Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: tracking wonder (page 1 of 2)

Daydream Believer

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.

Daydream

Visionary: Scott Barry Kaufman

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

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…

Cave Goddess

The Goddess of the cave agrees.

————————————————————————–

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 quilt/s
  • The story
  • The journey (with journal and camera at the ready)
  • The garden and its reclaiming

 

Read more from some of my fellow Questers:

And there are so many more inspiring answers that have only been shared in the private Quest Facebook group. It’s not too late to Join the Quest.

Towels and Treasure Maps

Sometimes I can be a little thick in the head. It turns out that this year, Quest focuses on a different theme each week. Week one was Get Clear with Yourself. At the end of the week we were invited to take a look at our answers and see if a pattern might be emerging.

Portal of Possibility

Portal of Possibility

And so I took Jeffrey Davis’ advice and sketched out my favorite piece of geometry–a Venn Diagram–and distilled my answers to a set of words that could fit in each circle to see where they might overlap. And I found three words in common:

  • Experiment
  • Art (which includes all creative endeavors, including writing, of course)
  • People

But it also left out two other very important items that have arisen repeatedly lately:

  • Travel
  • Home (which also includes health because body, building, planet… they are all essentially the same thing)

So even though the great and mighty Venn seems to have failed me here, I’m going to just go ahead and add them to the mix.

This week the theme shifts to Imagine Your Future While Being Wholly Present and with that we move from the arena of wild dreams to detailed envisioning. And our first prompt:

Future Self

Visionary: Tina Seelig

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What advice would your future self a year from now give you today?

Apparently my future self is pretty outspoken because in addition to the five pages of writing which I have distilled down to the bullet list below:

  • Sometimes it’s not the thing that seems like the perfect fit, but the thing you’ve been running from, that gives you what you need
  • Do not let this life/world tame you, the color of the wheat fields may be beautiful but there is a sadness in them that you don’t need to carry around anymore–put it down
  • Dare to under-schedule–make space in your day and in your rooms
  • Keep your house clean and your body well rested
  • Get out of your head, out of your house, and into the bigger world
  • Make big messes–ones that need at least three beach towels to clean up
  • Do one small thing every day to move you closer to your dream–you don’t have to wait until you own property to start building your dream home
  • Make something just for yourself, and go big–really BIG; fill the whole wall if you can, try to fit in everything you love, everything you want to learn, but leave out anything that might hold you back–this is not a memorial, it’s a treasure map to your freedom
  • And for God’s sake, stop referring to yourself as a girl–you’re a woman, own it

She also told me that when it comes to wild dreams, mine aren’t nearly wild enough. She may be right. #futureself #3towelyear #treasuremap #iamwoman #wild #synthesis

And on that note, here are some wonderful other responses to the prompt.

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.

 

DIT beats DIY

One of the most amazing things about the Quest and Dare to Excel challenges have been the people I’ve connected with. People whose words and work inspire and amaze me. People who have expanded my way of thinking and broadened my horizons. But this whole journey has also re-opened my eyes to the likewise impressive people doing great work outside of the current quest.

#DaretoExcel Challenge- 14:

Champion someone else’s work in public. Identify someone whose work you believe in and want to acknowledge specifically and genuinely in public online.

That someone may be a colleague you’ve connected with in our forum. It might be a team member. It might be one of your customers, clients, or participants who has done heroic work in line with what you and your brand Story are all about.

It might even be a perceived competitor – someone who shares members of your audience.

Here are ways you might champion them:

  • In a blog article or LinkedIn article, mention them and link back to their work.
  • Share their work on your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed with a recommendation.

Do It Together. It’s exponentially more fun and effective. And it’s business as unusual

I’ve mentioned many of the names listed below on this blog before. I’ve also shared them on Facebook, both on my timeline and in groups I belong to, and mentioned their work in many conversations. But for those of you who don’t want to dig back through months of posts to find them, here is a handy reference list. My life and work has evolved in a truer direction due in part to their presence in our shared quest to embrace our truest work and walk what could otherwise be a lonely path.

