My wish for everyone: to be authentic and vulnerable; to take risks; and to always believe in your basic goodness--trust in yourself. This is increasingly difficult in our culture of busyness and fear-based incentives.
There's an oft-referenced quotation from Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." In that spirit, I share a poem I recently wrote:
My Deepest Fear Here is my deepest fear: I bare my genuine self, and I am rejected. (Will you judge this poem?) The anticipated pain sears me. Quickly, I move from heart to head: How do I make sense of a delicate existence? Ego rejoins: Control the whole world. Tighten muscles, micro-manage, overwork. I am protected by this multi-layered fiction of control. Yet I am unhappy and tired.
How do I make sense of a delicate existence? I don't. People will reject and misunderstand me. My heart will break open with sadness and grief. It will also break open with happiness, joy, and love. This is the uncertain and ambiguous path I walk.
Naked with vulnerability I'm free. Burdened with layers of protection, I'm heavy and inauthentic. (Reconsideration.) What if my deepest fear is actually a bold act of courage? I bare my genuine self and who knows?
Yesterday was another long, fulfilling gardening experience. From 2-6, I dug a new flower bed, transplanted hostas, talked to my neighbors, picked up sticks, mowed the lawn, and stared at the sky. It was just a lovely day.
Before coming inside, I remembered a suggestion from photographer Andrea Scher: use your camera self-timer and take pictures of yourself as a superhero. I've used my self-timer to get self-portraits, but never in such a playful way. Be a superhero--why not? So I decided to set the timer and jump around my backyard:
I took multiple photos and laughed the whole time. After a few shots, Mark looked inquisitively out the window. (Also, in one of the photos, my backyard neighbor can be seen in the sliding glass door in the house behind me. It really is fascinating: why is that person jumping and laughing? The secret: we can all jump and laugh; no reason necessary.) I coaxed Mark outside to join me:
This was SO much fun. Anyone with a self-timer on your camera: take a few snaps of yourself leaping and posing in the air; add your loved ones, too. I assure it will make you laugh and definitely put you in touch with a wonderful sense of play.
I'm taking a great online photography class, Superhero Basics, from Andrea Scher. Her Monday lesson resonated deeply with me (and echoed my current experiences and insights). She wrote about elevating the ordinary. As motivation for this, it's helpful to think about gorgeous, mind-blowing visuals (e.g., incredible sunsets, delicate details of flowers, brilliant colors in a garden). These are often best experienced, as few photographs do them justice. If you see something extraordinary, then just see it; drink it in.
But let's face it: most of life is not filled with extraordinary visuals and experiences. Most of life is filled with the ordinary. To bring out the extraordinary in the ordinary, we need a combination of play, mindfulness, creativity, and willingness to experiment. As Andrea puts it: "Take something that on the surface is not beautiful and see it into beauty" [emphasis hers]. I love the idea of seeing something into beauty. I love this idea not only for photography, but for life. How can we see a difficult interaction into beauty? Or see ourselves into beauty? Or see doing the laundry into beauty? Or see grief into beauty? These are thought-provoking and emotional questions.
After work on Monday, I toured my backyard and looked at my plants. (Oh they loved the rain we got Sunday.) As I walked up the steps to my house, I noticed all the tree droppings on the mat--a mat I just cleaned off the day before. My first thought: these tree droppings are so messy and never seem to end. My second thought: these tree droppings are beautiful. I spent five minutes photographing the mat. And guess what? Afterward, I was in a much lighter mood.
Yesterday was beautiful--70s and sunny. In the afternoon, I happily played in the dirt; I planted a lilac sucker and moved around other perennials. I reconnected with my yard--with the underground tree roots, the dirt, the plants, and the space. It was leisurely and mindful, and oh-so fun. It was just enough. Enough to thoroughly enjoy, but not so much to feel the edge of to-do crankiness. (In fact, I purposefully put off my hosta transplanting to avoid that edge.) It was a fully-alive experience, and, really, who can resist playing in the dirt? Today we got a lovely, long rain. I could see my backyard plants getting greener.
