“Wilderness. The word itself is music.” ~ Edward Abbey

 Moab

REI’s #OptOutside campaign is brilliant. It’s brilliant because regardless of how individuals ultimately decide to spend Black Friday, it aims a spotlight on the value of the natural world to our well-being, both personally and as a collective. It’s brilliant because it’s authentic. I know this because I used to work at #REI. I know this because I found my ‘people’ there–friends of all ages who spent their free time hiking, skiing, and cycling, any activity that brought them outside. I know this because our adventures in the outdoors were supported by the corporate mothership.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the outdoors in replenishing me in order to give my best self personally and personally. One of the beautiful benefits of working for myself is an ability to visit outdoor places on week days to avoid crowds. I’m a seeker of solitude, quiet, and the lovely sound of wind whistling through trees, the first site of light at dawn, and I’m enraptured by full moon walks without headlamps. I have a longing, or a dream, that our nation would have one night a month where all artificial light was eliminated so that every human being could look up and see the night sky without light pollution. There is something magnificent about remembering how small we are, how while we are significant in our unique existence, it’s not all about us.

My fiancé and I decided to celebrate the cool months of fall in Colorado with a four-day camping trip to Moab, camping just outside Canyonlands. We were there to mountain bike during the day and enjoy the full moon in the evening. I was going to experience the White Rim for a day – something I had been pestering Rob to do since I met him. It was our first camping trip together and I won’t lie, the preparation for the trip was pretty darn exciting too as we rediscovered our cool gadgets and gear from GSI Outdoors, REI and Goal Zero and tested our iconic Coleman stove.

The trip was fantastic, but we learned something: Camping has changed significantly. And I’m conflicted.

The quiet of our campsite was disrupted by the generators of motor homes and campers. There was the glare of a television inside a camper a few sites away. We chose a more secluded spot in the campground, which had many empty spots, but new arrivals invariably chose the spot next to us and I wondered if it was because our human company provided comfort? One young couple broke the branches of Juniper trees for firewood and our moonlit walk across slick rock just outside of our campground was interrupted by a drone hovering in the distance. We declared that if we had a bebe gun we would shoot it down without apology.

I was disappointed. I was angry at all the other campers who seemed unable to appreciate solitude and leave behind the comforts of home for a few days and just exist in the serenity of this beautiful place. And then I thought, was this fair? Is it perhaps possible that our campmates were spending time outside that they might not have precisely because of these creature comfort?

I’m as conflicted as Edward Abbey was in his evergreen essays in Desert Solitaire.Essays that I believe are even more relevant today.

“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.” ~ Edward Abbey

The soul of me wants everyone to understand how it feels to hear nothing at all, nothing but the natural world or how it feels to eat a simple meal next to a campfire and have it taste better than any damn five-star restaurant or how calming it feels to be disconnected from all our technological addictions. And the other side of me wants to be more generous and appreciative of those that are afraid or uncertain of our natural world and without judgment embrace their experience in whatever way it manifests itself.

But I am conflicted. I am selfish in my search for solitude and simplicity. I am selfish in my need for escape.

Leaving Canyonlands on our final day we spied a campground that said the magical words “no trailers,” and we decided our next camping trip would seek this spot.

Maybe we can coexist. But I’m still conflicted.

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The less than linear path: Dancing to the tune of your dream

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I launched Merchandising Matters over six years ago. I worked with a designer and developed my website, purchased business cards and hung out my virtual ‘plaque.’ I timed the start of my new business with a move to Colorado giving the phrase ‘fresh start’ new meaning. Everything was new to me: friends, location, climate, home, you name it.

It was an exciting time, but it tested me to the core. To say it was challenging is an understatement.

Through the years Merchandising Matters has morphed into something I could not have possibly have envisioned, and the road I have traveled as a sole proprietor has been anything but linear, with me even recently contemplating closing the doors on Merchandising Matters because something felt off.

I’ve taken enormous risks and experienced the high of success and the low of perceived failure, and reinvented and redefined what I do countless times, and along the way have learned grace. I’ve learned how to give myself permission to twist and turn as I find my way.

I’m all in now. I wasn’t before.

Not everyone will experience starts and stops like I have. Some will launch their business with a crystal clear vision that never deviates, but I write this post today for those that are perhaps still seeking, but have not yet found their solid direction. I write this post today for those that might feel alone and wonder what the heck they are doing wrong.

