On my Facebook page today, a friend posted that 12/12/12 is the day of interconnectedness. It is a day to think about how we are interconnected. I have been contemplating all the connections in my life and how much richer my life has become as I reach out and make a point to make connections.
This year, we traveled to Oregon and were able to make connections with 3 vineyards that are being run by people we knew more than 20 years ago. We had an amazing time tasting the wine, talking about old times and having interesting "connections." In August I was able to connect with some high school friends I haven't seen in ages and in October I spent some time with my oldest friend in Albuquerque.
Connecting isn't for the faint of heart. I have reached out to many old friends and sometimes old friends should in fact continue to be just that. We simply don't have anything in common now. But with most of my old connections, I am foraging new friendships. They add a depth of history and nostalgia to my experience that is more rich than I could have ever imagined.
For me it takes a special kind of bravery to connect with old friends. There is always the question of why we didn't keep in touch in the first place. There is emotional risk that maybe we aren't in touch because the other person didn't want to be in relationship with us anymore. We are planning a trip to Europe this summer and we are reaching out to old friends to see if we can connect while we are there. We hope our overtures will be met with joy and excitement. We worry that people really won't want to hang out with us after all. We expand ourselves by hopping over edges and facing our own insecurities. We become deeper human beings as we grow and learn and expand.
My heart has been touched my connections with my friends around the globe. You are a blessing in my life and I look forward to many more "connections" over a bottle of wine or a dinner that lingers into the night. Your thought ignite my thinking and your vulnerability and humaness leave me speechless. Blessings to all for connections during this holiday month. I am happy to be interconnected with you.
Sometimes I take myself too seriously. The universe has a way of giving me a reality check--or maybe it's my children, it's hard to tell! Anyway, a few days ago I posted my journey to create my future reality with all the bells and whistles and fancy drawings. Later that evening, I was showing my husband the picture that is now taped to my office wall. As we walked over to the drawing, I noticed a little smiley face on the right-hand side that I hadn't drawn. It was a cute little face. I am sure that it was drawn by one of my children--although they both deny it.
I had a flash of disappointment that they had "ruined" my drawing, but I quickly realized it was a perfect representation of chaos, the unexpected, and humor. Somehow freedom comes through that for me. I have worked on the concept of "chaos" in my life for years and see order and chaos as a scale with chaos on one end and order on the other. I like to think I can choose what part of the scale will best achieve my current goals and I am not locked in to a "right" way of doing things. Embracing chaos allows the unexpected to be better than what I would plan myself--and sometimes the world generously gifts me experiences beyond my wildest expectations.
I like thinking about a potluck as an example of embracing chaos. If I use the order end of the scale, I can tell everyone what to bring. I don't know what they like to make and I don't know their skill sets but I get to have the menu I want. If I use the chaos end of the scale, everyone might bring dessert (we could order pizza and the kids would remember it forever as the best potluck ever) but everyone would get to make the dish they want to make. If I used the middle of the scale, I could make a main dish and then let everyone else bring whatever they want. This would make dinner appear somewhat normal while allowing individual expression. Any of these perspectives will work and might be best in any given situation. It is being at choice about embracing chaos and how I want to embrace chaos that allows the beauty to unfold.
Most days I choose to be more on the chaos end of the scale. I love the wild ride of being able to bounce off the unexpected. For me this makes me feel free and fun-loving and easy going. For others it would make them crazy and lead to some very unpleasant feelings Think about what end of the chaos scale you are most comfortable end and then try to stretch your range in both directions. See what you notice....I'll be curious to hear your thoughts!
I have had an interesting fall. My kids have been very busy with several activities, Mel is teaching 3 evenings a week which upsets our dinner ritual, and my daughter just left for chef school yesterday. I have been off balance and trying to get my feet. I am usually pretty good with change. I even seek it out. Change is fun. Before I married Mel, I used to move to a new house because it is fun. Now I rely more on habits and ritual to make our busy lives work and this fall hasn't been a normal fall.
