Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living Flying Monkey Free

I feel as though I am the woman who made friends with the wild wolf and now must yell and scream at him, flail and tell him I don’t care about him anymore, so that he will be willing to abandon me and return to his pack. Yup, I feel just like that. Only I didn’t make friends with a wild wolf (or a tame one) and it’s actually my flying monkeys I must set free (my figurative ones, not my real ones in case a few of you are reading this). You see, my figurative flying monkeys are the minions who carry out my main objective in life, which I’ve recently realized is control.

Let me digress for a second and say that it was a total bummer to realize that what I seem to prize more than anything else is control, not over others per se, but over myself and the realities of my life. Control in and of itself isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing. You can certainly accomplish great things by having control over yourself (from weight loss to finishing a novel). Where control gets to be a problem is when it gets in the way of opening yourself to change, to improving interpersonal relationships (over which you can have little control), and when it causes you to always be walking alone because letting go of control and trusting others is so uncomfortable.

I am not a moderate person and just like an obsession with Frappuccinos can get out of hand, so too can control. There is nothing wrong with being focused (even obsessively so as far as writing is concerned), but I’ve found that my sense of control seems to be sucking out all the air around me, diminishing the wonder of my life, and keeping me from leaning forward and doing things that would substantially improve the adventure that is my life.

So, as we near the end of the year and I start getting all goal-y and excited, it’s time to let go of the need to control all outcomes and dive into new things that I can’t possibly control, activities where I get to meet entirely new people and have adventures beyond my reckoning (and I reckon pretty well). Without my flying control monkeys, the barrier between me and everybody else vanishes and I can be changed by new experiences and people, as well as have the opportunity to positively change others (not through control, but in the way we all help each other to evolve into happier beings).

The nice thing is that I’ve already laid the groundwork for the Flying Monkey Release Initiative. I’ve started a few new activities, am signed up for some life-changing classes, and am busy with some travel guides to plan for some romps around the countryside, possibly with friends, family, or maybe just an adventure outing on my own.

So, be gone you flying monkeys! Be free! I mean it... go!!!

(And the other perk: I can stop shopping for new seasonal fez hats and vests. :)

Quote for the Day from Brian Kessler

“The closest to being in control we will ever be is in that moment that we realize we’re not.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Unlikely Crisis of Imagination

Hi, my name is Julie and I am a daydreamer. Night dreamer. Driving dreamer. Doing dishes dreamer. All my life stories have played out in my mind no matter what else I am doing (or supposed to be doing). If I were to ever meet Darth Vader, I think he would say, “Imagination is strong with this one.” And he’d sound exactly like James Earl Jones (or Mufasa) and I’d swoon. So, it comes as a surprise that I am suffering a crisis of imagination... and not in fiction. In my writing, I sit down every day and poof, stories are at the ready, sometimes even crowding around in a very noisy queue (yes, there’s often some grumbling, squirming, and all out shouting for me to move the stories along faster). So, the writing is fine; it’s life where my imagination is struggling.

I’ve heard for a long time that if you want to make changes in your life, you have to think about what you want and imagine what the change in your life will look like. It makes sense to me. I can imagine what my novels will look like on a bookstore shelf. I can imagine the fitness level to which I aspire. I can imagine what I will be like when I take more time to get centered. And I can certainly imagine what I want my house to look like when I am more organized. Where I fail is imagining scenarios that involve other people’s actions or even depend upon other people.

I’m not sure if this is a new struggle or an old one. In some ways, new growth might have worsened the problem because as I’ve taken on the challenge of decreasing my expectations (since having expectations leads to a lot of misery), I am now in a place where I can’t even imagine some of the changes I wish to see in my personal life. And my abilities in adaptation don’t help at all with this either. I’m resilient. I’m happy (for the most part). And I accept my life without the things I don’t or can’t have. So, how do I imagine things that I’ve accepted being without, without taking on the side effects (expectations that will let me down, hope that may not be fulfilled, or the propensity to wallow about the things I don’t have)? In the past, the wanting for the things I don’t have has blinded me to the gratitude I should feel for the things I do have. But even with that, how can I expect to invite change if I can’t even visualize what that change looks like?

I have to say, this crisis of imagination has taken me by surprise and is very uncomfortable. When I sit down and exercise my quiet space, when I reach in my mind for what is imaginary and come up empty, I feel like a bird tethered to the earth by a chain that I wrought. I don’t like it. It’s a hollowing blight on the sense of connection I feel when I’m truly centered and connected to everything and everyone that ever was or will be.

So, it’s time for a plan. A little imagination rehabilitation.

My assignment: Imagination Spark Plugs.

When the engine of my imagination is churning more than sparking, it’s time to use fiction to make the connection. So, my mission is to do what I normally work very hard to avoid: putting myself into my writing. This is a writing exercise, not anything that will ever see the light of day (and I’m certainly not going to do any editing). I’m just going to create scenarios about me and the changes I want to see in my life in the hopes that I will one day be able not only to imagine the changes (in my mind) but to see some variation actually appear in my life.

We’ll have to see how that goes, but I have to say I’m a little excited to see what I come up with and I’m a little nervous about writing something without fantasy elements (since me with fairy wings really isn’t helpful for this particular project). :)

Quote for the Day from William Drayton

“Change starts when someone sees the next step.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Getting My Possibility Back

Sight is a powerful thing, but like all of our senses, it has its limits. Just because we can see doesn’t mean that we do. And sometimes what we see turns out to be an illusion. Maybe vision is the better word to use in this case, because what I am referring to is not the fact that I can see the letters flitting across the screen, coinciding with the tapping of my fingers. It isn’t the plant (very healthy) draping its leaves over the top of my screen, and it isn’t the picture of a desert flower that my dad took that sits on my desk. Vision is so much more than just what we can see; it’s our way to see what is and also what isn’t, what could be or might be. And in ‘might be' lives all of our possibility.

What I’ve noticed about the low points of life is that they come with diminished vision. Might bes vanish and we’re stuck with what is and what isn’t without any hope of anything different. Recently, the 'what isn’ts' have gotten to me, seeing all around me what I don’t have. This condition doesn’t make for a rosy outlook on life.

But like a break in a stormy, grey sky, vision does clear. I’m not sure at what moment the blue broke through, but on Wednesday of last week, glimmers of might bes came back and all the isn’ts that had gotten to me became part of the landscape of my life not its whole, like points on a Seurat painting without which the stunning picture could never be seen. When vision clears and possibility returns, life becomes glorious again. Gratitude peaks. And our hearts return from their refuge to live in the open once more.

I believe that we all dwell in the low lands sometimes, and I think it’s a necessary part of our journeys, even if just to make us grateful when we’re free. And for writers specifically, every part of our human experience provides keys to access the locks of all story telling.

I guess the moral of this story, if a moral is required, is that the one way back into possibility is to keep moving even when we can’t see what we’re moving toward. And I guess that I believe that that effort is called faith.

Quote for the Day from Marcel Proust

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."