Hello, creative mama!
As I write this, my husband and youngest child are outside throwing snowballs. Admittedly, I live in New England -- but snowballs before Halloween? This is most unusual.
Our unexpected weather seems to underscore the new, unexplored landscape that arrived in October. I found myself doing things I'd never done before, figuring out that sometimes it makes a lot more sense to just jump in and pursue a new idea by "doing" rather than trying to architect its every possible outcome. I'm a planner by nature, so to find myself doing rather than considering, is an interesting experience.
At the Minerva Project, Ellen Olson-Brown and I launched our Let's Fly workshop series in life design. Nine fabulous, smart, fascinating women have joined us on this journey. (In the photo above, participants are working on an exercise involving sticky notes. Don't you want to know more??) The last of our three sessions takes place this weekend. It will be strange to have the intensity of workshop development and preparation behind us. But not for long! Our holiday workshop, Beyond Norman Rockwell, is just weeks away. See below for details.
In addition to jumping into the role of workshop facilitator, I found myself launching a weekly yoga class in my own home (taught by the terrific teacher Anne Dries); expanding my monthly Creative Open House, which just gets better (and bigger -- I had to order another table!); attending two local events to promote Minvera Project workshops; forming a non-fiction writers' group with several friends; launching a new Life Design Circle (monthly mastermind group) to start in January; working on a new collaboration with Mindy of WishStudio; joining a new monthly coaches' group; and getting ready for Leah Piken Kolidas's Art Every Day Month (AEDM) in November, which I will use to make progress in a large project I've been thinking about for a while. (I'd love for you to join me at ADEM -- and if you don't have a blog of your own for posting your work, you're more than welcome to post it at Studio Mothers. Just let me know.)
It doesn't escape my notice that ALL of these new, uncharted endeavors are all about people. I'm not all holed up, working in my silo (although there's still plenty of that). But the more I connect with others, the stronger I become creatively. Through these connections, somehow I become more myself. And apparently that self feels confident jumping into unfamiliar territory without wasting too much time peering over the edge.
I highly recommend both: the people, and the jumping.
From my creative home to yours,
To Balance or Not to Balance
For years, we've been hearing about this thing called "balance" and how we need to find it. The entire Western world seems to be in constant pursuit of this mythical state of equilibrium. For a sense of how dominant this paradigm is, go to amazon.com and search on "balance" in just the self-help nonfiction category. Nearly 700 books come up.
I invite you to let go of any aspirations of balance. Unless you're on a yoga mat in a challenging posture, balance isn't actually relevant. In fact, one could argue that it's beside the point -- or perhaps even impossible. Everything in your life is in a constant state of change. Life is fluid, and balance is an illusion. Even if you're able to devise the perfect, balanced schedule, two weeks later someone gets strep throat or school lets out for summer or you have another baby. Your spouse starts traveling extensively for business, or stops traveling extensively for business. You gain creative traction and find that you need to really apply yourself for a week in order to meet a deadline, to the exclusion of everything else. The only guarantee is that something is going to happen, and whatever balance you may have achieved is thrown out the window. And that's OK. That's just how it is.
Berit Strong is a classical guitarist who lives in Acton, Mass. I interviewed Berit several years ago while working on my nonfiction book. I love what she said about balance: "When people used to ask me how I balanced my life, I would say 'You must be kidding!' There is no such thing as balance. The ancient Chinese didn't believe in balance; you have to be really intense about your life. When I was preparing for a major concerto performance, balance was a ridiculous concept. I didn't see anybody, I didn't socialize. I was getting ready for a concerto. I was happy to sacrifice anything else. No time for jogging, I didn't promote my career, this was the chance of a lifetime. I once lived in Italy for two years. They think that Americans are laughable in the concept of balance. You can't have both -- it's really hard to have everything the way you want it."
So, instead of a desperate attempt to hit all of the cylinders all of the time, let's reframe our ultimate goals as awareness, intention, and flow. We need to start with knowing what's most important. From there, through awareness, we know what needs our attention most at any given time. This, rather than balance, is what leads us to presence and peace.
"Balance is overrated."
What works for you? Share your experience.
