No Matter What – Day 8

It’s Day 8 of the No Matter What Game.  To find out how you can join in, see details below the post.

Crowd of Diverse People

G:  Pick two different coloured crayons (or something similar) at random. Tell us something related to each of the colours.

P:  This reminds me of an exercise we just did at Staff Development Day on Friday.  Twice a year our three colleges come together for day of reckoning and reacquainting.

To prevent us from staying in our comfort zone and sitting with people we already know at our own campuses, the organizers planned a mixer where we sat with others from across the district.  We were then asked to find four things everyone at our table had in common besides working at EICC.

While it was easy to come up with things all humans have in common, I was really hoping we’d dig deep and discover some uncommon commonalities.  Since one of the people at our table teaches Intro to Psychology, I felt certain we had a reliable life guard should we decide to wade into deep waters.

Sadly we stayed in shallow waters, which is always safe at a public pool.  (And a public school.)

But this goes against my nature.  Being the Queen of Quirk that I am, I never play it safe at the public pool.  I’m the one with the zoomers, hand gloves, goggles, and nose plug swimming slowly but steadily in the lap lane in a polka dot one piece.  I show up equipped and ready to make the most of the experience.

In the beginning, it used to make me feel a wee bit self-conscious.  One of the great things that has happened to me at midlife is I stopped caring so much what everyone else thinks and started daring to be my own brand of brilliant and beautiful.

This doesn’t mean anyone else agrees with me.  It just means I’m freer and have more fun than I used to.

This also means I don’t follow directions well and like to make exceptions whenever possible.  So, instead of relating this post to colours (if you are reading this the UK) or colors (if you are reading this in the US) or I’m not sure which spelling you prefer if you are in Australia, I decided to just write no matter what and see where we drifted.

I’m also committed to getting to bed early tonight so this is where I leave you.

Please feel free to answer the prompt in your own way and post it in the comments below. 🙂  Or if you’d prefer Gillian to send you your own prompt, email her at http://gillianpearce.com or https://www.facebook.com/gillianpearcecoach.

No Matter What – Day 7

Day 7 of the No Matter What Game.  Learn how you can play at the end of this post.

Grilled Salmon with fresh salad and lemon. Selective focus

G:  What are the most memorable meals you’ve ever had?

P:  As a newly certified Eating Psychology Coach, this is powerful question for  me.

Long before I understood what truly nourished me, I suspected it was as much the location, ambiance, awareness, the speed at which I ate, and the company and emotional content of the conversation I kept while eating as the food that was offered and its nutritional value.

Food is such a complicated thing. Representing all that is good, nurturing, and life sustaining as well as the reason we love to hate, blame, and shame ourselves, our relationship with food (which is often unconscious) defines us as much as anything we consciously chose to represent us.

When I decided over a year ago to change the way I’d been eating for the past fifty, things got ugly.  But having stayed the course now for fifteen months, I can tell you it’s the best thing I could have done for myself.

But that’s a story for another day, or quite possibly, another book.

Back to the question.  My most memorable meals usually involve salmon. I love salmon. I had the best salmon in the desert of all places.  Santa Fe, to be exact.  Santa Fe is also the home of Harry’s Road House and many a memorable meal.

Bob and I had an exquisite meal at a quaint little Mexican place in Bisbee, Arizona this past February.  Maybe it was because we were on vacation.  Maybe it was because we’d just been to a brewery and that made Bob happy.  Maybe it was because I was back in the Southwest and that made me ecstatic. Or maybe it just reminded me of Harry’s Road House.

When I’d visit my sister in southern California we’d go to a cute little diner for oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal.  Great oatmeal with brown sugar.

I also remember the oatmeal I ordered during the seminar where Gillian and I met in Los Angeles last January.  Each morning the waitress would come up to me and say, “Would you like the usual?”  This made me feel instantly at home.

The California-oatmeal connection would not be complete without mentioning the morning Bob and I had oatmeal and granola and fruits and nuts at a sweet café in Monterey before we went whale watching.

