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Creativity and Vulnerability

Rose Hips In Snow
Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Creativity and vulnerability. Unfortunately, they often come as a pair. And, by the way, life itself is a creative undertaking. Hence, we can spend a lot of time feeling exposed and vulnerable. We risk becoming victims of the “buts.”

You know how it works. You have a great idea. And before it’s fully formed in your mind, along comes a big “but.” Dragging along with it all of the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Hey, you might fail. Or surely enough people have already done this or written this.

The excuses come flying out of thin air, propelled by fear, chasing you out of the creative chambers of your mind. And your heart. You go slinking out of the room.

Wait! Come back!

Consider an idea recently shared in an email from the author, Todd Henry. He posed the question “What would you do if fear had no power over you, and failure was an option? (His emphasis on ‘was’.) He attributes this question to commercial photographer and “creative mad scientist”, Jonbob Willis.

Let’s face it, failure is always a possibility. Not an option we’d usually choose but it’s always somewhere on the table. But at times we can conveniently forget. Remember the first time you learned to ride a bike, play the piano, or attempt sports? Did you approach them differently?

Perhaps these experiences weren’t immediately categorized as “creative.” When looking around in the creative world everyone else seems so freaking amazing, right? They’re all overnight successes. They didn’t have to face failure. Go ahead, roll your eyes. We know it’s not true and yet we go there at times.

Returning to the initial idea of the “but” statement, what if we substituted “and”? I’d like to try this creative thing and, hey, I might fail.

My process

Here’s what I do when I sit down to write, an arena rife with vulnerability. Feel free to apply it anywhere in life’s creative journey.

  1. I GET CURIOUS: Even before I sit down at my desk, I notice what’s coming up for me. There might be a quote, something I heard or read; an idea that emerged as I wrote in my journal, themes coming from multiple directions. I stay tuned in and watch for the synchronicities that keep me inspired.
  2. I MAKE A MESS: I make a mess on the page. Just the way you might pour paint onto a canvas, or take everything out of the fridge to conjure up a meal. The way a brainstorming session can go in an office meeting. Make a mess. While messes can be disturbing, they can also be a place for the unexpected to show up. Let it be a breeding ground for curiosity.
  3. I WALK AWAY: I step away from it. For those who have deadlines, can you take a five-minute break? Once in a while, I’ll switch tasks, do something more analytical. Or perhaps pay some bills, do mindless administrivia. I let the ideas percolate.
  4. I TAKE THE IDEA ON A WALK (OR INTO THE SHOWER): This isn’t a new idea. For example, Thoreau explored the connection between walking and creativity. I’m sure Socrates or Aristotle had something to say about it. I do this often. My body goes on auto-pilot and my mind is freed to roam. You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon as you take a shower, do the dishes, drive a familiar route. Ideas flow. How will you capture them? (For instance, I once sent a client bathtub crayons so she didn’t have to wait until she’d toweled off to capture her great ideas.)
  5. I RETURN: I return to the project and look at it with fresh eyes. What stands out? What inspires more ideas? Is there a thread to pick and follow. I find that when I come back to a writing project a lot of what’s there gets edited out. Sometimes I start from scratch. But – and this is the most important part – I have found an entry point. I can continue from there, even if it’s on a fresh page.
  6. I RINSE AND REPEAT: Lastly, repeat as needed. Even this post had breaks. Instead of laboring over it, I took a lunch break, let it settle overnight, read a good book. I came back with curiosity, made things a bit messier. I might walk away again. Or it might be good enough.

Now you

This is the creative process. Whether on the page, on a canvas, in the office, or in your life. It’s never a straight line and in the end it’s worth your time.

Let me know how it goes. Contact me and we’ll have a coffee chat about our “buts”.

Be vulnerable. You’ll survive. Now, go do awesome stuff!

Here’s to the Journey

Image by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

What might you discover in a daily writing practice? How about a magical journey?

Over 25 years ago my older sister gave me a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. (If you know me, you’ll know her. Thanks, Ei!) It was 1996 and I was relocating halfway across the country for a significant promotion—the next step in my career. It was a huge step in my corporate journey. “Here’s to the journey,” she inscribed on the inside front cover.

