Hi Friends and welcome to Joy is Now the podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I'm your host, Lisa Anderson Shaffer coach, consultant, and resident psych enthusiast. Joy is Now is sponsored by listeners like you visit Lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com to join the community and become a one time or recurring patron of the podcast. Welcome to season two of Joy is Now, I'm so happy you're here. Last season brought so many inspiring and heartfelt conversations. Each and every guest delightfully shared, so much wisdom. I've loved hearing from you about favorite episodes and moments from season one. I have an incredible group of guests lined up for this new season and I cannot wait to get started. This first episode is going to be a little different. And don't we love that. Today. I'm excited to play guest! Leading the discussion and asking me all the psych questions I can handle is season one Joy guest marketing, business veteran and founder of Christina Loff Marketing and PR and of course fellow psych enthusiast, Christina Loff.
Welcome Christina to Joy is Now.
Hi, I'm happy to be here and to have it flipped. I get to ask you questions. It's so fun.
Yes, I'm very excited.
It's great to be back.
Good! It's nice to have you and it's nice to see you even if it's virtually.
Yes! All right, are we ready to get into it Lisa? You ready to be in the other chair?
Yeah, put me in the hot seat.
Okay. I'm really excited to talk a little bit more about you. I mean you are such an amazing artist and, your podcast is so great and I just think it's going to be awesome for your listeners to hear more about who you are. Even more than they already know. So many of us know you as an artist first. Tell us how you got interested in psychology? When I think about being an artist and my now lifetime in the profession of fine art, I was like the last one to know that I was an artist. I don't know if that's happened to anyone listening, but I was kind of the kid in school who my friends in elementary school knew that that's who I was before,
It kind of really sunk in and I finally like caught onto the seriousness of it for me when I was in high school. I went to this incredible after school art school. So I was in high school for a regular high school day and then two times a week at night I went to studio classes for like three hours a clip and it was, it was serious. It was nude model drawing and figure and painting and all the stuff that you do if you were 19 and off at art school. Being there with the smells and the sounds and just the way the walls were covered, covered in like charcoal and the floors had paint on them. Like that was such, that was, I knew right then and there. I was like, I love this every single thing about it. And when I ended up there, like no one was surprised. There was no one in my life socially, that was like, you're doing this thing after school, like that's crazy. And I was like, well, yeah. Like that's who you are. Do you get it?
So I was like the last one to know. And I think that my friends who I have shared history with like since then that time are not surprised by any, any of the multitude of things that I'm doing. If, if there's a creative lens to it, They're just like, of course, like just can do one thing you do like 10 things and they're all going to be creative and crazy. So that's, it's nice to have that kind of shared history with people that when you find yourself at the end of the path and being like, hello, did I get here? What am I doing there? Like, this is, this is what you do, this is who you are, you know, don't you get it? But so I was fine arts fine arts fine arts for a very long time. And when I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in like the late 90s, there was a woman who came to speak in one of my classes. I took a community arts class and her name is Cindy Perlis. She actually just retired from UCSF last year and she ran a nonprofit within UCSF called Art for recovery.
And basically what she did is she went to the bedside and at the time worked with people in the AIDS ward at Mount Zion. There was an actual AIDS ward at Mount Zion and still in the late 90's. And she worked with adults the beginning of the end of life and also in cancer treatment. And I just loved everything about her. I loved what she was doing with art. I loved that the art came first and it wasn't actually therapeutic in the traditional psychological sense. It was about the shared time with someone creating art, just making art with them, giving them the materials and being like now is the time to do this. And some people had never made art before. So imagine you're really, really sick. It's beginning the end of your life and someone hands you like a paint box and gives you permission to make art. That was like really powerful. So I worked with Cindy for about six years and this was this was before Mount Zion was really the massive conglomerate cancer center that UCSF has become.
So I sort of watched it develop and grow, which was fascinating and the more that I worked with patients at the bedside, the more I facilitated these groups and the more I learned from Cindy, there was always this kind of underlying psychological wave that was happening. This kind of material. This energetic or psychological material, whatever you want to call it. That was in the air, just from working at a hospital, from being with people that we're facing some really hard decisions. Also being with people who were getting well and the emotions around that and sharing space with people who were not getting well. So there was a kind of this energy around that I became very aware of and I didn't know anything about it. Strangely enough, my funding there was through the California Arts Council, which after september 11th, like most arts organizations tanked. No one was funding the arts anymore. The arts council got in touch with me and said, look we can only fund half of your year and UCSF was really supportive and helped me through the end of that year. I knew that the funding wasn't going to come back in a year, like this was a major, major event.
This was your full time job out of school, this was what you went straight into?
Okay, yeah, I immediately I was working as a professional artist, I had solo exhibitions, I also did some teaching through the San Francisco Arts and Education Group, which I think is still around. But I was a full time professional artists and UCSF was where I spent about 60 % of my time. And so my my funding was cut and I knew it wasn't going to be like oh next year. Like you know, like I think it took about eight years for the Arts council to come back fully, which is that's just what happened. So I was sort of faced with the decision, do I want to go back for an MFA or do I want to try something different? And I tried to get into a psychology master's program at San Francisco State and State was really straightforward and was like you don't have any psych classes?
What made you want, so just being in that environment and working with those people in recovery and using art that made you say I want to learn more about psychology and be able to help people on this whole other level?