The Minerva Project Holiday Workshop:
Beyond Norman Rockwell
The holidays are just around the corner. Every year, we scratch our heads, wondering how the season could possibly have arrived again so quickly. We vow that this will be the year we start early and have time to do those special things we never seem to get to. This year, we're going to enjoy ourselves and not succumb to the pitfall of holiday season stresses. And we're going to spend less this year, too, gosh darn it.
Thanksgiving comes and goes in fast-forward. The days fly by and before we know it, we're back to running around like crazy people, losing sleep over a never-ending gift list and spending more money than we'd intended in an attempt to just get through it. Family dynamics loom large, and sometimes we wonder if anyone actually likes this time of year.
Fall in love with the holidays again. Join the Minerva Project on Sunday, November 13, to explore how to really make it different this year. From Thanksgiving to the New Year, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or a unique combo of your own, you'll get clear on what matters most to you, what you'd like to change, and how to think outside the box to make this holiday season one of meaning, intention, and connection.
~Beyond Norman Rockwell:
How to Make Your Holiday Season Joyful, Memorable, Sane & Full of Simple Pleasures
Sunday, November 13, 2011
3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Blackbird Cafe, Groton, Mass.Information & Registration
$35 payable via PayPal or check
The Tranquility of Purpose
"Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose -- a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye."
~Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyHave you found your steady purpose? If not, can you use your journal in this pursuit?
Reprinted from the International Association for Journal Writing (www.IAJW.org) by permission.
The Project: Family Mailbox
By Ellen Olson-Brown
This month's project hits all the bases. Using recycled and very inexpensive materials? Check! Encouraging kids to create, decorate, and bedazzle to their heart's content? Check! Motivating kids to write? Check! Strengthening family collaboration and communication? Check! Fun for kids aged 1-111? Check!
Remember when the daily snail-mail occasionally included an actual letter, handwritten, from a loved one? Oh, the satisfaction of real stationery, a personal message, familiar handwriting! Delicious!
Bring back the magic by building your own family post office. The project itself will absorb your family's attention for an hour or two (perfect for a snow day!), but once you've created the post office, you can use it for years.
What you need:
- One empty cereal or cracker box per family member. These will become mailboxes.
- One larger cardboard box, which will become the post office (see image in opening paragraph). If your family is larger than four people, you'll need a box with enough surface area to hold a cereal or cracker box for each family member.
- Paint, tape in various colors (duct, masking, and electrical tape work especially well!), contact or wrapping paper to cover the cereal/cracker boxes.
- Decorating supplies: permanent markers, magazine clippings, yarn, glue, fabric scraps, beads, glitter, doo-dads -- any cool stuff you have lying around.
- Paper, envelopes, markers, pens, rubber stamps, stickers, and other fun items for letter-writing.
- A hot-glue gun (for grownups only!)
1) Cut the top flaps off the boxes.
2) Decorate each cereal box. These will become the individual mailboxes. Make sure each family member's box is labeled with his or her name. Hint: If you'd like to paint each box ahead of time to cover up the printing on the box, then children won't have to wait through drying time to add their own artistic touches.
3) Hot-glue each mailbox to one side of the larger box. Hint: Decorating the larger box is also fun!
4) Load the inside of the large box with writing supplies. This is now your post office!
5) Write a letter!
6) Address an envelope.
7) Mail your letter, and wait for a reply!
A few more helpful hints:
- Younger children might like a set of cards with familiar words on them, so they can write letters on their own. Write words on index cards, punch a hole in the corners, and connect with a binder ring.
- A quick letter can be a great way to let your child (or spouse/partner) know that you appreciate something they've done that day. "Dear Mikey, I noticed that you put your pajamas in the laundry basket after you got dressed this morning. Thank you so much! Love, Mom."
- Sometimes older children deflect direct discussions about feelings. Sending them a letter reminds them that you care -- and opens up communication -- without putting them on the spot. "Dear Katie, I noticed that you seemed a little sad when Jill couldn't come over to play today. I'm sure you'll find something else that's fun to do, but if you need a hug, come find me in the kitchen. Love you! Mom."
Ellen Olson-Brown is a teacher, author of four children's books, aspiring yogi, Minervan, and enthusiastic consumer of art and office supplies. Positive psychology, mindfulness, and the science of human flourishing are her current fascinations, and she loves supportively daring people to amaze themselves. Ellen lives in Groton, Mass., with her husband and twin sons.