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Don’t Be a Sunflower

I’m not happy, I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them. ~ Beverly Sills

One morning I woke up thinking “be a sunflower”. I have no idea where it came from. I can’t remember any context, just the statement “be a sunflower”. Sound a little goofy? Maybe. But, for me, that’s an opportunity to follow a thread of thought and see where it goes. It piques my curiosity.

I love sunflowers. I love the way they grow and bloom and how their faces follow the arc of the sun in the sky. They signify happiness, warmth, abundance and loyalty. They feel so positive.

Why would we not want to imitate the sunflower!

Percolation

I started writing this post several weeks ago.  And each time I came back to it, I disagreed with myself. I began to browse books on my shelf; I searched for articles on positivity, positive psychology and Pollyanna. I looked for ideas that substantiated what I thought I’d set out to say: That we should only be looking for the positive in life.

But that wasn’t quite right. It brought to mind the quote by Beverly Sills. Where was the thread? I kept thinking and asking myself questions to help give shape to this amorphous thought that was trying to emerge.

The Shadow Knows

At the same time, I was reading Awakening at Midlife by Kathleen Brehony.  I came to a section called “The Shadow Knows.” “At midlife unconscious, shadow material erupts into our life.” She goes on to say how the emergence of the shadow is an attempt to bring balance to our personality, accepting ourselves as we are, “… coming to love those neglected parts of ourselves as elements of our own authenticity and humanity.”

Okay, now we’re getting closer.

Looking for Balance

I had always strived to be a happy person. If something knocked me down, I would put on my big flouncy Scarlett O’Hara hat, say fiddle dee-dee and leave it for another day. I’d put it in the “long bag we drag behind us”, so aptly described by poet Robert Bly.

Boy, was I out of balance! And, at some point it got to be a lot of work. More than it was worth.

I could see where being a sunflower and only following the light no longer served me. As I followed this train of thought I also realized that I had already done a lot of the work. Coaches, reading and a little bit of therapy had helped. I gave myself a little pat on the back.

Brehony suggests that this distortion is quite normal in our second half of life, when we begin “perhaps for the first time to see the “other”, the parts of ourselves that have long been ignored in favor of who we always thought we were”.

How gratifying to know that it was normal to throw off these old stories at midlife and open up to the parts I’d kept hidden; to attain better balance.

A Need for a Pause

However, that balance is not attained by quick fixes, but rather a Pause where we can explore and experiment with those other parts of ourselves that have been neglected.

That pause is a juicy place that includes light and dark, sun and shadow, clement and inclement weather. It comes bearing gifts for midlife.  It is the first step into a mindful second half of life.

I love sunflowers. But don’t be one. Our journey is rich and complex and the good news is that we do not have to travel alone! Contact me to find out how I might help you pause as you honor all your beautiful parts and create a path back to a whole you.

Please note that this is not intended to replace professional psychological help where needed. If life is okay but you feel there’s more I can help. If you are feeling despair, please seek a skilled therapist.

Happy Cats

Happiness is like a cat. If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you… But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing up against your legs and jumping into your lap.”

~ Dr. William J. Bennett, American author and educator

This post isn’t specifically about happiness or cats. However, if you can imagine being in a situation where a contented cat (literally or figuratively) is purring on your lap… was that a smile?

The real reason for this blog is to pose a question and invite you into a conversation.

The question:  Are you at a point in life where you’re not sure what’s next? Not in the sense of “should I do the dishes or watch the news”. But rather, a wondering about what is next for you in the bigger scope of life, pondering who you were meant to be, wondering how your next chapter will read. You’re not miserable, but just not particularly a contented cat.

According to Carl Jung this, along with some other deep questions, is our job in the second half of life.

Perhaps you’ve been in a certain career, on a particular path, or in a role for a while now. It no longer lights you up. Something is off but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You could stay the course, coast along, but that doesn’t feel good.

Is there another “gig” in my future, you ponder? If so, what is it? Or, you might wonder, Is it too late for something new? Can there be a “what’s next” for me? What could it be?

What if I told you that it’s really none of your business?

You’d probably sputter, roll your eyes, snicker.

I’ll say it again. What’s next for you in this beautiful journey of life is none of your business.

(Let’s qualify this with the assumption that your basic needs – physiological and safety – are being met. If so, we can continue this conversation.)

Paying attention is your business.

Awareness is always a good place to start.