When our family took an Alaskan cruise I remember most of the meals on the ship, on the train, and on the bus.  Not because I had unlimited access to salmon, but because of the spectacular settings. And because I’d never known any place to charge $35 for macaroni and cheese before.

Sadly, the price does not guarantee how delicious a meal will be.  The apples off my family’s tree are pretty darn delicious and free for the picking. For a real treat and a limited time, nothing’s better than Merb’s caramel apples from St. Louis.

And if I mention apples I must also mention strawberries and how bananas I go over strawberry salads.  The best one I had was at the Hotel Desoto in Galena, Illinois.  And it comes with salmon. 🙂

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What about you?  Let your inner food blogger or writer out and leave your comments below.  Or if you’d like Gillian to send you a prompt so you can do your thing No Matter What, email her at www.gillianpearce.com.

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No Matter What – Day 6

If you are just joining us in the No Matter What Game, look for details on how to play after after the post.

 bob and penny you don't say

To preface Gillian’s question for today, I mentioned to her that last weekend after Bob proofread the post that kicked off No Matter What, his comment was “I’ve lost you again.”  This is a guy who has watched me work through a couple of 21 Day Dietary Detoxes, a 30 Day blogging challenge,  and a 1×31 Get Stuff Done challenge in the last year.  So he know of what he speaks!

G: How could you approach this challenge differently so that Bob doesn’t miss you so much?

P:  The challenge of spending quality time with loved ones versus spending time alone in order to create is something I think most artists/creative people struggle with.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve never married.  Artsy folks tend to have a different relationship to time, space, and reality in general than regular folks.

If you are a creative type, you know what I mean.  If you live with one, you also know what I mean.  And bless you.  I know we’re not the easiest people to live with.

The call to create is compelling.  The courage required to create is considerable.  And the consequences of not creating can be catastrophic.

I used to print out my posts and leave them on the table for Bob to read before he drank his coffee, digested the news, and prepared to leave the house at 7:15am.

He could consume in 3 minutes what it took me 3 hours to create.  And so it is with most creative work from movies to plays to concerts to books.

I love to linger after movies or finishing a book or attending a concert.  I want to watch it again, read it again, listen to it again.  I want to understand as much as I can about all of it. I want to know the back story.

I move slowly in a world that moves fast.  Attempting to alter my rhythm is very stressful for me.  I also get that my moving slowly and deliberately is very stressful to those who like to move quickly.  Like Bob.

But as a writer, I cannot afford to rush through life and miss the nuances and the tells that allow me to craft a story that rings true. I have to feel my way into the messiness of life.  I have to have time to think about my behavior and work out what it all means and why.

Whenever I commit to a challenge, there is a point when I melt down and want to forget the whole thing.  The first time I did a blogging challenge I hit a snag around Day 19.  It was the first day of school and a demanding day for administrators, advisors, and staff.  I came home late, slumped on the couch, and declared myself done for the day.

Bob said, “Honey, you need to do write.  I know you had a tough day but you’ll be really upset with yourself if you don’t write.”

Of course he was right.  I got up, dusted myself off, and posted my 500 words as if there was never a doubt I would.

In the end, I think our loved ones would rather have us create – even if it means time away from them – than resent them for the craziness that comes with not creating.

And since it’s football season followed by hunting season, Bob may not miss me at all. 🙂

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What’s the No Matter What Game all about?  Click here to find out. If you’d like to jump in on the conversation, please do so by leaving a comment below.  If you’d like your own prompt delivered to you, you can contact Gillian at http://gillianpearce.com/.