The Journey Begins

But it was my creative journey that was stalled. And that’s the journey both Julia and my sister were encouraging me to explore and the one that I probably needed most. I should have been able to do both, right? Back then, however, my definition of success in a big job left no room for dancing, painting, or any of the other activities I would have labeled ‘creative’—things that used to be integral to my life.

The journey I was embarking on back then, however, was undeniably one of ‘success.’ Consequently, I kept work and creativity compartmentalized. It felt like each required more attention than I believed I could spare. In the end, career won. (I’ve since found both enlightenment and boundaries!)

But, the journey was afoot and as I embarked on my new adventure, I began reading the book and embraced Julia Cameron’s morning pages. I approached it with a “let’s see” attitude.

The magic quickly revealed itself to me. I began to detect a shift in the way I felt. My normal approach to a new job had changed. Could it be the morning pages, I mused? I kept going. I began to see how the humble act of gathering the cobwebs in my mind and depositing them on the page, loosened something in me.

Really, it was all just a stream of consciousness—blah-blah-blah—covering topics ranging from the weather (Chicago in February is unremittingly and unforgivingly cold and gray!) to the challenges of the job, the aloneness as I waited for my husband to join me, and the small joys and successes. Writing it all down cleared the decks for what I needed to do.

Magic!

The Practice

Over the years I have continued to be a regular journaler. Particularly, when my mind is cluttered or my heart is heavy, I make my way to the page. Some mornings I wake up and head for my notebook because something feels off and I know the page will tell me what it is. It will pose questions and provide answers. Many days it’s merely a dumping ground for an overactive brain. Always, it is loyal and honest. Even if I stray, it welcomes me back.

And my journal has been a huge supporter of getting me back to my own creative journey with a whole new definition of what creativity really is. The journey my sister and Julia set me on all those years ago.

You don’t have to be a writer to be a journaler, but journal keeping will make you a writer anyway. – Robert Moss

A Question and a Gift

What might you discover in morning (or any-time-of-the-day) pages*? The answer to a question you can’t quite articulate, a solution to a gnarly problem, a week of dinner menu ideas, your to-do list? Inspiration for a creative project, the right to write? The next leg of your personal journey?

I tell you always that you are a writer. As Robert Moss says in the above quote, journal keeping (or any writing practice) will make you one whether you think you are or not. And the gifts of writing extend well beyond the page.

My wish as we head into the new year is that you experience those gifts.

Here’s a little something for you: a simple collection of pages you can print out and use as a starting point for your own writing or morning pages. Look at it with a ‘let’s see’ attitude—a place from which to begin.

Contact me and let me know how it goes. How I can help you in your writing and other creative expression? Here’s to the journey!

* Morning pages or any daily journal practice only touch the surface of the expansive benefits of journaling. My friend, Mary Cash, is someone who is practiced, trained and knowledgeable in its various (and powerful) techniques. Sign up here for her monthly newsletter, “Spiraling to the Center.” Here’s a recent one to sample. Her website is the Writer’s Labyrinth.

An interview with Fear 😉

No Fear
photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Note to reader: There’s not a heck of a lot new here. Just having some fun- doing it anyway! – in spite of fear trying to tell me this is too silly. In fact, it’s a good reminder of what usually gets in your way especially when “change” is standing in the wings. It’s also a big factor in why you’re not writing that book, or moving ahead on your creative project!! Whatever’s holding you back, I can help. Contact me to see how. It’s what I love to do. Please read on…

I recently had the chance to sit down with my old nemesis, Fear. It was early morning; his guard was down. There he was, relaxing in the back of my head readying what he calls his daily alerts. I call them salvos. (Yes, it’s a “he”. Not sure why but that’s how he showed up!) What follows has been edited for brevity and clarity (as well as to delete some expletives.)

KK: Good morning, Fear. Glad I caught you before you started your busy day. You know, you wreak a lot of havoc in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. Sure, some of it’s necessary but most of it isn’t. I wonder how you would you describe your role in our everyday – and professional – lives?

