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Archive for January, 2012

Doesn't look colourful, but it holds my markers and pens.When I remember my childhood and even my years in high school, I remember how much I loved art class. Tucked away safely, through several moves, are some of my favourite art projects. From grade school, grade 5 I think, there’s an India ink drawing of my well-loved Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls that was selected to be displayed at the local public library. There’s an ink line drawing of a castle from high school. I remember the challenge of only being allowed to use one very fine point pen to create all of the shades and variations in texture.

My square china tea mugI know the box is still safe, but I haven’t opened it for years.

When it became an elective, I continued to take an art class until my final year of high school. I didn’t have space for it in my schedule with the courses I needed for university. Besides, the grade 13 art class (nope, that’s not a typo, I grew up in Ontario and until 1988 we officially had a grade 13), that was for the "talented" kids. The ones who might want to make use of their art later on in life.  You know, the ones. They exist in every area of high school and if you were me, you rarely felt like you measured up to them.

Chocolate Marzipan Cherries that a friend bought for me in Germany.There was always some one more skilled, more talented. Someone who had more experience.

Me? I was the fat kid who always felt on the outside except for my best friend who could be counted on through thick and thin.

I decided that making art was for “professionals” and that didn’t include me.  I did “crafts”. 

Before I put hand lotion on, I decided to draw it.Cross-stitch, hardanger, knitting, crocheting, even a little rug-hooking.

Inside, I quietly wished that someday I could be the “talented” one who did the designing.

While I would never hold anyone else to this standard, I felt that if I didn’t have some kind of “official” training, I didn’t measure up.  I let that decide what I could or couldn’t do. 

PhewP is my Windows 7 Phone.I discounted my ability to play the piano because I didn’t pass my grade nine piano exam (Remember that comment in Step Two about not liking to play in public? That would be the culprit). 

I couldn’t be an artist, because I wasn’t one of the “talented” kids who took art at university.

I couldn’t really be a writer, because I’d never taken a creative writing class beyond the required school assignments (I eventually did, but then I just found other reasons why I couldn’t do that).

Choice Make, Mind Stealer, Remote ControlIf people find out I play the guitar, I make sure they know I’m self-taught so the expectations are lowered.  Same thing about singing.  I tend to keep the fact I love to sing quiet around people who’ve taken lessons.

I even said something similar to my boss about the day job I now have (When she told me I should be applying for it, I pointed out that I didn’t have any relevant training, just the experience I had in our office.  Really, who says that to their boss when they’re encouraging you to apply for a promotion? Seriously!)

No more.

My One Line A Day Journal and my favourite purple penI am a writer.  I am a musician.  I am a singer.  I am an artist.

I am everything that I love to do. 

The need for some kind of credential to make me qualified has been my way of hiding the things I hold most closely and with most passion.

I’m serious about 2012 being my year of boldness.  No more hiding.  It’s time to embrace who I am and lay claim to what I love.

Blue Butterfly breaktime drawingThis post started with art and it needs to end there as well.

The drawings scattered throughout the post are my first steps to remembering that I am an artist.

No credentials required!

————

It started with a butterfly, then there was a flower.Hey, if you need to help give yourself permission or courage to start drawing or whatever else strikes your creative fancy, here are my two favourite resources.

Creative is A Verb by Patti Digh – I’m still reading this.  It’s worth a slow reading and letting stuff soak in.

Start to Draw Your Life by Michael Nobbs – I downloaded my copy for a tweet, but the advice is truly priceless, especially the permission to “make the worst drawing ever” and the reminder that “It will be perfect just as it is.”

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Do you wallow in your rest?

I had a plan for this post.  I’d decided on the weekend that it was time to write about Step Three. The pictures were all scanned. The text was only about half written, but I knew there was time for writing at lunch and after work. I promise I’ll catch you up on the next step in my journey to live my life more fully next week … or there might even be a bonus post this week. We’ll see how it goes, ’cause sometimes plans change and you’ve got to go where your heart leads.

