The Story of My Life

 
Old vintage typewriter
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?
 
 
 
 
 

Rocky Mountain High

 
image
Today I’m trying my hand a flash fiction because as John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Like six word stories, they pack a powerful punch in just a few words.  Here goes:
In the midst of a month of madness, she was plucked from the pressures of puppy parenthood and advising anxious students who only recently realized their imminent return to school required registering for and funding their education, and drove across the country to Colorado attend the nuptials of her fiancé’s  niece.
Despite the availability and legality of certain mind altering substances, the only thing she needed to experience a Rocky Mountain high was to walk among the aspens, breathe in the air, and respond to the call of the wild.
 
 
 

Go for Your Own Kind of Gold

Swimmers
The Olympics are here! This song has been running through my head since the opening ceremonies, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Since I only knew the first line, it was high time for me to Google the rest of it. I discovered this fabulous video of Peter Allen and his pink pants, maracas, and joie de vivre that screams of all things Rio – at least in my imagination.
The Olympics are a grand global get-together. They allow us to be a part of something spectacular, break down the barriers that separate us, and for a brief time intricately connect us to the stories, hopes, and dreams of those who live all over the world.
It’s thrilling to be alive in times when humans are faster, stronger, smarter, and more determined than ever.
The competition compels everyone to perform better. Even the caliber of the commercials rival that of Super Bowl Sunday.
But on the other hand, it seems to bring out this unchecked need to grab for the gold. The time or points between first and second or even first and seventh are so minuscule, and yet the difference somehow declares one person a winner and another a loser.
These athletes have all made it to the Olympics, for goodness sake! If they feel bad for not getting a medal, imagine how the rest of us feel for not getting off the couch.
Of course, no one expects us to perform physical feats like an Olympian. However, I suspect we all have Olympic expectations of ourselves in fields where we could be contenders.
For example, it isn’t enough for me to write a blog post. To go for the gold, I should also write for O magazine, More magazine, the Huffington Post or other trendy publications. I should also have a book on the New York Times best seller list and be booked on several talk shows. At the very least, my followers should number more than a few friends and family members.
Or so I’m told. Personally, I feel like I win every time I connect with you.

How do we let Olympic achievements guide and motivate us to become our best? How do we write our own stories based on what we’ve learned from theirs? How do we go for our own kind of gold, silver, or bronze and know that is enough?

I’d love to hear what events you’d be competing in if you participated in an Olympics dedicated to all the things you excel at.
For example, would there be a trivia contest, a baton twirling with fire fest, a dog walking decathlon, a poetry slam, a bubble bath battle, a coffee drinking debate, or a clothes changing charge?
Which of these events – if not all – would you be favored to win? Which would you be delighted just to get to participate in?
Your Olympian efforts matter. I’d love to play your anthem and hear about your achievements in the comments below.  Or email me at penny@wellpower.com.

Six Word Stories

AdobeStock_107749009.jpegIt’s Day 22 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is short and sweet. However, it will require reflection and a precise use of words. Today I’d like you to summarize your week in six words that tell a whole story.
Can you succinctly summarize your week?
By Friday nights, I’m usually fried. But I also like to look back on the week and ask myself what I’ve done, learned, regretted, or just didn’t see coming that catapulted me out of my comfort zone.
Just as learning to sketch things throughout the day invites me to look at the world differently, using six words to tell a story expresses the essence of an experience.
Last year for Community College Month we challenged our students to come up with six word stories. The results surprised and amazed us. So much said in so little.
You are up to the task. This will certainly spark your creativity. So let’s give it a try.
If you insist, I’ll go first. (Actually, I’ve been sprinkling six word sentences throughout this post already. Just check the last six sentences. Or anything in italics or bold.)

  • Puppy preparedness has preempted regular writing.

Or here’s a quick review of the restaurant we just came from.

  • Does scrumptious food trump questionable service?

Do you see how it works?  Now it’s your turn. You can definitely do this in 5-15 minutes.
Or if six words are entirely too few to express all that needs to be said, check out fellow blogger Edward Road’s eloquent posts at www.mytwosentences.com.
Share your stories in the comments below or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.
 

No Matter What – Day 14

If you’re just joining us for the No Matter What Game, find out how you can play at the end of the post.

Red pencil among black and white

G:  If the world turned black and white tomorrow which colours would you miss most?

P:  I would miss every single one of them.  All for different reasons but mainly because they each evoke such unique emotions, memories, sights and sounds.

This question reminds me of my last trip to River Lights Bookstore in Dubuque. The books that captured my imagination were The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home. I was also undeniably drawn to You Are a Badass, but that’s material for another post.

The crayon books by Drew Daywalt (Author), Oliver Jeffers (Illustrator) explain far better than I can the secret lives of colors and what would make them want to quit their job but eventually come home. Consequently I will not do so.

I will, however, suggest an exercise I learned from Jennifer Grace in her online video course through mindbodygreen.com.  She recommends going on a color walk.  You simply pick a color and then go for a walk and see how many places you spot that color that you may never have noticed before.

It’s kind of like when you buy a copper colored car and then suddenly everywhere you look you see a copper colored car.

Okay, it’s late, the Cubs won, Bob’s happy, and I’ve had a very long but productive day.  Because I’m exhausted, things feel a bit black and white.  But in the morning, the whole spectrum of colors await!

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I’d love to hear your comments below.  If you’d like to play along just answer the prompt in your own words and leave them in the comments below or keep them to yourself in a journal.  If you’d like the world’s best coach Gillian to send you your own set of daily prompts, contact her at www.gillianpearce.com.

 

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.