I’ve been giving a lot of thought about how we can sometimes reserve happiness until later. I find myself doing this and wonder if it’s because of my childlike religious understanding that joy comes after death. Or if it's because of unprocessed disappointment I thought I was just supposed to accept because life isn’t perfect. Or maybe it’s because of the trauma I experienced witnessing my father’s sudden death -- something so final and unexpected that I began to guard myself from life’s turbulence, or so I thought. This safety zone I created for myself over the years actually blocked love. It blocked my capacity to give and receive, though I was later reminded that opening wide to love is my/our truest calling.
I remember talking to my therapist once about love and relationships and she said in response, “You are going to get hurt. That’s a part of love. Your heart will break. But that, too, is love.” I wouldn’t say I thought of love as a “happily ever after” fairytale but I did have this dualistic thinking about love: if it feels good, it won’t hurt; if it hurts, it’s not love. That was my youthful understanding and expectation that extended into adulthood because I never allowed myself to question and redesign my vision, boundaries, and expectations.
The truth is, whether it’s a friendship, familial relationships, or romance – pain will be involved to some degree. We are human. We disappoint one another. We have expectations that make this so. But can we still make room for joy? Can we live enough in the moment to allow ourselves to realize and feel our wholeness?
Take a look at your current life. How happy are you, really? Are you making space to enjoy your life or are you consistently thinking of what’s next, striving to “arrive”? You know what? That won’t bring you happiness. It contracts your heart and limits your foresight. Always wanting more and working harder is a part of the matrix we actually want to escape. It’s a trick of the mind that steals from the spirit.
Here's another question: why are you working so hard to get to what’s next? You might say it is for your family, or to be financially secure, or to prove to yourself and others you can do it. Maybe it’s the rush or the sense of accomplishment. Maybe you are telling yourself you will have time to sleep and rest later.
I wonder if the undue pressure you put on yourself might be because you don’t know how to stop. Or you are afraid to. That’s been my reason, if I’m honest. Beneath it all, there has been fear. Fear of deeply feeling it all. Fear of disappointment in myself and others. Fear of getting too close… Fear of the fantasy not being real. Fear of getting too high that I will eventually have to slide backwards. Fear of endings, unexpended or otherwise.
I had to get real with myself. Feel what was going on beneath the words and actions. What were my triggers and why? And, how do I hold myself and all of my emotions? This has been the lesson and opportunity.
A friend and I were talking recently about how we both had amazing childhoods but somehow, along the way of life, some pain got in and hasn’t made its way out. What I’ve learned is that’s okay. The responsibility we have to ourselves is to not allow the pain to disrupt or delay the goodness that wants to come. That is already here.
Life is full of pain and tragedy. We cannot predict the future. But we can find a balance with preparing for it and being fully open to the now, joy included. Think about it, how do you feel when you are completely in the moment, not thinking about the past or the future, but soaking in what is now? Odds are you feel lighter and happier. Who says that can’t be the majority of your experience?
Does it mean you won't have heartache? No. Illness? No. Grief? No. But what I have learned in each of those states of being is that you can open to what is and surround yourself with your own love and feel all that is Love. There is where you will find peace.
Look, I’m on this journey taking one step at a time. Writing as my guide. And what becomes clearer is that there are sunny days, dreams do come true, love does exist and grows, joy can permeate your being, opportunities do land in your lap, creativity is a healer, prayers are answered with a “yes” in due time. I have a right to receive that unconditional love. Not because I've done anything to deserve it but because Life is set up that way. And it's set up for you that way, too!
Life will never be perfect as long as we have the belief that it should happen on our terms. Life is most beautiful, I believe, when we learn to trust it and ourselves a little more. It’s a process of healing, of expansion, of redefining what works, of flowing, of being, of deeply tapping into Essence, of surrendering it all, and of dancing to each beat.
It’s Valentine’s Day 2023. I spent more time than usual contemplating how to start my day. What would be most meaningful? There was a prayer of gratitude, texts to friends and family, a social media post for Snapdragon Journal to remind those who aren’t feeling loved that we love them, a post in honor of my mom who will be 80 in a couple of days. And there were text messages between me and my lover. (I love that term – more on that later.)
