I need some time away from this newsletter. I hope you'll understand, and I really hope you'll be here when I come back.
I need some time away from this newsletter. I hope you'll understand, and I really hope you'll be here when I come back.
by Mary Oliver
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
Those free one-off coaching sessions I offered last week? A few remain, still! Hit 'reply' to claim one.
Not seeking coaching right now? (Not even a one-off conversation?) How about passing along my offer to someone you know—call it a Valentine from me, call it a Valentine from you, it doesn't matter, but please make sure you spread the love. Even if you're not interested, I'd love for someone you love to benefit.
In a coaching conversation with a prospective client last week, I realized once again just how common it is for folks to inhabit their pasts, as though there's some magic calculus embedded there that explains why their Right Now looks the way it does.
It seems a great many intelligent, creative, and motivated people believe that, if they're well into their 30s, 40s, and 50s and still searching—for their true selves, for their right career, for a life partner—it's because they made a mistake, took a wrong turn, screwed it all up long ago.
In their minds, it's a simple equation that centers around blaming their past selves for being incongruous with their present desires: They didn't ask themselves enough questions at 18; they didn't pursue the right opportunities at 23; they blew the one relationship that could've been 'it' because they weren't able to be fully vulnerable at 28.
Well, that's horseshit. Plain and simple.
Aging might be a linear process, but personal development is not.
You could spend a lot of time chastising yourself for deciding to go with a pre-law major at 18 because you thought it was what you should do...and now, at 33, you're an unhappy lawyer. ("If only I'd taken a gap year between high school and college, I'd know myself better at this point.")
You could bemoan the fact that you knew you hated working in D.C. public schools back in 2013...but you returned to one in 2015 after you took a cross-country gamble for love, and had your heart broken. ("I spent my young years looking for a partner instead of figuring out what I want to do with my life, and now I'm in a career I hate and I still haven't found my person.")
You could make yourself miserable over your belief that it was your emotional detachment or untreated depression or long work hours that caused him or her to cheat on you or leave you. ("I'm divorced now because I didn't work hard enough on my marriage.")
All attempts to safeguard against future unhappiness by underscoring the so-called errors of the past and carrying them around like life-long punishment.
Plenty of people self-flagellate over what-could've-been-but-wasn't because some past version of themselves made a decision that wasn't informed by present information (you see how that's an impossible feat, right?). They believe that torturing themselves with hindsight machinations will prevent similar missteps and oversights in the future. A logical thought, maybe, but it doesn't work like that.
You don't need to wear your past decisions like an albatross around your neck.
The decisions we make can only ever result from the (limited) information we have at that particular time in our lives.
What you know today, you couldn't have known at 20 or 24 or 31. You have different information now—more information, better information—and your present day decisions will reflect that.
So, if you want to find yourself, your right career, your big love—your best wisdom lies in who you have become. Not in the old version of you who squandered an opportunity more than a decade ago; not in the old version of you who moved forward with a marriage despite the warning signs; not in the old version of you who spent time and money on a college degree that you have yet to use at 50.
You have become someone specific and valuable, and you can trust that you are much more than the sum of your past yous.
I believe in your Right Now self, and I'm also celebrating who you will become next.
Questions are always welcome here. This particular question comes from several of you actually, in response to last week's findings, wherein I revealed that Dana and I are house-hunting in Appleton, Wisconsin. You want to know why Appleton, so I'll tell you a bit more about what we're thinking.
For starters, it's very near to where Dana grew up; my in-laws are close by, as are several dear friends of ours, so this means we're not starting from square one by moving here. Wisconsin is pretty centrally located between our family in New York and our family in California, which makes flights (and drives, because—let's face it—we're veteran drivers) shorter. Another thing that's very important to us is to steer clear of any house that'll land us with a scary mortgage; we won't buy anything that demands we pull in a lofty income until our dying day. Downtown Appleton has an abundance of beautiful character homes on tree-lined streets, near city parks, many under $100k. Finally, we intend to keep traveling! Not nearly at this frequency, but there's more we want to see, and we really value the freedom that comes with a mobile lifestyle. If we live below our means, which we can in Appleton, we anticipate having the resources to continue our adventures.