No Matter What – Day 5

No Matter What Game …. find out how you can play below post.
Woman is lost and wanders into a book with glow lights.
G: Your mentioned in your last post “I currently have 5 books begging to be birthed”. Give us a taste of each book.
P:  The theme that runs throughout all my books is the idea of “Lost & Found“.  I believe we need to get lost before we can truly find ourselves, our sidekicks, and our way in the world.
As cliché as it sounds, it really is the journey, the climb, the adventure that makes the man or woman. We need to set out on our grand adventures with the best of intentions so when we discover the road from here to there is under construction, we can see these detours for what they really are. Divinely orchestrated and unexpected side trips where we encounter the people, places, and experiences we need for our character (and stories) to emerge.  Joseph Campbell called this the hero’s journey.
One of my favorite phrases is part of a longer quote by J.R.R. Tolkien,  “Not all who wander are lost.”  That would be the title of choice for my stories about Santa Fe and why it attracts so many people who feel exiled from other places.
Another book about living the creative life in the Land of Enchantment would be The Dog, The Desert, and the Days that Define a Life.  My dog Malcolm and I had the most extraordinary adventures involving red racers, bulls, javelinas, hawks and a wide variety of other dogs as we hiked/housesat/dogsat our way through Santa Fe.
I particularly like stories of pilgrimages and hikes; works that explore inner as well as outer journeys.  I was thrilled to see Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild” and Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in  the Woods” become movies.  I also love books and movies about the Camino De Santiago. I especially enjoyed The Way with Martin Sheen.
At the same time I’m concerned the market will be saturated with these walking stories before I have the chance to write mine.
The Lost Ladies of Cumbria is about a week long hiking trip with poet David Whyte through the Lake District told from the perspective of seven middle-aged women.  The circumstances that brought each of us to that place and that time are themes I think many women at midlife can relate to.
We often hear about men’s midlife crises, but women’s stories have largely been left untold.  (Except for Stella.) This book gives those stories a voice while weaving in the incredible poetry and wisdom of a gifted poet.
I’d love to create a day book called A Penny for Your Thoughts which could be a compilation of blog posts and the Midlife Manifesto I crafted a few years ago.
And last but not least, I plan to turn a class I designed and taught 11 years ago called Read It & Leap! into an ebook that ideally you will be able to download on February 29,  2016.  Yes, approximately three Leap Days after I originally conceived of the idea, I’d like to finally birth this baby.  Long labor, yes?
So, there you have it.  The books demanding I write them into existence.  Which one would you like to read first?  Let me know in the comments below.
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Follow along or play the No Matter What Game weekdays at www.midlifemacgyver.com.  The world’s best coach Gillian sends me a prompt each weekday and I post a response no matter what.  You are welcome to use the same prompt and record your answers in a private journal, share with a group, or even better, share in the comments below! If you’d prefer to have your own prompts sent just to you, contact Gillian at https://www.facebook.com/gillianpearcecoach.

No Matter What – Day 4

It’s Day 4 of the No Matter What Game.  Stay tuned to find out how you, too, can play after the post…  Girl walking on rail
G:  What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up and what do you think about that now?
P:  Like many little girls, I thought I wanted to be a teacher.  I’d spend hours playing school and teaching my invisible students all the things I was learning.  I was remember my beloved first grade teacher, Miss Edmunds, looking at me right after someone next to me had thrown up and asking, “Would you like to be a teacher?”
Not really grasping the undercurrent of what she was implying and assuming she really wanted to know my career plans at age 6, I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!!
It wasn’t until years later after an adult student had puked in my hallway and walked out as if nothing had happened, leaving me and my staff to clean up, that I fully grasped what Miss Edmunds was implying.
At that moment my answer was a resounding, “No!
But here is the indisputable truth.  I’ve been teaching my whole life.  Whether it’s teaching a roomful of scantily clad men and women how to do the grapevine or  inadvertently teaching someone what not to wear or teaching my old dog a new trick, when this teacher is ready, her students appear.
I also starting writing poetry at a young age and won a poetry contest in 7th grade.  I wouldn’t win any kind of poetry contest these days because the standards are higher and I tend to swear, which might disqualify me.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but because it came relatively easy to me, I thought my true calling must be something that I should really wrestle with.  (As if  making a living writing isn’t enough of a struggle.)
Consequently I created a lot of drama around the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question which actually prevented me from growing up in some ways.  I spent a lot of time wandering around the desert pondering the meaning of life.
Now I wish I would have written as well as wandered.
All those experiences served as fodder for my writing.  I currently have 5 books begging to be birthed.  So the challenge is now to do what I was born to do.  Write. No. Matter. What.
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We’d love to hear what you’ve committed to do every day – No Matter What –  to live the life you love.  If you’d like the world’s best coach Gillian to send you a daily prompt, email her at http://gillianpearce.com or  https://www.facebook.com/gillianpearcecoach. 