As I thought about him and this day that gets so much "love", I received the answer to my earlier question: I would spend the morning with a cup of coffee while I write before “going to work.” It's been awhile since I've blogged and today felt like a good day to add a post.
For decades, I have been studying love. I’ve read more relationship books than you can imagine. Not so much "how to get a man" books but the ones like Enchanted Love. I remember even before all the reading I would go to Hallmark at the corner of campus and buy Valentine's Day cards even though I didn't have a Valentine! (I still have the one in the photo -- from 1990s. It cost $1.65.)
If you’re someone I've met up with more than three times, I’ve probably engaged you in a conversation about love. Though little of my poetry is about romance, it is one of the areas of life I'm most curious. Not so much about dating tips and fairytales, but on how love develops. How is it sustained? What makes love love? You know, all the questions you have to live.
Fast forward to now, when I've come to know first hand that romantic relationships can be a way for God to speak to us and to love us back into our wholeness. I used to think that a man was to make me whole. If I’m loved romantically then I am valued. I mean, that’s what society shows and teaches us, right? We aren’t complete without a partner, right? That's a lie and I’m SO glad that I realized this earlier on and went most of my adult life solo, so that I could learn to love myself deeply and completely – learning I am 100% valuable without being in a partnership.
My singleness and “doing the work” for my own healing and self-love were how I knew what type of relationship I wanted and needed. I had to define for myself what a healthy relationship looked like. And then I had to become the woman I admired to be able to enter and maintain that type of relationship. I don't always get this right. And I didn't do it to attract someone, but that seems to be how the Universe works.
Here I am, gifted to experience the beauty and depth of self-love mirrored in a conscious relationship. My lover wonderfully holds up a mirror for me to see my beauty and my pain. My therapist says, when I’m struggling with something that also to me seems simple, “that’s the wounding.” It’s a sign for me to go back and heal whatever may be lingering that’s causing me pain today. My lover shows that to me but not out of malice. It's really a way that God uses him to show me my shadow self and how to love it. And I do the same for him. This is partnership -- the part that isn't seen on social media posts or assumed but what signifies to us the gift that exceeds our expectations.
Love is growing me up.
Thank God I attracted this beautifully complex man who loves deeper than anyone I have met. He challenges me, he remains present in the midst of conflict, he is so incredible emotionally strong and gentle, he is forgiving, he looks at me through the eyes of love. Nope, he’s not perfect and our relationship has its ups and downs but this relationship is perfect for me. That’s why I call him my “lover.” He loves as fully as he can and that love surrounds me so much that I then see him and me with new eyes each day. And when we have bad days, it’s the love that keeps us coming back to have the clarifying conversations.
I can see why it's now that he has come into my life in this way and not earlier. I needed to be at a place of maturity and self-love to be able to receive the lessons at the highest level. I don't always get this right either! Sometimes my feelings get hurt or I make an assumption, but let me tell you, 10-20 years ago, I would be a lot worse at being loving, no matter what my ego would have me to believe. LOL. And, because I am full of my own being, I know better how to hold him when he needs to be held. It's a mutual seeing and being.
Last year, my word was "ease" (see my last blog post). There's something magical about being at ease and trusting that the journey will provide you with everything you need and more. No one knows tomorrow and though I like to plan certain things, I'm completely okay with God writing my story, plot twists and all.
My lover just texted me a song. It's De La Soul's "Eye Know." He did this because he loves the group and as a tribute to David 'Trugoy The Dove' Jolicoeur, a founding member of the group, and because he is love. This is my kind of Valentine's Day because it's everyday love.
"My truth, and maybe yours too, is different from that unconscious voice driving our habits. Every part of me is craving ease. Not hustle, not rushing, not stress, but ease. I am not naive to think that life is easy and without challenges, heartbreak, or difficulty. But I am wise enough now to check in with myself to ask, "Is this (fill in the blank) bringing me ease?" Does the thought of it (fill in the blank) bring ease or stress? And then make choices accordingly."
I know, we're not even halfway through December and I'm already thinking of "my word" for 2022. A friend of mine always comes up with a word she wants to embody or focus on or bring in for the New Year. As much as I love words, finding one for an entire year has always been something I've found challenging to do and stick with.
