Surrendering my work to the Muse

After the initial thrilling release of resigning my job last Monday, it took only about 24 hours for pure terror to set in.  There were three threads: “How will I replace that income?”, “What work will I do?” and “Who will I be?”  I had moments of elation still, but they oscillated very quickly with this cold fear running up my back.  Wednesday night, when I spoke on the phone to my men’s group, I did represent to them that I felt good about this move.  But I did also acknowledge the terror: “I’m afraid I won’t be able to support myself.”

The front of our grocery store is locally known as a hub of buskers.  Most of the time, we have a singer out in front of the store.  Thursday morning I was returning to work from my ten minute break – spent, as it was any time the weather allows, sitting on the curb around the corner…where I can be outside and by myself.  I saw Ginnie playing her guitar and singing, and thought “I could be a busker”.  “No you can’t – you can’t sing or play the guitar.”

Baba busker

In Buskerland outside of Earth Fare.  This guy’s sign says “Sacred Geometry, Numerology”.  “Spontaneous poetry” will not be a stretch for these folks – especially since so many of them already know and like and trust me.

Then it all started to bubble up.  My friend Lynn Adams had told me years ago about a busker at her local farmers market who set up a manual typewriter on a little table and sold poetry: you tell him what you wanted the poem to be about and he typed it up spontaneously as you stood there and you paid him for it.  Lynn said to me, “You could do this – you should do this.”  At that point, I really did not believe that I could to it.  Yes, when the Muse spoke to me I would write very spontaneously – it would all come out in a rush.  It came from somewhere else.  I tapped into Spirit.  But it mostly didn’t come when I chose it. It came when the Muse wanted to move me.  It was not poetry on demand – you pay me $x and I write a poem on the topic of your choosing.

But over the last few years I have been leaning into improv poetry.  First I did some at an Interplay workshop: I didn’t think I could do it, but somebody encouraged me to try.  It was killer and blew all of us out.  At Tom Kilby and Amanda Levesque’s Fringe Fest one-hour show two years ago, I inserted improv poetry at seven points in the show.  It was very successful – really captured/mirrored/amplified their own improv theater.  At Jessica Chilton’s Shine Expansive a few years ago I did some improv poetry that we all loved.

I’m ready!  I may not always feel the truth of this, but it is true.


Surrendering My Life To the Muse

It’s been six days – Monday – since I surrendered to the inner guidance to leave my job.

I had been told two weeks before – way too late in the process – that I had too much income to qualify for Battery Park Apartments, the subsidized senior living apartments for which I had applied a year before.  When the apartment manager looked at my income figures, she said, “Your social security income gets you right up next to our limit – you would have to quit your job.”

When I lamented on my plight on Facebook, this is a composite of what several of my friends said: “You are meant for this living situation – you know it.  They are nice apartments downtown at a livable rent.  The location will agree with you.  You need desperately to be nesting.  You need your own place.  You have held up extraordinarily well considering the circumstances – seven homes in ten months – but it has worn on you even more than you know.  Stop.  Do this.  Quit your job.”

Battery Park 5-18

Battery Park Apartments, downtown Asheville

When I checked the numbers carefully, my Social Security check got me right up to the allowed income – lowering my hours at Earth Fare was not an issue.  At first quitting seemed just impossible.  I think it’s actually the residue of all the little choices to stay in a job that is so monotonous – that has been so hard on my creativity.  Again and again I have told myself, “You have to stay here.  You need the money.  You need to be working – stay!”  Even the initial consideration that I might quit started to peel the scab off the wound.  Each day I saw more and more that five to eight hours a day standing on my feet in one place repeating transaction after transaction did beat me up.  I used all the creativity at my disposal to make these transactions creative – and many of them were.  Some were magical.  But oh it has been hard work.

I had such a deeply ingrained taboo that “You must not let go of this job”, but when the letting go happened it came so easily.  Monday morning I was talking to the manager of the apartments.  “Can you guarantee that if I give up my job I will then qualify for your apartments.”  “Yes.”  “OK, then I’ll do it – I’ll quit my job.”

I was not feeling totally ready to actually do the quitting.  I had a little short list of people I wanted to talk to before I took that step.  I told myself that I would talk to my boss tomorrow.  But then at my afternoon break, as I was leaving my station, there Nicole was.  “Oh, do it.”  “Nicole, can I have a couple of minutes with you?”  “Sure, right after I respond to this one call.”

Nicole was wonderful.  She is a new supervisor, but she had the poise of a pro.  I know she likes me a lot, I know she wouldn’t want me to leave – and so many people are leaving at the same time.  But she took in the situation for just a moment after I gave her the news and then said, “I hate it that you are going – we will hate to lose you – but it’s so great that you are moving to this wonderful new living situation.  I hope it all works out great for you.

