I have been having fun with my family in Telluride and enjoying some down time.
As for so many, I find myself reflecting back over not only the year, but quite often I find myself studying the larger circles on my tree of life. Looking at the patterns of each year's circle is fascinating- just like a tree, i can see my years of stress and drought, and how my fibers tightened there. I can see rapid growth rings, as my mind or my career soared. I can see scarred rings that were full of pain, and where the great Balm of Life found its way into my life with silence, bringing Grace, Wisdom and Healing. I can see care free years and years where I harnessed myself to baggage that wasn't even mine to carry.
I feel deep gratitude for each year, for the Great Pattern of my life - the expanding and contracting of it all. Just like space, we are constantly expanding outward. The pace and trajectory are set by our own mindfulness, our intent or lack there of...
We are creating our life even when we are not aware we are doing so. The more aware we are, the more our outer world matches our inner one. And the more we explore our inner world, the more refined it all becomes.
There certainly are years where if I had a magic wand, I would go back to whisper in my younger self's ear: "Shhhhh.... fear not, this is just one small swing on life's pendulum. It will balance out and you will grow strong with out you having to force a thing."
As I write this, I cant help but look at this year's circle, and realize that I could still use this very message, and so I do so now in real time. Yes, still I find myself being tempted to push the flower of life open, rather than relax and watch it unfold. Part of me still believes the lie that hyper-vigilance is needed in all areas to "make things happen."
My friend Ryan has a saying "grind before you shine". He teaches children, and he uses this axiom to remind his kids to love the "grind"- to dig into each task, even the humblest of ones, because it takes this tenacity and willingness and humility to work hard, so that one can be in a position to shine. I learned this lesson well from my upbringing in Alaska, and from my dad.
It got me far in my life. I was willing to work harder and dig deeper than many in my field, and it helped me rise and I learned to shine - or rather how to share the light inside myself, so that others could feel it in song. We all have this light and we all have a place in life to shine. I felt fortunate that my passion became my living. I am still grateful for this. But I notice as I look back, that there were many opportunities I missed to breathe, enjoy, and relax into the river and momentum that carried me along. By never relaxing, i deprived myself of the opportunity to enjoy myself deeply in real time. As it was happening. I was looking to the next thing I should execute, the next potential set back- so much so, that I was hardly present for the tremendous highs of my own life. And I couldn't enjoy the struggle either. And make no mistake, there is a rare beauty to behold as we wrestle and struggle to carve ourselves - our very beings - into our own works of art.
I am still struggling in this way; to shape myself into my best work of art. Each year I find there is more excess clay to cut away. More refinement that can be done. More learning to do so that my mothering, my loving, my wellness, my career can all express the same essential essence of who I most deeply am. To see the art of our internal self become embodied and made visible by creating an exact replica of it in our very lives in a tremendous artistic pursuit- and I feel it is the pursuit of all humans. We are all artists. We have a myriad of unique colors and combinations that is our signature alone - and we get to express that and literally build an outward model of what we see inside ourselves.
Show me an outwardly successful person in any category of life, and I will show you a person who first spent many hours with that aspect of their own inner life. They first saw it inside themselves, and from there wrestled and carved away until it was such a clear vision they were able to begin to build and struggle to replicate it outwardly.
My mission in life has been to be like my heroine in my song "Painters." A woman who made her life her best work of art. A thing of beauty. And so this has meant looking deeply inside, not just at song, or voice, or career, but in each aspect of what it is to be alive and human - to try and create tone in each area with equal amounts of thoughtfulness- and then manifest it in my life. It is a process that I hope will be the mastery of my lifetime... but it doesn't happen overnight. It happens each day in small and seemingly un-noble ways. Small doable actions that create small changes that contribute to that year's circle of growth. Like a painting, a life well lived does not happen perfectly, nor in one sitting. Each day is a brush stroke. And when we can be thoughtful and present, the quality and artistry of each brush stroke improves, and we begin to see a picture emerge. And each year, or maybe longer, if we can remember to step back and look at the painting, and then look inside deeply, we have the opportunity make sure we have not gotten off track. And if we have (which inevitably happens), we can simply make new brush strokes over the old, to create a more accurate picture of our own souls longing- so we might see our own beauty splashed out upon the structures we build around us.
I have learned much this year. I have striven to be a better painter of my life, and the support I have received, the mentors and teachers who have stepped forward, the love and support I have felt has never in my life been so strong.
Let me say that again because it is important for me to hear. I am more supported and more loved than I have ever been in my life. It has been healing and it has been a blessing. Tears of gratitude spill down my face.
I struggle each day, as I always have. My earnest and workman-like approach to my life has not changed much. But I am not alone. I am safe. And I am learning to see the poetry in the struggle. This type of struggle is what I call The Good Fight. And I can relax into it, be present, and enjoy the beauty of my own willingness to be the hand and the clay simultaneously. Eternally.
What I can let go of is the worry that used to go along with this. Worry is just insecurity dressed up in new clothing, hoping you will let it in the door. When I notice this, and the little lies that accompany worry, I am able to separate from them and let them go. And get back to the good work with the confidence knowing I am alive, awake and in process, and that this is all I can ask of myself. Worry and fear and anxiety are like terrorists that find insecurities to hold your own ego hostage. Notice them and smile and say "but I believe I will find my way. I may not know the solution now, but I am awake and I will see it when it comes." And poof! Away it goes. And each time it gets weaker.
