cleaning the house. That pretty much summed up my days for a solid decade. I wasn't even 30 yet, and I felt like I was 50.
I got a desk job working for a local municipality. The benefits were great, the pay not so much. But my husband was the breadwinner so I guess it really didn't matter. I got the job because the kids were growing up, in school all day, and I was bored.
We moved into a cookie-cutter neighborhood where all the houses were beige. I hung a wreath on the front door so I'd know which house was ours (true story). My work wardrobe consisted of pleated pants and dress shirts - beige and white - and closed-toe black shoes, with no more than a 2" heel. My hair was pulled back into a ponytail and I didn't wear makeup. I was as beige as beige can be.
My soul was broken. That's the best way I can describe it - when you give up on life, settle for less than you know you deserve. You live a groundhog's day of existence. Day in and day out, you go through the motions. The routine becomes so ingrained that you could do it all in your sleep. That's how I felt for years, like I was in a coma.
There was nothing to look forward to. Spontaneity was gone. There were no surprises. Even hope faded away. There was no color left in my life. But all it took was a little nervous breakdown at age 34 to snap me out of it. Seriously, out of ALL of it!
Periodic meltdowns are important to encourage change in one's life - embrace them. I'm not recommending you force yourself to have one, even if that was a possibility. Trust me, they aren't fun to go through. They are downright messy, and if you're lucky you'll get some good drugs from your therapist. But for me, I chose to go directly through it cold-turkey.
The gory details of why the meltdown happened aren't necessary, they never are. The beauty of it is that it freed me from the life I was living, like being in a hypnotic state and finally opening my eyes. On the couch in a therapist's office, I took my first breath, seriously. I took a deep long breath like I was gasping for air. Sounds like being reborn, doesn't it? I think I was.
Colors started to appear almost immediately. This is no joke. I got my own house and decorated it with lots of vibrant colors. I grew a garden full of flowers. Beige no longer existed in my life. That included my job and the style of clothes I wore. A little bit of makeup and some hair-dye, and I was off and running into my new life. That's exactly what it was, a new life.
Sometimes changes happen quickly, sometimes slowly. In my experience, what appeared to happen quickly slowed down for a number of years. But that didn't mean they went back to beige. Something was percolating under the surface - creative dreams of deep burgundies and bright turquoise. My life was manifesting right before my eyes, like a magical trip filled with pinks and greens. Shimmering and sparkling like fireflies' reflections on a still pond during a warm summer's night, my world was evolving.
Effortlessly, everything blossomed in all of the colors of the spectrum, so vivaciously you could taste them. The sky was bluer, the leaves were greener. The rust-colored tones of the sunrise peered through my bedroom window, gently waking me into a day filled with yellow butterflies, bluebirds, and red roses. The world was more alive, I was grateful for my life just the way it was, and there wasn't a stitch of beige to be found anywhere in this new tapestry.
Look, we only have a limited number of days on this planet. Why waste them living in the beige? Be who you were born to be. Talk to a four-year-old to get perspective on life again. Jump in the mud puddles, sing loud (even if you sing off-key), splatter some paint on a canvas, write something really horrendous, eat a big hunk of chocolate cake and wear your best dress while doing it. Break some rules, skinny-dip, laugh a lot. Stop taking yourself so seriously that you can't even stand to be in your own company. Love your body, color your hair pink or blue or purple. Dig out those old record albums and play them all night long. Dance, act in a play, push your boundaries. Be unapologetically brave. Pull out your courage and expose it to the world. Take back your power and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
Choose to be red, or yellow, or orange, or any other color you want. Live today like it's the last day of your life, and never look back.
Thanks for reading.
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
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© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.