Glad Tidings

I’m feeling extremely merry and blessed these days. Excited to have so many wonderful people in my life to celebrate the holidays with – whether it be coworkers, friends or family.

A surprise date to the Boston Holiday POPs last night pushed my festive mood beyond what the holiday-cheer-o-meter can comprehend — I even sang along. In public.

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Although I’m a few days early, I know the next few days will be very busy, so I wanted to take the moment to wish you and yours a very cozy, snowy, wonderland-y, cheery and magical Christmas full of loved ones and glad tidings.

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“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
– Charles Dickens 

Make a Fresh Start

I love when I open my book of daily meditations and the day’s reflection is so spot-on it seems as if the pages rearranged themselves overnight to ensure I read the one most pertinent to what’s on my mind.

Today’s meditation is exactly what I needed to remind me that not all projects or adventures are going to work out, especially at a time when I’m beginning so many new things in my life at the same time.

Even though we know these things somewhere in our heart, sometimes we just need a little reminder from the universe.

“Sometimes we need to start over – in work, love, in our place of residence, in creating our lives. Sometimes we have to start over again when we don’t want to, didn’t plan on it, and don’t think it’s fair.

We may end a relationship, move, start a new job, start a new career, or begin an entirely different part of our lives, a part so different we don’t recognize it as being connected to the earlier ones. It’s new. We’re new. Life is new. We’re starting over again.

Sometimes it feels like we’re starting from scratch. While we may feel a sense of excitement about this new beginning, we may also harbor a sense of dread. Not again. Not one more time. I can’t. I don’t want to. The reaction is understandable. We become tired, frightened. We feel uncertain.

Honor all your feelings, all your emotions. Remember all your lessons. Clear the way to the heart. Then make a decision.

It’s time for a fresh start.”

– From Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie

Let it Happen

Tomorrow is my last day at my job and my last full day in Chicago. It still hasn’t fully sunken in that I’m packing up and moving to Boston this weekend but know that it’s exactly what I need to do.

If you know me well, you know that this decision hasn’t been without struggle and neither will be the transition. As someone who struggles with anxiety, each big change in my life is a fight against fear, discomfort and doubt. But I rarely let it stand in my way.

It always seems when I’m in need of a helpful meditation, one finds its way to me. I had no doubt that when I picked up my favorite book of daily meditations (Journey to the Heart) today, it would somehow relate to this journey. I wasn’t disappointed.

“Oct 27: Have You Been Working Too Hard?

Have you been working too hard at your job, at life, at your spiritual progress? Have you been working too hard on your relationships with people, on trying to gain insights, or on trying to figure out where to go or what to do next?

Many of us have had to work hard. To get from where we were to where we are, we had to push, force, put one foot in front of the other. At least we thought we did. But life doesn’t have to be that hard. Not anymore. The biggest task, the smallest tast, the task of living our lives doesn’t have to be that difficult.

There’s a natural rhythm for everything that happens along the way. There’s a natural rhythm and order for all we’re to do. Yes, there are times to begin. Yes, there are times to put one foot in front of the other and go forward. But the joy, the service, the way of life we’re seeking doesn’t come from force. It comes naturally, easily, much more easily than you think. Stop pushing so hard, and see how quickly that rhythm finds you.

You don’t have to make life happen. In fact, you can’t. Relax. Let go. And let it happen.”

Given tomorrow’s meditation is called “Let Yourself Take Side Trips” and Saturday’s is “The Best Is Yet to Come,” I think the book was written just for me.

Slow but still moving.

I got a book of daily meditations called Journey to the Heart  by Melody Beattie a few weeks back, recommended by a friend, and I’m loving it. I feel like 90% of the time it’s speaking to the exact thing on my mind.

I skipped ahead to tomorrow’s because I noticed it spoke exactly to my thoughts right now and I’m going to spend the next two days (and beyond!) reminding myself of this message:

“Don’t be dismayed when you come to a pothole, a detour, a stretch of rough and rocky road. Don’t be surprised. Slow down a little. Be patient. It’s not the whole journey. It’s not the way it’ll always be…

…Feel all your feelings. Feel your fear and frustration about slowing down, then settle in for the ride. You may not be going as fast as you’d like, but the journey hasn’t stopped. You’re not doing anything wrong. You are going slower, but you’re still moving forward.”

 

 

 

Two Voices

Two weeks ago I had the great fortune of taking a trip to LA for a company retreat about creativity. As part of this amazing adventure, Peter Stranger, founder of a creative and social change agency, came and spoke to our group and I found his words so inspiring I was nearly brought to tears.

(Of course, this is the part where I share them with you so you can attempt to feel the same, although it won’t have the same effect without his fabulous British accent and animated storytelling skills!)