I write this post for the dreamers, the idea-populators, the creatively inspired, and the late bloomers. I write this post for those who experience self-doubt, are encountering barriers or who wonder if it’s time to toss in the hat. I write this for those with a passion for their work but who may be feeling a little lost.

About eight months ago, I was floundering. My past work as visual merchandising consultant felt out of focus and lacking in passion. My workshops were loosing money. My writing work felt directionless and my bank account would have been humorous had it not been terrifying. I spent hours outdoors, hiking, riding, or just sitting and meditating near a stream trying to hear myself again.

I knew I was at a crossroads and that I was a little lost.

So I did something I’m getting better at: I asked for directions.

I reached out to my power circle, the people who I respect in business and life, and I asked them for feedback, listened to them share what they saw as opportunities in the changing business climate and the outdoor industry and most important of all, I listened to myself speak.

I heard myself speak with confidence about the things I care deeply about and believe. I heard myself share ideas and listened as they were reflected back by movers and shakers in my industry. I was reignited. And I walked away with a renewed focus, which felt a bit like trading in jeans that don’t fit for a pair that does.

Along the winding path of my business journey, I encountered spaces that were not a good fit, but I would not have known this had I not opened those doors for a peek. The space I am in today is possible precisely because I followed a variety of paths before changing direction and finding my way to today.

My journey as a business owner has involved work with small businesses, as a volunteer, with the CEO’s of major brands, as a coach to businesses and individuals who want to identify and tell their story and I’ve presented at a number of popular trade shows. I’ve worked as a writer, workshop leader, and launched another business, Permission to Leap, in the midst of it all that focuses on helping writers and storytellers tell their own unique stories.

I work with others to stay true to their gift. I believe in the power of story. I know with certainty that human beings want to engage with other human beings. I believe that our personal and professional lives should fit together whenever possible.

And I have the skills to show others the way, to help bring to the surface the magnificent ideas and dreams they already have. I teach them to give themselves permission to leap.

So if you are encountering walls on your own professional journey, my advice to you is to look for a door. And if you can’t find the door alone? Hire someone who can help you carve a beautiful one.

The following tips were my personal game changers:

  • Let go of should have’s or embarrassment or rules if your path is not linear. No one is born knowing exactly where they are going.
  • Learn to trust yourself and do whatever you need to do to improve your confidence.
  • Listen to your inner compass, your heart or whatever is keeping you up at night. Our bodies are incredibly smart and will alert us — we need to get better at listening. I find meditation and journaling to be the most powerful tools for hearing me.
  • Reach out to those you respect and ask for help. Hire the right consultant (or fairy godmother) and invest in yourself. Realize that you are worth the investment.
  • Remember that who you are is integrally connected to what you do. They must be in alignment for you to feel like you are wearing the right size jeans.
  • Focus. I am an idea person and can easily be pulled in twenty different directions and have worked hard on finding a way to harvest my ideas but stay true to the road I’m on. I’ve elicited the help of friends to keep me on track.
  • Know why you are doing what you are doing and revisit this regularly. Have it written down somewhere you can see it daily..
  • Have a plan. Revise it as necessary.

It took me almost six years to marry my skills into a cohesive package–I’m a storyteller who guides others to creative expression either visually or through the written word. The outdoors is my go-to guru for inspiration, perspective and clarity.

Stick with it. You have something to offer. You are learning. Be patient, but maintain momentum. Ask for directions when you are lost. Stop thinking of making money first.

Remember. You are learning how to dance to the tune of the dream only you have. And this takes practice.

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An introvert’s reflection on replenishment

P1120889Maybe we should bail on our hike I said to Rob Saturday afternoon. I was tired, have been tired, weary of too many plans, being on the go all the time, and it’s all good, but I was feeling cranky and wishing for a few days with unstructured time. Those are some of my favorite types of days, the ones where we wake up a bit leisurely, in no hurry to exit our bed. Maybe Rob makes us breakfast, steel cut oats with fruit, and then perhaps we ride our cruisers to the farmer’s market where we buy vegetables and coffee from local businesses and then decide to go for a mountain bike ride before coming home to mow the lawn or harvest the garden. It is the very ordinariness of days like this that I live for.

I’m not a girl who craves crowds or group activities or epic experiences. I don’t do well when every moment is planned or is spent planning for the next. I don’t like to compete for attention or struggle to be heard and I start to fold in on myself, feel separate from the universe and shrink to fit the space left by the too-crowded presence of too-many others regardless of how much I love them.

