What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?
When I first read this prompt at 6:30 AM when I intended to begin my writing day, I saw that it was very nearly the same question Seth Godin, verbose, erudite and prolific Seth Godin asked us last year. Dang, I thought to myself, (because who else, really, do I think to?) I was hoping for a new, more daring question from Seth, because he is a firebrand, a brainiac with humor and audacity. “Would they miss me if I were gone?” To me, the potent part of this question is the “they.” Who THEY are is key to me.
So instead of responding to the prompt, I tottered on to read other things that feed the teaching I will do tomorrow at the final Sunday of Sacred Refuge Sundays. The next set of those classes will open up here on the Solstice, when my brand new site launches. There are four seats open for Sacred Refuge Sundays. You can read all about that here.
First, I read this:
“Beginning well involves clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary.”
which gave me immense courage because tomorrow, while I am ending one class, I am also test driving my soon to be unveiled Powder Keg Online Writing Workshop tomorrow night and
clearing away the crass
is exactly how I had plan to open that class. Without having read David’s instructive words, I asked my test students to bring dust clothes to their desks for the workshop because I believe we need to actually DO the thing that we think will help us clear the decks and prepare to engage with what is, as David writes, essential and necessary.
Then I read this:
“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into the realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”
and this was even more comforting because I am massively immersed in the realm of the uncertain right now and fearing some steps that I feel compelled and driven and drawn to take. Like stepping out closer to the edge of cliff to get a fuller view, I am stepping more completely in to sharing my work online. My brand new and really fancier website is about to launch. It will allow you to see more of my work, learn more about my teaching and hopefully, provide you with a deeper look at what happens when women live out loud with fully engaged voices. My blog will still be here, BTW.
Having read David and Elizabeth, and then a little Rumi and Mark Nepo, and it still being nearly dark and very early, I poured a hot cup of lemony ginger tea and returned to my meditation pillow to do my daily practice. Okay, I fooled around with laundry in there too, but not for long. Because, I know, that daily practice is just that, daily. If I continue to show up, things will change. Not like old Seth’s prompt. That didn’t change. No sir.
So, here I sat.
And while I sat, the question floated through me, about would they miss me when I was gone and who THEY are. Often when I meditate, things like this happen in my head, “okay, you set the timer for 15 minutes, do ya think you could steal a peek to see how much time has passed yet?….then I repeat a mantra that I love from Thich Nhat Hanh which washes away my thoughts about time…for a few seconds…then….my nose itches…..mantra mantra…then a sentence that sounds true that I might could use, say in a post like this….mantra mantra…then I recall what Susan Piver, whose meditation book I study daily, remember the daily thing? Susan says she has pesky thoughts like this that she entertains for only 12 seconds, then she returns to her breath, OH HER BREATH….I can do that. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Mantra. Mantra. Mantra…” and then, as if the flickering candle writes on the inside of my heart, I hear this:
“You want to know who would miss you if you were gone? I would. Me. Your awareness, what you kindle with this daily practice, that which you so fruitfully return to every single day and good on you for that. If you did not appear on this pillow in the soft dark or out on the road for a Zen walking practice, I, this greater bigger knowing I that you take in to your creative practice, I would not be here. I would miss this. And then all the ways you manifest this inner life in to form and draw others to tend to their inner lives would not happen. This act you call creative practice, this time, this way, would miss you. Very much.”
That was longer than the 12 seconds in which I am supposed to be entertaining thoughts.
But, I listen.
My awareness has its say.
It would miss me if I did not show up.
What had to change in order for a better answer to arrive was my own attitude.
And if I did not show up on this pillow, or on this page or in my journal or in my workshops and classes, or even, in my soon to be launched website, my creative expression, my unique brand of wonderment, would be lost on the world.
And maybe this unique brand that is me does not solve global warming or house refugees, but it does provide something meaningful in the world. I trust this. Entirely and with my whole being.
As usually happens in meditation, the thorny peevish stuff that was bugging me reforms in to a new question or opportunity for more meaningful and direct action. I am soothed. I embody joy without effort. Joy just rests here, within me.