Yes, it was the curiosity that I had from knowing that there was something else there that I didn't know anything about and that I couldn't fully tap into. Like I could feel it almost in the temperature. Like the way you walk into a room and you can feel if it's hot, it's cold. I knew that there was something going on but I didn't have the education to really understand it and at the time it wasn't even like oh I want to be in the position of understanding it and facilitating it as a psych professional, I just really want to understand it. Like there's something going on here. I think it's probably really cool and I want to learn that language was sort of where I was coming from. And so I'll just apply to a master's program without any psychology classes. And the very nice people at San Francisco State did not throw me out the door. They were like we will spell out for you what you need to do, come back when you've done it and it wasn't a lot and it wasn't unreasonable.
And I went back when I had finished and they took me into the clinical psych program and that was in all of it since like really learning a new language. I had never read a study before or professional paper before San Francisco State is geared psychodynamically and psychoanalytically, which is its own like modality of psychology and it's just very, it's very based in language and there are words that are used differently than they are in the way we speak every day and I had to learn a new, completely new language. Which I also liked. Like it was hard but there was also a part of me that was like I kind of like this challenge. So I loved it right away.
How long was that program that you entered into?
Their master's program is two years of full time graduate study. And then after that to become licensed, there's 3000 hours worth of work that you have to do which the state gives you the least amount of time you can really do,
it is about 2.5 years. The state gives you I think eight to finish it.
When you started this study, what happened to the art? Did your art take a back seat? I mean how did you integrate and and how did that feel switching your brain like that?
Yeah, that's a that's a great question because it definitely led to one of the more ah ha moments of big mistakes I've made in my life. Not the kind of mistake where anyone else is impacted, but you realize what you've done to yourself and you're like, oh shit! Like I blew it, I blew it for so long. I got so immersed in the curiosity and intellectual stimulation of learning that new language and getting really steeped in it that I don't want to say it did. I like to say I had convinced myself that I didn't need my art practice. That was so creative that working with people doing the investigation into their thoughts and feelings and their behavior, especially the psychoanalytic modality which is very kind of heady and creative.
I did really feel like I was being as creative as I was when I was in the studio and I ended up writing my master's thesis about this body of work that I would do after seeing my patients. So I was doing that. But it was very, you know, such a small percentage of my time, I had really immersed myself and it wasn't until after my husband and I had experienced like, and people go through this like you never wish on anyone but the older you get and the more you get to know people, you understand that people go through sometimes years of unbelievable grief where like everything happens during that time. You lose family members, dogs houses, natural disasters, like it's everything and you just keep looking around like when does this shit storm end? And we were kind of in one of those periods for my family where it was like everything at once and that kind of grief really hits you so hard in the head as to what your priorities are and you're sort of emotional capacity for what it really is and where it honestly is and where you want it to be.
And sometimes those are two completely different things that you have to reconcile. And that was kind of the process. Like I got to the point where the grief was so big that I wasn't happy, I didn't know it and I came home from my practice one day and looked at my partner and I was like, I don't want to do this anymore. And he looked at me and he said good, you haven't been happy the whole time, you've been doing it.
And how many years have you been doing it at that point?
I started school in 2003 and this was 2009.
So that was like he said that and I just felt like I fell to the kitchen floor just crying and we made an agreement after that that no matter what I pursued, like if I still pursued being a psychotherapist and that's what I chose to do, I had to make something. I had to be making something. I had to have a studio. I had to be painting. I had to be taking photos. I had to be letting that art part of me out. I personally have to keep this in check.
I don't know about other people, but I think a lot of times people that creative people have to keep this in check. I get fooled a lot by the gratification of intellectual stimulation and I will convince myself that that is feeding me. But it doesn't, it feeds like this surface level that I don't have to interact with in a deeply emotional way. Like I can kind of be there and float and say yeah, yeah, yeah, this is so cool and I'm learning this and isn't that awesome and I'm so curious, I'm so curious, but it doesn't get me to this deeper level of being that as an artist you need to tap into to survive a happy, joyful life.
Completely and it's almost like at least for me when you go into that space as an artist and a creator, your part of your brain shuts off and I need that, like I need and it sounds like you very much do too. You need to be able to work both parts of the brain and you need to have that, especially when you're challenging yourself as much as you are and learning new things or taking on other people's, you know, emotional everything.
You need a you need a moment to let your brain just be free.
You hit exactly what it is. I don't think I've ever thought about it that way, but it is freedom, it's total freedom and liberation. And for me also, you know, I have, I have an addictive personality, whether I'm addicted to the intellectual stimulation, I'm addicted to the creativity. Like my drug is the flow state.
And when I was working with patients, a lot of psychoanalysis is tapping into that flow state. And I think that's why I was misreading the experience just a little bit and thinking, oh, I can shut down my art because I'm achieving flow, I'm in that, I'm in that, but it's it's just, it's different, it's really different. And I know now that I can't not do it, but that's a mistake. There will always be whether it's I'm always painting or creating for Zelma Rose or taking photographs, and I'm always doing or I'm like crocheting or knitting.
So I'm curious what happened then after you had that conversation with Matt and you sort of made an agreement that you couldn't keep doing this and you weren't happy, did you? You stopped your practice? Did you go full on into art then? I mean, what was the balance like after that? And then I'm curious how that led you to where you are now with bringing some of this back into your life. And that's a big question that I'm I'd love to hear about that.
Yeah, I can see this now that reconciliation was a big part of what was happening for me at the time. I didn't know, but I felt so less than being the person that emotionally could not handle bumps in my own personal life. And a full patient load. I still have mixed feelings about that. I get better at reconciling that that that's not me and I have amazing friends and colleagues that excel at it and they can and I can't.