I have felt personally unsettled. I have been wishing for more close friends, imagining some slight changes in my work life. Longing for just a little bit more challenge, being drawn to people with lots of tattoos who (in my imagination) seem to live a lifestyle of freedom and expansive thinking. I have been dreaming of being a little more creative and wanting to come up with a plan for creating my own intellectual property. I had some ideas back in the summer--some good ones. Somehow they got pushed into the background by my "life."
I realize I have an opportunity for a new beginning today. I can make some shifts, make some plans, start creating more of what I want. I am in a great position to do this from. My business is successful, we aren't dealing with any crises in my business or at home. It is simply shifting and making some commitments and changes so my real life looks more like the dream in my head.
So, today is a new beginning for me. I thought about what I want to have happen in the next months. For me having my daughter move away to school has been an intense process. Something about her being at the beginning of her life has had me want to help her, really launch her right, and has also made me ready to reflect on my own life.
I have been thinking about how to approach my exploration. I decided to start with my current reality mind map. I made a mind map of my current reality. It is pictured here. I put myself in the center and then the facets of my life that are important around the center circle.
I make these mind maps all the time for clients but haven't ever done a big one for myself. As I look at it, I get a glimpse of why I am feeling unsettled. It is in some of the areas that are focused on my own personal growth that I am feeling an unusual need for stimulation. My family life seems settled and very good. Solid. My work is solid but I am not pushing very hard toward a goal. My health is much better than is was a couple of years ago but now I am restless--wanting more in all the facets of my life. I am craving, well..flair. I want to be hanging out with artists and writers and creating from my soul.
I am also curious about how all the of the roles I play in my life lead to how I spent my time and I am curious about whether or not I am at choice with my roles or if my life sometimes happens contrary to my own intentions.
I decided to create a drawing of a future reality "tree." Here's what I drew:
This was an intense experience drawing all this. I had tears and felt like all that I want was within my reach and my vision. It was very clear. I felt I created something beautiful just for me. Next I get to figure out how to shift from where I am now to where I want to be.
I start working with my new coach on Wednesday. I know I want to tackle the hard topics of what I want to be a part of my life and how to get there. I want to have a clear big picture vision hanging on the wall in my office when we start working together. I know that creating the life I want is brave work and I will need to be gentle with myself. I will add to this drawing over the next couple of days. Even as I am writing, I notice that leadership isn't on here and that is very important to me. I'll find a place to add it. It is a journey--one I own.
This is the kind of work I do with my clients and I would love to hear from you what is important to you in your future life and any thoughts you have about this exercise.
Blessings to you..
While I am working with a new coach recently and she says, "I'm guessing you have a pretty good idea what your values are--since you've been a coach for so long."
"I have them right on my desk on a post-it note," I say. "Shall I tell you what they are?"
I read them to her and to tell her what they mean to me. They feel like old friends, like a part of me that is the both the best of me, and who I really want to be on my best day all at the same time. They feel peaceful and safe and keep me tethered to the earth. I feel my energy build as I describe each one to her. To let her know who I really am feels luxurious and nurturing. I have someone actually sitting with me who wants to know what makes me tick. Who I am.
Now some of them are still perfect: Family, Edgy, Grace, Art, and something I call The Ripple--making an impact in the world. But I am surprised that I want to change some--I always thought values are so core that they rarely change. I have one called "Intimacy" that I change to "Relationship." Since I first did my values, I have completed a coaching certification in Organization and Relationship Systems--Relationships of all kinds are really important to me. I get rid of one called "My People" which is about community that seems to be covered by "Relationship." These feel more right, more current, more ready to face the future.
I have one value I call "Slow Food." It is about selecting the best ingredients, sourcing the highest quality (usually organic or natural) and creating memorable food. It used to be about things cooking a long time to enhance flavors and to create complex and interesting dishes. It could be paired with "Slow Wine." The pairing of food and wine are a great joy to me. Last fall, I became intrigued by the idea of Raw Food. It is eating mostly fruits and vegetables and I find it a healthy way to live. Hard core raw foodists are typically vegan and there are various factions among the raw community who eat in a variety of healthy but restrictive ways. So far, I have been moderate in my raw explorations. I tried being mostly raw and didn't like how I felt (my boys wouldn't drink another smoothie and my 18-year-old daughter started eating dinner at friends' each night). I have tried being vegan but didn't like how I felt. At the moment, I eat raw food as much of the time as possible and then we eat some natural meat, some grains, etc. It seems to work at the moment. My kids eat tons of fruits and vegetables, everyone is healthy and we are eating the healthiest we have ever eaten. But it isn't traditional slow food.