That's the short of it. If you're willing to share, I'd love to hear how you decided on the town or city where you're settled.
Beyond Curie: Celebrating Badass Women in Science is a Kickstarter for a series of prints highlighting 30 women who have made extraordinary advances in math, science, and engineering.
Speaking about the refugees being housed in an empty, repurposed Netherlands prison, photographer Muhammed Muheisen reports: "We're talking about dozens of nationalities. Dozens. The whole world is under this dome." What do the refugees think of their living arrangement? "We are here under a roof, in a shelter, and we feel safe."
Anxious? Overwhelmed? This might help.
Did you know it's possible and entirely within your control to Release Unfinished Projects?! I suspected this was the case, as I happened to write down a note to myself sometime just before the new year that in 2017, I'd promise to abandon my reading any book that wasn't delighting me. BUT. It occurs to me that this act of releasing can be applied to other things, too! Added bonus: As Max Daniels says, "it is absolutely possible to release old projects with relief, instead of regret" [emphasis is mine].
At lunch today, I watched this man converse with the birds. Right after this picture, he moved his left hand slowly, palm along the bar, curious to see how close he could get before the birds hopped away. That's something I'd do, I thought. But I was glad to have the opportunity to witness it instead.
As an experiment, I'm going to practice asking the Universe for what I want at the bottom of every newsletter. This week, as I resume my jogging practice after a looong hiatus, I'm asking for tenacity. And flexibility. And subtle signs of encouragement (such as a reduction in how winded I get when when I climb the hotel stairs). Please and thank you!
I'm experimenting with a slightly different format and look this week: more serifs, more sections, and maybe even a bit more sass. Funsies!
First things first: Valentine's Day. It's coming up. It's not my holiday, not really. BUT. I'm driven entirely by service and I aim to do all things with love, so it's the perfect opportunity to offer something big, heart-infused, and free. As such, I've blocked out the week of February 13 for one-off sessions. These are powerful, game-changing conversations (not casual, friendly chats—though I am a kind person, I promise) for folks who've never coached with me before.
If you've been thinking about shifting your perspective a smidge or ditching a handful of self-limiting beliefs or actually creating something instead of always talking about creating something, and you're willing to push through fear, resistance, stubbornness, etc. in order to take action (and you absolutely don't want to be in the same place in 2018), hit 'reply' to this email and we'll talk about how I can help you in a free, two-hour session.
It occurred to me last week that I'm keeping some things to myself that I suspect I'd rather share. I don't know why I'm keeping them to myself. After last week's note, I wondered, Why didn't you share what's really going on with you? I didn't have a good answer.
So, here's what's up in my neck of the woods:
1. We're house-hunting in Appleton, Wisconsin. We've visited ten houses in the last five days and none of them are right, but that's okay; we're still looking. Maybe more importantly, we're enjoying the process of looking—of imagining ourselves in a space of our own, connected to a community, exploring the world with a sense of rootedness. It's all an experiment (what isn't), and you know how much I love experiments. This Friday, we'll leave Appleton to return to San Antonio for four or five weeks, so that Dana can finish up a work assignment there. While we're away, our realtor will take us on FaceTime tours of more properties. We might need to fly in for final-final-decisions and walk-throughs and just-in-cases, but aside from that, this is probably going to be a rather modern house-buying enterprise, electronic signatures and all. We're in no hurry, and at the same time, we're eager as anything to establish our Home Base.
2. We're scheming and planning how we'll be the change we wish to see in the world, once we're settled in one place. I'd like to think we're already embodying that change as we tool around the country in the Corolla and interface with hotel staff and gas station attendants, baristas and bar-backs—but if there's one thing I've felt keenly these past two and a half months since the election, it's that we, the big 'we,' not just Dana and I, are much stronger together than apart. As a couple, it feels high time for us to hitch ourselves to a bigger 'together,' one that has its fingers on the pulse of humanity's common denominator (LOVE) and is determined to grow goodness, and only goodness, exponentially.
