Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: resilience

Integration

One GardenOnce upon a time I had a dream of lush, sustainable, edible gardens. I dreamed about helping to build resilient communities by teaching others how to grow food no matter the size of your yard, or even if you didn’t have a yard. That dream was called OneGarden, and it was filled with projects, plant information, sustainable gardening tips, and more.

It would be easy to say I have new dreams now, but it would probably be more accurate to say my dreams have evolved. It takes more than a garden to build resilience in our lives and our communities. And the gardens we do cultivate are at the mercy of our increasingly erratic climate. Still, they hold an import place in building a resilient life–along with self-care, art, story, mindful living, and making a difference in the world at large. So rather than simply let all that juicy content disappear into the ether when the OneGardenOnline domain expires at the end of this week, I have opted for integration. Each of us is, after all, the result of our combined experiences, interests, passions, loves. And this gardening bug has been with me since grade school or before, when I used to save my pennies to buy whatever 2″ potted plants caught my fancy, creating a jungle in my half of the shared bedroom.

With the new content, you will notice a few new categories, a handful (maybe two) of new tags, and a flurry of new/old posts from the years before this site was built. Consider it a missing piece of the puzzle that, now found, clarifies just a little more of the bigger picture. And soon more missing puzzle pieces will be added. Quilts of Change has also been brought over, but there are a few others out there waiting to make the journey home. I will do my best to make any disruption to the site as painless as possible.

 

Special thanks to Christine U’Ren who designed the lovely OneGarden masthead. I will be sad to see it retired.

Claiming My Story

Another inspiring, insightful, and game changing Tracking Wonder-fueled challenge is winding to its end, which means it’s time to pull together all of the twisted threads and see what the tapestry’s weaving reveals.

#DaretoExcel Challenge #15:

Claim your story and howl-out.

What is the greater-than-you Story? Maybe there’s a word or phrase that helps you start to shape and define what that Story is that you are only a part of but starting to shape and lead.

Don’t shy away from that Story’s magnitude and magnificence. When you lead, you cannot hide behind anyone else. Dare to go toward it. As far as I know, this is it, baby – this one brief creative life. Let’s make the most of it. Together.

Bonus howl-out: Look back again on these past 30 days. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? How are you starting to feel free to be your best again?

That greater-than-me Story has revealed itself through my book in progress Three Threads, and in my burning question:

What if the Story is wrong?

Not this Story, of course, not the greater-than-me Story… I’m talking about the lower-case, small story that taught me that it’s the people with the power that make the difference, that my role is to keep them strong so they can do their important work–no matter what weakness that creates in me.

It’s Time to Rewrite the Story

To prune its twisted, misshapen branches back to its strongest most ancient roots–where its true power resides. To clear away the brambles that choke its growth, and block its sun. That suck up all the most valuable resources–nutrients, water, air–starving it of what it most needs and leaving only poisons behind.

And suddenly I’m no longer talking about some relatively small medieval myth and the half-truths it whispered to me. Suddenly myth meets struggling life and suffering world and all three are blown open.

And with those words as a rallying point, here are my answers to the bonus questions:

  1. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  With the unexpected discovery of my #OneTrueProject, the avalanche of “wouldn’t-it-be-fun” projects have begun to fall away, and the larger picture has begun to sharpen into focus. I feel like I have finally found the still-point around which everything else revolves. Writing, sewing, poetry, my beloved Apocalypse Garden have revealed themselves as the spokes of a larger wheel, not the wheel themselves. They provide the structure that keeps it strong enough to turn.
  2. How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? I have learned during the course of this dare, (probably over and over again), that art cannot be born in a vacuum. That all work is the synthesis of a million tiny pieces, often gathered over a lifetime. That one sentence in a stray conversation with a stranger can be the spark that lights everything up. And so, I have been sharing more and more of other people’s work, especially work that sparks for me, because who knows what it might spark in or for others. I am also opening myself more to collaboration and connection. I’ve always resisted asking for help–preferring to be the one that offers rather than receives. But events of this month have changed my mind. I am learning that we, none of us, can do it alone. That together greater things can be born. Things will fully formed wings and talons to fight off the naysayers. So I have been sharing more. And asking more. And inviting more. And I will work to make all three part of my regular practice.
  3. How are you starting to feel free to be your best again? For the first time, I am beginning to feel like my disparate interests, training, experiences are no longer fighting for my attention. I no longer feel pulled in a thousand different directions, torn apart by shearing forces, or lashed like some Gulliver to a miniature beach with a thousand narrow threads that together are too strong to break through. Instead all the different things that have built me are working together, feeding each other.  I feel whole or closer to whole than I remember ever feeling. And with that, with its related new-found focus, I feel like I can finally bring the best of me to the project, undiluted with distractions, and the ever present lure of each shiny new thing that passes by.

 

Signature Style

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, especially with regards to clothes. What we wear can be one of the most initially impactful ways we have to show people who we are, but for the most part, what I wear these days has little connection to who I feel I am inside. I’ve always wanted “my outside to match my insides”–a phrase I’ve often repeated like some kind of mantra.

But this dare really takes it to the next level. Because, of course, Style isn’t just about what you wear. It’s how you move, how you live, what you love. It’s your voice, your values, your “essence” as Jeffrey Davis puts it. So what’s my signature style of excellence?

#DareToExcel Challenge – 12:

Examine this one small project through the lens of your signature style of excellence. Here are three queries to help you consider one way to make this project – its focus, its execution, its impact – possess your signature imprint.

Make notes about or illustrate and share responses to these queries:

  1. Genius: How can you bring forward your young genius to your audience or customers – the beneficiaries of your project?
  2. Integrity: What core value – something you care deeply about – is coming forward through this project? Does this project reflect how you act and live and what you believe in?
  3. Distinction: What about this project – its scale, its mood, its scope, its depth, its joy – will make this project yours versus someone else in your field?

Genius: I almost couldn’t remember the #YoungGeniusQualities I wrote about. I had to look them up.

  • Vibrant
  • Resilient
  • Free

When I wrote them down I was surprised by my answer because they hadn’t been very present in my life in a long time. But actually, that’s not true. I can think of a very specific and recent time that they were not only present, they were taking the lead. That time began in April 2013, when I fell in love. He was the first person I completely trusted with all of my heart and ours was the first relationship, possibly the first anything, where I allowed myself to be all-in. It was intoxicating, invigorating, liberating. Until a couple of months ago when we split up, and suddenly those three qualities become the hardest to things to imagine could ever apply to me. Except that here’s the thing. It was the loss of that relationship, and the facing of patterns that I have repeated since I was four years old and lost the first great love of my life, my grandfather, that delivered the story to me. And if I’m going to deliver it to others, I am going to need to be all-in, the way I was while in love. But I’m also going to need what I learned, what I re-learn every time, after that first big loss:

  • To turn inward
  • To return to my roots
  • To reclaim and own my power and my responsibility for myself and to the world
  • To rebuild

Integrity: So what is the core value that this story reveals? Resilience. And not just the resilience of strength and youth. The resilience of someone who has experienced deep and even crippling loss and has continued to get back up, to love, and perhaps even trust again. The resilience of someone who has learned over and over again that shutting down is not the answer, because even though it stops the pain in the short term, it always catches up with you, and when it does, it’s much, much stronger and harder to overcome. The resilience of someone whose mantra in the face of loss, death, trauma, grief, is “I have to do something.” Even better if that something can help more than just me.

