Because of holiday travel and other related events, I seem to have blown right by our synthesis for Quest week three: Prioritize Your Value.
The prompts were #payoff, #3qualities, and #serve.
In #payoff, we wrote about what we need to stop doing in order to focus on higher payoff items. And there were plenty things I need to stop, mostly around:
Waste (time, money, and other resources)
Procrastination (especially around things that are good for me–going to bed at a reasonable hour, cooking healthy food)
Clinging (to past, to stuff I don’t need)
In #3qualities, I wrote that between life, work, and compensation I will be focusing on quality of life in the coming year because until I deal with health and home, I won’t be able to give my work the energy it needs and deserves.
In #serve, I wrote that I planned to serve my muse, but I suspect my answer wasn’t 100% on-track, given my answer to the previous two. It’s all well and good to want to serve the muse, the story, the call to path, but first I need to be healthy and focused enough to answer those calls.
So, despite the fact that the Venn diagram doesn’t show much overlap, really all three answers are about creating a solid, stable foundation from which I can produce my best work. And then from there, clearing the decks to do just that.
So, on to Jeffrey’s two questions:
What actions can I take today to move in that direction?
What actions can I take on January 2, 2016?
Tonight is easy. Instead of driving an hour or more to the city to hang out with friends when I’m fighting a bad cold, I’m opting to stay in and watch movies with my sister’s dogs. After all, it is the everyday small choices repeated over time that make the most difference.
January 2nd will be more of a challenge as I’ll be spending the day traveling back to New Mexico. On the upside, I’ll have plenty of time in airports and on planes to journal and map out my plans for self-care and creation.
It takes bravery to know your strengths and operate diligently within them. Are you running your race, or someone else’s?
Definitely my own, which can be rough…inconsistent income, sometimes unclear direction, no one to motivate me but me, having to find time and energy between paying projects to work on what’s most important…
And though I agree that knowing my strengths is important, it has become clear over the last few years that it’s just as important to know my weaknesses. Things like keeping up my physical stamina, making and sticking to schedules, staying on track with my priorities.
It’s also important to be able to walk away from things I may be very, very good at that drain me instead of feed me. Because I believe that our true strengths aren’t just the things we’re good at, they are the things that feed us, giving us the strength to feed others.
I’ve gotten a bit behind on Quest with all the holiday preparations going on, but with all he presents wrapped I finally have some time to catch up. So, without further delay, here is the prompt from day 10:
Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?
Instead of considering simply doing more work, take the time to consider which elements of your work would most light you up to amplify. What’s holding you back from amplifying it? Is it that obscure little thing no one will care about? Or is it that if they see it, they’ll care too much and call the Imposter or Weirdo Police?
There won’t be a time in the future where it’ll be easier to amplify that part of your work. p.s. You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.
What I want to amplify in the coming year is the intersection of my key passions: Sewing, writing, apocalypse, healing the planet. I’d also like to start working on collaboration. In fact, I’ve already spoken to several photographers about a project I will be working on beginning January 1st once I’m back home in New Mexico–something I’m really excited about.
The other thing I need to amplify is my focus. To that end, I’m also narrowing my attention to two key projects: One book (the novel I started working on earlier this year) and the art project alluded to above.
Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:
Quality of life
Quality of work
Quality of compensation
The first thing I thought of when I saw this question was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
And how, in my life right now, that pyramid is pretty much upside-down in terms of the energy I give it. And how that inversion is a big part of what twisted this past year so out of whack.
Focusing on actualization while denying my body’s physical needs (whether intentional or not) is like asking someone who spends most of their time on a couch or at their desk to stand on their toes on one leg while juggling with one hand and spinning plates with the other. It won’t be long before the whole act comes crashing down.
It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that if I don’t “feed” my body, I’m also starving my work. And if my work suffers, my compensation suffers. It’s simple math. Simple geometry.
Which is really a long way of saying that my answer is a no brainer:
I choose life.
Because until I right my pyramid, until I stabilize its base, it doesn’t matter how much I want to focus on the other two, how much work I do. Nothing I create will be solid enough to have any lasting impact on anyone else. And if it doesn’t, really, what’s the point?