But, as I enter what I believe to be a pivotal year for me (I will write more on this throughout 2022), the word that's been surfacing lately is "ease." Not easy but ease.
Here's the deal: we live in a society that prides itself on "the hustle," "the grind," "making things happen." Growing up, I was taught to value hard work and persistence. This isn't a bad thing, but I wasn't taught as much how to balance my needs and desires with the external push and drive that everyone seems to admire. As an adult, I carried the "you have to work harder" mentality into every aspect of my life. Whether professional or personal, I've placed more attention on effort than the actual feelings that come with that effort or outcome.
Work, work, work. Hard, hard, hard. Fast, fast, fast. If I'm honest, that has had its place and I've benefited from the grind and my sacrifices. But there comes a point in life where you stop running and pushing and trying so hard. You realize, and maybe under unfortunate circumstances, that you don't really win, not with what matters most to you.
I've had many wake up calls to do life differently than what appears in mainstream. I walk the thin line of consumerism (I do enjoy nice things and experiences) and freedom. It can get complicated, confusing and exhausting. But when I think of "ease," my body softens and smiles. It feels like a desert being loved by rainfall. It nourishes me at every level.
My truth, and maybe yours too, is different from that unconscious voice driving our habits. Every part of me is craving ease. Not hustle, not rushing, not stress, but ease. I am not naive to think that life is easy and without challenges, heartbreak, or difficulty. But I am wise enough now to check in with myself to ask, "Is this (fill in the blank) bringing me ease?" Does the thought of it (fill in the blank) bring ease or stress? And then make choices accordingly.
This is where I have arrived at life, and honestly, I'm so thankful. This in no way means I won't step up the plate, or work long hours (I'm sure I will but hopefully not as much), or deal with stress. Life happens regardless. I can't change that. But, "Does this bring me ease?" seems to be an important question to start asking.
It takes courage to ask yourself hard questions (squill) and to not lie but honor yourself. It's the journey to holding yourself accountable for the choices you make and the life you are living and creating. So much of life is outside of our control but there are pieces of our lives that are inside of our control -- how we see and think about all the pieces, how we nurture and grow, how we allow ourselves to unfold like nature allows itself -- that make all the difference!
I don't know how this will actual look, but I imagine that
Maybe the easy part is finding a word and the more difficult part is carrying it through 365 days. My hope is that I will do so with ease. We will see, but I'm already finding that I am asking myself, when I'm having to make a difficult decision, which option brings me the most ease. I'm starting early :-).
There's still time for you to choose your word for 2022. What will it be?
I was listening to women's empowerment coach, Connie Chapman, talk about how we wear masks to hide aspects of ourselves. That's not a new topic for me. Most of my adult life I've been checking in with myself to see if I'm being true to me. It shows up in leaving full-time corporate work to start two of my own businesses, in being a poet and artist which allow me to examine and express my truth, in my religions practices, in what I say "yes" and "no" to, in the boundaries I set, in my day-to-day choices,
Yet, there was a different level of truth I uncovered when I began to seriously think about the masks I wear and create a list of them! I'm quick to hide what I consider to be my emotional messiness, my neediness, my vulnerability, my roller coaster, my moods, my selfishness, my anxiety, my fears, my sensitivity, my uncertainty, my anger, my demands and expectations (which often are cover-ups of my insecurities). I want people to see me only as put together, grounded, wise, giving, generous, zen, emotionally mature. I pride myself on how I want people to see me. I reject the parts of me that I think are "too much" and "extra."
What I'm learning (light bulb moment!) is that if I'm to live my life authentically, I have to accept the less than perfect parts of me too -- the parts that I am embarrassed about because somehow I took on the belief that they are unloveable. I have to hold space for all of me and recognize that to love is to not judge. No one is perfect and I'm only harming myself when there are parts of my personality that I deem "less than."
When I think about self-love and acceptance, I'm finding it means taking responsibility for my messiness but also loving myself because of it. The parts that we deny are what's needing our love and embrace the most.
