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Hamster wheels, Merry-go-Rounds and Sisyphus

Crashing Wave Like Overwhelm
Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

What do hamster wheels, merry-go-rounds and Sisyphus have to do with each other? Simply put, they provoke and exemplify stress and overwhelm.

So many successful, professional women spend their lives on a hamster wheel. It’s a constant push, always focused on getting things done and accomplishing things.

Or their lives are a merry-go-round. With that incessant music – someone else’s music – insinuating its way into our veins, taking over our natural rhythms.

We are like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up, struggling, paying for sins long forgotten. Perhaps just the sin of gender and the need to prove ourselves. The need to try harder.

Enter stress and overwhelm.

Sisyphus dared to fiddle with the plans of the gods. He was punished with a job that will never be done. Is that you?

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

(Opening lines from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese)

Here’s the truth.

You are already good. You can stand tall in that. And you will go on being good: at what you do, at who you are, at what you stand for. Stop wasting your energy trying to prove it. Come out of the desert into the cool green glade of your essence.

What I know is that when we try so hard to be all and do all, when we struggle, all we see is the struggle. All we see is the rock teetering above us and we lose sight of why we’re pushing. And, at the same time, we teach others to let us do the heavy lifting.

When we struggle, we get exhausted and those pieces of ourselves that renew and restore get lost. We don’t have time to do the things that make us a multidimensional human. For me, well, who had time to meditate, journal, play with watercolors. The garden was on the list but at the bottom. If I were to invite a friend out for a walk…wait, what friend? Most of my friends were really acquaintances or work colleagues. Ten-hour work days plus a long commute left no energy to meet new people, volunteer, join an organization that aligned with who I am and who I want to be.

I had let go of who I was and tried to become what the world thought I should be. Is that you?

Here’s another truth.

You can climb the ladder of success without a boulder on the rung above you. You can let loose your creativity in your business, your home, your interactions with the bigger world. And it can be joyful and satisfying and meaningful. It can be a model for the women who are coming up behind you. Because you do not have to sacrifice your whole self to attain this. I am still learning this; unraveling years of habitual, reactive behavior.

You can stay moored in the depths and riches of who you are at your core. You can choose how to spend this precious commodity that is your time. You know there is so much more to you and your life. Are you willing to explore and flow with it?

Yes, you can be anchored and flowing.

Let the world get to know the real you. You don’t have to push. You do not have to walk on your knees. There is nothing to repent.

Wondering how to step off the merry-go-round? Contact me for a complimentary discovery call. I’ve been there and I can help.

Feeling Adrift

Drifting Boat
Image by Ruth Archer from Pixabay

One thing I’ve learned over the years of crafting what I now call my Multidimensional Life is to do more observing than reacting. Because what I have found is that that my initial reaction usually misses the mark. It’s more habit of thought than intuition. I was reminded of this recently when what seemed like a feeling of being adrift slowly revealed itself as an intentional letting go.

The Pause

My journey over the last decade or so has shown me very clearly how insidious habitual thinking is. As a result, I’ve learned that when I pause, the second (or third) thought is more accurate. Just like when I was learning to cross the street, lo those many years ago, I need to stop, look and listen.

It was the deeper listening that made me understand that what I was experiencing  wasn’t an untethering. Instead it was a grounding into my own Multidimensional Life. A letting go. Me doing the releasing, not being cut off by the outside world. An inner driven decision, not outward driven.

As it turns out, it feels good. So, I asked myself just what does this mean in the scope of my own MD life.

But first, a side trip into what a MD life is not.

Defining multidimensional

When we use the word multidimensional to define an object it means that it contains many facets. It is not flat; it has nooks and crannies, some obvious, others hidden. To me there’s magic in it. Each time we look, different aspects reveal themselves. However, not everything must be taken in at once.

When I talk about a Multidimensional Life, I mean the same thing. Not every facet needs to be in play at every moment. It is not an invitation to overwhelm. It is not intended to create a longer to-do list or attain the status of superwoman.

It is intended to be lived in conjunction with a pause which allows space, breath and discernment. It is being true to those things that are most important, not just urgent. We know the urgent will get done, but the challenge is to weave in the important, the meaningful, the joyful, the nurturing.

Back to my gradual untethering.

