Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Power Of A Simple Thought, Conveyed ...

Once upon a time, I bought a card. Just because. To send to someone someday.

On the front: "I thought of you today ..."

and inside: "... and wanted you to know."

I mailed that card a week or so ago. To a friend who's gone through a lot in recent years. A just-because card for her to find amid her junk mail and bills.

A few days ago, I turned on my phone as I do in the mornings and an email appeared in my inbox, from another friend.

It was short, just 20 words, five of which were these:

You were on my mind.

What a lovely sentence. What a lovely sentiment.

And so, so appreciated.

He knows I've been dealing with a lot, especially in recent months.

The thing is, so has he. Been dealing. With a lot.

Most folks are, really, on any given day.

But that simple gesture meant the world to me.

And this morning, I thought about the card I sent and the email I received. I hadn't considered them together until that moment, but what we put out into the world really does return.

And the impact of a simple gesture may be immeasurably profound.

If you're thinking about someone, let them know.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Generosity and Gratitude ...

"Generosity is way of being in the world — a way that says, 'I have more than I need, and I will take the overflow of myself and share it with others.'"
— Elizabeth Gilbert,
on Facebook,
about two hours ago

Yes, exactly. That. That right there about generosity being more than one needs and sharing the overflow with others.

That is the essence of why I am writing this post, and I didn't know about that quote until moments ago when I popped over to Liz's Facebook page to grab the link to something she wrote a few days ago that I really, really, really needed to read.

(Speaking of links, I am resisting the urge to pepper this post with links to demonstrate the awesomeness with which events have unfolded in recent days. But the very least I can do is make it easy for folks to find the things I mention, so I'll include links at the end of this post.)

This story begins, really, 10 years ago. That's when Liz published Eat, Pray, Love. And while it surely does not seem like 10 years ago, I remember reading her book and loving her book and appreciating that her writing style seemed very similar to mine, which gave me a nice bit of hope that I, too, could actually publish a book someday.

Unwitting generous act, number one. Thanks, Liz.

Over the years, there have been many other unwitting generous acts, so enumerating them feels daunting. Suffice it to say that there have been a lot.

And that brings me to the new year.

Mike Dooley, he of The Daily Tut, which I have been receiving in my email for many years, is offering a 30-day Infinite Possibilities Project to kick off 2016.

I love Mike. I bought his "Playing The Matrix" course last year and have watched some of it but then put that viewing on hold because the person with whom I'm watching had to tend to other things in life, so I'm waiting until we can resume.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about this being my year of being scared, of this being my year behind a microphone. And one of the behind-the-mic ideas I put forth is the creation of a podcast.

On Day 6 of Mike's project, he suggested jotting down some steps that would move each of us in the direction of our dreams for the year. On my list, I wrote:

"3. Check out podcasts on iTunes, subscribe to a few, and listen! (I think shorter is better.)"

On Day 11, he suggested that we avail ourselves of resources. And the very first resource he linked to was Liz Gilbert's podcast "Magic Lessons."

Which rang a bell because sometime last year I submitted a topic to Liz and her producers. Obviously, I was not chosen to be one of her guests but I had forgotten that the podcast was forthcoming.

It's not forthcoming any longer. It's done. (And each episode is rather brief, which is nice, since I was thinking that shorter is better.) That it's done is a lovely thing, because, should I want to, I could binge-listen to the whole series. But I'm not. I'm listening to two at a time, given that the structure is "Liz talks to a 'normal' person about a creative challenge" and then "Liz talks to a friend and fellow 'known' person about the creative challenge presented in the previous episode."

Today, I listened to Liz chat with fellow "known" person John Hodgman, who many folks know as PC from the fab Mac commercials a few years back, or from "The Daily Show" or from many other roles and projects as John has done a lot.

Which is important, for the purposes of this post and my life.

He and Liz chatted about getting bored with creative pursuits once we master them and how many of us pursue many ventures in our lifetimes, that we master one thing and then move onto the next thing.

And finally, finally, finally, two little parts of my brain met each other at long, long last and formed a very important thought:

I've done stuff.

Which doesn't seem like a revelation on its own but I have spent literally most of my life trying to figure out what I am meant to do.

And in the meantime, I have been doing stuff.

I moved into my first apartment when I was 24. So for nearly half my life, I have been living on my own and supporting myself. For the most part.

Which means that my "quest," as it were, isn't about figuring out what I am meant to do.

It's about figuring out what I am meant to do next.

And that, my friends, is a game-changer.

That relieves the pressure.

Because while I've long suspected that I was never meant to do one thing and while I really dug the idea of slash careers – doing this and that – that felt a bit disjointed to me, as though I wouldn't really be giving my all to any one thing.

But the idea of doing things sequentially? Well, that's my whole life. I do a thing, I get bored with it – sometimes because I don't like it but often because I master it – and I move onto the next thing, out of curiosity. Which is Liz's prescription for all of us, to follow our curiosity, not our passion. Because for a lot of us, our passion isn't clear. And the pursuit of identifying it can be really, really, really frustrating, if not maddening.

Which brings me to another moment of gratitude for Liz: she wrote a post a few days about about what we're meant to do with our lives in which she explained the differences between hobby, job, career, and vocation.

Whoa. Yes. Where the hell was that post when I was, oh, 18?

Many, many years ago, a friend suggested that a job can just be a job, a means to an end that enables us to pursue other things we love in our free time.

I rejected that idea flatly. I had bought into the idea that we should earn livings doing what we truly loved.

