All posts by Angel

A Blank Canvas is a Gift

I’m 43 years old. Depending on your personal position on the timeline of life, you may think, “That’s so old,” or “Gosh, you’re still so young.” Or perhaps both. Old enough to feel regret but young enough to have the time to do something about it.

And I’ve been wallowing pretty badly in self-pity, going through my midlife crisis. As my skin begins to wrinkle and my hair begins to gray, I stare longingly at pictures of 20- and 30-something year olds, knowing that I will never have the stunning look of youth again. Those days are gone.

There are five stages of grief — the mourning of anything that is lost: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, 5. Acceptance. And I hope to goodness that I’m on to Acceptance soon because I’m becoming very tired of this midlife crisis thing. It’s been very annoying and inconvenient.

But in the acceptance of passing youth, I think that I’m finding myself. In the knowledge that I am the age that I am and there is absolutely nothing that I can do about that, I’m finding that I actually just like being me. It’s been a rough and bumpy ride to this point, full of tears, longing and anger, but I think I’m near the end.

When you are young, you constantly remake yourself in society’s current image of youth. Whichever subculture you choose, you wear the uniform and adopt the mannerisms to fit into your chosen group.

But none of that is available to you when you are older because all of our cultural images revolve around youth. We no longer are able to remake ourselves, left only with a blank canvas and painful longing and misunderstanding.

But every blank canvas is a gift. A divorce, a move, any kind of forced significant change: you are left shattered but with great opportunity. And, after being punched in the gut by life, when you finally get your wind back and are able to stand again, you realize that before you lies a wonderful, beautiful blank canvas. What shall I paint this time?

I’ll still miss my youthful skin, but it is pleasant to realize that I don’t have any references or ideas to model myself after. I have only me. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.

When You Finally Allow Yourself to Be Who You Truly Are, You Become Heroic

It’s extremely hard to allow yourself to just be. There are parts of every person’s personality that are so intense and over the top as to be embarrassing. I’ll give you an example. I plan and make lists to a stupid degree. I’m the kind of person that would make lists of my lists. I have lists and planners and calendars littered around my house and filling up my hard drive. In fact, I make so many lists and planners, that I used to hide my habit, embarrassed of all of my silly lists.

The problem is, when you feel embarrassed, you also feel shame. And when you feel ashamed, you feel like there is something wrong with you. So I hid my secret, carefully guarding my book of lists and calendars, never letting anyone on my computer, fearful that my dirty little secret would be revealed to the world.

It was a heavy burden to carry and one that I could never get rid of because, in the end, my neurotic borderline-OCD planning is who I am and I can’t change that. It’s at the core of who I am. I can change habits, but I can’t change core personality traits. So I remained embarrassed and sad and carried my secret with me.

And then I watched my daughter. She is seven years old and she makes lists and loves office supplies and calendars. At the tender age of seven, she wanted to learn Microsoft Word so she could write her lists up on the computer and print them out. Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, look at the environment in which she is raised. You make your lists and you have the big family calendar up in the kitchen.” This is true. Her environment nurtures this part of her, but it’s more than that. My son has absolutely no interest in lists or calendars. He could care less. But my daughter loves going to Office Depot as much as I do. Her desk is her sanctuary, just as mine is to me.

But there is one notable and significant difference between me and my daughter: she isn’t embarrassed. She embraces this part of herself with joy. She writes up her lists and plays with her calendar with a happiness that comes from within. She has so much fun, and she doesn’t care who watches her.

As we grow up and enter society and try to fit in, we start to hide parts of ourselves — important parts of ourselves. I’ve also hidden my love of Renaissance Festivals and Medieval music because I didn’t want to be seen as a big nerd. These parts of my personality slink around in the darkness like thieves staying to the night.

This message really spoke to me in How to Train Your Dragon. Hiccup wants so badly to fit in with all of the other Vikings who kill dragons. He tries desperately to kill dragons, but makes a total mess of it every time because, inside his heart, he’s not a dragon killer. There is a foreshadowing to this theme when his dad tells him, “You are many things, Hiccup, but a dragon killer is not one of them.” Of course, his dad doesn’t say this as a compliment, for to be a heroic Viking in the village of Berk, one must become a dragon killer.

And one of the most poignant conversations is at the very beginning of the movie as Hiccup’s mentor, Gobber, is walking him back to his home after he has made yet another terrible mess while trying to kill a dragon. And Gobber says, “Stop trying so hard to be something you’re not.” And Hiccup replies, “I just want to be one of you guys.”

And it’s when he has an opportunity to kill a dragon, and he can’t, that he quits trying to be something he’s not. And when he finally allows himself to be exactly who he is — a dragon trainer, not a dragon killer — he becomes heroic.

And that’s the message of this long-winded blog entry. I know it’s hard. I know from experience that it’s hard to allow yourself to be exactly who you are. It’s hard to publically admit that you really want to dress like Emilie Autumn or that you want to dance on stage or any of a million things that are hidden away.

