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writing monday: follow what you love

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Happy Monday People! I want to meet you here, at the beginning of your week, to offer journaling ideas and inspiration to lift your spirit. My hope is to inspire reflection, power, and soul in your work and life through the art of longhand writing. 

I teach Personal Leadership at the University of Minnesota, and every semester, I get to spend time with a room full of students at the edge of their lives, along their rite of passage from dependence to independence. They are eager and they are anxious, each on an individual quest to figure out what they are going to do with their lives.

It is an exciting and profound time, full of possibilities, and I absolutely love to be a part of my students’ transformation.

However, instead of being a time during which young adults are free to explore and discover the world and what they want from life, they are instead sent into a four-year pressure-cooker to prepare themselves for what feels like their entire lives. In this light, epidemic anxiety and depression make complete sense to me–the weight of that expectation is too much for anyone to bear.

Standing in that room, I am mindful of the mythology that is perpetuated at universities and in our society in general, telling us that if we study hard, do our best, play on our strengths, and never let up, we will find that magic key that will open the door to lifetime happiness and success.

Meanwhile, the heart and soul within are devalued in the academic environment, cast aside for the illusion of certainty.

So I stand as buffer, gathering students around me to whisper the truth of life: Follow your heart. Follow what you love like your life depends on it.

Because it does.

This week, spend five minutes a day flash-writing (writing ahead of your self-consciousness, continually moving the hand across the page and your mind across your heart), beginning with the words, “I love…” 

Canvass your mind for everything you love.  For example: I love the first coffee in the morning, I love reading Flow in an epsom salt bath, I love the life Paul and I created for our family, I love Oliver and Lucy’s framed art all over our walls, I love writing, I love reading the “about the author” excerpt in books, I love walking in the woods with Dharma and Fergus…

That which we give attention to grows, whether negative or positive.  Therefore, shine the spotlight on the things in life you love, amplifying them in your mind, on and off the page.  When we dwell on the things that inspire our hearts, they grow resonance in our moments and days.

Don’t worry about what you are going to do with your life.  Rather, let your life resonate with the song of your heart. .

 

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the power of our light

give love, light, & hope

Last Friday, an eighth grade boy took his life. It was the second suicide in a month at the same school.

My son was having his 13th birthday party when a mom called and told me the news. She wanted to get to me before the information flew through social media channels to her son, who was in my basement and who was friends with the boy who died.

Within a minute of hanging up, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs.  My son walked into the room, stunned face and searching voice, “Mom–another kid committed suicide.”

He was in shock.  As were all eight boys at the party, ages 12-14, including two who went to the same school as the two boys who lost their lives within a month of each other.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck to my chair, my mind whirring, processing, wanting to weep thinking of that boy’s pain, thinking of those parents who lost their son.

Knowing I needed to do something, I walked downstairs and into a room of bewildered eyes, pacing, hugging, and shock.  I turned off the TV, sat down, and asked what they needed.

“He was my friend.”

“I slept over at his house.”

“I can’t believe it.”

“He’s in my advisory!”

“I want to call my mom.”

As each kid in my basement experienced and processed this information in different ways, I stood there, trying to hold a space as they dealt with the gravity of it.

I’ve thought a lot about it since, about that boy, about how there are people–kids and adults–who are suffering among us, people we see every day and have no idea what they are experiencing inside their hearts.

We have all been there–inside moments of darkness, of depression. It is horrible and lonely. But we live in a culture where we do not wear our emotions on our sleeves, we do not post our moments of suffering.

So no one knows.

It makes me wonder–why do we hide our suffering from one another? What if we opened up and talked about times we feel depressed? Then when another person feels the intense loneliness of that emotion, they know they are not alone or abnormal.

We are powerful in our capacity to give light. We can give it every day, toward every single person we encounter.  We can do this by genuinely smiling at people, by demonstrating kindness and teaching our kids to treat all beings with kindness and respect, and by knowing and teaching the difference between standing by and standing up.

We can reach out and say, “Are you ok?” or “Can I help?” or “I love your hair.”

We can notice the people around us. We can care.

We have an immense amount of power within. And our power is simple. We can lift someone with our words.  As well, we can crush spirits with our words. Are we mindful of how we use our power?

When we give our light, love and hope to everyone we encounter, we grow our hearts and the heart of the world.

That is power.

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november project, day 2: what will I wear to work tomorrow?

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A couple of days ago at Spyhouse Coffee on Broadway & Central, I made this picture in my journal while I was thinking about what I was going to wear to work. I worry about this because I feel like I have to look a certain way when I teach at the university. Like I have to look professorial, yet I don’t really know what that means. I just want to feel like me when I teach.  But I can’t wear a t-shirt, jeans, and boots to class everyday.  So I have to get creative with my clothes.

I was sitting along the windows overlookingBroadway Ave. as I wrote. A lady with really long hair to my right kept looking over at me without moving her neck.  She kind of leaned sideways. I could see she worked at the U of M too by the logo on her screen.  I thought to myself, “She probably wants to be drawing a picture instead of grading papers too.”

 

 

 

 

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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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voices amplified: dominique gant

thumb_OriginalPhoto-486928152.862835_1024 (the following post is from the series Voices Amplified, featuring the stories and voices of everyday people in our community).

I was the girl who…

I was the girl who loved to read, draw, science, modeling, and acting. When I was a girl, my grandmother “Essie” was my biggest cheerleader. My mother and my grandmother were both supportive of anything I showed interest in, whether it was acting or modeling school, they kept me busy.

My mother had me at a young age, but worked hard to provide for my brother and I.

I was the girl who loved to laugh, sing, and dance. I was a silly child with quite the imagination who enjoyed playing and making friends. October 24th, 1997 at 5:30pm, I lost my grandmother to complications of lupus. I was 13-years-old. My whole world changed that day. Even though that was my grandmother, I felt like I lost my mom.

1997 was one of the worst years of my life. I felt so alone. My family was very close and my grandmother held everyone together.

I was the girl who longed for her grandmother because I didn’t understand.

Now I’m a woman with children of my own who will show my daughters the love and encouragement my mothers (Grandmother and mother ) showed me when I was younger.

We forget what it’s like to be a kid again and often take moments for granted. I just want to take the time out to remember the little girl I was because she is who made me who I am today! I just want to be happy, I just want to be free!

I just want Peace.

Domonique Gant is a writer and mother. She was born March 19th, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois. She lives in Bloomington with her two daughters, Diamond and Gia.

  1. Janna Krawczyk is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This publication and the class during which it was created is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

 

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