Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything

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Tonight I lit my first fire in my second rental house since my divorce four years ago (looks good, yes?). Not a big thing on the surface. But it’s my first house with a fireplace in 11 years. I was married then. I grew up with a fireplace. In both homes, either my dad or my then husband always lit the fire. My dad did it because, well, I was a kid. My ex did it because…that’s the way it was. (Yeah, yeah, I know – that’s for another blog post.)

I’ve been ready to light this fire since I moved in last June. One of the first things I did was get the fireplace inspected. Safety first! When fall came, I went to Home Depot and got the fireplace tools, a screen, built the tool rack with that stupid little gadget thing they always give you in DIY kits. I picked up a bundle of wood. I was READY. And then…

Christmas came and went. No fire. 

I kept telling my kids, “Hey! Maybe we should light a fire tonight!” But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I told myself it was because I was afraid of looking like an idiot in front of them if I couldn’t get it going (our first campfire fiascos and my ineptitude with cooking over a fire are still fresh in my memory – suffice to say the hamburgers melted through the tripod grill thingy and we ended up eating potatoes for dinner.)

Except there is a YouTube video for everything these days, as I realized when my radiator went out on the road last summer, and duh, DuraFlame. So…why am I waiting to light my first fire on Easter? April Fool’s Day, no less? But it is 32 degrees in Chicago tonight…and then it hit me:

This is another first. 

I thought I was done with those, but I am coming to learn that those never end. They just Continue reading “Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything”

Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?

Sunset landscape

There is something about
Watching an orange sherbet sunset
framed by weeping willows
Sink quietly into darkness
that soothes the soul
(despite the weeping)

There is something about
Walking on eggshells
that changes you
Cheats you
Damages you
Shames you
Silences you
(did you know you could live your whole life this way)

Being told
Don’t tell
Don’t cry
Don’t question
Don’t feel
Don’t be you
(how long exactly does it take for a heart to die?) Continue reading “Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?”

Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire

creativityThis is for anyone who creates, used to create, wants to be more creative, or wants to start creating something new or different. We all create things. Some of us make art, new recipes, or clothing. Some of us build businesses. Raise children. Creativity takes many forms. But life and time takes its toll. Our creative pursuits often fall to the wayside or we get burnt out, especially if we have to be creative for a living.

I once worked with a group of senior citizens in an assisted living center as a volunteer to help them write their stories. In the first session, there was a lot of silence until one woman finally said, the only thing I’ve ever written is a grocery list! The others laughed. I said – that counts! Because it does. (And yes, we got to their stories.) The ways we share our words and stories may have changed with social media. But any effort to capture our ideas, thoughts, plans and vision matter. That’s why we should do everything we can to make time to create and stay fired up about our creative passions.

One way to do this is Continue reading “Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire”

Burnt Out? Get Your Vision Back!

georgewashingtoncarver158551We all have those moments – I hate my job, I’m burnt out, I can’t take anymore, I’m stuck, I give up, why bother, it’s hopeless! Whatever “it” is that is driving us to feel this way (jobs, crowds, living arrangements, parenting, you name it), the worst part is that we feel hopeless to change anything. So – nothing changes.

We can’t always change jobs. Although sometimes we do and we find that the negative feelings pack up their suitcases and come right along with us. 🙂 We can’t always change our friends, families, etc. But these are all external factors. We don’t have control over those things and that’s frustrating. But there is one thing you can change: how you think.

I believe this starts with thinking about you, instead of everyone and everything else around you that is driving your crazy. Hit pause on all of that for a moment and think about you instead. Build a vision for you and your life that will become your purpose and direction. I know about this because I help companies craft their mission, vision and values – and this becomes the purpose and direction that guides everything from employee motivation to acquisition decisions. But you know who my first customer was? Me!

When I was 9 years old, I created my vision for my life and it was this: I want to write things that make people think. In a speaking engagement on this topic last year in Dublin, Ireland, I only changed one word of that vision: I want to write things that make people think differently. Whenever I am feeling stuck, burnt out or worn down, I return to my vision. And it helps bring me out of that funk and move forward with renewed inspiration. I almost always find one little thing I can do to execute against my vision – and before I know it, I’m back on track.

Want to build your vision? Start with these six questions:

  1. What did you want to be or do when you were a kid? No crossing things off because it’s impossible. Just write it all down. If you don’t remember, dream a little. See what you come up with. Write it down.
  2. What are you really good at? Maybe it’s cooking. Debating. Care giving. Mowing the lawn. Researching data. Whatever it is, put it on the list. Make it a really long list!
  3. What do you believe in? It could be a value – loyalty, kindness, integrity. It could be connection with others; giving back; spirituality. Sky’s the limit here. Once you have a few, rank order them. Pick  your top three.
  4. What do you need? Do you need lots of introspective time alone or do you get your energy from being around people?
  5. What do you miss? Think about your current situation. What’s lacking? Are you getting enough connection with people? Has your job changed so you don’t get as much collaboration as you like?
  6. What brings meaning to your life? Think about the times in your life where you felt like you were really doing your thing, what you were meant to do. What did that look like? Feel like? Where were you? When was it? Who were you with? Try to capture as much as you can about the context.

See what emerges from this. What insights do you see? What connections can you make between the answers on your list? What can you change? How can you be more ‘you’ and do more of your ‘thing’ in your current situation? What would you need to change – and are you willing to do it? Is it practical and financially feasible? Is there a way to make small changes in your current situation – and how you think about it – that would make a difference?

Ultimately, you want to come up with a short vision statement for your life. It looks like this: I want to “fill in the blank.” What you fill in should be high level – short and crisp, memorable, easy to remember. It should be a big, hairy, audacious goal that feels a little nebulous, a little scary, a little like – how the hell do I do THAT? Be idealistic. Esoteric. Go for it! This is your vision. Make it BIG.

Your vision should feel like a stretch to get there. Something you can work toward and build upon for a long time. You won’t know at first how to get there. But you’ll have that vision and it become the guiding principle for your next steps into the future you deserve. It works for me – every time I feel like I’ve lost my way, my vision reminds me that I have a purpose and it drives me to find ways to execute against that purpose in my everyday life. More importantly, it brings me back to the real, authentic me, and the story I want to tell myself and to others. And that’s the only thing that any of can really control.

Go for it! 🙂

You see the problem: Now where do you go from here?

Feeling buried? You can - and you will - dig your way out.
Feeling buried? You can – and you will – dig your way out.

In my last post, I talked about seeing the possibilities one step at a time. Today I want to talk about clarity – once you see a situation clearly, what do you do with it? Where do you go from there? I will start this off by saying I’m not a counselor or licensed in anything at all, I am just a person trying to do my best in life with what I have, so – grain of salt with all of this, okay? And remember that I am a writer, so I think best in metaphors. So here goes…

Continue reading “You see the problem: Now where do you go from here?”