so i’m writing this book

stack of art journals

I’m not quite sure how it happened (to be honest, it feels a little like a dream that I may wake up from at any moment), but I’m writing a book right now. It’s based on these daily blog posts that I’ve written for my Kitchen Sink Wisdom blog over the past two months, on the theme of ritual.

I’m excited and humbled by this project. It keeps me up at night, and puts a smile on my face every morning.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I never knew how to get a book written. To tell you the truth, the very idea of writing a book always intimidated me. How do you choose a subject? How do you make it interesting? Even though I’ve been a paid writer for nearly 20 years, the sheer length of a book scared me. I write short things: articles, newsletters, information sheets, procedures, training materials, blog posts, reports, business plans. But a book? No way. Too many words to ever get down on paper.

Then I found out that an acquaintance of mine has published 55 books in his lifetime. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. 55. And when I realized that his books were written one day at a time – sometimes one blog post at a time, the way I was writing – it finally occurred to me that maybe that’s how a book gets written. Through a regular practice, sentence by sentence, day after day.

The second, wondrous aspect of this particular book that I’m writing is that the subject matter of the book is the same as its process. Meaning, I’m using creative ritual to write a book about creative ritual. I’m tapping into an energy larger than myself (which some people might call God, or their muse, but I like to call creative Source), and letting that energy flow through me, while writing a book about how I let creative energy flow through me. Yes. Pretty trippy.

I’ve been blessed to have a small circle of readers who’ve followed the original blog posts day after day on Kitchen Sink Wisdom. Having them there has been a huge inspiration to me, and in honour of their faithfulness (and to help keep me focused), I’m making the working manuscript available to anyone who’s interested. You can read the introduction here. Email me if you want more. I’m happy to share.

inside the highly sensitive body

wax crayon and collage art journal spread of hands

I’ve been doing a lot of reading into Highly Sensitive People, in order to try and figure out some strategies for being in the world in a healthy way, rather than an anxious, burnt-out way. I’ve also found some new books that I haven’t mentioned before, by psychiatrist Judith Orloff. All of this reading is also helping me feel not quite so isolated and strange in being highly sensitive.

What is high sensitivity? (Or, as Orloff calls it, intuitive empathy?) It’s having a nervous system that processes sensory input in a different way from the rest of the population. From my own experience, it feels like being inside a huge sensory amplification system, and not being able to shut it off. Sounds, smells, physical sensations, emotional cues from others – they bombard my nervous system so incessantly that I (and about 15-20% of the population) become quickly overwhelmed and exhausted. I need a lot of time in quiet solitude to recover my equilibrium and energy.

Here are two simple tests that I scored 100% on. They’ll help give you an idea of how a highly sensitive person experiences the world. The first is from Elaine Aron:

  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
  • I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.
  • Other people’s moods affect me.
  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
  • I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
  • I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.
  • I have a rich, complex inner life.
  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.
  • I am deeply moved by the arts or music.
  • My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.
  • I am conscientious.
  • I startle easily.
  • I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
  • When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done in order to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).
  • I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.
  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.
  • I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.
  • I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.
  • Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in my, disrupting my concentration or mood.
  • Changes in my life shake me up.
  • I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.
  • I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.
  • I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
  • When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
  • When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

Here is Judith Orloff’s test for Emotional or Intuitive Empathy:

  • I have been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive.
  • If a friend is distraught, I start feeling it too.
  • My feelings are easily hurt.
  • I am emotionally drained by crowds, requiring time to be alone to revive.
  • My nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk.
  • I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please.
  • I overeat to cope with emotional stress.
  • I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships.

Despite recognizing myself in all these descriptions, and realizing that many other people experience the world the way I do, I still feel an incredible amount of shame for being the way I am. Partly because when I was growing up, I witnessed how high sensitivity was often misunderstood and ridiculed by those who didn’t experience it. Also, in my own unconscious attempts over the years to cope with being physically and emotionally overwhelmed, I developed habits (such as withdrawing from social activities and highly stressful relationships) that were seen by others as very strange and unfriendly.

