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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.



A few weeks ago I talked about establishing culture, and my sense of what that means.

And mentioned that no one has yet written the Lonely Planet guide to The Fluent Self, Inc.pirate ship at large. And that one day I might.

So. When I think about the qualities that come together to make this space what it is, it seems to me that one of the hugely important ones is freedom.

But not just freedom. Independence. And not just independence, but amnesty.

Amnesty for stuckness-related guilt.

One of the things that’s big when we work on destuckification is the clearing out of guilt. And working with permission.

Permission to be where we are — in the guilt, if that’s what is going on.

Giving permission to not want to be here. Giving permission to not know how to move through it. And permission to not have to stay there forever.

Because guilt sticks up the works. It cements stuckness. And it keeps us from seeing what is real, what is needed, what would help.

And a lot of the time, this isn’t deep existential guilt over Something We Regret. It’s habitual guilt. It’s discomfort as a way of being.

Oh, just some of the things my people feel guilty about, pretty much all the time:

(Not all my people, of course — a lot of us, though.)

Not chickening on the Friday Chicken. Or not chickening for a while. Or saying too much. Or saying too little. Or saying it wrong, whatever that means.

Not writing Very Personal Ads. Or forgetting to. Or not wanting to. Or not knowing what to say. Having too many wishes. Or too few.

For having possibly thrown a shoe or for being upset that someone else threw a shoe, or for not being over it already.

For not doing Shiva Nata or not getting it wrong enough or not getting it right enough or for forgetting that it works.

With the Kitchen Table mice, it’s about not checking in enough. Or too much. Or being too lengthy or too terse. Or being too something and not enough something else.

For being outsiders and for resenting being outsiders.

With my clients, it’s about not having made enough progress on that one thing. Or not having implemented the other one.

It’s all okay, though.

It’s all okay by me. It’s all okay by Selma.

It’s always acceptable in this community to not know what to say or how to say it. It’s always acceptable to be where you are, in the hard or the stuck or not at all.

To doubt yourself, second-guess, wonder. Or to know with complete certainty.

All or any of those are fine. They just are.

That’s how it is here.

How amnesty works in the culture of this blog and my business in general.

My guilt-free email policy.

Back when I still did email, I had something called my guilt-free email policy, which I was pretty much constantly referencing.

The basic idea:

Unless you’re my bookkeeper or my attorney, you don’t ever have to apologize for not getting back to me. If I need a response, I will say so.

Enough apologizing. You’ll respond when you respond. I’ll respond when I respond. And anyway, not everything requires a response.

Creating space for me.

In fact, my email sabbatical itself is a form of amnesty. For me.

It allows me to not have to interact with the hundreds of daily wants, requests, complaints, needs of everyone who encounters my world.

It gives me spaciousness to create, and to take care of myself.

Space to give lovingly of my time here on the blog each day instead of constantly ranting here and everywhere about how much I hate everything. (Now I just do that on Fridays, which is totally better).

Permission slips.

I give these to my clients all the time.

Sometimes I also write them sick notes.

Anyway, if you want one, I can put one at the bottom of the post.

But assume permission.

The Deguiltified Chicken Board.

Amnesty is everywhere at the Kitchen Table.

It’s okay to post seventeen posts in a row. It’s okay to not post at all.

No one is expected to read everything or answer everything (which would be a physical impossibility anyway, since so much happens there).

You never have to apologize for taking time off or for not being around or for having too much to say or for writing a post that has no point.

We have CrankyPants McGrumbleBug’s Kvetchtastic Whine Bar that’s just for complaining, crying and/or throwing chairs. Where no one gives advice or tries to cheer you up and instead they’re just nice to you.

And the Monster Watching Collective, where you can deposit your monsters for playdates when you need to get some work done.

But one of the neatest things at the Table is the Deguiltified Chicken Board where you get to work on your projects in a completely zero-guilt environment.

So there’s loving accountability, but no one makes you feel bad if you didn’t get something done. We’ll help each other get back on track and start over, but there’s no need for shame about what didn’t work. It’s awesome.