So that was hard. I still work that out. But ending practices, you don't just close the doors. It's a process and I now know having gone through that process, why it should be and it is and it's for everyone's well being. It's for your patients that have come to depend on you. They get, you know, depending on how long you've seen them 6-8 months to say goodbye really is what it is. And you set them up with a referral and they need that, you know, they're set there in a good space and it's also a lot of consultation with another professional about unraveling yourself from that and what that looks and feels like. So that process went on for about a year and into when I, when I was pregnant with my daughter, that was my practice was closed, but I was still continuing like, the emotional professional closure, my practice with myself and consultation, but I I'm a very strong decision maker.
So it was like, after that moment, I picked myself up off the floor, I looked at Matt and I said, well, you know, I used to work at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. I'm positive I can get a job as an art teacher with teens. Like, there's no way people are going to be like, you can handle a room of 16 psychotic teenagers, you'll be fine in our art classroom. And I was right, like, not a problem. So, I went I was going through the practice, I was still seeing patients. I was going through the the practice of, of closing, but I was also hired like, I mean right away as a visual arts instructor for a place called College Track, which is amazing here in the Bay Area. They basically create a set of learning experiences for kids that really want to go to college, but don't have the financial means to have a well rounded application. So they don't even you know, they have to work so they don't have time to do volunteer work. They don't, if they're interested in art, they don't have the availability of a professional artist helping them make a portfolio.
SAT tutoring and all that, they can have someone help them with their essay. So College Track is like if you show us the desire that you want to go to a four year school, we will provide you with all these things.
I mean yeah, it's amazing and kids that show up there really want to go to a four year school, There are some of them are as young as 14, you know 13, they can get started and College Track sets them up after school with tutoring, you know, music lessons, whatever they offer everything. And I was the visual arts component. So I had these amazing kids. I worked at the branch out in Oakland and did that through my pregnancy really and then took a leave from there when I was pregnant, I didn't go back but it was it was an incredible experience.
That sounds amazing. So do you want to talk a little bit now about how you're bringing psychology back in this new capacity in your life and what that looks like?
Yeah, I'm super surprised by all this will be the first to admit that it's surprising exactly how much I'm wanting to talk about it.
And the podcast just seemed like a natural place to put everything because in my practice and kind of what I excelled at doing for and with my patients was having this wide focus and that's a very big part of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is this very narrow focus and then being able to step back and have this almost alarmingly wide perspective that sometimes isn't even personal about the actual patient. It's like how that experience is connected to a society of seven billion people like this is this is what happens this time of year, not just for you, but for everyone, and it's a societal anxiety. And so I kind of, I excel at being able to like step back and and be like, whoa, look at this and then saying to the patient, check this out and then they're like, whoa, so it does, it always, my work always did have this kind of educational component to it. Where I was pointing out things that I think were hard to see or difficult to highlight on your own.
I would sort of see them and in my investigation be like, oh, that's that, that's that and then that kind of lay it out, help my patients discover it in their own way. So there was always something that seemed kind of educational about how I was approaching psychology, I love psychoanalysis, I love the really boring dry texts and the research papers and it's, it's just so weird and so lovely. And there's something really creative about it that always and with running a business with running Zelma Rose, there's so much psychology in there that I didn't realize like I would get approached by people, I would be speaking somewhere as a business person and they would say, how do you handle customer service? And it's like sending an email to someone that was frustrated about something was I never even thought that that was, I just knew how to do, it was like, oh, here's how you just do this, this is what works, that's what people want to hear and, Oh, that's from all those hours, 3000 plus hours of study.
So when I was trying to figure out like where to place this, I had many years of writing from These Three Things project and have had people asking me like we want, we want to see this differently, like what can you do with it differently? So I've been floating around with a podcast idea for that for a while, but I thought I want it, I don't just want it to be people coming on saying three things that they've learned, like I think that's really nice, but anyone can do that, what can I offer into that mix, that's specific to my expertise, like, what do I have to say? And the more I kind of talked to people about it, or the more I would ask people like, what do you, what's something that you learned that has stuck with you? The more I realized that a lot of it had to do with this kind of psychological behavioral piece and that wasn't necessarily on the surface, but deep down the things that they held onto made them feel a certain way, and that's why they held on to them.
So I I'm not gonna pretend like it was well thought out. I don't know if anything I've ever done has been well thought out.
It appears to be so you're fooling us all. Um I'll say to having listened to your podcast and having been on it, it's really, it's so much more than just a conversation between two people, so it's great to be on it and to talk to you. But then the fact that you go deeper with whatever the emotion that people bring on and you're actually learning something is really satisfying as a guest. But then the episodes I've listened to, it's delightful to listen to the conversation, but I always come away learning something which I love. So I'm like eavesdropping and hearing this conversation, but then really learning to about these emotions that I think we all feel and experience. So, it is a really unique podcast and format that you've created.
Thank you. I hope so. Sometimes it's one of those things where you don't know what you're baking until it comes out of the oven.
So like, I don't know, I see this trend in my own life and being surrounded by creative business people. Yourself included, when something comes to fruition, it's almost like the idea was the baton was handed to you by someone else. Not the idea, but someone says to you, I'll be the first guest or yes, I like that idea. Or you need to go in your studio, close the door and write something because you're about to birth something. Like there's always been someone, not that I wasn't going to do it, but there's always been that last little inch to get that. Someone said, yeah, that's great. I'll be a guest. You know, that gave me a reason to start, right?