Fear: Ah, I am a big deal, aren’t I? <a cocky smile on his face> My basic function is to keep you safe. Some people say it’s your ego trying to do that. I say, ego – schmego. That’s my job. I create the tension, the drama; I keep you on high alert. Makes you feel alive, doesn’t it! I get your adrenaline pumping!

K: You certainly do. And frankly, I could do without it at this point of my life. Life’s too short for your nonsense! Any time I decide to move out of my comfort zone you kick in with your opinion. When I want to try something new you say ooh, what if someone doesn’t like this! What if you stink at this! You’re such an imposter! 

You stop me in my tracks. And off I go – procrastination, second guessing, cleaning toilets…

F: You’re welcome. That’s one sparkling toilet you have!

K:  …feeling overwhelmed. I can try to ignore you but that doesn’t always work. Because you’re also quite crafty. Half the time I don’t even realize it’s you sending me to graze in front of the refrigerator or go down an online rabbit hole.

F: I’m good, huh! By the way do you have any more of this Irish tea?

K: Let’s cut to the chase here. I’ve got the street crossing and hot stove thing down. I know it’s not wise to go hiking alone in the deep woods. Blah, blah, blah. But it’s the other stuff. For all of us. Writing a book, career changes, growing a business, new relationships. Maybe going back to school. Any creative pursuit, really. As soon as any of us wants to try something new, there you are with your “what-ifs”. Safety-schmafety! I, for one, am tired of being safe! You say Ego-schmego. I say you two are in cahoots. How about you guys duke it out while I go do something new!

F: Ok, ok, take it easy. It’s not always me you know. Try looking at things from a different perspective. Just because you’re dithering over something, not getting to it, doesn’t mean it’s me.

K: What do you mean? Who else could it be?

F: You!

K: What!

F: Did it ever occur to you that I’m not to blame for everything? That maybe, just maybe, whatever it is that you’re avoiding isn’t what’s best for you? It might look like I’m sticking my nose in – you, know the avoidance, the self-sabotage, the toilet cleaning – but it could actually be that in your heart of hearts, you know it’s not for you.

K: <snort> Right. Sure. Make excuses. You’re waking up now…

F: It could be that your gut brain that knows on a deeper level that you don’t want that job – it’s not for you. You don’t want to move – here is better than there. That you don’t want to take on that project or partnership and so on. You have so much intelligence in you that you might be missing because you can’t hear it. Okay, I know I’m loud. It could be getting drowned out. I’m just trying to get your attention.

K: So, it could still be you, right?

F: Sure. But what I’m telling you to do is to listen to your heart, first. Pause. Listen. And then do what’s best for you. Because if you’re listening to your heart, you are safe. You are being a loving steward of your dreams. Ugh! Listen to me! I can’t believe I’m saying these things. If you tell anyone…

K: But what if my heart’s telling me to connect with that person, to write that book, to go back to school. And, in spite of this I’m still cleaning my toilet?

F: Well, yeah, that’s on me. Here’s what you do. Um… Well…

K: What are you looking around for?

F: It’s only us, right? I wouldn’t want any of my fellow fear masters to hear me. We’re unionized, you know. I’ve got a lot to lose if I’m seen as a calming influence. Pension, benefits, the whole megillah. But listen. If your heart is telling you to do this thing then you must do it. You must or all this wonder and possibility will die with you. That is the greatest tragedy. And you know how to do it. You know how to sneak past me and my pal, amygdala. Small steps, small questions. Listen first and then take a step. You don’t need to know the whole way when you start. Just start!

K: I know. I know.

F: I’ll still be around you know. But at this point it feels like we’re buddies, doesn’t it? So go do your thing. Claim that dream. Just say hi once in a while. I’ll do the same. I’m just telling you to pay attention. I’m telling you to ignore the shoulds, stop trying to please everyone. Remember I’m only here as an alert.

K: Ha-ha! Like those stupid weather alerts that tell me it’s raining. Like I can’t look out the window!

F: Yeah, like that. Remember, I never said don’t do it. I only said what if…

K: And that’s where the trouble starts…

F: Hey, I’m not the boss of you. That beautiful heart is the boss. I wouldn’t mess with it. It’s got a lot of power. I clear out when she gets going. Whoa! There’s no stopping her. But you and me? We’re here for the long run. So, buckle up!

