The Challenge of Choice

I have always envied people who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. To have that kind of clarity is something I’ve only dreamed of. Me, I’m all over the map — gardening, sewing, writing, belly dance, aviation, landscaping, preparedness, interior decoration and organization, arthurian mythology, education… I’ve dabbled in all of them and more. That’s what makes this whole figuring out what I want to do with my life so hard.

Thinking it might help, I am retaking the Liberated Life Project’s Fall in Love with Your Work e-course. I figured that having gained clarity about my overall mission, it might help me narrow the field of options. So far, though, I’ve had no luck. When it comes to picking a direction (or even two or three), I’m still stuck, so I decided to do a little thinking on the keyboard — type it all out and see it that helps, sort of a pro/con list. Keep in mind, I’m unlikely to settle on just one, but it might help me narrow the field a little, and come up with a priority list and timeline for the things I decide to pursue. So here are the options in no particular order:


I am a writer. It’s who I am. I write poems, novels, essays, most of which languish in drawers and computer files. Sometimes I wonder why I write, and then I remember: because writing is like breathing. I just have to. I have something to say. Lots, apparently.

For years I thought that made writing the perfect career. And it was for a while. I can write the heck out of online banner ads, web pages, product descriptions… you name it. And over the years I have honed my editing skills to razor-sharpness. Which would be great if what I wrote for all those other companies actually mattered. Or if I was able to wield that precise editing sword to sharpen my own work. So far though, no dice.

Cons: no money, pattern of inability to finish, hate editing, hard work, frustrating, hard to get published, hard to market, hard to build an audience, takes forever, brings up tough emotional issues, sometimes I lose my words

Pros: lots to say, tons of ideas, in general, I’m a good writer, great vehicle for getting messages out there, low cost to entry, I’m going to be writing no matter what


I love making quilts — blankets, art pieces, objects. Quilts can comfort. Quilts can heal. Quilts can convey a message. The act of making a quilt is itself a form of therapy. When I find myself unable to write, making a quilt is how I work my way back to words.

Quilts are also my favorite form of service for a cause that hits close to home: helping to heal the devastation of war. I made my first Valor Quilt earlier this year and hope to make many more. What better way to raise money for that effort than by selling other sewn goods? What better way to raise awareness and inspire others to take up the cause, than by spreading the word through my work and my example?

Cons: highly time-intensive, high materials cost, seldom lucrative, can rarely charge what you put in

Pros: labor of love, believe in the power of comfort, the cause is deeply important to me, creating art changes the world for the better, can be used as a platform for important issues, i will make quilts no matter what


You know how a lot of self-help gurus these days tell you to go toward the thing that scares you? The thing that you secretly think about but are terrified of even considering. This is one of those thing for me. I have done some teaching, some mentoring, some coaching and you know what? I love it. But I’ve also seen a lot of coaches, teachers, mentors who seem to fit that old cliche “if you can’t do, teach.” I don’t want to be one of those. I don’t want to pretend I have the answers when I can’t even finish my own book. I am terrified of failing and letting people down.

Then again, I know what it’s like not to fail. To really make a difference for someone. To watch them change their lives for the better and know I helped them do that. And I know what it takes to write a book and change a life. I’ve done both. More than once. So there you go.

Cons: fear, lack of credibility/credentials, hate selling myself (and bad at it), fear it’s a shadow career

Pros: experienced writer/editor, mentor, and goals trainer, hugely satisfying/rewarding, could be lucrative, I’ve already done a lot of the work (or at least pieces of it), a lot of what I said in that cons list is crap

Veterans Projects

Here’s how I always start: My grandfather was a veteran. He never talked about the war. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have been devoured from the inside. Maybe if he had he would have been around longer.

War destroys lives, destroys families, destroys souls. The war machine chews people up and spits them out, shoving them back into a world where many no longer fit. No longer know how to function. They are burdened with the memories of what they saw and what they did often with little support in working through it. And so they grow silent, like my grandfather. This is not acceptable.

There are already several veterans writing projects throughout the country, one of which I have a connection to. This is the big one. The one that matters the most, matters so much that I can’t even breathe when I think about it. Yes, that’s probably a sign.