And let's talk about that a little bit more because I'm from what I saw. I think you probably had an overwhelming response to when you announced your doing this podcast. So talk a little bit about that and how that really fueled you.
That felt really good. And that was so fucking scary I'm not going to lie.
I was kind of playing around with this idea. I thought psychology governs everything. It's a study of human behavior. It's like gravity. Like it is critical to our survival that we understand our behavior and psychology, but no one ever talks about it. Like that's so weird. It's kind of the conversation that we all have now about when we were in high school that we should have learned about money and I think they do that more now. But when you and I are growing up, you take like maybe a economics class, but it's not, it's very kind of historical. They don't say let's all go to the bank and open up an account here is different, that kind of thing. And I feel like psychology should have this casual conversation around it. It shouldn't just be for people who decide to become in the helping or the medical profession. Like it should be talked about in a casual way, it should be like a health class. Like you should be in a room talking about where happiness comes from in your brain or depression comes from in your brain, how some behavior doesn't match the emotion that the person is actually feeling like we're all swirling around this big bag of emotional gunk and we have to try and filter it out to communicate.
Like it's amazing that we can do that. So that was my hope. I was like, if I'm hoping that I can start to make psychology and talking about our emotions and behavior, like more casual, like eating an apple. Like I'm just here hanging out eating an apple, maybe someone else be interested. So as you mentioned, I broke that. I was like, okay, I'm going to have these three, of course three different categories of recording. The one will be emotion, these three things. And then theory because I wanted to be able to give myself a place to offer that wide focus after listening and interviewing a few people. Like is there anything like how can I kind of zoom out from this and I posted on facebook, which I'm never on. That was the best place to do it. And I think I actually said in the post like, hey you guys, I'm sorry, I'm doing this because I never talked to anybody this way, but I'm starting this podcast and I had spelled out as best I could what I was doing and people, I had more response than I knew what to do with and not just for one episode, like people wanted to do both and spend two hours with me talking about three things they learned to end an emotion.
So I was, I thought, do I have a lightning in a bottle here?
Which also speaks to, I think how well you can connect with people and how you know, I saw your post on facebook and I was like, oh I love talking to lisa that sounds like fun and there were so many people who responded that way and I think it's a real strength of yours and it's what makes these episodes so interesting and fun to listen to.
Thank you, it's, I am, I'm a shy person actually, but when it comes to thinking together with someone, I'm out, I appear to be outgoing, that's my comfort zone. And it took, it took me a long time to get there like walking into a hospital room with someone who is in bed dying of AIDS in the horrible way that people did in the nineties and they can barely lift their hands and going in with an art cart and being like, hi honey, do you want to make some art today? Like, I mean that's really hard. So Cindy Perlis really was so critical and just me overcoming that people are going to be happy to see you, they're going to be happy to see you.
I would not have hired you if I thought you were a person that people weren't going to be happy to see and want to talk to. And I hung on to that sentence in my head through my psych training and everything and working with kids to really helps. Like working with adolescents in crisis. There's a, and then that was, I mean that's, that's my population and that is my jam. Those kids are my total jam. I'm heartbroken. That and that was part of my sort of emotional reconciliation was that I can't be that person and live my own full happy life, especially as a parent, but there's something very, there's a humor and there is a for me at least everyone works with people differently. But for me, there was always a humor and in ease and working with adolescents that you kind of have to see something funny. Something has to be funny in all of this because for a 16 year old that's having a psychotic break, that's in a hospital and doesn't know anyone and they're away from their family, shit.
If you cannot find some piece of humor to share with them, the fear is astronomical. They don't know what they're in for. They don't know what the rest of their lives looks like and kind of tapping into that sort of like a hilarity of psychology in general. I always find it funny. I feel like I always walk away from the episodes being like that's sort of hilarious. Like how are we ever really going to know what the other person's thinking like, that's so funny. But we keep trying. Good for us.
So tell me about the name, which I love Joy is now. What does it mean to you? Why did you pick that name is read it in a little bit of what you just said?
Yeah, it definitely is rooted in in the hilarity of the human condition. Like, if you don't end an understanding that psychoanalysis and I've talked about this in one of the theory episodes, I think early on it believes in sort of anchored in this continuum that you're never off it.
If you think you're off the playing board, you're wrong. So there's your you're always there, but it's to different degrees that you kind of flow back and forth on the continuum. Some are healthier, some are less healthy for you. Everyone is different on their own kind of continuum spectrum. And then there's the wide focus continuum of all of us as humans. So we're kind of on both. And I love that. And I think that's that's where you can choose. I'm not going to say you have to, but you can choose to find the humor in that and find joy in the fact that we're all on like we're all on that line. You know, walk the line, there's one way to get off and its ultimate as far as we know, that's it, that's the end. But until then you walk the line, like with yourself, with everybody else. And for me, there's a tremendous amount of joy in that. There's joy and the happiness of that.
There's joy in the suffering of that. You were never truly out there alone. And that to me is that that's a joy knowing that.
I love that. Okay, so say that there's a listener who's just this is a question you haven't heard. So I'm putting you on the spot and if you can't answer that's okay, but so you have a new listener just coming to season two, who hasn't listened to any episodes from the first season, which episode or episodes would you point them to first? Which one or ones had, you know, really stuck with you or you think would be a good place to start because one of the great things about all of your efforts, you could really start anywhere, right?
