“If A is a success in life, then A equals X plus Y plus Z. Work is X; Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut.”
Work. Play. Listen. Einstein’s formula for experiencing a new version of life called A.
The questions that sometimes emerge in my journaling are about how to combine work and play so that they are seamlessly one. How can I enjoy my work so much that it feels like play? And how can I incorporate more play into my work, while still feeling like I am creating something that serves another?
Perhaps my answer lies in Z. Maybe I am not listening. At least not enough. My mouth is open and expressing thoughts, feelings, and even complaints. If I paused to meditate, breathe, pause, and listen, it is possible that I might feel more simpatico with life’s meaning, purpose, objective — or whatever it is that drives us and compels us to discover and contribute and, ultimately, feel more successful.
Work. Play. Keep my mouth shut. Listen. Pay attention to the promptings and follow through. Play more music. Take longer walks. Look around. Be still. Follow. Experience a success in life.
I came across this picture the other day and am trying to remember why the heck I took it. I didn’t take it with my phone but with my heavy, bulky, big-girl Canon . . . which further tells me that this was a special moment that I wanted to record with my “good camera.”
Weird. I’m not sure but I think that I was celebrating, having just moved into a fantastic temporary beachfront rental for what turned out to be four exquisite months. This transition was one of those ideas that had been on my Wish List for years: Live on the beach during the stormy winter months to write. This recent move Continue reading
Purpose: (noun) “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”
Method: (noun) “orderliness of thought or behavior; systematic planning or action”
Purpose and Method. Reason and Action. Motivation and System. I am a firm believer in the profound power of Experiential Learning Theory — a theory of learning that focuses on learning through reflection on doing while incorporating previous experiences as guide, teacher, and mentor. It involves being creative in the learning process and constructing meaning from the experience. It isn’t that this theory is kind of fuzzy or that it needs to be proven. Good common sense and Continue reading
I recently took one of those online quizzes that is designed to assess Who You Are and Where You Are At. These were my quiz results: “Your results indicate you must stop blaming yourself. It’s not your fault. Your thoughts and feelings are simply disconnected creating Stuck feelings.”
I like the gentle reminder that these encouraging words impart. And I wonder how many other people received exactly this same message. In other words, do these “results” hold true for everyone on the planet? Or am I the only one who is feeling the disconnect of thoughts and feelings?
This is much easier said than done. There is always going to be some second guessing going on in life that is going to lead you to blame yourself. So many things. A bad decision you made. A time when you zigged when you should have zagged. Words that slipped out of your mouth like thirsty little toads seeking a water source.
A detour that you should have taken instead of charging ahead into those warning signs of danger. A job that you declined. A house that you bought. A health decision you made. A lover you chose. A friend that you trusted. A horse that you bet on.
Self-blame. What is it exactly? Self-assigning responsibility for things that you have said or done doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. After all, I am responsible for my own stuff, right? But blame goes beyond this when you dwell on it, feel horrible about it, and then do nothing about it. It’s okay to give yourself permission to stop blaming yourself when you take thoughtful responsibility and attempt to rectify the wrong that you have committed with compassion and empathy. You can apologize. You can ask for an opportunity to re-frame your thoughts in different words. You can give someone a hug. You can back up and try it all over again. You can ask for a pardon. You can ask if you can try to make it right. You can write a letter. You can bake banana bread. You can be patient and allow the other person time to feel angry or hurt.
And the effects of prolonged self-blame? Prolonged self-blame quickly reduces to an ongoing state of regret. We become mired in our own selfish thoughts of how badly we feel. This, in turn, focuses the original action or words solely on us and robs us of the chance to make it right.
We might blame ourselves for something rash that we did or something foolish that we said . . . but to continue blaming ourselves over and over and over? This is where blame evolves into regret. And it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that regret is joyful living’s natural assassin. Regret robs us of any opportunity to be brave and to do the right thing. There are certainly things that we are responsible for that are tough to make right. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying. This is where we call upon our Brave to kick into action. It is a brave soul who can admit that he or she was in the wrong. This is not stuff for sissies.
But isn’t it? Isn’t it my fault? No one held a weapon to my head while I said those hurtful things or made that bad decision. There was no little cartoon devil on my shoulder urging me to max out my credit card buying heels and boots. If it’s not my fault, then whose is it?
Fault is one of those concepts that gets tossed about with little regard. It’s a hungry ghost that rides the backs of air molecules and never really lights. It gets tossed about, bandied about, and argued about. It gets assigned to others in nilly-willy ways and has no substance.
It’s true that if we accept the toss that’s aimed at us and we catch it, fault will linger for a while. And maybe it is our fault to begin with, right? But to carry it about will only lead to us, ultimately, sinking beneath the weight, most often forcing us to toss it to someone else to carry for a while.
If we are going to talk about the word fault, I prefer to think in geologic terms and plate tectonics. A fault, geologically speaking is a situation where the earth’s crust has been stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form. Imagine having two sections of your soul, Blame and Regret, moving relative to each other. This action causes us to become stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form in our spirits and souls, creating chasms and pockets that become too dangerous to explore. Dangerous because one never knows when there may be yet another seismic shift between the two relative forces.
Is there a better way to deal with the Plate Tectonics of our soul? Understand that Fault Lines exist. Be a scientist, measure, and plan for catastrophe accordingly. Keep away from the the edge of the plates when possible. Move inland to safer ground. Take a deep breath and hope for stability. Fault. It does no one any good. But it’s there, so be smart. And if shift happens? Channel that energy into something positive.
Well, now. This is something that feels like familiar ground. Nothing newsworthy here.
Yes. My thoughts and feelings become disconnected. This is not an uncommon occurrence. But now what? What’s next? By taking this little quiz, I have implicated myself into wanting to better myself . . . to make my life better. So what’s going to help me to re-connect my thoughts and my feelings? How do I go about planning the big reunion? I think part of the answer is in Un-creating Stuck Feelings.
Stuck is as stuck does. Like love, debt, and what shoes to wear today, Stuck-ness is a decision. Making a decision is a mental activity. Making a decision makes the Stuck feelings go away. There is some magic in this . . . magic that involves you feeling inspired to make the decision to be Un-Stuck.
Deep breaths. Think. Meditate. Dance. Call a friend. Be mindful. Breathe life’s goodness into my soul. And above all: Try something new. Albert Einstein is famously quoted for saying: Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. He also said, Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
You can’t stay stuck if you aren’t standing still. Try something new. Say something kind to a stranger. Dance like a goof. Join a marimba band. Say you are sorry and make an action that shows it. Take the risk of making a mistake that, yes, might create even more self-blame and stuck feelings.
Like trying to get the stubborn lid off of a jar when you have wet hands, it ain’t going to happen until you take a moment to dry your hands. Tap the jar lid a few times with a knife. Run some hot water over the metal lid. Get out your handy-dandy Cap Snaffler. Do something. And you’ll get the lid off of the jar and, with any cosmic blessing, you’ll reconnect your thoughts and feelings into a better place and allow yourself to see a kinder reflection when you look around you.
Stuff that Works . . . This is a GREAT song by Guy Clark. It inspires me to appreciate the “stuff that works” in my life . . . “the kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall.” Take a listen. It is a really beautiful song.
I read a great affirmation yesterday: “Where there is light there are shadows.”
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we experience a lot of gray days. The sort of days where the horizon line blurs the sky and water into one waterscape. On these days, there are no shadows and there is an etheral feel to the day — akin to floating. The lack of contrast lends itself to getting lost in daydreams. Some find these days extraordinarily gloomy. Drizzle, fog, and low-hanging clouds cast a mood of Waiting. Waiting for the sun to return. When we do get a blue day and the sun is shining, the shadows emerge as well.
It sometimes feels as if the times that have made me the happiest have also cast the darkest shadows. The brightness creates an awareness that life is both awesome and fragile.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, the clouds can, and most likely will, soon return and obscure the sunlight. As I put things into perspective each morning, afternoon, and night, this song reminds me of the truly important things . . . the stuff that works. And there is a LOT of stuff that does work.
So today? I am focusing on the stuff that works.
What’s in your complaint box? Any chance of turning those complaints around and thinking of them as blessings?
I’ve been doing an experiment. Every day I write down as many things that I can think of from the day under the heading: Good Things That Happened Today. It isn’t hard to think of things. As with anything in life — when you pause to take an inventory — there is much more going on than that which skims the surface.
After I finish my Good Things list, I then write as many things that I can think of under the heading: My Takeaways on Life in the Current Moment. When I pause to think of My Takeaways, all sorts of good things start to burble forth — things that hitherto felt like an obstacle or a challenge or a frustration. It’s like magic. The weird stuff suddenly starts to transform into a better place.
For example, imagine that you are making an offer to purchase what you perceive to be your Dream Home. And we’re talking Dream Home, people. You are convinced that this house is It. It is exactly what you want to buy and to live in for the rest of your life — or at the very least the next decade. In your Good Things list, you write: I made an offer on my Dream Home today!!!!!
But then life intervenes. Another offer comes in on the same day as yours, but $10,000 higher than your offer. And to make matters worse for you, their financing is in perfect order. Guess whose offer gets accepted? You feel bummed! That was your house! Not theirs!
The days pass and you search for things to put down on your Good Things list. You might even write under Takeaways: I learned that it is best to remove such high emotion from a business deal. Something like this. But then. Something really crazy happens. You read about an opportunity to go to Ireland and serve as an intern at this amazing art school. It’s your dream!! You apply. You get accepted. Guess what? You’re going to Ireland for a full year! Woot!
This adventure gets listed under Good Things. In addition to recording this adventure to Ireland on your list, you write, I‘m so glad that that house deal fell through! Thank you!!! on the line directly below your entry about the Ireland opportunity. You see the correlation so clearly. In fact — even better yet — you feel the correlation and you experience an understanding that calms your soul and quells your frustrations about the house deal falling through. All is right with the world and you marvel at how things just work out!
You get the idea. The seemingly bad breaks that occur in life have all the potential to set us up for something even better. You just have to be looking. Be aware. Be open to seeing the “bad stuff” as “potential good stuff.” That there are Takeaways, if you only look. Life events aren’t always easy to dissect into lists, but I find that if I really stretch and embrace both the Good Things and the Takeaways . . . I learn a lot about me and how I can be happy in the flow of the present moment.
How about you? Do you want to join me in my Good Things/Takeaway challenge? If you want a PDF to download to get you started, just submit your email address and I’ll send it to you. It’s fun to turn things around to a place that allows you to embrace that which seemed like such a bummer.
As for me? Well, I thought that it was going to be smooth and perfect sailing as I prepared to go forth to Ireland . . . but the art internship fell through — something about something occurred, which meant I wasn’t going away to Ireland for a year.
Now, this unwelcome news certainly wasn’t expected, but I am learning as a result of my daily lists. Instead of listing the loss of my Ireland trip in my Takeaway list, I recorded it immediately in my Good Things list. After all, I am learning about this life stuff in a new way that is changing my mind and my heart. I know that something good is happening right now . . . and I am trimming the unexpected starboard list of the boat that I thought was set to sail for Ireland. It’s a good thing that there were life rafts on that boat!
And I am ready for the next adventure.
Who knows what’s next? I don’t. Be it a Good Thing or a Takeaway, I am learning that what works best is for me to be open. To understand that I don’t have a bird’s-eye view of every little piece that has been set in motion. To be me and to be happy and to have a light heart. To stop complaining and to start paying better attention.
A writer’s life is spent entering secret passages and opening doors. If the passages are too dark or dim, I might take the time to turn around and go back to look for a light. And if re-tracing my steps feels like it is too long ago, I might simply feel my way with my senses in the darkness. After all, I might trip over a flashlight and kick it into life or develop human sonar or spy a flicker of light down one of the corridors or develop a seventh sense. Anything could happen in these secret passages. After all, I am the author.
If doors are locked tight, I may start to hunt for a key. Or not. If looking for a key feels too time-consuming or futile, I might resort to one of those battering rams that you see in movies that involve crooks and the FBI. Boom. Open sesame. It’s up to me. I am the author.
[pas·sage (ˈpasij/) noun: the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.]
There are just so many remarkable words in this sparse definition. Act. Process. Moving through, under, over, or past something. On the way from one place to another. Sometimes I forget or take for granted or don’t pay attention to the ponderous weight that each word in our lexicon — any language’s lexicon — bears. These varied words that writers place on the page bear a nuanced message that goes far beyond the symbols and morphology that transcribes experience into imagination.
Writing. Socrates believed that writing was detrimental to the mind — that by writing something down, we have essentially dulled the mind’s ability to remember what is important. Being a writer, I look at the written word differently. Writing allows me to see my soul reflected back to me in a way that other experiences and relationships can’t. It is a solitary journey perfect for the exploration of secret passages. And my muse seems to like the secret passages the best.
You’ve got this. I used to go to the gym each night after work, the kind of gym that offered those maniac spinning classes. I used to look in to the classroom and watch those spinning pedals and sweating bodies and think, “That looks way above and beyond my physical abilities.” I wanted my body and my mind to perform like the spinners in that class, but it looked so exclusive — like it was for people who were in far better shape than I was, both physically and mentally — and kind of technical really, what with having to adjust your bike just so.
Well, I met the instructor, Scott, one day when he was coming out of one of the classes. Scott asked me if I would ever be interested in trying a class. He told me that spinning is for everyone, and that he thought that I would love it.
I decided to try it. I went to that first class and Scott was there, ready to help me adjust my bicycle so my ride would be comfortable, write down the adjustments so I could do it on my own for my next class, and make sure that I had a full water bottle.
It didn’t take long into that first class and I was hooked. Scott wasn’t one of those class instructors who shouted and berated exercisers to push beyond their perceived abilities. His mantra throughout class was always positive: “You’ve got this!” Scott understood that optimism and encouragement were what helped people to grow and to be excited about new challenges. The class was not only fun but spiritual, too. The hard workout put my head into a new place that out-rode (pun intended) the thoughts from the day that were still chasing me.
While we pedaled like crazy, added resistance, stood up, sat down, and stretched to cool down, Scott told everyone how great they were doing. He adjusted all of his instruction accordingly: for those who were struggling with a particular ride, he offered alternatives so that everyone’s workout would be rewarding . . . and he ramped things up for those who had been coming to the class for a while and wanted even more challenge.
It was one of those very rare classes that fitted everyone. We all added some visible muscle during those classes, and we all grew a good measure of inner strength as well. We learned that we could do our best and feel good about it — no matter what we each had accomplished in class.
I don’t know if I fell in love with spinning or if I simply so appreciated Scott’s much-needed encouragement. Maybe both. In the ways of time and change, Scott moved to Portland, and I moved to an island. I live where there are zero spinning classes and the mountain behind my house serves as my combination elliptical trainer, spin bicycle, and treadmill.
The elevation gain up the mountain is a gentle master and is much less challenging than the spin classes. When I am out walking, I think about the other challenges in my life that have nothing to do with breaking a sweat or making another loop before heading home.
We all need someone or something in our lives that motivates us to reach for that light switch — that extension of ourselves that pushes us to exceed our own expectations. I used to hear from Scott from time to time, but it’s been a while. When I do hear from him, he always has encouraging words to say. Scott is one of those people who helps others keep their optimism flipped to On. Thanks, Scott. I’ve got this!
Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing first caught light at the age of four when she learned how to write her dog’s name P-e-p-p-y on a sheet of lined tablet paper. Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment. Kennedy lives view-high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.