Once a month I connect with other coaches for a creative mastermind. There is a structure to it as we think out loud and tap into each other’s wisdom. I value these women and this time together and my nature is to be diligent about keeping every appointment.

But sometimes my MD life requires me to hit the pause button. Sometimes, I need to decide among various options and priorities. Sometimes, I have to tumble over to the side of me and what’s best for me at the moment.

That’s what happened recently.

When I think of the things that are most important to me, things that I need in my life, my outdoor space is high on the list. It doesn’t have to HGTV worthy, but it needs to give me pleasure when I look out my window or step outside. However, for the last 5+ years I have disappointed myself and been saddened by the neglect I inflicted on my garden. I had instead agreed to the ideas and priorities of others and put my joy of the garden on the back burner.

On the day of the mastermind call I had several things on my calendar: a coaching client, this blog post to start, reminder emails for my writing circle and editing of my own creative fiction that I would be sharing with another writer. It was a full day.

By the end of the afternoon, when I was due to get on our call, I was standing in my yard amid branches that needed to be cut up. I was in a groove and feeling good in the fresh air and sunshine. Then my phone alarm reminded me of the upcoming call.

Having and doing it all is not a MD life.

Joy whooshed out of me. Deflated, I said to myself “I can’t do it all” (habitual thinking). Self responded, “Why are you trying? What do you want?” (pause) Myself chose the yard and pruners. I never miss these calls. One time would be okay.

The having and doing it all is an unrealistic goal foisted on us by a productivity crazed outside world. It’s a view of women that would elevate us to superwoman (which is a load of you know what. It just means that we can take care of it all. Nothing new there. Move along; nothing to see.)

The illustration in this Star Ledger article really says it all. While the writer is talking about motherhood, much doesn’t change as we move into the second half of life. The baby might be a grandchild. We may be in a position now to hire help around the house, but we’re still are the point person, the hiring person, the one who deals with the details.

Oh, I’m sounding cranky. Actually, I’m very tired. Not a lot of sleep as I worry about a medical condition my husband is dealing with. Not Covid, thankfully; but definitely not a time to need to see a doctor.

But this is also part of a MD Life. The knowledge that things pass, we adapt, we can still get to those things that are most important. We may need to be more discerning but we can still get to them. We are not responsible for the world; we can accept help; in many areas we actually are dispensable. Does that sound harsh?

Choices

With a tip of the hat to Helen Reddy, sure we can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. We don’t have to, though. What is it you want? The bacon will still get cooked.

I chose to not attend this month’s mastermind. I know it was great and that I would have taken away more than I brought. But it was great and powerful for those who were there even without me.

Is it ego that drives us to try to do and be it all? Maybe. We think that we want to help, be useful and productive. Yet I suspect part of it is that we want to be looked at with appreciation, admiration. We want to be the hero of the story.

How about just being the hero of our own story?

Love

I had a college teacher who always said that the only thing in life that was non-negotiable was love. How about loving yourself as you love your loved ones. Get comfortable with feeling “selfish.” (You’re not.) You are tending to a very important life – yours.

In the end the feeling of being untethered, adrift, was really about being centered in what was important in my world. It was about more discernment, less fractured attention. It was about standing strong in my world and my priorities.

Try out the feeling of being untethered to the outside world. Anchor into your heart instead. Tether yourself to you.

My Wish for You in Your Second Half of Life

Hand Holding Dandelion
Photo by Coley Christine on Unsplash

From one woman to another, this is my wish for you in our second half of life.

My wish is that you feel like you’re moving toward something meaningful and exciting, not just toward the end.

My hope is that this can be a different type of building phase, unlike the building you did in your first half.

If I could wave a magic wand, this time would be inner driven.

Returning to the essential you

You’ve followed the outward driven path – family, career, the hopes and expectations of others. You’ve cared, cleaned, cooked; worked in and outside of the home. You’ve worked for wages; you’ve worked for causes. You always do what needs to be done.

Now it’s time to return to the essence of who you are and why you’re here. It’s time to uncover your creative spirit and unfurl your Multidimensional Life. And by a Multidimensional Life I mean uncovering the inner pieces of you that got buried in the day-to-day busyness and to-do lists.

And, yes, I know you’re a responsible, efficient woman and that uncovering your Multidimensional Life won’t be to the exclusion of family, friends and obligations. But wouldn’t it feel great to add in – even if only in small steps – those things that make your heart sing?