Shedding the Shoulds

Molting Bird
Photo by Jack Bulmer on Unsplash

I am shedding my “sh*&%y shoulds”. I am a little molting bird, casting off the ought-tos, the had betters (can you see the wagging finger?), the supposed-tos. They weigh us down and keep us from our creative work. I’m lightening up in this second half of life. Enough! They. Have. Got. To. Go!! And, as synchronicity would have it, this need to shrug off the shoulds recently hit critical mass. More on that later.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that, as I notice and let go of the shoulds, the inner battle wanes. I find myself paying more attention, pausing and running the ‘shoulds’ through a new filter. They come out the other end as a yes (want or need) or a no (should)

How about you? Does this ring any bells for you? Where do you stand on the “sh*&%y shoulds”? I can’t be alone in this! Especially in midlife and beyond.

What we lug around

“Shoulds” carry baggage. They’re short on commitment and usually drag along a sidecar of “but’s”. Yet, many of us go through life diligently toting around a sack of old voices, habitual thoughts, guilt, and lots of assumptions.

And for me, after so many years, those shoulds had turned into “I just don’t wanna!” When something was presenting itself as a should, up would jump my inner rebel. The process of tending to those “sh*&%y shoulds” had become fraught with irritation and resentment.

That sent me into procrastination and avoidance.

Definitely not where I wanted to be!

Hence, the conscious work of shedding my shoulds.

A knock-out call

Back to critical mass. Recently, after a day of cleaning and organizing my home office I sat down in front of my computer. I’m here to tell you that I am living proof that sitting is bad for your health.  My chair decided to break and sent me to the floor. All the impact of the fall was taken up by my right shoulder. A sprain of the ligaments and tendons around my collarbone.

Do you know that in Chinese medicine pain in the right shoulder can be an indicator that we are resisting something or trying to do too much of the wrong things? There is an imbalance. For me, the imbalance is the struggle with the shoulds. I knew I was off kilter but this just drove it home.

The genesis of shoulds

Shoulds begin to creep up in childhood. We should be a good girl/boy. We should eat our spinach and be seen and not heard. (Yes, I’m dating myself!)

They get strengthened in adulthood. We should work hard, be successful. The outside world imprints their shoulds on us. Authority figures in school, church, the culture. The list can continue.

And that’s where we begin to get in trouble. Because we begin to use the word should too often. We become oblivious to the language we use.

Actually, I want to be a good person. I want to be kind, work hard and be successful. But I want to operate from the inside out. In too many cases I’ve turned my wants into shoulds.  I want my actions to be inner driven, not outer directed.

Needs vs. shoulds

Consider the word “need”; how much lighter it is. It feels quick. It doesn’t loom large.

Try this (out loud):

I should brush my teeth.

Now this:

I need to brush my teeth.

Do you feel a difference? Now, of course, I’ll brush my teeth either way but the second version feels different. Yep, let’s brush our teeth before we move on to the next thing. No big deal. Done and done.

Much of what we call shoulds are really needs (and even wants!) and are part of our normal routine. I need to grocery shop or pay my bills. It often boils down to language which is so powerful.

Examine a should. Is it really a need? Call it that. Better yet, if it’s a want, call it that.

Shoulds are externally driven. Wants and needs are inner driven.

Wants and Needs

If shoulds are externally driven,  the inner driven wants and needs are so much more personal. And for some reason that can make them harder to address. We are curious humans, aren’t we?

However, what I have found is that when I recognize that what I’m calling a should is actually a want – or a need – and is congruent with my personal vision and goals, it becomes simpler. The action may be challenging – like some of the tech chores I do – but I want to do them and therefore they are easier to get to.

I want to be healthy therefore I will brush and floss and eat better (most of the time!) I need to tend to my business (and this stems from a want) so I will do the challenging and the mundane tasks my business asks of me. They’re often items on a list. Check, check, check. Done and done.

Needs and wants are not inherently easy. But they are simple.

I also recognize that when I ask myself what wants to be done, the answer sometimes surprises me. They are real and doable and tend not to squabble with any shoulds. It all gets done and I am a much more relaxed and happier girl.

