Self Defining Moment

I was introduced to a new person, yesterday, not remarkable, I know. And in the course of the conversation, she asked me,

“So, Lisa…What is it, you Do?” again, pretty standard stuff. But, I paused in answering. Here is where it gets interesting. It may have been the way she asked me or the mood I was in that day. I wanted to answer this question in a different way. I struggled because, the answer was not that I am a social media manager or in marketing or even that I am a writer. It felt like the answer was more than all of that or maybe simpler.

A year ago, I lost my job. I didn’t just lose my job. I was fired from my job. A year ago, I was fired from my job that I took pretty seriously. I was the General Manager of an eco fashion design company. It was a consuming job and I loved it. I also hated it. I was certainly defined by it. So, a year ago when people asked me what do you do? I had a quick definite answer. I am this thing I do to earn a living and not much else, thanks for asking, now I really must be getting on because I have some important work to do and a deadline and I have to go. I thought about my job all the time. I came home spent and brought my work with me. I made dinner begrudgingly and felt dread over the children’s homework time. I would often check out of evening family time to read a bit before falling asleep (the reading and falling asleep bit hasn’t changed much- guilty as charged).  A number of years went by with this routine. I was my work. And then, WHAM. No more. I was fired.

My definition of self was gone. The answer to the What do you Do question became- I don’t know. The question itself became, who are you? and still I didn’t know. AND this really freaked me out. I spent a good amount of time crying and feeling lost. I’m still working on a new definition, a new answer. Here is the cool part, I know the answer no longer starts  with how I earn a living. And I love my new work. It is exciting to talk to folks about their passions, projects, hopes and work with them to move those forward. I get to do this everyday! It’s incredible. It’s creative, interesting, engaging and paying the bills, But, it isn’t What I Do. It isn’t Who I am.  And wow that is some freeing shit right there! The answer to that question will never again come from an external source. I will no longer define myself by my work status or anything else that isn’t me.

If asked that question today, I might say, “I help people.” And that seems to lead into a very interesting conversation. Which is another thing, I Do.

Fall: not as good as Summer but, I love it still

I stepped outside just now to get some fresh air. The sun is shining with the orange trees popping out against a blue, blue sky. It is stunning. And that smell hits me of damp earth and decaying leaves and I think, summer is truly over and I am feeling ok with it because I love love love the smell of fall and really it’s still pretty warm outside and sunny and kind of like summer.  So, I am feeling good about the season and since my previous idea for this week’s post was on how intolerant I have become and  just a rant that I think might enhance your lives in no way. I decided  to write about beautiful autumn.

I love the smell of fall. I love the colors and the dramatic tall, clouded skies. I love pumpkin flavored things and cardigans. Fall is for me. Once I get over the devastating fact that summer is over, and this takes me awhile, because, really I love summer the best.  Summer and I swim and laugh and cook things on the grill together with cocktails. We are best friends. Summer is light and breezy. And let’s face it Autumn can be a bit serious. It is all about planning, preparing and catching up on some of the things you let slide in the easy, breezy summatime.  It is, for me, a bit of a wrestling match to let go of summer and give in to fall. I’m often ready for a higher level of structure that comes with the kids going back to school and I am always ready for the kids to go back to school. I feel reflective and also eager to plan for the future. I go buy a bunch of office supplies and say things like,

“Right, Lisa, now we are going to get really organized. No fooling around.”

Fall is a time for getting back to work and all of that appeals to me. But, I am at the same time looking over my shoulder thinking, but wait, Summer, just one more day with sun-warmed skin, dashing across hot, hot sand to get to the cool water. Can’t we go on a picnic and drink lemonade, under the shade of a Maple, one more time? I vacuum the sand out of my car, put the beach towels in storage and dust off the Crockpot, reluctantly preparing for the shift in season.

And then a day like today hits and I am ready to fully embrace the change. I insist on buying mums, apple cider and think about, but never get around to visiting a corn maze. Tonight when the family gets home, I will try to engage them in craft projects with construction paper,

‘Come on guys, let’s make bats. It will be fun.’

They will mumble things like,

“I have a paper due tomorrow.”

“Mom, I’m 16.”

“Monday Night football, something in the garden to put away…”and  they will be hard to find for the rest of the evening. I will cheerfully carry on alone until I loose interest and toss the deformed, half-finished bats into the craft supply storage area, also known as The Closet Things Fall Out Of, where they will remain until 10 minutes before the Trick-O-Treaters arrive at the end of the month.

