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What is a good Burn gift?

I joined a theme camp for Resonance this year. Shawn and I were going to do a wasteland theme for our own little camp, and ended up discovering TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), interviewed, and joined up. Resonance will be our third Burn and our second Resonance.

The Principle of Gifting is one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man, written by co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004. It reads, “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.”

One of the interesting things I’ve found about being a Burner is that the experience has an uncanny ability to highlight some of my deepest, darkest personality flaws (at least I consider them flaws, which is actually one of those flaws – yay for therapy!). Something I’ve struggled internally with since I was a child is my feeling that I’m just not good enough. For what? Who knows. It changes practically on a daily basis, but the concept of gifting is one that brings it out hardcore in me. I have yet to feel like my gifts are good enough. Or to even figure out what they are.

Shawn makes amazing libations. He works on them throughout the year, and by the time we Burn, he’s got all kinds of flavors to share, and though he includes me in the giving of his gift, I still feel like it’s his gift, not mine.

Caveat Magister, a member of the Burning Man Project’s Philosophical Canter, wrote this about the Burning Man gift culture:

“The gift culture, then, is most useful because it is a social lubricant – a legitimate way of reaching out to our fellow human beings that is non-exploitive and establishes a connection between people who have no other reason to talk to each other. It has nothing to do with an ‘economy’ but everything to do with breaking down the barriers that isolate us as human beings.

“Once you realize this, it ought to change the way you think about what a good ‘gift’ is. An appropriate gift is not a trinket, a glow stick – or even food and water (though … thank you everyone who has kept me alive out there). An appropriate gift is tied to an experience: something that gives someone without friends a community, that connects unrelated biographies, that provides a story someone new can add to.

“The people who hand out trinkets are better than nothing, but that’s weak tea. They’re thinking about *the things* they’re giving rather than *the people* they’re giving it too. It sort of serves the purpose, but it absolutely misses the point.”

I guess reading this made me feel better about not being able to figure out what trinket I wanted to make. I do have a growing collection of trinkets, and I do love many of them, but what I want to give is exactly what Caveat described, an experience. And that is where the feeling like my gift isn’t good enough comes crashing through to sit on me and hold me back.

I’m so lucky to have Shawn. We just took a break for lunch and I explained to him what I was struggling with, and how it’s going to be time to Burn soon, and I’m feeling the pressure to do something real that will not only be something tangible, but will also give me a chance to connect with people when I give my gift. We brainstormed things people have done, and I knocked a whole bunch of ideas out because they weren’t me, and then he reminded me of one of my favorite ways to connect with random people – drawing pictures for them, usually at bars. Aha! My Gift!

Just like that, I have a plan and another project to work on, and I can’t WAIT to get home so I can create some crazy little pieces of art for my family.

It’s not always this easy, figuring out what I can do that feels good enough, but I think I am learning a way to feel good enough more often. When I behave in a genuine fashion, and not try to fit the expectations of other people, that is when I feel worthy and good. When I am acting in a manner that goes against who I am, that is when insecurity and self-doubt set in and try to take over. That just might be the secret.

The Soup in a Mason Jar Experiment

I have a recurring issue with food. I adore food. Everything about it, from shopping for it, to cleaning it, to prepping it to eating it. Sometimes, though, I go on a jag where I just don’t feel like eating. Nothing sounds good, and the idea of shopping, cleaning, prepping and even eating seems way too involved for me. I stare into the fridge every 15 minutes, and close it again when I realize I’m not going to eat. Then I don’t eat until I’m ravenous, and I make really poor food decisions. It’s a constant battle. I’ll be great for a few weeks, then it’s back. Food apathy.

When this happened to me again last week, I hit the internet in search of a solution and found what I thought might help me eat when I can’t think of what I want, and make me eat healthy foods, which, thankfully, I actually love to eat more than I love to eat fast food. They just have to be super easy when I don’t feel like eating anything. The solution? Just-Add-Water Soup in a Mason Jar.

After hunting down several ingredients I didn’t have in my pantry, which I mostly found at my local Natural Grocer, I made three different flavors, Thai Coconut Shrimp Red Curry, Miso-Sesame Broth with Vegetables, and one with zoodles. Surprisingly, the prep was pretty painless, which was great. I reduced each recipe to make two shrimp, two miso and one zoodles. Aren’t they gorgeous?

So when lunch time rolled around, I chose one of the miso jars and filled it with boiling water.

Look at that miso roll around in the jar. Isn’t it beautiful? I love miso.

After a few minutes, I swirled it around and decided it was cool enough to open. What do I do? Oh, I snap the seal off and splosh hot soup all over.

After I cleaned up my mess, the soup was cool enough to eat, and it was AMAZING. This concept gets a yes vote from me!

Give Yourself More Credit

Something occurred to me as I thought about 2015. I said to myself, ‘I’ve come so far this year!’ I remembered how traumatized and depressed and how deeply my soul hurt at the beginning of 2015 and then how incredibly difficult EMDR was to go through, but also how miraculous it seemed that I could relive all of those past traumas in such vivid detail, but this time with the ability to process it as it happened, slow it down and really live in the pain and make it part of me, not my enemy, eating away at me slowly.

