Home Again

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I am surprised that I haven’t posted in so long, although I know it to be true. I imagined that I had posted just before we left God’s Pocket in mid-March; the truth is my last post was in late February when David’s father died.

As the kids say: “OMG!”

This post will, therefore, be an “all in” update since life has been full since my last post.

We left God’s Pocket on March 12, drove down island and ferried across to Vancouver, and then headed to Whistler for a few days of Spring skiing with Richard and Jana, our good friends from Seattle. I had never been to Whistler – I know so little of mainland British Columbia – and was excited to be there. Driving from the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway was its own thrill. It is the Canadian version of California’s Highway 1: a spectacularly beautiful coastal drive.

We had a lovely time, but our friends didn’t fare as well: Jana fell and twisted her knee on the afternoon of the first day, resulting a fracture (discovered in the x-ray “after” she skied down the mountain!). Perhaps in sympathy, Richard fell a few times two days later (and our last day there) and his knees became swollen and black and blue. David and I were generally unharmed.

We drove to Seattle on Friday, and spent the weekend with our friend Elizabeth who lives in West Seattle, enjoying her company, the city and dinner one evening with David’s sister-in-law and partner. Truth: I always feel a little guilty not reaching out to my other Seattle area friends and former colleagues when we are there. I miss them (you know who you are!) and I’m not good (apparently) at balancing family and an extended group of friends.

We got back to San Francisco on March 22, delighted to see our cat, Ethel, who has become a gregarious love bug now that she is the only cat. We were also happy to sleep in our own bed after almost three months. It’s the little things that let you know you are home…

My coach training through the Martha Beck Institute is going well. As with any learning process, I’ve had a few frustrating and confused moments, but mostly the skills and guidance we are getting is wonderful and helpful. And I’m so taken with a program that honors intuition, the ‘magic of the universe’ and other slightly “woo woo” concepts while providing structured content, brain science and practical tools. Lately we’ve been concentrating on skills to help with “dissolving limiting thoughts” – and we start with ourselves and practice on each other. No shortage of material for most of us!

All this time, I’ve been working towards officially launching my coaching practice: Clear-Eyed Coaching & Consulting. That sentence was so easy to write, and oh my, have I come a long way for that to be true.  My “ideal” clients, which may evolve as I get more time in, are executives and leaders wanting to up their game at work, and individuals who just “know” it’s time for a change in their lives (maybe around work, maybe around other things). My consulting work, which includes coaching, expands the focus from the client to include his/her work environment, systems, staff, etc. I’ve also developed an interest in working with “solopreneurs” – small business owners who need and want some guidance in establishing, changing or growing their businesses.

It is at once nerve wracking and disconcerting to realize that I am my brand and my service, both inseparable. Unlike having a corporate gig, there’s no hiding behind my title or the bureaucracy if things don’t go according to plan. And that’s exactly why it is exciting and fulfilling to be on this path. I can’t wait for my website to go live, which – fingers crossed – should be in the next few weeks.  I’ve received great and supportive feedback so far, which helps fuel me when the doubts show up to play.

My niece Natalia, on the cusp of graduating from high school (and whom I’ve been helping with her college process) came out for Spring break. With her cousin Jason living in the guest room since September (while looking for his own place in San Francisco), we set her up on the Aero Bed in the dining room. Chaos all around, but fun to have the next generation hanging with us. (Natalia is my brother’s eldest daughter; Jason is my sister’s son.) We did a few ‘family of four’ things, including one spoken word with dance performance that had us all scratching our heads.

The two highlights of her visit were:

  • Shopping at the Nordstrom Rack for potential prom dresses: we found two beautiful gowns (and one ‘pretty good’ one) for a total of $164! We timed the Red Tag sale perfectly.
  • Driving down to see UC Santa Cruz again, this time through the eyes of someone who could go there if she wanted (she was pleased to have been accepted). We wandered the campus more fully than last summer, and we chatted with a few students on a beautiful day.

And then she went back to Maryland, where I’ll be over Memorial Weekend to see her graduate and enjoy an opportunity to gather with the family and celebrate.