But when you finally allow yourself to be exactly who you are, you will become heroic.

Valiantly Suck

I want to be a published author. I want to be a writer as a paid job and a lifelong career. I love to write. I love to play with words and grammar and sound.

But I’m terrified. I’m terrified of being so awful as to bring ridicule to myself and any who bear the name Woodings. My literary crapness will echo through time like a death knell to all of my dignity and self-respect.

And, as you can imagine, this intense and magnified fear stops me dead in my tracks. I have eaten a heroic amount of sugar and I have played an epic amount of Warcraft. All in a completely successful attempt to avoid writing.

But the problem is, under the sugar and Warcraft, is an intense desire to have a career as a writer. So I have decided to Valiantly Suck. Maybe I’ll suck, maybe I won’t. But, even carrying the fear and possibility of being a horrible writer, I have decided to proceed anyway. Because the only other choice is to not write at all, and that choice is filled with sadness and regret.

Now to just not let the fear destroy the fun….

Processing the Shackles of Pain

I am a prisoner, bound naked to a crumbling stone wall by shackles of rusted steel. It’s an awful prison with the sounds of dripping water, cries and silence as my only companions.

I’ve tried to leave this place many times. Being a vivid, almost physical, figment of my imagination, I’ve tried to imagine the shackles miraculously opening, freeing me. Or I have tried to find the magic golden key that will save me somewhere inside of me. But I always end up back in this nameless dungeon filled with sadness and shackled to the wall, searching — wishing — for the key.

The thing is, I do think the key is inside of me, but it isn’t a magic golden key created from wishes, prayers and tears. It is a heavy key as solid as my soul. It carries the weight of my witnessed pain. Only when I walk through the blinding, searing, burning fire of my pain will the key be forged. Wishes, prayers and tears soothe the intense burning, but it is only by walking the path that I will finally get out of this psychic prison.

I bury my pain under Warcraft, eating and spending. I shovel pile after pile of food, stuff and playtime onto my pain, trying to cover the searing fire.

But it never works. Pain is one of the strongest fires that forge the soul. And it’s necessary that I walk through it.

And to move forward, I’m going to have to face the shit that I don’t want to face. I’m going to have to admit to the things I don’t want to admit to. The other choice is stagnancy, and I’ve been living there long enough.

Am I feeling ugly and worthless? Am I feeling humiliated and tired? Am I feeling lonely and sad? It all needs to come out. I can’t keep shoving it to the side or trying to bury it, anything but look at it.

Open my eyes, look, speak and write. Allow the pain and fire to leave my soul. I must write with honesty and hope.

So, with tears blurring my vision and fear making me stumble, I move towards the fire. I’m tired of being bound to the cold, wet walls of this prison. I choose the key. I choose the fire.

Another vignette from another book in my head

“That one is special,” said Grandfather Elder with a strong voice as he pointed to Klarissa sitting meekly in the back.

He came forward and pulled Klarissa out of the shadows and into the light so he could look her over. Klarissa was terrified at becoming the center of attention. “I’m… I’m not special,” she stammered as she stood trembling under his piercing gaze and avoiding his eyes.

His voice and his gaze softened as he replied, “We are all special in the dance and unfolding of the universe.”

“Beats is special,” she continued. “She is beautiful and brave.” Grandfather Elder looked at Beats who returned his steady gaze with her own piercing steady gaze.

“Yes,” said Grandfather, “Beats is special. But,” and here he looked back at Klarissa, “you are the one who carries the buried light.”

“Kam!” Grandfather Elder called for his grandson who stepped forward into the light. “You are to accompany them, and you are to train this one. She is asleep.”

“Yes, Grandfather,” Kam replied with a nod.

As Kam and Klarissa walked out of the tent, Kam asked, “You long to be Beats?”

“Who wouldn’t long to be Beats? She’s beautiful and strong.”

“She carries a lot of pain.”

“We all carry pain. At least she’s pretty and in pain.”

This made Kam laugh, but even with a smile on his face, he replied seriously, “While you do not accept yourself — while you do not feel and understand your own importance, beauty and poetry — your training will move slowly. You are swimming against the current, against the natural flow of energy. You are exhausting all of your resources on fantasies based on lack and inadequacy.”

This last statement stung. She could feel tears stinging her eyes but didn’t want him to see her cry.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he cupped her hands in his, “but as Grandfather said, you are asleep… in so many ways. You long for beauty when you have beauty. You long for strength when you have strength.”

“What do you know?!” Suddenly she was angry. She snatched her hand out of his. “What do you know of my pain?! Beautiful, am I? Tell that to all the boys who passed me over for a prettier face!”

He was quiet for a moment, weighing her anger against his words, before continuing. “You cannot move forward while you carry this burden. It weighs you down in the waters. Trust that you are exactly what you are supposed to be, that you are crafted with precision and poetry.