More to come on this ongoing exploration…

Detail from an untitled art journal spread, August 2005. Wax crayon and collage on paper.

highly sensitive

wax crayon and collage art journal spread

Sometimes the right book comes along at the wrong time. If you’re lucky, that book comes along again – and this time you’re ready to hear its message. I first found Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person years ago, and rejected it because I didn’t fully understand it. Aron has researched the 15-20% of the population who seem to sense things more strongly than everyone else. When I first came across her work, I thought “highly sensitive” meant emotionally weak, and so, although I immediately recognized myself as a classic Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I rejected the work.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012. Most people who know me would probably describe me as someone who has always reflected deeply on my own life, and tried to live with meaning and purpose. But since January 2012 I’ve really ramped up my own inner work, because I was experiencing so much physical and emotional suffering, and I didn’t know how else to deal with it. I decided I was going to GET TO THE BOTTOM OF MY AGONY ONCE AND FOR ALL, gosh darn it. It’s been an interesting ride (you can read a summary of each month’s journey, here). And as I begin to unravel old habits, and examine the root issues of much of my pain, I’m starting to feel a bit of release from the suffering. Re-connecting with work about HSPs has been a part of that, recently. More on this to come…

Detail from the art journal spread Great Mouthfuls of Life, February 2006. Wax crayon and collage on paper.

birthday books


My family gifted me with some money for my birthday, to buy some new books. (Actually, the money was to buy whatever I wanted, but I knew ahead of time that I wanted to spend it on books. I keep a wish list on, and I try to use restraint in my regular book buying. Try.) Here’s what I got, in order of purchase:

Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness by B. Wallace. Haven’t started this one yet, but when I downloaded it to my iPhone, I discovered that it’s the longest ebook I now own. By far. I’m finding this somewhat daunting.

The Highly Sensitive Person’s Companion: Daily Exercises for Calming Your Mind in an Overstimulating World by Ted Zeff. This one (and the other two HSP books, below) has a long story attached, which will probably be the subject of some other blog posts. Suffice to say, I’m seriously feeling the need for these books right now. And they’re filling that need nicely.

EFT for the Highly Sensitive Temperament by Rue Hass.

The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook by Elaine Aron.

Spiritual Hunger: Integrating Myth and Ritual Into Daily Life by Allan G. Hunter. I first heard of this book in a monthly newsletter that I get, and it seemed intriguing. I love thinking about the rituals – meaningful and meaningless – that fill our daily lives. I’m sure I’m going to be talking a lot more about this book, probably on my Kitchen Sink Wisdom blog.

Transformational Speaking by Gail Larsen. Can’t remember where I heard about this book… but again, it seemed really intriguing. I’m always interested in finding better ways to communicate well – and by that I mean, reaching out and really connecting with others.

The Power of Energy Mandalas: Balance, Harmony and Awareness in Daily Life by Olivier Manitara. Another random book that seemed interesting. Don’t actually have it (or the Transformational Speaking one) yet – they had to be ordered.

Lots of awesome reading coming up!

Plus, as a total aside: A dear friend gifted me with this novel last weekend. It was could-not-put-down-hilarious. And I never read novels. Highly recommended.

that? just happened.

The Bloggess Ermione Gringold post

So I’m a huge fan of Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. I’ve been reading her blog for something like three years, and I recently bought her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. I’ve been reading it this week – in between work, sleep, and bouts of excruciating endo pain.

If you like humorous and decidedly offbeat writing, you will love Jenny’s book. (Warning: Contains lots of swears, alcohol, and taxidermied animals.) I’m enjoying it so much, it’s making me want to get back to humorous writing myself, in the style of The Bloggess. (Like this.) Which? Could be a total disaster.

But anyhow… Today I have been mostly lying in bed, writhing in pain, reading little bits of the book in between black-outs. (Otherwise known as sleep.) Recently woke up and checked my Facebook, and discovered that Jenny had posted the above blog post on her Facebook stream. So of course I clicked through. And, after reading about the awesomeness of a taxidermied ermine named Ermione Gringold, I had to comment. (See below.)

comment on The Bloggess Ermione Gringold post

Just to prove that Autocorrect really can spell “Schnitzel,” I saved a screenshot.

Autocorrect spelling Schnitzel

And that is why I shouldn’t be allowed to do anything on the Interwebs, people.

In other news, I am still somewhat in pain, but I figure I’d better get up and work on my taxes, which I’ve been putting off all day because I was in SO MUCH PAIN I COULDN’T EVEN WRITE A BLOG POST. But seeing as I’ve now written a blog post, the Revenue Canada people are so not going to buy that excuse for submitting my return late. Doh.

Below is me writhing in pain on my bed, with one of my cats keeping me company. AS PROOF THAT I WAS IN PAIN TODAY, Revenue Canada.

woman on bed with cat

Update: I totally just burned my supper writing this blog post. Revenue Canada, the endo pain may not have been that much of a problem, but cleaning out this pot (below) could be. Just saying.

burned pot

Update of the update: I just showed the picture of the burned pot to my mom, and she said, “That seems to happen to you a lot, Michelle.”