What’s not to love?

On Finding Your Voice

Because I decided to write a blog, I had to find out how to do it perfectly. I think, I do want people to read what I am writing so, I have to make it good. And in order to write a ‘good’ blog that people will want to read, research was required, or so I thought. Commence research. I read a lot on the topic of style and voice, content and scheduling. Here are some great sites with loads of information:

Or you could save yourself some time and know this, all you really need is a story and the urge to tell it. And I have decided this isn’t something that requires finding at all. Just speaking–hmmm, first listening, really listening, then speaking your truth, in as few words as possible.  At some point, I got tired of trying to figure out how to do it perfectly, settled for just doing it and hit the publish button. Gulp. I nearly threw up and had to walk away from the computer, but also compulsively check for comments. Such sweet torture. It takes bravery, that’s pretty much it. Oh, and also practice, bravery at first and then practice. To be good at something, one must do it over and over and over again- 10,000 hrs right? So, bravery, no, first a story, then bravery, then practice and some consistency and discipline. It’s all starting to sound hard again, when what I meant to say was, ‘Nike tagline the shit out of it.’ Just do it, simple.

And this is true not just for writing, but for anything you create. Sometimes you have to say, ‘screw it, I can’t wait for it to be perfect. It is good enough’ and send it out into the world. So, here are my imperfect ramblings. And some thoughts from Neil Gaiman, who Really is a writer, people pay him to write. So, yeah, he knows what he is talking about. I love Neil Gaiman. Now, go create something.

The-one-thing-that-you

Suck It Up

Something really cool happened that I think relates to creativity. I was vacuuming the fruit flies. I have been vacuuming the fruit flies periodically throughout the day. They are a nuisance and must go. While planning their ultimate destruction, I accidentally cleaned my kitchen.  If you know me, you will know that this is significant. If you don’t know me, know this: Cleaning is not terribly important to me, in that I don’t like to do it. I do enjoy a clean house, though.

So, in the process of sucking up flies, those fuckers hide everywhere, I vacuumed everywhere. It turns out the vacuum is also a good tool for sucking crumbs out of toasters, cobwebs from window ledges and I’m not sure what from behind the fridge. The coffee grounds under the sink near the garbage can, sand by the rocks collected over the summer, something fluffy from the corner- all gone. Thank you fruit flies. I did rip the leaf off of one of my orchids, suck up a quarter and a pencil–Why is there a pencil under the dishwasher? And a bit of vinegar from the next to useless, do-it-yourself trap- not working- at all, I am sorry trusty vacuum for this. Though completely focused on ridding the house of these wine ruining pests, I managed to do something else, equally awesome. I cleaned the kitchen with enthusiasm and without being aware that I was working on the less than favorite task. I did it with gusto because I wasn’t cleaning, I was hunting and killing. Brilliant.

What does this have to do with creativity? You ask.  I’m not sure, remember I said, “I think relates to creativity”. But, hear me out.

Whether you have decided to create as a way to serve others or because you’re called to it or both, whether you’re writing, designing, sewing, growing, teaching, whatever your craft. If you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, a parent, a human who is here to make shit, than you have an obligation to do so and this takes some discipline and inspiration. After today’s fly exercise, I’m thinking it might not require, for me, sitting at a blank computer screen with the flashing black line, forcing words. Great work can come from playing, walking, sitting and staring, vacuuming fruit flies.

I do realize this is completely contrary to my last post, where I said, ‘I had to just DO IT’. I still think that is also true. Both are true, sometimes you have to just create because there is a deadline, or you promised or because you must and sometimes you have to do something else because forcing it doesn’t work. The cool thing is that the something else can lead to the thing you needed in the first place. Today, I felt mad inspiration come from housecleaning and pest control that no amount of willing creativity would have achieved. It just took listening. So, when has  going off path worked for you? I want to hear your stories about great work coming from play, times when you surprised yourself because you thought you were doing something entirely different from the resulting product. What have your accidental achievements been?

The Mystery

The Mystery

Fill your pockets with rocks,

Take the ocean home

a

drop

at

a

time,

Reel in the moon

And the stars

Of a million-million years.

You are alone.

Shovel sand into a hole

That won’t fill, forever

And haul all of the twigs

From all of the forests,

From all of the places

You Must See.

