Changing Part of Myself

My entire life, I’ve created stories. When I was too young to know how to write, I told the stories to my stuffed animals and dolls, or to any adults who would listen. Once someone showed me how to make those funny little squiggles on paper, I started writing down my stories.

In 1999, I started writing phonics-based stories and worksheets to use to help my special education students learn to read. The stories and worksheets helped my students so much I sought publication for them. Stories from Somerville and the Say, Read, Spell worksheets were published in early 2002. Until early 2020, those books consistently brought me income.

I kept writing other stories. I joined writers’ groups and websites. I learned to improve my writing skills. In 2009, my first ebook was published by a new digital publisher.

From 2009 until 2017, I had over eighty novels, novellas, and short stories published by various digital publishers and small presses. I self-published two or three things, but most of my work was put out by publishing companies. They paid me for my work; I didn’t pay them. (That’s a misconception a lot of people have about publishing. An author does not have to pay to have their work published. Publishing companies pay the author, usually in royalties, which are a percentage of the cost of each book sold.) Some of my books were erotic romance published under a pen name; some, published under something approximating my real name, were fiction for teenagers.

Beginning in 2012 or so, some of my publishers started going out of business. Others started playing sketchy games with royalty calculations. Many more authors started showing up on the market, and more publishers, along with authors who self-published, started putting out work. Promoting and marketing myself had always been difficult, and now my sales started to show it.

Thanks to a couple of crises in my personal life in 2014 and 2016, I reached a point where just attempting to write anything brought me to panic attacks, especially if I was trying to write any erotic romance. More of my publishers went out of business, until by 2016 only two were left, and I chose to stop working with one of them for various reasons.

I hung in there until 2017, but finally reached a point where my sales were too poor, and I had completely burned out by writing too much too fast at the peak of my career. I stopped writing. By that point, only 11 of my books, along with a couple of short stories, remained on the market.

Last weekend, I received a letter from the Stories from Somerville publisher informing me they were closing, and returning to me the rights for the books. I sat with that for a while and mulled things over, and decided it was time to pull my remaining romance and teen fiction as well. I contacted my remaining fiction publisher yesterday and asked them to return the rights to me.

None of this was easy. I’ve loved having the phonics books out there. My two author names, Karenna Colcroft and Jo Ramsey, had become part of my identity, as had “author” in general. But the reality is, while I’ve written things here and there (mostly blogs and short nonfiction articles) since 2017, I haven’t really *been* Karenna Colcroft or Jo Ramsey. I’ve been afraid to be. I’ve been tangled up in the panic and the “I’m a failure” thoughts associated with those names and that career. I’ve tried a few times to get back to writing under those names, and have yet to succeed.

Sometimes destruction is necessary to make way for new creations. In Hinduism, Shiva is the god of destruction, but that isn’t seen as a bad thing. It isn’t destruction as in “let’s get rid of it all,” it’s destruction as in, “Let’s make way for something better.” Like tearing down a dilapidated old house to build a new, sound one.

My past writing career had become a dilapidated old house, full of holes and structurally unsound. And so even though it’s a sad thing, and I admit I’ve been crying about it off and on, it was past time to tear it down and see if I can create anything new once it’s gone.

Relax and Breathe

If you’ve been on social media at all, you’ve probably seen the meme that says something along the lines of, “If you don’t come out of this time of quarantine with a new skill, new hobby, or your side hustle launched, it was never a question of time, it was a question of discipline.”

That meme brings up so much frustration and anger in me. Not for myself as much as for the people who see it and believe that they are, in fact, undisciplined failures because of what someone on social media says.

Here’s the thing. This is a time unlike anything any of us have ever lived through. Some of us are worried about losing our jobs; some have already lost them. Some are struggling to take care of children while working from home–and having to become teachers on top of it. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know whether we’re going to get sick. We don’t know what the short or long-term effects will be.