GrailDistinction: The main through-line of my book will be a story from medieval legend that has shaped my life and the way I see my role in the world. A story that I now believe is wrong. What I bring to this project:

  • My history with this story and the destructive relationship patterns bred by it that I now recognize in my own life
  • My desire to reveal this story’s untold perspective–that of the “absent” woman
  • My personal process of rewriting the story
  • The interwoven paths of memory, history, mythology, and social action that make up my quest to reclaim a potent feminine symbol and use it to help heal myself, ourselves, and our world

Celebrate Each Tiny Step

#DareToExcel Challenge – 8:

Take time during the next two days to look back on the past two weeks and acknowledge any positive changes you have noticed during the past two weeks in terms of how you feel, how you are paying attention more to what matters (challenges and all), any new relationships you’re striking up.

Write down and share what you are celebrating. When you celebrate in public, others get to celebrate with you. Your celebrations are not self-centered. They are uplifting to your peers and to your audiences and customers. So what are you waiting for? Howl out and lift us up!

Halfway through July’s #DareToExcel and it’s time to celebrate our accomplishments. Why is that always so much harder than it sounds? Probably because what’s left to do seems so much bigger than what’s already done. But it’s precisely that illusion that makes this challenge so important.

So what positive changes have I made so far?

  • I accepted the challenge in an effort to pull me out of the morass I’d been stuck in since the end of March
  • I wrote down my two most burning questions: “what if I focus on making instead of mulling?”, and “what if the story is wrong?” (which really leads to the more important question: “what if we changed the story?”)
  • I committed to one small project (Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest) to help clear mental, emotional, and physical space for my one big project, the book referred to as 3T
  • I have been practicing Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest, if not every day, at least most, and am now just 3 long seams away from finishing a quilt started more than three years ago, making me feel lighter, more focused, and like I’m actually getting stuff done; I can’t wait to finish it and move on to the next
  • I identified three young genius traits that I want to reintegrate into my life and work: Vibrancy, Resilience, and Freedom
  • I identified my audience for the book–something I’ve always been reluctant to do–and in doing so gave myself a renewed sense of purpose
  • I identified a skill that I need to cultivate in order to improve my chances of completing my small and large projects, and while I called it “saying no” it’s actually about discernment, which also includes attention to what I need to say yes to, in some cases making tradeoffs–saying yes to one thing in order to release something else
  • I identified my cross-training and versatile heritage skills–sewing, mindfulness, writing, research, and content architecture, but realize now that there are others that are less obvious and in some ways more powerful: creating a backyard homestead garden, learning belly dance and performing on stage, writing several NaNoWriMo novels, and learning how to fly a plane, all of which taught me about focus, dedication, dealing with uncertainty and obstacles, and facing some of my most long-held and agonizing fears
  • I took a look at my relationship with time and realized much of the drowning churn was of my own making
  • I continued to take my #365 daily photos, getting myself out of the house and into the world, all the while staying focused on the concrete world around me, and the beauty there, even in things that don’t at first seem beautiful
  • And perhaps most importantly, I have begun talking about collaborations and getting more involved with other people’s projects–sharing my immune disorder story with Tracee Vetting Wolf for her project, discussing a possible short story collection with Brenna Layne, and attending Jeffrey Davis‘ Tracking Wonder event in Albuquerque where I met some great people and got some great advice about my book from the man himself

Seeing the list written down like this makes me realize how much I’ve accomplished in only two short weeks. Yes I still have a long way to go, but if I can maintain this level of progress for the second two weeks of the challenge and beyond, there’s no telling what I can accomplish.

Young Genius

It always surprises me what comes up when asked these kinds of thought-provoking questions. It would have made more sense to write about making my first quilt, about learning new skills, about wanting to do something compassionate for someone, about seeing imagination and work come together to create something wholly new, but that’s not the memory that wanted to be explored. And the one that did… sometimes I forget I ever was that girl. Clearly I need to remember.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 3:

Take a few minutes to remember a time when you were nine, or around that age, when you felt free to be your best.

Feel an exact moment in time and place. Are you outdoors or indoors? How does the air feel? How do you feel in your body? What are you uniquely doing or making? Who are you with and how are you uniquely relating to others?

Looking back with full compassion toward yourself, what 1-3 adjectives would you use to describe your younger self at her or his best?
 