And in the meantime, David is ramping down his NASA project, leaving him wondering what’s next. He has ideas, lots of ideas: his updated personal business card says “Rocket Science… always launching something new.” And some of those ideas may call him to a new level of engagement. He is thoughtful about what is next, as am I, and we both are likely to keep working in some form or fashion for the rest of our lives. We both like the stimulation and engagement; nice to have income as well.

There are other things afoot, but it’s too early to share, or too mundane to write about. Which leads me to this blog. I have decided I want to continue to post, but not on any predictable schedule (which I’m sure you noticed already!). I would prefer not to go two months between posts, so will endeavor to be more conscientious. With luck, I still have some followers who enjoy seeing Dancing On the Way Home in their email boxes.

Love,
Susan

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Happy Valentines, Mama & Papa

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I  am writing today about my father-in-law, Efigenio Raul Mustelier, who died on February 14. I want to acknowledge his life and honor him. Writing about him and his life is perhaps the best way I know now to recognize his humanity, and provide him witness.  Sadly, in writing about his life, I realized there was so much about him I didn’t know. Papa was more than the facts of his life, as we all are, but part of respect is getting the facts right when we can. I asked David, my husband and his son, a lot of questions; there were a few he was not able to answer, or least couldn’t be sure.

Efigenio (pronounced ‘Eh-fee-heh-neo’ and more commonly called “Efi”) was born in 1922 near Manzanillo, Cuba on December 11, 1922. His parents, Miguel and Clara Mustelier, had 8 children (and a 9th, the eldest, a half-sister); Efi was the youngest boy, and elder to one sister. Miguel was a landholder, and involved in agricultural endeavors – sugar and cattle – and was reputed to be a tough father. The family worked hard but was economically comfortable.

From a young age, Efi dreamed of going to college and becoming a doctor. He met the love of his life, Angela Dionysia Ferrandiz (known as Gela, pronounced Heh-lah), a first-generation Spanish-Cuban woman, in Manzanillo the year before he left for college and medical school. Most of the 10-year relationship leading to their marriage was long distance. Efi attended medical school in Havana and in 1950 went to New Jersey for his internship, followed by Chicago for his residency in obstetrics and gynecology.

In 1952, his brother-in-law Manuel (Manolo) Remon Sr., came to visit Efi in Chicago where Efi gave Manolo his power of attorney. Manolo returned to Havana where in the office of an attorney, he completed Gela’s marriage to Efi by proxy. She left that same day to fly to New York. Efi took the train from Chicago and they stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania across the street from the “Penn Central” train station. The picture above is of the two of them on their first night as newlyweds, celebrating with friends and family in Brooklyn.

Efi and Gela returned to Chicago by train.  Around this time, Efi was drafted into the US Army due to the Korean War (he was a Cuban citizen but also a US Resident).  Ten months later, their first son Raul was born in Chicago. Efi loved the United States and was very proud of being in the US Army, and made it his career. Their family grew as they moved from station to station during his 24 year career, and Efi and Gela evolved into Mama and Papa, which is what I knew them as, and what many people called them.

Papa’s first assignment was in Munich, Germany, where Miriam was born. They went next to Camp Leroy Johnson in New Orleans, where both David and then, two-and-a-half years later, Roy was born.  Their first tour – there would be three – at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the headquarters for the Army Medical Service Corps, came next. They spent time at Fort Irwin (near Death Valley) before going back to Germany (Darmstadt) this time. Then came Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, followed by the second tour in San Antonio. The San Antonio tour included a year in Vietnam, obviously without family, where Papa along with his duties as a hospital commander, became popular for delivering babies for some wives of high ranking South Vietnamese army officers. Fitzsimmons Army Medical Hospital in Aurora, Colorado came next, followed by Fort Ord in Monterey, California (where Roy would meet his future wife Kristen Swanson many years later). The family then returned to San Antonio, where Papa completed his final tour with the Army and retired.

Mama and Papa, growing older, moved from San Antonio to Austin to be closer to Miriam (the “boys” were scattered: Raul lived in Seattle, David lived in San Francisco, and Roy in DC). They built an in-law extension on the house so Miriam could live there and help them.

Papa loved food and wine. One of David’s most formative memories is of his father taking over the kitchen on Sundays to prepare a large family meal. All of the Musteliers have an extraordinary appreciation for flavors, and fresh ingredients, and well prepared foods; they are amazing and creative cooks, and most of them also love wine.