So far, letting go was working great – it was, in fact, thrilling.  I move in on Saturday.  But I had no idea all that was to come.

Customer Service as Sacred Work: my workshop for the Creation Spirituality conference – and for you

Principle 4 of Creation Spirituality: Every one of us carries within us the capacity to be a mystic, to be creative, to be visionary, and to be an agent for positive change.

Whether we are servers or customers, we all get lots of chances to exchange energy in  customer service interactions.  Part of the beauty of these interactions is that they are so omnipresent: if we enrich them it can make a genuine difference in our quality of life – and we get to try them again and again to have them work in satisfying ways.  cashier 3

For this 90-minute workshop, we start with warm-ups to get us loose with each other, then practice four components of a customer service interaction (all magically getting our focus while we are simultaneously running the business – like cashiering – of the interaction):

  1. greeting
  2. connection
  3. affirmation/validation
  4. blessing

For a sweet and insightful glimpse of the affirmation/validation component of these interactions, watch Validation – the Parking Attendant.  The validation component is very powerfully presented in the first five minutes of the video, but the remaining 11 minutes comprise a sweet little love story that is also very worth watching.

Contact me if you would like me to offer this workshop to a large or small group of your choosing (friends/neighbors, church, work group).  For the time being, I am wanting to explore the power of this workshop and am willing to offer it very inexpensively to social groups and for a modest expense to business groups.

Talking trash in the checkout line

I don’t know where I got my penchant for bullshit, but definitely one thing that for me helps the day go by at work is saying a lot of stuff that there is no way I mean.

My son was definitely on to this quality of mine at an early age.  I think he was probably ten, maybe twelve, when he heard me giving a line of shit to some friend who was buying it hook, line and sinker.  Now part of the joy of this shit-slinging is to make it so over the top that the receiver could really see right away that they are being teased – but to do it with such feigned seriousness that, unless they know this part of you, they still are sucked in by the story.  When I really had this person way out over the edge and they still had not fully caught on to me, Terry jumped in with lots of enthusiasm.  “No, he doesn’t mean it!  There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates a moment before he starts.  This is all made up!” (I don’t think he was openly using the BS word at that age.)

So the other day – the day before Easter – a 60ish female customer was checking out and I had just swiped a plastic container full of olives.  Her male companion teased her, with some background information that I – having no memory of either of them – knew nothing about.  (It’s a little trickier doing bullshit teasing with people you have no history with, but I was on a roll that day.) He asked her, “So do you buy olives every year on the day before Easter?”

I thought he may  already have been teasing her – maybe that’s what inspired me.  I jumped in and answered for her.  “Yes, it’s a Latvian thing” (a long dramatic pause to give them a chance to already catch on that I’m BS’ing, but they apparently were still on the hook: “Where is he going with this?”)  “Yes…”(“There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates.”)  “According to the Latvians, if you eat olives the day before Easter, you get good luck for an hour.”

It was the “for an hour” part that was intended to take it so far over the top that the jig is up. And the guy, bless his soul, was such a good little natural improv-person that he immediately gave me an improv “yes…and” response.  “So that would be a good time to buy lottery tickets.”  “Right, but you’ve got to do it within an hour.”  The woman was maybe a little slower to pick up on the joke, but by that point she was definitely following along – though I don’t remember her fully joining in with the fun.  But it was definitely a good time for all three of us.  And especially for me, having just risked some of my favorite kind of humor and had it work out.

Yesterday I was slinging some BS to a couple of co-workers.  Sepi and I had both worked at Greenlife, one of our competitor health-food supermarkets.  Sometimes it’s interesting or fun to compare that store with this one.  We were doing this.  One difference we have frequently noted is that Greenlife – for ten years now a subsidiary of Whole Foods – has more formal policies than our smaller 40-store chain.  I don’t know what got the three of us started on underwear – or in any way suggested that I could take the conversation in this direction – but I said in total apparent seriousness, “Well they do have a policy at Greenlife that you have to wear underwear, but we have no such policy here.”  Sheri Lynn, who has a great sense of humor and, even if she has only spotted the BS in the last little phrase, can pick it up and run with it said, “Well it’s a good thing we don’t have that policy here, because you would clearly be breaking it all the time.”

Sherri Lynn is a few years younger than me, but I moved from improv BS to reminiscing, “When you were growing up, were parents still teaching kids that you had to always wear clean underwear in case you got in an auto accident and they took you to the hospital?”  Sheri Lynn did definitely remember this, though I’m pretty sure if your audience got a little younger, people would just stare at you.

Ah, the things that help the day go by in the checkout line….