I have friends who see the cracks in my mask. They've seen me cry from having my heart hurt. They've seen me be less than gracious with others when I've had a tough day. I even have one friend who has seen all my broken pieces (God, bless him). He handles it well, mostly, but the truth is, he shouldn't have to. Not without me showing him my well of beauty, which exists just as well.
Being authentic means being true to yourself and living in alignment. It doesn't mean throwing your baggage and fears onto others expecting them to heal you. It means saying, "This is who I am -- all of me," and loving yourself...enough.
I think in our society and culture, it's challenging to be exactly who you are. Maybe this is especially so for women and even more so for Black women. I'm not sure. But I know for me, so much of the lessons I am now having to unlearn -- like, always be polite and make space for others, make sure you're always at your best (which is more than everyone else's best), give more than you take, etc -- came as a result of our culture and a woman's role.
How can we -- you and me -- show up as we are, knowing that who we are authentically is whole and brilliant? How can we release the fears that hold us from being fully present to ourselves as ourselves? How can we live in alignment with our inner being with the sense of security that the right people will come into our lives at the right time? How can we have a sense of ease and depth that we are enough and we welcome all of who we are -- even the messy, wild, un-neat parts of us? How can we love her in a way that honors our whole being?
As much self-work I have done over the years, I'm still learning and healing. And I'm learning to be patient with myself. This isn't about being perfect and maybe it's not even about "being better." Maybe it's about being more real, more alive, more in love, more available, more honest, more authentic, more free. Yeah, I think that's it.
So, as I leave, I would like to invite you to do what I did with Connie to create deeper awareness:
Sending light and love,
It was the last Sunday in February that my Dad preached his last sermon. And every last Sunday in February since, I think about how we had no idea as he led the pastoral prayer and later took his text, that it would be the last time he would mount the pulpit. It would be the last time we would hear his words and guidance as a pastor.
We lived in Detroit at the time and it was a winery weathered Sunday. That week, he traveled to Ohio for a conference, retuning that Saturday, March 2.
And that's when he had a massive heart attack. I was with him. It was the last time I saw my Dad alive, vibrant.
Hours later, in a private waiting room, the doctor told me, as if it was a script, "He didn't make it." That moment would change my life forever.
If you know my story, or at least this part of it, you know that his passing and my grief process birthed The Word Project. You know that I believe it was poetry that served as my altar during a time where I felt surrounded by impenetrable darkness. You know it was the writing -- the poetic mechanics -- that made room for me to find my breath again.
For more than 20 years, I've been in that space, helping others grapple with their pain, trauma, sadness. I believe making space for those feelings and emotions are vital for us getting to the other side. But grief, is a process without an end date or timeline. It comes and goes. It's messy and fluid. It surprises you. It's not in a box, neat and perfect.
Still, pain, grief, sadness can be transformed. Healing isn't just making room for the worse. It's making room for the worse so you can work through it for there to be room for the best. There is a Part B to the work.
The healing process is something you go through. Yes, in your own time and with your own rules, but you can't stay where you start and call that healing You can't remain on the same level of your pain and say you've made it through.
I've learned that the best this year. You see, I've been blessed to have someone to journey with these last several months. He didn't sign up for that job of helping me heal but it's what happens when you're in an intimate relationship (by "intimate relationship" I mean being vulnerable).
Though we didn't stay together our time was for a purpose. He helped pulled up some of my shadows that I didn't know existed. They have been laid out, stretched on a table, for me to inventory. Now, these shadows didn't all have to do with me suddenly losing my Dad, who was also my best friend, when I was 23. But I see how I skipped lessons in my 20s and 30s that now need my studious and loving attention.
And what I've learned in this journey is that healing does not include wallowing or being coddled (though we often want to be there because it's easier). It means putting on your big girl panties and continuing to do the work. It means practicing radical self-love, forgiveness and acceptance. It means making peace with your past and realizing the present is perfect. It means, yes, giving space to the pain, but not staying there.
I see this with those I work with through poetry workshops -- how people want to defend their pain, be defined by it. They become comfortable in their grief. They wear it like a tethered sweater, passed down from generation to generation.
How do we balance this -- making space for pain while being open to light? How do we not rush through what we're feeling so we can honor each step of the healing process? This is our work, I think -- to figure it out, To practice. To observe. To put one foot in front of the other. And to do with with less and less judgement and more and more compassion.