You are still alone.

It will remain unfound, unsolved,

No answer. Though much effort expended in looking.

Alone.

You may find

After all of this busyness, bewilderment,

Exhaustion,

Along side you,

Me.

Creatively Lost

I have a confession to make. I am guessing it will come as no surprise to you, my 5 readers, that I have been feeling creatively challenged. Or maybe it’s creatively misdirected. Or maybe it’s creatively drained. Anyway, I’m certainly lacking in clarity and this is effecting my ability to create. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been plenty productive professionally. I just haven’t been here writing. I haven’t been in my journal writing. I haven’t been scribbling little bits of nauseating poetry on napkins. In fact, I haven’t even written a grocery list in ages. I did however, find one in the parking lot of the local grocery store. The list had a little cherry sticker on it and ordinary items. I think the list maker was having salad that night. I hope they lost the list on the way out and not on the way in. I always find that to be frustrating, when I take the time to write the list and then misplace it. We all know how winging it in the grocery store goes.  When I picked the notepaper up, I looked around to see if anyone was watching. It felt valuable to me.  I picked it up, read it , shoved it in my purse, thinking it might inspire me to do something creative. But, I have since lost it. I thought I would write something about lost things and then I lost the thing. ha.

I digress.

I saw a snippet in passing on twitter or somewhere that writer’s block is a myth. Where was that? Ahhh, it was here on WordPress, writelarawrite. (She has made some lovely art to illustrate the point. You should check it out.) I didn’t really want to read it. I knew what was coming. I’m not creating because I am not creating. Simple as that, not because I had lost my need or lost the ability but, because I was being lazy. I thought I would just wait for inspiration and genius to strike.

Hard work is involved? Commitment? Consistency? I, somehow thought loving it would make it easy. What the hell? Where did that come from? Aren’t I the mother of two teenagers, married for 20 years, sharing a home with a bull terrier?  If you love it, if it’s meant to be, it will be easy. I have to laugh. How could I think it would just happen? It seems to be a recurring theme in pretty much any ‘I am successful at (fill in the blank)’ story.  You have to put your time in, keep doing it until you get good at it, do it when no one cares or listens or reads. I’m here to write because I love it and because maybe other people get lost or lose things and they shouldn’t feel alone.

So, I’ll just write and maybe you can find whatever your It is and then share it, with me.

Today's Writing

Today’s Writing

Favorite Things for Today

I came across this website/project, brainpickings and Love it so. I wanted to share it. And also, some other cool spots, I have found. And why I like them all.

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  • Judy Brown Art and Spirit blog: I love to read Judy’s blog. It’s honest, funny and full of insight. (She is my aunt, so I am biased, but, it is a good read)

2012 Academy Clearwater Visit_175

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mango Salad: Here is a terrific recipe for my new favorite dessert, Mango with honey and lime. It is a wonderful flavor combo! The recipe is taken from Repurposed Life, which has a great library of recipes and health tips.

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What have you found lately that inspires you? I’d love to hear from you. Share any links to websites you love  in the comments and I will check them out!

Spring Inside

After the quiet retreat of winter in Northern Michigan, folks tend to get a bit edgy come March. The subtle changes in weather call out for movement. There is extra energy, more light. Some call it spring fever or March madness, for me, it is a transition, a waking up. I feel ready to be moving on to the next season but, winter is not quite done with me and that is frustrating. So, I bought myself a bunch of roses. Because, I am missing warmer weather. Because, I am missing being outside and feeling the warmth of the sun. As I stood looking at the flowers in the grocery store, I said to the women standing next to me, “I am going to make it spring inside.”

photo-136I have no control over the weather. I have nothing left inside that allows me to appreciate snow. The quiet. The long evenings and dark mornings. The stark white fields and monochromatic skies. Stew, slippers, fire, snowshoes have lost their appeal, until next December. It is no good wishing for another season.  Spring has yet to arrive. The trick is to be present but, also honor the readiness for change. In this, I can make it through the end of winter. And while I wait, I do the best I can to be ok with where I am. I make it spring inside.  I sit in the window where the sun pours in, though it is still 20* outside and soak it in. In the afternoon when the temperatures get in the high 30’s I make sure to get outside and listen to the birdsong and feel the hope that it will be spring soon.