Where to start?

One small step to start you off could be pursuing an interest left behind in the busy first half of life.

Like the woman who knew she didn’t want to – couldn’t – continue the career she’d had for decades. One day she stepped outside her house, looked up at the sky and said, “So, tell me world, what do I do now!” The answer popped into her head to take out her camera and start taking pictures. She had gotten into this when she was in high school and college, even developing her own pictures. But she left it behind in the career and family hustle and while she took great photos of her kids and vacations, she never considered herself a “photographer”.

Now she began to experiment, take classes, play with images. Maybe she could put up a website and start by taking professional head shot photos for business people because she knew that world. In small steps she moved ahead, finding her likes and preferences in subjects and finding the best places to have prints made. She began to soften to the idea that maybe she was a “photographer”.

She’s not sure where this will lead and has let herself be okay with not knowing. She is getting comfortable with the unknown. She is living in the creative process of unfurling layers of her Multidimensional Life, a path that’s misty but full of adventure. At the same time, she continues to consult in her old industry. So, there’s the practical and efficient coexisting with a dream.

What happens when you start?

Returning to those old interests brings out “tribes” of fellow travelers that you didn’t know were there. They, in turn, enrich and expand your world. They are chosen, not thrust upon you.

What I wish for you is a MD life that expands you to the limit that is perfect for you and just a toe length more. Because as it expands, it increases its ability to expand.

If this is what you wish for yourself but feel like you have no time for it or that time spent on yourself is selfish, carve out 30 minutes and contact me for a chat. Put yourself to the top of your checklist.

The Work of Art That is You

Hands Messy With Paint
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

I recently put out a survey on the joys and challenges of the Second Half of Life. (If you’d like to take it, click here. It’s only 4 questions and takes less than 3 minutes.) The responses led me to contemplate, once again, how our lives are works of art.

We are alike and yet different

Out of 40+ responses, several common themes emerged. And, in spite of the commonalities, I loved seeing how the ways they showed up were unique to the individual.  For instance, where many responded that freedom was one of the joys they are experiencing, what they’re doing with that freedom differs. For some it was the freedom to set their own schedule, for others the freedom to change. There was freedom of choice and freedom to pursue hobbies. Does freedom resonate with you? It sure does with me. More than resonate, it starts the bells pealing in my belfry!

Frustrations and challenges

Frustrations included worry about money, the experience of no longer being seen, a shortening time horizon or the “loss of me along the way.” That last one particularly makes my heart ache. I understand it so well.

And then there are challenges. Procrastination showed up (although that isn’t unique just to midlife.) Health and fitness, need for structure, the difficulties of beginning to plan for the second half while still engaged in her career – what I call traveling the two-lane road. (Kudos to the respondent who was smart enough to take on that challenge!)

Perhaps I’m a little further along in my journey (that sounds so much nicer than “older”, doesn’t it?) but here’s what those extra miles have shown me: Life is a beautifully messy creative process and each of us will experience our own unique route.

Choosing how we move through our second half of life

When you choose to view your second half of life in this way it becomes an adventure. It gets easier. Injecting some playfulness can make it fun. It becomes a time of curiosity and anticipation instead of dreariness and dread.  And the hard parts, while certainly not pleasant, can also benefit from this approach when you use your awareness to focus on what’s working, sources of help, the need – and permission – for self-care, even if only in very small pockets of time.

What’s beautiful about this is that we gradually find that we don’t need to know how it’s all supposed to work out. We don’t need all the answers at once or a crystal-clear view of the future. It is very freeing. We only need to take our next small step and take our eyes off the rear-view mirror.

That rear-view mirror syndrome was prevalent in a lot of the survey responses. Along with the regret that usually accompanies it. I, too, find myself transfixed by that view. I wish I’d done some things differently; I re-enact a hurtful situation so I can come up the winner; I recreate old shames and embarrassments. Notice what’s missing here? I usually forget to revisit the wins and the joys. And the reality is that spending time looking back does me absolutely no good. Can I change the past? No. Can I learn from it? Probably, if I haven’t already. Do I need to hang out there? No. Just turn your gaze around.

Does any of this feel familiar?

Good. Awareness is the first step in any process of change or creation. It clears the mist and shows us our truth. We experience our moment. The good stuff and the not-so-good.