No Matter What – Day 3

Human eye over abstract business background. Vision perspective

Day 3 of No Matter What Game.  If you’re just joining us, you can find out what it’s all about in the details below today’s response.

G:  How would you spend the day if you could make yourself invisible for 24 hours?
P:  The bigger question for me would be how would I spend the day if I could make myself visible for 24 hours.  It’s been my experience that women tend to become invisible the moment we hit 40 or some arbitrary age when people collectively start calling us “ma’am”.
It’s unfortunate because that’s when we get interesting, have the most to say, have experience to back up our enthusiasm or lack there of.  It’s when we could most benefit from being seen because we have so much to contribute. We know our way around the bedroom, the boardroom, the basement, and the ballpark. (And that’s just the B’s.  I haven’t started on the rest of the alphabet.)
However, if I’m going to whine about that, I need to have a really great comeback to the visibility question. What would I do if one of my posts went viral, I’d be asked to give a TED talk, or my book would be included in Oprah’s book club?  Or more likely, what would I do with the attention of 1000 followers?  Okay, 100 followers?
Tell the best story I could.  Tell it honestly, passionately, and with great humor.
Having said that, I’ll now answer the invisibility question.
I’d lounge around the Coffee House studios at Sirius XM radio and meet some of my favorite singer songwriters, hang out with the Dalai Lama, slip into a publishing house and watch how a book comes together, observe my mentors, visit a movie set, go backstage at a concert, watch creatives at work.
And I’d repeatedly throw the ball to my dog Jake because even though he couldn’t see me, he’d never take his eye off the ball.
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What would you commit to do every day no matter what?  I’ve committed to writing and Gillian has committed to coaching so we’re playing this Q & A  No Matter What Game.  Join in or just follow along.  Either way, we’d love to hear your comments below.

No Matter What – Day 2

Cute 4 months old baby making a funny surprised face
Okay, it’s Day 2 and the game goes like this.  The world’s best coach Gillian gets to ask me a question and I get to answer because my commitment for the next 30 days is to write no matter what and hers is to coach no matter what.
You are invited to play along as well.  Find out how below.
G:  What has been the most surprising/unexpected thing about your life to date?
P: Short answer – everything!
Specifically:

  1. Life got infinitely more interesting once I turned 40 and has gotten increasingly better every year since then.
  2. After living in many exciting and beautiful places, I now live in a small farming community approximately 65 miles from where I was born.
  3. I also own my house and have a “real” job.  Oddly enough, I now I find this exciting and beautiful.
  4. I had clung to a dream so long that when it finally came true it took me awhile to realize I’d outgrown it.
  5. I got engaged when most people were having grandchildren.
  6. I changed my entire life by changing what went in my mouth (in terms of eating healthy, whole foods) and what came out (how I used my words).
  7. Relaxing into the moment makes my life so much easier than stressing into it does.
  8. The universe really does have my back. It will meet me half way. Sometimes I only have to go the extra 1/4 mile.
  9. It often takes 50 years to become an overnight success. Practice, practice, practice.
  10. Having the approval of thousands of people I may never know is not nearly as important as loving those in front of me.
  11. Pets make the world a better place.  So does Amazon Prime.
  12. Cleaning up my act has consequences.
  13. I had no idea how scary it would be to write “raw“.  This kind of “ask me anything” writing is terrifying because it demands a deeper truth.
  14. Invisibility is not a superpower.  Vulnerability is.  Gratitude is.
  15. My body – everyone’s body – is a wonderland. Mine is my oldest friend and ultimate ally. I cannot afford to ignore, abuse, or otherwise shame it.  Becoming a Certified Eating Psychology Coach was one of the best decisions I’ve made.  It healed the wounds unconsciously inflicted over a lifetime.

