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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!

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.

Creative Expression and What We Ache For

Creative Expression Brings Us To What We Ache For

Over the years, I have personally experienced how creative expression opens us up to the liberation found in discovering and following our truest yearnings. A recent article led me down a train of thought that brought this home to me again.

It was an article by Jaleh Bisharat, Co-founder/CEO at Naked Poppy, called “10 Books That Changed the Way I Think About Business”.

First, I chuckled as I am reminded of the magic in numbering. This many life hacks… days to…, habits… and yes, so many books.

But then I gave thought to the books that have had a meaningful impact on my life. There’ve been many. But one stood out. It was one that opened me up to the creative being that I am and became part of my own journey to finding what was truly meaningful for me.

The one that floated to the top

Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s What We Ache For fills the bill on so many levels. (Hey, why knock myself out to come up with a compelling “number”, I thought.  One is good.)

Dreamer’s book is chock-full of beautiful prose. It offers reflections and exercises that deepen the reading experience. And it goes to the heart of what I believe to be the most important mission in the second half of life. That is, liberating ourselves to tend to those things that are truly important and using our innate creativity, our own creative expression, to weave them into a Multidimensional life.

While I won’t say that reading this book was a triggering event in my life, it was definitely a spurring one.

A well worn and loved book

I read it approximately 10 years ago and I’ve picked it up many times since then. For coaching programs or writing workshop ideas. For my own writing inspiration. It is a book that I need to have in hard cover, that I can rub my finger along the rough paper as I read. I highlight and underline and put notes and exclamation marks in the margins. I engage with it as I read it or skim through it or open it up at random to see what wants to be seen. It has post-its and random pieces of paper to hold a place and the end flaps tuck in between pages to remind me where I want to go next. It’s the whole enchilada!

Doing creative work allows us to follow the thread of what we ache for into a deeper life, offering us a way to cultivate a life of making love to the world.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Yes! Following that thread is my mission in my second half of life. Cultivating a deeper, more meaningful (to me) life and honoring the tug in my gut, the quiet voice in my heart. Having the spiritual courage to do all this while living in my world and doing my own work.

This is what I want for myself and, if this resonates with you, it’s what I want for you.

What do you ache for?

Have you also felt that ache, that tugging? This is what my 6-week program, You Are The Artist of Your Life is about. It will ease that ache, gentle that tug and begin your journey into a more integrated, Multidimensional life that is unique to you alone.

Want to learn more? Join me Thursday, August 29th at 6:30 pm ET on Zoom for my free monthly call. This month a I’ll be talking about my upcoming workshop You Are the Artist of Your Life. We’ll get to meet; you’ll get a taste of what the longer program will be like. One person will have a chance for a mini coaching session.

Begin your own journey to a deeper life!

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