I first met Mama & Papa in Tuscany, Italy in 2003. I had just become engaged to David, and so was included in the family trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. In fact, I met the whole family for the first time when David and I walked into the living room of the large refurbished farmhouse we rented. From there, the whole group took day trips to surrounding towns, and enjoyed meals outside under the trellises. We ate and drank wine, and lined the empty bottles against the terrace wall, honoring them as “soldati caduti” (fallen soldiers). Mama and Papa were welcoming and lovely to me in my first entree to the Mustelier family, perhaps in spite of being occasionally overwhelmed by the enthusiams of their adult children and their spouses.

Papa was garrulous and outgoing, and loved to tell his stories. In his later years, he charmed the Costco food sample purveyors, and chatted up anyone within earshot on his outings to the grocery store. Not surprisingly, for being a Cuban of his generation and a Colonel in the Army, Papa could be tough on his kids, especially as they came into their own adulthood and engaged their fierce intelligence. All said, Papa was extremely sentimental: he loved his family, and was very proud of his children.

Mama died in 2011, and Papa missed her terribly these last 6 years. They had been married just short of 59 years.

Papa had just turned 94 when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in late 2016, but he was otherwise extremely healthy and hale. He was expected to recover from the surgery to remove the tumor, but his digestive system never really worked again. A friend of mine said at the time: “Efi is full of surprises, and he has surprised people most of his life.” Still, after some time in the ICU and on a ventilator, and a week of trying to recover from both, Papa died on February 14.

Our thought was that Mama had come to get Papa to celebrate their love on Valentine’s Day. We think their eldest son, Raul, who died in 2008, made the reservations and ordered the wine.

David and I will leave God’s Pocket next Tuesday for a few days to join his siblings, extended family and friends for Papa’s funeral. He will be buried on March 2, with full military honors, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Love,
Susan

Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks so much for reading!

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Greatness Big and Small

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Since stepping away from my career as an executive in January, I’ve sought space and quiet to listen for insight about what might be next for me. I know that slowing down, nurturing my creativity and focusing on building habits of self-care are essential to that process. I have listened to my brain and mind for most of my life, and they have served me well. This gap year was intended to develop a more heart-centered approach to my life and work.

Round about August I got a little panicky about the future. I had been exploring the idea of enrolling in a life coach training program, and was as excited about the journey of discovery I’d be on as I was the picture of myself at the helm of a coaching business. Coaching has always been an interest, and I currently work with a few people. But suddenly I felt urgency about deciding on the training, and figuring out what was next. Part of the pressure was the deadline for the upcoming training session, but I knew that a fair amount of the urgency came from an untended well of questions about identity and purpose.

The idea of setting myself on a path to be a life coach – something I feel naturally and experientially inclined toward – answered so many of those questions. But the urgency was self-inflicted, a response to the discomfort of the untethered, highly disrupted, and confusing sort of year it has been. I realized (doh!) that the training and a coaching and consulting business would still be there for me if I decided I wanted it after listening to my heart rather than my brain (and the many shoulds that live there!).

I learned a valuable insight several years ago from a woman I took an art class with. We chatted one evening about navigating one’s path in the world, and she said the man who was coaching her told her to “listen to your inner voice” for guidance. She told him that she had many voices in her head, and asked how she would know which one to listen to… “That’s easy,” he replied, “listen to the one that’s kind. The voice that is kind and gentle is your true inner voice.” The loud, stringent voices are hard to ignore, and while even the harshest internal critic is trying to keep me safe, the methods are outdated and not useful to me anymore. I have to get very quiet to hear the kind voice, the one that knows my wants and needs better than I (consciously) do.

In all this sorting through “what to do next,” I have toggled back and forth between thoughts of doing great things in a small way – like working with individuals or consulting with small businesses or non-profits – or doing great things in a big way, like joining an organization with audacious goals and the potential to change the world, or at least a corner of it. The constant is my aspiration to do great things, which I define as making a difference, having integrity and high standards for myself and others. I want to continue to make a difference in the world, and I know that I can do so any number of ways.  My assumption has been that I while I’d be willing to work with large organizations, I wasn’t inclined to do so from inside the organization but rather as a consultant.