This Quest group is truly inspiring. Check out some of these posts from fellow questers:
What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities?
The stop part of this list is easy:
Stop wasting so much time on TV and Internet
Stop wasting money (even pennies), food, and other resources
Stop avoiding or procrastinating chores and healthy habits, like going to bed at a decent hour
Stop clinging to the past
Stop clinging to stuff
Stop overcommitting to things that don’t inspire or improve me/my life/the lives of others (actually, stop over committing, period)
Now, I’ve written probably a hundred or more versions of the stop list before, and the same things keep showing up. Probably because I haven’t given myself a compelling enough reason to actually stop.
That’s where things start getting a little harder–identifying what those higher payoff activities might be, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a high correlation between value and money in my life right now. If payoff is measured in dollars I should just pack up my toys and return to corporate tech work, but I think most of us know how well that particular career path worked out for me. And since this week is all about prioritizing our value (values?), I’m going to leave money out of it for the moment. Luckily, I think that last stop item gives a pretty clear picture of what I value–inspiring and/or improving myself, my life, and the lives of others:
WRITING ( actual projects, not just in the journal)
CONNECTING with others
Finding/creating SANCTUARY (in my home, community, and body)
And here is where the money will hopefully start coming in:
Crafting my RIGHT LIVELIHOOD from the building blocks listed above
And that exploration is time much better spent than on any of the items in that first list.
Last night it snowed–somewhere around 7 inches. When I fell asleep the ground was bare. This morning tall walls of snow balanced on narrow branches, and our tiny patio table was piled into a white dome.
Jeffrey Davis, creator of Tracking Wonder and leader of our Quest, just challenged us to look back on our week. To find the common themes between our future selves’ advice, our daydreams, and our review of who would miss us.
Looking just at words, I came up with three themes:
Connect–or more aptly, reconnect
Heal myself–in part by letting go and in part by reclaiming parts of me that I’ve misplaced
Travel and Home came up again and this time there was also a heavy dose of Play (Experiment’s more lighthearted little sister). And yes, we are beginning to see a pretty clear pattern here.
And then Jeffrey asked us to find a horizon and to sit in front of it for five minutes and let our discoveries steep for a bit.
Now it’s still pretty cold out and I had already had a good bracing walk earlier today to capture an image for my 365 photo project. During that walk I did what I always do when I head toward the river. I stood at the center of the footbridge and let my eyes rest in a south-westerly direction. I even snapped a picture.
So instead of heading back out into the cold, I looked at this. Really looked at it. And here’s what I saw:
A river that rarely sees or holds any water, except during heavy rains when it transforms into a torrent
Growing things that struggle to stay alive during times of drought and times of flood
A sky so wide and so blue that it is sometimes hard to notice anything else
And yet… I glimpsed tracks in the snow–two people walking next to each other, one person walking alone
Despite the walls of the river bank and the houses that line them just out of view, this vista feels, at least to me, hollow and alone. Sure there is water just below the surface, otherwise there would be no trees–especially not cottonwood and willow. But that water is hidden, protected, squirreled away for emergencies. There is life, and there is LIFE.
And I see myself as that river, as that empty basin that longs to be filled, to nourish, to be reborn. And I see in the brittle winter bones of trees a deep rootedness and will to survive, just waiting for abundance to be reborn.
And then I turned around and looked north…
And saw the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising from the clouds, guarding the back of Santa Fe–the city of the Holy Spirit. And there, in the distance, the white crown of Mount Baldy, covered in snow. Snow that come spring might just help our river run again. And I remembered that the river may not always be able to feed herself, but, whether behind or besides her, there is that strong presence watching over her. Taking care of her. And beneath us is a vast aquifer–one we can tap into if we just send our roots deep enough.
Those who will miss us are the mountains. We are the river. And whether we see them or not, we are never alone. And knowing that, we are free to keep our eyes on that transfixing blue sky, as long as we keep our roots in the ground.
What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?
Last year, Seth Godin asked us a remarkably similar question: Who would miss you when you’re gone? That question had a much stronger feel of finality for me, than the “if” in the new prompt. Last year’s question felt and still feels like it’s talking about after you die (you can read my response here). Perhaps it’s a year’s worth of shifting perspective, but the new question brought to mind not death, but distance.