Language

So often, the problems rise up from our choice of language. Next time you hear yourself starting a sentence with “I should”, pause. Can you reframe it to a need or want? Where is it coming from? Inside or outside? If from outside, is it possible to take a longer pause and weigh the cost of saying no? It may not be as steep as you initially think!

Shoulds get in the way of our creativity. Whether it’s creating the life you want or getting to your creative work. I can help you shed your shoulds. I am a great sounding board, a collaborator in solutioning, a bringer of creative tools to give you accountability and make it all easier and fun. Contact me and we can chat about it. Life is too short for the sullen shoulds! 

Back to my collarbone and critical mass. Laying on my side on the floor as my husband hovered over me asking if I was alright, I realized there was a want buried in this. I had wanted to get a new chair. Even with an achy shoulder I’ve been able to craft a happy ending.

Perfection or Excellence?

Perfectionism
Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Do you believe your success depends on you being perfect? Do you strive for perfection? What if you were to strive for excellence instead? Excellence through continuous improvement.

In studying what makes people and organizations successful, Dr. Robert Maurer of The Science of Excellence has found that it is not perfection that leads to success. It is more often a matter of accumulating very small steps toward excellence. It is excellence by continuous improvement.

Is it real or is it…

After all, perfection is not real. It is an illusion. From my observation, a desire for control can masquerade as perfectionism. Or a need for safety, a fear of looking foolish, being wrong, being rejected or ridiculed. Ultimately, it’s unattainable.

Perfectionism is that thing that can creep up on you in all aspects of life and become a way to avoid doing what you’re here to do. If I can’t do it perfectly, if I can’t be an expert, then I may as well not do it at all.

Applied to yourselves it can hamper goal attainment. It can lead to unhappiness, dissatisfaction and a breakdown of relationships. It’s like trying to get a perfect point on a pencil and sharpening it down to a nub. When does something go from a masterpiece to ruin? From beauty to wreck?

When it is expected of others, perhaps in work scenarios, it manifests as criticism, micromanaging and the inability to be a productive, contributing team member or partner.

And sometimes, perfectionism is just a habit of thought. You don’t even realize you’re striving for it. It has become your normal.

In the end it would be so much more productive to shift your attention to excellence through continuous improvement.

Excellence

When you are striving for excellence, you are doing your best all the while knowing that you can continue to improve. You are stretching yourself, refining your skills, learning from others, collaborating for a shared goal.

Excellence is knowing when a thing is “good enough”. And speaking of “good enough”, is that an acceptable goal?  You’ve heard of the s*&%ty first draft. I say yes! Yes, it is a “perfect” place to pause and decide whether you’re done  (for now) or to continue.

And, by the way, switching from perfection to excellence through continuous improvement is not a lowering of standards. It is a way to continue moving forward. And the irony is that “good enough” for a perfectionist is most likely head and shoulders above the standards for a non-perfectionist. The issue is knowing when to be done. And in the end, as Scott Allen said, “Done is better than perfect.”

Consider this:

  1. Excellence through continuous improvement allows for creative detours. It allows for observation, curiosity, experimentation. Perfection puts on blinders.
  2. Excellence through continuous improvement is conducive to collaboration. Perfection is a one-person show.
  3. Excellence through continuous improvement is fluid, a series of points along a continuum. Perfection is rigid.
  4. Excellence through continuous improvement is a process. It is creative. On the other hand, perfection can set you up for disappointment and rob you of the joy of discovery. Think about how so many inventions have been built on the work of someone who went before. They don’t come to us out of thin air. They are often improvements on someone else’s work or come from an observation that sparks an idea. Steam engines existed but James Watt took it to another level. Someone didn’t set out to invent the microwave oven. The waves were there. It was “invented” when Percy Spencer’s chocolate bar melted.

Whether in life or business, whether in ourselves or in what we create, the struggle for perfection can be debilitating. Too often the perfectionist is paralyzed, the dream of perfection becomes a hindrance. It prevents you from shining because your work is kept under wraps until it is “perfect.”

Make a different choice. Be excellent, not perfect.

Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coaching can help. Contact me to find out how I can help you can break through perfectionism and move forward.