Even birthday amnesty.

This isn’t mine, it’s Kelly’s.

Kelly Parkinson of Copylicious is a crazed genius and I love her.

And she’s worked with me in so many forms that she’s completely an unofficial ambassador of everything I teach. So even though it’s reflective of the excellent culture of her business, in my mind this beautiful idea shares some DNA with all things Fluent-Self-ified.

She gives herself — and youBirthday Amnesty!

You never have to remember anyone’s birthday again. Or feel bad about forgetting hers. It’s brilliant.

Amnesty doesn’t mean not taking responsibility.

It’s not a get-out-of-responsibility pass.

It’s a get-out-of-stuckness pass, which is totally different.

We still own what’s ours. We still have to stop and say, “Wow. My stuff is coming up. And it’s mine. And I’m still working on that.”

But we do get to put down the heaviness, the guilt, the unending wondering if we’re doing it wrong.

Amnesty is yours as a citizen of this space.

It’s an inherent quality of this particular world — the one that exists here on the blog, and at the Playground and everywhere I teach.

It is always there. You can always claim it. You can assume it’s there for you. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. It’s yours.

And you don’t need me to give this permission to you, either. Because you have sovereignty and this is part of your birthright.

Amnesty is built into the culture of this place. You get to grant amnesty to yourself or to anybody in your life, whenever you want to. Or all the time.

Hiro said, about amnesty: “It means we can all come home.” That’s exactly what it is.


And comment zen for today …

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We let people be where they are, which means not giving advice unless someone asks for it.

And yes, this amnesty thing totally applies to commenting too.

Whether it’s permission to say something (if you’re a Beloved Lurker who wants to say something).

Or permission to not have to engage (if you’re a Beloved Lurker who doesn’t need to say anything). Or to hide, if saying things feels scary.

Permission to come back whenever without guilt or questions if you’re a commenter mouse or Chickeneer (Chicken Ear!) of the High Seas who misses being around.

Permission to not have to check in ever, if you don’t feel like it.

All of it. Is okay. By me. Always. It just is.

p.s. Tomorrow is the once-a-year bohemian salon — fun will be had.

33 Responses to Amnesty.

  1. Maartje
    Twitter: martieu

    This is why I love you & Selma to pieces. Even without articulating it quite like this, amnesty just shines through everything. And I just want to hang around and bask in the glow like my cats bask in the sunlight.

    I’ve been guilty lately for not feeling guilty enough.

    No more.

    Thank you.
    .-= Maartje´s last post … Why I’m not an honest person – Part 1 =-.

  2. Vanessa
    Twitter: Vanessa Battersby

    Oh Havi. You made me cry. Thank you. I needed this post.

  3. judy says:

    “And a lot of the time, this isn’t deep existential guilt over Something We Regret. It’s habitual guilt. It’s discomfort as a way of being.”

    I was just journalling about this very thing this morning! How brilliant that you posted and how awesome to see it said so perfectly. I was just about to write ” now I’ve got to get it in my own life” but the way I said that to myself felt not like amnesty, but yet another way to not be enough. The You Won’t Grow If You Don’t Constantly Remind Yourself What You Lack monster was talking there. My first act of amnesty this morning is to give myself permission to not talk with that monster just yet.

    Thank you for making this blog space permission-filled.

  4. Kaleena
    Twitter: Kaleena

    This weekend I had to wrestle with my temper and the guilt that comes with ‘not feeling good’. I wanted to throw shoes at the world, which piled on some more guilt. Add on the fact that projects are piling up the ceiling and you’ve got yourself a cranky girl.

    It might sound goofy, but I found myself repeating what’s at the end of almost all of your posts: “We’re all working on our stuff”. It reminded me that I’m not a bad person for experiencing frustration at my job, I’m just working on a way to possibly do it healthier. That I can’t do everything every day and an iguana or two simply must take the backseat to school and other priorities. None of this makes me a bad person, it just makes me a person.
    .-= Kaleena´s last post … Rabbiting =-.