I crave and need moments of empty space, time spent watching a cloud or quietly sitting by a mountain lake. My creative soul is fed this way. Too much time spent with others and not enough solo freedom saps my energy, leaving me dull and empty.

When I was younger, I was encouraged to go out more, to join in more activities, and to get my nose out of a book or if I was at breakfast, to stop reading everything on the cereal box. I preferred to play alone and was often happily lost inside my imagination. I was an outgoing girl in high school, excelling in English and creative writing, but group projects made me feel dumb. I felt stupid because my thoughts didn’t percolate in settings with others, but instead were original and plentiful when I was allowed time alone. My best response to difficult situations usually comes days later. I’ve learned to hold my tongue until then when possible.

I’m over 50 and though I enjoy my friends, there are many moments when I hit the wall and just wish everyone would stop talking, or at the very least, let me sit alone in a corner and be an observer and know that I’m perfectly okay, I’m just done interacting and am replenishing me.

I am fed by nature, the mountains, sea or crisp air of the woods. I am inspired and reinvigorated by the sound of a creek or the sharp yell of the wind. I’ve been known to cry over autumn trees when they begin their show of color or the shadows of late afternoon or while watching seals frolic in the waves. I settle my busy brain with a bike ride or meditate on a rock off my favorite trail or write in my journal, but rarely seek conversation when I’m in the beginning stage of birthing a new idea or figuring stuff out.

I might not like crowds, but I come alive in front of an audience and love to share my stories from the stage. I hate networking because small talk bores the living shit out of me—I want to know the real stories, the deep stuff, the things that make others tick and feel. I love laughter and people who aren’t afraid to cry or show me their imperfections or be real. I can spot bullshit a mile away and am sometimes not quiet about that.

I am normal. I’m just an introvert.

One of the things I love about my future husband is how he knows when his future wife is in need of nature and quiet. He wouldn’t let me bail on our hike despite my exhaustion, knowing that I would be energized by time in the mountains. So we didn’t bail on our hike. We woke before dawn and drove into the mountains and hiked for over ten miles and spent hours by a lake. We were silent. We talked. Our bodies were tired at the end, but we were also blissed out.

And I was ready again.

Posted in Hiking, Inspiration, love, permission, The art of living, The creative process, Truth, Writing the book | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The loveliest of Goddess’s…yes. That would be you.

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Yesterday on the spur of the moment, I jumped in my car, opened all the windows, turned my music up loud and drove myself to Rocky Mountain National Park. I drove my car down the dusty dirt road that leads to the trailhead for Fern Lake and when I got there I kept my sandals on, but grabbed my water and my camera and walked until I found the kind of spot I was seeking. The kind of spot I would only know once I saw it.

I walked into the water of the creek and let my toes numb and the coolness of it all was like a reset button being pressed on my forehead. I stood with my shoulders in the sun, my feet in the water and I succumbed. I let myself be enveloped by the rapture of the woods, the embrace of the mountains. I was home.

I sat on a fallen tree, closed my eyes and crossed my legs and meditated. I asked my spiritual source for guidance. I asked for a sign that I was on the right path, I asked for an embrace, I asked to be loved.

I wrote.

Before I left for home, my soul centered and clear, I stood and did my best to imprint the moment on my memory so I would be able to take it out and visit it again in the inevitable moments of craving comfort. I closed my eyes to take in the creek’s chatter and whispering laps upon the shore. I opened my arms wide in the mountain air and then wrapped myself up in my own arms, startled to remember how strong and solid my imperfect body is and I looked directly into the sun, my eyes burning with it’s brilliance.

And then I saw the tree. The tree was growing out of the side of the bank and despite it’s sideways stature, it was vivid, powerful, it’s very size proudly touting it’s uniqueness to the forest.

My sister, the tree, she had no shame, made no excuses for who she was, she had no fear despite holding her body just above the rushing water and she stood, like the loveliest of Goddess’s despite being sideways in an upright world.

Sometimes, I too, feel as though I am a sideways soul in an upright world, sometimes I too feel like I have strayed from the norm and that my emotional silhouette is misunderstood or found lacking in societal expectation. Sometimes I wonder how long I can hold on to my sideways spirit, how long before I let go, the weight of being unlike other heavy and burdensome.

I saw then that those were the wrong questions to ask. The question is how long will it be before I recognize my own sideways self and celebrate the very things that others might not understand. How long before my sideways vision is shared with like-minded souls so that they know they are not alone? How long before what I have perceived as a burden is understood for the gift it is.