#perfection #creativity #secondhalf

A Pause to Savor

A Moment To Savor Life
Image by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Savoring. A deep awareness, an inner mmm.

It is gratitude on a fuller, deeper level that incorporates more of the body and the senses.

By its very nature it produces a Pause, not to mention closed eyes and a smile.

It’s a moment when time slows down and gratitude wells up.

Why Pause and savor?

The benefits of this moment are many.

  • It brings you smack dab into the present moment.
  • It releases stress.
  • It makes you more aware of other things to savor
  • It leads to more gratitude

Savoring is also a wonderful first step to creating a Multidimensional Life. A life in which these moments of savoring are woven into your every day.

Yes, even your busy days. Even days in hamster-wheel-driven lives.

The hamster wheel behind the scenes

While you may not notice this hamster wheel of your life on a conscious level, your unconscious is screaming. And, once you become aware of it, it’s not always possible to just hit the off switch. This frenzied wheel is your normal. You’ve created a habit of cramming as much as you can into your day. You zip from one task or commitment to the next with little thought other than how you’ll get from one to the next. Quite one dimensional.

I know, I’ve been there. And I also know that living at this speed is not sustainable. Something will break, something will be forgotten or discarded or lost. Sometimes that something is you.

You get lost in the minutiae of your day as you try to get it all done. But the hours of the day are finite, so it spills over to the next day. And the stress happily tags along.

Bliss moments

Do you remember the Calgon ads? “Calgon, take me away!” Or the look of a woman in a Dove candy ad eating a chocolate? The bliss, the savoring.

Or the TV ad for the Calm app that invites you to do nothing for 15 seconds. (Does that make you anxious, antsy, a little itchy? Just “being” can be hard while trying to keep the wheel in motion.)

Yes, it’s hard to slow down, shut down, savor “just like that”.  But you can do it slowly, gradually.

What I suggest is weaving in pockets of savoring to start.

Slowing down

Those are your hands on the throttle. You can slow things down for those pockets of savoring. Take a moment now. Imagine your hands grasping the controls. White knuckled. Feel yourself pulling it back, slowing it down. Listen to the whine of the engine get quieter. Feel the vibrations get fainter and fainter. Let it come to a gentle stop. Experience yourself stepping off, pausing and savoring a moment. Whether it’s a moment of quiet, or that Dove chocolate or a piece of music. Maybe your partner or your workmate.

Just a short Pause

While I’m using the analogy of stopping the hamster wheel, savoring is not always the cessation of all activity. It can be a Pause. At least to start.

For instance, you can metaphorically slow down and appreciate your commute, your dinner preparation, weeding your garden. You can temporarily pause at a view, a word, a phrase.

During my last job my commute was all back roads. No highways, just country roads and neighborhoods. One spot was my favorite. It overlooked the Washington Valley and at certain times of the year, the setting sun would be perched atop the tree line. Like the old Kilroy was here graffiti. I didn’t stop the car but I would consciously quiet my monkey mind and appreciate the view. To savor the beauty and amuse myself by personifying the sun as a long-nosed cartoon character peeping over the horizon.

In my Writers Circle we read our freshly written work. And almost every time someone reads, we get stopped by a phrase or a word. We need to pause and savor it. Someone will say “Can you go back and read that sentence again? It was so beautiful.” “I got lost for a moment after that one phrase…” It’s as if we tripped and fell into gorgeous language. It’s a moment of savoring and appreciating.

This is what is missing in a hamster-wheel driven life.

The moments that accumulate and create a different feeling, a multi textured world, where beauty and riches reside. Moments that can be woven into the musts and even the “shoulds”. Moments that can gradually unfurl into hours, days, a life, a Multidimensional Life.

I have a chance for you to practice this starting August 31st in my private Facebook group: Your Big Juicy Multidimensional Life.  Join the group now for more info on what we’ll be doing and how you can participate. 

Are you up for a challenge?

Start awakening to your Big Juicy Multidimensional Life.

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.

Tapping into Joy

Can Joy Flow Like The Sap Of A Maple Tree?

Does joy flow easily through you? Like the sap of the maple tree in spring, only needing a spigot to gush out and fill the bucket?