  5. Laurie
    Twitter: lauriegay

    Amnesty! I love that word, Havi.

    I had to google it to remember exactly what it means. ;)

    (But I also thought, it means to me, really, whatever I WANT it to mean…because that is kind of the whole point. Yay.)

    Amnesty is what it is all about lately, isn’t it? I have seen more and more how much I resist what IS — feeling crap, not liking someone, being disappointed — it just IS, that’s where I start.

    Last week I was noticing that I really resist being where I truly am today, and try to be where I wish I were. To get there (wherever “there” is, you know?), I try to cut corners… hurry! Faster!

    Last night, i was thinking about how the corners are, actually, my favorite part. Like the corners of the brownie pan, yum. They are the lessons and the insights.

    So, I give myself permission to cut corners, or not cut corners, to not totally remember what words actually mean sometimes and pretend like I do, or admit that I don’t.

    Amnesty International!
    .-= Laurie´s last post … What to do when you’re REALLY freaking stressed- part II =-.

  6. Anna-Liza
    Twitter: Divina712

    Wow. I’ve been taking a long leave of absence from almost everything in the “personal growthy/spiritually healthy” area of my life and today I just came over to read about Non-Sucky Yoga (cause I’m finally ready to start practicing yoga again), and as I entered your URL I was thinking, “Geez, how long has it been since I’ve even read one of Havi’s blog posts, let alone done Dance of Shiva or …. etc?”

    And boom, another perfect post. I would have said “hits me between the eyes” but it’s more like wrapping a nice warm shawl over my shoulders when I hadn’t yet noticed I was getting chilly.

    Thanks, once again. Maybe I’ll see you soon. Maybe not quite yet.

  7. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    The tears that have welled up in my eyes as I have read this post are reminders to me of how much I ache for amnesty, of how much I fear (on a primal, pre-verbal, non-rational level) that other important people in my life will deny me amnesty when I need it most — and, perhaps definitely, of how hard it can be to give myself that gift.

    I’m learning.

    What a great gift this post is for a Monday morning, as I make a fresh start on another week, with hope and trepidation as my twin companions. I will press the permission slip you have given me into their sweaty palms, and take some time to simply be.

    Thank you.
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … Act now- before I change my mind! =-.

  8. laine says:

    :leaves Something-Bad-Is-Going-To-Happen-Monster in a basket at the door of the Monster Day Care, with note and snacks and pat on the head:

  9. Rupa
    Twitter: theyogaofliving


    How have I missed a visit to “CrankyPants McGrumbleBug’s Kvetchtastic Whine Bar”?? There have been days that I’ve felt like the PROPRIETOR of this fine establishment! Love!

    Now I’m going to redeem your lovely permission slip, right this moment, to grab another 45 minutes of sleep (4:30 am here).


  10. Mari says:

    (Wry laughter.)I’m a lawyer. And I give myself permission to not get back to clients a very very large portion of the time. In fact, it’s written in my engagement letters. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to actually do any of the work they hire me to do. I’m still working on how to convey to my clients that 99.99(repeating)% of the time it is not an emergency or a legal decision and that if it is an emergency, a lawyer isn’t going to be able to help (no criminal law here). Mostly my folks want a professional opinion to back up what they want to do and plan to do no matter what I say. DISCLAIMER: Of course, exceptions apply. Even if I have never encountered one in my practice. More laughing. (Can we tell that amnesty from guilt is purely aspirational at this point? LOL.)

    Anyway, Permission Slips!!! AMNESTY!!!!

    And the real question for me, which is how do I create places in my life where I have amnesty? Amnesty to be the introvert that I am; amnesty to care less about money and more about time than my colleagues; amnesty from guilt (I’m still trying to believe that this exists.) I bet my clients would like some of this too…..Interesting.

    Thanks Havi!!!!

  11. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Hey you guys!