Years ago, I worked with a great lady who used to start her daily huddles with the reminder “Radar on, Antenna Up!” I quote her frequently. This is such a great call to attention and a way to monitor and refocus that attention.

Because, when we sit and stew about what’s next, we create walls of worry.

But, when we ratchet up our awareness and curiosity, we create paths.

When we fixate on only one possible solution, we miss out on possibilities we may never have considered.

When we don’t believe there are possibilities, we shut them out. When we believe they’re there, we let them in.

When we look ahead with anticipation and trust toward what seems to be a hazy destination, the journey is a joyful one.

This is not hocus-pocus or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels and chanting “I do believe.” This is about implementing awareness and curiosity and paying attention to what shows up.

Let go of the struggle

Does this sound anti-goal or plan? Its not. I love purpose and aspiration.  It’s just that I have come to see the value in letting go of the struggle. That is what impedes the creative process. And, make no mistake, it is your creative process that leads to the next best stage.

So, this is our business: Awareness, curiosity, anticipation and trust. Living in an open-ended question that guides us in the direction of our highest good. Taking the small steps, listening with our ears and body, adjusting our course and taking more steps. Knowing instinctively when you’ve arrived at the next place.

And then it’s about the happy cat leaping onto your lap.

I’d love to hear how this lands for you. Please leave a comment below.

Begin

 

“What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

– Johann von Goethe

Welcome to a beginning.

While some may want to craft elaborate resolutions, I prefer a different approach to this fresh new year. I would like to begin by recommitting to my journey of becoming, a journey of awareness and constant beginnings as I move through midlife and beyond toward my truest self.

So, while a new year or a new week – hey, there’s nothing like Monday morning to get us motivated whether it’s with a carrot or a stick! –  feels like a great place to begin, I would suggest that any time is a perfect time to do that. Any time can be the time to restart the journey.

After all, we are always somewhere on the journey even if we’ve paused or gone into the ditch.

Therefore, any time is a good time to get quiet and listen to the inner navigator who will show us where to resume the voyage/passage; to point us in the right direction to begin again.

Any time is a good time to pause and dream and wonder about the possibilities in a new beginning.

And beginning again – and, again – is essential to a meaningful rich life.

What I believe

Every dream deserves to be unpacked and explored. As I do, I will remember to bring along my compassion and curiosity and ditch the judging critic.

Every moment – not day or month or year – is an opportunity to begin again. It’s a chance to course-correct and feel into a better direction.

I don’t need to know the entire itinerary. The best trip is that which unfolds with imagination and inspiration and trust.

When it feels hard to continue with only the immediate path visible, I can choose to continue “just for today.” My commitment can be in very small steps.

The journey is the goal

So, as I move through life, I will begin and begin again.

Reflections On Trees and Change

Trees And Change

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second-best time is now.”
~ Chinese Proverb

I was driving home recently, thinking about how our foliage season had been rather bland and noticing that the trees were finally beginning to get bare. I love the look of a winter tree and how we can see its “bones”, those limbs and branches that the leaves keep hidden over the spring and summer.  Looking at those that lined the road I was on, I see how some really were planted in the wrong place. They’re growing into the power lines and the utility companies have trimmed them without any thought to their beauty.

What else could they do? Chop them down? Start all over again? No, no, no! I hate to see a tree taken down. And the new one? Will I even be around to see it mature to its full glory!

While better siting initially would have been ideal, I reflected on how artful, thoughtful trimming and tweaking would be so much better. To me, that’s a reasonable solution. In nature, as well as in life.

It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Small tweaks, small changes can have such a ripple effect. Continuing with the analogy of trees, last year my neighbor took down some large branches that hung over our property. Just removing those few branches gave my garden a whole new life. Plants that had dwindled as the shade increased, got a second chance. Where before I could only put in shade tolerant plants, now I could expand my selections.

That small change led to possibilities.

And then there are times when radical change is called for. It requires spiritual courage and trust.

One more tree story.

When we bought our house almost 20 years ago, we had a gnarly old apple tree in the yard. It wore its years well. Until it didn’t. I am particularly partial to gnarly trees, so I brought in an arborist, assuming that he would heal it. Instead he said to me, “Well, you can spend the next few years watching it die, or you can take it down and plant a new one and watch it grow.”

We took it down and planted a new one. It’s growing quickly. I may not be here to see it reach its full potential but I am enjoying it now.

