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If it is a question of money: Quest Day 2 with Jonathan Fields

Morning rainbow
Uncle, is there a pot of gold, even here?

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:
You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

Oh this truly is my dream come true. For most of my professional life I have waited for wealthy uncles to die, but having none, the wait was futile. Which is to say I do have uncles. I have several, some still alive, none with wealth that might extend past their own children; so really, this dream-come-true prompt finally announces the arrival of the ship that I have waited to come in for years and years. Hurray!

Welcome Wealthy Uncle! Come in; let me stir you up a cup of tea while you wipe your chilly nose on this clean napkin laid before you. I am so happy you have arrived. I will turn up the heat so you can shake the December chill while the pot boils.

This condition, of glorious splendor coming if I commit to the pursuit of a single question, comes to me with some questions for you. Does this have to be a new question, or may it be a question I have been working on already? And how transparent must I be with the question? How will you check up on me-oh, I know the answer to that-you will know, just know, right, because when I veer off course, then truly, we will both know, eh?

Okay. Then even before I pour your tea, I can answer you this.

What if I don’t wait until my kids are out of the house to fully unmask my creative fertility? Why wait?

This question: Why wait?

For so many years I have waited for the kids to be grown, for life to find a rhythm like a boat at sea in a steady wind, cutting waves with accuracy and efficiency. But life, she is not like that. And I dare say, though I am not sailor enough to confirm it, that neither is the sea like this, steady all the time.

Life is messy. Life is chaotic. Ships rock. What happens if I write anyway?

Could I have a completed manuscript by the end of 2016? Maybe even a book designer and publisher? Could I work towards completing my manuscript while doing for others what I pledge to do with myself, to unmask creative fertility?

What happens if I write anyway, in the midst of even these questions? What if I show up at the page, every single day, even on vacation (but especially on vacation) and illuminate my literary and visual answer to this question:

Why wait?

So Uncle. Here is your tea. Rose tea, with pear, ginger and lemon infused honey, something to ease you as you warm yourself. I am deeply appreciative of you offering me this gift. If I complete it, may I use it for my own purposes? Could I supply a refugee family with this money? Could I fund my own retreat and supply scholarships for women in need to attend, all expenses paid? Could I re-insulate my whole house and upgrade our systems so that we are more energy efficient? May I use these funds to support the cleanup of the Housatonic River? Could I escape with Jonathan and our kids to a cabana in Costa Rica where we can work, surf, hike and eat more of that salted fish at Selvin’s in Punta Uva? Might I finally get to see the textile museums in the Norse Countries and spend weeks in a cottage up in the mountains working, resting, reading, hiking and getting to know about elk? Oh the places I could go with this money. My children would have the degrees they seek; we’d all have plenty to share, but Uncle.

Uncle.
If I don’t want the money, but want the question, would you hold it for me until I do, when I may use it as I wish? For Uncle, I have found, while waiting for you to arrive, all of these years, waiting to be discovered by the golden aura of success and financial independence, my own tincture of success that heals and eases and excites me beyond anything money could buy. Forgive my Dickensian, Raold Dahlesque, SARK-y digression here, for I am supposed to be writing my response to your generous offer, but I cannot stop my fingers to say, money is nice, but not everything. And in my life, as a woman who mothers, I have found so much. I would not want to lose any of the grace I have discovered when pots are boiling over, a leg gets broken, and we are late for church or soccer or bed. I have found in the cramp of yearning that has colored my years as a mother with creative dreams which knock me off my steady pace over and over again, that in this yearning, in this ache, is a certain medicine that women need. I want to deliver this medicine.

our Sacred Refuge table
our Sacred Refuge table. photo credit: Lynnette Lucy Najimy

So in asking, you have given me a chance to tell you this. Yes, money would make it easier for my family to live while I work fully and completely, immersed in my book and the next, teaching and making this work available to women in need, it would send me to the Congo to help Eve or to Armenia with John to sit in circle with women whose stories bear agonies I have never known. Money would do all of that. But, if your offer is to ease the life I have, then I would rather that you hold it until I need it for these projects, for I would not want to be released from my hunger to create from inside motherhood, writing from inside a woman’s life.

Oh Uncle, I misunderstood you. I thought this gift came with reconciliation of social norms and our government so that all people in our land value the offerings that caregivers contribute by raising families. I thought this dream-come-true assured me that our health-care and education systems would be overhauled in order that mothers and fathers could have paid leave and thrive fully in their lives. I thought this came with gun control and solutions to climate change, the polar bears and white rhinocerii. Oh. I see, yes, now I see that I have over estimated your gift, I over estimated the power of money. I see this is not your offer. Forgive me.

In truth, it seems your offer is simply to let me live in my question so fully, so that I could just keep living in to it, like wind in sails, they don’t ask, they just fill. If that is the case, Uncle, I must tell you I don’t need the money. You can hold on to it until it is my time to go to the Congo or run that retreat with scholarships. Yes for that work, I will take it, but only when I need it.

Dear Uncle, thank you. Let us meet again in December 2016. I will have the pot on the stove, tea will be ready.