I remember how full of shame and anger and paranoia I was. Constantly reliving being arrested and sitting in jail not knowing what was happening to get me out, and even though my charges were dismissed, always rehearsing how I would act when they came for me again. Sure I was under constant scrutiny and positive I was being judged everywhere I went (well, here in Harper County, anyway). Knowing Harper County as I do, I know there’s truth to that, but there’s also this growth that tells me things really are backward here and this place is not my home, nor is it in any way representative of the real world. I hold my head high now, and for the most part, I don’t even consider that there are people here who are judging me. Ha! The thought of being judged makes me smile now. I can’t believe that bothered me less than a year ago!

In 2015, I re-started my meditation practice, this time out in the open. I set up my altar out in the open and spent a lot of time sitting in front of it being still and grateful. I started a high fat, low carb way of eating that filled me with so much energy that I felt 20 years younger. I still need work on sticking to it and have yet to figure out how to eat out and not succumb to temptations, but I went from 180 pounds to 168 pounds after not sticking to healthy eating very much at all and gaining five pounds in the past couple weeks. I started a daily yoga practice in November and am seeing and feeling the results. They’re slow and steady, but they’re there, and I’m becoming strong and lithe. We joined the YMCA this year and though we waited till late in the year to really begin to use the membership, I lift weights once a week, and am working on making that twice a week. Now that I’m back from holiday, I am looking forward to those visits to the gym.

I went to my first Burn in 2015, and plan to attend several in 2016. I knew I was already living pretty authentically, so it wasn’t like I could suddenly be myself and that was magical, but I did give myself credit for the direction I was headed and realized that I was on the right path to living the Principles in my everyday life. They’re pretty great principles to live by.

The most important thing I’ve done in 2015 is to make a commitment to noticing my masks and removing them. To living as my authentic self everywhere I go. Oh, yes, I still refrain from cursing in business meetings, but I stopped trying to “fit in” and came to realize that I really do create my own reality, and I fit in exactly as I am. I feel the connection with others so much more than I have ever before. I’m making friends and slowly improving my relationships with people by practicing compassion and love.

Fear is no longer my enemy. I have compassion for myself and for others who are allowing fear to control their lives. I pray for them and hope for them to experience love and peace, and in doing so, I experience more love and peace. I’ve even wished love and peace to the people who hurt my family and slandered my business in 2014, and no longer hate or fear them. They’re just lost and stuck and I feel sorry for them that they can’t experience what I have this year. Maybe they will next year. I hope so.

So, the thing that most stands out for me about 2015 was the major growth I went through. I can’t imagine moving forward and up in 2916 as much as I already have this past year, but we will see. Just because I can’t envision what that next level is like, doesn’t mean I won’t experience it in 2016. I definitely have no desire to sit still and rest where I am. I want to experience more and to live with my eyes and my heart wide open, and to let my soul soar in 2016.

Confidence and Validity

My parents visited Sunday, and I excitedly showed off the most recent and not-so-recent art I’ve been creating. There was a lot. My mom is a very talented artist, as well, and I remember growing up thinking I’d never be as good as she is. I go to her house and she’s always got a piece in the works, and I always like her work.

Something came up while we visited that I have to call a breakthrough. Mom ooh-ed and ahh-ed about all my work, and gave me really good criticism and compliments on each piece, and gave me advice about problems I’m having or had with some of the work. She really got into my mixed media pieces, and said something that I think is going to be a life-changer for me. She said, after looking for several minutes at the mixed media piece I won a purple ribbon on at the county fair, “This is so professional-looking!”

I’m finally going to be taking pictures of all my recent and not-so-recent work for sale, and it’ll be added. (I’m at the coffee shop now.) In the meantime, I’ll say that I know I’m not the only artist who has doubted her work. I put together a mixed media piece now, and part of me is in the background saying, ‘You’re gluing things to paper. So what? Little kids do it all the time. This isn’t art. This is not remotely what professional artists do.’ While I try to tell that voice to shut up, it’s there. Maybe no more, though.

There’s something about having my mom — an artist whom I respect — tell me how professional my work looks that has pushed that voice out of my head. When she went into why she felt that way about this particular piece, and I explained the techniques I used, what materials made the piece what it is, what I did to make certain colors and textures, and more, it occurred to me that I have reached a milestone. I began to respect my own artwork, my techniques and my motivation and abilities.

It’s not that I didn’t know I had talent. It’s that sometimes the flow of creating is too easy for the part of me that thinks everything has to be a struggle or it’s not worthwhile. I’ve been working on letting go of that thought, and the me that thinks like that, and I believe I have succeeded. Not that I won’t be insecure about my work again — it’s a creation from my soul, of course I will want everyone to love it and be hurt if they don’t — but Mom’s comments have made me realize the value of what I’ve done.

I’m ready to get my work out to the world. Finally.