For instance, where are you feeling joy? What’s the essence of that feeling? Where else is it happening that you’re not noticing on a conscious level? What we focus on expands.

What would happen if you sat down with that frustration? Try bringing it to your journal page – without judgement? I find that when something feels defeating or like too much of a challenge and I look it in the eye, it begins to dissipate. Other solutions come up. I’m able to see it in a totally different light.

Your creative process

The creative process that produces paintings, symphonies, books, gardens and so much more also works in life. Reframing, thinking differently, adding play and self-care are part of the process. The decision to wean yourself from perfectionism and procrastination, to let it all be beautifully messy, to embrace Kaizen’s small steps and questions elevates it. All of this that conceives and manifests so much that is good and beautiful in the world – all of this is what makes a life of meaning and purpose, a legacy of being, a view at the end that has no regrets.

And midlife is the perfect time to dive right in and uncover this masterpiece, your Multidimensional Life!

Let’s Go Deeper and Wider

Go Deeper And Wider

“These times.” Everyone is writing and talking about “these times”.  For the most part that’s a good thing. As a writing workshop leader and as a coach I know that writing and talking about it enables us to process it, make sense of it – if there’s sense to be made, and to integrate it into our consciousness in ways that help us cope.  It helps us dip below the surface of the everyday and go deeper and wider into our truth. I saw that in our April Writers Circle as the women said that they didn’t want to just write about Covid-19 and yet it still snuck into the writing. Not as the main event, more of a bit player. And that was okay.

And as we talk, read and write about “these times”, we’ve woken up, become more conscious of how we spend our time and aware of the habits that have been disrupted. Many people are questioning their old status quo, rethinking careers, wondering what life will be like and who we’ll be when we emerge from “these times.”

In the midst of all this, I want to remind you that you are so much more than your habits and status quo, so much more than what you do every day. You have depths unplumbed.

Even in normal times

I get to remind women of this while I work with them in their second half of life as they get curious about what else life has to offer. They often feel stuck, having a hard time seeing outside the rut that a busy life has created. When they finally pick up their heads, they’re not always thrilled with what they see. Even in normal times.

I hear them express dissatisfaction with their personal status quo. They tell me how unhappy they are in their job. They wish there was a different career they could transition into. It’s often difficult to see past what they’ve done for the last 25-30 years. They sigh and say “I wish there were something else I knew I could do.”

Wishing and sighing. A true sign of stuckness. But I promise you it is possible to get un-stuck.

Adding life to retirement planning

A few months ago, at a party, I was chatting with a few people from my old world of financial services. They asked what I was up to and when I told them of my mission to help women uncover a Multidimensional Life in their second half, they nodded. “That is so needed these days,” they said. They, the financial advisors, reflected on how retirement planning should be about more than the money.

I smiled because I’d already discovered that. Now, I’m not minimizing the importance of financial planning. Not at all. However, the question of who you are, where you are and whether that still fits goes much deeper and is just as critical.

Deeper and wider

The question for you to consider is whether you want to uncover a life that is deep and wide or do you want to stay on the surface and coast. The choice is yours to make at any point of your life.

But do it sooner rather than later. Because there is so much more of you to uncover and offer to the world.

Where are you in this journey into midlife and beyond? How have “these times” shifted your thinking about your life and your possibilities in it? Are you one of the women who, after reading this, raises her hand and says “That’s me!”

If any of the above resonates with you, let’s start a conversation to explore how working together can propel you into a stage of life you haven’t imagined.

You don’t have to know your destination; you only have to take the first step toward it. You don’t have to turn your world upside down; you only need to change your view point. It doesn’t have to be hard and fraught with sweat and tears; it can be joyful and exciting.

This is what I do with my clients. We reframe the wistful and craft the small questions that get you started. We begin to unfurl the layers of your Multidimensional Life. We begin the journey of returning to the essence of who you are and why you’re here. Together. Because there’s power in plus one.

Contact me for a 30-minute discovery call and begin to see how much more there is to you than what you do every day. Even during “these days”.

Grinds and Gifts

Dude With 'Tude
Dude with ‘Tude original art by Donna Mills at donnamillsart.com

You’ve made the journey into your 40’s and beyond. There have been grinds as well as gifts. The former is easy to recall, the latter often goes unacknowledged.

