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november project, day 3: learning how to unicycle

november project, day 3: learning how to unicycle

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I signed my daughter Lucy up for a unicycle class on Thursdays through November.  When we got to the gym on the first day, I found out that the class was open to adults, so I joined.  I am so excited! This photo is from last night, our second class.  Lucy and I both started going short distances with no hands.  I cannot wait to go down our street, which just got newly blacktopped last summer, and roll around the neighborhood with Lucy on our unicycles.

I love learning new things, filling my creative well with little adventures along my way. It keeps my brain fresh, my body awake. Unicycling makes me sweat with the effort of moving my body a new way. I love it.

Life has taught me that I can’t dwell in a routine too long or I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel and I get depressed.  I guess this speaks to the dance of balance–knowing when the dance is stale and needs new breath.

 

 

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november project: filling the creative well

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A few days ago, I wrote myself a prescription for November.  I wrote it because I need some creative medicine.

For the past few months, I have been running along the edge of an empty tank. My time is spliced between too many things, things that feed my soul and enrich my life, but that require a lot of physical, mental, emotional, and social energy.  At the end of the day, I am left with little for myself.  My kids get the last fumes, and that’s a wrap.  Paul and I hang out, but since we are in the same boat, we are bogged down together.

By nature (and identity), I am a writer and a creator.  But life has been so immersive, I have not been able to try new things with my writing. The last extensive project I engaged in was a full revision of my second novel. I finished that project in May, and haven’t written a word of fiction or posted a blog since.

And in the meantime, I grew comfortable.  And fearful about sharing my writing.

I still write daily, filling blank pages with thoughts using thin-tipped markers.  But I haven’t written anything for anyone outside of myself to see. And the longer I’ve been away, the more apprehensive I feel.

What am I going to write about? I wonder in a low-level writer’s despair.  I have a million ideas, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t sit down and risk bringing them to light.

My creative energy is flat, and I’ve been banging my head, feeling a like a fraud teaching leadership when I’m out of balance in my own life.

A week or so ago, I figured it out: I’m hiding in my comfort zone, in the pages of my journal, where my thoughts are safe from judgement or scrutiny. But in the comfort zone, there is no risk, no growth, no innovation, and after a while, stagnation.

I’m a writer, after all.  And part of being a writer is letting people read what you write.

So I wrote myself a prescription to push me out of my comfort zone to practice what I preach in class–to bravely and creatively express what is within.

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For the month of November, I am going to nurture myself creatively, in some way, every day.  You are welcome to join me, or sit back and take it in.  Whichever, I hope my quest to fill my creative well inspires you to do the same.

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being 45

being 45

Last week my physical therapist asked me how old I am. I told her I was turning 45 on Thursday and she responded, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Her reaction stunned me. It shouldn’t have considering the general view of aging, especially for women, in this country. But it did. And I’ve thought about it since: What does it mean to be 45?

Into my 30’s, I subconsciously cast 45 off as old, when dreams have been long realized and everything from there was on a downslope. But as pages of the calendar seem to be flipping off in a windstorm of years, I’ve gained a new perspective.

Let’s not sugarcoat–aging sucks. I’ve never met anyone who wants wrinkles, aches, pains, inevitable loss, new knees, gray hair, or saggy skin. Not once. And yet, that’s where we are all headed. Until our spirits rise, we are destined to live inside an aging body.

But if we are willing to say yes to life, we must be willing to say yes to it all.  And when I step into the light of grace, of what it means to be given 45 years of life on Earth, I realize I have needed every one of those years to get to where I am now, and there is not one year I would give back.

Forty-five to me means going to college and discovering how humungous the world is, breaking rules, boarding airplanes to lands unknown, walking barefoot on beaches and riding bikes through cities, wildflower meadows, and over canyons. It means being in classrooms and lecture halls, both as student and teacher, always learning and discovering. It means taking my time and following my curiosities, and it means getting lost, wandering, and finding my way back. It means breaking my heart and falling in love and making mistakes and saying I’m sorry and practicing bravery and working really hard and being really grateful. It means marrying my best friend and realizing it was worth the wait. It means growing children in my belly and watching them become who they are, spirits and journeys all their own. It means being the “fortune teller” at the school carnival and reading The Giving Tree before bed. It means letting Lucy destroy the kitchen to make “slime,” and watching Oliver disappear down the sidewalk on his bike, praying he arrives at Spencer’s house safely.

It means all of the experiences I’ve had and all of the people who’ve crossed my path and taught me about love and life.

I am 45 and there is no apology necessary. Instead, I want to tilt my head back and sing to the sky, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, God, for all of it.

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writing and creativity

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I have created a life out of Sharpie markers and blank pages. When I was in college and hanging on to my sanity and life, I wrote first as a mental health reprieve, and then as a visionary tool. I deconstructed the life I knew and constructed a life that resonated with my soul. Within thousands of pages over more than 20 years, I wrote my way to the career and life I am living now.

For my work, I create and teach writing curricula for many different purposes and populations. I teach writing for empowerment to single mothers experiencing homelessness, and I teach writing for personal leadership to undergraduates at the University of Minnesota. I teach fiction writing to youth and writing as a therapeutic modality to social workers and psychologists. Meanwhile, early in the mornings, I write young adult novels and essays.

Because of this work variance, I am in a constant mode of creation. In order to keep it fresh and inspiring, I must enter the flow of creativity with regularity—it is as vital to my work as breathing is to my body.

Creativity is where innovation is born. It is messy, non-linear, and inspired, coming from a place deeper than the intellect. It is the song of the child within and therefore needs wild and open spaces where it can play and discover. Creativity hates stress and time-constraints. It cannot be called on a whim and expected to show up to the party on demand.

Writing is a powerful tool of entry into this flow. It is physical, visual, and spiritual. It slows the brain and enables me to take a range of ideas, thoughts, and intuition and synthesize them into a clear and powerful vision.

For example, this past February I pitched an idea for a feature article to Mpls.St.Paul Magazine on bike dates. When I got the go-ahead to write the article, I had no idea how I would begin or how the article would unfold. So I began this creative process like I do every other—by clearing my desk of everything except blank paper, Sharpies, and a space of time.

creating a feature article

creating a feature article

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The random and messy thoughts on those blank pages evolved to became a six-page feature article in this June’s magazine.

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It’s a mysterious process, this thing called Creativity. Maybe because it is evidence of the Divine within that we all share. But we each must find a way to make space in our lives for its magic to occur, to lift our ideas and thoughts from the confines of our beings to become full-color reality in the world.

 

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