And with all of that uncertainty, fear, and struggle, we’re somehow supposed to be able to corral our brains to learn new things and build new businesses? Um… okay, I’ll refrain from profanity here.

Many of us, if not most of us, are living through trauma right now. Trauma causes mental and physical effects, including loss of concentration, memory issues, and exhaustion. Some of us are absolutely able to say, “Oh, yay, free time, let’s do ALL THE THINGS!” But a lot of us are barely able to say, “Okay, I’m going to take a shower and get dressed now.”

And that is OKAY. It is completely okay to not be able to learn new skills and build your side hustle right now. It is okay if you are just managing to get out of bed and put on something resembling clothing in the morning.

Not being able to learn new things and build your business right now does not mean you are undisciplined. It means you are struggling to live in an experience you have never lived in before, surrounded by others who have also never lived through anything like this. It means that you need your time, energy, and stamina to get through the day-to-day pieces of this current “normal,” and you don’t have anything left over for the extras.

It isn’t a question of discipline at all. It’s a question of priorities. Right now, for many of us, the priority is surviving. Everything else can wait.

Take care of yourself, and let go of whether you’re “supposed to be” doing all the things right now. The only thing you need to do is breathe, rest, and trust that this will get better.

Some Info About Chios

People sometimes ask me what the differences are between Chios and other types of energy healing or energy work. That’s a difficult question for me to answer, because I haven’t learned other forms of energy work. I have had people give me Reiki, and have found Chios far more effective for me. (I felt nothing when Reiki was given.) From people who have had Chios sessions with me and other forms of energy healing from other practitioners, I’ve heard that Chios can be more intense and can bring up memories and emotions, which they said was not the case with other modalities they’d experienced.

Basically, as I put it to a friend of mine, some forms of energy healing are intended to rebalance, relax, and restore. Chios does those things, but it also stirs things up and gives you the clarity to work through them. Because of that, I make sure my clients know I’m available to help them process if needed, or to help them find professional support if necessary. I’m good at listening and offering suggestions, but I’m not a medical or mental health professional, and I want to make sure my clients get all the services and assistance they need from people who are qualified to give it.

Chios Energy Healing is relatively new when compared to some other healing modalities. At least, it’s new as far as how long it’s been available to the public. Chios was developed over a period of years of testing, research, and refinement before being shared with and taught to others beginning in the early 2000s. Chios includes specific techniques for balancing energy flow through the chakras and energy field, as well as removing energetic blocks. Clients have told me that for them, this process has eased physical pain, lowered stress, and helped them feel more well overall. The techniques also lead to clients feeling more grounded and centered, and address energetic damage from past injuries or traumas. Some of the techniques might appear similar to those used in other modalities, but most are unique to Chios.

Personally, I found Chios much easier to learn than the other modalities I’ve tried to study. The Chios manual explains the techniques clearly and step-by-step, and while there is a physical version of the manual available for purchase, you can also read most of the manual’s text on the official website. The symbols that are used in Chios healing are very simple and straightforward. The time from the beginning of my study until I reached the Certified Master Teacher level was about six months.

Nothing works for everyone, of course. I’ve known plenty of people who are enthusiastic about praising other forms of energy healing they’ve learned or in which they’ve had sessions, and have told me about some pretty amazing results. On the other hand, I’ve had students and clients who have tried other modalities and have either not had results at all, or have found that the other things they tried didn’t resonate for them.

I’m happy to answer any questions about Chios and how sessions are run. Right now, I’m offering distance Chios sessions only, meaning we are not in the same physical location. You can relax at home while I do healing energy work for you. This will remain the case until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
If you are a first responder, medical worker, or other essential worker, I would love to gift you with a free Chios distance session. Please comment here or email info@riverflowhealing.com for more information!

5 Ideas for Self-Care

Self-care is more important than ever right now, but some of us are finding it harder than usual to make sure we’re practicing self-care. Depression, whether as a diagnosed mental illness or just a feeling, leads to less motivation in general. If we’re struggling with losing a job, we might feel less worthy, which means we aren’t taking care of ourselves because we, consciously or not, believe we aren’t “worth it.”