So I found myself surprised by my enthusiasm late last week when a friend forwarded a job description for a big job at an organization with audacious goals. Not at all the picture I had when I left my career in January, but one so aligned with my values, my experience and my aspirations, I am compelled. And watching my thoughts and feelings scramble about as I contemplated the role and putting my name in for consideration was an instructive adventure in itself.

I was drawn to the role, obviously, and recognized the “juice” of ambition the job description sparked in me. I realized that this would be an “all in” role, and likely wouldn’t allow me a flexible or reduced schedule, but that would be offset by the learning, the adventure, and the amazing potential of the role. I also entertained a litany of “not good enough” thoughts so common among us. I realized I wasn’t afraid of rejection per se — I have been seasoned by a career with many rejections, or as I have come to think of them, re-directions to something better. My core fear was being mocked for thinking I could compete, for having the hubris to raise to my hand.

But raise my hand I will. I’ll forward my interest and resume by tomorrow, and see what happens. If offered a chance to meet, I will be enthusiastic about the ways I can lead and contribute to the organization. I’ll be prepared to adjust to a future I hadn’t envisioned but would be excited about. If not, I have learned still more about myself: what calls to me, the ways I want to contribute to the world, and the many ways, big and small, I can be and do great things.

Under Observation

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We arrived on Sunday at God’s Pocket for our week of scuba diving. After a glorious week of sun and fishing at the Cluxewe near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island North, we arrived to learn of a very low water supply on the island.  Surrounded by water and not a drop to drink! The universe has since provided: it has rained every day this week, sometimes torrentially.

The diving goes on in all weather, gale force winds or 3 meter seas excepted. I chose not to dive this week, but planned to go out on most of the trips.  Humpback whales have been common sightings, and I yearned to see more otter, seals, and especially, wolves, all possible from the boat.

On Monday, as the divers suited up on the deck, I felt myself tense in empathy: diving is an equipment intensive sport, and diving in cold water require layers of clothing – thick neoprene wetsuit or, more likely up here, sealed canvas or crushed neoprene dry suit with fleece body suit underneath – which is then layered with a hood, buoyancy vest, mask, etc. Getting ready to “get wet” can take up to 15 minutes, and by the time one is ready, the boat may not be. It gets hot and claustrophobic waiting for the signal to jump in the water. And then I relaxed with the realization of how relieved I was not to be on deck, suiting up.

I am an observer this week, not least in the context of diving, and I’ve mostly been fine with that.

David surfaced on the first dive of the week, the check-out dive, with air leaks in his buoyancy vest. Then his computer malfunctioned too. In assessing potential solutions for his diving, we both realized that he could use my vest and my computer. The universe provided: we had one vest and one computer between the two of us, only a good scenario if one of us wasn’t diving.

I have come to God’s Pocket for scuba diving six times over the last 12 years, and I remember the experience of many of the dive sites in this unique environment. As the divers surfaced, I could again empathize, this time with their descriptions of their experiences, their joy in an interesting, good dive. I have had brief moments of envy, of wishing I had chosen to dive this week, remembering the fun of being under the surface, reveling in the remarkable experience of breathing underwater.

This week has also been more people intensive: our charter consists of 12 vacationing people, many of them with large personalities.  The owners and crew add five people, so meals are talkative and loud, and the clubhouse is frequently full of people chatting, trying to be heard over each other. I have enjoyed skimming the surface of these gatherings, and escaping to the quiet of my room with a book.

My yearning for peace and quiet, so strong that I wrote about this vacation as a “misery” a month or so ago, is still palpable. I so want to be home, with the cats, not worrying about restoration and workers and dust, returning to a bit of routine, exercising with my bootcamp peeps, eating clean and eschewing the daily cocktails and wine, and, well, just being home. I have enjoyed our two weeks in British Columbia, but also know this week, with all these people in close quarters, has again pushed against my introversion and need for quiet and calm.