In the scheme of things, cutting down a tree is not life shattering. However, I find it to be a good analogy for other parts of my life.

Letting go, starting anew, change – it can be sad. It can feel big. Transitioning from one stage of life to another, from one career to another, hey, sometimes from one task to another can feel daunting. Once daunted, we shrink back.

Time will shift things.

Time will always finish the job one way or another. This is one of the few guarantees in life.

In the case of the apple tree, it would have eventually died completely and I would have missed out on years of a healthy tree that peers over the fence, keeps its healthy color and shows off in the fall.

As time does its thing, however, the question to ask is whether or not the change that is occurring is the change you want. Whether it was for your best self. Are you being pulled along and letting time or others do your trimming? You have choices; there are possibilities.

Yes, looking down the barrel of change can be daunting. But it doesn’t need to be so. Sometimes small, deliberate changes ripple out and gift us with what is truly needed.

What is one small tree you might plant or one small tweak you could make now that could make a difference going forward?

3 Things You Can Expect from a Coaching Call

First of all, there are lots more than these three but let’s start here. Let’s pull back the curtain and take any mystery away. And, yes, I am a creativity coach but don’t get hung up on the “creativity” part. It doesn’t mean you need to be working on something in the arts. It means you will tap into your creativity – yes, you are a creative soul – and use creative thinking and creative tools to get where you want to go. The creativity part is not as much about your goal in coaching as it is about how you will get there.

And, we will do all this in a rich space that is confidential, safe and accepting.

So, where do we start?

First, I ask a lot of questions.

Especially in the beginning. I ask you what brings you to coaching. People hire a coach to help them reach a goal. That goal can be a myriad of things. For my clients, it usually focuses on figuring out who you’ll be in the second half of life; wanting more joy in life; wanting to find “you 2.0”; looking to get back some of who you used to be and yes, it could be that there’s a book inside you screaming to get out or you’re not getting to your ______ (you fill in the blank).

I ask you what gets in the way. Often, it’s those old gremlins of procrastination, fear, self-sabotage, feeling overwhelmed or not enough time. Sometimes it may just be that you need the catalyst of coaching: the accountability, the appointment, the saying it out loud to someone else. Getting your dreams out of your head and into the world can be a gigantic jump start!

Second, you talk, I listen.

My ears are scrunched. I listen very hard to hear what you’re saying and what might be between the lines. After reflecting back what I’m hearing, I ask you to tell me more. One of my goals is that you feel heard and witnessed because sometimes a coaching session is the only place this will happen for you.  Listening might prompt some more questions and I will continue to listen. All of this gives you an opportunity to claim a dream, to begin to articulate your ideas and, thereby, see them become more tangible.

I don’t tell you what to do. The best solutions come from you. Those are the solutions that are the most resonant and make the most sense for you. In that way, they become much more do-able. I’m the one holding the light so you can see them.

Third, I get you to your next small step.

Part of my role as your coach is to familiarize you with the philosophy of Kaizen. We will work with small steps, small questions, small thoughts and small rewards. This builds sustainable momentum while engaging the thinking part of the brain as opposed to expecting big steps that engage the fight or flight response and get us nowhere. We don’t stop at a small step; the small step gives us a success moment that makes us feel like continuing. Which we do. One small step at a time.

A small step could look like asking yourself a small question over the next few days and seeing what comes to mind. It could be five minutes (or even 1 minute) of doing something you’ve been wanting to do. If, after five minutes, you want to continue, great! If not, you’ve kept your commitment, done what you said you would do and that’s success.

What if you don’t get to your small step?

Having said all that, a really important part of my coaching is that if you don’t get to your small step, I still want you to show up next time. The step may not have been small enough. It may not have been the best step. Come back and we’ll explore it and tweak it. Or you may have made a creative detour which is normal and very okay. Sometimes you’ve done many other things for which you need to give yourself credit. We’ll do that, too.

(All first-time clients who sign up for the minimum of 4 coaching sessions receive a gift of the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Dr. Robert Maurer, Ph.D.)

Onward!

As we move forward, I will continue to listen intently and ask you more questions. You will sense the next best step for you. And, step by step, you’ll move toward your goal with joy and wonder and ease.

Would you like to experience a coaching call and see what it would be like for you? Contact me to schedule a 30 minute discovery call. No cost, no pressure, no obligation. Just a gentle exploration of how your creative juices can be a source of fuel for the next leg of your journey.

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