Why I care about Heart Month

Oki

Camp Oki

Before 2010, Heart Month would’ve been another awareness day/week/month that passed me by without more than a “There’s a day/week/month dedicated to that?” and then I’d move on with my life.

But in 2010, a few years into the corporate world, I wanted to do something meaningful with my vacation time. Specifically, I wanted to volunteer at a camp for kids who were sick, and I told a group of friends this. One of those friends was a nurse who said, “I actually volunteered at a camp for kids with congenital heart disease. Do you want me to connect you?” And I said, “Sure.”

Then after a few more conversations, saying “Sure” a few more times, documenting my vaccine history back to the very beginning of my life, and a panicked “what have I gotten myself into” email to a random camp volunteer, I was driving up to Camp Oki.

This was probably the biggest Butterfly Moment I’ve ever experienced…and this was before I even knew that Choosing Butterflies would be a thing in my life. I was absolutely terrified the entire time. And it changed my life.

Today, the fact that February is Heart Month hits me hard. I read all the articles and watch all the videos. Heart Month stats are so completely personal to me now.

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the world’s leading birth defect. About 1 in 80-100 Canadian children are born with CHD. (source)
For me, these 1 in 80-100 are real people. They make friendship bracelets, sing camp songs, and stay up after I think they’re all asleep. They put on bathing suits that reveal the scars they usually hide. They giggle and argue and cry and solve problems and hug. They love Justin Bieber and they hate Justin Bieber. They try new things with trepidation and they try new things with more enthusiasm than I know. Their late night conversations cover topics such as hospital food and exhausting stress tests and MRIs. They answer the question “do you have a heart transplant?” with “not yet.”

These 1 in 80-100 are faces in my life. They are faces that I spent a week with each summer for four years. Today, they are faces that occasionally show up in my social media feed, that look back at me in photos, and twice they’ve showed up in real life when the stars align and we unknowingly are in the same place at the same time.

And the sad reality is that these faces can be very sick, and some are gone too soon, like Candace. And out of something so tragic, comes strong bonds between heart kids and a support system that I don’t think adults are capable of forming.

Sixty years ago only about 20% of children survived to adulthood; that number has since increased to about 90%. (source)
Because of Oki, two of my closest friends are adults with CHD (one of which was the recipient of that “what have I gotten myself into” email). For the most part, they live completely normal lives – working in exciting jobs, planning weddings, having kids. But things I take for granted are a little more complicated for them. For example, one had to commute from North Bay to Toronto to give birth to her son. The other has to avoid alcohol completely. This is their reality.

Oki

Sandwiched between two friends with very special hearts

And I also got to meet Maya. Maya had cancer when she was a baby, had a heart transplant when she was 21, and just last month was diagnosed with cancer. Again. She’s kind of amazing and an awesome writer and you should read her blog.

Despite the physical and psycho-social benefits associated with physical activity, the majority of youth with heart disease are inactive. (source)
Side note: this research paper was conducted by Dr. Fiona Moola, my dear fellow Oki volunteer and crazy smart friend, and Dr. Joel Kirsh, the Founder of Camp Oki

Oki campers would tell us over and over again, “I can’t do that, I have a heart condition.” Capture the Flag, climbing to the top level of the high ropes course, swimming in the lake… “I can’t, I have a heart condition.” To which we responded, “so does everyone else here, and I think you can.” And they did. Kids with CHD are fragile, but not as much as their parents, teachers and coaches might think, and in turn, as much as they might think.

At camp, there were doctors and nurses to be there “just in case”, there were encouraging friends who somehow knew how to implement just the right amount of peer pressure, and more than 100 other people that cheered for them when they did the thing they told us they couldn’t do.

At Oki, I witnessed kids swim in a deep lake without a life jacket, discover they were really good at archery, and could, in fact, eat 12 pancakes at breakfast. I saw kids cautiously start a game of ultimate Frisbee and finish the game running full speed into the end zone.

I saw so many first times…first time wakeboarding, first time playing basketball, first time sleeping away from mom and dad. And when heart kids do a lot of firsts in a safe place with fellow heart kids also doing firsts who are all cheering for each other? That, right there, is the magic of Oki.

Because I randomly told a group of friends about a very specific idea I had, and then acted on it when the opportunity presented itself, I am a Heart Month advocate. Not because I was forced into it by circumstance, but because I chose it.

And if there’s one message I can share as a Heart Month advocate, it is be a donor. I can tell you stories about kids (and adults like Maya) who have been given more life because of a heart transplant. They’ve gotten to go to camp and make friends and have experiences that they wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for a heart donor. Organ donation impacts real people with real stories that might have more chapters because you’ve registered and let your family know.

So when you hear it’s Heart Month, I hope it won’t be an awareness day/week/month that just passes you by. I hope you’ll think of Oki and my campers, and Candace and Maya, and all the people living more life because of organ donation.