These are your 3 Young Genius Qualities.
 
How can you bring some of those young genius qualities forward to this project?

The first memory that sprang to mind was from a picnic at the lagoon in the town where I grew up. It was summer and a bunch of my friends from school were there. The weather was sunny, warm, with maybe the slightest breeze off the bay. The water was alive, with the sun glinting off its low, lapping waves. The cries of seagulls mixed with our laughter.

My four closest girlfriends and I were on the lawn doing cartwheels, aerials, and back flips. The five of us were in gymnastics together and we were playing around, egging each other on in a sort of friendly competition, daring each other to new heights and new combinations. When one of us missed or messed up we’d shout pep-talks from the sidelines. If it was a really bad miss, we’d laugh it off and try again.

Little GymnastPlaying like this in the sun was so different than training or regular competitions. Free of the focus on perfecting techniques and form, we could just have fun. And because it was just fun, we dared to experiment, we dared to be fully in our strong and flexible bodies, pushing the limits of what they could do, to see how high we could jump, how fast we could run, how far we could fly. And because it wasn’t about trying to be our best, we were free to actually explore what our best could be. And often, we found it.

Three #YoungGeniusQualities

  • Vibrant
  • Resilient
  • Free

It’s strange to look at this list and consider that these are not words that I would use to describe myself now, at least not in the way I mean them here. The strength and flexibility of resilience has become a way to get through the tough times, to weather emotional, financial, and other storms, instead of an expression of the strength, power, flexibility, and adaptability of a trained athlete or of youth. And the freedom I have now, hard won and held through sacrifice and compromise, is not the freedom of what felt then like an endless summer where everything is possible. And vibrancy? Perhaps I just vibrate on a more subdued frequency these days. They are all still in me, just not expressed in the same way or with the same exuberance and joy as they were then. I want to get some of that back.

But that is my life. What about my project, Make, Don’t Mull?

In its conception my project was more about creating calm and space, about clearing away obstacles, about getting to work, which feels the absolute opposite of the me from memory. How do I infuse Vibrancy, Resilience, and Freedom into a project that essentially consists of slogging through a checklist of incomplete tasks that I just want, finally, off my plate…Why was that, again?  So I have the space and freedom to explore a topic that absolutely lights me up.

And there it is. Because my #onesmallproject has two parts: The chop wood, carry water part, and the freedom to experiment with a story that no longer serves me or the world, to play with new combinations, new manifestations, to push its boundaries, to see how far it can stretch without snapping, to give it more power, more strength. To help remake it into a powerful force for freedom, life, action, and hope. I may not be able to do a backflip again, but I bet I can relive the feeling it gave me.

Read more from fellow dare-takers:

 

Late Snow

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here–so long, in fact that I had to go back and re-read my last post to try and figure out where I was when I was last here. Excited. Optimistic. Full of energy.

It seems a lifetime ago. In some ways it is. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes we get derailed. Sometimes we need to stop everything until we find our footing again. Sometimes that takes longer than we think it should, but it takes as long as it takes, and it does no good to try and muscle through.

What does do good:

  • Paring down to the barest essentials
  • Focusing on just what’s in front of us
  • Writing it out

For the last near-month, I have cut all but the barest essentials–work, food, simplifying my small space. I have continued to keep up with my #365 photo project and on April 1, I started writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, prodded by amazing poet MJ Iuppa. And I have kept those up, too. What I haven’t kept up are my blogs, but here I am, at least for the moment, and hoping that this post will create some momentum to get back in the groove.

Some days we we are surrounded by the glorious colors and scents of apple blossoms and lilacs. Some days we get sub-freezing temperatures and snow. We just have to have faith when the sun comes out again, that the trees are resilient enough to still bear fruit come summer.

Apple Blossoms, April 18, 2015

Apple Blossoms, April 18, 2015

 

Foundation

Yesterday, fellow Quester Erin Coughlin Hollowell posted an update on her big project to her blog Being Poetry, including this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert from her March 2014 TED talk:

“I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live…. The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.”