The first few theory episodes are important. I think there's one called the first one is why astronauts wear socks, sort of like my parallel theory that psychology is like gravity and I think that's important to listen to first. So you sort of get a sense of where I'm coming from. I'm not the we're going to help you quit smoking, you're going to snap the rubber band on your wrist, kind of cognitive behavioral therapist, which works, It's fantastic.
You know, do whatever my thing is do whatever modality gets you in the seat, whatever gets you there. It doesn't matter if it's CBT if it's Jesus, if it's whatever, just whatever gets you in the seat. But my my kind of way of thinking is a little bit different. So I think that's a good one to start with. I love that people have had the courage to talk about grief on the podcast. So there's a few episodes that touch on grief, Gina Grand is one. Elena Fong is another Lee Cyprus those. I always, I feel like grief is great. Grief is it like if there was one thing that life was about, its grief and grief is love and love is grief. And so I think those are really important conversations to have. One piece that I just talked about a little bit in the last theory episode of season one is my friend J'Amy Tarr, the outerwear designer was on the podcast and she was talking about worry and we get to this part of the episode where she's talking about this sort of family worry that she grew up with and it involved around one of her family members getting nervous about being late for the airport and they were never late but they would get there really early and she kind of carried that with her and we all we all do that, I call it parental B.O..
We all carry this.
Oh my God, that's such a great expression.
We're trying to like scrub away and and sometimes we don't know if it's us or if it's internal or external. So she's talking about that and we come to this part of the episode where we both kind of like pause and laugh because this is so brilliant. This speaks so much to her just emotional intelligence and her ability to think about things abstractly. She said that she realizes now and they realized shortly after that the way her dad's worry, his behavior was frustration and anger, but that wasn't the emotion he was feeling. So the way that the family supported him was to a understand that and then back down off of the response or the reaction to that behavior, it was like, oh dad's just worried and we just started like, gee and then Jaime says something like and then there's that like people are behaving in a way that is incongruent from the emotion they're feeling and we list last a few minutes and so I can't stop thinking about like that piece, like what do we do with that?
And in the last Theory episode of season one, I'm like, can we can we reconcile that incongruency? Should we try? You know, I don't know, but that was that was that was a big, that's the moment I'm thinking about a lot, like, wow.
I love that. Let's switch gears a little bit and I want to talk to you, you have a book and I want to talk to you about the process of writing your book, but maybe you can start with these three things and how that was born and turned into the book?
Yes, These Three Things as a project, I started in 2016, it's a daily writing project and it started with a very tight framework, which I recommend is always the tighter the framework you start with the better because it gives you fewer excuses to a not do it, but also it's good to have rules for everything. It's like with the master painters, you have to know how to recreate every detail in the human body and face before you can do cutouts like Matisse, like you don't get there, you don't start there.
You start with the very rule oriented, scientific place. So for me that that's just where I start with, okay, here are the rules. I write three things I've learned each day and I'm going to pair that with something visual that because I didn't, I wasn't sure for me if writing would feel like being an artist or if that would feel different, I still don't know. Yeah, I still don't know, I love to write, I get in that flow space, but I'm not sure if it's the same. So tying myself to the promise I made to my husband, it's like, okay, this is going to have a visual component. And I've been collecting these very sort of scientific field guide like photos of stuff we find on our in and around our house, which is who have been like the wilds of marin and there's bobcats and all sorts of weird stuff going on. So we find very interesting natural stuff around the house and I started to photograph it. So I said, oh well this will give me something to do with these photographs and I'll post a photograph of three things natural object, maybe an odd heirloom from my family or something else and I'll write and that, that was one of those moments where again, that hand was pushing from the outside.
I had a conversation with my friend Christian who we've been friends since we were about 14 and I knew something was I was going to birth something like I was in like a funk, I wasn't feeling great. I remember having a stomachache and he sent me this text and was like, what's up? And I was like, shit, that's what's up, you know? And I was like, oh, I feel like funky. And he was like, I think you're like, I think something's about to happen. Like it sounds to me like you're like, I call it creative constipation where like trying to get something out, you can't, you're like, I know something that's happened and that's kind of where I was and he was like, can you go into the studio this week and closed the door. And so it was over the summer and I think my kid had camp one day that week and I was like, yeah, I can do like three hours tomorrow, I can just close the door. And he was like, well my advice would be not to decide what it is, like have your, have all your stuff out, but don't decide like how it needs to manifest.
That's great advice.
That was yeah, I mean, I try to give that advice, like the freedom of just like close the door, don't have any judgment about where you start. Like that's not, he was kind of like, that's not your job. Your job isn't to decide where you start. So I spread that around like wildfire. But and I did, I closed the door, I took my three hours and I am sitting like looking at paints. I'm looking at my sketchbook for Zelma Rose and thinking like, is this a collection that's going to happen of jewelry? Is it going to be a painting? Is it going to be photography? What is it going to be? And I kept going back to my computer as I had turned 40 earlier in the year and I was just kept having these moments of like that milestone age of feeling as and if you're not 40 yet, it's like an overnight. It's magical. Right? It just kind of, this thing happens and like a portal opens. It's awesome. And so I was having a lot of those moments and I ended up with my computer typing like what I'm doing this.
And I typed three things I had learned by middle age, like three things that kind of came to mind. And there were things that mostly I learned through grief and I wrote it out on a list. I think I emailed it, I might have emailed it or texted it to Christian. I showed it to Matt and without I decided I wasn't going to think about it that much, but I was like, okay, I'm going to make this a project. So that means it has these rules and I'm just going to post it on Facebook and see what happens. I'm not like I'm just going to do it and people responded. So I kept going.