Until then, heat up with a winter poem by my new favorite poet, Tyler Knott Gregson.

photo

Life: A Novel with an Expected Start and Predictable Ending

It’s the bits in the middle that get to the heart of it, the meat of the thing. Of course, birth and death are not to be discounted. They are dramatic events. Necessary events. But, life is in the middle, in between the bookends. The everyday. And boy, is it short, this life.

Start the Ride

Start the Ride

And then, the topic of death kept circling, this week. It popped up in conversation with a client of mine who wants to promote her book on physician assisted suicide and end of life decisions. It came to me in a blog post about grief and loss. The radio show about death and dying, an actor reading chapters from David Eagleman’s Sum. My husband and his life-long obsession with his funeral playlist. What is that about? I took notice. It was too much coincidence, all this talk about dying. What’s all this noise about? To bring me back to present, to say, “no thanks, that’s not for us”? And the songs to play at his funeral? Well, maybe that is more like his soundtrack for our lives.

Radiolab Podcast

And then, I remember standing outside the hospital with our newborn son, who is in his last few months of high school, now. We are taking him home. And I am not sure it is a good idea. The car seat is fiddly. The baby starts to fuss. He is so tiny and perfect. We start to bicker. Grandma says, “How do I know? It’s been 20 years. They didn’t have car seats when you were a baby.” I look back to the door of the hospital, sure that a nurse will appear to take our child back to safety. Nope, you’re definitely not ready. Somehow we got him into the car seat but, he was howling. Mom, Dad and Grandma settled in the car with screaming baby and not a clue. And then, we remember that music is supposed to soothe a crying a baby. We had read it in What to Expect When Expecting or recalled it from lamaze class. It doesn’t matter how it came to us. It came to us. The cassette, yes cassette, goes on. The baby quiets down. Queue track # 10 in the funeral playlist, Devo  Going Under. And we begin for him and continue for us, the bit in the middle. Life. And really, it’s all on the fly.

Skip forward, the baby is turning 18. We have done so many things together. He is going out there to do more. And it was so fast, from that day with the car seat to this day. His little brother is right behind him. I hold excitement, fear, joy, love and anticipation all at once for what life will bring for these boys. And I hold Mary Oliver’s words in mind for us all, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Do you know what really gets me?

Do you know what really gets me? And other things that mess with my Chi/Zen/ Calm Mind/ Whatever…

Being human has its complications and this is true for all of us, not just me. I really need to remember this truth. When I am thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with that guy?’ or ‘Why on earth did I do/say/think that?’ TStophis is the time to remember, being human is complicated. Our brains are rather busy places.

I was dropping my son off at school this morning. The school run alone is an intensely choreographed human dance and there are kids involved which adds that higher level of unpredictability. If you have ever been to a school in the morning you know what I mean. All traffic rules are suspended, I understand. And that is ok, because there are kids involved. If you want to park in the middle of the road and chat with some other moms while your kid gets out of the car, I am good with that. I scheduled an extra 15 minutes into my morning to allow for the delays in the school parking lot. I expect this. I am prepared.

It is the intersection around the corner that gets me every day. You see, there are yield signs at this intersection. I seem to be the only one, who remembers that a yield sign becomes a stop sign when other traffic is present. I stop as you should and expect the other car to stop. But, they don’t. They never stop. It’s all nicey-nice at the school, where we are teaching our children that the world stops for them. And then around the corner. Dog-eat-dog. And I am often incensed, sputtering about traffic rules, “Am I the only one?”, looking around for an observer to confirm I am being wronged. Of course, there is no one. It is a rural school. It is just me and the law-breaker. And he can’t see that I am flipping him off, because I am wearing mittens. It’s all so frustrating. And I shake my head and think or shout, depending on the mood, “What is wrong with that guy?” and follow that up with, “Why are you so bent out of shape about this? Flipping a guy off wearing mittens is dumb. Relax, chill, you should expect this to happen and be cool about it.”

I know you are thinking that I might make some connection with life and this intersection. A metaphor about The yields and The stops. A way for us to be ok when things don’t go our way. A chance to practice patience and understanding. But, I can’t be cool with it. Something about other people not following the rules, really gets me wound up.

Why don’t I make the kid ride the bus? So, I can avoid this daily test of my patience. Good question. It’s like I said before, being human is complicated. I know two things. I am not going to wear my mittens tomorrow. And, I might consider a different route.