    @Mari – isn’t it the most fascinating thing? Both how hard it is to apply, and how other people’s urgency monsters are as loud as ours? I find it completely intriguing. Also Purely Aspirational Amnesty should totally be a fake band .

    @Rupa – Proprietor! Of course. Because *behind* the bar is even more fun. I don’t know why I never thought of that. Awesome. Sleep well.

    @laine – notes and snacks! We’ll take good care of your little monsterchen.

    @Kat – kiss

    @Anna-Liza – hey sweetie! What a beautiful thing. Thank you. And really lovely to see you (though of course you don’t have to stay). xox

    @Laurie – corners! Of course. Corners of the brownie pan. That is the most perfect way to put it. Love.

    @Kaleena – “None of this makes me a bad person, it just makes me a person.” EXACTLY. What a great way to say it. Thank you.

    @judy – oh wow, the You Won’t Grow If You Don’t Constantly Remind Yourself What You Lack monster. I know that one! I just didn’t know what it was called. Perfect.

    @vanessa – kiss

    @Maartje – ohmygod guilty over not feeling guilty enough is the worst. Me too. And now I also want a cat.

  12. Jack
    Twitter: JackOutLoud

    You rock. And possible roll too.

    I’m going to sit down to play Pokemon. Without apologising for playing a kids’ game. I have Done Stuff, and given myself blisters Doing Stuff (not even metaphorical ones) and now I need some time off.

    *gets into bed with Nintendo*

  13. Andy Dolph
    Twitter: acdolph

    This is really great stuff!

    It also reminds me of something that Mark Silver teaches at Heart of Business –

    That you are not (and can not be) responsible for outcomes.

    We are all responsible for showing up, and doing what we can do to move things forward. But we can’t control the outcomes and therefore can’t be responsible for them.

    For me this has been a very powerful idea.

    .-= Andy Dolph´s last post … Awesome Website Extravaganza – My Story =-.

  14. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux


    This amnesty thing? It’s something I’ve known about you for a long time. You’re REALLY ok with things, and that’s a big part of why I’m so very comfortable here, while I’m pretty uncomfortable most places.

    It hadn’t occurred to me that amnesty is woven into the Fluent Self culture itself, but it is. I love that you’ve made it official now.

    Amnesty is also something I try to practice in my own world and culture, but it doesn’t always come across, because I also like grumbling about things. Must find a solution for that…

    *wanders off in a fit of grumble-ponder-forgiveness*
    .-= Tori Deaux´s last post … The Circus Art Parade Big Finale! Plus Winners! =-.

  15. Ella
    Twitter: arabellamkc

    Oh the irony. Of feeling guilty about..everything (from messy house…to questionably fed children…to personal non-growth) and THEN…feeling guilty about STILL feeling guilty.

    But I’m noticing: if I don’t give myself permission to take care of myself, my body and mind start trying to do it all by themselves. And they aren’t very good at it. So I get all tangled up and tired and stuck and frozen.

    I’m going to try to think of permission as a prophylactic to tired/frozen/grumpiness…it could work.

  16. chicsinger simone
    Twitter: simonebernhard

    This. This is why you are the queen!

    *curtseys and runs off to play*
    .-= chicsinger simone´s last post … Saks Fifth Avenue That is all =-.

  17. Cathy
    Twitter: cathyyardley

    As always, just what I need, just when I need to hear it. Thank you so much.

    Have been struggling with a growing case of bad burny feelings, not even sure WHY… scared I was going to shift from manic productivity to depressive slump.

    I figured out when meditating last night that I felt bad because I was identifying things in my life I felt guilty about. Worse, I was in denial about feeling guilty, because feeling guilty meant I’d *done bad things* which, by default, meant I *was a bad person*. And I just couldn’t bear to look at it. The other bad side effect? thinking that bad things = bad people meant I could judge people left, right & sideways. “I’m not bad. YOU’RE BAD!” temper tantrums.

    So sitting in my own stuff, while letting other people sit in their stuff, and sort of circling the idea that stuffness isn’t such a big deal.