We don't heal in a vacuum (thank God) though our healing is our responsibility alone. Every relationship, every moment is a part of our healing. Our life is designed for healing. Our journey is to wholeness, if we choose it. That doesn't mean it will be smooth and that we won't meet people who will "trigger" us, but that, too, is a part of our healing.
I'm thankful, at this juncture of my journey, how I am learning more about healing. I am learning, too, even more, what it means to be still and allow God to do the work we can't do alone. What it means to not stay in your pain and act from a place of pain.
I'm thankful for the gift of poetry that illumines the places, too, that are dormant, and that allow us creative ways to be transformed and to open our minds and hearts to the life we deserve.
I'm thankful, as I type this on this last Sunday in February, that my heart is making its way, as gracefully as it knows how, to Part B. And for the love and light my Dad still shines on me, and the many other beautiful souls who travel along-side me, propping me up when things get a little daunting.
This healing journey isn't an easy one but it's one worth trusting.
"Having to go slow, literally, because my body wouldn't and couldn't do what it did prior to surgery, taught me to be gentle with myself. And that slowness and witnessing my body heal naturally after the surgery taught me how to fall in love with all parts of myself in a way I didn't know before."
When the doctor's office called to say my surgery was scheduled for December 18 (2019), I didn't give that date a second thought. December 18, 1960, is when my Dad preached his trial sermon, and when my brother was called into the ministry, my Dad chose that date for him to preach his trial sermon (1988). So I felt December 18 was a date I, too, should say yes to.
And on the one year anniversary of my (first and hopefully only) major surgery -- one that afterwards the doctor told my family was more severe than they thought, one that caused trauma to my body -- I cannot help but to think of the miracle this year has been, even with a pandemic.
During my quiet time this morning, looking back over the year, I could clearly see that this has been my "year of recovery." And I was prompted to share some of what lessons I took to heart this year...
I am thankful for a year of rest and reflection. I am thankful for my growth that continues to show itself. I am thankful for the angels God sends to be by my side. I am thankful for the miracle of life and the healing journey. I am thankful for the past and even more thankful for what is ahead!
I've been thinking a lot lately, as many of you I'm sure, about how to prepare for the election. I don't mean having a plan around voting, though that is important, but rather how should I prepare for the election's results. Is there something different I need to do this week? And the answer is, yes.
Let's face it, this year has not been easy for anyone. COVID, the deaths of John Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with many others, have put us in a tailspin of grief and anger.. And each day there is news that can make us sick to our stomach, including what's happening politically. There's a lot we cannot control and one may argue that as BIPOC we have no control over the basics (our home, land, body).
So again I think about life after the election -- regardless of who wins and by how much -- and the importance of self-care more now than ever. As I contemplate my own rituals and what I need to increase or suspend, I developed this list that I want to share with you. And ask that you add to this with what you're doing or planning to do within the days and weeks to come.
I do a lot of these now, in my everyday life, but I am mindful that I need to create boundaries and space to deepen my care. As someone whose work is holding space for others and their emotional weight, I know that it is paramount I do the same for me. And I cannot think of this outside of my lens as a Black woman and the weight we carry and have for generations.
The goal is to get on the other side of what many are feeling as trauma and threats with peace and assurance. One path is self-care. It's being in the moment and not allowing all the "what ifs" to take over. It's doing the best to take care of yourself and those you love so that we are strengthened and not weakened.
Take deep breaths, my friends. Expand the chest so the heart has space to freely be. Do what you need to in order to feel safe. And please take deep care of yourself.
(Add in the comments what you're doing to deepen your self-care!)
So, this isn't like my other blog posts. Instead of writing, I want to share an "In the Healing Room" podcast where I talk about my personal experience with poetry as a healing tool, as well as how I use it with others.
You can listen to it by clicking here.
Years ago, in my Atlanta days, I went white water rafting with a guy I was dating. It was one of those “fun,” “let’s do something different” types of date for us.
As we rode the bus to the rapids, with others who decided to join this early morning activity. the guide shared safety tips. I listened closely and repeated to myself what I heard just to ensure I knew what to do in case of an emergency. It was my first time rafting so, knowing me, I probably asked a question or two.