It hasn’t always been that easy for me. I admit to getting a little stuck with this joy stuff. But, one of the elements I want woven into my Multidimensional Life is simple joy. Noticing and appreciating those small things that used to escape my consciousness or that became tasks, items to check off on a list.

Small Moments

For instance, do you know how quickly the sun moves across the sky? I can’t quantify it in minutes but I can tell you how quickly I can miss the spectacle that is the house across the road when the sun crests my rooftop and beams its joy on the yellow house across the street. It glows as if from within. It is liquid warmth even on a cold January morning.

That small act of standing at my front window and watching brings me joy. No matter how often I see it, it catches my breath. I no longer zip by on my way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and get my day started. I stand or sit and drink it in. Better than caffeine.

This is something I discovered by slowing down and paying attention. Recently I was thinking about whether we should downsize and move, and one of the things that came up was “Oh, I’d miss seeing Minnie’s house at dawn.”

Small, inconsequential? Yes.

Powerful road into a joyful, mindful experience? Hell, yeah!

Synchronicity

I started writing this post on a Saturday morning. Later that day, I met with an intuitive coach for an oracle card reading. The first card she pulls for me is Joy. (Yes, really.) I can feel forces conspiring, trains of thought converging.

As the river of conversation flows, “tapping into joy” shifts into opening up to receive joy. Can you feel the difference? It’s not so much going out and finding it as it is opening up to it. Putting yourself into a state of receiving. I no longer have to hammer the spigot into the tree; I am the bucket.

Now I remind myself in the morning to open up so joy can find me. (Writing this helps reinforce this goal.) I ask how can I become a vessel ready to be filled with joy. Part of this Multidimensional Life journey for me is to stop turning even joy into a task. It’s no longer something to be checked off a list. It’s the small everyday moments. It is being in a state of receiving and trust. 

Simple Joy

When I do this, I find that there is so much simple joy in my life. Yes, I will continue to appreciate the glow of the sun on the house across the street. I’ll relish the startle of red that’s a cardinal perched on the evergreen outside my kitchen window. I’ll continue to be in awe of the hummingbird as it whizzes past my ear while I’m sitting on the deck. I will be open to moments of joy and then some.

If you are building a Multidimensional Life and joy is an element you want woven into your day, consider this affirmation: I am open to receiving joy.

Very simple, very small, very potent.

Remembering Joy

Call it into memory as you come up through layers of sleep each morning or as you go to sleep at night. Write it on your tube of toothpaste, write it on a Post It that you stick to your car dashboard. Keep it handy and repeat it often until it becomes part of the flow of your thoughts.

A quote attributed to Buddha says “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world”.

Let’s all be joy.

A Different Retirement Planning

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask. ~ Sam Keen

Let’s turn retirement planning on its head. Or maybe just on its side. Let’s bring it down to reality and by reality I mean what is real for you. Traditionally, retirement planning has been about the money. It’s about a magic number to strive for. It brings up anxiety around whether it’s enough. And, if we think it’s not enough, we worry about how to get to that magic number. As a result, we often double down on our work, forgo personal time, grow a someday/maybe list, or put off for the things that are meaningful because they don’t contribute to that number. We experience stress and all the accompanying gifts that that brings.

Traditional Retirement Planning.

As I moved through my career, the retirement planning world came into prominence for the regular working person. IRA accounts, 401k allocations. New investors poured into mutual funds. As a result, the stock market boomed with these new investments. New careers were built around this segment of financial planning.

And this is all good.

Don’t get me wrong. Tending to your finances is important. It’s prudent. Because if you don’t sit down and look them square in the eye you may be in for some surprises.

However, as I approached my 50th birthday and saw the vague outline of retirement out on the horizon, I realized that it was not all about the money. Sure, I’d love to have a $1 million + retirement fund. Who wouldn’t?

Being called to a truer self

But I didn’t want to be a slave to this goal. There was something else that was important and needed serious attention.

That something was me.

A clock was ticking and the question it was beating into me was: when will you do what you say you want to do? When will you start living from the inside out instead of the other way around. My creativity was stifled and it was slowing killing me, from the inside out.

I was being called to be a truer version of myself.