Did you do it every day?
Yeah, I've done it. It's going, it'll be five years in July every day for five years.
That's an amazing commitment Lisa.
It's that's a very kind way of putting it. Um, I have, I have other professional opinion of it along with being, you know, amazing.
I shared it on Instagram and Facebook and I shared it on the Zelma Rose blog for a while and then about a year ago I moved everything to a separate Lisa Anderson Shaffer website because I had the book and I was selling photography and paper products, but it just, it just kind of kept going and and now I feel like I'm at the point where it's not three things anymore. Now it's this like free thought now I feel like I'm getting closer, I maybe halfway between like the Dutch masters and Matisse, like I'm, I'm like in freestyle more, you know, Run DMC, I'm getting closer to that..
One of the things I was going to ask was you must be you're doing it for whatever other psychological reasons you want to, you want to tell yourself, but you must be getting something from it too. So, you know, talk about what you're getting from it and then what inspired you to create the book, because essentially that's also teaching people how to do it and sharing that.
Yeah, there's something about having a daily practice that I believe is essential and that's not just from the psych part of me, it's also from the artist, creative part of me, it's definitely from the motherhood part of me, but there there should be if you're doing life, right, something that you do every day. And I think people get overwhelmed with that thinking like, oh my gosh, I can't practice yoga every day, I can't go for it. It's like, it's not about that, it's about being present in a practice that maybe you already do it every day. Or maybe it's something as little as saying for the next year, I'm going to listen to a song I've never heard before, every day on itunes that could take to I mean, you could just go to a radio station and rent there'd be a song that would randomly come on, you wouldn't even have to seek it out that you had never heard and write it down or don't write it down, but be present in that moment, that that is the thing that you do every day because there's something, well we know what it is, neurologically, it opens up all these pathways, ritual ritual enables our minds to get into a flow state, that's why Derek Jeter, I'm totally aging myself now, but Derek Jeter from the Yankees would get up at that and do that ridiculous, like two minute thing with the wrist bands on his gloves, we'd all be sitting there like, thank God you're cute because this is fucking ridiculous to hit the ball already.
But that space that that going through those emotions physically would put him in a place of mental relaxation where he actually could do the amazing things he did on the field. So there is all this hard science behind it, but more than that I started because I have an insatiable curiosity for everything, so I knew for me if I was feeling overwhelmed, trying to come away from the day with three things I learned, I could do that even on the worst possible day, even if it was watching like some documentary on the Discovery Channel or something, I could jot down like oh earthworms, blah blah blah, You do something like that. And it has, it's given me a lot more than I think might be evident from the writing, it really gives me a chance to have that wide focus that I so love that keeps me both intellectually and creatively and creatively stimulated.
I think about, it was about six months into the project that I knew I had something, I was like, this is a thing and I'm going to be as bold to say that it should be a book. I don't know if it will ever happen and I chased it down. I was like, I'm going to find an agent and I'm going to see if I can get this to happen because I think if to me that was that was sort of this other way in the door of getting people to think about how they're feeling, not even maybe about how they're feeling, but to think about a feeling or emotion or two. Make the psychology of life like a little bit more casual, like if I have a practice where I'm listening to a new song every day and I write down how that song makes me feel, then I'm living in a world where psychology exists and that's going to help me with everything else because it's kind of like oxygen.
It's forcing reflection to it's forcing a moment of whether how whatever, how big or small it is, it's forcing you to think about how you're feeling, how something makes you feel or which is really important.
I like the idea of force reflection and those moments, what's even more important than that is like when whenever I have a friend who's who's in psychotherapy and they're like, I had nothing to say today to my therapist, it was such a waste of money, I'm like, oh you're just getting to the good shit now. Like, now is when it gets really good, when you have to show up and you have to sit in that gunk of feeling like when you have to work through that, like that means you're ready to come out on the other side of something. So in having a daily practice, you forced yourself. Like I write all the time about when I'm at odds with the practice about when I don't have anything to say when I don't have anything to write when I think I think it's over or I want to start over. I wish I had done it this way. Like, I always write that down because that's that's part of it too.
And that's what having a daily practice forces, you threw that gunk. Consider being like, I have nothing. I'm bored. Like, are you are you really board? Is that it or is it just so uncomfortable to sit with the unknowingness of this moment that I'm bored. You're not above it? I'm not above it. We're not above it.
Like, that's like whenever I ask my partner, I'm like, how are you today or how was your date? And he will say fine. I'm like, you can't say fine, not allowed under there. There's other shit under there. What else is there anything? You know, we didn't talk too much and I don't know if it's jumping back too much, but about what exactly brand project development consulting is.
Oh yeah, let's talk about that. Yeah, so part of along with with I ended up sort of positioning myself as a I'm calling it a psych enthusiast but it's really a psych educator and that's the podcast piece.
But my creativity and my deep interest in psychology always leads me to consulting. I never haven't consulted. When I was in school, I was always part of consultation groups when I had my first had my license, I was since I was doing consulting for other psychotherapist to consult on their caseload, I was I did a consultation group at San Francisco state with their graduate students and I was doing business consulting from a very psychological lens. Which to me I'm like if you're going to do it and you're not looking at psychology you're kind of missing like 90% of what's probably going on. People make different choices and I get that because it's not an easy choice to look at the psychology of a system. And businesses are systems so it gets you have to be the type of person that can handle transparency and really being able to look at things and make changes.