In a sense, I’ve already been “gone”–from the place I grew up, from my family, from most of my friends–for almost five years now. And as to whether they miss me, I know they do because they’ve told me so. And I believe them because of how much I miss them. Because leaving, as healthy and liberating as it’s been for me, tore a small hole in my heart. And while that small hole was filled, at least for a little while, by a new love, I realize now, that love was just a bandage that hid it from view and that the hole had continued to grow a little each day. And when the bandage was torn off? That small hole grew to a gaping wound. And because distance begets distance it was too hard to reach across the miles, or even across the flagstones.
While being absent from their lives has been hard, it wasn’t the hardest part. Because it wasn’t just them I abandoned, or my new friends in my new town. This past year I also abandoned myself–my work, my joy, my art, my life. And I realize now, that before I can change anything about who might be missing whom, I have to start by getting myself back.
So in the coming year, I will start with myself. With my art. With digging in and reaching out. With rebuilding, reconnecting, reassessing who I am, how I am, what I am, with who I am, and where I am and want to be in this world. In fact I’ve already started. Because the thing about that distance, is that while it may be too hard for me to reach across on my own, it’s not too far for two arms to span when reaching from our separate sides toward each other.
I’ll be honest, in some ways I feel like a lot of these Quest prompts are simply reframing the same question using slightly different words (and sometimes using the same words). And yet, I find myself having to acknowledge that sometimes the subtlest shift is all that’s needed to break the whole thing open.
Take yesterday’s prompt for example. When I first read it, all I saw was “business as unusual”–the same words that tripped me up two prompts ago. But this time, after letting the sentence steep for a day, I pushed those somehow halting words aside and focused on the part of the question I could find a way into.
What recurring daydream for 2016 inspires you to do business as unusual like never before?
Recurring daydreams… yes, that’s entryway. As I try not to trip over “for 2016” which may make this room too shallow to hold them. These dreams will require a space at least as big as Carlsbad Caverns’ Big Room…
It begins with a longing for twining vines, with broad heart-shaped leaves. Perhaps I have been too long in the desert, because this lush tangle of opulent fecundity greets me every time I close my eyes against the dust colored walls, the blinding cerulean sky, the hot white sun than still burns even as its angle to this part of the world diminishes.
In the verdant world behind closed lids, my felt wall holds a fabric wasteland with words stitched over its every pale color of absence. Yet in the foreground the colors start to change. The earth takes on a richer shade. Soon green begins to appear at the margins. Each day new growing things begin to sprout and curl, inching in, slowly at first, then with increasing urgency and abandon–reclaiming that barren place as their own.
On a table across the narrow alcove, tree-plundered pages describe a young prince wandering through a medieval forest thick with underbrush. He catches the sharp scent of wood smoke and moves toward it. Not far in the distance a grail-shaped girl, sensing his approach, backs away from her fire trying her best to disappear into the trees hoping to avoid his wanting gaze. Still, despite her efforts, in a few moments he will materialize from the shadow of the twilight woods and find her.
And somewhere in the distance, perhaps beyond the passing of this coming year, there is a cottage just far enough from the bustling world to remain unseen from the nearby roads. It is the garden that hides it. The garden dripping with dark falls of newly ripe currants, with its carpet of wintergreen and thyme, with its climbing, obscuring vines–honeysuckle and boysenberry, hops and scarlet runner beans. It keeps itself hidden, waiting for a woman with butterscotch hair to find the key that fits its single lock. For her to open the door and sleep within its polished walls. To take its green into her bones, finally finding the magic that heals her. That heals them both.
I have already begun culling my possessions and preparing for a journey. Carefully calculating what I can carry. Scouring the dusty shelves of dim shops for treasure maps and magic beans and a compass aligned with a subtler force than magnetic north. A force that knows, while home may already be inside me, there is a place where that seed will blossom more radiantly, more powerfully than in this parched place where I currently live (both without and within)–and it may be closer than I imagine. #daydream
The journey (with journal and camera at the ready)