Shame = Shy

Something momentous just occurred to me... I realized that I have lead a shame-based life. 

I am natural introvert. I am highly sensitive and empathic. I am also a girl. These things together developed into what I call 'a shy person'. Yet, in this revelation I just had, I realized I had been taught to have shame and that shame became shy.

I was thinking how I was taken to the doctor and put on diets because I was chubby. How I was to fast all day and then just eat dinner. A young teen, fasting... teaching her metabolism to go even slower. A young teen, fasting... not having the nutrients a growing brain needed.  

How I was sabotaged. A visit to the doctor, another diet to follow. "No gravy for me," I'd tell the Mom who'd taken me to the Doctor yet again to 'fix' my problem. "Just this once," she'd say to me. "I'd better not have any lemon meringue pie Mom," I'd say. "Just this once," she'd reply.

Thirteen years old, going to a new high school, already feeling ashamed of my body for its size and its treachery in growing breasts, the bullying that started in elementary school continued, but more intensely. I lived in terror everyday but never said a word to anyone. I must be this hateful thing. I was taking up too much space. Getting in everyone's way. 

I craved to be invisible. And so I ate more, loathing myself for doing so but finding solace in the pleasure of burying my head in a romance novel while stuffing my face with cheezies.

Everything around me sent the message that I was lazy and, most of all, very stupid.

At thirteen years of age my reading comprehension was tested and it was determined that I had the comprehension level of a first year university student. Despite this, I almost failed Grade 8 with D's across the board.

At fourteen years of age I was invited to sing my original songs on tour with my high school choir.

At fifteen years of age the producer who was recording my high school choir heard me sing and invited me to make a demo.

At sixteen years of age I entered a poetry competition and won first prize.

By the age of sixteen I had taught myself to play the guitar and piano, I had played flute, piccolo and trumpet in high school band.

I drew and painted all the time. I wrote realms of poetry. Some of it was about how much I hated myself and one day, looking at it, I threw that away but there was still plenty left. I have a box of it. Poems and lyrics and songs.

I was taught I was wasted space. I had no value. I would never be good enough.

This is the tsunami that bowls me over each time I try to take a step in a positive direction. It washes over me, takes me down, pushes me into the darkness. I fight, but I can't breathe. I fight, but it feels futile. 

Yet I have seen the sun. I have survived and floated to the surface and been amazed at the beauty around me. The beauty within me. I know I am a caring, compassionate, thoughtful person. Being highly sensitive is a gift that allows me to help others. And this gives meaning to my life. 

I have value. And not because I've earned it or had it bestowed upon me. Because it is intrinsic to being a human being and artistic soul. It simply is.

Sharing my process...

Launching a youtubechannel to log my Daily Musical 
Journal as inspired by Hans Zimmer's Masterclass.

How do you talk to yourself?

I call myself the shysinger-songwriter and theshysinger and the shyvoice - there's probably many things I could put a 'shy' in front of because I lived it and I was it and I am it still in many ways. If there is one thing I could tell you about that which would help you if you are also shy, it's that it is possible to change. I found a way, and that's why I share my journey.

If you're here and reading this then perhaps the word 'shy' resonates with you. In some fashion, you identify yourself as being uncomfortable in social situations. Making 'small talk' feels like a damn 'big deal'. Seeing someone you know on the street makes you dash into a store hoping they didn't see you.  Yep.

I felt so awkward and stupid I avoided people as much as possible. Yet, at the same time, I yearned to connect. I'd sit in a corner at a party beside the potted plant trying to be invisible, and leave feeling miserable. Why didn't people like me? What is wrong with me? At the same time, I never gave them a chance.

I credit the study of singing for my emancipation from past programming and my transformation into a shy person who enjoys social interaction. But it's not the actual act of singing that made the difference. It was the journey to becoming a singer that did.

What do I mean by that?

In order to change anything, you first have to be aware of it. I'm sure you've heard people say that. It's a few words strung together in a sentence, but to live those words takes time and perseverance. There came a point in my singing journey where I decided it did not matter if I ever sang anywhere. I just felt deep inside that if I kept going, kept trying, kept working, one day, something would shift and I would move forward.

Because how you think when you are actively engaged in a creative endeavor makes a huge difference in your ability to perform, becoming aware of how you think is key to developing your artistic skill.

Over time I began to understand that because I thought so negatively, because I expected to fail or feared failing in the moment, I actually did what I didn't want to do because that's the thing on which I was focused. Big time.

When your brain is shouting "You're boring! You're boring!" at you when you are in the coffee room and someone has initiated a conversation with you, you choke up, you can't think of anything to say, you feel lame and awkward. Maybe you even - like I used to - stammer out your replies, hating yourself for how you feel and perhaps even hating them for making you feel like this (not their fault at all).

So, how do you change your thought process?

I really have to recommend something I started when I was reading Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way', and that's morning pages. Get yourself a big notebook, get up 20 minutes earlier, and write three pages of stream of consciousness... everything on your mind, just write and write without editing or stopping... if you can't think of anything to write, write about that. Do this every day for at least three months (and maybe forever). 

At first perhaps it will feel like nothing is happening. But after a while, you will see the things that you write about again and again. And you will see how you talk to yourself. What words you use. For me this is the first step in raising your consciousness, and the first step to becoming less shy.

Don't Read This.

Why are you reading this? I specifically gave instructions not to. For good reason. If you read this, you might actually force me to say something meaningful. That rather goes against the grain of someone who is a high-flying achiever in the art of procrastination.