To which I replied, “It happens to me a lot – WHEN I’M ON THE COMPUTER.” There’s a cautionary tale here, somewhere…

comfort – reading in bed

book on bed

I first learned the joys of reading in bed the summer I was 10, when I visited my grandmother all by myself, and really got the reading bug for the first time. I think I went through all the Little House books (and more!) in two weeks.

I appreciate reading in bed.


The book in this photograph is Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, by Rick Hanson.

Photo theme for March: Comfort

why i’ve taken a cold shower every* morning for the past 3 weeks

shower head

*Full disclosure: Okay, two of those mornings I didn’t bathe or have a shower at all. But I swear – all the other mornings, cold showers were had.

Am I crazy? Why would a sane person take cold showers every day?

It’s all because of this book by Julien Smith.

It’s called The Flinch. It’s about recognizing those deeply ingrained habits that we all have – the habits of drawing back from the things that scare us, threaten us, or might hurt us.

The thing is, most of us have become so habituated to flinching, we don’t even notice that we’re doing it.

And the other thing is, it’s not just physical threats we flinch from. It’s emotional, and relationship, and career, and health ones…

And the other, other thing is, it’s not just obvious threats, like your toxic colleague or bad real estate deal.

It’s good things, too – things that can move you forward – things that can free you for the life you’ve always dreamed of – but things blocked by the unconscious fear planted by other, well-meaning folks. Fear you might fail. Fear people will scorn or laugh at you. Fear they will reject you. Fear (gasp!) that you might actually achieve what you want.

The book is free, by the way. In case you’re thinking you might like to read it. You can download it here.


Anyhow, this book has changed my life.

Without this book, I would never have started this website, or gotten out of bed a 5:30 a.m. every morning (even on weekends!) instead of sleeping in, or re-started my daily yoga, or stuck with my meditation practice. Or confronted a friend about a behavior of theirs that was making me uncomfortable.

And I have the cold showers to thank.


Throughout the book, Smith suggests several practial exercises for identifying your own flinches. Taking cold showers for a week is one of the exercises. And as he points out in the book, if you don’t actually go through with it, you lose all the benefits. Because the flinch is a visceral reaction, and the only way to overcome it is by pushing through it. And the lived, physical experience of forcing yourself to go forward (when every cell in your being is screaming “NOOOOO!”) is where the real learning happens. You can’t obtain it rationally.

So I get under that cold stream of water every morning because I don’t want to. I don’t want to, and… I want to learn how to do other things that I don’t want to do.


Take this morning, for example. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I feed my cats a snack every morning at 5:25 a.m., but today I wanted to crawl right back under my warm, comfy duvet as soon as I was done. I wanted to sleep for another hour or two. I had been awake in the middle of the night, after getting to bed late. I hadn’t had much rest. I deserved a lie-in, right?

Wrong. Number one, I get migraines if I disrupt my sleeping habits too much. I need to wake up at the same time every day. Weekends too.

Two, I could just feel the flinch as my mind tried to rationalize going back to bed. And the flinch was my alarm bell.

And because I make myself get under a cold shower every morning, I know what do to when I hear that alarm. I do the hard thing.


I’m sure you’re saying, That’s fine for you, but I don’t have that much discipline.

Yes you do.

You just haven’t trained it.

Like a muscle, it gets stronger with use.

But what good is it to force yourself to do things you don’t like, you may ask.

Speaking from my own experience: A lot of good.


I have many things I want to do before I die. (Someone in my life has cancer right now, so this topic has been heavy on my mind, lately.) I’ve spent many (many) years of my life putting things off until tomorrow. Those books I want to write? That career I want to have? Those works of art I want to create? I can do them all later, right?


Forcing myself to do things I don’t like has an added benefit: I learn how to fight Resistance.*


Yeah, I am pretty crazy. Crazy in love with the me I always wanted to be.

What are you flincing from?


*To learn more about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

i am spock

I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy

There are two points to this story.

(And no, they’re not Spock's ears. Although apparently my creative genius* likes poetic solutions, because it is giving me this particular beginning after I couldn’t figure out how to neatly wrap up the story myself.)

This story has two points, and they are at the end. So if you’re at all short on time, I totally recommend scrolling there right now.

Because this story is long, and possibly probably not interesting to anyone but me. And my creative genius, of course. Who, for days, has been bugging me to write it.

*Definition of creative genius: The real place all my stories come from. You might call it God, or my muse, or my subconscious. All I know is, it’s not “Michelle Lynne Goodfellow.” It just lets her take the credit.