“There are many physical joys of life,” he continued, “and this is the only beauty that you, and many others, see.”
And, shitzilla, that’s the end of the excerpt that I wrote in my notebook. What was Kam going to say! I really must write this book. 🙂

Joy is Thought

More randomness from a notebook, this time from 2010:

“Joy is thought,” he said.

I sat up suddenly for this simple statement — the words — seemed to carry physical impact.

“Joy is thought?” I asked. “It’s what I choose to think, choose to feel.” The puzzle pieces were falling into place in my head. “It’s whatever glasses I choose to put on.”

“Yes,” he said calmly in stark contrast to my excitement. “That’s why I can’t give you any Absolute Truths. Life is subjective. And you,” here he emphasized you as he continued, “choose the focus, direction and filter of the lens.”

I sighed and leaned back against him, saying, “It’s a lovely idea on paper, but it doesn’t get the dishes clean.”

He chuckled softly. “Your vision is still blurry,” he said. “You still don’t see how thoughts create. Thoughts shape everything: fear, love, belief, hope, trust.”

Life without goals is aimless and sad. Life with only goals is regimental and sad. Like so many things in life, balance is required. Goals and aspiration must be balanced with leisure and slow-paced awareness. And alternatively, leisure and slow-paced awareness must be balanced with goals, aspiration and hard, focused work.

The two modes of living, when combined, create a joyful, claimed life.

Too much drudgery in To Do lists.
Missing the joy and play.
Structure and Fluidity combined
— Balance

You take what is real and make it real.

One day I’ll actually write a cohesive, complete book instead of various notebooks filled with random vignettes.

Doodling is important

I have always doodled while thinking. I used to draw goofy pictures, but as an adult, my doodling has changed to random words and phrases. I found these doodles all over a notebook from 2009:

What do you see through the eye of a needle?
I see me.
I see eternity.

Beautiful, peaceful monk
of the dawn
Touching the breath
of the morning life

We co-create.
Allow it to happen.

Hard work and discipline
— What’s down that road?

I touched heaven
and it was fire and love.
The light is the way.
The path is illuminated.
The words are the map.

I am already naked

There was a road
and I didn’t know how to walk it.

If we define art as a beautiful and inspiring act then
Life is art.
Every moment spent truly living
is creation.

My Dreams are often nebulous and beautiful;
they are a Monet of emotions and colors.

Have faith in your doodles. They are windows.

Faith inside darkness is light.

Artwork by Quentin Houyoux.

We were all born to do something. Perhaps to garden, or to nurture children, or to cook, or to write. We all have a purpose. I sincerely believe that. Goals are simply writing down your purpose in life on paper. What were you born to do? Why are you here?

When we don’t follow our purpose, we feel lost and sad. We feel blind and confused. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we were given a purpose – we don’t feel worthy of such a grand destiny. So we deny our destiny, and sadness and confusion fills our hearts.

But when you finally step onto the path of your destiny – when you finally show up and do the work – it is instant relief. The pain and confusion in your heart and brain begins to lift.

There is a reason why you have certain innate talents. It was no accident. Goal-setting is merely plumbing your soul, discovering the hidden light that is bursting inside of you.

And the first step is faith.

And faith is very very very very hard for some people.

But remember, you always know your path; whether you’re afraid of it or intimidated by it, you still know it. It may start out as a tickle, but it will not stay that way. It will grow inside of you and refuse to be ignored. And soon you will feel it like you feel love or kindness, invisible but carrying great weight.

And this calling, this destiny – the reason your soul was so skillfully and artistically crafted – won’t be to lose weight or to make a million dollars. It will be something substantial, something meaningful, something that makes you sparkle and thrive – something that allows you to live passionately. Follow that path, and the rest will fall into place.

Happy New Year. May 2011 bring love and happiness, adventure and growth. 🙂


I decided to own it! I always advise people to own their dreams, to own who they truly are — the part that makes them shine. But I’ve never done it myself because it’s so scary. What if I suck? What if I’m full of shit? What if I’m not worthy? What if it all crumbles and then is consumed by a flaming ball of shame?

Well, I’ll give myself the advise I would give one of my best friends: Fuck all that negative shit that belittles and destroys! You can do it! You were meant to do it!

Or I could take Steve Jobs advise, which is wonderful and much more eloquently put:

It’s still scary to follow your dreams though. You just do it anyway.

Joy Therapy

Photo by kgreggain.

Many a spiritual fable ends with the lesson of meeting the universe half-way on the road to your dreams. In that spirit, I have made a “Joy Therapy” list: things that are within my power to bring joy back into my life. And I leave all the serendipitous synchronicities up to the universe. 🙂

Angel’s Joy Therapy

  • Laugh
  • Exercise
  • Dance
  • Walk in the sunshine
  • Garden
  • Yoga
  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Journal
  • Write
  • Blog
  • Pet the dogs and cat
  • Sing
  • Eat healthy food
  • Connect with family and friends
  • Read joyful books and blogs
  • Listen to joyful podcasts
  • Spread love