Mystery Unfolding

Wouldn’t life be grand if only it would work out according to plan — I mean our plan. You know the one. All neatly folded and earmarked and tagged with colorful sticky notes that indicate the direction, timing and course of All Things.

And then Life, as it is, unfolds. Exactly as it should. But not exactly as we think it should. Kids get sick. Or angry. Or defiant. Clients move on — without you. Love gets lost. Then found again in a completely surprising, delicious and wondrous form.

I draw strength from Elizabeth Gilbert, kindred spirit of words and author of my ultimate favorite book Eat, Pray, Love. She admitted today on Facebook that she was to go to India tomorrow, a place I also want to visit some day. It had been 11 years since her last visit there. Due to a medical situation she had to change her plans. But not without a fight first.

All I was thinking about — even as the doctor was reviewing my results — was how to salvage this India trip, by any means necessary. At first, I negotiated quite hard against my doctor, trying to talk her out of her diagnosis, trying to convince her that my situation wasn’t really that big a deal, and that my treatment could wait. (Curiously, she was unmoved by my strong and completely un-medical opinion!)

Indeed I can relate to her unwillingness to surrender to her reality. How often do we fight against reality, only to lose on average, according to Byron Katie, 100% of the time?

My son admitted to me tonight that his failing grades might mean he has to repeat a grade.

“So what?” I said. “I have seen you work hard. You want to do well. And you’ve done your best. Trust the timing of things.”

Gilbert’s initial resistance to her medical reality gave way to broader insights, which I also shared with my despairing son.

1) Listen to your body. It speaks a language far smarter than any dialect we can speak.

2) Honor reality. It will win every time.

3) If something is not meant to be, then it is not meant to be — for reasons that you may never even know. You can fight against the timing of your life, or you can trust in it. The flow and the peace will only return when you learn to trust.

My son’s final shudder of relief and an exhalation of elation told me that life’s mystery is what we most honor, not the thoughts, agendas and mind maps we have in our heads.

Trust the mystery unfolding. It’s our beautiful companion. Our failure lies not in our lack of fulfilling what we think we should, but in not accepting that which is.

Done, Not Perfect

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”   — Maya Angelou

Beloved creativity. It can be an angel or a monster. It can haunt dreams – and fulfill them too.

Many of my friends are what I term “Creatives”. They see life — no — feel life in a remarkable way. They see beneath the surface of things, sense the pulse of the Universe that pushes blood through veins and capture the very essence of being. It is humbling to be friends with such people. In honor of their talent, I strive to do my own creative impulses justice.

Nothing gets my creative engine revving more than a walk through the woods. It is my oxygen tank, my life support system, my place of solace when the words just won’t come. Actually, I know they are there. They are always there. But sometimes the layers of life’s distress cover the thoughts needed to express that inner world just crying out to be unleashed.

A stressed Creative is uncreative. And there is nothing more frustrating than creative constipation.

Perhaps that is the real reason why I advocate The Power of Slow. Without allowing for our customized pace, life’s creativity would wither on the vine. Existence would be flat, accompanied only by the squeak of the hamster wheel we’re on.

Sound dramatic? Consider how many great ideas go unrealized because we say “I don’t have time”. In essence, we do. We just divert our attention to certain things while ignoring others. We prioritize to fit in that which we think we should be doing, all the while forgetting what we are meant to do.

If you want to unleash your inner Creative, the first step is to silence the inner Critic. We all know that voice inside that tells us lovely things such as “You don’t deserve it. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are?” Prepare some canned answers when that voice shows up. “I so deserve it. I am more than enough. Who am I? Watch, and you will see.” In reality, that inner Critic is our fear, like a well-intentioned parent trying to protect us from harm. The trouble is most of what we imagine is harmful is imagined harm.

If you don’t try, you’ll never know. And who would want to be in the dark about their own potential?

One of the best lines I ever learned came from my sister who helped me see perfection wasn’t worth striving for. “Done, not perfect.” Call things complete. Move on. Enjoy the ride. Do what you can in the time that you have. Trust me. It’s not worth stressing about.

So go out there and create. The world will be richer for it. Truly.

Freelance Nation

Freelancer, diversified worker, temporary agent — I prefer the term independent contractor. It sounds more serious. More stabile. More delivering.

Whatever you call those of us who work on our own without the safety net of an employer paying our health insurance or days off, one in three US workers engages in some type of freelance work. According to a recent study commissioned by Elance-oDesk.com, 53 million Americans took on project work last year alone.

The term freelancing sounds so whimsical and, well, free. Truth be told, much of my time is spent panting heavily, running uphill and crossing my fingers that my contract will be renewed and my sins of fallibility forgiven. We walk a tightrope most people don’t see. They think freelancing is somehow for the meek at heart. The ones who can’t get out of their jammies until noon. You know, when they wake up.

Yeah. Right.

