A few weeks ago in a couple of the online homeschool groups I’m in, moms started posting a very similar request: “Help! I’m a first year homeschooling mom and suddenly nothing is going right. Continue reading → Creative Februarys
I teach at a homeschool co-op once a week. A group of parents get together and teach about 100 kids from preschool through high school. Kids can take anything from belly dancing to British Literature. I love being there and tapping into a huge network of creative and resourceful parents.
One of my contributions tot he co-op is to teach a creative writing class for seven to nine-year-olds. It is truly one of the best things I do all week. It just so happens that across the hall from us during that time period is a music class for some of our youngest students and their parents.
This past week, my kids and I were working on creating poetry, when all of a sudden there was a horrible shriek from the classroom across the hall. It quickly became apparent that one small musician was having a meltdown of monumental proportions. Her mom was with her the entire time and quickly removed her from that classroom, moving her down the hall to the unoccupied nursery.
A few minutes later, I needed to leave the classroom to get some additional supplies, and as I walked by the nursery. As I passed by, I was struck by the most stunning image. The young girl, who is about two, was still stuck in a full-blown temper tantrum. Her mother was sitting in front of her, perfectly calm and practicing active listening skills as the little girl sobbed and spoke, fairly unintelligibly, I would imagine, while struggling to regain control. And here was her mother, clearly listening, not judging, not telling her to calm down, just listening.
It got me thinking about those times we, as adults, melt down. It happens to the best of us occasionally. Maybe you yell, maybe you drink, maybe you watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer for hours on end while eating eight cartons of Chinese take-out. People don’t melt down randomly, it’s a build up of frustrations, little and big, that we stuff down until they pile up. Eventually, if you keep it up, you run out of room to hold it in- that’s when the meltdown happens. How quickly we personally recover depends on how long it takes for us to listen to ourselves, without judgement or without asking ourselves to do something we have no ability to do, like calm down or get over it. Meltdowns are a way of saying that something is very wrong, that our needs can no longer be ignored for the sake of politeness, appropriateness or because we’re choosing to put other people’s’ needs ahead of our own.
Some of us need to practice active listening with ourselves which may come in the form of journaling or running or painting. Some of us need stillness and silence – meditation – to truly listen to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but it’s much harder for me to listen to myself without judgement, without harping on all the reasons I should have it together, or shouldn’t have lost it in the first place, that it is to do the very same things for the people around me. And all those judgements, all those “shoulds” and reasons to beat ourselves up don’t help us find our center or right us. They just keep us in the vortex of the storm.
The simple wisdom of this mom to not try to change the situation or judge or ask of her daughter something she simply wasn’t capable of in that moment stunned me. The act of being present in the frustration and the pain and to just listen stuck with me in a way I don’t think I’ll easily dismiss. I hope the next time I find myself in the middle of a personal meltdown I have the ability to just stop and listen and hear what it is I am so desperately trying to say.
This is day 22 of the National Blog Posting Challenge.
Tonight, at 8:15pm NASA launched a rocket from Wallops Island Flight Facility, VA. The rocket carries a record 29 satellites to be deployed once in orbit. With just two minutes to go, a perfectly clear sky and the U-Stream live coverage of the launch on my phone, I bundled up and stepped outside with my family to try and catch a glimpse of the rocket in the night sky.
We weren’t really sure what we were looking for, but as soon as we saw the live liftoff on the phone, we began scanning the sky in the approximate direction of the launch. About 20 seconds after liftoff we found the glowing orange ball in the sky. The girls were excited; pointing and yelling and jumping up and down. We’ve watched spectacular meteor showers and gazed at giant moons together. We’ve sat in the grass as the fireflies danced around us, but this was the first time we’ve seen a rocket launch. Pretty darn cool.
We were all filled with such a sense of wonder. It made us feel both tiny in the scope of the Universe and important at the same time, witnessing something rare and precious. The excitement the girls felt melted into wonder and we stood quietly for a few minutes as the orange glow faded and was then gone.