You’ve had a successful career, maybe raised a family, given your time to causes that align with your personal values and so much more.

You are quite amazing.

And yet there are times when you wonder what else there is. What’s next. There’s a vague sense of wanting. A grain of sand in your spiritual sneaker. After all, you’ve done these things for so long, what else could you possibly do? What are you prepared for outside of this career, industry, your home, community?

Life is good

Overall, life is good, you remind yourself. Who am I to want more? Who would want me now? Do I have what it takes to try something new? I wish I had done something else when I was younger. Maybe I should just wait it out, coast along until retirement. I’ll think about this another time.

You bank these questions on the back burner of your heart. But every now and then, in the course of your busy life, they reach out and tap you on the shoulder.

I hear you and if I could pass on just one nugget of wisdom before I leave this worldly adventure, it would be to assure you that you have a rich, sparkling vein of gold in you. I would tell you that everything you’ve done in life – paid and unpaid, at home or in the workplace – has given you an enormous stockpile of skills and knowledge for whatever you want to come next.

I know. I had those thoughts on my back burner, too.

The vein of gold

But here’s what I found out: What I thought was a grind, had a sweet gift in its center.

The grinds: The slog of going to work every day, year in and year out, when I didn’t feel like it, when I was tired and cranky. Fixing problems not of my making. (Ever feel like the sweeper behind the circus elephant?) Working with difficult people; managing difficult people.

The gifts: I have discipline. I can stick to something even when “I just don’t wanna.” I’m good at problem solving; I’m a good listener. I can distill a tricky situation down to its elements and figure out how to put them back in a way that works better. I’ve learned ways to deal with difficult people. I know that I don’t like to be a manager but I’m a good teacher and mentor. I’ve learned so much about myself and what my natural talents are. I learned that I can be successful in an environment that’s not a good match for me, but that the cost may be higher than I care to pay.

I can now bring order and discipline to my own business (although I’m still wrestling with how much is too much.) My problem solving and listening skills have translated into coaching skills as I listen deeply to what my clients are saying – and not saying – and help them get to the heart of their dreams and goals, find creative solutions and take the steps toward those dreams.

I also know that I can take these skills and so many others acquired over a long work life and apply them to other situations to assure a successful outcome.

You can too.

Recapturing your essence

This isn’t necessarily about career changes or 180˚ life changes. This is about discovering the multidimensional you and recapturing the essence of who you are. It’s about first small questions and first small steps.

First small question: ask yourself what it is that you love about what you’ve been doing. Not job specific but rather you specific. Your skills and gifts. Did you love working with different groups of people? Small groups? Large groups? One to one? Did you prefer the numbers folks or the creatives? Did you enjoy training your staff or mentoring new employees? What innate skills served you well? Your writing, creative eye, problem solving? Remember to ask the questions often and let the answers come gradually.

Then a small step: begin to assemble a list of grinds and gifts, a few at a time, over the course of a few days. Create a resume of these non-job specific traits and skills and begin to look at them differently. Where else could you use them? Who could benefit from what you know? What would be fun? Make a long list and include those things that seem crazy.

You will see in black and white just what you’re capable of, how resilient you are, what you like and don’t like, how you can get through a difficulty and come out on the other end.

The gift

This is the gift of decades of life and work. And from where you stand now, there are more decades when all these skills, this mountain of self-knowledge can be re-purposed. And this time it will be an even better fit. This is the path of your Multidimensional Life unfolding before you.

You’ve struck a vein of gold.

p.s. If you would like my kind and loving eye looking with you at where you’ve been and how that can support where you want to go, let’s work together. Contact me here to request a consultation. The world needs more of who you are!

A Journey of Becoming

The Journey Of Becoming
At the Seashore Original art by Donna Mills at Donna Mills Art

We are all on a journey of becoming. I used to think it was about growing up, but in fact it’s about growing. The world is a bit quieter and clearer right now. It’s a great opportunity to pause and see just where you are on your journey.

When I was in high school, and for many years later, my friends and I would ask each other “are we grown up yet?” It would usually come up as we celebrated deliberately belated birthdays. Our tradition was to delay, delay and then launch a guerrilla style celebration. We amused each other. What can I say? But on the silly card selected for the occasion, we would usually include that question: “Are we grown up yet?”