Now I know you are probably idly wondering how I became a leader in the field of not-doing-today-what-can-be-left-to-next-week-or-possibly-next-year. It took some time and a lot of effort. You can't become a top dog overnight.

And I do admit that I had my struggles. My mother was a leader in the 'a place for everything, everything in its place' movement - not that she was ever acquainted with Benjamin Franklin as far as I know. She would do amazing things like make your bed while you were in the washroom at 5am before the sun even thought about rising. The fact that you had planned to sleep until at least noon did not make a dent in her hospital corners.

In the kitchen, woe betide you if you did not return the can opener to its assigned location, or sort the silverware into proper categories. We had dishes, and then we had the good dishes that only came out for holidays and those holidays were the only time we were permitted to use the dishwasher.

In fact, when watching that Julia Roberts' movie, 'Sleeping with the Enemy', I had flashbacks. (Possible spoiler...) Julia, in her new place, deliberately messes up her canned goods so they are not in neat rows and stacks. Later, she opens the cupboards and everything has been reorganized. Cue horror music.

I had this genetic compulsion to ensure that all i's are dotted and all t's are crossed. So much so that I was nicknamed 'Ms Organization' at more than one workplace.

One day, in a fit of determination, I went to my apartment kitchen and moved things. I put the sugar in a different cupboard. I moved the salt to the other side of the stove. They might have protested but I was firm.

I then drove myself crazy by opening the wrong cupboard for the sugar. For weeks. And weeks. All I remember is the constant opening of the 'old' cupboard and being reminded I'd put the sugar someplace 'new', growling at myself.

I imagine Mom, if she was watching this, might have had a good laugh.

I suppose my point is, if you're going to move the sugar, expect the neurons in your brain to revolt and continue to go back to the well-worn path of the 'old place' for a considerable length of time. If you don't give up, one day your arm will automatically go to the 'new place' without you even thinking about it. 

You might be tempted to then challenge yourself to change sugar locations again, just for fun. At that point it's probably best if you give up sugar altogether.

Procrastination Mastery 101

I am sure many of you wish to know how to procrastinate more effectively, if you could be bothered to ask. Not to worry, I have been thinking about procrastination and thinking about sharing my hints for procrastination mastery for some time. Now that I have pen to paper it's probably a good time to tell you what I've been thinking while you've been thinking about asking about it.

I could entitle this article 'Three Ways to Effectively Procrastinate without Getting Out of Bed' but that's a lot to type. However, now that I have and you know what this is, perhaps you might find the time to read it at some point.

Let's say you've reached this sentence without checking your email or falling asleep. That's step one! You're already successful!

But let's try to focus on the here and now and make our plan to become Masters at Procrastination before getting out of bed.

Item One: Wake Up. Now I know this is difficult. I'm not saying you have to set an alarm clock or open the drapes so the sun blares in and possibly causes you to come to consciousness. Perhaps the thought of French toast or a nice cup of coffee or taking out the dog so it doesn't wee on the carpet will entice you. But let's just say that waking up at some point is a given. Good.

Now that you are awake, Item Two is to Put the Phone Down. Or, even better, Don't Pick up the Phone. No indeed. Take a moment to breathe. Just breathe without thinking about anything at all. (If you fall back asleep now, it's ok. This is pretty exhausting stuff.) Once you have finished breathing and perhaps have an eye open and have resolutely not Picked up the Phone, I want you to reach for a pen and a notepad. 

Yes, real paper. Now this next part should be easy as you don't have to do anything but just write down what you are thinking. Even if it's just 'I am writing this stupid thing I'm supposed to do instead of Picking Up my Phone.' The challenge is to write a page of what you are thinking while you are thinking it, without worrying about spelling or making sense or even being able to read it after. 

Item Three: Put the Notepad Down but Don't Pick up Your Phone. Yikes. You may struggle with this one. I can hear my brain yelling 'but I have to check my email and look at the news and read my Twitter and what about Facebook!' But this is where the Mastery part of this comes in, because if we are going to Procrastinate well, it means not giving into Temptation. No cute kitten videos. Not yet.

Now. Listen closely. I want you to list five things that you are grateful for on this fine I-didn't-even-have-my-coffee-yet morning. Any five things you like. Mine might be things like... a good cup of tea, shortbread cookies, the sound of birds outside my window, the fact that I don't need to get up yet, and ice cream with chocolate sauce. Your list might vary from day to day. That's ok. We go with the flow.

A bonus item, one that I am told starts your day off brilliantly, is, when you do actually slide out of bed, before you Pick up Your Phone and perhaps before you Look in the Mirror, is to tell yourself you love you. And mean it.

Try that every day for three months, and report back. We'll be waiting.

Thinking about thinking

There was an interesting thought in one of the videos I watched lately. Basically, thinking about doing something is not doing something. Now, that seems a given, but, if you think about it, thinking about whatever it is you want to be doing or should be doing, while helpful to a point, may actually lead you to think you accomplished a doing while only thinking about a doing. This idea hit home as I am a great thinker, and it never occurred to me that all my to-do list making and outlines and plans and brainstorming might be a major obstruction.

It may be true that because we think we are thinking and therefore we are being. And while being is certainly something we should all aspire to, sometimes in order to become more of the being we were meant to be, we have to be doing as well.

Since we think more than we do, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking-not-doing, or, as I like to put it: dreaming-about-how-good-it-will-feel-to-have-accomplished-this-task.

So the thought for today is: Dream. Think. Plan. Visualize. But don't think about doing. Take action.

Make your bed

 Get up early to be still...