Kathy Edwards on the Releasing the Force blog

WOW!!! Really, this is truly AWESOME!! I have been feeling so under powered in terms of where to go and what to do with my political integrity, my deep despair, feeling the repressed rage which we all know where that leads …

I feel in this blog (gosh, its so much more than a blog) I have found a connection back to the core of my authenticity. I mean this is like a one stop, feel good shop of vibrant hope! I watched tons of Stephen Colbert, I am definitely going to start coming to the Artist Way, workshops on Monday’s, even ordered the book. I too went to see The Post and was profoundly moved to tears. Your blog made me feel the spirit of so much destiny toward our highest selves our better selves amidst all that is going on.  Gawd I could on here … I am thoroughly impressed with this effort.

New from me – Releasing the Force: Activism with Heart

Dear friend –
I have a new project that has me totally excited.  What I really want to say is that I have found my mission – at least for this chapter of my life.
The project is called Releasing the Force: Activism with Heart.  Its purpose is to support people who feel that it might be the right time to get more politically involved, but don’t know where to start – or who feel that the whole mess is too toxic to touch. It also can serve people who already are about as involved as they want to be, but need a shot in the arm.
The project will involve four components:
  1. A new blog! Just launched!  I’m so excited!  It already has so much great content – and there are already lots more blog posts that I have outlined to write.  And it’s beautiful!  Lots of great pictures and links to songs and video.  Subscribe to it in the upper right hand corner, so you will hear by email when a new post is published.
  2. A book with the same name.  Call me crazy, but I want it published by May, in time for it to have some impact on the November elections.  I think that if I self-publish I’m just on fire enough to do that.  I welcome your feedback – but no discouraging words, even if they feel to you like “just reality”.
  3. Public speaking – starting with a four-minute “Gift” at Jubilee this Sunday.  It’s going to be videotaped and I’ll post it on the blog next week. Bring me in to speak to your group!
  4. Activism with Heart coaching from me.  Could be just what you need to get or keep going. Click this link for more to go to that page on my Releasing the Force blog.  Call or write me for more information.

    laughing 2 color

    Activism coaching can support you on your path towards freedom.

Watch for a crowdfunding pitch soon to come.
  • A book is going to cost some money – even if just for editing.
  • So much of this revolves around my computer (it’s my light saber!) – and mine is a ten-year old refurbished beater on its last legs.
  • They are reducing all of our hours at Earth Fare and I can’t make ends meet.  If I take a second or a new job – which I am exploring (anybody know somebody at Trader Joe’s?) – it may wipe me out for this new project.
  • Do you have experience with any of the various crowdfunding platforms? I’d love to hear it.
Got ideas, encouragement or feedback?  Please share.  Write or call 828-582-9822.
If all you do is bless this project, wish me good things, visualize me being successful, that’s a lot – actually will be awesome.
Majo John

Merry Day After the Day After Christmas

I sing a song of Christmas
All  the things that happened and that didn’t happen
The times I reached out
And the times I kept my mouth shut
Christmas more than any other day
Is so overloaded with meanings
Memories and disappointments
How do we touch the fantasied
Joys of Christmas past?
How do we make up for
All the pain we have endured on this day?
And it’s not just us
All around us – everywhere in our society
People reaching too high
Being brought too low
If I can get this to happen with this person
I will be vindicated as a person
It will validate my life
Once all these false ornaments
Have fallen off the Christmas tree
What is left?

Today I kept my mouth shut
When I felt the urge to say things
That could have stirred old wounds
Today I completely emptied my storage locker
Itself an exercise in confronting old demons
And tiny Christine, the property manager
Offered, from the goodness of her heart,
To help me of the broken wing
My immobility an assault on my manliness
Not inconsequential
To hoist two boxes into my car
Then did it all by herself
And my hundred dollar monthly payments end today
Today, my therapist Lorrie listened to me
And helped me make sense of all this and more
Helped me understand
That I’m making up all the meanings I put on these things
That I don’t have to do anything to fix these things
That my pain is mine to deal with
That no one needs to heal it
That no one needs to hear it
But maybe my therapist and maybe a good friend
Today my housemate Lucy
A good friend
Listened to me
While I reinforced what I needed to remember from Lorrie
While I sorted out some things that were still not clear
While I praised  myself for some little victories
While I extolled my love for people who have helped me
And people who have pissed me off
Today the guy at Hearn’s Cycles
To whom I took my brother’s old bike

That he gave me when he was dying of cancer
And now it seems that I am never going to ride
And have no place to keep
Which I desperately wanted to save from  the dump
The Hearn’s guy, on whom I dumped all this story
Gave me a strong handshake
Looked me in the eye
And said “Your brother’s bike will have new life.
I promise you this.”

Today, having returned from slaying and being half slain by
All these dragons
At the storage locker and the bike shop and the dump
My little four pound dog Toni
Greeted me like the hero I’ve always tried to be
And in one day have proved so often not to be
And maybe am anyway
She snuggled in my arms
And got very quiet and totally content
In that moment she wanted nothing else
And in that moment, that one blessed moment
Neither did I.