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If you’d like Gillian to play the No Matter What Game, contact Gillian at http://gillianpearce.com  or https://www.facebook.com/GillianPearceCoach/ to set up your daily prompts.
I’d love to hear your responses to Gillian’s question of the day or my answers.  Please leave your comments below.

No Matter What – Day 1

The white flag is an internationally recognized symbol of surrender, truce, or a desire to parley.
In case you missed what the No Matter What Game is all about, you can read about it here. All you really need to know is I will be posting my responses to random prompts by coach Gillian Pearce (who would be glad to do the same for you). By doing so, I get to practice my writing, she gets to practice her coaching, you get to see the creative process in action, and hopefully, you will be inspired to do a similar practice where you __________ (fill in the blank) No Matter What.
For some of you that may be to meditate for ten minutes or wait five minutes before responding emotionally to an email. It could be to that you walk the dog no matter what, play the fiddle, eat your veggies, wash the dishes, say I love you, read to your child, call your mother, the list is endless. You decide.
I decided to write no matter what. So here’s my response to Gillian’s prompt.
G: What are the pros and cons of surrendering to what is?
P:  Ah, surrendering to what is … because it is what it is… and all that.
I had carefully crafted, saved, and sent a different response to myself earlier today. Thinking I’d only need to add a few lines and make a few edits this evening, I waited to open the attachment.  When I did, most of what I’d written was missing.
Was I happy?  No.  Did I want to forget I thought this was a brilliant idea?  Yes.  Did I instantly remember why public challenges are so challenging?  Absolutely.
And then it occurred to me it was the perfect way to illustrate the pros and cons of surrendering to what is.
I have a couple of choices as to how to proceed. I can painstakingly recreate what I wrote before.  I can write something completely different.  I can not write anything and lament an unfortunate onset of writer’s block.
Whatever I had planned for the perfect post has now morphed into something that simply shows I wrote no matter what happened to the first draft or how tired and frustrated I may be.
By surrendering to what is I open to myself to what is going on right here, right now.  Whether I like it or not, I honor it and myself by feeling it, allowing it, and letting it go. If I look close enough, there is always a gift.
Where I get stuck is complaining about what is, judging it, wishing it were anything other than what it is. It’s also where I tend to overlook the lesson I could be learning.
I once heard someone say you can’t hate or resent your way out of anything.  You can only love and accept your way out.  The best way I can do that – maybe the only way – is to surrender to what is.
And there you have it.
If you’d like Gillian to send you prompts to help you play your version of the No Matter What Game, please contact her at http://gillianpearce.com or https://www.facebook.com/GillianPearceCoach/.
Thanks for playing along with us!