It was as if “grown up” were a place at which we would arrive. I’m not sure what we thought it would look like or feel like or how we would know we arrived. I do know that eventually we stopped asking and started living a grown-up life with all the normal accoutrements. We married, went to work, purchased homes; some had children, some married into children. We put our heads down and, well, I guess we grew up.

End of story? Oh, of course not!

In the introduction to his book “The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be”, Mark Nepo mentions how the journey of becoming who we were born to be never ends. We don’t arrive. We grow.

As I read that, the question from my teenage years – about whether or not we were grown up yet – popped into my consciousness. We weren’t really asking about growing up; it was more about becoming a grown up. And, as Nepo reminded me, we don’t arrive; we continue to grow.

My friends and I are all mature, responsible women, now. But we haven’t finished growing yet. We’re still on the road.

On the journey

And it occurs to me that the journey of creating a Multidimensional Life never ends, either. A Multidimensional Life (MD Life) is one in which we tune in to what wants to be done on a deep level. It’s not a place at which we arrive. Rather, it’s a constant state of becoming, an ever evolving, dynamic process that heeds our inner wisdom as well as informs it. It’s an invitation to live from the inside out; from your magnificent essence. Yours. No one else. (They can ride along; they just can’t steer.)

It’s a time of liberation.

Liberation

As we move forward in this process of becoming, liberation asks for curiosity as well as hope. It asks that we put aside our comfort and discover the raw, unpolished beauty in the unedited version of ourselves. Liberation invites us to take small steady steps to create and express our truest selves. It reminds us that we have a deep well of wisdom; that there are possibilities of growth and transformation; that we have everything we need for this journey.

Paradoxically, there’s comfort in our familiar discomfort and liberation’s not always easy. It requires spiritual courage. However, in the end, it is so worth it.

Where do you begin?

Take a moment – now, if you can – and look up from your busy “grown up” life. Notice the road you’re on. Is it rutted and narrow? Uncomfortable? Are you ready for something new? If you’re not sure what that looks like yet, that’s okay. In the beginning the less certainty, the better. Just decide to start.

Questioning

Here’s a small question to nudge you. Don’t strain for answers. Just listen and let them bubble up.

Are you at a tipping point where your yearning for something truer to self surpasses the need for the safe and known?

Just being conscious of the question will begin a shift. Listening to your responses and the emotions it arouses will evoke more questions.  And, just like a tiny alteration in direction can ripple into a totally different destination for a ship, so too, will this questioning move you in new directions. You will become wakeful, attentive, liberated.

You’re not alone. We are legion on this journey of life.

Grab a partner for the journey

Don’t do it alone.  Contact me and we’ll talk about the nudges from your questions. We’ll draw on your creative spirit and to begin to look at your life as a journey of becoming. Together we can take the first small step into the rest of your MD life.

Benediction of Daily Necessity

The Benediction Of Daily Necessity
Wash Day Original art by Donna Mills at Donna Mills Art

This pandemic is causing me to look at some of my actions in a different light. To be a little kinder to myself. To understand that some of what I think of as frantic time fillers is actually what Pat Schneider, author of Writing Alone and With Others and founder of Amherst Writers and Artists, calls the “benediction of daily necessity.”

Our lives upended

Although I work from home and therefore often practice social distancing anyway, I am not immune to the effects of this pandemic.  Along with so many of you, I’ve had my world tilted, my routine disrupted, and am being denied many of the things I want to do. Fear lingers on the edges of everyday. But I must add that if this is the extent of my hardship, I’m very lucky.

I had been rolling along finding a lovely steadiness in my Multidimensional Life and now it feels upended. I had been feeling better about the balance among the areas important to me: my business, my personal life and my creative life. It was a hard-won goal.

And now I find myself rearranging furniture, baking, cleaning the most obscure places and things in my home. (Do you know those tip-out trays in front of the sink that stores sponges? SOS pads make them quite dirty and, well, it just needed cleaning!) If I could watch you reading this, I suspect you’re nodding and smiling. Life is curious at the moment. Distractions abound.

The riches in ordinary life

And actually, this is necessary as we regain and maintain balance. “Ordinary life, after all, informs our writing, heals our spirits, and keeps us from going mad,” Schneider says. We need that “benediction of daily necessity.”

She expresses this idea within the context of writing. But it applies to anything and everything. In her case, she wanted to write. (And quilt, make jams and jellies, bake bread and, of course, raise her four children.) But she finally realized that she couldn’t have it all. She was off balance; she wasn’t being faithful to her art.

A Multidimensional Life is a work of art

Schneider made the decision to put all else aside and just focus on writing. She never took her sewing machine out again. From that focus came books, poetry, a libretto, and a model of writing workshops that spread across the world and encouraged facilitators to go into suburban living rooms as well as into less served populations and give them voices.

There was a contraction, a narrowing of focus, a going within. Like an oyster with a grain of sand. There was a Pause and time to listen. Then there was the unfurling of the layers of her own wisdom, the following of her heart, the balance of the inner artist and the outer woman.

One layer holds many layers

This is the essence of creating a Multidimensional Life. And, while some might argue that writing is just one layer and not multi layered, I would respond that the layering can come in the outcomes. Her life unfolded in ways that couldn’t be predicted in the beginning.

“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what, next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.” -Agnes de Mille

This is all part of living a Multidimensional Life. The fact that you don’t have to know how it’s all going to work out. The conviction that you have the wisdom to focus and go within. The intimate knowing that a shift in your foundation doesn’t topple you.

As Schneider also said “the achievement of the mature artist is a balanced life.” In the second half of our life, as well as in times of crisis, we keenly feel the need for balance. This is our time to fully step into a balanced Multidimensional Life. It is a work of art. It is your crowning achievement.

How are you achieving balance? What are you putting first? Is there a part of you that you aren’t being faithful to?

There are lots of things to distract us from the unique art of our lives. And some of those activities are necessary. But the true challenge is screwing up our courage and going inside. It’s asking our heart what it wants most. And then it’s taking the first step towards that. Only then will we have the balance we all crave.

What does your heart want?

If you’d like some help hearing and articulating what your heart wants most, in noticing what parts of your life are missing right now, contact me for a 30-minute discovery call, a free immersive experience where you will find and take your first small step.

Writing Unfurls Your Multidimensional Life

Original art by Donna Mills at Donna Mills Art

I love to read. My family tells me I was reading before kindergarten. Maybe. Or maybe I had memorized favorite stories and could recite them with the book in front of me. Regardless, I fell in love with story. Who knew how this would lead me to my Multidimensional Life!

I vividly remember getting my first library card. Graduating to the clean hands club at the library was a moment of pride. I played library with my friends. Oh, how I wanted a pencil with a date stamp on the eraser end!!

As I grew older, my school essays got me good grades. I wrote the memos and procedure manuals at work, a newsletter for a family business. But I didn’t call myself a “writer”.

From reading to writing

Then twenty something years ago I began doing morning pages a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. Stream of consciousness, free writing first thing in the morning. She prescribes three pages and I know the value of powering through to that third page. But if I can only do one page, that’s okay, too.

Doing this taught me that a writing practice was about more than just story. It showed me the connection between the hand and the page. It led me to places I know I wouldn’t have found without the writing.

It also led me to creative writing and to the desire to immerse myself deeper in the writing process.

But that’s my journey. That’s one of the layers of my Multidimensional Life. Reading to writing was my personal thread.

The power of words

The act of setting words to the page is a powerful tool whether creating story or crafting your own Multidimensional Life. You don’t have to think of yourself as a “writer” if that puts pressure on you. Just know that whatever reason you have for putting pen to page it will be a tool of discovery.

When you begin to write using this approach, life’s chaff falls away. Personal threads become visible. The shoulds reveals themselves as what they are, desire floats up from the depths. Writing does this. At the same time, insight emerges and your inner voice will start suggesting arguments pro and con for what is emerging. And that’s okay.

I can tell you that even as I write this, I hear my angels and demons bickering. But I forge ahead because when I do, my truth – the one that is simple and quiet – stands firm in the skirmish. I can see her and move toward her.

What does all that mean in less lofty terms?

It means that while the act of writing illuminates your truth, it will also bring up an array of emotions. (In story as well as self-discovery.) That’s part of its power. For instance, you might hear “I really want to move away” and that evokes a “but…” When you see the “but” in black and white you can consider it. It could be relevant or it could be the ego trying to protect you from new adventures. You know that gremlin, don’t you? The one decked out with big lights and sirens. Fear?