3. As the effects of misinformation and dishonesty play out on a national level—seriously, I've never been so horrified—I'm witnessing also on a micro level how painful it is for everyone when someone is out of integrity with herself. (There's a story here, but it's not mine to tell. Perhaps you're in a situation that can be improved by what I'm about to say.) Integrity isn't just about morals and ethics and rightness; it's about wholeness and completeness and solidarity. The actions we take from a broken place can never and will never lead to our mending; they will cause more breaking. If love is our bottom line—love of self and love of other—then our integrity tasks us with taking loving actions. Not necessarily feeling loving feelings (after all, that can't be forced), but acting out of love, or loving actively (that's always, ALWAYS a choice we get to make).
Okay, that's my week. Is there anything you're not talking about, but for no good reason? If you want to tell someone, hit 'reply' and tell me. It's a relief to talk about the real things instead of talking around them.
Questions are always welcome here. This particular question comes from an internet friend of mine, Vanessa Herald of A Fierce Practice (she writes a note every damn day; it's beautiful and impressive). Anyway, in yesterday's note, Vanessa asked why any of us write publicly. She mentioned Weekly Findings, including it (and me) in a short list of wonderful women writers, which flattered me but also prompted me to take her question to heart and answer it thoughtfully.
Why do I write publicly? I suppose because the alternative is to write privately and I'm notoriously critical of my private writing self in a way that I'm not when I sit down to write something heartfelt to a friend. Some of my hands-down favorite writing lives inside the emails I've written to my family, friends, and clients over the years. The feeling I get after I hit 'send' on those emails? That's the feeling I want more of and am trying to channel every single Monday when I write to you. If I had to put a name to it, I'd say it's a feeling of connection and co-creation. A feeling of being tuned in. Yes, I'm a life coach, but I'm also an observer and a note-taker and a writer, and I believe in the importance (and responsibility!) of inspiring thought and conversation in the world. I'm sure I have more to say on the subject, but this is a start. Thank you to Vanessa for asking such a good question.
A growing collection of fragments that intrigue me in a way I don't yet understand and can't yet explain
On abstractions: "These people were born here to people who were born here, and they tell themselves that they are different, and that their ancestors' path to this country was different and better than ours. They are not wrong. For the most part, their path was easier. For the most part, their path consisted of getting on a ship and surviving the journey—from England, from Germany, from Ireland, from Italy, from Poland. And if they got here, for the most part, they could stay."
This morning, before the snow, I spotted this split pickle on the sidewalk and it gave me a much-needed laugh. "Pickles must be the new banana peels!" I said to Dana, delighting in something simple, possibly stupid, but entirely amusing to me at a time when the world's short on amusement. (It's been a tough ten days.)
Words are important, but I'm tired of them today.
Instead, I want to look at things; I want to make things.
I want to study this endlessly (and admire its inspiration, too). I want to assemble my own colorful cairns and gold-leaf a whole pile of oyster shells (and then leave them for others to happen upon and delight in). I want to measure the blueness of the sky like it's my job. I want to teach myself how to paint the clouds I'm so often appreciating. I want to make magic for someone, lots of it. I want to demand things, beautifully.
What's your relationship to words these days? Would you rather make something than say something? If so, what? Hit 'reply' and share with me.
Said good-bye to Mom and Dad (then missed Mom and Dad); said good-bye to Kitty (then missed Kitty); said good-bye to Kathy (then missed Kathy); packed up the Corolla once again; drove from New York, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and into Wisconsin; hugged Mike
"The office gets about 700 letters a day, Reeves says. The team reads and sorts each by subject and picks out those they think the president should read. Obama gets 10 letters at the end of each weekday he's at the White House, and each week a few of those are from children."
On not saving the world: "that's okay, because that's not the work I'm here to do—I'm here to save what I can."
We spotted this sign today, outside of our favorite house in Appleton, Wisconsin. In case you can't quite make out the words, I'll share them here: No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor. It's written in Spanish, English, and Arabic. Inclusivity is everything.