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Legitimate Artists Can Work in Cubicles

I was four years old when the tour of Peter Pan came through Toronto. I sat in one of those theatre booster seats in my fanciest dress and travelled from the Darling home to Neverland, and back again.

When the lights came back up, I turned to my mom and asked, “Is it over already?” She laughed, afraid two hours was too long for a fidgety little girl. Apparently she was wrong.

That was just the start of my musical theatre mania. I listened to Broadway cast recordings on repeat, I convinced my parents to take me to any musical theatre production within driving distance. I even took musical theatre lessons, where I always played characters like “nun #2” or “munchkin.”

Around this time, my fourth grade teacher had us browse through career books to help us figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. Each page was dedicated to a career: Teacher, Lawyer, Firefighter, Broadway Actor.

Wait. Broadway Actor? This was a career? In all my obsessing, it never occurred to me that these actors were performing as their job.

On some level, I knew it would never be my job—I only needed to be cast as “orphan #3” so many times to know I was better in the audience than on the stage. But my world was suddenly opened up to creative arts as a career. People had jobs like “actor”, “painter” and “writer.” It wasn’t just a hobby.

Yet over time, this evolved into thinking that creative arts are only legitimate if they are your career, if it’s what sustains you. Actors were only real actors if they were on a Broadway stage. Writers were only real writers if they were on The New York Times Best Sellers list. For those of us who lean to the creative side, that’s the dream.

Continued at That First Year

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2016 in four words

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At the end of last year, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the past 12 months. I had the idea of coming up with single words that described the year. It was easy to do because 2015 was intense. That intensity resulted in a lot of personal growth, so reflecting felt natural.

2016, however, has been the opposite. This year has felt anti-climatic and normal, so it’s hard to reflect upon.

(I should specify that it’s felt this way on a personal level only. On a worldwide cultural and political level, 2016 has been everything but anti-climatic and normal. But I don’t understand all that’s happening in the world. So I’m just going to reflect on my 2016 for now.)

I haven’t posted anything on here in six weeks. I’m in a weird paradox where the stuff I’m working through isn’t stuff I’m willing to share, and the stuff I’m willing to share is just plain boring.

But in an effort to reflect on the year, and my compulsive need to keep traditions going, here are four words that capture 2016 for me.

Creativity
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic changed the game for me. I read it twice in two weeks and wrote a lot of posts inspired by it. I learned I am creative simply because I love to create. I learned to make time for creativity, and the result of most creative activities probably won’t be awesome. And that’s really okay, because the result isn’t what matters.

Longing
There have been times this year where my current situation and my desired situation do not overlap on the Venn diagram, times where I want to roll those two circles into each other so that more area is overlapped. I’m learning to be content when the overlap is just a sliver, and to be patient. I have a long way to go with this one.

Reconfigure
My overactive imagination draws up scenarios for my life. When and how I should get married, how a big trip should play out, the direction that my career path should go. Sometimes I hold onto those too tightly and I can’t wrap my head around the scenarios going any other way. But I’m trying to loosen my grip and reconfigure these scenarios. Sometimes the reconfigured scenarios are better than I imagined, other times they’re just a different version that’s completely and beautifully okay.

Joy
Joy feels different than happiness. I think happiness can be a general state of being, while joy is a peaked blip of something more than happiness – fleeting moments where I can’t be still. My shoulders bob up and down, I smile so much it hurts, my stomach tingles (in a good way). I’m sure scientist would call this adrenaline or some kind of chemical release. Regardless, I’ve pinpointed these moments and can embrace them while I’m in them – wandering the streets of Sydney, watching the Tonys, my brother’s wedding.

There’s my 2016 in four words:
Creativity
Longing
Reconfigure
Joy

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The creating and the created

This is the last post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the IntroCourageEnchantmentPermission and Persistence.

I’ve believed a lie for most of my life. In fact, it’s only as I’ve read Big Magic that I’ve seen just how big this lie is. And I think there might be a chance you believe it too:

Creativity means you’re good at art.

Creative people write, paint, dance, draw or sing well. Creative people come up with new ideas and get them out in unique ways. I think there’s always a qualitative value attached to the word “creative”. In fact, we often think the word is synonymous with another word: “talent”.

So I’ve never considered myself “creative”. I guess I can write decently, but I would never say I’m talented at it. I just like it enough to do it often and hope the outcome is somewhat decent.

what-would-you-do-even-if-you-knew-that-you

But when it comes to creativity, the outcome doesn’t matter.

That’s been a jarring thought for me.

As cliché as this is going to sound (and it hurts to write this), creativity is about the journey, not the outcome. I really had never considered this before.

Creativity is about the act of creating, not about what is created. The magic lies in the act not in the what.