Minutes later we were on a raft with maybe two other couples and our guide. We had our life jackets on, I had my toes tucked under the tube, as instructed, and my hand on an oar. I was ready.
We hit a few rapids hard, had a few bumps, laughs and screams. And then, next thing I knew, after hitting a rapid full speed and the raft spinning, my upper body was flung into the water: my head submerged under water while my feet stayed stuck under the inner tube.
I knew from the brief orientation we had on the bus that someone was going to pull me up. The guide talked about how this would work in the event someone would fall out. So, I wasn’t worried; I waited (after all, I couldn't move with my legs being stuck). But no one did. No one pulled me back in. Instead, they pushed the rest of my body out.
After the seconds I spent in shock and confusion I immediately crossed my arms over my chest (a tip shared in the orientation), kicked my legs straight out, focused my gaze on the sky, and floated with the rapids.
I was angry, frightened, alone.
But, there I was with no other choice than to be there. I had to let go of my anger in that moment to allow my body to relax so I could allow the current to guide me. I had to work with it and not against it, though it was the last place I wanted to be.
I eventually found my way to a large rock that I could lean against, and I waited for what seemed eternity. (And yes, the guy I was dating came for me -- in a lifesaver type raft.)
Later, when we met back up with the group, I was told by the guide that when I fell out of the raft my head was too close to a rock, and that if my head hit the rock while they were trying to pull me up, it could have cost me my life.
Why am I sharing this? Because I realized in the wee hours of this morning how that lesson fits other situations in my life, and how there are times we find ourselves where we simply don’t want to be.
For you (as it has been for me at times) the boat is a job or a relationship or some other situation. We think, though, that the “boat” is where we are to be. It’s our rightful place. It’s safe and dry. It’s part of the plan. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But then, something happens. Some current comes and there is a shift. You’re somewhere else, somewhere unexpected. Maybe you’re half in and half out, and you want someone to pull you all the way in.
You wait for someone, perhaps, to tell/show you they love you. Or you wait for someone to give you the promotion. Or you wait for someone to save you because clearly they must see you struggling. Clearly, they can, but why won’t they?
And they don’t. They don’t pull you in. They don’t say what you need to hear. They don’t save you. Not only do they not pull you in, but they push you out. Still, you might want to return. After all, this is what represents safety for you – not “out there,” where it’s cold and undefined.
So, what do you do?
Some powers – like currents – you just can’t fight. You have to flow. You have to surrender. You have to let go. And it feels like a death.
Same with heartache. You have to grieve (even though it is frightening). You have to surrender (even though you don't understand all that's going on). You have to know that the waves won’t overtake you (even though they are massive).
And, you have to know that maybe being pushed out is what you need in order to find your own way. And sometimes, maybe, you have to push your own self out, trusting, eventually, you will end up where you need to be.
[Take a deep breath.]
But it doesn’t stop there. There is another layer, which I didn’t know about at the time this event happened to me. You have to also deal with the trauma.
It’s not enough to be on safe ground again. It’s not enough to count your blessings and thank God for getting through it. You have to heal the trauma so it doesn’t become stuck in your body. Learn the lesson but not the fear.
And then you begin again.
In my dream last night, I left a class full of employees on their last day of our series, which I was the trainer. I’m not sure what the topic was but I remember having planned everything and feeling well prepared. I had my outline, I had arrived early to set up, I was ready to celebrate our coming together over a number of months, I knew how I was going to “test their knowledge.” Etc.
But I realized, once everyone had arrived, that I had forgotten something I needed. I was certain I would be able to run and get this item and return before our official start time. As dreams would have it, I got lost on my return to the class.
I was traveling franticly through this campus trying to find my way back. Each turn I took seemed to be the wrong one, taking me further away from my destination. I had been gone for what seemed like hours, and I was certain that many, if not all, had left the class, and that the person who hired me was furious I had been gone so long.
There I was, not sure what to do when, without my asking, a young lady who I had never seen before approached me and said that she would show me the way.