    Also, my new place is going to be small. I don’t think I have enough room for this kind of baggage when I move. :)
    .-= Cathy´s last post … Why Do We Keep Trying To Be Prom Queen =-.

  18. Karen Sharp
    Twitter: karen_sharp

    I need some amnesty about my job. My dayjob has an odd, really strong, pressured guilt about it. I always am owing something. A time-debt, a work-debt, an effort-debt. It’s like I’m always in the hole.
    Which is miserable and makes it really hard to get work done. The work’s not bad work, it’s just that hole I hate.

    What I want is to be able to create a little haven of culture-of-Fluent-Self-like amnesty, a little bubble around me wherever I go. So that I can forget about the debt, forgive the debt actually, take amnesty, and just do the tasks as I can do them. The to-do-list version of what @Kaleena said, just being a person. Not paying down an endless debt, just doing a task.
    .-= Karen Sharp´s last post … stalking at the crossroads =-.

  19. carrie
    Twitter: carriemoore

    Oh how I want this to feel real to me Right Now.

    I am writing my, wait, no, I am attempting to write my wedding vows right this minute. They must be sent to the officiant in 2 hours.

    I am feeling guilt for putting it off this long. Guilt for not knowing what I want and need to say. I feel it, but the words that fit are not coming. I feel Guilt for being intimidated by such big and long standing promises. Guilt that my fiance is sitting across from me tapping away writing his with a soft smile on his face and I am feeling stuck.

    I just feel like crying.

    This is one of those things that should (ick.. “should”) be wonderful and sweet and my chance to say what I really want him to know… but UGH… its just hard.

    How do you create amnesty when it feels like there is no time for it? I feel like I can’t have it right now even though I know it would help me. I need emergency, last minute amnesty.

    Havi, you and selma and everyone here are just the best. I come here for comfort and peace and always get it. Just being able to vent a little up there has brought a bit of calm.. deep breath kind of calm.

    ok. here I go.

  20. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart

    Habitual guilt.


    It’s this kind of secondary/tertiary meta-mind mechanisms that are really hard, for me, to even notice let alone work with.

    And you’ve made me realise how much habitual guilt I have about not commenting enough here, and how I should read everyone’s Chicken, and maybe I shouldn’t do Friday reviews on my blog because that’s your thing…


    It’s a lot.

    I’ve always called it permission, what I get from your space, but permanent amnesty is utterly beautiful.

    Thank you. Again…

    (ps I’ve tried out some html tags in this post – I think they’ll work – if not, I call coding amnesty.
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … Your Inner Fundamentalist =-.

  21. Kirsty Hall
    Twitter: kirstymhall

    Brilliant! I just wrote myself a sick note & stuck it on my computer.
    .-= Kirsty Hall´s last post … New chicken video =-.

  22. carrie
    Twitter: carriemoore

    whew. hey, guess what. I took a moment.
    I thought, what do I NEED right now? What do I need to feel ok to write… not vows, just anything… what works for me? I CAN have it. I deserve it whatever it is, because these are my vows and I want to love them and they deserve what they need too. I did not need to be sitting here with music in my ear and air conditioning. I feel most at peace outside. So even though it is 90 degrees, I sat outside, removed the headphones, took some deep breaths, looked at the lovely green grass and giant blue sky with big fluffy clouds. ahhhhhhh.. and there they were! my vows are finished and they feel great and say what I want him to hear from me and I am excited to say them out loud.

    permission, amnesty, either way… YES. YES. YES.

    emergency destuckification? YES.

    knowing I can give myself what I need, even if it seems tiny and insignificant helped.
    just making a small change that feels like I’m ‘giving’ myself something helped.
    knowing I shared my stress with people that I believe will sincerely send sweet thoughts my way, even over the internets, helped.


  23. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel

    I think I may just have to print out that permission slip and frame it. I love it so much that it’s making me swoon.
    .-= Amber´s last post … The Story of the School Bags =-.

