On “Be-living” and Blogging

As I have explained before, my focus for 2013 is “be-living” – not just thinking, not just doing, but trying to live at the balance point. At first that seemed like a passive word, an invitation to “sit around and wait.” That idea drove me crazy! I prefer to be active, moving, pursuing something. Last year’s focus of “walk” was bad enough. But the idea of an absence of movement has been stressful.

I haven’t done much blogging so far this year. I refuse to be a navel-gazing, woo-woo type of writer. If I’m spinning in circles mentally, I figure I’m already torturing myself and don’t need to inflict that on others. The combination of wrestling with “be-living” and struggling through unemployment has left me with little to say. Travel? FUN! Bewilderment? NOT fun!

"Be-living" -- passive or active?

“Be-living” — passive or active?

The first months of this year were easy: help friends with their little guys, try to maintain relationships while living a continent away, keep my youngest daughter focused on all the wonderful things to learn while living overseas, and enjoy some travel to new places. The “be-living” balance seemed to fall into place pretty easily: specific responsibilities, regular time for exercise, and unscheduled time for thinking.

Now that I’m home, balance has been harder to find. Some days the walls seem to close in around me as I wander around with nothing on my agenda. I get tired of mentally going down the same “rabbit-trails” I’ve thought about over and over and over again. I lack energy and will-power to get outside and get physically active.

Other days, I fill my schedule with activity. I run errands, go to the library, take kids on outings, take the dog on long walks, sort through boxes and boxes of “stuff” in preparation for an (eventual) move. There is movement but little time to think and little direction to the activity.

I am realizing that “be-living” is less about being and more about actively engaging in the moment. It is NOT being passive and trying to accept whatever comes my way. It is NOT giving up dreams and dreaming. It is NOT sitting around with nothing to say. (Yeah, those that know me are well aware that I can’t possibly sit around and not communicate!!)

This “be-living” challenge includes actively engaging in this moment, and this one, and this one. It is letting go of excuses about past failures or experiences and not making excuses to avoid future possibilities. It is forcing myself to quit making compulsive lists about future plans. (Okay, okay, so I’m still making SOME lists, but only killing a few trees in the process rather than decimating an entire forest for piles of paper, okay?!!) “Be-living” is active? It seems impossible? Great! Now it feels like something I can get excited about!

I’m sure that a fuzzy definition of “be-living” is not what was keeping me mired down. And I really can’t blame unemployment for feeling stuck (although it doesn’t help). I think I’m getting a handle on how to BE in a more active way. I will keep you posted on how this plays out. Guess I’ve got things to blog about after all…

Pushing Past the Fears…

I have recently been pondering the difference between Risk-taking and “risky behavior.” Sometimes when I’m facing something challenging, fear steps in and tries to convince me that participating in that activity would be “risky behavior” (in other words, something “bad”) rather than merely “risk-taking” (or something “good”). In the past few weeks, I have stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some new (scary) things. Most of you know that when it comes to living outside the box or trying new adventures, I’m all in. There are indeed some areas, however, that scare me; some opportunities that fill me with fear rather than exhilaration.

(portrait by the wonderful Jo Blackwell—see more of her work HERE )

In the past month, a number of opportunities for stretching and trying something new came up. I wrote last week about attending a conference for Community Health Evangelism. I had no idea (and still have no idea!) how I would use this. But the cost was manageable and the topic was interesting. I’m glad I gave it a try…

Earlier this year, I downloaded information about training to participate in a (mini)Triathlon. I enjoy being challenged by the posts on the Impossible blog. I decided to follow the writer’s advice, and reach for a physically challenging goal, rather than just doing adventurous, outside-the-box things that I enjoy. I dabbled with training, signed up for a mini-tri at the beginning of September…and chickened out at the last minute….sigh… I hope to do more consistent training and sign up for another mini-tri at a lower elevation sometime next spring. (Looking back, I’m sad that I let fear overwhelm me…)

I wrote on my art blog last week about taking a risk and signing up to submit illustrations for possible inclusion in an upcoming book by a favorite inspirational author. When I read about the opportunity to participate, I was excited. Then I was convinced it wasn’t really for me. After all, I have no experience with painting, or with collage, or with illustrating anything in particular. I’m definitely not a professional artist. Who was I to think that I could do this? and…and…and…

I tried to forget about it. But it kept coming back, over and over. Finally, I decided to sign up. I could at least look at the passages and see if I even had any ideas of what to try. Besides, anyone who sent in a submission would receive a free copy of the book. That, at least, sounded good. Okay…deep breath…

I finally managed to shut up those fear-filled, despairing voices inside my head. I asked for two passages. I read them over. Ideas immediately came; pictures in my mind that could illustrate the words. I was still fearful, but moved forward. I don’t know what will happen with the submissions…but I already know pushing past the fears, taking a RISK, has given me more confidence in playing with art!

Finally, I participated in a recent “Prophetic Art” seminar down in Albuquerque. Again, this felt quite risky. I enjoy artsy things like crafts and scrapbooking. But “real art”? That doesn’t seem to describe what I do. I dabble. I play. I don’t see myself as an “artist.” Plus I struggled with the idea of “prophetic” art, as I explained in an art-blog post this week. Again, all those fears about not being professional, not being an experienced painter, not being good enough, shouted in my head. Again, it felt too RISKY to participate. But, again, confidence came as I pushed through the fears and attended the seminar.