Today is the first of September, not technically fall, but still the path to shorter and colder days is well established as the rain on the roof now affirms.  My gap year is nearly three-quarters done… mostly not at all what I planned, and certainly not what I had envisioned. Still, I have an abundance of observations and insights to guide me and to inform these next four months.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes later…  Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Working the Boxes

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“It’s an act of courage to let go,” Mr. Simon said. “I am going to see what happens if I let go. Then I’m going to see, who am I? Or am I just this person that was defined by what I did? And if that’s gone, if you have to make up yourself, who are you?”
from a New York Times article by Jim Dwyer on singer-songwriter-musician Paul Simon

I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately. Last week, I worked the kayak charter here at God’s Pocket, doing housekeeping in the six guest rooms and supporting the cook and kitchen. Honorable work, certainly, as all honest work is.  I really enjoyed making up the rooms, and making sure the comforters were “just so” on the bed, ensuring the rooms looked fresh and inviting. I enjoyed the physicality of it, and the routine. I didn’t so much enjoy cleaning the bathrooms, but used the experience to systematize and refine my approach each day. (Well, of course I did! I know that doesn’t surprise any of you: that’s who I am; the same person who wants to process-improve TSA security checkpoint processing at the airport.)

When I think about work, resort housekeeping notwithstanding, I mean some sort of productive, contributive set of endeavors that I’ll undertake with enthusiasm and passion sometime after the end of this 2016 gap year. Naturally, the picture of my work that comes to mind is the work I decided to leave earlier this year: corporate, linear, intellect-driven. It was good work in a good organization, and even though I had a full 28-year career, I knew it was only part of my life’s work. And so the journey began to figure out what is next. I know that I want my pursuits to be of use to myself and others, to make a difference, and to honor the heart and spirit that moves in each of us.

I fully recognize the luxury of having this year to explore. We have worked hard AND we have been lucky, so we can afford (financially) to do so. I started planning more than five years ago to take this time; it was an imperative for me. Now that I’m in it, the clarity is a bit murky: what should my days look like so that I’m moving forward? In the past, my work has always been the primary source for my identity, and this gap year has been an interesting adventure in finding out who I am without work, even as I try to figure out who I next want to be at work.

I keep hoping for the big reveal, the epiphany that clarifies my purpose and the shape of my days and next career.  I know, instead, that it will more likely be a game of “hot and cold” (also known as “hunt the thimble”). I will need to pay close attention as I move forward with my thinking and doing, seeing if I feel that I am getting closer (hotter) to something important or meaningful, or not (colder).

The picture that comes when I try to imagine future work is the one I’ve already known, and that is a box I want to move beyond. Boxes are defining in both good and bad ways, with their boundaries and limits, but also by their spacious interiors, where depth and focus can be had. Whether I imagine a similar leadership role in an organization or not, I know that my doubts and fears about the future and about what I offer form another sort of box, a more limiting one if I heed my perceived boundaries. I need to “work the boxes” to find which limits are my intuition waving me off from a direction, and which are limits I am meant to see over and move past to find what is next.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about “not work.” We are care-taking the resort this week, which has a few daily chores and some advance work for the next charter, but is mostly about doing what we please. As is typical for me, doing what I please often presents a conundrum. Sometimes it’s because of the call to do, to be in motion, is strong with me; at other times, I am lost in the choices of what to do, what to begin next. I know that anything I start will need some time to unfold.  Then again, we’ve had warm and sunny weather of late, so I’ve spent the afternoons sitting in an Adirondack chair on the deck reading (or not reading), toggling back and forth between doing, being, and not thinking too hard.

The question of “not work” is important for me, on equal footing with the “work” question. For years, my life was shaped by the demands of my job: everything else was leftovers. I made some choices in that construct but often felt I’d be making different ones if my job were not so consuming energetically. Now, there is space and time enough to be intentional about the pace and content of my days, about the balances between work and not work. (I have never liked the use of the term “work-life balance” as if “work” and “life” are in separable spheres and at opposite ends of the teeter-totter. Still, I recognize that for many “work” is an inflexible construct that doesn’t allow for the needs of working families.  I also know that “not work” isn’t a great term either, and doesn’t do justice to the richness of life outside of the office or beyond work.) Specifically, I want my work to inform my relationships, my community, and my creativity, and for my work to be informed by love, and play, and art, and rest, and friendship.

