Archive for August, 2011

Jack Layton's words.  Design by Stuart Thursby

I’m not a political junkie.  As far as I’m concerned, the political process is a necessary evil in order for a country to govern itself.  But Canada lost a great man this week.

He’s a man who inspired a country to look beyond themselves and imagine a better future, a better country and even a better world if we could choose to work together and not give in to fear.

You still won’t find me rushing out to join a political party.  I think my money can find better places to be put to work.  But, I will continue to vote when our elections come, even when it feels like whatever choice I mark on my ballot won’t make a difference, because Jack Layton proved that it really can.  I wasn’t part of the “Orange Crush” that brought him into the role of Leader of the Official Opposition.  I voted Green, because in my riding, our best chance for change was seeing Elizabeth May elected and ensuring that the Green Party had a voice at the table.   We did it.  The first Green Party member to sit in the federal parliament defeated a long-time incumbent. While it didn’t change the tide in the country, it changed our corner of the world.

We’ve each got a choice to make.  Jack Layton’s final words to Canadians made that choice crystal clear.

Jack Layton's Words.  Design by Stuart ThursbyLove over hate.

Hope over fear.

Optimism over despair.

He’s right.  If each of us make those choices, we will change the world. 

That’s a world I want to live in.  That’s a legacy any of us should be proud to leave behind.  No matter what your political leanings … or even if like me, you don’t really think that much about politics … surely we can all choose love, hope and optimism together and make our world a better place for everyone, no matter their race, religion, gender, sexuality, economic situation, education level, or anything else that we allow to divide us.

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Today, I did something that some people might call silly. It started a few days ago, but I committed myself yesterday evening when I stopped at the post office on the way home to buy an International Reply Coupon. You know, those things you use when you need to send a self-addressed stamped envelope, but you don’t live in the same country.

It all started with Pace & Kyeli recommending Wonderbink. Sheila creates fabulous written art. During my browse around her site, I wandered onto her Ten Thousand Flowers project and was enchanted by the idea. But talk about not being internally consistent. On one hand, I felt silly for wanting to participate and be a recipient of one of her flowers. On the other, I thought it was fabulous beyond words that she had told her “gremlins” to be quiet because she was following her heart no matter what their criticisms.

A few days later, she posted an encouraging follow up post to her misadventures trying to redeem an IRC at her local post office. It made me want to be the one sending an IRC so that she could see if it really was easier the second time around.

Last night, I did it. I bought an IRC (only one person looked at me oddly when I asked to purchase an International Reply Coupon … and he eagerly admitted that he was new). When the experienced clerk said it would cost four dollars and fifty cents, my gremlins reared their not-so-cute little heads.

“See! We told you so. It is silly to do this.”

“That’s wasteful to spend five dollars getting a scribble flower from someone you don’t even know and won’t ever meet.”

“What would your mother say?”

I followed Sheila’s example.

“It’s not silly. It’s whimsical … and I like whimsical!”

“I spend $5.00 on lots of things that are wasteful and you don’t complain. This isn’t wasteful. It’s spreading and receiving joy. That’s world changing. Nothing more important than that!”

The “mother” one was harder, but then I realized that if I told her my other two answers, she would chuckle, shake her head a bit and remember that her daughter is happiest when she’s doing what comes naturally to her. She knows what’s important to me and while she doesn’t always understand, she’s almost always supportive.

Today, I mailed my envelope and IRC. It felt marvellous. This wasn’t about letting go of things that no longer fit. This was about embracing the things I love that make me who I am. I can’t wait for my flower to arrive!

Go on, you know you want a little piece of that joy.

Go check out Sheila the Wonderbink’s Ten Thousand Flowers.

Do something whimsical!

Even if whimsical isn’t your usual thing, it might just surprise you how good it feels =)

BTW, if you’re following along from my last blog post … I wrote this all during daily time hours … lunch, coffee breaks and bus rides … and I didn’t stay up stupid late last night to finish getting it ready to post!  YAHOO!