Peter started his speech by sharing his struggle in the early days of his career at an advertising agency where he was told he couldn’t be a creative person because he wasn’t in the creative department — an experience I am painfully familiar with. So he was sure to point out that his references to creativity mean all kinds of creative expression — problem solving, organization, leadership, etc. — not just creating works of art.

The majority of his speech centered on creative barriers that come from within ourselves. As he shared examples of amazingly creative people, he identified their success not as an excess of talent but their ability to access their creativity and their willingness to share their ideas and expressions.

Peter shared a theory of two voices as part of the creative process — the first being intuition. As he said, intuition is what advises you creatively. When you sense it, you need to talk to it and feed it. Following it rewards it and reinforces it to come back again.

The second voice, judgment, is the little voice in your head that criticizes you and your ideas. It will cripple you, mock you, steal, lie and cheat — and it will never quit. It feeds on you listening to it. He referenced the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield which identifies this voice as resistance.

I, like many people, possess the innate ability to create just as many criticisms about myself as beautiful creative expressions, so I’m painfully familiar with resistance. In fact, I listen to it far too often.

As Peter pointed out, creation is comprised of a few different elements — the calling or inspiration, the choice to follow it, and the fear that accompanies it. Successful creative people possess a desire to create that’s stronger than the fear. When they hear the voice that tells them the idea isn’t good enough, that people may judge them, or that it’s too much work, they push forward anyway.

As he reminded us, creativity requires sacrifice, effort and practice – a notion that I often need to remind myself. Too often I want to give up when I think the road looks too difficult or unreasonable — whether it be starting a new job, picking up a hobby or starting a new workout routine. But without that work or sacrifice, you will never feel that sense of accomplishment, that moment of creative nirvana when you know you’ve struck gold. And more importantly, you rob the world of the opportunity to enjoy your gifts.

Steven Pressfield summarizes it best:

“Creative work is not a selfish act or bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

For Japan With Love

Tomorrow I’ll be observing a blogger’s day of silence (aka: no posting) to bring attention to the disaster(s) occurring in Japan and the necessary disaster relief efforts. Two fabulous bloggers have organized “For Japan With Love” – a rally cry for bloggers to leverage their voices to bring attention to this cause. They’ve also created an outlet to donate to the cause – by clicking on the image below or visiting forjapanwithlove.com, you can donate to ShelterBox, an organization that provides emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters at the time when they need it the most. Each large, green ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.


This call for help is personal for me.  Just this morning I was on the phone with my mom, hearing the latest update about my family in Japan.

My dad’s brother Shawn taught English in Japan after college, where he met my now aunt Kiyomi, and has lived for the last ten years with their four children, her sister and her elderly parents.  They live near Tokyo, so when the earthquake first struck last week, we were just so glad their house was intact and everyone was safely accounted for. Now that the situation with the radiation has gotten worse, they’ve been forced to make the decision about whether to stay or go. The last few days have proven challenging to even attempt to get plane tickets out of the country, given they only have a little power every few hours and the trains are only running every so often. There was also concern about bringing the children to the airport given the chaos and reports of lack of food and water.

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Last night when I went to bed, the update was that they’ve made the painful decision to leave Kiyomi’s parents and sister behind in an effort to get the kids out of the country quickly and were able to get tickets out of the country for next week. This morning I woke up to hear that they were at the airport attempting to board U.S. evacuation planes, but are running into problems with the children’s passports. Two of the children don’t speak English well and apparently no one has any idea where the evacuation planes will take them once they’re on board, and it may not necessarily be America — I can’t imagine how scary it must be for the kids right now.

I have no doubt in my mind they’ll be on a plane safely at some point soon. However, it just brings to life what a complete mess that country is in. These are the struggles of people who still have their home, belongings and all of their family members accounted for, which is much more than most people in that country have right now. I can’t even imagine what people in the other regions of that country are currently experiencing and will continue to experience in risidual effects for years to come.

Last summer our aunt, uncle and cousins came to Iowa for the first time in more than five years and we had a great time with them. I can easily speak for everyone in my family to say we’re looking forward to having them safely in Iowa again (soon!) and will appreciate our time together perhaps even more than last time.

Perspective.

Bad days at work or frustrating days in the city don’t look so bad when you realize what others are going through at the same moment somewhere else in the world. Looking at the devastation in Japan makes me realize how lucky I am to be safe and sound in my cozy apartment, knowing my family and friends are all safe and sound.

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I have family in Japan and have traveled to that beautiful country to spend time with them, so I’m saddened to see what mass destruction has affected the entire country, not just the coastal cities where the earthquake was centered. I’m so thankful my family is safe and am praying for the people of their country who not only have lost family and friends, but will feel the economic and environmental effects of this disaster for years to come. 

If you’d like to help the relief efforts in Japan, you can visit redcross.org  or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to a relief fund. A Japan Earthquake And Tsunami Relief Fund was also started on GlobalGiving.org as well.