In December I subscribed as a member at SustainablyCreative.com and Michael Nobbs’ One Thing Today podcasts have quickly become a valued part of my morning ritual. As I head out the front door, in go my earbuds and the podcast is the first track to be played as I walk to catch my bus. I could write a whole series of posts about how I’ve been inspired by Michael’s posts and podcasts, but that’s also a story for a different day.

During today’s podcast, Michael commented that he was going to spend the day "wallowing in rest".

The phrase caught me off guard.

Wallowing is bad right?

“Stop wallowing. Get on with your life.”

I know I’ve heard those words and, in less than charitable moments, I’ve even said them.  Cringe!

But, is wallowing always bad?  I did a little searching. 

TheFreeDictionary.com includes these definitions:

1. To roll the body about indolently or clumsily in or as if in water, snow, or mud.

2. To luxuriate; revel: wallow in self-righteousness.

3. To be plentifully supplied: wallowing in money.

Those don’t really give you a warm fuzzy feeling, do they?

There is a distinctly negative connotation, and yet, wallowing in mud is good for a pig. The mud helps keep them cool since they don’t have many sweat glands.  It keeps them from getting sunburnt. 

What’s that phrase? Happy as a pig in mud.  That’s how they are when they’re wallowing.  They’re doing what comes naturally, what they need to do in order to thrive. So why is it always bad when we wallow?

I’ve been thinking about that image all day long and I like the sound of “wallowing in rest”.  That’s the kind of rest I want to have. Fully covered, soaking in rest. But my first reaction to the phrase was one of alarm. Wallowing means not moving forward.  It means getting stuck in that mud.
But what if it’s not always that? What if it could also be about finding enjoyment and doing what comes naturally. Basking in the thing that you need most.

I picture one of those indulgent days, full of self-care and comfort. Those days when there is time to just be me with no expectations.  A day to rejuvenate.  It might be a day full of napping and TV or movie viewing, taking nothing but enjoyment into my brain, but it also might be a day spent curled up in front of a crackling fire with a big mug of tea and a new book from a favourite author that I’ve been waiting to savour.

When I got to work, I started writing. I paused to turn the page on my daily desk calendar. A quote from Willa Cather appeared:

"That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great."

Sounds like there must be some wallowing first, in order for that to happen.

One sleeping kittyThere are no random pictures of happy wallowing pigs on my phone to add to this post, but I did just realize that my new cat, Toes, understands the idea. It’s one of the things I find most endearing about her. She’s all about wallowing in rest. 

Smart kitty!

When’s the last time you took time to wallow in rest?  I know it’s been too long for me.  Glad it’s Friday and there’s time for some healthy wallowing on the weekend.

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I spent Friday evening wandering the pathways of Butchart Gardens on the final night of their annual Christmas light display. The simple white lights on one tree caught my attention. The lights captivated my imagination.  I could have stood and stared for hours.

I couldn’t resist trying to capture the web of wonder and light they created.

  Cool tree lights at Butchart Gardens

The tree made me think of all of the seemingly disconnected posts that I’ve been reading over the last couple of weeks that have been inspiring my journey into the beginning of 2012. 

Here are some of my favourites.  Some are recently written, others have been around a while, some are deep and profound, some are “laugh so hard you’ll snort” funny but together they create their own web of wonder and light.

It has been a great but somewhat odd holiday season for me.  Between dealing with the impacts of changes in my parents’ health (I actually had to be the one responsible for cooking Christmas dinner … learned that as much as I love to eat the stuffing, stuffing the turkey almost makes it not worth it.  Eww!) and hitting one of those parts in the spiral of my life where my connections with my family are harder to embrace. Cath Duncan’s guest post at Productive Flourishing helped me keep some much needed perspective on loss and failure.

When you get to one of those spots where you realize that you’re still holding on to a piece of something that happened years ago, you need someone to ask why you’re still carrying that weight around.  If they can do it with humour?  That’s an even better reminder.  A picture really is worth a thousand words with Eric’s illustration of “Are You Still Carrying?”.  Words and pictures together meant I couldn’t miss what I needed to hear. 