Because of all this, my value of slow food doesn't seem to fit quite right anymore. The value is the same but raw food isn't particularly slow to make. In fact, eating a bunch of bananas for a meal is very quick and delicious. But I like the idea of "Slow Food." I guess when I think of all that goes into the food we eat, it is still pretty slow. The organic farmers have to grow it, and I know organic farming is a slow process--sometimes removing pests by hand. I guess as we buy natural meat it is aged and natural chickens aren't pumped full of hormones to make them bigger quicker.
So, maybe I'll leave the "Slow Food" value alone and realize that it also means taking the time to get it right, to make a trip to the right store and to create relationships with farmers and producers that are in fact very slow. As I am writing, I am realizing that I actually value "Slow" all by itself. Knitting a sweater, repairing something old, slow lovemaking, slow conversations, a day with nothing to do.... Maybe there are two values: "Amazing Food" and "Slow." I think I'll consider that for a while.
I have another value called "Frog Pond" that is about sitting out by the pond in my yard with friends, taking time and being together over long dinners sharing and laughing. I still like it but it has a bittersweetness to it for me now. I integrated this into my business values for my company that closed last year. When I read it, I am reminded of this circumstance and the residual feeling of failure and regret. I had even considered "Frog Pond " as a business name at one point. It was truly integrated into what I wanted us to be as a business. I toy with the idea of changing this personal value. This feels a lot like me at the moment--having given all of myself to the business and now trying to figure out what next. But I think the "Frog Pond value is truly right for me. I think there is a big lesson for me in figuring out how to incorporate life's disappointments back into my life. What do I do with all the stuff from the business? What do I do with art projects that don't quite work out? What do I do with the wedding presents from my first marriage? Mel jokingly asks me, "Did we get that for our first wedding?" It makes light of how we must combine our failures into our current lives--the things that didn't go so well have to fit into our stories, our lives and our futures. When he asks this, I feel loved and accepted for all that life has brought me. Am I willing to do the same for the "Frog Pond" value? Can I accept that I gave it all that I had and it didn't work? I don't know. But I don't think I want to give up the value of being with loving friends with a bottle of wine and good food sharing our lives. It is what I do to feed my soul.
So for now the list is:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 I'm on a spree. I've been clearing out or "editing" as my friend Shawn calls it. There seems to be a lot to edit out. We have been acquiring things this year. We have some things from my grandparents home that was shared with us by my parents, we have some more treasures from our friend Shawn. I recently refinished a buffet that we acquired from "freecycle." We have nearly a million art projects our kids have done that fill every surface. They are all special. We have too much stuff. It's time to edit.
Mostly in my life up until now I have gotten rid of things after they are worn out. They are used up, barely thrift store material. It hasn't been editing as much as disposal. I simply haven't had to deal with deciding what to do with things that still are usable. I thought I knew how to clear things from our home.
Over the Christmas break we were in New Mexico and I was enthralled by the show "Hoarders." It seemed so crazy that people would become overwhelmed by their stuff. It was so crazy to see THOSE PEOPLE. Clearly I am not a hoarder--I'm not really even a "stuff" person. I'm not really a big consumer. I've read Barbara Shearer and her ideas on how to clean a little bit at a time. I even follow some of her suggestions.
But I see how it happens. It is when I become the owner of too many things I like or even love. It is hard to let go of things I still value. It isn't my actions, it is my brain. In fact, I have a new problem in my life, one I haven't had before. I have to learn how to "edit" the good stuff so that my life has space in it. And I am not sure I know how to do this yet.
