Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Workers people group.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.
A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.
Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.
All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.
Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.
Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.
The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”
“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”
“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:
“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.
Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.
No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.
The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.
What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.
I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating in the comments below.
 
 
 

Just Keep Swimming

 
Corals, fishes and diver
It’s Day 12 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. In honor of the first fabulous fish to join the newly established aquarium at my home away from home, Clinton Community College Maquoketa Center, today’s challenge is to just keep swimming.
Admittedly, not every day is going to be the best day of your life. But every day can be another day in paradise, if you choose to see it that way. It certainly is for our new fish.
Yesterday these fish were just a few in a sea of plenty in a pet store. Today they swim freely  in a 50 gallon tank with gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, and whozits and whatzits galore. Thingamabobs? They’ve got thingamabobs. And everything else under the sea. Okay, my tribute to The Little Mermaid ends here.
But my challenge to you is just beginning. Today I’d like you to think about where and how you are swimming along. What gadgets and gizmos do you need to get where you’re going? Who and what can help you find your voice, make your mark, meet your match, and own your throne?
We used to have a pool at my parent’s farm and I would spend every summer alternately cleaning the pool and swimming in it. I truly did have gadgets and gizmos galore to help me channel my inner Dana Torres  or  Diana Nyad and swim more laps each day in less time.
Sadly, the family pool is no longer around. Fortunately, the Internet is and these are the waters I swim in now. Surfing the web and casting my words out into the world to see what comes back is exhilarating.
Because what comes back is you! You, from around the globe with your glorious goals and good wishes, have joined forces with my Get Your Groove Back group and given me one walloping good reason to continue to dive into these uncharted waters.
Figuring this out together is much easier than figuring it out alone, isn’t it?
And just so you know it’s not always smooth sailing, let me share what’s kicking my butt about this challenge.
These days I spend every waking moment writing or thinking about writing, wondering how to post a video or where the photo I just downloaded is now located on my computer, mortified that I may have posted something with a glaring typo or two, unclear how to share the songs playing in my head, the books vying for my attention, or the latest blog post that rocked my world, or why I can’t seem to post anything before the day is almost over.  Yada, yada, yada.
All these concerns crowd around my regular job,  getting groceries, making meals, running errands, walking the dog, doing laundry, getting stuff done, and spending time with the guy who puts out fires. Even though the challenge increases the intensity of my life, it also infuses it with unprecedented urgency, meaning, and connection.
This is why it’s called a challenge. This is why it’s for a limited time. This is how we learn what we’re made of. And this is why we just keep swimming.
Here’s what Jen Sincero, author of You Are A Badass, has to say.

“So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.”

Somewhere around now, you might be tempted to think this was fun while it lasted but you’ve got other fish to fry (just please don’t mention this in front of the fish).
Stay the course. Just keep swimming.  How you do anything is how you do everything. You quit now, you quit every time you get bored, overwhelmed, or irritated.
This is where it gets interesting. This is where the daily dares start to become healthy habits. I’m asking for 1 x 31, not 31 x 1. This is where the magic happens.
Share your fears, frustrations, breakthroughs, or epiphanies in the comments below.  Or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.
Say hello to my little friends….
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No Matter What – Day 21

It’s the end of week four of the No Matter What Game and since I posted a bonus piece on Saturday this also brings us to Day 21, which is where I leave you.  Not because you’ve been anything but supportive, but because next week I start my dietary detox. If you’ve ever done one, you know I’ll need all my wits about me to manage the civil war between what my mind wants and what my body craves.

Never fear, I’ll be blogging again in no time.

Old vintage typewriter, close-up.

G: Which prompt was your favourite and which one did you learn the most from?

P:  In my way of answering without really answering, I will say they were all my favorite because I learned something from every single one of them.  Whether it was what I felt like writing about at the end of a very long day at the office was debatable.

In the end, it came down to showing up and practicing my craft.  Nothing would get done if I waited until I felt like it, had the energy, or was inspired to do it. Having a coach and the accountability that blogging daily provided made a huge difference.

I love to write, it’s true.  I write every day no matter what regardless of whether I’m blogging or journaling.  Journaling helps me metabolize life. But blogging helps me bravely find my voice.

Before we started the No Matter What Game, I was convinced I needed to figure out a way to quit my day job in order to write full time.  Now I know the key is not the amount of time I have to write but simply that I write. No. Matter. What.

It’s also not about writing something that goes viral or gets lots of likes and attracts thousands of raving fans.  (Although I’m open to that experience.)  It’s more that I write the right words for the right person at the right time.

I recently had an experience writing a few greeting cards for Cardthartic.  I was thrilled to see my words alongside of beautiful drawing of a sunflower.  I sent the card to a dear friend who said it meant the world to her, not just because I wrote it, but because of the words held special meaning for her and her son.

At that moment I let go of the desire to write a book that gets made into a movie that wins awards and surrendered to the sweet success that writing a few good words can bring.

I have “met” many of you because you read one of these posts, liked it, and invited me to check out your site. You are amazing and incredibly inspiring!  This makes the whole thing worthwhile. It motivates me to write no matter what because it really does matter to all of us.

As artists we no longer need to feel isolated unless we want to. Creative communities abound and our tribe often looks much different than we imagine.  Mine is now wonderfully diverse and global.  And we never would have found each other if we were unwilling to be vulnerable, visible, and vocal.

Thanks to all of you who have followed diligently or just read what interested you, left a comment, or liked a post. And thanks to the world’s greatest coach Gillian for sending prompts no matter what. Even though I’m done writing daily for a short time, you can still ask Gillian to send you prompts at www.gillianpearce.com.

My world is infinitely better because all of you are in it. Thanks for playing along.

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I’d love to hear from you.  Please your feedback or share your favorite prompt in the comments below.

No Matter What – Day 12

If you’re just joining us, find out how to play the No Matter What game below today’s post.

The word "WHERE?" written in vintage wooden letterpress type.

G: If you lost your address book and contacts on your phone and computer how upset and inconvenienced would you feel?

P: My phone and I have an interesting relationship.  Although I greatly appreciate it and all of the amazing things it can do, I am not defined by it nor do I rely on it the way many people do.   Because of that, I misplace my phone a lot.  Consequently this is not something I get too worked up about.  I usually find it when I’m ready to be found.

Without a doubt it would be a nuisance to have to start from scratch and re-establish my contacts.  But just like going through my closets, my office drawers, and my latest goals, sometimes my contacts need to be updated.

Granted, I usually reserve this for “special occasions” known for inciting emotional upheaval, such as moving or losing my wallet, the house keys, my job, or my phone/address book.

When this does happen, I have to look for the silver lining, the deeper meaning, a compelling reason not to have a meltdown.

And here’s what I’ve come up with.  As long as I have not lost the people themselves, it’s merely a matter of inconvenience.  As long as I have not lost my why, I will eventually find my way. (Michael Hyatt has a great quote about this.)

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What about you?  How would you answer today’s prompt by Gillian?  Join us in the No Matter What Game by adding your response in the comments below.  Or contact Gillian at www.gillianpearce.com and have her send you your very own creativity prompt.

Shut Up and Dance With Me

Couple of blue footed boobies performing mating dance
Before discovering Sirius XM and the singers and songwriters on the Coffee House, I was stuck in the 80s musically.  Of this, I am not particularly proud.
Today I can easily sing along with almost any song because I absolutely love discovering new music. And let’s face it, I have a lot of catching up to do.
According to JibJab, the song of the summer is Shut Up and Dance With Me.  Although I prefer the less offense directive “shut it” to “shut up”, it’s a very catchy tune and often times the only way to get someone you love on the dance floor.
One of the benefits of having over seventy needles poked in my face, ears, fingers, toes, arms, legs, and belly on a regular basis is not just the elimination of my allergies, but the triumphant return of Mr. Sandman and the Technicolor Dreams. In other words, I’m sleeping like a baby after decades of disturbed sleep.
Like Joseph, another Technicolor dreamer, my dreams are worthy of a musical. Based on last night’s review, my musical wants to be called none other than “Shut Up and Dance With Me.”
Actually the precise words delivered in the dream were “Ah… but we were asked to dance.”
This came after a jam packed day of College for Kids, meeting with the local press, staying late to meet publication deadlines  for our fall catalog, and deciding to watch an artsy movie on Amazon Prime, since our satellite provider went out for the eighth time in two months.
The movie was called Still Life.  It’s a slow moving, sad story about a bloke who lives alone and works in a sterile and solitary bureaucratic environment.  His job is to find the family or friends of those who die alone so he can give them a proper burial.  Unfortunately, these are usually people who have lived their lives in such a way that they’ve alienated anyone who might care.
But our protagonist cares in his odd and autistic way. Despite the depressing subject and the maddeningly methodical pace at which he performs his job, something compelled me to keep watching.
Maybe it’s the thing that compels us all to keep plugging away.  The hope that what we do matters to someone. That at some point in our life someone will hear the same beat we move to and ask us to dance. Or we recognize it in others and ask them to dance.
The problem with watching a movie or television or engaging in media before bedtime is it’s much harder for me to quiet my mind. Especially if the information I’ve consumed is emotionally charged or unsettling.
When I finally got to sleep, my own version of Still Life unfolded.  In the dream I was following a little bird through all kinds of quirky conundrums.
Despite the craziness, I remember feeling very much alive and pleased with this peculiar path.  Just before I woke up someone joined me as we were  perched precariously on the side of a building Spiderman style.
Realizing it’s all an absurd adventure that could end any minute, he smiled appreciatively and said like a true guru, “Ah… but we were asked to dance.”
And then I woke up to a chorus of birds chirping and presumably dancing outside my window.
I’d love to know how you are being asked to dance these days and, with all due respect, if you would “shut up and dance with me“?
Share if you dare in the comments below.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“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.