I have not been able to get that quote out of my head. Especially that second sentence… “you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most…and don’t budge from it.”

That sentence has been haunting me. This is where the fear creeps in. The clinging to current ways of thinking. The unwillingness to let go. Because that sentence challenges me to pick one thing. And I don’t just love one thing. It would be like asking a mother to choose just one child. Is it Sammi or Tommy? Words or quilts?

And yes, I’ve talked about this before, more than once. It even became my most burning question, the beacon for this quest I’m on:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And I am, and I will continue to, but I realize that what I’m talking about in that question is not the what, it’s the how. Writing and sewing and photography are the mechanisms through which I bring that “what” into the world. But what’s the “what”?

So here is where I make my confession: I want to tell you that the “what” is using art to help us heal from trauma and build resilience to better survive future disasters, because to be honest, that is a serious obsession, and it’s the thing that I have based most of my path-work on for the last I can’t even count how many years. But it’s just not true.

Because I actually do know what the thing I love most in the whole world is, and it’s not what I just wrote. What I love most, what brings me the most personal joy, what shines light into this whole messed up, terrifying, angry world making it a brighter place is this:

books

Yes, books. Actual books. Simple concrete objects–about as far from the lofty ideas I feed myself and my readers as a girl can get. Words on paper, the sound of turning pages, the scent of ink and dust. It’s to bound pages stacked on shelves that I pledge my allegiance. They have been my foundation since my Aunt Carol taught me to read when I was three, in the face of a deep fear that, soon after, gave way to trauma and grief. And it is into their soft or sturdy covers that I still retreat today when things get to be too much.

And so, on that foundation, I will build my house. A house of story, a house of dreams, a house of magic, a house of spirit, a house that contains other worlds, the future, the map to our healing and survival. Some walls will be constructed with ink and paper, some with needle and thread, some with light and pixels, some with the sound of a voice or the touch of a hand.

But it is the books that ground me. Everything else flows from there.

Service

Today’s Quest2015 prompt comes from women’s leadership expert Tara Sophia Mohr.

How can I be of highest service?’

Interestingly, this is a question I ask myself all the time. This and its variant, “what is the greatest good I can do?”

And because it is my way, I have a bunch of different answers. But figuring out which one thing would be of highest service? That is much harder to figure out. At least it was, until I remembered that in order to accomplish anything, serve anyone, I have to be well enough to do the work. I have to be clear-headed enough to discern what matters most. I have to be connected enough to the world and the people within it to see what needs doing. And that means taking care of my body, mind, and spirit first and foremost, before anything else. Because if I don’t have the strength to stand, I cannot reach out my hand to help someone else off their knees. So for 2015 at least, I will be of highest service by building enough of my own strength to be able to share it with others. By finding clarity. By nurturing important connections.

And on days when I am strong, I will help others build their own resilience, through example, stories, art, craft, and whatever else I can think of, in support of the manifesto I wrote not so long ago:

I believe that art can save the world. That creation, illumination, revelation, can and will heal the darkness, pain, and destruction that currently shatter our world. I believe that trading guns and lies and fear and hate for a paintbrush, a camera, a needle and thread, has the power to stitch the world back together again.

I believe that there is enough for everyone to live simply and well. I believe that “trash” is in the eye of the beholder and that it is our right and our duty to salvage every bit of everything we can. To transform the cast-off, the tossed away, the unwanted into something useful and beautiful and meaningful and loved.

Because I believe that it isn’t just things we are wasting—we are losing people, too. Unique and important beings slip through the cracks every day. Just as every day those cracks grow wider and deeper and hungrier. I believe in “no one left behind,” in “never give up,” in “no one is an island,” in “every life is worth living,” worth saving—starting with our own.

I believe that every one of us has a hero within, just waiting to to be revealed. And the world needs heroes now, perhaps more than ever before.