I prefer to think of my creative genius as a frisky lover who can’t leave me alone when I’m doing something else. Like washing dishes. Or sleeping. The experience is ultimately good for me every time, even if a little inconvenient.


I had three weeks of vacation at the end of the year. My life was busy – D—– was still sick, and I visited him pretty much every day. Plus I had lots of holiday errands to tie up before Christmas and leaving for Jamaica.

I was tired at night, and not in the mood for anything heavy. Netflix was calling, and the “Top 10 for Michelle Lynne” list featured a Star Trek movie.

I watched it.


I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw the original series. More than seven, less than 10. I didn’t really like it – there was too much fighting, too much guy stuff. The only episode I remember with any confidence is The Trouble with Tribbles, probably because I thought tribbles were cute.

Spock was my favorite. He was a mystery to my pre-pubescent self – concerned as I was with grown-ups, love, and happily ever after candidates. A cipher to be unraveled.


It was Generations – the first Star Trek movie I watched on Netflix. And yes, that means there were more.

I got this great idea – what if I watched them all? From beginning to end?

(The only ones I’d previously seen were the Next Generation ones.)

After all, what else was I going to do with my nights in dark December?


I was a huge fan of ST:TNG* when the show was still being made. I came to it late, though – my brother was the true Trekker. I’m trying to remember how old I was when I started watching. 25? 26?

Picard was my favorite. Every word he pronounced, with that measured, Shakespearean delivery, had so much gravitas. I trusted him.

*Star Trek: The Next Generation


Memory: I am lying in bed. It’s Sunday morning. I’m maybe 10 years old, and there’s a pink chenille bedspread on top of me.

I am on the right side of the double bed, and in my head I am having a conversation with Spock. He is beside me, in this scene I am imagining.

I don’t remember what we are saying, but I remember how I feel.

I am yearning.


The first Star Trek movie was a disappointment. It looked absolutely gorgeous – lots of long, slow pans of space and the Enterprise. But I’m not sure there was even a story.


The second one (Wrath of Khan) was a lot more exciting. Especially the scenes with Ricardo Montalban’s chest.

And then that scene. The one near the end, that took my breath away. The one where Spock dies.

I cried.


I’ve been analyzing my dreams since forever, and recently they have been filled with themes of union. Two opposites, finding a common ground. Masculinity and femininity, thinking and feeling, logic and intuition.

Discussing one such dream this month with a friend, Spock popped into my mind.


Deep down I knew Spock would probably come back. There was a film called Search for Spock. Why else would they search for him, if there was absolutely no chance he could be found?

When they did find him, I wished that I was that female Vulcan, Saavik. I wanted to reassure him. To protect him.


Without a doubt, The Voyage Home was my favorite. So funny. And of course I noticed (and stored away in the back of my mind) that Leonard Nimoy was the director.

That scene on the bus, where he gives the obnoxious boom box guy the Vulcan nerve pinch? Spock FTW*!

*for the win


I watched most of the rest of the films in one huge blur after I got back from Jamaica. All the Next Generation ones (although Netflix Canada doesn’t have Nemesis, and I don’t think I’ve seen that one, worse luck), and suddenly my Star Trek binge was over.

Except… there was one more. The new/old one. The prequel.

I was ambivalent. I didn’t want to have to learn a whole new cast by heart.

I watched it anyhow.


And Spock… suddenly there again. The real one. The Nimoy Spock.

My heart leapt. I had followed the arc of his character through all these movies, and finally in this iteration he seemed so… human.


After watching it, and a few interviews of Nimoy on YouTube, I went looking for his autobiographies – curious for the first time about the man behind the character. Walking past the Central library one night after work, I stopped in my tracks – they probably had at least one of his books inside.

I Am Spock is mine until February third.

I read it in three days.


I had no idea what to expect, but Nimoy surprised and entertained me with his storytelling. Plus I was fascinated by the descriptions of his creative process – especially his relationship with Spock.

I dearly hope he shows up in other projects.


Point 1: I like characters who touch my heart. When I feel that familiar pull in the centre of my chest, I know it’s a sign to sit up and pay attention. There’s soul nourishment going on.

Point 2: Leonard Nimoy is someone I’d love to interview. Because he has a lot to say about the work, and that interests me. I’m fascinated by the ways and means that others procreate with their creative genii.

Point 3 (kind of like a bonus track on an album, if you will): I am Spock.

No, really. I am. Maybe we all are.

Two (or more) opposing impulses inside one brain, both of them necessary, both of them valuable.

It does us well to reconcile them.

Live long and prosper.