How long before I understand that I too, like every human being on the planet, like you, am the loveliest of Goddesses even if I am sideways?

I think now is a very good time.

Posted in Inspiration, leap, love, permission, Rocky Mountain National Park, The art of living, The creative process, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrate your reaching

contagious-creativeI have a conference room-sized white board on the wall above my desk in the home office I share with my Fiancé, Rob. This is where I document my dreams, goals, and commitments. This is the place that takes it out of my head and makes it all real.

My goals for Permission to Leap revolve around writing, one-to-one consulting, workshops and public speaking. I set the bar high for 2015, including applications for Ignite Boulder, Emerging Women and TEDx Boulder.

I applied for all. None came to fruition. I was selected for Ignite Boulder but a communication snafu left me out of the event.

I look at my board this morning and think, does this mean I did not meet my goal? Does this mean I wasted my time?

Though rejection is not a comfortable thing to acknowledge, it is a reality in any professional life, especially the life of an artist, and it always makes me pause for a moment and wonder what meaning I chose to take from this experience, the reaching towards something extraordinary and yet not quite getting there, not being recognized or chosen.

And I’ve decided that it is the act of reaching we must celebrate.

We live in a society that measures success in various ways and those ways tend to revolve around public accolades, professional accomplishments and salary earned. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but such generic measurement can ignore our enormous individual personal investment despite uncertainty. We take risks not because the outcome is a sure thing, but precisely because we don’t know what will happen.

In a quickly moving sound-bite world, the slow and steady slog towards our personal dream can seem impossible at times and worse, may cause many of us to abandon ship.

I’ve abandoned my sailboat a number of times. First when the ex decided, without warning on Christmas Eve, to stop the support he had agreed to, and then when the uncertain sea I had decided to sail professionally neglected to provide enough wind for instant forward momentum and I panicked.

My TEDx rejection arrived Saturday afternoon via email, a kind but generic note. Rob and I were on the way home from lunch with friends after a hot and challenging bike ride to Carter Lake to watch the Pro Cycle Challenge. I’ve done this ride before and had not found it hard, but I had set out on this ride uncertain I had the stuff to make it, my lungs feeling the effect of Colorado’s dry heat and smokey air from all the fires burning in the Pacific Northwest. I wasn’t feeling strong, but my self talk decided to allow me the possibility of failure. I would try, but if I didn’t have what it took, I would walk my damn bike up the hill without self-flagellation.

It turns out I had the stuff and made the ride just fine.

I would not have known this had I not tried.

I read the email from TEDx that informed me that there had been over 400 applicants for 15 spots and, yes, my stomach sifted downward in disappointment for a moment. But I then decided to ponder the very fact that at least I had allowed this possibility. Like the day’s ride to Carter Lake, I had reached for something that did not bear an absolute.

I did not waste my time. Rejection or no, I chose to believe I reached my goal, precisely because I REACHED.

And I will continue to do so.

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A Wedding Toast: May your life be rich in ordinary moments

Weddings are magical. I believe ordinary moments are magical as well. This is the toast I gave at my daughter’s wedding last weekend. May you take the time to my-princesscelebrate your ordinary moments…

During your ceremony, I read from “The Last Good Time,” a reading that described an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary couple.

Hannah and Shane, I wish you both a life rich in ordinary moments. Your life together will not be built solely on extraordinary moments like today, but instead develop its strength and foundation from the most ordinary of days, the slow passage of time, the sowing together of good and bad, the treasures of epic experiences and every day chores like cooking dinner, folding laundry or mowing the lawn.

When one remembers other after time apart, it is rarely the epic and extraordinary moments one recalls in longing. It is instead simple conversations, the appearance of he or she most loved sipping coffee, watching football, grading papers, or brushing teeth.

When years ago I was asked to write about my life’s most extraordinary moments, I remembered things like the smell of Hannah and Julia’s scalp, the scent of summer air through the open window while rocking them to sleep or the three of us car dancing to the Spice Girls or Hannah painstakingly french braiding my hair when we backpacked in the Presidential’s. I didn’t write about the moment of my children’s birth or their first birthday or bat mitzvahs, high school graduation or other milestones. I wrote about the ordinary things that had snuck themselves deep into my senses.