No Matter What

Happy child playing with toy wings against summer sky background. Retro toned
This morning my friend Gillian and I were having the kind of conversation one would expect two people adept at coaching others would have. We have no problem quickly and easily identifying how to help other people get where they want to go.
We do have a problem applying the same practices on ourselves.
For example, we talked about how we wanted our lives to look and feel.  We also asked each other what we would do or what businesses we would create even if we never achieved “success” as defined by the superstars leading most of the seminars we attend.
My answer was I’d write without any concern over building a list, selling a product, or attempting to influence anyone to like, follow, promote or partner with me.
She said she’d coach her friends, her family, or anyone who showed up in her life in clear need of her coaching but not willing to admit or commit to it.
Gillian is a master of creating games as an imitation of life and encouraging clients to play them as a way to learn about themselves and their particular dilemma.
She suggested we play a game called “No Matter What.”  It goes something like this.  Monday through Friday she’ll send me a writing prompt and I will post a response no matter what.
Having done 21-Day Detoxes and 30 Day Challenges, I’m a big fan of the benefits that come with committing to focused periods of time with very specific outcomes in mind.  But even that did not stop me from throwing all kinds of “reasonable” resistance into the conversation.
Because I know how much better it is to do difficult things with group support, my first response was, “We should get a group together to do this!” Believing more time and more information would be necessary, my next line of resistance went something like this, “Maybe we should wait until the first of the month?”  “Maybe I should research it a little more?” 
On and on it went.  As I exercised every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t begin now, Gillian’s reply was simply, “Or I could just send you a prompt tomorrow and we could get started.”
So tomorrow we start the No Matter What game.  Because writing keeps me sane, makes me happy, and sometimes sparks joy in others, my commitment is write.  I will respond to her prompts and post them no matter what.
Gillian’s is coaching.  Yours may be painting, running, singing, writing a haiku or two, welding art objects, playing the cello, acting, creating videos or mixed tapes or who knows what.
I only know that the world needs our collective creativity.
Because creativity takes a lot of courage, most of us convince ourselves we are simply not creative.  We spend a great deal of time consuming someone else’s creativity – going to movies, watching tv, going to concerts, attending plays – and seldom cultivate our own.
So here’s my challenge.  Join the game.  Pick your baby, your thing.  Name and claim your creative superpower and then, like me, dust it off and practice it for the next month. There are no rules about how you do it, only that you do.
What’s in it for you?  Well, that’s the risk, isn’t it?  At the very least you will have given your attention to something you profess to love for 30 days. Now let’s find out if it’s true love or merely infatuation.
Yes, it will demand your time.  It absolutely vie for your attention.  And you will want to forget the whole thing some time within the first 24-48 hours.
But stick with it, Grasshopper.  I promise you’ll learn something that just thinking about doing this won’t teach you.

To get started, let me know what you’re “No Matter What” commitment is in the comments below.

While You Were Sleeping

Newborn Baby Boy in a Teddy Bear Costume

Should you wake up at 4am because life has taken an unexpected turn and you’re not exactly sure what to do about it, it’s tempting to believe you are alone in the universe. You might convince yourself you are a solitary insomniac incapable of  enduring a dark night of the soul.

The other morning, in an attempt to remind myself that nothing could be farther from the truth, I started thinking about all the other people who were awake at the exact same time.
I started with the people I knew. I thought about my friend Linda. I knew she would not only be up at this hour but busy cleaning our building before reporting in to her other job by 6am. Her contributions meant students, faculty, and staff would not see, smell, or think about what they discarded the day before.
I thought about a student who just got a job as a manager at a convenience store. Her shift started at 3am.  This allowed her to work, study, and care for her small son to the best of her ability. She, too, would be awake and busy making sure her store was stocked and her customers had coffee for their commutes to their cubicles.
The headlights in the driveway reminded me that many writers had met their deadlines so the paper boy and his dad could deliver the news to our doorstep before daylight.
Within moments I was astounded by all that was brewing beneath the surface. Seldom had I noticed or appreciated the scope of it all.
So many of us stumble out of bed, oblivious to the infinite opportunities of a new beginning.  It could be we’re living an old story line that has cast us as the victim of doom and gloom.  If so, it’s time to rewrite that story and elevate our role to that of the everyday hero.
Until something out of the ordinary happens that forces us to question what we’re doing and why, how we’re doing it and when, and what might happen if we mixed it up a bit, we tend to go on autopilot. Given the stress many of us are under, I know it’s easier to go unconscious to get through the day.
But promise me this.
Promise me you’ll wake up.
Because while you were sleeping, an incredible banquet was being prepared in your honor.  As Derek Walcott suggests in his poem Love After Love, I urge you to wake up and “feast on your life.”
Here are my recommendations:

  • At least once a day, open yourself to the exquisite beauty of an ordinary moment.
  • At least once a day, tell someone thank you for something they do that delights you.
  • At least once a day, find something that nourishes you and savor it for a full thirty seconds.
  • At least once a day, be of service to someone. Open a door. Flash a smile. Say what you need to say.
  • At least once a day, feel something deeply, even if it’s uncomfortable.
  • At least once a day, ask a question that needs no answer and then notice what calls to you or captures your curiosity.
  • At least once a day, when you wonder about it all, marvel at the wonder of it all.

I’d love for you to share your favorite way of waking up in the comments below.