So it's not it's not for everyone but that's always been the type of consultation I've done and I never stopped even when I was just solely doing or it appeared like I was just, solely working on Zelma Rose, I was always consulting and I started to think about who in the last couple of years has found me because that's one of the things with starting a private practice in psychology. Oh I work with adolescents in crisis and I did but I ended up having other people that found me and my mentors were like you need to pay attention to that. In the end you can still decide whether you just want to work with this person or these set of behaviours or whatever, but still take in like who, who's finding you. And I ended up working with a lot of women in deep trauma and that was who found me and that is not an adolescent in acute crisis but there was something, there was something about, there was something about me that made people feel safe about going there and so I paid attention to it and in my consulting I started to really look at who was finding me and there were people that had really been able to take in the different projects that I have pursued.
So the book, running an independent, you know internationally recognized design business, fashion design, business psychology, the podcasting, there were people that were getting in touch with me were like I want to know how to do this and I want to know how to turn this into something or I have an idea or I want this to be a book, And so I came up with the project brand project development consultant, which is you know what you say at a bar when some guy asked you what you do. But my my clients have kind of come to call me the project doula.
Oh my gosh, I love that, it explains it so well.
Yeah and that is exactly it. I see clients who maybe they don't have an idea yet, maybe they're a medical doctor, they just opened a private practice and they have a deep interest in teen allergies.
They've written papers about it, they're not in a place in their work right now where they want to do research, they want to do that part, but they want to talk about it. They feel like they have something to share with the members of their practice, their patients families and they want to know like is what do I, what is there anything I can do with this? So we always, no matter why clients are coming to me, I always start with a two hour interview where I ask a ton of questions and I'm able to again that wide focus ability that I have to create these threads between what the person's profession is now and things that the even jobs they had had in high school. Like people think that's irrelevant and I'm like that's so interesting that you worked at like a, I don't know, Radio Shack or something, something random like people think doesn't have any ask them what were the biggest challenges? They're like, what did you and sometimes people don't know what they've learned from an experience, but I can track like how that has influenced what they do present day or what they're working on.
And we come up with a list of projects. We choose one at a time and I create super targeted, precise specific workflow templates and ideas where like if it's someone who wants to write a book and says I have this project, I wanted to be a book, I go, okay, that's great. Not all books happen. Hate to, I hate to burst that bubble, but I think your idea is really great. So let's make it work for you if the book doesn't happen. And gold book. Yes, I'm 100% there for that. But also how can we make this work for you now? How can we make it a blog? Can we make it a podcast? Can it be a video series? Can you write papers, can you get grants? Can you apply for speaking gigs based on if it's research, you're doing anything, Even if it's just something to put in a newsletter. How can we leverage this experience and this work so that it's relevant right now and then how else can be relevant? So sometimes I work from that end. Other times I work with someone who's actually in a rebranding process.
Who is at the very beginning or whose rebranding and I'm talking to the team doing the rebranding saying, okay, you're making these assets, let's add this or let's put a little bit more emphasis on assets for video because we're not working on that now. But I actually think that we can turn this little spark that this person has in one area too, a video series that then can be translated to writing articles or speaking.
So you're like an investigator or doing a little bit of, I'd say a coach to, I don't know how I mean, I worked with a coach launching my own business and really a lot of it too, I think is you're such a good listener and then you're so good at reflecting back what people are and who you know, and I think those are all things you need, someone needs their hand held and just that guidance. So I love project Doula.
I love that. It's a reason there is, I mean, as you know, there's that everyone gets stuck and everyone thinks has those moments, sometimes they're short. Sometimes they're really long of thinking that their ideas worthless. Everyone, whether it's stepping out on your own. Like you've done whether it's having something they believe in that they want to be a book, whether it's they have something they want to present at a Ted Talk. It doesn't matter what it is. We all have those moments either short or long that are like no one is going to care.
Mm hmm. And you need help, right? Like I think especially when you, when you have a new project, whether it's a book idea or you're launching your rebrand and unique. The best thing you can do is ask for help and guidance and it's going to end up better than if you tried to do it on your own, right?
Absolutely. Yeah. It's, if you're really serious about it, you'll get help. And and that's that's a whole other thing because there's a lot of people that fear that success and want to talk about it, but don't actually want to do it.
If you really want to get it done, you'll get help. Whether it's from me. From a different, you know, like I said, whatever gets you in the chair. I don't care if it's Jesus, CBT psychoanalysis, EMDR coaching. Whatever. Whatever gets you in the chair, pick something and commit to it. Because then with my clients, it becomes my job to say, uh, you know, oh, um, I'm having second thoughts or this I found this person on instagram and they're sort of doing the same thing. It's my job to say, oh, you're in that part of the process now. Mm hmm. That's not unique to you. That's great that you thought it was. But it's not. We're here now. This is a place along the path. This is a place along the project continuum that everyone comes to. But you're with me now and I know the way out and so I'm going to show you how to get out like we're in the hole. I know how to get out. And so and and some people don't want to know that they can get out of the hole and that's a whole other those people don't end up finding me.
The people that find me are the people that think even if it's just a thought, like I think I really want this idea to get out of the hole.
Mm I love that. And then I help them do that. How long do you typically work with people?