On this most beautiful day, this gathering of all those that love you most and who you love, we celebrate your commitment to one another and the beginning of your official life as husband and wife, as a unit together who will make choices rich in wisdom and at times, folly, but always together, sharing in all life moments.

I wish you both many extraordinary moments like today of course. But what I wish more for you is the ability to recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary and the simple things, because the truth of the matter is life is far richer in these type of treasures. Anniversaries, birthdays, and celebrations are wonderful events, but they will add up to far less time than watching one another cook dinner, conversations about nothing and everything when on a road trip, or the flash of a smile upon waking.

Ordinary moments are the threads that strengthen the quilt of the life you are beginning together today. Those moments will likely be the ones you will recall when apart. My wish for you both is that you always have the courage to follow your direction as a couple, whether the path you chose be stormy and windy or sunny and warm.My wish for you is that you always find time to celebrate the unique and extraordinary, yet also very ordinary life, as Mr and Mrs Lentini. With much love and immense affection. Cheers!

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The success – failure ratio and some random thoughts

P1110772Five years ago today, I moved to Boulder, Colorado from Boston, Massachusetts. I sold my house in the ‘burbs, propped Tigger in his new car seat (one that let him see out the window) and pointed my car west, towards my dream. Though I knew where I would be living and had plans to start my own business, there was an enormous amount of uncertainty in my new life direction and that suited me just fine. I was rejuvenated, invigorated, enlivened, excited. Life was full of possibility.

I joined a writer’s group and a gym, I biked and hiked, I made new friends, I found my way in a new city. My energy was high and my attitude positive. I built a network for my new business and eventually began a second business. I found my way. I was on my way to success professionally and personally.

So much good came out of that move–my life began to feel like my own for the first time in close to 20 years, and I stepped outside my comfort zone and I believed in magic. I made mistakes. I fell down. I doubted myself. I celebrated simple moments like my first paying client and my first ride on my road bike.

I have danced to many different tunes over the past five years, and I suppose that is why today I find myself contemplating the meaning of success and the meaning of failure. They go hand in hand like happiness and sadness, love and hate, light and dark. The very opposite nature of one illuminates the light of the other. I’m reflecting on my move and how it has impacted my life and all the twists and turns my life has taken and how the linear path has not been what unfolded. I’m looking at where I have succeeded and where I have failed and then, my brain being what it is, exploring what my definition of each is.

My artist’s soul is drawn to contrasts in nature. The morning or late afternoon sun moves me in a way words cannot, but the mid-day sun, not so much. There is a brilliance to the light when shadows remain, when colors strike hard, the reds painfully beautiful, the greens impossible, the blues sharp and clear. I live for the contrast, the liveliness of the light at such times. The contrasts in our living bewilder me at times, and there are moments when I flutter between the two extremes. I am curious about those in-between spaces like the light on a sunny day at noon, the ones where the balance could tip in either direction and how sometimes the wrong direction ends up being the right direction and how sometimes we discover years later that our mistakes and failures were actually our greatest successes. NOT because of their event, but because of how we moved through them.

I don’t have all the answers.

I do know that success is not a destination anymore than failure is. There is no endpoint, it is a continuum. I know that success and failure can only be defined by our own hearts and that if our definition of each is different from societal norms, we will have to hold tight to our self trust because the winds of the world will constantly want to blow us in a direction that does not suit us.

I’m thinking too that success and failure walk hand in hand just like joy and grief. One cannot exist without the other.

My move was a grand life adventure, one that I continue to reap the benefits of, especially in the meeting of my future husband and my small circle of good and trusted friends. The spokes of my life wheel have magnified magnificently because of this move.

But what do I make of all the starts and stops, what of the distance from my children, what do I make of the career path I’ve chosen, one that challenges me every day straight down to my core? What of the missteps I’ve taken along the way? Is there a ratio one should use to to determine if my life to this day has been a success or a failure? How does one measure such a thing?

I am wondering today, on the five-year anniversary of my move, if the truth is that success and failure are not like water and oil, unable to mix, remaining separate, but instead are a perfectly blended combination of ingredients like a luscious cake, unable to be teased out individually once the blender begins to blend.

I still don’t have all the answers.

Do you?

 

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United We Must Stand: Children or Not

Dear sisters:

When I was a stay-at-home Mommy (do they even exist anymore?) there was a nasty undercurrent vibe with embers that were whipped into full force flames by the culture of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The competition was between stay at homer’s and mommies who held down full time jobs, and it was a nasty, subtle female bashing mind bender.