Oh, one more thing I’d love to hear about your whimsical adventures!

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Picture this, sitting at my desk, trying to edit a document that is project-critical … and I’m the one who needs to ensure it’s accurate and complete for the business … then, despite best efforts, eyes drifting shut. Or sitting in a meeting where the words being spoken seem more like the teacher in Charlie Brown’s classroom than sounds with any kind of meaning because I’m just too tired to pay attention.

This exhaustion, it’s not caused by working on a deadline or even because some emergency kept me up late. It’s because somewhere along the way I’ve learned that if I really want to be free to express myself creatively, I need to do IT … write … decorate cakes … whatever “IT” might be … late at night. I don’t know when I became invested in that story, but I apparently I did. I can scribble down bits and pieces during the daytime hours, but I always feel like the “serious work” has to happens late at night, after everyone else has gone to bed … exactly how this post is being written.

I like to think I can function on very little sleep, but when I actually find myself struggling to stay awake during my day job, there’s an issue.  I’m not as young as I was when I could stay up all night just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  My body needs sleep to function as if I have a brain. I can’t do the stay up all night “just because” and not pay for it, even when I’m doing something I love.

I need to figure out a new story about when I can express myself creatively.

Last week’s Motivation Monday proved that the old story, despite all feelings to the contrary, isn’t true. I woke up in time to be showered and dressed before our 8 am call … on a holiday Monday! I didn’t go to bed particularly early the night before so it’s not like I was doing anything different than a normal day but that hour was super productive. I sat down and I started to write, words and ideas flowed, I accomplished what I set out to do, and the joy of that process was part of what gave me the courage to finally launch Recreating My World. It was a good morning. There was real creative expression and it wasn’t some time after 10 pm or 11 pm or even midnight.

Much of last week was spent working on a ridiculously large and complicated cake with my niece. Much work was done after 10 pm and I was exhausted the whole week. I literally had trouble keeping my eyes open at work.  On Thursday, I even found place to nap during my lunch break.  It’s amazing what a 20 minute power nap will do, but it’s definitely not a replacement for a good night’s sleep.

Last week was an exception — the crazy cake decorating resulted in multiple nights of sleep deprivation — but it made me realize how attached I am to believing that my best time to do anything creative is late at night.  Last week, made me sit up and take notice. I like that time of day. I feel somehow more secure and it’s easier for me to end up in a quiet space with no one around to distract me or for me to feel like whatever I’m doing doesn’t measure up to some invisible standard. But it’s not a healthy way for me to live my life … not if I also have an 9-5 type job that deserves to also get my best self.  And, sleep deprivation doesn’t actually make me more creative, it’s just makes me more tired and more inclined to put off doing something I love, because my body needs sleep and my brain has shut off.  Patti Digh is right.  I’ve invested in a story about what it means to be a writer and it doesn’t serve me anymore.  It has a place, knowing what that story is tells me what I need to feel free to express myself, but it doesn’t have to mean that I can only be happy with what I write late at night.

I need to build a new story for my creative life. I need to believe in a story that lets me still feel secure, focused and un-judged, but that allows me the freedom to create whenever, wherever.  So I’m giving myself permission.  I get to do the “serious creative work” any time, any place.

Now it’s time for sleep, ‘cause I’m still learning this new story.  It’s going to take some getting used to, but blog post times might just be a good way to see how well the new story is sticking.

So, what story’s not working for you anymore?

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A Tale of Two Tea Tumblers

It was the best of tea tumblers, it was the worst of tea tumblers. Oh wait, we’re not writing Dickens here.

There once was a tea tumbler bought what seems a lifetime ago, a matched set with one purchased as a birthday present for a dear friend.  On the surface,  its function was just what was needed. A basket to hold the tea, well suited for many loose teas and perfect for avoiding finger bobbing for the tea bag in near boiling water when the tea bag has no string and someone has forgotten a spoon (Who would do such a silly thing? Oh, right, me!). A lid to satisfy the workplace requirement for spill-proof containers, and eventually to hold the basket, when workplaces changed and grown up behavior was considered the norm.