Cons: fear, lack of credentials/credibility, lack of experience with veterans, fear, too emotional around this topic, too introverted, not a veteran, fear, waited too long to get in touch with contact, overwhelming, no money, did I mention fear?

Pros: it matters, a lot, maybe more than anything else


I always throw this one in here. Partly because I’m a bit of a closet survivalist (make that a total closet survivalist. Partly because zombies are all the rage. Partly because I know I can take something scary and make it easy and fun (and maybe even help save a few lives in the process).

Cons: a little silly, would divert time, attention, and energy from more important projects

Pros: fun, easy, could make good money, important stuff for people to know, folders full of ideas, really enjoy it

So there they all are. Reading back through what I just wrote, it’s pretty clear which one tips the scales. But a girl’s gotta eat and pay the rent, so I’m thinking what I always think: maybe a mix of a few of these things is the answer. Because yes, I can always write and edit my way to a paycheck, but I’m tired of spending all my energy on others’ dreams while my own dreams languish. Especially when those others are corporations and institutions. Anyone can help them. Only I can make my own dreams come true.

The Fine Art of Finessing

This morning I woke up with a start, having finally figured out what was missing from my mission statement. Okay, actually it was some telephone solicitor calling way too early that woke me up and Maia’s latest email and one of my course-mate’s posts that helped me see the light. Aside from the nagging thought that I expressed yesterday about what exactly was my passion (probably not illumination), I was missing two key pieces of information:

  1. What type of people I hoped to serve
  2. What need of theirs my work would fulfill

So with that in mind, I’m going back to the drawing board. Lucky for me, I already have a pretty solid foundation to build on.

What is my passion? I know I’m stuck on a word here. I love the word Illuminate, but is that passion or action? I feel like I was much more direct with the form I filled out on the Franklin Covey site (RIP Franklin) — to create and inspire. Actually what I said was “be creative and help people” — which one is it, help or inspire?

How will I do this (and make money)? By creating inspiring works of art and literature and by providing tools and possibly platforms. Some possible tools include: quizzes, assessments, articles, videos, reviews, coaching programs, ebooks, ecourses, and, of course, compelling content, including examples and how-tos.

Who will I do this for / what need will it fill? People who aspire to be creative, who aspire to better health (emotional, physical, spiritual, personal, community, global), who aspire to be more involved, more prepared, more connected, more liberated, ready to face a changing world head-on, more informed, more empowered… empowered, yes, I like that.

Not all of us are built for the standard social action of standing on street corners or getting arrested. Not all of us want to make calls or write letters. Not all of us want to campaign for a candidate. Some of us are built to walk the back streets of foreign cities search for answers in our histories. Some of us are built to use a pen or a brush or a needle as a spotlight. Some of us are built to raise a voice for the silenced. Some of us are built to hand others a pen and a flashlight. And some of us can only do our work from a place of safety and sanctuary. But sometimes we have to build that first… but I digress… allow me to return to my general mission.

  1. My passion is to create art and stories that illuminate the issues that matter to me.
  2. My goal is a) to get that work out into the world where it can inspire others to speak and act, b) to provide tools that empower them to do it, and c) to build a community that amplifies and projects what emerges.
  3. My audience is anyone who has something to say that has been still or stifled but who longs to find their voice again, or who has been longing to act but is afraid or doesn’t know what to do or how to do it.

Or, to put it a slightly different way, for those who are afraid to speak or act, my work will show them it can be done, my tools will help them learn (or remember) how, and the community and I will give them the support they need to do it.

And if you’re still wondering what those issues are that matter to me, they appear to cluster primarily around the word Resilience, but there is also an important component of remembering our history, both the bits we can use, and the bits we need to learn from so we don’t have to keep repeating them over and over again.

A Girl with a Mission

Candles - Earth HourWe are just past the halfway mark of Fall in Love with Your Work, and I have already learned an amazing amount — about myself, about what matters to me, about my skills, my options, about how other people see me. But today’s lessons is where it really started coming together. Where all the work I’ve been doing for so long has finally started to crystalize. Today is the day we started writing our personal mission statements.