The route back to the class I was holding was a long one. I was amazed by the beautiful scenery. Stairs covered in lush vines making them undetectable (“The stairs there – just go down them and they will lead you to the pathway.”) And the size of the beautifully carved doors my guide told me to go through -- ones I never thought were available for "anyone" to pass (“You’ll use that wide wooden door. Just pass through the office and on the other side…”).
I followed this guide’s cheery voice through beauty in the midst of my angst. The vivid colors and personalities of random strangers who popped in and out of my dream spoke to all of my senses so much so that I woke – before arriving back to the class – with the question: “How do you pivot within the moment when plans aren’t enough?”
Literally, that was the question. I wrote it down on the pad I keep on my nightstand as soon as I woke – before coming here to share it with you.
As an artist, facilitator, and entrepreneur whose “day job” often carries the title of trainer, I know the layers of this dream aren’t coincidental. We could dig into this dream and talk about its messages and metaphors – that would be fun – but for now, what about the question? And the answer? I believe the general insights are universal and timeless., and worth sharing.
“How do you pivot within the moment when plans aren’t enough?”
I’m a recovering planner. This time in isolation is helping with that, I think. It’s helping me see myself clearer, with more honesty. Example: I write out each evening what I plan to do the next day. Sometimes I belabor it, but when the next day comes, I don’t go according to the written plan at all. Something comes up that’s often better: a new idea, a phone call from a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, a nap. I’m learning to be okay with that, to not feel I’ve let myself down, or someone else, if every moment isn’t filled being “productive.”
But there is also what the question implies: that plans sometimes aren't enough -- they don’t cover exactly or everything that is needed. Think about what we’re experiencing in the midst of this global pandemic. There are national plans for better care and response. There are plans for financial support. There are plans for more, fill in the blank. And those plans constantly change and we have to change with it.
Yet, whether we look at what we are collectively experiencing or our individual work, we have to admit that we cannot plan everything. Our contingency plans may not cover us either.
So what do you do? The question gives the answer: you pivot.
But how? For me, this dream doesn’t just pose the question, it also provides the answer. If I go back to what happens before the question is offered, I see three keys to pivoting, which I would like to offer:
Be honest about your plans not being enough. It’s great to have plans and guidelines and benchmarks, but there comes a time in the creative process – when you are exploring and expanding – that the plans are blueprints and not promises. This is true in every aspect of life. Look at what we’re experiencing now – there is data and there is speculation. It's okay to admit that you don't have all the answers all the time. It's okay for plans to fall through, as disappointing as that may be. Being honest and accepting that is how you move, how you pivot, from one line of thinking to the next, as seamlessly and gracefully as possible. And I don't mean gracefully as in not falling on your face in front of others (at some point you don't care what people think), I mean gracefully in the way your body on a cellular level handles change best.
Be open to being guided. Truth is, you nor I can’t go this alone. There are those who support you, and those you support. Sometimes you know your guides and other times they “come out of the blue.” It’s okay to seek them out too, to ask questions, to admit you’re lost or confused or scared. It’s also okay to hold the virtual hand of someone who has offered theirs for support. Truly, we are all in this together and we will not get through this pandemic without each other, even with social distancing and virtual connections.
Be willing to be surprised. The beauty comes in the moment (and there is still beauty to experience, my friends) – not in the plans or the ego’s desire to execute those plans and accomplish those goals. In the dream, I was so overcome with anxiety that my only focus was on being where I was “supposed” and expected to be. I would have easily missed the beauty if I had stayed focused on where I needed to be and not on where I was in that moment. If you stay in the current moment even for a little while, miracles and surprises come as gifts. It’s hard to believe sometimes because we are conditioned (fooled) into believing that if we just stay in control that everything will be okay.
I believe we will all walk away from the coronavirus changed. We will be different in a number of ways which are yet to be seen. Let’s record the days and measure our time. Let’s see what we missed yesterday and if, today, we can catch surprises like we catch lightening bugs. Let’s take more time to be in the moment rather than chasing moments yet to come and curing others. Let’s meet the stranger who smiles in our dreams and shows us the way. Let's plan but more importantly let's learn to pivot within the moments of change.
A creative spirit, coach & corporate professional, Jacinta White shares how she merges, what she calls, "the sacred messiness of life" & her love for all things artsy. Follow for tips, prompts, musings & more!