These are little things in the big picture of life. But, perhaps, for me they will turn out to be “big things.” At least pushing past the fears and quieting the voices has given me a new level of confidence! And I guess that’s a good start…

Progress Report…

It is only 20 more days til I reach 50 years old! Still hard to believe that I’ve been on this earth for so long…and hard to believe there is such a short time left in this Personal Year of Jubilee.

portrait

a favorite photo from last May

I decided to take a look back–at the past year, at the plans I made for the year, and at my blog site. Here is a summary of what I have and haven’t done toward reaching the goals I set…

12 Monthly Focuses:

June: Cello — I practiced hard and realized I can still play a pretty mean cello. I also discovered a “Jazz Cellist” during the year. I wanna learn how to play like him! (And it’s a good thing I did some practicing to give me confidence—I’ve been asked to play duets with my violinist sister for my son’s wedding in October–EEK!)

July: 1000 Origami Cranes, October: Poetry, February: Daily Art Journal, and March: nightly Sunset Viewing — These really didn’t happen. I still like the idea of these things, I just never really got around to doing them. Maybe they will happen regularly at some future time…or maybe not.

August: Daily Photo Assignments — I really enjoyed these projects. And, yes, some of them were a stretch for me. I definitely want to do this occasionally in the future!

September: Prepare for Husband’s 50th Birthday — check! did a good job of this, if I say so myself 😉

November: Gratitude List, and April: walk 50 1 mile walks in honor of friends — I’m working at this. I have the list of people who have influenced my life, I have the list of lessons learned from them, and I’m gradually working at the 1 mile walks. It won’t happen in the 50 days leading up to my birthday, but I figure I can keep working at it until I finish the list, right?!

December: journal prompts to finish out the year, and January: personal scrapbook — I didn’t follow the plan I originally listed, but I did participate in making a Christmas Art Journal. I did most of the scrapbooking in October at a retreat with a friend. Both projects are well started…but I still need to finish them.

And here’s the update on my goal of 50 Activities for 50 Years:

Artistic: I got a tatoo just before the 4th anniversary of my son’s death in April (I’ll blog about this including photos soon), Anna and I have started a doll’s quilt with her doing most of the sewing, I have almost finished the animal coloring book (and will post scans, I promise!), and I am QUITE excited about a scheduled photo shoot while I’m in England in June. I also added: making a really cool heart to color as a gift for a friend

I sent a black & white line copy to my friend for her to enjoy coloring

, and signing up for LifeBook 2012 (an e-course with bi-weekly art projects).

Fitness: I would love to announce I have slam-dunked this category…but no, nothing has really changed! I have started walking more regularly. I have also started training to complete a mini-Triathlon sometime late summer or early fall. I guess that is a start…

Literary: I made my list of 50 books. I forgot all about Beowulf (gotta check the library this Wednesday). I’ve left a number of books in places for others to discover and take home. Memorizing poems? Nope, didn’t happen. But I have written a number of poems I’m quite pleased with! (see HERE and HERE for two I posted)

Entertainment: haven’t yet learned to play by ear—I think I’m switching that goal to learning Jazz Cello! And I haven’t watched many movies—those who know me, know I tend to get distracted and wander off! I did discover a new band that both Anna and I love—Pink Martini—in addition to going to a CD release concert by a wonderful singer-songwriter friend of ours, Alison Kitchen. Oh, and I discovered a wonderfully creative duo of Cello & Piano. Check out their videos HERE and HERE.

Other things: Never learned to milk a goat, train my dog for dog agility, or pick our own fruit. Did have a fun camp-out with Anna last June.

camping trip

Camping trip with Anna…and with my dog!

And I got a massage at the Scrapbook Retreat in October. (It was fine…but nothing I would spend money for in the future…) No paper quilt is in the works (although I still love the idea). I’m working on the walking project. And I’m QUITE EXCITED to be going to London England in late June to spend 2 weeks with my sister. YAY!

Weekly Plans? Not so much—again, these were great ideas, but most never happened—except for writing regularly on this blog. Now THAT is something I have enjoyed and plan to continue!

So…just 20 more days in the first half (or so) of my life. Then I move into the next phase. I’m looking forward to it…

SHRUG!

shrug atlasWhat do you do when the world is heavy on your shoulders? When it feels like you are carrying more than you can handle? When others expect you to carry the burdens because they can’t…or won’t…or don’t…?

Years ago I read a book which I keep coming back to. Over the years the picture it paints of American culture becomes scarily more and more true. The book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Yes, it has some preachy sections that go on and on about the author’s economic views. Some of those views I agree with, and many I just skip over. But it also has good advice for life: When the world is too heavy on your shoulders…SHRUG!

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do recently. We love being here in Navajoland. But living and working here takes all of my emotional energy. There is great joy in working with children and young adults. There is excitement in witnessing an “a-ha” moment. And there is great pain in walking with our friends through tragedy. I have realized that I have enough energy for what I am called to do, including nurturing relationships with family and friends. But no more than that.