To be honest, this is not the first time I’ve tried to construct one. I’ve worked on missions statements for corporations, for teams, for individuals, and, yes, for myself, and let me tell you, it is always hardest to do for myself. So hard, in fact, that I have never gotten even remotely close. Until today. Thanks to a combination of three sets of words.

  1. Four words that came to me as I woke up the morning of day 3: to educate and inspire
  2. A list of verbs Maia provided for our consideration: bridge, brighten, communicate, connect, create, discover, embrace, encourage, give, heal, integrate, lead, learn, love, mentor, open, organize, relate, remember, restore, teach
  3. My own list of verbs inspired by her list: act, educate, excavate, illuminate, inspire, unearth

I marked the ones that resonated the most strongly (italic for strong, bold for strongest) and got to work.

First, I replaced the word educate which felt didactic, judgmental, and heavy-handed with the word illuminate. Illuminate is one of my favorite words not just because it means to shed a light on something, or because that spotlight reveals but does not dictate what any person should do with that revelation, but because I am, among other things, a medievalist whose primary focus was church carvings and illuminated manuscripts. And those drawings were not just decoration, they were illustration, they were revelation, and they were unbelievably, stunningly beautiful — even when what they showed was suffering. And that is it for me. That’s what I aspire to do with every form of creative expression I undertake, be it fiction, poetry, quilts, photography… to show the world in all its happiness and pain. In all its glory and suffering. In all its joy and sorrow. In all its scarcity and abundance. To show that all of those things, all that humanity and majesty and misery is exquisitely beautiful. Awe inspiring. A miracle. And that all of those things, all of these people, are intertwined. Intimately connected. And to help other people see and feel that, too. And to remind us all that with that connection comes a responsibility to each other, because if one domino falls, we each fall in succession.

So with that in mind, and despite the fact that we still have two more days of working on our mission statements, moving from what we hope to do, to how we plan to do it, to who we are doing it for and why, here is my full missions statement, still a work in progress, but closer than I’ve every been to that shining star that will help guide and focus me on this path I am walking.

My mission is to illuminate the causes that matter most to me by creating art, stories, and tools that inspire people to connect to themselves, the world, and others and to act on their behalf. 

It still need a little tweaking, but I’m getting there. And I know I’m close, because when I look at the writing I’ve done already, the stories and art I most want to create in the future, it all fits perfectly and all the other things, those driven by other people’s agendas, or my own internal “shoulds” begin to fall away, making space for what really matters.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Chinese Proverb


Fall in Love with Your Work

As many of you know, I have been un- or marginally employed since February 2011. By choice, but still, after almost a year and a half, my savings have dwindled to the point that my need for a regular paycheck is imminent. And while it would be easy enough to go back to doing what I was doing before, the truth is, I left that career for a reason and I need to move forward, not backward.

Enter Fall in Love with Your Work: A 30 Day Adventure, a new online course from the Liberated Life Project designed to help you “take the first steps to creating a sustainable livelihood with meaning and purpose.” This course could not have come at a better time. It offers 30 days of probing questions that invite us to look deeply at our interests, our experiences, our passions, our dreams, and our histories.

We started on July 1, and within the first two days I made at least one big discovery about myself. Then came day three and with it my first road block: the perfect notebook to journal my work in. That one’s too big. That one’s too small. That one’s just right but 5/6 full… It sounds ridiculous, I know, and that’s how I know it’s not about a notebook at all. It’s about resistance.


Creating a whole new life can be scary. Believe me, I know. I still have no idea how I managed to quit my job, pack up my life and move from San Francisco to Santa Fe, leaving my family, my friends, my boyfriend, the only gardening zone I’ve ever known, and my deep, deep sense of security. But I did it — quickly, before I had the chance to let the true weight of what I’d done hit me. But that tactic isn’t going to work here. Because this is all about digging deep, and that has to be done slowly. It also means I’m going to have to just suck it up and pick a notebook. And a pen. And sit down and get to work. Maybe after breakfast, though, I’ve had ginger chicken soup percolating in the crock pot all night and the fragrance is making me very, very hungry.