I know you, my beloved readers of Laundry Line Divine would miss me if I did not show up here once in awhile. Believe me when I say, I am ardently tending to this blog in the upgrade you are about to experience so as not to put you off in any way. I am making a bigger basket for us here. If you’d like to read last year’s response to Seth’s prompt last year, it was one of the most commented upon posts this website has ever experienced. And those comments very much informed the work I have done in 2015.
So, on the day after the new moon, when the dark is darkest and the stars here in the Berkshires blaze brightly, I ask you to consider how you are showing up and who would miss you if you didn’t. It is a poignant question. Last night around a fire with some of my Circle, joined by my girl Catherine, we sang for the many we know who have recently died or are very very ill. Showing up is on my mind big time. And approaching the holidays, the absence of loved ones is impossible to avoid.
In closing, I dare you to show up for yourself this season. Take better than usual care of yourself. Sidestep the open maws of guilt and shame that yawn in our direction. Keep on your path towards simple beauty and connection. Be truthful where you haven’t yet found the courage to be so. Open your journals and then write. Let yourself enjoy solitude if that is what is calling you. Sit under the stars with your people and feel the magnitude and the gift of this dark time. And then, send some love to someone else on the planet.
We are using our gift budget to help people here and here. We decided this year to limit our gifts to the stocking sized and to direct our energy towards the many who are in need this season.
Here is all my love to you.
Another long-assed post, I know.
But, that is how I show up.
Thank you for staying with me.
Your loyalty means the world to me.
On this New Moon, empty your cup. Allow your mind to become open. Release all judgments. Let go of what you know. When the mind is empty, it fills with the expanse of every possibility. Opportunities for growth and increased autonomy easily flow your way. Listen to your intuition, and take inspired action. Plant seeds today for your next quest. It is time to be free!
-Virginia Rosenberg from Qoya blog
I found that quote in a very good post about the New Moon here by Rochelle on Qoya with a New Moon ritual that will have you up on your feet.
Tracking Wonder’s Quest 2016 is still open, if you want to join that pack of business artists
Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin (2011), Tribes (2008), The Dip (2007), Purple Cow (2009), and The Icarus Deception (2012), published by Portfolio. His latest, What To Do When It’s Your Turn (Do You Zoom, Inc. 2014), is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work, and embracing tension when doing your art.
I am steeped in this growing darkness. I cannot resist it.
As a child the glare of tinsel and fat glowing Christmas lights on our tree drew me, but what I most loved was the way that blazing light stood out against the dark of our living room. My own kids used to get up very early to watch dawn happen while the Christmas tree stood in the dark morning. Now, they stay up late, watching it, reading near the tree. (That is- once we put the tree up. We are always the last people at the tree farm on Christmas Eve. We like to put our tree up on the 24th so it can last, you know, until the last day of Christmas, otherwise known as Valentine’s Day.)
What draws me to light is not the light itself, but how it stands against the dark. This may be overstating the obvious and if you have heard all you want to hear this season about light, then scroll on. But if you are game for a discussion of dark, then stay with me.
Last night was the second night of Hanukah. I am married to a Jewish man and in our 23 years together, we have burned many candles, for Advent, Hanukah, Solstice, Christmas, yahrzeit candles and birthday candles, candles when someone we love is in need, candles when we want to make a party and always at dinner, especially in winter. In our family, I am the maker of the holidays. He will roast and trim and gather materials for whatever gift, Solstice spiral or meal we decide to work on. But the actual making, and even the planning, starts with me. So it was quite normal for him to ask about our menorah. But when he said, “Thanks for keeping me Jewish,” I heard his mother chuckle in the ethers, and his Grandmother Fanny elbowing my Grandmother Elsie. I no more keep him Jewish than he keeps me Christian. We do honor our mutual faith heritage and cultivate the practices that make these celebrations meaningful for each other. He is the one who sets off for the tree on Christmas Eve while I am stirring up the gingerbread dough. I went to the basement to find the menorah, the one with Noah’s animals on the ark, each with a candle hole in their head. I picked up more candles at the coop and last night at dinner, we set them to light.
“I am waking up to the notion that to usher the season into my house is to awaken the sacred.”