If you stayed at home, you must be a helicopter mom, a woman who was inept, boring, and living the life she wanted through her children. You were preoccupied with things like food additives and PTO meetings and were over indulgent, wore yoga pants way too much and your only intellectual conversations happened by chance on the playground as you pushed a swing next to another inept, boring helicopter mommy. You were the person no one wanted to sit next to at a party. You were the person who was asked in the kind of voice pretending to be interested but wrapped in sarcastic judgment, “So just what do you DO all day at home?”

If you worked, you were accused of putting your needs ahead of your child and were the woman who never baked cookies for her kid’s birthday at school, instead delivering perfectly frosted cupcakes in a plastic container that were hurriedly purchased that morning. When your child vomited, you called a stay-at-home mommy to get her at school until you could get out of work, you tended to wear heels and never volunteered to help out at the school fair. You were the person everyone wanted to sit next to at dinner, especially stay at home mommies. No one ever asked you what the hell you did all day, but instead marveled at your ability to work AND be a mom.

You depended on one another and hated each other.

You each thought the other had it better. You both felt guilty at times. Instead of holding hands and supporting one another, you lashed out, fearing your decision was being judged by the other.

It was a shit show of vitriol and I’m hearing it again, but this time it’s a nasty war between women having children and women who are not.

Ladies, this shit has just got to stop. Kids, no kids, one is not better than the other, and it’s not okay for anyone else to judge us. Period. It’s the way life has unfolded. It’s the choices we have made and the choices that were made for us.

My girls are in their 20’s now and though my marriage to their dad was an exercise in hell, being their mommy taught me about life and who I am and what I stand for and despite the years I lost in wages, retirement income, work experience and financial independence, years that caught up and bit me on the ass, hard, I would not change it for the world.

I’m guessing that most of my friends who have chosen a life without children wouldn’t change their decision for the world either.

One way is not better than the other. They are just different paths.

I have many friends in their 40’s who have either chosen not to have children or whose longing has not been supported yet by life circumstance. For those who have decided their lives cannot support kids for whatever reason, loving kudos to you for knowing yourself and what you desire in this universe. For those that want kiddos but cannot, I grieve with you. I cannot imagine how that feels.

The bottom line is that all the decisions we gals make in life are intensely personal. Ladies without children, when people make comments about your perceived selfishness or whatever, get real with whoever is sticking their foot in their mouth. Tell them it’s a tough subject for you if it is, or tell them it’s none of their damn business. We all endure thoughtless insensitive comments about our life choices, and it sucks, but stand firm and confident in the footprints you have made in this universe or that may have been made for you by mother nature. Like everything else in this life, we get to decide how we will muddle through it.  And, I’m happy to hold your hand anytime, too.

It’s unrealistic for us to expect the world to applaud or understand everything we do, never mind appreciate our contributions to society whatever those gifts look like and to accept that we women are all doing the best we can.

Sometimes that means we fuck up. Shit, I got the stink eye at Macy’s when one of my kids had a temper tantrum and bit her sister and was often judged on my hands-off parenting style and it hurt, especially when it came from another woman. It breaks my heart to hear women dissing other women for their decisions on whether to have children or not.

And if you believe, really believe with all your heart, in sisterhood? Hold your sister’s hand. This shit has got to stop.

With love,

Robin

 

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Good enough: Musings on the elusive quest for perfection

enough

Creative endeavors that ignore the God of Good Enough in favor of the God of Perfection bear the burden of potentially never coming to fruition. Writers, photographers and painters who wait for their work to achieve perceived perfection before sharing their gift with the world risk never being seen or heard. They risk never allowing themselves to be seen as the beautiful imperfect beings they are, they risk avoiding connection with their audience.

I was an Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer of 2012* and during my public presentations chose to read drafts or works in progress and spoke about how something that seemed like ‘nothing’ often developed into a full blown essay over time. I explained how I’ve learned that the things that capture my attention must be attended to. I explained that no, I do not have a MFA, have not finished my first book, nor am I ‘trained’ as a writer. But because I experience and make sense of the world through words I have spent years learning about the elements of my craft, and yes, I still have much to learn. My work is never perfect and when I review old writing, I often recoil when I witness the things I did not do well.

The audience visibly relaxed with this sharing. I like to think that perhaps they were wondering if this meant that they were being given permission to begin their creative endeavor without a formal graduation into their art. What the hell is that anyway?