Old Tea Tumbler

No more lid, and where did the clear walls go. Hello tea stains!

Many enjoyable cups of tea were brewed in that tea tumbler.  Many moments of work stress were relieved during tea breaks and conversations with friends.  The lid eventually lost its ability to remain spill proof, but it still functioned to hold the basket on a new desk, allowing the tea tumbler to serve as a reminder of good friends in the midst of a new job that was constantly changing.

Though it was obviously time to retire the now incomplete tea tumbler, it remained in use.  No other tea tumbler was found that was perfect enough to replace one with so many memories attached.  The lid was discarded and replaced with the first small pottery bowl thrown during a summertime class shared with the friend whose matching tea tumbler had also suffered the same fate. A little warped and ridged, the bowl took a  place of pride on the desk, quietly saying “I made this” to those who cared to ask. And the tea tumbler, it continued to be used though the walls were permanently stained and the basket lost its silvery gleam.

Blue wheel-thrown pottery bowl

My first bowl thrown on a pottery wheel, ever!

One day, during a lunchtime mission to find another choice of tea to brew at work, a new tea tumbler was finally found. Sitting on the store shelf below the tea canisters were four decorated clear glass tea tumblers. The first seemed like it should be purchased to show off a desire to be eco-friendly with its green and blue words graphic world map, but who wants to always be reminded of “should”. The second was closer with its tea plants, but the color theme was not one that would brighten this owner’s day. The third was almost right, a beautiful willow tree in rich blue, a reminder of a mother’s much loved china. But the “just right” tea tumbler was still waiting, sitting at the end of the shelf, proudly displaying a happy bird perched pretty and pink in a pale purple tree. Perfect to cause a smile while sitting on my desk, empty or filled with tea, and all the functionality of the first tea tumbler.
New tea tumbler in use, tea almost steeped.

Coconut Chai, perfectly brewed.

Taken back to the office, washed and brewing its first cup of tea, a favourite coconut chai, I was faced with a dilemma. The old tea tumbler had a replacement, but choosing to get rid of it was harder than I’d expected.  I was attached to it; it held lots of good memories, but it no longer had a purpose. I wanted to hang on to it.  What if the new glass tumbler broke, or I didn’t like using it as well? What if … well, I don’t actually know, but just … what if?

It’s not like there weren’t extra mugs in the office kitchen that could be used in a pinch, even if they weren’t the perfect tea sipping or brewing options. But it wasn’t really the tumbler itself I wanted to hold on to.  It was as if by letting the broken tea tumbler go that I’d be throwing away part of my life and that made me afraid. What if I threw away something valuable? What if I threw away something I found I wanted at some unknown date in the future? What if … you know how that one goes.

It was worth the slightly heavy heart that placed the old tea tumbler into the garbage can before I left work that day.  The feeling of joy the next morning to see the new tea tumbler sitting happily on my desk without the broken one cluttering up the space more than compensated for that brief feeling of loss.

I’ve changed a lot since the original tea tumbler was purchased. And if you add in the last ten years or so, there have been a lot of shifts in what is important to me. I don’t want to throw out old things that are still useful and of value to me, but there’s definitely space for some self-reflection to see if the things and beliefs I hold onto still having meaning and function in the life I’m creating for myself now.

There are other things in my life that I already know need to be let go, broken ideas, theology learned in childhood that no longer matches the person I am today, those scars from formative experiences that one new friend called “personal historical snaggles” (doesn’t that help put them in perspective as monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet!), the stories I tell myself, or let others tell me, about who I am, how I should behave and what I should believe that no longer fit the person I’ve become.  There have been a lot of changes in my life over that last ten years and it’s time to start letting some things go so that there’s space for the new things to breathe and be enjoyed.

That’s what Recreating My World is all about.  I think we often need to say things out loud before we realize and embrace their truth.  For me, this is the place to do just that.  You’re welcome to join me on the journey.

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