Author Archive

what lies beneath…

This is a rather full day for this river. On a not full day, you can see the shopping carts lodged in the mud from where I’m assuming people have thrown them in. (There’s a shopping center a very short distance off to the right.) And yet, at the moment of this photo, there is no thought of shopping carts languishing & rusting away. There is just a bit of serene English countryside.

In this age of social media image curation, we all need to remember that we’re not getting full stories. We’re seeing the image on the surface. The same goes when meeting someone on the street or having a passing interaction with someone. Whether the exchange is pleasant or sour, we see that moment’s snapshot, but not the full story.

Reminding myself of that very often changes my reactions. How about you?

floating on the wind

This photo was taken on a day of great emotional turbulence for me. And it is a photo to me of such peace and joy.

A reminder that the latter does not stop existing when the former is present.

the definition of myself

When I was 5, I spent a very brief time in kindergarten before I was moved up to first grade. (I missed playing with shaving cream sculptures on wax paper — I remember that!)

All through grade school (elementary, middle, & high school), I was the youngest in my class, and I was at the top of the class. I graduated from high school, having just turned 17, as valedictorian with not only a 4.0 GPA but also a 100.8% average. (Someone did some extra credit along the way. 100% wasn’t enough.)

At university, I was still the youngest in my department (not sure about the whole university — probably not), but it was now a bit of a bigger pond. I was still near the top, but I graduated magna cum laude, not summa cum laude.

In graduate school, there was actually one person in my class who was younger than me! And grades weren’t really a thing. They were there, sort of. (It was an MFA in acting, so it was more about the faculty verbal & written evaluations than the letter grades.) But I did get some feedback during my evaluations from one of the faculty members, someone who had taught many of the super elite alums, that again gave me a stamp of approval of being at the top.

As I write this, I am in my early 40s. I am proud of the life I have and the person I am. But I have not risen to the top of my first chosen profession. I am no longer the youngest, or the smartest, or the best. And, in my moments of reflection, I ponder if that was ever really the case in my younger years, or if it was just a bit of a false perception.

I spent so many years being defined by the combo of youngest & smartest. It has been (and still is) a very interesting, sometimes easy, sometimes difficult path to letting go of that definition and listening for what defines me now. Which is also changeable. At the moment, I feel a great kinship to the labels of listener & seeker. We’ll see where that stands in another 40 years.

How do you define yourself? Has that changed since you were younger? Liz has had some thoughts on this as well.

the only thing constant…

As a nomad, it may surprise you to know that I am not always comfortable with change. Don’t get me wrong… There are also aspects of change that I love. It’s why I live the way I do. But there are pockets of discomfort with me much of the time.

Two small examples…

As someone with a somewhat unadventurous palate, if I am in a place with cuisines very different from my preferences, I carry that bit of discomfort while I’m there. I admire the foodies; I unfortunately am not one.

Because communication is of the utmost importance to me, if I’m in a place where I don’t speak the language, I have to stay in the uneasy feeling of not being able to understand others or express myself easily.

My challenge to myself is to sit into that discomfort and ask why. Within my love of change lives the discomfort of change. I rather revel in exploring both.

What is your relationship to change?

la paz

“Nada vale tanto como la paz.”
(Nothing is worth as much as peace.)
– José Mujica

The former president of Uruguay (fascinating man — please Google) spoke these words, and they touched a street artist in Colombia who painted them on this wall in Medellín.

In times of turbulence, we recognize the value of tranquility. Which leads me to wonder how much we long for something to happen when we are in the midst of calm times. Is the pendulum always set to swing away from where we are?

I certainly don’t have answers to these questions. In the present day, I can only agree with Mujica & the artist.

What do you long for in this moment?

a thousand ways to cut

Cutting…

You can cut something to separate. Shredding a piece of paper so that it is illegible. Cutting a piece of cake to share it with a friend.

You can cut something to shape it. A paper snowflake. A haircut.

You can cut something to wound. A knife wielded in defense or malice.

You can cut something to heal. A scalpel used in surgery.

You can cut something to save a memory. Cutting a photo or article out of the newspaper.

You can cut something to change a growth pattern. Pruning a bush. Cutting the grass.

You can cut something to reduce time or focus the message. Cutting a play.