  • Saundra Goldman, whose Creative Mix: Art & Life, Optimally Blended is dedicated to just this idea–elevating the work of creative women with the hope that it will help inspire us to hear and heed our own callings; be sure to check out her Continuous Practice challenge
  • Brenna Layne, whose writing is filled with unique and beautiful images, ideas, and insights, and who also embodies the very essence of this particular dare in her dedicated and vocal championing of others’ work; I would love to live in one of her stories…
  • Marisa Goudy, whose thoughts on entrepreneurship and writing, have inspired me to rethink my own ideas on these topics
  • Tracee Vetting Wolf, whose work doesn’t stop with her art, it dives deep into the realm of creativity itself, and even works to open us up to creative collaboration
  • Vanessa Herald, whose #365 Quote project is chock-full of inspiring words, art, and all-around wonderfulness
  • Lora Jansson, whose brave and wonderful spirit is dedicated to the interconnectedness of all, and to healing our world through shamanic practice; her work with animals is particularly heroic

And of course:

There are, of course, many more, and you will see them, too, as I continue to share the work that inspires me, on this blog, on social media, and in person.

Design to Delight

#DareToExcel Challenge- 13:

We live in an experience economy. Your customers and audiences don’t want products and services. They want experiences. Leaders who live with integrity and artistry build businesses that deliver on delightful experiences – regardless of what product or service they sell.

Define and act upon one way you can design to delight your audience or customers within the next two days.

My book is still in its beginning phase. There is nothing yet to read or see… But, wait, that’s not actually entirely true. In fact, I’ve already shared a piece of story-inspired collage art in my previous post that has already delighted one of my readers. So, inspired by that and by a conversation with fellow quester Brenna Layne, I will create a page on my site featuring this image (and others I create along the way) as well as a reading list, and perhaps other related references, resources, videos, whatever I can find to help keep me and my potential future readers excited about the project. And I already have other extension projects in mind–quilts, poems, maybe even an opening signing at a gallery filled with this related work… so many possibilities!

And while we’re on the topic of delight, I think this year I’ll send holiday cards to the people who have bought my quilts. It doesn’t take grand gestures to create a little delight in the lives of those who support us.

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.

Saying No

Yesterday when the new dare arrived in my inbox I took one look at it then closed it again. Part of it was the overwhelm at trying to figure out how to add one more thing to my already over-full plate. The other part was overwhelm at how could I possibly choose just one skill from an infinite number of possibly necessary skills that might make a critical difference for my project and my life. Luckily, with a little distance I discovered the answer to the challenge hidden in that second overwhelm–though upon reflection, it wasn’t hidden at all. In fact, it was pretty much grabbing me by the shirt collar and trying to shake me awake.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 5:

To live your question, what new #skillset do you need and want to develop this month and beyond to execute your one project exceptionally well? What existing skill set do you need and want to hone and sharpen? How can you do so more intentionally? Define it, claim it, share it.

Don’t over-do it here. One skill or skill set suffices for now for you to define.

Use the bottom half of your My Project Brief Sheet to help you define a habit skill set, one field-related skill, or one craft-related skill you want to claim and dare to excel in.

~ SAY NO ~

The need for this particular skill isn’t just project-related–it’s systemic to my whole life. I have always had trouble focusing on one thing, being able to figure out what is most important, and saying “no”–or at least, “not now”–to everything else. The proof is in my original project brief. Not because of the desire to hold space for the book to grow as I do other things which is a wonderful, valuable goal, but because that good goal disguises the truth–that I want those unfinished quilts finished and out of my life so badly that I made them more important than the book. And in doing so, I’ve created a situation where the drudgery of the sewing I don’t want to do bleeds over into the work I most want to do. Instead of feeding the book, it has drained my energy. And because two of the quilt projects are for other people, they have the added stress of deadlines and an ever expanding feeling of trying to create within a very small box which has been stifling my creativity across the board. The fact that, although two of my quilting projects are already overdue, I started with a donation quilt that no one is waiting for and has been sitting in a bin for more than three years, only underscores my deep need for increasing my discernment skills ASAP.