It depends, it depends. Sometimes, you know, I have clients that I work with every week. Sometimes we'll work more than once a week. If there's a deadline, like if it is an actual book pitch that has to go to an agent, I usually have just eyes on it. The agent runs that like they have the final say obviously, but the client will want my support while making sure checking on the timeline and all that and setting up the systems to get to that date. We kind of reverse engineer it. So sometimes there's more support if there's a deadline. Other times I have clients that I work with, once a month. I have clients that I work with for a year more than a year, ongoing. Just tweaking. You know, sometimes it's about setting systems in place and we get through a project and then, okay, well what's the next one on the list? We just keep going.
I love how it's the culmination of all these things you've done in your life and how you're also giving that gift in a way to other people now, because you've like birthed so many projects yourself. And so I think, I think it's an awesome evolution and it's exciting that you're doing that now. It's harder for me to it's hard for me to see the wide focus for myself and I have colleagues that I can. My colleague Dr. Estrada is going to be a guest on the podcast kind of moving forward and he and I were in graduate school together and he is the person that does that for me. When I'm like, what am I doing? He's like, this is who you are. This is what I see. This is my okay, got it. Because it's hard to do that for ourselves. Even even when it can seem really, really obvious to other people, we all get we all get kind of distracted or not even distracted. We just get busy living.
Yeah. What is bringing you joy right now?
Oh my gosh, I want to give credit where credit is due to the pets of the pandemic. Thank God for pets. I mean we have, I'll say this like our family. I don't want to say solution, it's not a solution, but our family go to during times of grief is to get a dog. And if this thing goes on much longer we might have five dogs.
How many dogs do you have right now?
Well we have we have two and then my parents have one and and we're very all involve. The dogs are very involved together. But we have Sherman who is going to be 13 in August. We adopted Sherman during that period of immense grief. I was talking about that we were going through in like 2008 and 2009 and are we adopted him when our dog Stella was dying, she was sick. And Sherman's like the last beacon before parenthood for my husband and I it's like what remains before we had this a different kind of life and we adopted Busy in July who we think is three.
Her name was poor dog, her name was Bissell, the rescue adoption and she named her Bissell because her hair was so matted and she looked like a mop or something. So we I was like that that's kind of sad can we do like we all agreed Busy was okay but I knew I mean the second I sort of was looking at what was ahead of us. I thought like when we got to get on a list I said to that get on a dog list like we're going to need even if we don't think we do, we're going to need that. So definitely pets. Also, it's been such an immense joy to intimately see my daughter grow the last year. That is like I can't even, I feel like I was struck by luck lightning in being able to witness that. Like it is immense and it's something that never would have happened had we not been in this fucked up awful situation.
So that, and I really like deep breathing because it's not, it hasn't been easy. I'm not saying it's been an easy year and counting, it's been a lot. But that is something that once it's over there will not be another time in my life or in hers where that will return. And that is, I don't, I don't have, you know, the words for it. So that, that's, those are kind of like the two deep in a penetrating joys. And then I don't know if I can't think that it's just a coincidence. But whatever sort of fear or guard I had around reaching out to people I hadn't talked to in a long time who I always really liked. It was just like stuff happens. You lose touch or whatever I, I sent a friend who I hadn't talked to in 10 years a text out of nowhere, Sunday morning.
I'm not going to have that here and like the more I did it, the more I realized like my feeling is not wrong. Like I have a feeling in my heart that this person brings me joy, that there isn't some reason why we lost touch. It's just life and stuff and work and family and moving. And so I'm just going to not think about it so much. And I've done that a bunch of times this year and it's just like so much joy.
I think that's been a real gift of the past year is how much closer it's brought us. So when you talk about your time with your daughter and reaching out to friends, I mean, I think I we've all needed that contact more. And I I know it's interesting to look back and think about the silver linings of which I think a lot of us are doing. There's a lot certainly that were aren't silver linings, but I think it's nice to be reflective and think about, I'm glad this happened because it brought this out or made this thing happen.
Yeah. I mean, if there's one thing I've learned above all else is that grief creates the most massive movements in your life, like it, there's something almost reassuring to me and knowing that there's no choice. And we are all in this mess 7 billion people worth of grief. If you are a human, alive right now on this planet, you are carrying the grief of the loss of this pandemic. And whether it's small deaths or the ultimate end, it's penetrating all of us and it's like that. It's awful. But the way that I know grief has moved things in my life and stripped me of fear is I that's that's where it's hope is really hard for me. Hope faith are hard for me. But that is I have a tremendous amount of hope that and I don't even want to say on the other side, because that's like I'm leaving the idea of back to normal.
I'm putting that in the shitter. I am forward to better. That is my forward to better. And that's not when this is over or an ending that's just like there's there's only forward and whatever that is. So, I take comfort in as we are grieving collectively and separately and hurting that there is a transformation that is happening. There is no choice. It's just happening. And that that transformation will have a really incredible, profound effect on people and their lives. And maybe it's the person leaves their job to go pursue something that always wanted to do. Or maybe they find volunteer work or maybe they get involved in a cause or they realize I was only spending 40 minutes a day with my kid that's got to change something that that works us towards that better end of the continuum.
Is there anything else you want to talk about or that we didn't touch on. It was so nice hearing all of that and learning more.
I well, you're the host.
I think we covered everything Lisa. All right. We did a great job. Yeah. Then we covered it.
Christina Loff says we're done, we are done. This has been Joy is Now with me Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT. You can find me for hire at Lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com along with patronage support for this podcast and the these three things project. You can also follow along with my musings at Lisa Anderson Shaffer on Instagram. For more places to find all the brilliance that is Christina Loff, head to Christina Loff dot com and check the notes for this episode. See you next time.