Friday, October 31, 2014

Learn to Play and Play to Learn

Here's a photo I've taken, not once or twice, but maybe ten or twenty times.  Who knows, possibly more.   I just can't seem get it right with my iPhone.  I know if I used a more sophisticated camera, I might have a better chance.  But I want to capture the image with my iPhone, and my inability to do it really annoys me.  First I get a little peckish, then I convince myself I don't really care anyway.  I become aloof like a house cat and walk away, a little bit above it all.  

I'm going to go ahead and claim this as a "serious" talent--an ability to take something as light hearted as a photo of a dandelion and turn it into a project about getting it right and getting it wrong, about anticipation and disappointment, about whether I can or whether I can't.

Can you say buzzkill?

I've noticed this "talent" pop up a lot these days, as I try my hand at many new things to get ready for the first Impact Guild event on Sunday.  I watch the clamp of seriousness grip onto anything from planning my remarks to whether or not cake pops are just right for the tables.  And I don't know if you noticed, but the invitation Kirsten and I have put out in the world is to come play with us.

If nothing else, my personal experience with seriousness this month has convinced me more than ever that cultivating an attitude of playfulness in creative endeavors is helpful.  Playful is a lot more spacious than serious, playful gives plenty of room for mistakes, for first tries, for second tries, for a lifetime of tries actually.  It reminds our ego that the work is not really about us anyway--it's always for someone else, in service of someone else.  So if they laugh, all the better.  Playfulness invites our zany self, our silly self, our dark and stormy self--our whole range of intelligence into a project.  And most important it keeps learning fun.

The biggest risk of seriousness, for me at least, is that it can coyly convince me to shy away from learning. It gets me cozied up in my comfort zone, which feels safe for my ego, but in reality is dull and boring, a place where my soul can start to whither.

And who wants that?  My wish for myself this week, and for anyone whose working on a new endeavor, is to find a way to be playful, to wag more and bark less, to spin, to cartwheel, to swing or to fly, to find your way of getting from here to there that wakes you up to the wonder, to the possibilities right here, where the water is clean and runs from a spigot, where the leaves change color, where Madison Bumgarner can pitch like a god, and where ghosts and goblins and princesses and spooks will be knocking on your door tonight.  Have fun with it.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday October 24, 2014

On days like this

Carter napped.
Riley parked matchbox cars
on a cardboard parking lot.
Suzanne made me 
a soy latte
with her fancy machine.

The memory of these days
like impossible jewels.

Saturday October 25th.
I didn't get that quite right yesterday.
It's more like this.

On a day like this

Carter napped.
Riley parked matchbox cars
on a cardboard parking lot.
Suzanne made me
a soy latte
with her fancy machine.

I hold the memory
in my hand
like a brilliant jewel
so real
I can touch it.

What is impossible
is something else

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message

About three years ago, my friend Laurel shared a blog post with me about finding your calling.  It was a short video clip with a down to earth, approachable woman named Tara Mohr.  She had taken the question I had heard many times before, “What’s your calling?” and added a short, but important phrase.  Her version of that big question was “What is your calling right now?” I can't find that particular post, but another of Tara's that is similar is this one.

Adding the phrase right now, to the big question shifted two things for me.  First, a concept that had been big and theoretical became more manageable in an instant--like I didn’t have to know the answer to the rest of my life, instead, what I needed to do was to pay attention to my life in the present moment, and the rest would follow.  The feeling that accompanied the shift was, “Phew, what a relief!” The second thing I noticed was that my energetic focus did a distinct pivot.  Instead of looking out down some imaginary path, into a better future where I might or might not ever arrive--I found myself looking inward, checking in with my own instinct about what was needed in my life, right now.  From that perspective next steps were more obvious and pragmatic.  The feeling that accompanied this second shift was a sense of being anchored to my own inner knowing--when I am tired, I sleep, when my children are hungry, I feed them, when it is time to write, I sit down and write.  Ten years of mothering and writing has shown me that this inner knowing, for myself and others, is a steady and reliable guide.

I thought to myself, “This Tara is onto something--her perspective is a little different,” and I started following her blog regularly.  She was talking about things that were buzzy and in the news, like confidence and doing work you love, and empowerment.  But her approach was a bit slower, had a lot more soul in it, and felt more, I don't know, familiar but in a way I had never seen before.  She was on on a mission to advocate for women’s voices from a place of healing and love.  And the way she worked her mission fascinated me.

More than any other writer or blogger I knew, Tara was willing to experiment.  She posted poetry, videos, letters to her readers.  She ran blogging contests, writers workshops, and an online class called Playing Big.  That class, became the basis for her book Playing Big:  Finding Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message.  In it's pages you will find teachings that address:

--managing your inner critic
--listening to your voice of inner wisdom
--relating to fear productively
--learning from feedback
--designing experiments that deepen learning and help you live your calling right now

This is a book that’s bound to be popular, but that’s not why I want you to read it.  I want you to read it because it is excellent--a smart, well thought out guide, from a wise woman who believes that what women, regular women, have to say, is a perspective deeply needed on the planet right now, that inside ourselves we carry a brilliance that the world has not yet had the chance to see.   I couldn’t agree more.

