Bacana Notions is the name of our short ‘n sweet weekly blog.  We aspire to have each Notion in some way capture the essence of the Bacana vision statement.

no·tion noun \ˈnō-shən\ an impression, a concept,
a theory, a whim, or a belief held by a person or group

A Bacana Notion could spark a new thought or give you a grin in the middle of a long day.  It may even provide you with that helpful advice you’ve been waiting for.

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.

fig tree patience

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can get really restless in the winter. There’s the fresh start of a new year in January followed by the fresh start of a new age in February (my birth month). And fresh starts get me fired up! Even though, damn it, it’s wintertime… so things are slow and forming underground and I can’t see them yet.

But then I ponder this tree and know, without a doubt, that the summer bounty of figs will arrive at just the right time. And that it’ll be worth the wait.

How’s your wintertime patience?

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?

the art of gambling

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”
– Kenny Rogers

Sometimes people gamble money, and sometimes people gamble time. Artists do both.

The vast majority of artists passionately do their work with very little pay for years and years and years. In hopes that, one day, “it’ll pay off”. But no matter if they walk away or if they run, if they hold ‘em or if they fold ‘em, how marvelous that they put their chips in at all! Our society celebrates the successful, the famous, the wealthy, and the winners. I’m opting to celebrate all those who were / are gutsy enough to sit at the table and play the artist game.

Have you ever gambled?

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?

deflation

The phrase “a penny for your thoughts” has apparently been around for five hundred years. Surely a penny was worth much more back then. So are thoughts now worth much less? In this day of tweets and comments and texts, perhaps so. But I do believe that some thoughts have incredible value. And since the world needs all the good ideas now, shout ‘em out! Even if it doesn’t earn you as much as a penny.

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?

big kids

“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”
– Stephen Nachmanovitch

I recently rode a ferris wheel with my sister and two childhood friends. It occurred to me that it’s simply impossible to be 40-something on a ferris wheel. In truth, we all are 40-something, yes. But when that thing started going up and down and around, we turned into four kids with large feet and big grins.

Have you taken your inner child on a ride lately?

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.

looking up

There’s a tale from my college days about a fellow student that’s gotten lots of mileage. Let’s call the student “Brittany.” The story goes like this:

American teens wait in line at the Sistine Chapel in Rome for hours. They’re finally let in and are bustled through. Upon entering, Brittany exclaims loudly, “Oh my God, y’all. Look. Up.”

The funny thing about this, of course, is that Brittany didn’t know that the very reason they’d been waiting in line for hours was precisely to “look up.”

At the time, I laughed at this story and at Brittany. But now, 20+ years later, I’m thinking we could all stand to have more of her delight and surprise in the simple act of looking up.