Well, that's nice work if you can get it. And many do.

But for some, a job is just a job.

And that, I'm finally learning, is just fine.

I offer a range of word-related services. What I do five days a week is not a career. Nor do I want it to be.

I am not climbing a ladder to the top. I will not be ousting a CEO.

But I relish the luxury of working from home. I enjoy meeting truly interesting people and helping them accomplish things they do not feel they can accomplish on their own.

And I value, greatly, the freedom that this life provides: the freedom to spend time with people I care about, the freedom to spend time listening to podcasts and writing blog posts and putting together pieces that I've not been able to fit together before, the freedom to pursue the next creative thing.

And maybe the day will arrive when I will indeed wake up and realize that I am earning a living doing what I truly love, whatever that thing is at the time.

But in the meantime, I am more aware than ever that I lead a truly interesting life.

And I am deeply grateful for the messages that have arrived in recent weeks and the connections that have formed.

"Magic Lessons" was s podcast conceived to explore questions and conundrums about creativity in advance of the publication of Liz's book Big Magic, which I checked out of the library last year. And then I quickly realized that it was a book I would want to own, so I bought a copy.

And then, for Christmas, I bought four more, and gave them to my nephew, my other nephew, his girlfriend, and my niece.

They're all pursuing careers in creative fields. May Liz's wisdom and generosity arrive in their lives at times when it can do them a great amount of good, perhaps save them some confusion and/or angst.

Links to stuff I reference above:

Magic Lessons: Liz Gilbert's podcast

Liz Gilbert's Facebook post on Generosity

Liz Gilbert's Facebook post on Hobby, Job, Career, and Vocation

Mike Dooley's Infinite Possibilities Project

Mike Dooley's Playing The Matrix Online Course

The Year Of Being Scared

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Year Of Being Scared ...

I don't like scary movies. I fail to grasp what's pleasurable about paying money to sit in the dark and wait for something scary to appear on screen. I don't buy the "but it's not real so it's safe!" rationale.

I also don't like haunted houses. I once had a friend scare the living crap out of me in my basement. That was enough for a lifetime. Granted, in that case, I didn't know what was coming, and in going to a haunted house, I'd be paying for folks to scare me, but still.

I also don't like roller coasters. I don't mind the speed and the drops but I hate, hate, hate the initial climb. That feeling of leaning backward and the possibility of falling is more than my brain will tolerate. Being stopped at a light on an incline in a car in San Francisco is enough for me.

I like safety. I like the known. I suppose that makes me boring to some degree, perhaps to a great degree, but I've never much seen the charm in risk.

I have no desire to jump out of an airplane. Dropping me in the middle of the wilderness and leaving me to find my way out? No thanks. I'll be happy to handle a snake if you like but anything with more than four legs needs to stay the hell away from me unless I have my Dyson nearby.

But as my lovely friend Nona Jordan reminds me, we can do hard things. That lesson landed in my life at just the right time last year.

And the last couple years have been exercises is better grasping the value of my work.

A few years ago, a job situation I was sure would happen did not pan out, and it was a blow at the time. Angelo, who is very wise in many ways, wrote to me that night:

"You have too much talent to have another job where you're plugging away. You've done that. A lot. It's time to scare yourself. Big scare. There will always be chocolate to make things better when you feel like it's too scary and it will feel like that sometimes."

"It's time to scare yourself. Big scare."


Since then, I have had some scares, though not of my own making, which make them very different kinds of scares indeed.

But as this new year arrived, I mused about what I want 2016 to be, and I thought, "What if this year was all about being behind a microphone?"

I love to sing. Singing in front of an audience scares the bejeezus out of me but I've done it. Recording is much safer but my engineer friend isn't available for sessions anymore. I've found a studio that might suit my needs. And even singing in front of a new engineer makes me a little squirmy so that feels like a reasonable place to start here in the new year.

I once tried my hand at voiceovers and discovered that I am quite possibly the world's worst auditioner. Speaking is much less scary than singing but it's a performance just the same and my perfectionism is a bitch. Thanks to technology, though, auditions often happen at home now, which makes the prospect much more appealing.

I have been pondering a podcast for some time. Not from a "This is my ticket to fame and fortune!" perspective but from a "That might be interesting to try and it would cost me about, oh, nothing" notion.

I like speaking in front of groups when I know what the hell I'm talking about. I gave an impromptu presentation at a conference years ago that went so well that I was asked to prepare a presentation the next year. When I did the 3-Day events, I was happy to speak to groups of first-time walkers in advance of the events to answer questions and assuage fears and offer encouragement. The idea of being a paid speaker appeals to me, though I suppose I should have some expertise to offer for which folks would pay.

So, in that vein but in a different way, I think it would be a hoot to try stand-up comedy. I had folks laughing when I gave the impromptu presentation. Later that day, when I appeared in a video montage of the weekend's events, the room erupted in applause. I turned beet red – Unexpected attention! Eep! – but I appreciated their appreciation. So I think it would be fun to prepare five minutes of material and get up in front of a crowd with low expectations. I mentioned this idea to a friend recently and she said, "Really?" The idea of being on stage is not her cup of tea. I adore the view from a stage. I just need to get more comfortable with the performing part.

Perhaps I'll try them all. Perhaps I'll settle on one. Maybe one will scare me sufficiently that I'll feel I've fulfilled my terror quota for the year.

But, as Angelo mentioned, there will always be chocolate to make me feel better.

I should probably buy some stock in Ghirardelli.