Mirriam-Webster defines wonder as “a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising, beautiful, or amazing,” but to me the definition is lacking somewhat. It doesn’t seem to encompass the totality of the feeling, although I am at a loss about how to improve that definition. I hope you’ve experienced true wonder. I know as children we can be filled with wonder about so many things. It’s rarer to experience it regularly as an adult, but it does seem rather vital. I remember the first piece of art that inspired wonder in me – I was in Europe after graduating college and in a museum, I came across Rodin’s “The Kiss” and I stood transfixed. We saw a lot of art that trip and nothing affected me the same way.
What we saw tonight is what happens when someone is brilliant enough to merge science and creativity. The specialness, maybe even the sacredness of what we saw tonight cannot adequately be put into words. I hope though, that you have experienced true wonder because then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I want my daughters’ childhoods to be filled with as many moments of wonder as possible so they learn to recognize it later in life and then pass the experience on to their own children. I think tonight was one of those nights for them that they’ll remember, I hope so at least. I know I’ll remember.
Today is day 18 in the National Blog Posting Month challenge.
If you’re keeping track, I didn’t post yesterday. First day in the November challenge that I missed. I actually had it all planned out. Writing in the morning was impossible due to scheduling conflicts. I had a concert in the evening but it was early enough that I would be home in plenty of time to write something.
As so often happens, plans change. Finding dinner after the show turned out to be harder than we thought in that area of Washington DC. After looking at a few restaurants and not finding one to accommodate our group, we decided to leave the city and head back to my town in search of food. There was just one complication; friends locked their keys in their car and were stranded. So we waited with them, of course. We made sure they stayed safe until they were able to pop the lock. You have no idea how hard it is to find a wire hanger in this day and age. Anyway, after a bit, we saw them on their way and my group of merry revelers made it home without incident. By then it was after midnight and I had missed my window.
But really, it’s okay. A few years ago I would have freaked out about missing one day. I would have seen the blogging challenge as an all-or-nothing endeavor. Either I succeeded in writing 30 posts or I failed by missing even just one. Thankfully, I’ve mostly recovered from that kind of black and white thinking. I’m learning to recognize the thought patterns and to challenge them when they rear their ugly heads.
In this particular case it was totally worth missing the post to ensure my friends were safe. But there are lots of other reasons that would have been okay too. The first is I don’t have to be perfect to be successful at any goal that I have. And neither do you by the way. Which is actually a fantastic thing because no situations ever happen perfectly. That’s just life. And once I not only figured that out, but also believed it to be true (the harder of the two tasks), reaching my goals not only became more doable but less daunting as well.
So I’m moving forward. Posting this today and letting go of yesterday. I may not get all thirty blogs up but that doesn’t mean I didn’t successfully complete the National Blog Posting Month Challenge. In fact, I think a little struggle to post shows me just how successful I am. Instead of quitting at the first sign on imperfection, I am soldiering on. My journey isn’t perfect but I get to exchange perfectionism for learning and growing. Seems like I am getting the better part of that deal.
This is Day 17 of the National Blog Posting Month Challenge.
Today marks a perfect storm of creative inspiration for me. I’ve got a road trip, live music by my favorite band and lots of laughter with great friends. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way talks a lot about filling the well. You can’t draw from your creativity over and over again without also having a consistent way to refill the well. So, I get to do that today, a lot. It’s fantastic.
Filling the well doesn’t have to be time-consuming, expensive or exotic. Sometimes, just a simple walk or time in my garden works wonders for me. As does getting lost in a bookstore, wandering through a yarn store or playing my guitar. Lots of options to fit my mood or how much time or energy I have to devote to it. I always encourage my clients to keep a list of what fills them up. It’s important to have it handy otherwise we end up trying to fill our well with things like Candy Crush or Facebook or the Lifetime Christmas movie marathon. Not that any of those things are bad in and of themselves (I’m currently stuck on level 197 though…), but they are not going to refill your well. They may provide a distraction or a bit of respite from a long day but they won’t sustain you through the last hundred pages of your novel, a new business venture or your first major gallery show.