We all begin where we are. And that commencement is something to be celebrated.

I led a workshop not long ago and as the participants introduced themselves and shared why they were there, I noticed a trend. “I don’t have confidence. I’m not good enough.” The tyranny of ‘not enough’ is universal and I personally know it well. I have worked all my life to feel I am enough. But I’ve also learned that awaiting perfection is not only a waste of time, it is death to my work.

During that same conference, participants brainstormed answers to the question, “What is keeping you from your remarkable work?” Responses included words like fear, confidence, time, knowledge and so on. I said, “Those are all self-imposed barriers. You are the one not giving yourself permission to be good enough.” There was silence for a moment. I can say such things because I know these barriers well.

Perfection is always late to the party and arrives wearing a seductive but elusive smile. Perfection never lets herself be known. The truth of the matter is all art bears a direct resemblance to the artist and hence will always be imperfect. This is the inherent beauty. We all begin where we are, and your beginning is uniquely you. Beautiful imperfect you.

No you are not perfect. But you are good enough.

*I’ll speak about this experience on 5/4 at Louisville Public Library. Join me!

 

Posted in Inspiration, leap, permission, The creative process, Uncategorized, workshops, Writing the book | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Self doubt: Get back on the damn bike

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Mountain biking and running my business have made sure self doubt and my ‘holy shit no way’ mentality and I are well acquainted. When I am riding on a technical section of trail that I’m not sure I can manage, I immediately unclip one foot prepared to seek a secure foundation. If I fall, it takes a massive internal physical push and some self-talk, ‘you can do this Robin,’ before I return to the trail. I start over with hesitance until I sense that danger has passed, when I begin to relax and both feet return to the clips to try again.

Self doubt likes to show up at the office too. Sometimes she arrives right after I’ve brewed coffee. She pulls up a chair, sidles real close and whispers, “What makes you think you can really do this?” There are days when I tell her to go play with someone else cause I’ve got this covered, and others where I turn to her and say, “Shit, what if you are right?”

On those days, my heart rate begins to rise, tears swell and my bottom lip trembles and when I plant my fingers on the keyboard, I stare at the computer screen paralyzed and uncertain. I want to cry uncle, suddenly win the lottery, return to the time when all I did was care for my baby girls, be a 9-year old with her feet dangling in an icy cold creek or be anywhere but where I am, in this place of trying to become, of taking risks daily so I can move towards my dream. I look at the one-sheet page with my financial goals for my business which is taped to the glass white board where all my plans for the year hang out, and instead of seeing the progress I’ve made or the many things I have accomplished, I allow myself to feel hopeless. Silly girl.

Who was I to believe that my dreams might be fulfilled? I let self-doubt have it’s way with me for a bit and hell I might even shed a tear or two and wail out loud, but I’ve come to understand that I need to end my pity party quickly or I’ll stand in place, like a paralyzed deer in the headlights, waiting for the shit to hit the proverbial fan.

I do my best to remember that I’ve learned from lots of past experience that these moments of doubt and insecurity usually means that I am making significant progress and stepping outside my comfort zone. Self doubt, like the breaks on my bike, can slow me down for a minute and allow me to check out the horizon for potential danger or warning signs. And the truth of the matter is, sometimes I need to slow down and check in with myself. Sometimes I even find things that should be reconsidered or rethought. That’s when I might even say a silent thank you to self doubt.

When I ride on trails that quicken my pulse, I keep going because what else am I to do? Whether I like it or not, there is only way to find my way back to comfort and that means I need to keep pedaling. I once stepped off my road bike on a busy road when the gusty winds Colorado is famous for were tossing me around like a gum wrapper. I straddled my bike, feet on the ground, and said to my fiance, “I can’t do this,” but eventually I had to get back on and move because where I was sure as hell wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I did. I survived. As much as I hate to admit it, surviving the miles in that wind strengthened my skills should I ever end up in a crazy cross wind again.

Self doubt can provide momentum, especially when that limbo place where we cannot commit to a line on a trail or a course of action in our work becomes worse than the perceived danger. The key is NOT to ignore her but to respond and remember that she comes from a time in my life when nothing could be trusted. She is only trying to protect me, and hell yes, sometimes I need her protection. In a backwards kind of way, she also pushes me forward when the agony of indecision becomes too much.

But the majority of the time? I just need to get back on the damn bike.

Posted in Boston Bruins, dream, Inspiration, leap, permission, The art of living, The creative process, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment