Monday, August 11, 2014

Liking What You Do All Day

It's hot - hot  enough that everyone is talking about the weather irregardless of the temperature since we've reached the level of hot that doesn't need defining. To be more precise, most are complaining. In an attempt to feel better, we remind ourselves that in the deep freeze of our prolonged winter we were eager for this day, and then we go back to complaining about how hot it is.

I'm sitting on the back porch using my laptop to write this post. The porch is covered, shadowed, with a light breeze from both directions since the patio doors are slightly open, ajar enough to allow cool air to escape without seeming to attempt to air condition the great outdoors. This is perhaps not the best use of electricity but at the moment, I don't really care.

I've been crabby for days in that he looked at me kind of way that sets kids off. The slightest thing and I'm snappy and yet this too seems part of the cycle of life. It's not the heat. It's the highs and lows of life that we all experience and eventually figure out. My guess is that it has something to do with the approaching anniversary of the shifting event that significantly altered the stress of the mess of the rest of my life and my feelings around the lack of change within that situation over the past year and the seeming lack of potential for change. These things are beyond my control unlike my thoughts, actions, and reactions which are controllable although positively controlling them is much easier said than done. On a good day. Not today.

Years ago, I read Ken Robinson's book The Element - a thoroughly convincing argument for the necessity of finding your passion and purpose in life. The subtitle is how finding your passion changes everything. Yes. How? More useful than dangling an illusive carrot in front of us - a craving without a fix - would have been something along the lines of how to find your passion and change everything. It seems I was not alone in that desire.

Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life is Ken's latest book. Along with the text, there are plenty of questions to ponder and numerous - although somewhat repetitive - assignments that help you look at your aptitudes and abilities from all different directions. Ken notes that your passion will be something that you not only are good at but something that you absolutely love to do.

I would have read the book anyway since I'm a huge fan of this style of book but perhaps it was more serendipitous than sequential since I've been wondering lately if our passion changes, can it be lost, or does it evolve expressing itself in new ways that are not as smooth as the ones we'd previously explored simply because of their newness. There is something to be said for shaking up the status quo. Too much of the same can become endlessly boring.

Chapter five - What Makes You Happy? - talks about studies by the Gallup Organization into the common elements of well-being that transcend cultures. Well-being is considered a better measure than happiness since it's less fleeting and can extend through the inevitable ups and downs of life. They came up with five broad areas that are essential to most people including:

Career Well-being: how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do all day. 
Social Well-being: having strong relationships and love in your life.
Financial Well-being: effectively managing your economic life.
Physical Well-being: having good health and energy to get things done on a daily basis.
Community Well-being: your sense of engagement with the area where you live. 

The conclusion of the study was that sixty-six percent of people are doing well in at least one of these areas but only seven percent are doing well in all of them. I imagine you've already rated where you might fall. I have and it wasn't in the seven percent which makes the study even more interesting because apparently if we are struggling in one or more areas, it damages our overall well-being and wears on our daily life. According to the study, we will only experience genuine, deep happiness and well-being when we have balance across each of these areas. Balance. A word that follows me around.

Where to begin? Of all the factors, what we do all day, whatever form that might take, has the most impact. If that activity is not something that gives us meaning and purpose, that lack has a tremendously negative impact on the other areas of well-being. In essence, we all need something to look forward to when we wake up each day and a positive, meaningful way to answer that first meeting someone new question - what do you do?

Perhaps I read these books and do these studies hoping for a different answer and yet the answers remain consistent. My passion is creativity. My purpose is to support and encourage others to their best particularly in the area of creativity. In one part of the book, Ken talks about Neroli Makim who eventually realized that creativity itself was her passion and that sharing it with others was her life work. That resonates with me. I want to research this artist more.

Whatever your circumstances, you always have options. As many of the stories here have shown, you may be in the most extreme circumstances, but you can always choose to think, feel, and act differently. The critical factor is to make a move - to take the next step. To do that you need to look inward as well as outward. You need to tune in to yourself and be open to where your spirit may be pointing. 

In the past, I've called holistic living what the Gallup Organization refers to as well-being - meaning physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational - and added a separate category for creativity because for me creativity is far too big an element to be a subtitle in another category unless it's the underlying energy in every category.

It's good to know my passion and purpose and the way that I want to walk through life and it's good to know that while finding your Element won't guarantee that you spend the rest of your life in a constant, unbroken state of pleasure and delight, it will give you a deeper sense of who you really are and of the life you could and maybe should live.  

From all the books I've read over the years, two things seem critical - finding our Element and finding our tribe. Identifying these has a way of settling many of our swirling questions. I'm contemplating a trip to Oregon at the beginning of September. While it may not be financially possible, I feel it's emotionally necessary so I'll do everything I can to figure that out in the next couple weeks.