Susannah Conway provided a great visual reminder that everything is possible.  Can you guess what’s on my netbook’s desktop?

If you’ve ever read a fabulous book called Hope for the Flowers, you really need to read Sandi Amorin’s poem Imaginal Cells.  Doesn’t the title just give you goosebumps? If you haven’t read it, go read Sandi’s poem first, then find a copy of Hope for the Flowers.  Apparently once I’m done here, I’m off to take a look around the book’s website.  I just discovered that Stripe and Yellow are celebrating 40 years.

I’ve spent a lot of hours working with children and have always been amazed at what they will create when given the opportunity.  Magic happened when thousands of kids were given thousands of stickers.  Makes me wish I lived in Australia.

My word for 2012 is Boldness, but Pace’s The Flame and The River is a reminder I need to keep close by.  My year of Boldness doesn’t mean burning myself out in a quest to be more.  It means clearing out the junk and letting the water flow.  It means grabbing my tube and jumping in for the ride down the river not just dangling my toe in far enough to barely get wet.

Don’t take this perspective seriously, but Colleen Wainwright’s new year’s song The Boulder made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off my chair. Don’t forget to sing along!

If you need something to make you feel empowered for 2012, I’d check out Jennifer Louden’s 2012 Predictions for You.  That’s the kind of year I want.

I wouldn’t recommend reading this last post on the bus on the way to work, unless you’re okay with being something less than dry-eyed before you’re through reading (guess when I read it?).  Instead take a deep breath, find a quiet spot and let Dominee’s words soak in.  If we all remembered the things on her "39 Things You Need to Know in 2012", our world at the end of this year would be a much different place.

What’s been filling your web of wonder and light? I’d love to know!

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I’ve never felt the need to be super reflective at the end of a year. Thankfully, it’s been a crazy long time since I’ve subjected myself to the horrors of making New Year’s Resolutions only to be overwhelmed with guilt when the same resolutions lie in tatters before February has even begun.

At the portal by Karen CThe end of 2011 felt different. It’s been a year of growth and change. During the past year, I’ve come to find myself surrounded by people who are living their lives with so much intentionality. Over the last five years or so, I’ve tended to leave things to happen as they will. So many plans have turned upside down that I’ve started waiting to see what the universe offers.

It’s been the path of least resistance. It’s led me to a good place, but it’s also a place where I’ve remembered that I want more out of life than just what’s comfortable. I might not be a pastor any more, but I still believe that each one of us is created with gifts to cultivate and share with the world — gifts that can, and need, to be expressed in order to make the world the best place it can be.

It’s left me feeling rather reflective. It’s no wonder. Add together all those wonderful people sharing their processes for thinking about the year ahead in a healthy way, then Kyeli’s writing apprenticeship homework to set some goals and dream some big dreams for 2012, and finally, a suggestion to start by celebrating the creative things I’d accomplished in 2011 from Michael Nobbs in his “Get Sustainably Creative for 2012” course. Unless you’re completely not engaged in your world, it’s going to make you stop and ponder. I decided I’d liked the idea of picking a word for 2012. I’ve never done that before, but I’m a writer. A word for the year? That resonated with me.

It took some stuttering steps and hesitant starts along the way, but I’ve found my word for 2012. Not going to deny it, it scares me a bit. It’s not really a “Karen” kind of word … or, at least, it’s not a who “Karen’s been” kind of word. Even so, I know it’s the word I need as a reminder and as a star to guide me during the months ahead.

I promise I’ll tell you the word, before we’re done, but first you need to know the words that didn’t quite make it.

I started with Susannah Conway’s “Unravelling the Year Ahead 2012” workbook. When asked to pick a word for 2012, I thought about it for a few moments and picked…

Sustainable Growth

Sustainable Growth PageI know, technically, it’s two words, but growth on it’s own felt like it needed some definition. I wanted growth that wasn’t just a blip here or there. I wanted growth that continued on a steady upward curve. It was a good word. Nothing wrong with that as an intention and focus for 2012. Instead of the on again, off again growth pattern of 2011, with its fits and starts, high peaks and low valleys, sustainable growth over the long haul seemed an admirable choice. I even picked four other words that I thought would clarify and support that growth.