Here are a few things you can do to take care of yourself without spending money (something many of us are afraid to do right now) and without taking a lot of time:

  1. Take a quick shower. Even just turning on the water and standing under it for a minute or two can wash away some of the energetic sludge, and for some of us, water feels refreshing and rejuvenating. (Baths work too for some, but those take longer; I did say “without taking a lot of time.)
  2. Practice deep breathing if you’re able. Take 10-20 long, slow, deep breaths in and out. You can even do this while doing something else, but I recommend focusing on your breathing while doing it. This can lead to you feeling calmer, and also helps keep your lungs in good shape.
  3. Step outside. Just taking a few steps outside of the building you live in and getting some fresh air can help short-circuit feelings of being trapped or isolated. If it’s sunny, that can help your mood. And bonus points if you’re able to touch a tree, grass, or anything natural.
  4. Hug something. Some of us don’t live with people we can hug, and obviously we’re trying to socially distance ourselves from the people we don’t live with. At the same time, hugs can be comforting and mood-boosting. If you don’t have a person–or pet–you can hug, the physical act of hugging a stuffed animal or even a pillow can give you similar sensory input.
  5. Practice self-compassion. You’re feeling angry? Cool. Feel it! You’re scared? That’s okay! Allow yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling. Allow yourself to rant at the wall about the activities you’re missing, or the places you aren’t able to go. Most importantly, honor the fact that you are a human being in a really difficult time, and it is OKAY to struggle right now. It doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong” or that you aren’t spiritually enlightened, or anything like that… it just means you’re human, like the rest of us.

I hope some or all of that is helpful for you. And I would love to hear from you: What are you doing to practice self-care right now?

Breathe

A few months back, I bought a copy of an Astanga Yoga book written by my former mentor. When we were friends, I took Astanga classes from him, and he taught me a lot about the philosophies and the eight limbs that make up the practice. (Tip: The poses, or asana, are only one of the limbs…and not even the first one.)

To be clear, even though back in the day I studied to be an Astanga instructor and had, in fact, passed my final practical exam, I’m *not* an instructor, and not claiming to be. But since breathing is something many of us are thinking about right now, I wanted to talk about this a little.

One of the pieces of yoga that is sometimes overlooked is pranayama, or breathing exercises. When I was working with my mentor, he taught me some pranayama…which, being me, I promptly forgot about when I stopped practicing yoga. But now that I’ve resumed studying, I’m finding the pranayama, particularly one that involves very deep, even breathing, to be vital.

I have a tendency toward shallow breathing. Every once in a while, I take a deep breath that concerns whoever I’m with, or annoys them because they think I’m sighing. The actual issue is that I take such shallow breaths much of the time that I’m not getting enough oxygen, so then my body decides I’m going to take a really, really deep breath to correct that.

But for the past several weeks, every morning (okay, almost every), I do breathing called Sutri Pranayama, in which I breathe so deeply I can literally feel it all the way down through my torso. I take 20 breaths, which takes me over five minutes because I’m inhaling long and slowly, and exhaling equally long and slowly.

And after I do it, I feel better. I feel more focused. Calmer. (Deep breathing is one of the things recommended for people who experience anxiety, which for me is a frequent experience.) I’m in a more positive frame of mind, and my normal breathing has become less shallow.

Especially now, when our world is dealing with a virus that can heavily impact the lungs, I think breathing exercises can be beneficial. (I’m not a doctor, this isn’t medical advice.)

I’m not qualified (anymore) to teach Astanga or any form of yoga, so I’m not going to try to instruct you how to do Sutri Pranayama in case I get it wrong. But if you are looking for a way to help yourself feel calmer and less stressed, and to help your lungs function well, I would definitely recommend looking up how to do it and making it part of your daily routine. Not only for now, but ongoing.