As I look back at this year, I see myself trying to build new things - a new way of making a living so I can be a mom and travel less, a new way of communicating the messages I have had in music. I launched the book and the website, and I have many things I want to build. Building them is like a roller coaster ride - there are ups and down, and I get carried away sometimes (trying to make things happen, using my will to speed things up, or caring too much about the outcome), I have had to repeatedly remind myself: its not about this thing or that. Its not about this business or that. Its not about any one thing in my life - its about the whole larger picture. Its about the opportunity of a lifetime - to look deeply inside and then splash paint around and see what I can make. Its about the process and damn it, I'm not going to let worry or false ideas about what I think should happen rob me of a front row seat to my own life.
Like my song "Becoming" off of 0304 - I am still witnessing my own becoming - and I want to make sure I am present for it all! Its not about things getting built, its about how I bring myself to each task - for these are the real brush strokes that will create my best work of art. Its getting to bring my values to bear in every aspect of what I do. Its trying to bring grace into each action, and correcting myself when I don't. Its about taking risks and loving myself when I fail. Nothing else matters.
The real art is in how we show up each day in our lives.
I will need to be reminded of this many times more. Knowing and writing this does not mean I don't have my moments of Great Forgetfulness. I am no Master, but a student still. I still make a hypocrite of myself daily. But I am willing to see it all, and be the best student I can be, and share along the way. I hope to be a student all my life.
I was sad to hear that John Glenn passed away this last year. It reminded me of when I toured with him through Bosnia and Kosovo for a USO trip entertaining the troops.
I was in my late twenties at the time. I was tired from too much touring and one heck of a crazy personal life. But I wanted to do my part for the troops and off I went on a large aircraft carrier with a group of other willing participants. Carole King (whom I'm a huge fan of), Terry Bradshaw the football player - and among others was John Glenn and his wife. Through my delirium of fatigue as we traveled nonstop - living in bunkers and gymnasiums for two weeks, I watched John closely and became a fan of the man - much more so than of the astronaut I knew him to be. I became a fan of him as a human who was clearly striving to make himself a good work of art. He was in his 70's or 80's at the time - not sure- I'd have to look it up. But his body was strong, and his mind was quick. He was composed, patient, and he acted with humility and dignity in all the things he did. He had grace and humor in all interactions with those he came across - despite rank, fame or orientation. I finally decided to sit down and ask him some questions, and none were about space travel (well, maybe a few were - its fascinating stuff!). I wanted to know how he aged so well. How he used his will and intelligence to mold himself into an impressive human being. I'm not talking about the fact he had been an astronaut and a senator and married to the same woman his whole life and so many other accomplishments. I wanted to know if he had any idea how he created himself into the shape I saw before me.
And so I asked him, and he looked at me with a puzzled look for a moment, and he was quiet for yet another. I watched the fingers of his mind dig deeply into his whole being to bring an answer back to me that was sincere and accurate and whole in its presentation. He spoke about living a thoughtful life. About choices and how choices lead to actions and how those build lives. He spoke of his wife, whom he met as a baby - literally in a crib- as their parents were friends and they grew up next to one another. He spoke of how Love carved him. And then he spoke about something that was almost so simple he knew it would pass me by, and so he leaned in almost imperceptibly and he looked at me with just a little more firmness and he said, "The secret is you have to wake up every day looking forward to something you will do that day. It might be the simple act of skiing. It might be something at work. It might be sitting alone. But you must wake each day with enthusiasm, eager to see what the day brings."
I have never asked a single person I have met in all my years for an autograph, but I asked John for his that day.
I sat with his words, and reflected on my own behavior on the trip. I was uncomfortable and tired and hungry for most of the trip. While I did not complain outwardly, I certainly was complaining inwardly. Frankly, I lacked the childlike enthusiasm, even while seeing amazing sights, being flown in military helicopters over parts of the world few have the opportunity to see. Sure, there was some novelty in it all that I enjoyed, and I have always enjoyed opening my heart and singing for others, especially the troops. But there was more goodness that I left on the table of life on that trip. And I was not proud of that.
Over the years I have thought often of John Glenn's words, "Wake each day looking forward to doing something." I have meditated on it. And I have come to see it is this enthusiasm, this ability to have a childlike joy and excitement for even the simplest things, that is the life force that keeps us vital. It is also what I call the poetry of life. And when we can begin to see beauty in the ordinary, even in the ugly, when we can stop forcing and listen and let life unfold from the inertia of our own intent, then we begin to feel an ecstatic joy. When we can remember a mountain is climbed by taking one well-placed step each day, we are guaranteed success. When our life's mission is little more than insisting we wake to find exuberant joy in each day- our innocence is restored, our burden lightens, and we begin to be the painters of our own portrait in real time. Its not a work of art we will get to see in the traditional sense, but we get to live inside this work of art! Better yet!
My New Year's resolution is to remember this more. To not get caught up in the business of it all. To see true creation unfolding in the imperfect moments. To enjoy each day I have on this earth with gratitude. To believe in my own ability to detach from any ugliness I have allowed to enter the doors of my life during my own forgetfulness. To take today's one step as artfully as I can.
I am wishing you all a happy new year. May you leave no goodness on the table of life left unconsumed, no matter how small.
If you want to learn more about the tips and tools I have for helping create your life into your own work of art, please visit JewelNeverBroken.com