Non-traditional Retirement Planning

I was being called to craft a multidimensional life in which the things that are urgent are woven into the things that were important, not the other way around. For me, the important things are writing, my garden, moving my body. It’s about exploring art, connecting more with nature and the people around me. It is also doing meaningful work as a coach and a writer to help others craft the life that brings them joy, meaning and fulfillment. Whatever that might be for them.

This is the kind of planning that needs to come first. Know who you want to be, how you want to live, what is important and what can be whittled away. Then absolutely look at the financial side.  Because now, you’re better informed as to what you need.

Start early

The first steps into retirement don’t happen after the gold watch and bye-bye luncheon. They begin now, wherever you are in your journey of life.

They begin with a question:

What is most important to me now and as I transition into the next stage of life.

Ask the question and then listen as ideas emerge. Capture the ideas. Let them settle in. Decide on a small step to get going. Then prepare for an exciting adventure.

Because retirement is not an ending. It’s not heading out to the pasture. It is the beginning of a vital, important stage of life that will cover decades. It is a rich Third Age.

I’ve told you what’s important to me. Now, it’s your turn. What would be a satisfying next stage of life for you? Let me know in the comments.

The Art of Listening

Listening
Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Let me listen to me and not to them. – Gertrude Stein

Listening is an art. It’s a vital part of communication. We listen to learn, to understand, to make the other feel witnessed.

But how well do we listen to ourselves?

Our minds are full of chatter. They’re also full of different voices. The voices of our parents, teachers and peers. The voice of perfectionism, fear and deprecation.

The other voices continue in an endless loop and do quite a job in the background. They become part of the noise that turns white that we barely notice. Make no mistake, though, those voices are orchestrating a good part of our lives.

At the same time our wise, true voice speaks. However, too often we minimize that voice and magnify the others.

Until we listen, nothing changes.

I recently noticed my inner commentary on my lack of ability to play. It made me sad. I thought I had lost the knack. That I had forgotten how to have fun. That I was a dull girl, all work, no play.

I noticed because I had stopped and listened. I hit pause. I didn’t dismiss it or brush it away. I really listened.

Here’s what I heard:

Play is frivolous. It’s what you do when your work is done. Furthermore, adult fun involves high energy, adrenaline-soaked activities that have to be done somewhere “away” and costs money. Just like those TV commercials and ads for “active seniors”. Therefore, my play/fun is too small and insignificant and, consequently, not worthy of my time. Hey, go big or go home, right?

Wrong!

That was the loop that was running in the background. That was the driver. Therefore, if I was going to hear my wise, true voice I needed to move the conversation down to my heart.

Here’s how I reframed the conversation:

Play can be that thing I’m already doing after I’ve put it into a different light. It can be, lighter, less linear, more whimsical, pleasurable, silly, intuitive. My play is specific to me and anyone else I choose to have as part of the activity. It is not what I see on those pharma ads for seniors or what I see on Facebook or Instagram. Those feel shaming. Play can be fun; fun doesn’t need to be play. Play for me could be coffee and good conversation with a sister that includes laughter and silliness; a walk at the lake with a friend as we compete with our last best pace. It could be a satisfying yoga class. Play is a state of mind.

Here’s how Diane Ackerman defines play in her book, Deep Play.

“The spirit of play is spontaneity, discovery and being open to new challenges. As a result, it allows one to happily develop new skills, test one’s limits, stretch them and then maybe refine the skills and redefine the limits.”

That feels so much better. Play is not always idle; it reaches deep inside and moves us.

Getting back to listening.

If you paused and really listened to your wise and true voice, what would you learn? Would you discover that there is a tape running that is sooo out of date? Would you gently let that old chatter go (or maybe dropkick it to the curb? I don’t know how tenacious it is!)

I know you will learn something vital. For instance, you may learn that you, too, are looking at an idea through someone else’s lens and that the view doesn’t work for you anymore.

Pause and listen more often. Just be aware and noticing. You might be surprised at what you hear and how much lighter you feel when you change the tape.

As always, if you need some support as you hone your listening skills, please contact me to see how we can work together to assemble the small steps that will move you back to your own wise and true voice.

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