Write it all down anyway.

Get started

Buy a 50-cent notebook and start free writing. If one or three pages is too much, start small with a few lines. Keep going if you have time. Jot down small questions that come up and listen for the answers that follow. Don’t force anything; stay open. Keep writing it all down and let it move you forward.

Does “I want to move away” dissolve into an unhappiness with work or a lack of fulfilling relationships so that the greener pasture beckons?

That could lead to questions like: What’s working for me where I am now? What else might work? What do I love about my home, neighborhood, town, city? What would I be giving up by leaving? What would I gain?

It’s a process of refining the question, sifting through the answers, formulating more questions, weighing choices. Because there are always choices. It’s editing!

Writing helps you make the choice rather than do nothing. Doing nothing is also a choice. But it’s a passive choice and not very satisfying.

I have experienced this myself many times and expect that I will continue to do so.  It fueled my decision to continue my coaching practice, to reach out to others to create a new group of friends. It helped me get realistic about what I can and can’t/will and won’t do in my garden – big dreams vs. real resources and energy. Decisions big and small. Dinner choices as I journal before breakfast; considering where I’ll have time for movement in my day and what might I do? The decision to embark on writing a novel. Big and small, the questions and answers that show up on my page all go toward the feeding and tending of my Multidimensional Life.

An Invitation:

Join me in a writing circle and  we’ll write together. Whether you want to try your hand at creative writing, explore your personal voice, reflect on life in memoir or take your first steps into your Multidimensional Life, it will be the path to a richer, fuller version of you. Discover the vein of gold inside you!

You are More Than What You Do

original art by June Shatken at juneshatken.com

“So, what do you do?” someone asks when they meet you.

That’s certainly easier than asking “Who are you?” Less threatening, less intrusive. And this is how we pigeon hole each other. An unconscious categorization. We get assigned a Dewey Decimal System number and get filed into the card catalog. We create categories for our work, profession, industry, the things we do for a living. Oh, okay, so now I know who you are.

What are you missing out on?

We often do the same thing with ourselves. But, when we identify ourselves as what we do, we begin to believe that that’s all there is to us. We lose sight of the layers of wonder that are just below the surface. Our essential, multidimensional selves cry to come out. We miss out on a whole lot of awesome

I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself. My Dewey Decimal System number fell in the category of fiction because what I did was truly not who I was.

This knowledge, this truth, led me to create a Multidimensional Life I could never have imaged had I continued with the fictional version of myself.

Oh, and another caveat: You may not always do this thing that has defined you for so long. What will happen then? You will feel lost.

You are so much more than what you do every day.

So, who are you beyond what you do?

But this little loaded question is everywhere.

One example: turn on Jeopardy and you will be introduced to the contestants with “Jane, a blah, blah, blah from anywhere, USA.

Now it’s not that I don’t’ care how Jane spends her time, but I know that she, too, is so much more than that. I wonder who she is.

So, who are you?

Questions to ponder

  • What makes you laugh so hard you snort diet coke out your nose?
  • Who makes you do that?
  • What makes your eyes well up?
  • What color are those eyes? Who had them before you?
  • What is a mannerism that is so you? Or do you see someone else in it?
  • Who do you love? What is it about them that you love the most?
  • What do you love? Why?
  • What brings you delight? What does that delight feel like?
  • What do you dread? Why?
  • What do you avoid? Why?
  • What route do you take each day to get home? Why?
  • What do you have for breakfast each day? Why?
  • What is a favorite book/move from childhood?
  • If you could time-travel, where would you go?

A challenge:

  1. Buy a notebook – the wide ruled, not the college ruled. The college ruled is too tight and a little intimidating.
  2. Put these questions in the notebook. Add more of your own as they come to you.
  3. Put the notebook in your cabinet with the coffee or tea. Or with your cereal or in the fruit bowl. Put it anywhere you will be guaranteed to visit each morning.
  4. Each morning (or most mornings), pick a question. Jot a few answers to a question, maybe just a few words. That’s all. If you’re inspired to go further, that’s fine. But you only need a few lines to get the thinking engine started.

Leave a comment below and let me know how you do with this challenge. Or contact me to explore taking this process further.

What you’re doing is beginning a blueprint of the multidimensional person you are.

Because, you are so very much more than what you do each day.

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