So, what does that mean? Starting this moment I need to:

  1. Deal with the two overdue sewing projects this weekend before I do anything else–that means spending Sunday at the computer creating the design comps to send to the clients, because it is too late to hand them off to someone else. Ideally at the office so I won’t be distracted by everything that needs doing here at home.
  2. Adjust my perception of the remaining quilts from chores I need to plow through, to mindfulness practice.
  3. Get back to relaxed nightly book research, letting the stories absorb slowly into my psyche.
  4. Remember what’s most important, which for some reason sounds like the voices of Haymitch and Finnick in my head, and say “no” to everything else:Katniss
  5. Revisit my project brief.

And once I’ve done that, I can begin methodically building my discernment skills so I can make better prioritization decisions earlier in the process and not find myself trying to extract myself from a bind as deadlines loom. This great resource from wonder tracker and our intrepid guide in this challenge Jeffrey Davis, is a good place to start.

 

Who Is This For?

It’s one of my favorite fantasies to believe that I can stay safe inside my little bubble, creating only what I want to create, when I want to create it, and that people will love all of it and and pay me great wads of money just to have a part of it in their lives, but that’s not how the world works. No artist can live in a vacuum without devolving into self-referential, repetitive work, running out of ideas, or just plain going mad. And the truth is, the act of creation, for many of us, doesn’t have a lot of meaning if it’s just about self gratification. For me, specifically, I want my creations to make a difference in people’s lives–to inspire them, to give them hope, to help them find what they need to then make a difference in the lives of others.

There is a quote by Rumi, that elegantly sums this up:

Be a lamp… Rumi

But that is only the what, not the who. Which brings us to today’s question.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 4:

Who is this for?

The innovators who thrive advance their big, new ideas in part because they love their ideas to make a difference in other people’s lives. Do some research on the people who might benefit from your challenge. Look at the online conversations, on our private forum, or – better – have real-time conversations with customers or potential audience members.

Make notes on what feels broken or not-quite-right or downright frustrating in their worlds.

How does he feel when he’s not feeling so great? What one irritation keeps tripping her up?

Then make notes on this: What does she want – a different feeling, a problem solved, one step toward a yearning – that your project might surprisingly give her?

Go back to your burning question: How will your question invite them in?

Look back at your project brief. Did you define a problem in a way that speaks to their perceived wants?

Don’t over-think it for now. We’re taking notes and keeping momentum.

I have to admit, I balk at the word audience. It reeks to me of performance, as though I am putting on my beliefs like a costume that I can remove at any time and revert to who I really am. For me, and for probably all of us undertaking this challenge (and many more beyond), the whole point of this exercise, of the work that I do, is to fully embrace and share my true self whether it nets me customers or not. I want to focus not on giving people what I think they want, but on helping them find what they truly  need. But semantics aside, Jeffrey is right. Art for art’s sake is not enough. It needs to be shared, and it’s important to know who will be best served and to share it with them.

While I do think that there are people who could be well served by my first question, and it’s associated project Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest–people who want to find ways to work their way through distractions, to make space for the big important work to flourish–I believe it is the book, 3T, that has the most to give:

  • To women who feel like the heroic stories of our past have stolen our deepest symbols and stripped us of our power and agency, and long to rediscover and reclaim them
  • To students and teachers of Medieval, Celtic, Catholic, and most particularly, their intersection in Arthurian literature, legend, and mythology, especially those with feminist-leanings
  • To anyone looking for ways to create new stories to replace those that don’t fit anymore
  • To survivors of bad relationships or trauma, those dealing with grief and loss, those who may struggle with “invisible” health problems, or others, especially women, who feel powerless and want to take their power back (perhaps even preppers)
  • To people of all genders who believe that climate change is real but that the paths we have half-heartedly travelled in our attempts to solve a problem that threatens us all are just not working

Seeing it written it all feels a bit broad, but I believe there is a great deal of overlap, and that these rough notes will begin to coalesce as I work on the book. As for the small sample set of people I’ve talked to about the book–they all said they were excited about the unique combination of history, symbolism, feminism, climate change, and memoir the work will include. What they want is a new path to healing, re-empowerment, and social/environmental change. And that is exactly what I am hoping to build.

Time to rework my #projectbrief.

 

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.

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