On bottlenecks and cutting knots

24 06 2015



There it is again. Sudden OVERLOAD! I’ve reached the limits of my brain: mental tiredness, tense muscles, tears just beneath the surface, a need to cry and/or scream and an indescribable desire to sleep. Somehow, I have not given myself the care I needed. I have not honored the rituals that allow my body and mind to be aligned with my soul. The result is invariably the same. Part of me still resists. Part of me thinks it is stupid that I cannot do what most people take for granted. Part of me wants to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. I can, but then there will be days when I feel like this, and I need to ask myself if that is worth it. I have been going to bed late, I have been skipping journaling, meditating, regulated screen time and time when I actively engage in nothing, time that I just sit in a chair or lie in bed and stare into nothingness, watching the birds in the garden or the clouds pass by.

I had gotten trapped in busy-ness. Interestingly, it is not the busy-ness that gets me derailed. At first, I notice a surge in energy, I’m flying high. But then,  I get lost in it. Especially when I don’t check in with myself regularly.Then instead of processing the things I want to do in an orderly fashion, my brain obsessively keeps going back to the unfinished things. I guess we all do that, we keep going back until it is finished. First, I thought that writing them down would help, and it helped, a bit. Defining next steps, helped too, to a degree. What I am noticing now is that I am stacking, it’s a bottleneck, and it is blocking the flow of energy. I need to make decisions, cut some knots. The thing is that is not my forte. More accurately, I am decisively impaired. It’s both brain make-up and conditioning. And it is making me feel less than. As you can imagine, that doesn’t feel too good, and it certainly doesn’t inspire joy.

So I decided I want to get good at decision-making. I want to overrule conditioning and work around biology. From where I stand that means that I need to start cutting the seeming Gordian knots in my mind, preferring wrong decisions over no decisions, trusting that everything will work out just fine. Whoa! Getting nauseous only thinking of it. I am terrified of making wrong decisions, and allowing myself to make them will require a high degree of self-compassion and extreme self-care. Which means too that I will need to grow up and let go of any resistance I might feel around taking the best possible care of myself, whatever that may mean at any particular moment. Life feels best when the energy is flowing freely, when I feel part of the Flow. Flow IS Joy. Allowing Flow is allowing Joy. What I want not only is a joy-inspiring life, but a flow-allowing life. Flow requires balancing doing and being, dreaming and acting. I am all pro inspired action, but I now see that like anything else this requires practice and fine-tuning. I will allow myself to make decisions, the best possible decisions, celebrate them no matter the outcome, and learn from them. Life will lead me.


Image by Kliverap

Joy is …

17 06 2015



It may come as no surprise that I have been focusing on joy, this past week. ‘Does this inspire joy?’ has become my mantra. What I have found is that neither the question nor the answers are as obvious as they might seem. For what is joy? What does joy feel like? And maybe most importantly: what does it feel like to me?
What better than a blank canvas to discover just that? This week I stacked up on small canvases and one very big one to do just that. The small canvases really are small canvases, 25x25cm or 10″x10″, linen on cardboard, intended to allow myself to just do, and feel, and mess up, and succeed, and fail, and explore shape and texture and color and pattern, to allow me to discover what feels like joy, and what doesn’t. The big canvas is about 3m high x 3,5m long x 2m wide or 10′x12′x7′, and it is not as much a canvas as it is a trailer. Last Saturday, we bought a trailer.

I love camping, always have camped; cannot imagine my life without it. What I love most about it is being so close to nature. Growing up, we camped rather primitively: low to the ground, almost no luxury, but it was golden, because we were spending time together as a family. When we started going on vacation without my parents, we continued camping the way I always had. Seven years ago, we upgraded. We got a powered cooler, and with that came electricity as well. Two years later, we bought a huge tent, high chairs and a high table. I loved it. Last year, putting up the tent costed us about 3 hours, in the burning sun. It was then and there that I had had it with tents. What I want is hassle-free camping. I love the idea of a home on wheels: less packing. I love the idea of quick arriving and leaving. But what I love most is having a beautiful and organized little home wherever we go.
We decided didn’t need a bathroom, or tons of space, or one that was beautiful on the outside, what we wanted was a blank canvas. A well-cared for trailer that could be easily converted to a sweet little home. And that is exactly what I found. The big bonus: this trailer has not only been well-cared for, it has been loved. It belonged to an elderly couple who loved camping first as a family, then together. The husband died three years ago. Selling wasn’t easy for the lady, because she wasn’t selling a trailer, she was selling memories. This love, more than anything else, I discovered, inspired joy within me.

I am so excited. I’ve been creating inspiration boards on Pinterest to discover what caravan interior inspires joy in me. I am being laughed at and mocked by both my husband and my daughter, but visualizing this make-over is so much fun! Interestingly, the things that inspire joy usually are different from what I imagined. It’s a process. I am discovering that these canvases (the small ones and the big one alike) are as much an exploration of how joy feels to me, as of how it expresses itself through me. I am learning to articulate joy, not only in words, but in everything I do. Joy, I found, in essence, is an act of Self-expression.