Figure out what fills your well and then do it – a lot. Funny, I wrote a blog recently about being happy – same advice. So, being one who is trying to learn to take her own recommendations, I’m going to go fill my well. I hope you get to do the same today.
Today marks Day 15 in the National Blog Posting Month Challenge. My goal is to post every day during the month of November. Check back frequently and see how I am doing.
I’m sitting at my dining room table writing this post, mug of hot tea beside me. The house is quiet – older child already off to school, younger engaged in an activity downstairs. I have sleeping houseguests and a tiny house so the impetus is to stay quiet and unrushed. Don’t get the day started in full-court-press mode yet, that’s just inhospitable.
This is, truthfully, my favorite time of day and my favorite way to write. The dining room has two large windows that overlook my yard and some woods – it’s an expansive view I never tire of. When I remember to fill the bird feeders, I love to get distracted by the antics playing out on the porch.
We all have rhythms to our creativity, times that just feel more right than others to engage in our work. And while it’s not always possible to line up with the ideal schedule (most mornings my day has been at full-tilt for two hours by now), it’s really important to know when those most productive hours (or minutes or even moments) are so that you can tap into them whenever possible.
Sometimes we just have to push through our work. There are chapters to be completed for our editors, music that has to be recorded for the release date, or even cupcakes that have to be baked for a class party. In those moments we can be proud of our work, happy that we made it across the finish line. But those times when we get to create under our most enjoyable circumstances, those are the times we savor and often times, the reason why we keep doing what we’re doing. Think of it as the runner’s high of creativity. It’s that place where process passes productivity and it can be as intoxicating as anything.
As for me, the house is starting to wake up and my day will soon fill with activity and business and lots of fun and laughter – all great things. AND, the fact that I got the opportunity to write during my best time frame is such a bonus. The creative high I got from this will last all day. May your day be as creatively inspired.
This is blog post #14 of the 30-day National Blog Posting Month challenge.
For years I’ve done most of my writing in my house. Often at the dining room table. But the last few months, it hasn’t been a great setup for me. I’ve sat, stared at the screen, checked FB and email, got something to eat, wandered back and stared some more. Then I’d close up the laptop and promise to come back later and actually get some writing accomplished.
If you look at the dates of my last few blog posts, you’ll see how that’s been working for me lately.
Today, I’m trying something new. I’m sitting in the lobby of a local hotel, away from the laundry and the pile of paper I really need to sort and the snacks in the cupboard. There’s just enough activity and noise to distract the part of me that hates total silence. There are big windows to let in a little light therapy.
Sometimes it takes a small reset, a slightly different way of looking at things to get you back on track. If it doesn’t work, no biggie- I didn’t do something drastic or expensive like rent a suite at the Four Seasons in Hawaii – although if you are offering, I wouldn’t turn it down. I just changed my scenery a little bit. It seems to be working but if it doesn’t or if it stops working, I can make another small adjustment without too much effort or feeling like I lost a lot by trying something new.
More importantly than the change in scenery is the small adjustment I’m making in my thinking. Lately, I’ve been using excuses of being too over-committed or getting used to my daughters’ new school/extracurricular schedules and other similar situations to justify not writing. And it’s a shame because I love to write and it’s good for me. My new thinking is that I’m no longer allowed to let excuses get in the way of the few things that are really important to me. No excuses, just making it happen. It’s exciting.
We have in our lives, literally hundreds of opportunities every day to make small changes and try something new. No pressure, no dire consequences if something goes wrong – just the potential for life to tweak in a better way. Who couldn’t use that? What new thing are you going to try today?
Speaking of trying something new, I’m offering coaching services for 50% off through the end of the year. In addition, the first session is always free. What have you got to lose except to let go of old ways of thinking and the opportunity to step into a wonderful, wild new life? Give me a shout out to learn more by emailing me at email@example.com