So…I’ve decideworld in handsd to put up some boundaries in daily living. I choose to pursue things that I’m passionate about. While that often involves serving others, I do NOT choose to continue carrying burdensome weight that could or should be carried by others. I do not choose to have my energy drained by negative comments, or backbiting, or second-guessing by others. I plan to SHRUG!

I am no longer willing to carry the world on my shoulders. When I carry my piece of the world in my hands (with God’s help) it is not overwhelming. With passion, the work becomes enjoyable and the world feels manageable.

What are YOU carrying? When is your time to SHRUG?

 

(images from Microsoft Office clipart)

My One Word

I’ve been reading a wide variety of blogs recently…inspirational ones, artsy ones, Christian ones, and more. A number of them had posts about the same thing—a new-to-me alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t made those in quite a few years since I’m abysmal at following through. But this, I just might be able to do THIS throughout the year!

The idea is to choose “My One Word” for the year, then do whatever it takes to keep it in mind throughout the year. In reading the experiences of others, this focused pondering can become life changing, often in unexpected ways. Apparently a chosen word which seems simple and straight-forward can become deeper and more expansive as it is pondered and applied day after day after day.

Hmmm…I’m intrigued by the idea. So I went reading blog links to find out more… Some links felt like la-la land to me, some were too open ended to be of much help to my literal mind, others were too restrictive. Like Goldilocks, I finally found a blog that was “just right” for me. Click HERE to see it: (Warning: this blog is definitely written from a Christian perspective. If that bothers you, do a google search for other blogs and read til you find the one that is “just right” for YOU!)

This “my own word” blog has excellent step by step guidance for identifying possibilities and choosing your own personal word for the year. Starting sometime in the next few weeks, it will also have a place to sign up for regular emails throughout the year giving encouragement, insight, and “homework” assignments to help one get the most out of this experience.

 

As I started reading the guidelines, the word “walk” popped into my mind. “Nah,” I thought. “That’s nothing like the marvelous, inspirational suggestions here.” But that simple word kept coming back, over and over. Finally, I decided that must, indeed, be my word for the year.

I would still like it to be more flowery, more amazing, more artsy…I am a dream-chaser after all…but I think the word “WALK” does indeed fit. I want to get more exercise this year, but exercise plans just don’t seem to work. I need to walk forward into some difficult places. Sometimes I need to slow to a walk and not just jump over the cliff toward new ideas. So, yes, there are lots of possibilities for learning and changing found in this simple little word. Guess I’ll keep it and see where it leads.

I’m planning on posting updates on here occasionally—sharing what I’ve been thinking about, art projects I’m doing to process on this word, how things are changing (or not changing), how this word is working out. I’m looking forward to seeing how God uses this word in my life this year.

I posted a link to this blog on facebook a few days ago…and a number of friends have already joined me in this simple but profound project. I’m hoping many more will do the same. Check back occasionally and let me know how it’s going, okay?

Updates on Personal Challenges…

It’s hard for me to believe, but I am already one third of the way through my Personal Year of Jubilee! I thought you might like to have an update on how I am progressing on my personal challenges:

Checking off to-do items...

Click on the “12 monthly focuses” button on the top of this page to see what I have planned as monthly activities. I practiced cello 11 or 12 times during June. I seem to greatly enjoy myself once I actually sit down and get busy…but rarely take the time to do so. It was encouraging to find I could still play well–even with calluses on fingers gone and will muscles no longer accustomed to bowing. I didn’t manage to find all the wonderful origami paper we have stored (somewhere) so did not make any origami cranes in July. Guess this must not be as important to me as I thought!

I very much enjoyed the photography challenges I set for myself in August. You can see my plans by clicking the above “A Month of Daily Photo Assignments” button. I have “bolded” the challenges I worked on during the month. You can see the collection of photos on my Flickr account here Looking down the right side of the screen you can find the photos organized in sets according to the appropriate challenges. I plan to continue working on this challenge occasionally. I would like to complete all the various “assignments” I set for myself.

I have done some work on organizing some special projects for Randy’s 50th birthday (my challenge for September). I need to get busy to actually finish this up before his birthday comes and goes!

If you look at the “50 Activities for 50 Years” button above, I have dabbled with a few of these items. I have not yet gotten a tatoo–hopefully before my 50th birthday! I have enjoyed coloring in many of the intricate pages of the animal coloring book. I’ve camped out with Anna and enjoyed the stars (but was not actually sleeping under the stars). And I’ve sporadically worked on the weekly challenges: So far I have blogged twice weekly, although this is my first update on activities completed. I have walked some weeks, and have not walked for many more weeks. I have been saving money toward a trip to London next year, even if not at the hoped for rate. I have failed at doing ANY aerobic exercise…maybe next week? or the next one?? I am doing better at verbalizing compliments. And I have already started the scrapbook of ME (a challenge for early in 2012).

All in all, I’m happy with what I’m doing. Yes, there are lots of things I have NOT accomplished, but the purpose for all these lists was to keep me moving forward, and I’m certainly doing that.