You can cut something to remove it or you. Cut the power. Cutting class.

This list could go on and on. The action verb is a tool here. What matters most is both the intention and the impact (not always the same thing).

With each action, what is my intention? And, in hindsight (hopefully from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness, but this can be hard!), did the impact match the original intention? If not, where did it change?

These are questions I ask myself time and time again. I find them to be valuable teachers.

Do you examine your own intention & impact? What do you find?

cygnet to swan

Seeing these 2 black swans with their cygnet is such a stark reminder of just how much physical transformation happens in the course of a lifetime. What is not as visible, of course, (and perhaps more relevant to humans, but who knows?) is the transformation in terms of mind, presence, confidence, and any number of other, internal things. Those can also be rather stunning transformations along one’s path.

Aside from noticing (or not) the transformations as they happen, I sometimes experience impatience with where I am in a given moment, whether that applies to one of those physical aspects or something internal. I have to remind myself that rushing these transformations isn’t an option.

Sometimes we don’t even notice a change when it happens. It’s only looking back when we see, wow, that thing changed me. Or, wow, look how that long-term work has paid off. I see the transformation now.

Whether you feel like a cygnet starting on a particular path, something mid-transformation, or a fully-formed black swan, enjoy the path. It all happens in the time it’s supposed to.

a year to share your story

“Change starts with story, so keep sharing yours.”
– Omkari Williams

Welcome to another new year. I was going to write “we are living in rather turbulent times”, but echoing that refrain feels… perpetual. As I ponder the annals of history, there is always an element (or more) of turbulence. It’s just that whatever is happening in the moment is, well, present. Present turbulence can often be felt more deeply than turbulence seen through the filter of what has passed.

Rather than dwell on the turbulence, I’m going to try and focus on the actions I can take each day to participate in the kind of world I want to live in. This can be as simple as deciding what to buy at the shop based on how responsible the company is that makes each product. (We vote with our dollars about the kind of world we want every single day. Don’t forget that immense power you have.)

Further to that idea of taking action is sharing stories. I am currently on a journey of listening. Listening to the stories of others is in my foreground at the moment. But I sometimes unintentionally let that silence my own story as less than. I want to live in a world in which we greet each other with curiosity and compassion. Where we deeply listen, and where we also own our own stories and share them.

I wish for you (and me) a year of listening to the stories around us and stepping into our own in a profound way. Hear others. And be heard.

Happy New Year.

hobbiton

No, you can’t go in. But you don’t need to. By recreating Hobbiton where the film set once was in New Zealand… By being so meticulous and detailed about what lies outside those hobbit hole doors… Peter Jackson and his partners have created an open door into the visitor’s imagination. I didn’t need to literally pass through a Hobbiton door in order to have waves of story & delight flooding through my brain. And, as amazing as the physical surroundings are (and, oh my goodness, they are!), those stories inside me are where the real magic lives. Like Bilbo & Frodo, I’m always going on an adventure.

What is something in the physical world that has triggered a wave of imagination of late?

musings on the corner of Guatemala & Mexico

I was walking in Brazil, passing the corner of Guatemala & Mexico. I’d just left my tattoo appointment without a tattoo.

I have a fair number of tattoos, all but one of them quite large. They mean a great deal to me — markers on my journey, if you will.

They are also a conversation between me and the artist. My story mixed with their art carried around on my portable art gallery.

Zulu, my first artist, used to say that his job wasn’t to put art on me. It was to pull the art out from inside me that was already there.

On this day, though, there was something about the conversation, something about the collaboration, that wasn’t quite lining up.

At many other points in my life, I would have gone through with it anyway. I had traveled here for this particular artist. I had planned this for months. I was excited about it. And saying no is, by definition, a rejection. I didn’t want to reject her.

None of those thoughts changes that, in the moment, the conversation wasn’t lining up. So, as gracefully as I could under the circumstances (which wasn’t terribly graceful), I called it off and left.

It didn’t feel good to say no. I have sadness as I write this. But I know without a doubt that it was the right call, for both my story and her art.

The right call is not always the joyful one in the moment. That doesn’t make it any less right.

(I was also thinking about this for at least a day or two afterwards. She drew designs on me in sharpie!)