Ursula is back. For those of you who are new to my blog, Ursula is the really mean voice that lives inside my head. We all have one of these. Ursula embodies doubt. Ursula is my editor before I ever type a word. Ursula is my alter-ego when I am feeling down. Ursula never has anything nice to say. Ursula is a bully. Ursula tells me I can’t. Ursula tells me I shouldn’t. Ursula makes me feel stuck. Ursula is negative self-talk.
I hate Ursula.
When the slow simmer of negative self-talk gets out of control like a small grease fire, I like to read a good memoir or inspirational book to help quell the flames. But lately, it’s not as simple as throwing some baking soda into the frying pan. This is more of a brush fire, and I needed some bigger water cannons to drown out this sucker.
So, I’ve been reading a LOT lately.
At the recommendation of a friend, I started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s (Eat, Pray, Love) podcast: Magic Lessons. Gilbert offers wisdom about letting go of fear and embracing your inner creative artist. She invites guest speakers to elaborate on the subject of unblocking creativity. During one of the podcasts, she invited Blogger/NY Times Bestseller Glennon Doyle Melton. Glennon caught my attention like a lightning bolt. I went home found her blog, read it, subscribed to it, and then ordered her latest book: Love Warrior. When it arrived, I read the entire book in two days. I couldn’t put it down.
Usually, a good memoir will inspire me and get me out of my own head. I read memoirs because I love the first person narrative. The personal journey. The human condition. People who have struggled and found their voice through survival. I was inspired by Glennon’s story as she raised three children and started writing her blog in a closet. I have three kids and write my blog in a closet too! (Well technically, it’s my office now, but it was a converted closet because I needed an office more than I needed a walk-in closet… but I digress.)
I was so excited about this book, I called another friend and asked if she had heard of Glennon Doyle Melton. She said, “Oh yeah. I went on Oprah’s SuperSoulSpeaker cruise last summer and heard her speak. We’ve become friends.” A million things run through my mind: Oprah has a cruise? If only I liked cruising. I read Glennon's book and subscribed to her blog. Will she be my friend too? Can she help me get rid of Ursula? I am sure with a million readers and tens-of-thousands of social media followers, she is pretty busy. But I decided to write Glennon an email anyway. She hasn’t written me back yet, but I did receive an automatic reply thanking me for subscribing to her blog. (For those of you who have subscribed to my blog, I am thanking you now and apologize for not knowing how to send an automated response. But, if you write me an email, I promise I will write you back.)
Something in the universe must be signaling that I needed more guidance because another friend suggested a podcast by NY Times Bestseller Jack Canfield (the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul). Canfield’s philosophy is all about setting goals and accomplishing them through positive affirmations and actions. He has written dozens of books on the subject, so I decided to order two of them. After listening to his podcast, I realized that I engage in a lot of negative self-talk (Hello Ursula!) and I probably don’t set high enough goals for myself. I have a lot to learn about dreaming big and not being afraid to fail.
Then another friend recommended that I read Maria Shriver’s new book: I’ve Been Thinking. It’s part memoir, part self-help, and part inspirational guidebook. Although it doesn’t have the rollercoaster, soap opera, witty ride of Love Warrior, it still speaks to me just as deeply. Shriver’s book leans heavily on prayers, religion, and her relationship with God. While I am not super religious, I still found it very inspiring.
Since I started writing, meditating, and practicing yoga, I believe I am having my own spiritual awakening. When I was a busy television executive, raising three children, juggling a divorce, a second marriage, all while trying to figure out when I would find time to eat right, sleep or exercise, my spiritual life was non-existent. I had no time for self-reflection or creative outlets, I was just trying to survive my day-to-day hamster wheel. (By the way, I don't think hamsters are all that spiritually enlightened either.)
Although I was raised with a healthy dose of religion, it was defined by holidays and food (the good part) with a layer of guilt and obligatory temple appearances (the bad part). Spirituality was not really part of the equation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think religion and spirituality are mutually exclusive, I just hadn’t discovered the spiritual part yet. Spirituality, for me, is my connection to other human beings and living things. A sense of purpose and mindfulness. As I got older, I find myself yearning for more of this.
But even after two podcasts, two memoirs, and two self-help books, I was still looking for more inspiration. The brush fire of doubt is now a forest fire burning out of control: Will I ever finish a book? Become a bestselling author? Be anointed by Oprah? Make a living in my second act.
Afterall, Glennon hasn’t even written me back... and Ursula is laughing.
Back to the bookstore. Upon another friend’s suggestion, I pick up Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. If I didn't love her enough already, she had me at Page One with the words: Writing is Hard.
She gets it. She gets me. Every chapter of her book is a perfect balance of honesty, self-doubt, self-deprecation, and pure comedy. She even has her own version of Ursula whom she refers to as her “demon.” (Maybe if I send her an email, she will write me back?)
Armed with a stack of inspirational writers and marching instructions, I am starting to feel validated and inspired. Writing is hard. Everyone struggles. Everyone has demons. The key is to keep going. Set goals. Lose the negative self-talk, and implement daily positive affirmations.
So if positive affirmations are the secret sauce to success, here is my list for today:
I am a writer. I am successful. I am grateful. I am healthy. I am calm. I am peaceful. I am inspired. I have a wonderful family… and I have the cutest dog in the world.
So take that Ursula and go back to the rock you crawled out from under.