It is a real honor to have the opportunity to host Tara on November 2nd. I hope you'll be able to join us!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday October 17, 2014

Just this one thing.  
An unnecessary kindness.
A gift of plenty
dropped off by a neighbor.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Becoming more ourselves

On Friday a friend of mine sat in my living room and she started crying.  "I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I am totally filled by being with my kids.  I don't think I want to work right now."

On Monday a friend, a physician, told me a story about taking a stand to spend more time with her kids, "It was so hard to say what I needed. I felt judged," is how she put it.

Yesterday, one friend whose entrepreneurial career has grown into a form of service that helps and inspires other entrepreneurs, she said, "I worry I should be volunteering more at school."

And then in a second conversation yesterday another friend said to me, "My boss just couldn't understand why I didn't want the next promotion.  It's like those power woman conferences that I've stopped going to.  They just don't get me."

I've felt it too--the doubt, the wondering if I'm fitting in or getting it right.  

I'm not exactly sure what it is that is plaguing us, but there is a lot of it going around.  Here's what it feels like to me.

It feels like we are tap dancing fast on the the head of a pin.
It feels like we are wondering if we are going to get an A or a B or a C in how we choose to spend our time.
It feels like something is shaming us, something inside and something outside too. 
And it feels like we are exhausted of the whole thing, tired of trying to get it right.

Did I capture that for you?  That's what it feels like to me, and I want us all to stop with this madness.  Indeed, I believe it would be a great service to the world if we could figure out how to stop spinning our wheels on all the ways we might be falling short.  A lot of good energy would become more available.

What I want to propose is that, when we are doing what is necessary, we don't feel all that confused.  We may be working hard, we may not even like it, but at least we know we are doing the right thing--the thing we have to do.  In those times we go to bed the good kind of tired and sleep all night long.  The trouble comes with choice.

The tap dancing feeling comes in when we are at choice, but we are no longer in charge of ourselves, when we are doing and doing because we feel pressure from the outside, but we can't figure out how to stop.  My sense of what I've heard out on the street is that we are in a position of having choice, but we don't ever feel confident that we are choosing the right thing.  This is causing a lot of suffering.

I think it is within our abilities to quiet a good bit of this turmoil.  And it has to do with a shift, a shift from outer to inner.  A shift from doing to listening.  A shift from comparing to curiosity.  A shift from accomplishing goals, to becoming more ourselves.  

Yes, that is it--becoming more ourselves.  This is what I really want for us.  That would feel like stepping off the head of a pin, and finally letting our bare feet touch the vast grassy field that is waiting for us.  I think if we decided to measure our choices by whether or not they helped us become more ourselves, and then we were actually brave enough to let ourselves live this way, a lot of the doubt would disintegrate in an instant.

My biggest hope in hosting Tara Mohr with Kirsten on November 2nd, is that you will feel a new sense of permission to listen to your inner voice and Play Big from there.  That you will find some words, or a new perspective, that might help you commit to becoming more yourself, knowing this is exactly what the world needs now.  We do not need bright women with choices and resources to be comparing themselves to other people, cloning each other's success.  We need this group of women to serve as pioneers who find new ways, or advocate for old ways that are about to be forgotten, or who go sideways to find a new way through.  We don't need to measure up, we need to create anew.

Love you guys.

What you need to know, is that this phrase, "becoming more ourselves" comes from my daughter's pre-school classroom, wisdom from her teacher, Paula.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Releasing to instinct

Dear friends,
Today I want to be at prayer.  I want to stop caring about how or if it works.  I want to release myself to my instinct to lay my head in my hands and let the words of communion with the divine flow without reservation.  This is my deepest desire. 

I am exhausted of my search for understanding.  I give up.  I understand nothing.  And maybe I don't need to.  Maybe it is time to let intellect take a rest, and let the words flow through light a song, like the babble of a creek, like the rain on a tin roof.  It doesn't need to mean anything.  I may end up the babbling lady in the back corner, you may think I'm crazy.  I'm ok with that.  At least right this minute, I'm ok with that.

Work heart, work.
Suzanne, our mantra continues

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

About the blazer

In my last post, I stirred up some confusion.  It's about the blazer.

I think it's worth exploring for a minute, because what we wear matters.  I mean on one level we know it doesn't matter; we are not what we wear.  And yet what we wear identifies us in the world--this is the purpose of uniforms, after all.  

So who was I being when I did that ten minute speed-shop?

I was running on instinct that day.  It was time for me to move and take action, and I had ten minutes.  So I stepped into a well-worn part of myself that had learned one way of being in the world.  That one way required a blazer, an ivy league education, and sterling achievements.  I was competent, trained to produce excellent work, in order to be called on to do more excellent work.  For ten minutes, I was that blazer wearing young woman who lived and died by the reviews again.

