As I was looking for Neosporin in the pharmaceutical aisle at Walmart to help heal the inevitable bites and scratches I’ve incurred as a new puppy mom, I noticed another frazzled mom next to me. After deliberating between a mind numbing array of decorative Band-Aids®, she carefully selected the Ninja Turtles from the shelf. That motion set an avalanche of boxes cascading to the floor.
As I reached down to help her place the Band-Aids® back on the shelf, I heard her mutter in exasperation, “the story of my life.”
I could relate. I’ve been feeling agitated for weeks and wondered what I had done to bring on the onslaught of overwhelm I’d been experiencing on all fronts.
When I got in my car to head home, the song “The Story of My Life“ by One Direction was on the radio. Never one to miss a sign when I’m sure I’ve been given one (two references to “story of my life” in twenty minutes), I started to ponder the story of my life.
As a writer, I’m captivated by stories – and signs. As a coach, I often encourage my clients to tell a different story, write a better ending, or dare to add a new twist to a tired story line.
Without realizing it, by creating and taking on the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge, I was writing a new story. Even though it may not have seemed like a big deal, I was taking small, intentional actions every day that set a series of events in motion with consequences I couldn’t necessarily predict.
Some of these actions provided instant gratification. I donated clothes and switched out bulky plastic hangers for slim, velvet ones that instantly provided more room in my closet. Posting something every day allowed me to deliver on a promise and connect with my community.
I also got a puppy. This is where things got interesting. Like adopting a child or moving an aging parent into your home, the dynamics of our household shifted immediately.
There is a renewed sense of wonder, curiosity, playfulness, unconditional love and laughter in our home. There is also unprecedented chaos, an influx of puppy paraphernalia, additional expenses, the stress of teaching our old dog a new trick, and an edginess in my temperament that comes from sleep deprivation.
Writers call this an inciting incident, the conflict or change that leads the protagonist to begin the adventure that makes her story worth reading. It’s the challenge that forces her to discover her strengths, grow into her potential, and learn life’s most guarded secrets.
As part of my declaration that I am equal to the task of living this grand adventure, I decided to write down something every day that I will need on this quest in order to call my power back to me. Name it and claim it, I say!
Like the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31, this daily practice has the potential to set sweeping changes in motion. What I intend to remember this time and want to warn you about is something Martha Beck describes in her blog as the Storm before the Calm.
I’ll sum it up like this. When you ask for things to change, things will change. But not in the calm, orderly, predictable way that allows you to continue life as you know it. A new world order does not emerge without a little death and destruction – be it the death of an idea, a relationship, a job, or the way you thought it would be.
In making room for the new, what no longer serves you has got to go.
What remains is what you most need to move your life forward. When you get a glimpse of that, the calm returns amidst the storm and you know you are going to be just fine. Maybe even spectacular.
In my case I not only realized I didn’t wear half the clothes in my closet, I also realized I needed to revamp the way I do business – at home and at work. If my puppy wakes up at 5:30am, I need to go to bed before 11pm. If policies are not serving our students, I need to do what I can do change them.
Ironically, the trick to telling the story of your life is to embrace the parts you’d prefer to eliminate. You are not your questionable decisions, bad luck, or the person who always picks the longest checkout line or looks for love in all the wrong places.
These things add to your character, inform your future decisions, and help you discover want you really want. But they do not define you. You are always free to rewrite.
If the woman looking for Band-Aids® had simply grabbed the first box she saw, I might not have realized she was a dedicated mom willing to endure a little overwhelm to make sure her kids’ “hurts stopped hurting.”
As Gandhi once wrote, “Your life is your message.”
What do you want the story of your life to tell?
No Matter What Game …. find out how you can play below post.
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.
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.
“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
It’s here once again. My favorite holiday of the year. A day dedicated to giving thanks and appreciating all that is good and plenty and ours to experience.
It’s been an amazing year. As often as possible I’ve attempted to blog about it because for me, an experience isn’t assimilated until it’s articulated. Once I committed to learn, grow, and connect in a very public way, each risk I took opened the door to the next big thing. Often times opportunities overlapped, making life that much more interesting.
My writing life has been full of plot twists, unruly characters, unexpected drama, comic relief, tragedy, mistaken identities, and happily ever afters interrupted by reality scripts. Had I been given a choice of superpowers, I may have picked a talent that would more clearly catapult me to super stardom or super service. But for argument’s sake, I’m going to assume I did have a choice and my soul choose writing. Consequently I will wield my words accordingly.
It’s interesting that the thing others find extraordinary about us is often the thing we consider the most ordinary. We mistakenly believe if we can do something, so can everyone else. It’s almost preposterous to think people will pay us to do what we do naturally.
But it happens every day. Yesterday, for example, I consulted an expert in web design for speakers, writers, and coaches. In about twenty minutes I discovered I could take my business to a place I’ve not been able to get it to in twenty years. Yes, it will require a considerable investment of time, effort, focus, and vision as well as cash. But I am thrilled to know there are people out there who are extremely good at the things I am not. Aligning myself with them, frees me up to focus on what I do best while they do what they do best.
I also had a chance to catch up with friends who have believed in my dreams long before there was evidence they would come true. Talking with them was so nourishing because they have been there, listened to, and participated in every iteration of my evolution and still support the ongoing unfolding with unbridled enthusiasm.
So yes, I love it that there is a day devoted to giving thanks. Because in my world, despite a few failures and downright disasters, so much to be grateful for remains. Here are a few things on my gratitude list. I’m grateful for you, for a couple of days off work from a good job, for time to walk the dogs, connect with family and friends, eat good food, watch movies, stay home while other people shop, play cards or board games, spend time in nature, and write until my heart’s content.
What about you? What are you thankful for this year? Share if you dare in the comments below.
PS – I know the holidays can be rough for those of you who have suffered a loss or multiple losses or are struggling with financial, health, or relationship challenges. In these instances it may feel impossible to feel grateful. Yet I do believe the saying, “There is always something to be grateful for.” It may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling incredibly low, but I’ve found that identifying even the simplest thing to be grateful for helps the healing begin.