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Effortful Practice

Thank you Lords of The First Day of School,

I know it hasn’t always been easy, but I AM GRATEFUL that at least so far today, all is quiet on the home front. I am sitting peacefully at my desk marveling at the silence in the house and luxuriating in it!

Most of you know that seven years ago today my husband Eric died on what was the first day of school for both of my kids, then seven and ten.

I’ve been reflecting on that day and the significance of what I have learned following because it’s the inspiration that has launched me on my first book project ("Braving Creativity” due out in May 2023 !?#%$*!).

What writing the book and the past seven years have in common is the enormous EFFORT involved in both. It takes effort every day to make the choice to do the hard and slow work of change and not retreat altogether or try to rush the process just to get "it over with."

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In my experience, change is its own darn thing. Have you experienced a CRISIS that cracked the foundation of your identity? Have you changed as a result of listening to your INTUITION when it told you that you've had ENOUGH of something? Have you ever received an INVITATION to engage with an opportunity that led you on a transformational journey? Then you know change. Transition is something else. However and whenever change occurs you ultimately have to make a choice to exert the EFFORT that it will take to move through a period of time when you will be in a wonky in-between place. It's disorienting because you are letting go of the life you knew and at the same time grappling who you are now, which may cause you to feel exhausted, afraid, self doubting, angry, grief-y (my word) and often self-critical. Not knowing where you are in this transformational journey, or how to stay safe and valued and in control, can keep you stuck for longer than necessary. Being stuck diminishes the chance that you will TRY.

The poet Mark Nepo refers to transformational moments of change as the effort to apply

“ . . . the deeper things we know well. When I resist change I need, I try to invoke my commitment to look. When I seem to vanish into my old habits, I try to invoke my commitment to stay visible. When I struggle with the courage to try, I work on my commitment to the moment. When I don’t know how to integrate what is new, I work on my friendship with all that Is eternal. When the whole thing seems unbearable, I try to invoke my commitment to stop rehearsing my way through life.”

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In coaching we talk of "compelling committments." Our resistance churns out thoughts based on unconscious beliefs that nothing we do will give us enough of a guarantee. But our hearts know why we choose to try as hard as we do. And that's where you have to work from your heart to create the compelling reason you need to exert the effort required to move through transition.

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The past week felt EFFORTFUL for many of us. I was talking to an artist yesterday, a woman I am interviewing for my book who experienced a major criss earlier this year. (Spoiler Alert: You’ll read her story in the book.) Something exasperating and truly heartbreaking happened while she was putting the FINAL TOUCHES on a major work. She walked out of her home studio and into the backyard and screamed.

Her middle-school-aged son was home and watching. (Cuz' why would a mother have any privacy ever?)

She knew that she both needed to have an authentic expression of this frustration and also exert the effort to begin again. If not for herself, then for her son who was soaking it all up like a sponge. And she did. She met her feelings with compassion and was able to make a shift into choice in order to try again.

That is fucking hard, right?

But the truth is, at a certain age - a’hem - we’ve encountered a fair amount of change. We are getting better at letting go of what we can't control. We are learning to LET OTHER PEOPLE IN to support our goals and nurture us, and we are in our PROCESS OF BECOMING more available and open to the life that wants to live within us. Aren't we?

Sorry, my dear brave creatives, I wish change and transition could be easier. But the only real way is forward one simple, gentle, brave step at a time.


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