Sustainable Growth. I could get behind that word. I could make that happen and not have it feel like an albatross hanging over my head just waiting for me to fail. I could do that. I made a decision. Sustainable Growth was my word for 2012.

But, then … maybe it wasn’t.

December 29th was our writing apprenticeship group call and I knew we were  discussing our goals for 2012 and our big “writerly” dreams (Yup, that’s the word we used. In the time honoured tradition of Dr. Seuss, we made up the word we needed!). As I sat writing and dreaming before that call, I realized that sustainable growth was … well … it was sustainable. It was a good idea, but it didn’t actually keep my attention.

I picked a new word.

Openness.

WP_000453I even pulled out my markers and drew a flower in my notebook to symbolize the desire for my life to bloom and open like flower.

Openness was a great word.

I’ve spent so much time over the past few years being closed off, protecting myself from hurt, building walls to keep life out, hiding how broken and damaged I believed I was. The desire to be open to whatever life has to offer is a beautiful, freeing thing. It’s definitely something that I want more of in my life. I’ve seen what’s happened in 2011 when I’ve chosen to expand my boundaries and it’s been good, great even. Openness. That’s a word my heart could embrace.

Then, on January 1st, an email arrived in my inbox from Rachelle of Magpie Girl with a sample lesson from Flock, her relig-ish community. The email’s arrival was timely since one of the goals I’d listed just a few days before was to find a faith community or spiritual practice that fits who I am now. Checking out Flock is high on my list of resources to explore.

The lesson focused on Epiphany. In the church year, that’s the arrival of the magi at the birth of Jesus. Since my second year at seminary in the late 90’s, Epiphany has been my favourite season of the church year. Over the years, the idea of the journey and following the star has sunk deep into my soul. But I’ve been so out of touch with the spiritual part of my life that I’d completely forgotten that Epiphany was arriving on January 6th.

I checked my watch, realized there was time before dinner to watch the video and complete the guided meditation without interruption. The video focused on intentionality and the guided meditation was about receiving the name of the star that would guide us for the year.

My first thought was that I’d already found that name, openness, but I chose to go into the meditation with an open heart and see what was revealed. In the silence, I heard a new word.

BOLDNESS

I shuddered, slightly afraid. Boldness???

That’s not really a Karen kind of word. I’m better at introverted or slightly reserved and yet?? What if boldness was my star?

I thought about Kyeli’s words to me. Be more bold in my writing. Be more bold in my dreams. She’d been right; boldness was exactly what I needed to move forward in both situations.

Then there was the question in the opening pages of Creative Is a Verb that I’d been reading a few short hours before the email arrived. It had leapt off the page and straight into my heart.

“Do you want your life to be a rambunctious story of uniqueness, imperfect beauty and abundance?”

Yes. YES. MOST DEFINITELY YES!

Those are words I would want on my tombstone. “Her life was a rambunctious story of uniqueness, imperfect beauty and abundance.”

At 42, it’s not too late to make that true.

There’s also the quote from a poem that sang to me in the video introduction for Flock.

“Tell me what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

I knew my word when I heard it.

BOLDNESS

It’s a long leap from sustainable growth. It pushes the boundaries much farther than openness.  I still need those things in my life for 2012, but I want more.

I don’t know what embracing boldness means for my life. Like I said, it scares me.

At the same time, it makes the 9 year old me excited. She also really used to like the word rambunctious … until she grew up and learned that most people didn’t think that it was a good trait.

BOLDNESS ?

My Year of Boldness by Karen C

BOLDNESS !

That is most definitely the name of the star that I see in my sky. I’m getting on my camel, ready to follow wherever it leads in 2012. Wish me luck!

Where’s your journey taking you in 2012? I’d love to hear your story. It’s good to have companions on the road.

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