  24. laine says:

    hi, I came to pick up my Something-Bad-Is-Going-To-Happen-Monster. Oh, hello my treasure! I see you are wearing your Everything Always Works Out sticker and you made some friends and won Most Prepared In Case Something Really Really Bad Happens and you made me a pen holder out of popsicle sticks? Yes of course you can come back to the MWC again.

    :walks home with monster hand in hand for dinner:

  25. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux

    I had to comment again, because laine’s comment just above left me with such a wonderful image that… well… I had to comment again.

    Plus, I know it’s ok to do that.

    Because I have Amnesty, you see. *looks proud*

    (also, i forgot to subscribe to comments. so i’ll do that now.)
    .-= Tori Deaux´s last post … Six Months Later… A Circus Was Born =-.

  26. Matt Coffman says:

    I was already really feeling a no-guilt relax and pause vibe this evening, and then I popped onto Fluent Self and lo, Havi agrees. Nice to see that, now.

    I’m photoshopping that permission slip to read “2 hours” and I’m going to sit and read a nice book. It’s evening, the sun is going down, and it’s great to be alive. Now, now now.
    .-= Matt Coffman´s last post … How to Organize Your Guitar Practice Time =-.

  27. Leela
    Twitter: LeelaSinha

    Amnesty seems like the kind of thing that many of us are missing Most Of All. We call it Wanting to Be Loved a lot, but I think maybe it’s Wanting To Be Loveable. As in, Not Owing. As in, Not Being Guilty of Bad Things (hi, Cathy!).

    Oh, and Carrie? Some of the best wedding vows ever come out of emergency destuckification. And congratulations. you are getting married.
    .-= Leela´s last post … when is it real =-.

  28. laine says:

    I’m not sure what goes on at the Monster Watching Collective but my monster just applied for an interdepartmental transfer from Really Bad Things to the Book Proposal Department. He thinks he’s qualified because the BPD involves binders and order and scary authority figures and rejection and moving on after rejection and maybe acceptance (and possibly television) all of which (except for the television) he is familiar with thanks to his time as VP of RBT.

    So, cheers to whomever watched my monster today. It was our first time apart and I’m going to say that was a very good thing, for both of us.

  29. Kelly
    Twitter: copylicious

    This concept of Amnesty is kind of like a sandwich. It tastes so much better when someone else makes it for me.

    The next-best thing is making it myself while people look on and say, “Yay! You just made yourself a sandwich! I know how hard that was because you hate making sandwiches! But you did it!”

    I also love watching other people make their own sandwiches, and getting to cheer them on.

    And I love coming here to the pirate ship sandwich fixin’s buffet line.

    Thank you for all the permission and the amnesty. I needed to have like 50 sandwiches made for me before I finally dared to try it myself. But then, I had permission to get permission. So it was good.
    .-= Kelly´s last post … The Case for Everlasting Gobstoppers =-.

  30. solidgoldcreativity
    Twitter: solidgold99

    Formidable post, Havi! Thank you.
    .-= solidgoldcreativity´s last post … The novel in 11 days =-.

  31. […] post was largely inspired by this post here at the Fluent Self, which I recommend along with pretty much everything else that Havi has ever […]

  32. Lyndsey says:

    Not knowing who is right or wrong.
    Permission Slip to just learn to trust.

  33. Trust, I really wanted to give myself away to a world that I always new existed.

    A place where people dreamed like I did. I knew I would see this world. I dream of this world every night and wake up to it every morning.

    So I am there in this world wanting to make my dreams real, wanting to help others feel real.

    But then I get there and it is so scary. What if everyone is like real life here?

    I Wonder if they will take this away? I wonder if they think I do not deserve this? I remind myself… at least they will be doing something with it. More than I am doing hanging out at the twitter bar:(

    Got that out! Today is better, site map down love scattered everywhere. What is next? Trust, yes still working on it. Does the 47 character rule apply here? Okay back to lurching.

    Hugs to all that enjoy building rather than riding.

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