She pops up from time to time, because she still lives inside of me, that competent performer, who craves the good reviews.  She was the CEO of my mind for a good long time, and she did a fine job.  But motherhood ousted her from the position as the boss of me.   Looking back on the early days of parenting... the days when, "I wasn't trained for this," was the phrase that went through my head.  The days I resigned to walking around with spit up on my t-shirt because I just couldn't keep up with keeping myself in clean clothes.  The days when I took my rest standing up and sought refuge with other friends who were weathering the same transition... When I think about that time now, I give myself more space to feel into how hard that was.  I had no idea how much I was changing.

Motherhood taught me to be with myself without my achievements.  My children, my husband, my own parents, my struggle to get by from day to day, all insisted that I move on from seeking praise and laying blame.  I hate to say it but it was all very humiliating for me.  Our culture is not much into humility, and I know you'll probably cringe at the word, but humility was the antidote for for the blazer.  

Because I learned I was loved anyway.  Me without all the bells and whistles, me in a t-shirt with spit up on it, me totally incompetent, often unpleasant, a bit screwed up, I still mattered.  Not for what I could do, or how I was, but for the fact that I showed up at all.  Day by day I started to learn that showing up, just showing up and attending to what was necessary, mattered.  It mattered a lot, maybe it mattered the most of all.

Now, I want to be very clear here.  This is not some romanticization of motherhood, this is not some vaulting up of the domestic life, or argument for or against anything.  This is just a story, my story, about discovering what matters and shaking off expectations that get digested over a lifetime.  This can happen in your life anytime anywhere--a lost job, an illness, moving to a new city, it could be anything really--even winning the lottery.  

Motherhood is what did it for me.  It took me to the core of my life where I learned to love what I love without being driven by big expectations.  I know, you're probably going to cringe at that too--we live in a go big, or go home era--we just love that word big.  But giving up big expectations does not mean you end up with nothing.  

Giving up big expectations, especially externally driven ones, means you get to play again, you get to fall in love with what you love again, and just enjoy that.  

One thing I learned through that kind of play is that growth is our nature--and that is big.  Even when we sit still and do nothing, there is something. This is a core principal of zen practice, and the only way to learn it is by seeing for yourself.  The something that remains in meditation feels a lot like love.  Its been important to my writing, to the events that I've produced, and to becoming a coach.  The blazer girl thought all of those things weren't worth the time.  The outcome was too risky.  The projects were too small, too sweet, too nice, they didn't pack enough of a punch.  She was wrong, she didn't know about the something that feels like love, and so she had stopped playing at all. 

What do you wear when you're showing up simply, as someone in love, doing what is in her nature?  I'm not sure yet.   Come to the event with Tara Mohr on November 2nd, and you'll see for yourself!

For the record, here I am in my blazer:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

One Step Straight On

As I drove the last few blocks to my house from the airport last week I looked up and noticed  that the cathedral of trees sheltering Bryant street had aged while I was in Italy.  Fecund branches, drooping with sumptuous green leaves, full of as much life as the legs of a teenage girl in shorts, had become her mother, crackling and vivid, on her way to the final beauty pageant of the year.  The season had changed.  Just like that.

The Final Beauty Pageant

And so it has for me too.

It feels like not so long ago that I wrote about the day I walked down the aisle of Whole Foods, eating pretzels from an open bag, and realized something had just changed inside of me.  Something was ending and something else was just beginning to show itself to the world.  My sense at that time was that I needed to step out of the nest a bit, to share myself, my energy, my abilities with the world beyond my doorstep.

So I did what any smart woman who came of age in the eighties and nineties would do.  I went to Bloomingdales and bought myself a blazer.  Seriously, I did.  Even that day, as I took the ten minutes between carpools to speed shop, the idea of buying a blazer felt ridiculous, outdated, and tinged with desperation.

But it was something.  It was a next step--not the perfect step, not the right step, just one step.  

There are so many times in life that we don't know what the next step is, nothing feels exactly right, confusion reigns, paralysis threatens.  The thing we do right there, in that moment, matters so much.  

First things first, we must be still and remember, we are called on to love, to heal, to create, not to be perfect.

Then we take one small step--write one sentence, make one phone call, buy a blazer...whatever we have to do to move in the direction of yes.  

Today I'm looking back at the memory of myself buying that blazer and giving that gal in the frame a high five.  I'm proud of her. She did it, she took a step "straight on" as my zen teacher would say.  I have gotten some writing done.  I've made progress on projects I care about. 

And today I am proud to announce that Kirsten Romer and I are launching our new business together.  It is called Impact Guild.

With Impact Guild, Kirsten and Cristina are on a mission to amplify wise, creative voices.  Through unique events, group experiences, and individual coaching we are holding space for new leaders and creative work to emerge and have positive impact in the world.

We will launch our collaboration on Sunday afternoon, November 2nd as we host rising star Tara Mohr, fellow blogger, CTI coach, and creative soul who you have met here on my blog before.  She has just published a new book called Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message in which she advocates for women's voices.  Her work encourages us to listen in closely to our wisest selves in order to leap in the direction of yes, whatever yes looks like for us, for the sake of ourselves, our families, and our world.

Come join us and celebrate the beginning of Playing Big!