That’s not my reality at least. Most days — and many weekends — I spend thinking, working, worrying, writing, rewriting, formulating, reformulating, strategizing and implementing and reporting and — yes — praying. Sure, I can decide when to take time off. And I do as much as I can. It usually amounts to a handful of hours on a weekend, away from my phone.

Doesn’t sound very Slow, does it?

Freelancing can be tough. But if you are in love with your clients — and I am — it doesn’t feel like work, but rather more like an obligation a parent has to a child. You want to assure them that everything will be alright. Even when you think it might not be. That’s when you assure them that even if it isn’t, you aren’t going away and you hope they won’t want to see you go.

The Slow part of my freelance exists lies in the freedom of choice I have. I have a lot of room to make decisions, which can be both daunting and liberating. I get to decide now or later to do this thing or that. Ultimately, what counts in my industry (public relations) are results.

Bring them or perish.

Since I like to eat, I move mountains where I can and make molehills out of the rest.

That strategy — and the joy it brings — has worked for over a decade…and counting.

 

The Death of an Icon

“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” – Maya Angelou’s final tweet, May 23, 2014

Maya Angelou has died. Her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings haunted me in college and I continued to follow her poetry and magic for the rest of her life.

Her elegance and eloquence despite much hardship made us all stronger. And her intensity inspired me to continue writing even when I didn’t want to.

I am sad to see her go.

Whenever someone of such influence passes away, I am particularly saddened — and reminded of how precious this life truly is. Yet we often live as if there is always a tomorrow.

There may not be.

It isn’t easy to be mindful every moment of every day. Life bogs us down with responsibility, pain and constant demands. In the face of all of it, it is understandable that we may lose sight of what is truly important because we are so preoccupied with just getting through the day.

Which is why it is so crucial to start each day with a reminder of your broader vision. Stating your daily proclamation really does make a difference in how you start — and spend — your day.

A morning mantra is a great way to say a blessing to the gift of another day on this Earth. And to remain centered when storms swirl around us.

Having a bad day? This too is a gift. You may not think it at the time, but that puzzle piece is just as critical to your life’s mosaic as the beautiful gems we all love to see.

May Maya rest among the angels now – her strength and beauty are a true testament to the human spirit and to the fact that we can make a difference if we listen to our calling.

Maya did. I hope with all my might to do the same.

 

One Word at a Time

Several years ago I attended a seminar near Amsterdam. I set out to answer what was next in my life. After a full day of Dutch and English discussion, I was no wiser about what I wanted than when the day began. Or so I thought.

The seminar leader told us to write several pages about our experiences that day once we retired to our rooms. I was stumped. I had no clue what the next step in my career should be. So I sat with my pen in hand without a word to say.

Snapping off the light, I decided to sleep on it. But as often happens with me, I awoke in the middle of the night with a thousand thoughts cascading through my brain. In the dark, I wrote nonstop for twenty minutes. It was as if a floodgate had been opened.

I wanted to change the world through words. Having already published two books, I knew I had something more meaningful to share than just a few stories about my own life. It was time for me to start public speaking.

And so began a new journey of discovery. Seeds were planted that weekend, which later came into fruition through more books, public speaking opportunities and even this blog.

The great thing about life is that we are constantly planting seeds, whether we know it or not. A kind interaction with someone can later lead to a blossoming friendship. Or a business meeting that went well can turn into a long-lasting partnership. A misstep in communication can place your world on its head ~ always for the better, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. There is no sense in resisting what comes your way because resistance creates anxiety while acceptance opens doors. Deal with life’s challenges the best you can with the understanding that a joyful heart will attract even more joy, which then spreads to others ~ one word at a time.

 

 

Creators of the Storyline

The life of a writer can be extremely isolating, insular, yet vast and full. We think, we observe, we hear, we write. We live off the hope that a reader’s life will be changed by what we say.

Stories live inside our heads, begging to be told, seen, expressed. They swirl. They dance. They speak. A writer’s ear catches it all, whether she wants to or not.

Writers listen. Interpret. Absorb. All of life is meshed into the fabric of their storyline. In essence, writers give back to the world that which they experience.

Many people have asked me, “How can you imagine so much?”

I say, “How can I not?”

Characters form in my mind, robbing my sleep if I ignore them for too long.

When a story emerges, a writer must carefully form the message for the world to take in. It is a craft that gives us life.

Son, an emerging writer with an imagination so large that his web ensnares reality with the subtext behind it, recently admitted he had to write a page about why he should be kind. He had not been nice in class and his teacher asked him to explain why it might be a good idea that he should be.

He wrote his prose in the form of a conversation.

Being kind means not to hurt the soul of another.

Being kind is an opportunity to empower a person.

Being kind translates to changing the world.

Being kind is a good idea because I won’t have to write another story like this one.

Stories can heal, instruct, and encourage mankind. Even a little boy who chose his words less than carefully.

Stories can be mentors for us all.

Imagination is more powerful than any medicine. If you believe in the truth of what you tell yourself, no doctor can cure you from it. What you believe far outweighs what others will tell you is so.