I don’t know what those combinations will look like, but I do know it is time to experiment. With all this room to explore creatively, with the exception of writing, I have struggled to develop a consistent creative practice. On the other hand, even as I say I am not working this year, I am (pro bono) coaching a woman I know from a non-profit I support, and I am also consulting with a small business owner who wants to take his vision to the next level.  Much to my surprise last week, the resort’s co-owners asked me to help them have a discussion about a thorny topic they needed to talk about and work through together. I was honored by their trust.

I’m working from a place of ‘there are no coincidences,’ and trying to pay attention to the things that keep coming around. For example, I happened a few days ago to decide to join a free online webinar about using intuition and emotion, rather than intellect, for personal decision making. I remembered the saying, “the longest journey is from the head to the heart,” and that I have longed for work that was more heart-centered.  Meanwhile, coaching, facilitating, and advising opportunities keep coming up, as does my need to write, to create art, and to move my body. Time to pay attention to themes, ideas, colors and desires that I have noticed but haven’t yet sat with, and see where they lead.

Today I notice that what I’ve been thinking about and doing this summer at both work and not work are connected.  I may be getting warmer to what is next. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work the boxes.

Love,
Susan

I post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes on Fridays… Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

In The Meantime

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I skipped my bootcamp again this morning: I can’t seem to get enough sleep so a 6 am wake-up call comes too early, and lately the days exhaust me. I keep casting about for the ‘why,’ as if identifying some root cause would make it easier to feel this way, or maybe just make it okay by providing a reason… I’m curious about this need to have a logical basis for my experience, to give myself permission to feel as I do.

Naturally, I have a list of things that are tiring me out: getting myself packed and the house ready for us to be in Canada for five weeks; ongoing management and/or general worry about the work still being done on our first floor; the slow process of moving back into our second floor after tucking our lives into closets and storage spaces; concern about our cat Lucy who has lost a lot of weight and can’t seem to eat enough; and probably not least, short-cutting my self-care: not enough sleep, poor food choices, and lapsed yoga and meditation practices. Inventory may enlighten, but it doesn’t lift the mood.

I went with a friend to hear Paul Simon in conversation earlier in the week. He is an enduring artist who is still deeply engaged in exploring his musical craft, and I have loved his music since before I was a teenager. He spoke of knowing that his creative cycle is generally three years long (although he typically produces albums every 4-6 years) and still he doubts himself and what is next when he is in his “fallow” period. After he releases an album, he said he is exhausted and has no ideas. And this worries him for a while. In that moment, he doubts that he’ll ever have an idea again. After about a year, he notices that he has the sprout of an idea or two, and he plays with them. And then the momentum and creativity return steadily, although not without the occasional stuck place as he works a song or a lyric.  “It’s hard,” he said.

Okay, so I’m no Paul Simon, but I found it so instructive that he both “knows” how his creative cycle works, knows that the fallow time is necessary and passes into the next phase, and yet, he still perturbed by those periods. He doubts himself and his abilities in that time with no ideas. And even when he is deep in his creative periods, he experiences his work as hard. He knows intellectually that some things take more work than others, but he struggles with the hard part.  Paul Simon is nearly 75 years old, pursuing a career and talent he chose when he was 13: he has plenty of experience observing how he works, and still it’s new each time. He doubts what will come next and what his gifts will yield, even whether he has gifts at all.

That’s humbling, and oddly reassuring.

My last post was about restoration, and I think I sounded pretty comfortable with the notion of what it might take before I saw a clear, creative path forward. I’ve observed that sometimes the process of writing and examining a thing moves me to clarity. And then the clarity fades. Maybe like Paul Simon, I know (intellectually) but still can’t get comfortable with the experience of being tired, of not knowing what will come next, or with wondering if I will ever have an idea again.

In the meantime, what comes next is that we are off to Canada first thing in the morning, arriving at Port Hardy and then God’s Pocket on Sunday, June 12. We will be there close to five weeks, care-taking a bit and overseeing operations a bit. I know it will be very good for us to be away from the chaos we’ve experienced here at home since our return in March, and to be in a place that reminds us of the power and beauty of the natural world. I’m already imagining diving into the cove because even if the water is very cold, it is summer and that’s what we do!