Because I'm taking a wonderful online poetry class (Poem It Out by Liz Lamoreux), my creative response to yesterday's experience was to write a poem:
My Backyard Yesterday I played in the dirt. My tools: shovel, wheelbarrow, compost, watering can. And the clippers (for when my shovel encounters a tree root).
Plants receive new spaces in my yard; holes filled with nutrients and blessed with my whispered words: I hope you like your new home.
I feel connected, empowered, and messy (hands covered in dirt then wiped on pants). Communing with my yard heightens my awareness. I decide to lie on the ground.
From this perspective I see trees talking and the sun eavesdropping. I see a spider web on the bird feeder. I notice the extraordinary ordinary. Like worms delicately moving through the dirt, and water droplets sparkling on newly transplanted daisies.
Home I enter. Still carrying baggage from the day; sometimes a small clutch purse, other times an oversized suitcase. These walls whisper for me to drop the weight.
Walking from room to room, I'm soothed by the ordinary: stacks of books, coat hooks, coffee cups, bins of flour, toothbrushes. (No baggage.) Comfort comes from kitchen aromas and soft blankets. Even from a crooked painting on the wall.
This place sees my most vulnerable self, and always welcomes me back.
[On Wednesday, Lawrence experienced a power outage--no electricity for 5 hours in the middle of the day.]
Power Outage My screen goes blank. Pause. Gradually we stream from offices, from classrooms. Our little world sans electricity: students mingle in the sunshine; professors teach in creative ways; and learning happens. The outage lingers: reflection, awareness, and play. Screens are blank. Minds are alive.
On Tuesday morning, our alarm woke us at 5am (yoga class at 5:30). I immediately saw gorgeous flashes of lightning through the window, and then I heard that glorious sound of rolling thunder. A spring thunderstorm--yes! (I always long for and thoroughly enjoy the first thunderstorm of spring.)
It was a beautiful way to begin the day. And after yoga (lovely) and an elliptical-machine workout (meh), the skies had cleared. There were puddles everywhere and droplets on flowers. The earth soaked in the rain.
That day, I paid close attention to the signs of spring. For example, the smell of lilacs, the sound of birds, the sight of green things growing, the sound of a lawnmower, the smell of fresh cut grass or of an outdoor grill. These are all lovely reminders of spring. But my most visceral reminder came when I walked past a park: I heard the sound of an aluminum bat making contact with a ball. That sound resonated in my body and brought a smile to my face. Yes, spring is here!
In eighth grade I began my first journal. Since then, I've used regular journaling as a tool to relax, discover myself, record insights, and tell my story. For many years my journals were "perfect." I sometimes wrote about difficult emotions, but my handwriting was neat and there was not space for creative exploration (nor for, egads, mistakes). Gradually, I came to embrace imperfection as a beautiful part of being real and alive.
I experimented more in my journal--writing with colorful markers, pasting interesting messages from magazines, and allowing true expression (filled with messiness & mistakes). I still shared my feelings and insights, but I did so with more creativity. And I had many outlets: writing, photography, card making, art, blogging, gardening. So I wanted a place to record all my ideas (whether they be big or small, fleeting or grounded, used or unused). Yet I hesitated mixing my list of creative ideas with my deep, emotional journaling. My writing journal is sacred in that way.
Then came an aha moment: I let go of that controlling feeling--the need to keep everything neatly in one place--and I embraced a multitude of journals. (Yay!) Now I have my 1) writing journal, 2) listing-of-fun-and-creative-ideas journal, 3) hug journal (where I record each new person that I hug--I'm going for 1000), and 4) art journal. The latter is my newest type of journal, and it brings me in-the-moment fun. (Thanks, Steph, for introducing me to liquid water color!)
I embrace the multitude of places to share pieces of myself. I express my truth in different mediums and different spaces, knowing that some of it might be misplaced, forgotten, or never completed, and that's all just part of the journey.