Candles awaken the sacred. I study a candle flame as I meditate in the early morning dark. The flame dodges the wick, which nods back and forth, tiny dark stem with a touch of orange pollen at its tip. The candle draws my attention and lets me soften my gaze. I become receptively quiet. Candles are part of how I usher in our dark season. They stand against umbered space, like the Christmas tree, ablaze, in immediate proximity to dark. I cannot have the one without the other.
Which is why I spend so much time slathering black gesso on to my journal pages. I have to explore this dark time with the tools my hands crave. I knit with black yarn; I cover my journal pages with dark paints and write with lighter colored pens. This has become my habit and like the candles, it helps me usher in the season. I notice things differently when I write against a black background.
In Tracking Wonder’s Quest 2016, our question this weekend was from Debbie Millman. Her impressive bio is below, but I have long enjoyed her books. They are works of literary and graphic expression and so inspiring to me as I write my book. Her question:
How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail?
The work I have been doing for 21 years, which has sourced my current work, is that of mothering. While I did not enter the position as a job, I suppose you could say I interviewed for the role and accepted it when it was offered to me. And this work experience, which continues to this fresh second in which you read these words, has taught me much about the value of success and failure in a job that has few boundaries and no fiscal compensation. For what is failure than the inability to meet your responsibilities whether they be financial, emotional or practically, as in the soccer or immunization schedule, get them to church for choir practice or file their camp forms by this certain date? Failure can take catastrophic proportion in this job. Yes, there are many levels of failure in parenting, and I think we all touch some failure every single day in our quest to be just the perfect kind of parents we can never really be. So, if success was assured me in my business as a mother, knowing what I know about failure and the lessons it has taught me, I would continue parenting in the way I have been doing, constantly tweaking my delivery, listening more closely for cues to patterns that may solve puzzles of personality or passion, always looking to support the development of a human being with as much success in the soup as possible, seasoned with some failure to balance the flavor.
Ultimately, I work in spite of success and expecting some failure. I have been around the sun enough times to be familiar with the taste of both and happy to balance my days with them both in the recipe.
But the other work I do, if you want to call it business as unusual is just as familiar with failure. I have hosted classes that no one attends. The fact that I am working at all, that I have watered the little seedlings of my confidence and exercised my writing skills and visual art skills to the point there I am right now, is success. The only failure I could see is not doing the work at all. Giving up. Stepping away from my book, from this blog, from my classes, events and offerings.
My failures I accept as lessons and I carry on. I learn from failure.
What do I have to learn then, from the repeated request I make of my husband who has, for about 3 months, failed to call the plumber? We have a leaky and getting leakier faucet and this is his department. When we set up housekeeping there were divisions made about certain things like holidays and plumbing, so just as I tend to the candles and the menorahs, he tends, or usually tends, to leaky faucets and leafy gutters. Without tending to it, this becomes a failure. I am not successful in making a request that gets him to call the guy. He fails at tending to a household need. We mutually fail as householders because leaky things leak energy and this is one place we need shoring up.
To me, the more compelling question, applicable to my work-writing, book building, collage, teaching, speaking, producing events- as to our family dilemma about the leaky sink is:
Why wouldn’t you do the work now? Failure or not. Why wouldn’t you pick up your pen, light a small candle and write in the early morning quiet, before the kids are up, before you have to get to work, before life pulls you out in to the world? Why wouldn’t I write this book? Or propose classes at conferences and arts centers?
Feeling ready is one consideration and surely, diving in to a project requires the necessary tools, the wrench, the pen, the gesso. But, Debbie’s question, an assurance of no failure, suggests that moving forward could be inevitable if I take action and so I say, like I have said before, “Why wait?”
Why wait to call the plumber?
Why wait to start doing what you long to do, even in small ways with tiny steps?
I have tolerated the leaky sink because I don’t have the tools to fix it myself. Yes, I can call the guy. That it a possible move for me. I have tolerated years of not doing what I longed to do because of two very real children who did not so much assure my failure, but were just plain too fully demanding. I did not realize I had the tools to work from inside mothering until the day came when I began to invent them. I borrowed the tools from my newfound mentors and started. Which has brought me to where I am today.