What story do you tell yourself every day? That you are lazy, unlucky, out of time? The nice one? The mean one? The crazy one?

You are the creator of your own story. Which ending will you choose?

 

 

Trust the Process

When people ask me how I managed to survive writing a book about Slow, I often say it was as if the messages were being delivered by angels’ hands. I was so attuned to the subject matter, the book literally wrote itself. I merely was the conduit to the material. Whenever I felt stuck, I’d have a conversation with someone and the connection to that Universal source got recharged again.

When you tackle a project in your life, whether it is a book or life itself, it comes with an invisible process that you may or may not be aware of. What is required is a good amount of courage and trust in the process itself. Without that trust in writing my book, the information wouldn’t have flowed as readily as it did for me. Because of my confidence in the creative process, I like to say that The Power of Slow was the fastest book I’ve ever written.

Taking on something new inevitably brings about change. Say the word “change” and people’s shoulders cramp up. You might as well say “Big, fat hairy monster lurking under your bed!” It has the same effect.

Fear.

But consider this: Change is merely a shift in energy. And with that shift comes a space-clearing force that gives you room to grow. Remember ~ if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Which would you rather do?

When you alter the way you approach something, space is made for new things/people/places/experiences to come into your life. What you put out comes back to you. So if you spew off a fountain of fearful thoughts, people with those same thoughts will attract to you like flies to honey. If you exhibit inspiring courage, you attract people with that same level of courage who recognize your process because it is also their own.

So go ahead. Trust the process. It will never let you down because it is an intrinsic part of your journey. Whoever said life doesn’t have a manual may not have been listening. It is right there before your inner eye ~to behold, to honor and to take on with all the power within your reach.

Trust me on this one.

The Possibility in Imperfection

The other night I attended a Twitter party. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, it is a gathering on the microblogging social media platform Twitter to discuss a particular topic. This time we were a group of bloggers that convened on Twitter using a particular keyword to follow the conversation for thirty minutes. The topic was, of course, blogging, one of my favorite subjects.

One question the moderators posed was what’s more important: grammar or getting the point across. I have to admit I love grammar and respect all its rules because language is something I highly revere. And I am traumatized even now, thirty years later, by my English teacher Ms. Willis whose smoker’s voice and steely glare still permeate my brain when I even consider saying “There’s two things” instead of saying “There are”.

But language, like anything else, is a compilation of sounds that is fluid and ever-evolving. We bend the rules sometimes to fit the situation. Being a Southern girl, I respect rule-bending. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, ya”ll. It gives life to new possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves.

You may have noticed I bend the rules on this blog a lot. Suddenly adjectives become nouns. Slow is one example. It is this very juxtaposition that challenges the reader to think in new ways.

So while good grammar is something to be preserved, let’s leave a little room for imperfection. After all, it is in that very place that we grow the most.

P.S. To my embarassment, I wrongly attributed yesterday’s image as Lower Elk Canyon, Arizona. It’s Lower Antelope Canyon. Apologies to all wildlife that has been offended. Imperfection at its best!

Step into Your Mystical-Magical

Words touch me like fire and wind. They move my heart, my spirit, my soul. They haunt my dreams, collecting themselves in a line, pushing through my mind to be heard.

So I give voice to them however I can.

In the silence of the forest, I listen to those words whisper their truth in my ear.  They march alongside me like soldiers, stomping their feet in unison.

Whenever I express a particularly deep truth, I am moved to tears by it. Those words, so sincere, caress my very being and I can do nothing but weep. My friend, who is also as tearful as I, recently asked me why he cries so much when he’s with me.

“We step into the mystical-magical, my dear friend!” I told him. We are close to such powerful truth that it can be overwhelming and what is a mere mortal to do but to cry!?

Stepping into your mystical-magical needn’t be that dramatic. It might cause you to smile warmly to yourself as you observe a beautiful moment in time such as a small child delighting in an ice cream cone or the slant of light as it pierces the morning mist. It only requires that you look and listen closely.

Your mystical-magical is waiting for you, too, if you slow down long enough to let it in.

 

The Daily Stretch ~ Day #10 “Learning to Be Still”

Dawn Quiett has had to learn, well, to be quiet and still. As a freelancer and type A personality, she has had to adjust to slowing down and not being so busy all the time due to the economy. But, it has been a blessing in disguise as she has realized she actually can be with the moment, which used to be an intolerable thing.

“I spent my whole childhood, high school and college careers trying to get somewhere,” she told me. “I got there and did what I was supposed to do but because of the economy it did not really matter. I grew up with a mother who filled her time (and still does) with a lot stuff.”

It is hard to break those cycles of busyness, if that’s all you’ve ever known. But Dawn sees the power in slow. “I used to think I had all of these choices at 18, but I realized that my parents controlled it. Now, I have all of the choices. I just have to make them.”

With more time available than she thought imaginable, she has had to learn to like the solace of her days. She has filled them with reading and growing from the inside out.

Can you see yourself, or someone you know, in her story? I sure can!