Clean slate, blank canvas

This morning I was contemplating joyfully and with some curiosity the blank canvas that is the next chapter of my work life. It feels like a fresh start, that opportunity to re-invent my daily rituals, hone my purpose, and choose the colors for the palette.

blank canvas.JPG
Photo credit link

Though I am not a visual artist, and only dabble with colors and fun materials now and then, I can appreciate that excitement of a blank canvas. As a writer, it is a little like the blank page, that space of infinite possibility before the words start spilling out. I face it with excitement, and a little unknowing. Where will this go? What am I trying to say?

Since I generally write to understand any new concept, or even myself, there is always an air of mystery about it. As a blogger, I have learned to embrace the empty page as a sacred space where I am invited to create.  It is our greatest privilege as humans, our creative energy, and I think it is where we meet our divinity.

I find that I want to experiment a bit, not to rush into splashing color onto the page, but to spend some time preparing the colors, feeling what wants to emerge. I greatly appreciated my solitude yesterday and the ability to respect the rhythm of my body, working and resting in a ratio that felt right. My coach and I decided on some “homework” for the next week, and I was able to accomplish the items on my list.

If I were an artist, I would run my hands along the blank canvas, noting its texture and honoring this gift. I shall have to resist a trip to the art store to do this, but maybe it is time to get out my colors and sketch pad.

Do you have a ritual for honoring the “blank canvas” times in your life?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

A dedicated journalist

I was sitting in a cafe yesterday writing in my handwritten journal, having dumped coffee on it 10 minutes earlier in my haste to start eating my breakfast.

The older man asked me, “are you a dedicated journalist?”

I responded, “I do enjoy writing. And I do it every day, or nearly so.”

“Wow,” he said, “I write often but sometimes not for months.”

Then he told me a story of some notes he’d taken last November while his wife was sick and in the hospital for 2 weeks with a mysterious illness. She asked him to record some of the things that happened, and the symptoms. He said it was hard to go back and write that up, even though he had a lot of notes.

I commented on writing about times that are difficult in our lives. It can be difficult, when the event or period was emotionally charged in some way. It requires us to relive that time, and sometimes we re-experience those emotions. But at the same time the writing is therapeutic, and it releases something, like therapy when the story is told and “witnessed” by ourselves or a compassionate person.

We talked for a couple minutes and he apologized for the interruption but I went back to think about his question, “are you a dedicated journalist?”

Yes.

I love the act of writing, so much so that I lose myself in it at times.

It occurs to me that Brene Brown and Liz Gilbert have written about this concept at times, the sad fact that we only value things that we get paid for in this society.

But some of us create art, writing, music, poetry because we must. Not because we expect to get paid. I mean, certainly making a living is important. In fact, I need to dig up some consulting work in the next couple of months or I’ll be looking for a “regular” job again. But sometimes we must release something in us onto a page. Brene Brown said once in the Magic Lessons podcast “unused creativity metastasizes.” I believe it.

Maybe I’ll add “dedicated journalist” to my Linked In profile and see what comes of it.

Cheers & happy weekend,

Cristy

art-from-yoshi-airbnb.jpg
Art from a London Airbnb, taken September 16, 2018

 

 

 

Windows on the world

Arty colorful kitchen
Kitchen of the Airbnb with Yoshi and Yello

Yesterday was a long travel day. Longer than I expected. By the time we arrived at our final Airbnb we had been “in motion” for 8.5 hours. This included a ride to the train Doune station, a train ride to Edinburgh, a tram ride to the airport, some time eating lunch there, a short flight to London Luton, a train ride to the tube station. A couple tube transfers later, we finally made it to Canary Wharf, up three sets of stairs to a lovely and artistically decorated renovated warehouse flat here.

attract fun
mantra on the mantel of this Airbnb

Having been out & about among people for so long (and in such confined quarters on the tube) with people, I was feeling ready to shut out the world, not visit with our hosts. Hopefully they understood. My introvert self wanted to retreat, spend time alone or just with my husband. On day 13 of this vacation, I now feel relieved we will be going home tomorrow. I miss my own bed, our quiet townhome, our kitties who will no doubt be a bit miffed with us for being gone for 2 weeks.

every-moment.jpg
This applies to our trip.

I enjoy doing the Airbnb experience because it gives you a window on people’s lives in another part of the world. While I am not wild about the times we have had to share a bathroom (about half of the lodgings on this trip), I still think the experience beats staying in a standard, traditional hotel. You must read the descriptions carefully and the reviews to make sure a place fits your needs.

On the eve of returning home, sitting in this lovely apartment and enjoying some solitude, I would still do the trip this way. I may be a little more selective on locations, and try to stay at least 2 days (sometimes 3) in each, instead of the few where we only had one night en route. Given the limitations of not driving here, I would say I did fairly well.

I may have a little “armchair” sociologist in me, getting this window on another person’s life and home, getting fuel for my future stories and books I will write. And part of me enjoys the adventure of not knowing exactly what we will find each time. Not only do you save some money off the expense of regular hotels, but you also gain the benefit of receiving an inside look at some of the real ways people live.

I am taking home with me a treasure trove of new experiences, ideas, inspirations and some lessons as well. How grateful I am for all of it.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Unsung art
Unhung art from the living room of the final Airbnb in Canary Wharf.

 

 

 

 

 

Time zone and life zone changes

Hello Friends!

Wishing you the very best as folks head back to school and we ease into the fall season. I read Libre Paley‘s post this weekend on The Kinder September and it got me to think about my approach to this change in season and that “September feeling” that some of us have.

I have always loved September. The crispness in the air, the waning of the summer humidity and the new school supplies were always a fun part of a new adventure. In my youth there was a new school outfit, eagerly worn on the first day (even though the weather may have been too warm). We reunited with friends and classmates. And there were new things to be learned and studied! (Yes, I was a geek or nerd, pick your label.)

As I have become an adult, I recognize this pull to start a new thing in the Fall. Last year it was my marriage and this blog. There are cycles to life, and there are cycles in seasons. Respecting this and honoring the transitions that accompany the cycles is vital to our health and well-being.

In the Fall, I try to get a little extra rest as the seasons change. As the darkness arrives, I try to make time for a cup of hot tea when it feels cozy and fulfilling. I eat soups and hot foods in addition to my daily salad. I plan for time to connect with loved ones.

time zones
Photo credit link

This year I am taking a 2-week trip with my husband to the U.K. (England and Scotland) to celebrate our first year anniversary. Right after our wedding we spent a few days in Mexico, but it was not a long enough break. So we saved to get ready for this trip. Since September is “shoulder season” for vacation travel, it is not as expensive for flights and hotel reservations as peak season.

The 6-hour time shift will be a little mind shift outside our routine “life zone” and will allow for some time to connect mindfully. I love travel adventures, especially when my husband is with me. We always enjoy new experiences, and come away with stories, shared jokes and a slew of yummy photos.

He is the better photographer, so while I may not post daily during our trip, when I do post, it is likely to show off his photography. 🙂

Hope you enjoy your month of September, and if you are in a “life zone” change of your own, I want to read more about it!

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Throwback Thursday: B minus work

This week’s edited piece is from a post I did back in December 2017. As I get ready to meet some deadlines for writing projects, it is a great reminder to just get the work drafted.

***

To those of you who are waiting for your blogs to be perfect to publish them, here is some advice I got originally from Brooke Castillo of the Life Coach School podcast. Do B minus work, but get it started ahead of time. It echoes advice I have received from other authors like Anne Lamott and Brene Brown: settle for shitty first drafts the first time out (SFD’s – aka stormy first drafts).

This is great advice for those of us who suffer from perfectionism. Often we procrastinate because we worry about our idea not being good enough or our final product not being polished enough. This is especially true for women, it seems, so we delay holding up our hand when we already know the answer.

We may need to practice greater confidence when it comes to starting things. Just getting started, and getting it out, we overcome the “activation energy” it takes to get the momentum moving. For me as a writer, I seldom struggle for a topic. Give me a topic and I can rattle on all day about it if you want.

But when it comes to telling a story or constructing an argument effectively, I know it takes me more time to get it right. Even if the words flow out, and they typically do when I give myself uninterrupted time to write, the final product is not complete.

art of scribbling
Photo credit link

It is best when I allow the words to flow and not worry too much about structure or ultimate form of a piece. When it comes to blogging, it is inherently a shorter form. I struggle with not going on for TOO long, so I often write a first version during half an hour in the afternoon and then return to edit in the morning when I am fresh.

At that point, I typically add graphics, correct grammar, perhaps cut out sections or paragraphs or sentences that wander and make sure the idea makes sense.

Not worrying too much about the reception of an idea is another way to get the work out there quickly. We can only know what is in our own minds, not what will resonate with others. So it is best not to worry and obsess about what they want, and focus instead of what we want to say (despite my recent worry about this).

What I realize now is that my blog has become a place where I can try out ideas, play around with stories I find interesting, or concepts I am trying out in my life. I have nothing specific to “sell” out here, and sometimes I have gotten useful feedback on my ideas.

The practice of sitting down once or twice a day and getting those ideas onto the screen has helped me clarify some of the questions I ask myself. Over time, the answers get refined, and the focus gets clarified.

If I do not start with B minus work, there is no opportunity to shape and polish it to become “A” work. But one of the great secrets to adulthood is that there are no grades anymore. We do not have to rely on others’ evaluations of us to be successful.

Every day we can decide how we want to assess our own success, and the quality of our days. That is probably the best news ever. If we can be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that we did the best we could for that day, it is always enough.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Enchanted by an idea

I have been possessed by an idea I had while at yoga class on Saturday. It reminds me of the notion Liz Gilbert describes in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It is one of those ideas that came to me with a visceral sense of excitement and fascination.

It is an idea that caused me to reach out to my favorite yoga teacher to collaborate, since it involves yoga as a tool for mindful leadership. Y’all know that I practice meditation and yoga regularly. Meditation is a daily practice and yoga is typically 3-4 times a week. I consider yoga one form of my meditation practice because it is about body awareness and has helped “ground” me in my life and truth more firmly.

As I contemplated this idea, I met some women after class who are also attendees of the class. We reflected in this women-only gym on how this hatha/soma yoga practice has enhanced our lives. I started to explore my idea with them, explaining how radically my world has changed since beginning to re-embody myself through this practice. They shared their own stories, and we sat for an hour in mutual exchange of some big life realizations.

enchanted dancing
Photo credit link

I carried that spark to my yoga teacher, asking if she would meet with me to discuss the idea, to figure out if we could co-create a workshop around this notion. I seemed to have confirmed there would be interest, but of course had not figured out the venue, the exact audience, the marketing, etc. That will come later. We will meet on Wednesday to discuss.

Who knows where it might go, but the idea has taken hold of me. Last night I woke up from sleep around 1:30 a.m. and the idea was with me in vivid color. It didn’t give me insomnia like some ideas do. But it did very firmly take hold of me, and it seemed to ask if I wanted to dance with it.

Indeed, I do want to dance. There is pleasure and excitement in the idea, and it is starting to blossom into more creative ideas within me. This is truly enchantment. It is allowing rather than pushing and striving. But it is also being ready for what emerges, even if a fluttery nervousness is also present. That is part of the process, and I accept it as well.

When did you last dance with an idea that would not leave you? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – move toward Joy

What brings you joy? 

This question can strike fear into the hearts of some people. If it has been some time since you experienced either spontaneous or cultivated joy, you may feel scarcity or grief.

If you have been living someone else’s idea of a “good life” but not your own, you probably feel a lack of joy. Or if things seem to be not going as planned in your life, and you feel a sense of numbness or sadness, joy seems far away. You may be like a poor kid looking through the windows of the candy store, knowing that joy exists (not in the form of candy, actually) but believing you cannot have it.

However, joy can be a daily practice as much as a feeling or an experience. I first learned about this from Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. I pulled out her book from my shelves last summer and started cultivating joy more intentionally when I realized my work life was no longer bringing me joy. For years, it had provided me with growth, challenge and satisfaction.

Then it seemed the minor annoyances I was tolerating started to grow into major annoyances. The bureaucrazy (yes, this is Freudian slip, and also deliberate) felt more overwhelming. On balance, the joy did not outweigh the suffering anymore. I no longer felt I belonged in that place, in that position.

joy disney
Photo credit link – Disney’s Joy character

I started finding joy in doing art projects at home, meditating, writing, doing yoga, reading books, and listening to podcasts that fed my brain new ideas. I started taking more joy in my relationship, planning my wedding (which took place last September). Instead of working late, I left the office early, enjoyed evenings on the patio, which is quite lovely in Minnesota this time of year.

My focus on finding and appreciating joy daily led me to the place where I am now. I feel healthy and more balanced than I have in years. My sleep has improved considerably, with much less insomnia than before. My eating habits have improved, and I struggle less with fighting cravings for sugar and junk food. Those things had been a “buffer” to my feelings and did not allow for me to sit with the reality of the change my soul was calling forth.

Joy is always not in the big, bright moments of happiness. These can be a part of a joyful life. However, it is often in the small, quiet moments of gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. Joy exists in moments of internal peace and in finding our center. Sometimes there is suffering embedded in joy, and it is an almost bittersweet experience. I would not trade it for any material thing.

What brings you joy? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com