Since attending my first Design Outside the Lines workshop in 2012, I have come to understand what a tremendous source of support, inspiration,and energy it is when I spend time with my tribe and get to talk about, share, and see what others who share my passion are achieving. There's something about being in the same space, on the same page, that is a vital shot in the arm. My tribe - fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it - is in Oregon. Luckily, I like to drive.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the right to choose, knowing my tribe

And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 
- Anais Nin


  1. I hope this isn't presumptuous, but I believe you have another tribe right here in Blogville. Other creatives, sewists, textile lovers, heuristic learners - every last one of us out here in cyberspace who follow your blog - happily consider ourselves part of your tribe. Granted we may not be located where we can pour you a cup of coffee or glass of wine while we lend an ear or a shoulder when you most need it, but we are here as part of the great body of women who understand and love one another.
    I wish you didn't have to deal with whatever situation has you in funk right now, especially since it doesn't appear to have a pending resolution, but from your reading choices it's apparent that your clarity and pragmatism will eventually help you through it. In the meantime, enjoy Oregon - or at least the idea of it.

    1. THANK YOU - so true and I very much appreciate my blog tribe and thank you all for being here for me. You're right Charade in that I was thinking about glass of wine, in the same room, shoulder to shoulder, tribe interaction.

  2. Oregon. If the spirit moves. Godspeed.

  3. Wow, Myrna. You are incredibly on-point and connected to what is happening with everyone right now. While some might feel it stronger than others, I have seen repeated evidence that people are again reconsidering what they "love" vs. what they are spending their time doing. It's a time for change again. Big changes. I too am pondering these same things about all areas of my life. I wonder if some feel the need for such changes at this time because we are so used to "starting school" at this time of year - the dead, slow, hot end of summer. The beautiful thing about some areas of our lives "not going so well" or even achieving that which we desired is that it creates a new point from which to dream, set intentions and reinvent ourselves. I used to think that was the ultimate destination and was troubled that I achieved something and then wanted more. "What was wrong with me?" I used to think. Now, I congratulate myself, appreciate my achievement, sometimes rest, and then regroup and write new goals or illustrate my new visions. Sometimes, dreaming of such achievements then getting or not getting them is all part of the plan to get us to where we have landed today. And where/who we are is pretty dang amazing.

    Having been in some crappy situations and not handling them with the most grace, I can confidently say, we our choices affect the life we have. It's absolutely true that no matter what is happening, we always have a choice on how to respond. Our own happiness is always our responsibility. Empowering and scary depending on the situation. Though, on this side of those situations, I now choose to see it as empowering. I still need time to "break down", let loose, unwind, process, and sort things out. I am human and making mistakes is how we learn and grow.

    I love that your reading the "Element" book reaffirms your desire to connect with your tribe at Design Outside the Lines. That is an event on my "to do" list in the next year or so. Your work inspires me. Diane's work inspires me. I'm still jazzing over her paper airplane stencil (which I have) and the godets - working on a piece inspired by that. I would love to learn from and experience your design process at DOL in the future. And I most definitely look forward to reading about your trip to DOL this September. May Fortuna smile upon you and provide all you need to be there. When it's meant to be, it all works out!!

    1. Sounds like we have some similar ways of thinking. That's always fun - to connect. Just to clarify - there is no DOL in Ashland in September. Going to Oregon would be about connecting with people and places.

  4. I love spending time with "my people" and am lucky to have several tribes....neighborhood gardening group, book groups and most importantly sewing groups....and mine is a long drive away so I sympathize. And I hope you don't discount how draining heat can be. We have had an unusually cool low humidity August and it has been like a gift from the gods...although the winter memories linger still.

    1. You are lucky. That sounds wonderful. The drive is always worth it I find especially when you connect on more than one level. There's we all sew and then there's we all sew in similar ways. Heat is definitely draining but perhaps not so much for me since I have an air conditioned studio. VERY nice.

  5. Hi Myrna, I have taken some time to think about this post - you have made me think, which I thank you for. I think that perhaps we have different tribes that intersect in different areas. That there are different people who contribute to our well-being in different ways. Which is why we need a tribe I guess. Perhaps we run into trouble when we ask one group to fill all roles? I'm just musing here. Perhaps the idea of balance applies across all the different aspects - when one is lacking, you ask more of others, but all intersect. I think people evolve and change through life, and you are doing it consciously, which is awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with this part of your tribe.

    1. I think you're right - there are different tribes in different areas - and I also think that connecting with your tribe in that key area - creativity in my case - is vital. The internet is wonderful but it's not the same as face-to-face and being able to have those conversations with someone whose eyes don't glaze over and roll back or look at you like you're a nutcase is so much better than the opposite. I know I'm really looking forward to getting together in October when I'm there. When we're talking, more time passes than we know. That's always fun.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.