Finally, please indulge me with a shameless plug: my sister, Anora Sutherland McGaha, is the publisher of a journal of poetry, prose and images by women, When Women Waken (www.whenwomenwaken.org). The latest issue – Water – is now available in print from https://www.createspace.com/5886819. (CreateSpace is Amazon’s publishing platform.) I was honored when my sister invited me to submit one of my blog posts from our winter in God’s Pocket – very fitting for a water-themed edition — and blown away by the work of the other women in the journal. Check it out!

Love,
Susan

I post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes as late as  Fridays or the weekend!  Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks so much for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

“How You do Anything…”

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My drawing class follows a familiar pattern each week. We learn something new about drawing – proportion, perspective, line variation – and then practice putting it all together for the rest of the three-hour class. We warm up with 5 to 10 one-minute drawings, and then move to 1 to 3 five-minute drawings, and finish with a “long draw” of up to an hour or more. The subject can be the same, as in a still life, or as it was last week, a live model who assumed a different position for each time block.

As I progressed through the exercises and remembered to think about shapes and depth, my hand got more sure and the drawings seems to have more life in them. The minute blocks went by so quickly that I felt my competitive spirit surface each time to capture more – or better – what I was seeing. The 5-minute drawings challenged me to draw lightly and then continue to refine the lines but still wasn’t enough time to delve into detail. There’s something particularly confirming to one’s sense of artistic talent to have just enough time to capture the “feel” of something, to let one’s arm, hand and pencil freely move over the page, but not quite enough time to prove that sense wrong!

When we switched to the long draw, I noticed something very interesting about myself: I didn’t want to move past shapes and broad pencil strokes to a level of greater detail. My resistance was palpable. I could spend twice the time – 10 minutes – on the drawing and come to a complete halt when I needed to go to another level of seeing and drawing. In that moment, I realized, I was at the threshold of the next level of my skills development, and I was anxious about proceeding lest my development not bear fruit.

I was also faced with the grand expanse of the work needed to bring my drawing to a greater level of completion, the drawing equivalent of the writer’s blank page. I was forgetting, of course, that lines and words are the building blocks of more complete drawings or essays, and nothing comes to the fore full born. Both insights felt right, both also felt rooted in fear and a sense that I did not – in that moment – bring enough, or the right sort of something, to the task at hand. I also believe that I may be resisting the presence, stillness and mindfulness required to go deep, to see where ‘next’ leads me.

What I have loved about taking this drawing class, and writing this blog, and other experiments of this year away from a ‘day job,’ has been the opportunity to try new things. I have relished moving past a worry about being ‘not good enough’ at whatever task, and have enjoyed reminding myself that experimentation and fun are the ends I have in mind. Often, there is a moment where I have to step away from the stop, and have a little chat with myself about what is going on. The insight from all of this: my real challenge is always right between my ears!

“How you do anything is how you do everything,” is a quote attributed to Martha Beck, a life coach and author (well known for her monthly article in Oprah’s magazine). I often think about those words, and wonder how my resistance to moving to the next step in my drawing is like my ‘everything.’ Certainly, I recognize the vestige of a pattern from my childhood: moving every 2-3 years to a new country, I got very good a swiftly adapting and making fast connections. But I also had to move on quickly when my family relocated again, and so I learned to be fast if not deep. That pattern showed up in my career: in spite of working for one employer for 28 years, I had innumerable jobs and assignments in that time, feeding a constructive restlessness that I believe was planted in my youth.

I also see how I have been intrepid at times in my life, like leaving a perfectly good ‘day job’ and career to see what might be next for me. That’s a different ‘anything is everything’ equation than the one that has me halting at the next phase of my development; it is the one that says I move forward into my next phase, blank page and all.

As I think about these two observations — a fearful, halting posture or a brave forward-looking approach — they seem like contradictions; I now recognize them as parts of the same “everything.” I may choose a path and yet still be challenged by various or even many moments on the way, needing to stop and consider and re-calibrate. For instance, noticing my resistance to the next phase of my drawing demonstrates awareness and mindfulness, even if it is my resistance or my fear that I am inclined to notice and judge.

We have this next week off from drawing class due to the Memorial Day holiday. I will challenge myself to draw a little every day, including a long draw or two between now and next Tuesday. I will see if my resistance returns, and how I move through it.  Either way, I’ll remind myself that it is only an experiment, and that moving forward, one way or another, is everything.

Love,
Susan

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