So, to bring this long writing to a close, I suggest to you, in this dark season when candles help, and the dark can be a fertile place to dwell in, notice what is leaky around you. How do you approach the coming darkness? Where does light leak in? And where is your time or energy leaking away from you? What small moves can you take, what tools can you pick up to handle those leaks?
In her post about electricity, another household necessity, Vanessa J. Herald writes:
“Nothing’s wrong here. It is just time to slow down and match my insides to respect the slow and short days of approaching winter. To bundle up and take care. To take the time and effort, or call an electrician, to reconnect my inner ground wire. Or, to pound a grounding rod into the damp, still-not-frozen early December soil.
It’s time to slow down. It’s time to reconnect with rhythm. It’s time for silence and peace on the inside. It’s time to get grounded.” -Vanessa J. Herald
An assurance of no failure is slim comfort. I work in spite of it. I work because I know my success may not be grand, but it will be mine. And I work because even now, when the days are short and the holidays press panic buttons in so many of us, my tools of writing and working in my journals, of teaching others to express from inside their life experience are tools I have come to count on to see the dark and the light, to watch the dance and to shore up the leaks.
If you would like to pick up some tools for expressing from within your own life experience, please stay tuned. On the Solstice, I will be announcing my upcoming Powder Keg Sessions Online Writing Workshop where we will make the simple sacred and write together for a month of weekly writing sessions.
And if you, like me, find failure to be less of a threat than not doing the work, then please subscribe to this site. This rising forth of engaged women making sense of their lives through creative practice, however that looks for you, is my dream.
Thank you for reading me here.
Before you wander off to find your candles, take a look at some of my Questmates posts.
Named “one of the most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA, Debbie is an author, educator, and brand strategist. As the founder and host of Design Matters, the first and longest running podcast about design, Debbie has interviewed more than 250 design luminaries and cultural commentators, including Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Barbara Kruger, Seth Godin and more. Debbie is the author of six books, including two collections of interviews that have extended the ethos and editorial vision of Design Matters to the printed page: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer (Allworth Press 2007) and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits (Allworth Press 2011).
Some stuff I make gets drunk by other people, or eaten, or tipped in to the compost, which will be eaten, eventually by my friend Josh’s new pigs.
Some stuff I make walks around on two legs, with jeans on, with attitudes, habits and gazes that I think about endlessly. I ache for those things.
Some stuff I make happens between me and you, reading on Laundry Line Divine. What gets made might be space and time to consider where your next soulful wandering will take you, what you might be doing with say, a single hour of your day today that is labeled “just for me time.”
All of it issues from my hands, my heart and my soul.
I have been painting sheets of these. In my usual Virgo, calculating widget-y way, I figure I have painted about 1500 spaces, which hold words or phrases. Some of you use them as writing prompts. My friend Suzanne uses them as dinner table conversation starters.
In a few weeks this website will emerge from a chrysalis transformed. There will be a new tagline and lots of my visual work will be more evident. My friends Tina and Lynnette have taken a bunch of photographs so you can get a better sense of the work I do. There will be a new offering, something some of you have asked me about for awhile. I will be announcing a new Powder Keg Sessions writing workshop ONLINE. Yup. If someone wants to purchase a special writing something for you for the holidays, send him or her my way on the Solstice. The online workshop will be a month-long class that meets one evening a week. More on all of this on the Solstice, December 21.
But til then, in this luscious dark season where we get pulled and pulled and pulled, let yourself get dark. Take time outside, in the waning light of late afternoon to walk slowly and let yourself ponder. Sift inside for the seeds that you are harvesting from all you have done this past year. Savor all you have accomplished. Yes, even all those doctor visits with your daughter, the second and fifth opinions. Yes, those hours you sat in the hallway, outside the MRI room where your kid was being tested. Yes, even then, holding your mother’s hands, just so quietly. Just so quietly.
All of it, the care giving and the making, all that we touch in the ways that we touch it, strong, feminine, blessed hands doing as a way of giving care, making as a way of extending our touch.
It is all you. It has value. You, my dearest, have value.
Have a sweet weekend.
I may be back here in the morning with a Quest2016 post.
Until then, painting with black and touching persimmons.