 

Cups up at Bascom Lodge, Mount Greylock, MA

xo,

S

JONATHAN FIELDS is a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer, and entrepreneur. His last book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance (Portfolio 2011) was named the top personal development book in 2011 by 800-CEO-READ.

Tracking Wonder’s Quest is here. It is free. And as you can see, it is though provoking.

Brenna Layne’s response is here.

Kate Arms-Roberts’ is here.

Millie Jackson’s is here.

 

 

 

 

 

What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…

 

Quest day one

 

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:
What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…

The Quest is back. My loyal tribe of business artists making their way in to 2016 with clarified aims and newly discovered wealth and spirit is back to it’s robust sharing around the web. Since December 2014, I have applied myself to this quest mostly because I really love to work collaboratively on a topic and sometimes my writing life feels lonely. Yes, I teach. Yes, I have friends who I meet for tea. But all of my work is surrounded by the quiet solitude I need to listen, create, craft, and hone. To know that others are doing the same, questioning their aims and inspirations and owning their own gifts gives me immense courage. If you are curious about Tracking Wonder’s #Quest2016, go here.

Today’s prompt is from Susan Piver. Close readers of Laundry Line Divine might recall that I read Susan’s book, Start, Here, Now earlier this fall. Susan’s introduction to the practice of sitting meditation has completely enhanced my daily practice. Through her simple instruction, I have increased my sitting practice, which makes me feel more inner resilience when things get hot in the kitchen with my kids and allows me a clearer path to my creative work. As you may know, I am devoted to daily practices that support my well being and my work, with pleasure dwelling at the center. Susan’s approach to meditation has offered me a wealth of tools.

But, now, of course, she shows up as the first mentor offering a prompt today. Great. Of course, it is a question that I have wanted to answer; of course, she taps a vulnerable spot, which yields a few tears with the asking of it.

What do I most need to tell myself for 2016?

Here is the list:

1. That I am enough, just as I am.
2. That my work is worth the time I invest in it and my work is worth being paid a decent reliable sum.
3. That I can write anyway, even when I don’t feel the fuzzy thrum of ideas burbling, even if I don’t have a clue where I am headed, like right now, and even if my book feels like a large beast standing in the dark, being described by tiny little ant creatures feeling it with their tiny ant hands.

I have learned so much this past year. I have taught some amazing women from whom I have learned much. My brilliant mentors have bounteously taught me this year, way more than they likely realize, but gifts, gifts, gifts have cluttered my path all this yearlong.

“What we fear is more private, mysteriously belongs to everyone.”
-Mark Nepo

But hearing is hard at this time of year, even when what I tell myself is what I most want to hear. The clanging of carols and the impending holidays amp up our sense of necessary doing so much so that our own self care can waddle off to a corner and wait out the month. My dear pal, Dr. Deb Kern posted about rituals that can support us this season here.

Like Deb, I amp up my rituals this month. I was raised in the Lutheran church and for all the distance I have between doctrine and my faith practice, I have held close the rituals that warmed me as a child and passed them on to my children. Even now, the Advent calendar is in the window and the dinner table is lit with a one candle for this first week of Advent. Catherine and I attended church this past Sunday and sang songs she has known since she was a tiny tot. I learned a few years ago how much I benefit from more quiet writing and art journaling during Advent. I apply lots of black gesso to my pages and write with white pens, silver paint and gold lettering. I begin to feel the season inside me, rather than feeling it foisted upon me. The more I let myself witness the dark, the more I feel advent happening inside me.

Something about light
how it comes surprisingly,
just when you’d accustomed yourself to dark,
surrendered to this now dark way as forever.
But then,
she asks,
a cloud thins,
a way
opens.
You just had to wait for it.

-Suzi Banks Baum

a small poem I wrote yesterday.

As we approach the Winter Solstice, you can expect lots of posts about seeing light. There will be a very special event here on Laundry Line Divine around the Solstice. Until then, I urge you to think of the image of a campfire this month. Set it to blaze in your mind and then bank it up, don’t let it flame out of control; don’t let it get too spread out. Gather your inner resources close by. At the grocery store just now, I bought small packets of scented bath salts on sale. This is one small move of self-care that increases my resilience in December. Baths warm me, and are a perfect time away from doing. My girl cut a board just longer than the edges of our bathtub so I can read a book safely while soaking in eucalyptus scented water.

Definition:
To bank a fire is to cover the coals or embers with ashes or cinders, thus keeping the fire low but alive.

Let your fires burn low. Just as I found that definition of “banking a fire,” just beyond my screen a large red-tailed hawk landed on an oak branch just to the right of this sentence. Hawks appear in my life when I am beginning big adventures and this month, this Advent, these weeks before Solstice, before the holidays, before the arrival of 2016 feel just like that. A big adventure.

And what I most need to hear, when embarking on an adventure is, “I am enough. I am worth it. My work is worth it. And I can work, no matter what.”

Thanks to Susan Piver for the QUESTion today.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how you bank your fires during December. Also, share this post with a pal who may need a little boost in her self-care.

Thank you, always, for stopping in at the laundry line,
With a salute to the hawk,

S

 

Here are some of my other posts about Advent and art journaling my way towards the New Year.

One

Two

Three

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