I’ve been engaged for a very long time in a period of intense transition. Both in a practical sense as my family moved to a new community and we launched into what will be a two year remodeling project, and in a very physical and spiritual sense as I crossed the threshold from youngish to a little older : )
At times I feel embarrassed. Whenever people ask me what I’m doing these days, I’ve had a terribly difficult time explaining my path. In fact, I’ve been downright stuck explaining it to myself!
We like labels in our culture and I couldn’t for the life of me find the right label. Gone were my old ones and I hate the word—the connotations, the inaccuracy—of “homemaker”.
I make a home. Well, yessss…but so does my husband, each of our children, and our dog and our cats for that matter. We all make this place we call home, together. All of our hearts are moored to the family dock (bathed at night in the warm light of love…and the television screen...)
But besides K.P. duty, what do I do?
I don’t think people would understand if I tell them I’m exploring the open seas…
I love metaphors. But anyway…
I’m finally answering the question. I’m not stuck anymore, which is not to say that getting unstuck was quick or easy – it wasn’t — or that this period of transition is over – it isn’t. But I’m ready to tell people what I “do”.
First, what I’m doing is taking myself seriously. I know, that sounds like a lot of new-age-“I’m-finding-myself” kind of talk. But. The fact is I spent a lot of time — A LOT of time — not listening to myself. Not listening to what called to me. Even while messages — consistent messages — kept coming to me.
I mean years of journaling, aptitude exercises, self help books and serendipitous encounters with people and art. I just walked on by.
I cannot say that one instrument worked the magic and suddenly I reached clarity. Like all path-making, it took one clearing at a time over many years. And of course the clearing will continue.
But. I was ready when I sat down with Danielle LaPorte’s wonderful book, The Firestarter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on your Own Terms. In addition to The Artist’s Way (Cameron), What Color is Your Parachute (Bolles), and Life, Passion and Paint (Cassou and Cubley), this is a must read book for anyone who is clearing paths (none of these are affiliate links).
I came away with a couple of truly “Aha” life changing shifts.
First, I finally noticed that I encountered the very same dreams I’ve always had. Remember: years of journaling, aptitude exercises, self help books and serendipitous encounters with people and art.
And this time, I’m not going to whisper them to myself and move on to something else.
The other “Aha” shift followed the very simple question: How do I want to feel in my life?
I have always suspected that I have an extra sensory experience of feelings — both in myself and from others — the way some people are more attuned to other senses like smell or sight. Not that I feel more than other people, but I’m hyper aware of and easily affected by both my own and other’s feelings. (Also, I know I have less control of myself in the face of strong feelings than many other people, which I am the first to criticize as low Emotional Intelligence — but more on that another time).
My point, though, is that despite the fact that I consistently avoid feelings so they won't overtake me (as someone who often swims in feelings, sometimes pulled in by the undertow...oops, there's that sea metaphor again!) I have a deep knowledge that Danielle is absolutely right:
“We do stuff to feel good.”
All stuff. What we eat, who we choose as friends, what we choose to do from moment to moment comes from an often unconscious desire to feel good—“even when that stuff is “bad” for us”. When I look at my own behaviors and observe people, I know this is true. When my daughter turns the volume up on the car radio to a song that annoys me, for instance, why do I snap at her to turn it off? I could — should — just calmly tell her to change the channel to something less irritating. But no, I am in fact irritated by highly unpleasant sound and I want to feel better now—speaking too harshly in my effort. (There's that low Emotional Intelligence thing again.)
It goes much deeper than that for all of us, of course. So much pain in the world is caused simply by unconscious behaviors that try to right the wrong feelings (insecurity, self-doubt, the sadness of feeling unlovable...) to feel good. We see it in our ourselves and others if we look — all that shrinking into the background, the bravado, the over compensating, treating others badly...and don't even get me started on the root causes of war! Everything we do is simply to make ourselves feel better.
And so I got it. I get it. If it’s true that we want to feel good…then it just makes sense to do the opposite of causing more pain. Get conscious about the feelings you do want to feel. Choose what you do and how you behave so that you get those feelings every day, all the time. Or as Danielle simply says:
“First, get clear on how you want to feel."
"Then, do stuff that makes you feel that way.”
Isn’t that such a mind blowing thought?
With a lot of brainstorming and reducing, reducing (see the exercise in the book), I distilled how I wanted to feel every day into three overall feelings. And I was amazed at how easily I could go from my desired feelings to determine how I need to focus my energies, what stuff I need to do to feel good every day.
I'll tell you more in my next post, but for now I'll just answer the question.
What do I do?
Learn, Create, Share, Connect, Contribute.
Yep, that’s what I do.
And if you want to know how, stay tuned for Unstuck: Part II.