I am craving bare spaces--table tops without things on them, shelved that aren't packed to the brim. It isn't easy. Although Mel is supportive of the idea of getting rid of stuff, his ideas about what to edit out aren't always the same as mine. Sometimes I place things in the bin to get rid of and people take them out again. I have realized that things I give my daughter do now get rid of clutter in my house. They are part of the chaos of her bedroom. I have always known that I can't save every scribble the boys create. I know they love the process, not the end result and I have become ruthless in my disposal of their art, but they are still winning. They are full time creators and I can only clear things out part time.
However, to blame my family for the excess in my home would be folly. It is me. I am seduced by the memories and the dreams that are held in the material possessions that make up our lives. The wine glass from my first marriage, the Hudson Bay blanket given to us by Mel's dad that the tenant used for her dog, baby clothes from Sela's first year, books I loved, books other people might love, purses, shoes, an old VCR, a pile of power cords from a previous business, vases I use in the summer, cookbooks, art, old costume jewelry I used to love...I wonder will I need it again, I wonder if I will need to re buy it, but even more I notice I am tethered to the disappointed dreams of an alternative life I am not living. I feel my own inadequacies in the things I am unable to let go. It is as if my dreams and my material possessions have become one. And in my ties to \what is old there is no room for the new, the fresh, the needed, the desired. I have become a product of my past, sometimes mired in my past failures.
As I read this, I realize I don't have any criteria for my editing. I don't have a tried and true way to assess whether or not to keep things. I think my default in the past has been "do I love it?" This has worked with less stuff but is failing me now. I realized there is something about value and something about usefulness I need to consider. I think the question that gets in my way is: "Is it valuable?" It keeps my house full and my spaces covered. In my head there is a mythical garage sale or listing on Kijiji that never materializes. I wonder how people learn this. Do we all have to find our own way in a bountiful society? Is this a private struggle for everyone or have I missed some fundamental lesson from my family that has a tendency to hang on to things? I think I will have to find my own way with this one.
I am pretty sure it is time to change the questions. I know I am committed to keeping usable items out of the landfill. I feel a responsibility to sell or donate or freecycle the things I am editing out. I think if I can create a meaningful framework for myself, I can more easily send things out the door. I can feel kind and bountiful rather than like I need to squeeze every penny of value out of the things I am editing out. I can allow myself to believe that more beauty will come my way and it is my job to complete the circle by sharing my extras with others.
I think I will try a 3 question approach:
1. Do I love it?2. Have I used it in the last year? Will I use it in the next year?
3. Who might really be able to use this? How do I get it to them?
I'll let you know how it goes.
A couple of weeks ago, I sent my friend Katie a note asking if she would like to get together for coffee. I had reached out to her back in January and she had said she was busy until March. It was the end of March and I thought I would try again. I got a message back from her that she loves our talks and really wishes she had time for a coffee but that she just doesn't--maybe it would have to be a chance meeting at Starbucks.
I didn't know what to think. I asked Mel what he thought and he said, "well, clearly, that's a brush off."
On the face of it, it sounded like a brush off, but I didn't think. I was confused and unclear how to respond. I felt sad that someone I really liked didn't have time for me. I felt sad that most of the people around me feel like they are moving really fast and I can't (or don't want to) keep up. I felt a bit lonely. I wondered how I can create relationships I want when we can't find time for coffee. But, what can I do? I resolved to blog about busy, fast paced lives. "Where are we really rushing to, anyway?" I gave up on coffee with Katie and even thought, "chance meeting...not a chance."
Well, about 3 days later I decided to run down to Locke Street to Goodness Me to get some potatoes for dinner. I am not happy with the organic potatoes at Fortino's and have been trying to support Goodness Me because they are genuinely trying to provide great organic produce I can almost afford. I found a great parking spot and was getting out of my car and walking to the meter to pay when I looked up and saw my friend Katie walking up. She held up her travel mug. "I'm going for a latte now. Do you have time?"
I was stunned. Here we were having the chance coffee she had dreamed up. It had happened 3 days after she suggested it. I fumbled around putting money in the meter box and managed to get the ticket on the dash as we both reiterated, "this is pretty unbelievable."
We walked into Starbucks, both of us feeling like we were walking a bit crooked from the surprise of the connection. We talked for about 2 hours. We sat side by side on the comfy couch in front of the fake fireplace and the world disappeared. She asked all the right questions and was so kind and caring that the ice around my heart started to melt. I talked about the last year and the pain I have had as I closed my business and have struggled to find the right work during the recession. I shared a story about a woman in the grocery store two days before who seemed to dislike my children on sight who glared at us and made rude comments every time we saw her. I talked about feeling violated and feeling like the world wasn't quite what I wanted it to be.
I let myself be open and honest and vulnerable. I cried--right there in Starbucks. Katie shared her stories and they were amazing and inspiring. If you want to know more about Katie, you can read her amazing blog at: www.katieg.ca
Most earth-shattering for me was the concept of intention and being able let the universe provide for me. I struggle with faith both generally and specifically. This meeting was such a clear example of intention--hers, not mine. It would have never occurred to me to ask for a chance encounter with Katie. I wasn't feeling like the universe had been giving me what I needed. I was feeling tired, raw and trying to recover from the last year.
At some point Katie said, "Right now, Melanie, there is no place in the world I would rather be than right here." The thought of this opened my heart. It was true for me to. In that moment, suddenly life was more than enough.
Then, I had a thought. Maybe I've been working too hard, trying to make things happen instead of setting some positive intentions and allowing them happen.
I shared some stories with Katie about my life and the amazing abundance. I told her about lying in bed in the middle of the night in the wee hours of the morning two years ago and thinking I would really like to start collecting art. I told her about the art that has started to arrive in my life in so many ways.
I told her about a friend who shared some amazing jewelry with me recently and how it has made me feel more beautiful and stylish.
I told her I had been wanting to go on vacation more and my father-in-law has offered to share his timeshare with us and we are going away in June.
I told her about thinking I would really like a new big piece of furniture in my dining room and how I found a Buffet on Free-cycle(http://www.freecycle.org/group/CA/Ontario) that I refinished and have in my dining room. It is beautiful.
I realized as I was talking that I seem to do well when I set intentions, hope for good, and ask for what I need. Then a really creepy thought came to me. What if I have been expecting the worst,too--summoning up the negative, seeing the glass as perpetually empty. What if I have expected crabby, mean people in my life and I have gotten what I expected? What if it really is up to me to change what the world is handing me by changing what I am asking for? What if I have been selling myself short?
I caught a glimmer of the idea of asking for a more fulfilling life for myself. I want to expect better, to intend better and to expect a better life. To live in gratitude rather than pain. It was a full feast to think about for my mind and spirit.
At some point, Katie and I stumbled outside, still a bit woozy from the power of the encounter.
As I am writing this, a few days later, I still have tears. I believe forgot to look for the best in my life and got stuck expecting the worst. I forgot to need, to hope, to desire, to dream. I forgot to ask for what I need. I got cranky and bitchy and full of expectations and left gratitude and wonder behind.
Now what? Look out..
When we first moved to Canada, we came together--it was Easter of 2002. Mel had a job offer at McMaster University and I had agreed to come and see if I thought I could live in Hamilton. We both liked it a lot. We looked at houses and found an amazing house in a older part of Hamilton. We were so excited! We put an offer in on the house and went back to Denver, Colorado and waited to see what would happen. Well, they didn't accept our offer. We had a second choice house that we put an offer in on, and that offer forced a previous offer to firm up. So, we were out of luck. No house.
I came back to Hamilton by myself about a month later and went on a whirlwind tour of about 20 houses in Dundas, Ancaster and Hamilton. I found our lovely home on the escarpment between Dundas and Ancaster and they accepted our offer. It was a perfect house for a bed and breakfast and we called it the Twisted Magnolia Bed and Breakfast. For three years we had a wide variety of guests from all over the world. We were busy, had great food, and hosted a bunch of weddings when same sex marriage became legal in Ontario. And we got married on the front steps of the house in August of 2003 with 125 people who love us. It is our home.