Joy, to me, feels

light and bubbly like Prosecco,

in the shade of a tree on a warm day;

Spring, fresh and luscious flowering green;

a clear Summer night, stars and campfire;

leaves of old trees rustling in the wind;

standing next amidst Redwood giants;

waves washing ashore, never endingly;

laying next to my girl, giggling,

softly caressing her face, sniffing her scent;

the belly-laugh provoking dry humor of my man

still surprising me after 25 years;

paints and pastels and embroidery threads

in every color imaginable;

messing around, playing

with color, texture, print and self-appointed tools;

yellowish green leaves floating on a gentle stream,

meandering through flowering meadows;

sitting on top of a mountain,

nothing but the sound of wind in my ears;

the crazy wagging tail and innocent excitement

of my dog after I’ve been away for one minute;

light and airy on the outside,

warm and cosy on the inside;

ease, simplicity, beauty, sensuality,

love, peace, kindess, a soul-lit smile;

being recognized for who I am, and loved as I am,

by my tribe, my soul family.


Now, what does joy feel like to you?

The Joy Quest

10 06 2015



The thing I have learned about friendship is that you find the most amazing friends in the most unlikely places. And the thing that takes me aback every time again is how we relate to each other on so many levels. With one friend, I skype once a month. Our intention is to support each other’s becoming, but we talk about everything, including self-made lipstick pouches. The thing she made me realize is that I want more joy in my life, unadultered joy. She is on the same quest. She has a Jewish background, me a judeo-christian. The thing we have in common, amongst other things, is that we both have a strong sense of guilt. Not the obvious visible kind, but a pervasive undercurent, something that is always present. We live a guilt-infused life. I first realized this during a session of psychodynamic therapy.

Years ago, I had been referred to this therapist by my doctor, because I felt my extreme tiredness had more to do with outdated beliefs than with anything physical. After listening to my story, the therapist wrote some words on A4s (without me seeing which) and let me put them face down on the ground as I pleased. Then she asked me to go stand on one of the A4s. As I was standing on the first white A4, I felt nothing, trying really hard, the best I could come up with was ‘heaviness around the heart.’ “Right!” I thought to myself. Stepping on the next paper, I was in for a surprise: the temperature in the room changed, it got warm, and I was flooded with uncomfortable feelings and emotions that weren’t there before. Standing on the next paper, I felt such sadness and tears came pouring from me like it would never end. The last paper was the weirdest. I just couldn’t stand still, with my feet ‘glued’ to the floor, I was swinging to all sides, and I felt ‘onbestemd’ (vague, undefined, indeterminate, literally: without destiny). I stood on the first paper again, and with a more open mindset, I was able to refine the heaviness around my heart to guilt. Then the therapist asked me to turn around the A4s so we could see which word was written under them. The first read ‘normal’ – my normal, the second ‘incubator’, the third ‘tiredness’, and the fourth ‘Hermien’.

In the past years, I actively worked on embracing and releasing the pain I felt in relation to ‘incubator’ and ‘sadness’. As a result, I started to embrace not only my name (which until then I had not felt connected to) but everything that is related to it. In the last year, I somehow descended into myself. I know it sounds vague, but I no longer feel undefined. I feel as if, for the first time, I fit into myself, like my body, mind and soul fit together like a puzzle. Yet apart from becoming more and more aware of the feeling of guilt in every area of my life, I had no clue what to do with it. This week, after talking to my friend, it hit me: the antidote to guilt is joy.  Last week, my friend had told me she had been organizing her stuff these last weeks. She had discovered Mari Kondo’s organization philosophy and she had gotten hooked. She explained to me that it was all about joy, that you only keep the things that ‘inspire joy.’ That made sense, big time. For years, I have looked for ways of organizing my life better. And I only keep things that I either love, are functional, and preferably both. It works to a degree, but the ‘functional’ category is a hotchpotch. I can see how a big part of my life is still a hotchpotch. I am still holding on to things, emotions and ideas I don’t need anymore, including the completely outdated, culturally-induced sense of guilt.

I have never been so clear on what I want. I want to live a joy-inspired life. I am going to let go of anything that doesn’t inspire joy in my life. From the cloths I wear to the foods I eat to the activities I undertake, the thing I’ll be focusing on is joy. I AM joy and I want my life to reflect that.


On creativity

3 06 2015



This week, I allowed creativity to flow through me. I didn’t try to define it, or confined myself to a certain definition of it. I just allowed it, and felt the ease and dis-ease of it. Ease in the process of creation, dis-ease in allowing it to be whatever it is. I found it interesting to witness within myself: the need to confine myself to a certain experience, because in my mind only that will allow me to focus, the need to focus in order to be productive. But it would be the unwisest thing I could do, at this moment. The process of finding one’s voice is all about discovery. I never did that in my life; I never allowed myself the time to try on different things, I always committed to a choice too soon. So, as much as I feel the need to commit, I won’t. I will allow myself to play around in order to discover what really makes me tick, and how that feels to me.

In our western society, we are so action-oriented, so focused on moving forward, that we often take action in order not to feel or be (perceived as) inactive or unproductive, move forward in order not to be (perceived as) standing still. And as a result we build our life on busy-ness. A life built on sand, collapsing at the smallest lifequake.  Regularly standing still is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Not taking action because we feel we need to do something, but instead making peace with where we are standing, making sure our happiness is independent of our next move. Really, I can’t tell you how much I want to get into the game, make money, be productive again, but now is not the time. I will not sacrifice my happiness for any of those desires. I simply will not. If I have learned anything in these last years, it is that taking action too soon makes things worse. Some day, in the near future, the things I want will happen, not because I make them so, but as a byproduct of creating a life I love.

Life IS creation. Creating this life experience is the ultimate human creativity. We are all creators, all of the time. Life artists per se. Life flows most easily when we allow it to flow, when we let go of our resistance. So does creativity, regardless of your preferred form of expression, be it code, gardening, writing, painting, parenting or law. Everything becomes art when we allow it to flow naturally.