And “fierce trust” is required to keep creating when an outcome isn’t guaranteed.

“Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth: ‘You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to be creative, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.’” – Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

So I might create things that are decent. I might create things that are horrible. I might create things that I think are decent, but everyone else thinks are horrible.

But I have to trust that the magic is in the creating, not in the created. I have to trust that God works through me while I create just as much, if not more, than He works through what I create.

Because it’s fun. Because I learn. Because I want to create things. Because creating feels different than everything else.

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Rolls Royces and Honda Accords

This is a post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the IntroCourageEnchantment and Permission.

I once had a boss that valued common sense above almost any other trait.

She would categorize projects on a sliding scale between Rolls Royces and Honda Accords.

Rolls Royces were big and important projects. They’d be seen by a lot of people or the stakes were high. They took up a lot of our time and we’d work extra hours to make sure they were as close to perfect as they could be.

Honda Accords, on the other hand, were small projects that wouldn’t have any kind of big impact. Only a handful of people would even know they exist and the stakes were low. Our goal was to get them done, not to get them perfect. It wasn’t worth it for an Accord.

As a sidenote, my boss had nothing against Honda Accords. In fact, she drove an old, beat-up Accord at the time – which she used as the example for a project that really just needed to get done. She was also one of the most humble bosses I’ve ever worked for.

But anyway…she could not fathom spending lots of time and energy on projects that didn’t need that kind of investment. Some projects just needed to get done.

people-begin-ambitious-projects-with-the-best-of-intentions-but-then-they-get-stuck-in-a-mire-of-insecurity-and-doubt

I think this concept translates to creative projects – there are some Rolls Royces that need to be perfect, but others don’t…most don’t. And I actually think it’s more freeing to, at least, consider almost all creative projects Accords.

When we put pressure on creative projects to be Rolls Royces, we’re either too afraid to start them or we’re too afraid to finish them.

When I’m too afraid to start
I have an idea, one that taps me on the shoulder and doesn’t stop. But it seems so big or important, I think there’s no way I can do it justice. Someone else could do it better. I’d probably mess it up. No one really reads or sees what I do, my platform isn’t big enough. So I ignore it, I never start a Rolls Royce project because I don’t think I’m good enough to handle that kind of project.

But if I consider the exact same project an Accord, I take the pressure off. I just need to start and do a decent enough job. All of a sudden, I’m not worried about impressing people or making it perfect. I just write for the sake of getting the idea out of my head. And sometimes, it ends up looking something like a Rolls Royce.

When I’m too afraid to finish
If I can figure out how to take the pressure off and write a Rolls Royce project, I’m afraid to finish it. I reread it over and over again and each time I find something to fix. I rewrite and rearrange, then reread it again.

Except I don’t admit that I’m doing this because I’m afraid to finish. Instead, I call myself a perfectionist. That’s a good term, right? We want it to be shiny and polished and, well, perfect.

A few years ago I was cleaning my room and stumbled upon this little card. I still have no recollection of where it came from or why it was hiding between my dresser and my bed. But isn’t it true?

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Even “anonymous” is spelled incorrectly – this creator really wasn’t a perfectionist!

When we refuse to let something we’re working on be released to the world until it’s “perfect” – are we actually concerned with getting it right? Or are we just refusing or afraid to let it go and move onto whatever’s next?

When we put pressure on creative projects to be Rolls Royces, they’re never going to be good enough to finish.

But Accords? It’s okay if they’re not perfect. They’re not supposed to be – they’re mid-range family vehicles. They just need to get you to your destination – nothing more.

Can we just agree to consider our creative projects Accords? Can we agree that they’ll never be perfect because that’s not possible, and actually they don’t really need to be?

Just start. Just create something and then finish it. Release it into the world. And then go create something else.

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The permission slip

This is a post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the IntroCourage and Enchantment.

Way before I started this blog, I wanted to have a blog.

I thought about it a lot. I had this idea about writing about things that were hard to do, about not living comfortably all the time.

But I didn’t feel like I had permission to blog. As soon as I got excited about blogging, four thoughts would creep into my mind.

1. I didn’t have any right to share my writing.
Who did I think I was? The thought of blogging felt selfish or entitled. It’s not like I have an extraordinary gift of writing, there were so many bloggers out there who were way better at this than me.

2. My idea wasn’t original, many people are writing about this.
There are so many really smart people already writing about doing hard things and not living a comfortable or ordinary life. What more could I add to that conversation? Probably nothing.

3. I wasn’t living a life that would inspire or help anyone.
I didn’t have an extraordinary story. Most blogs I read were about people on big adventures or facing extreme circumstances. I was just living an ordinary life, so there was no way I’d be able to help or inspire people.

4. It wasn’t a practical use of my time.
Sure, I technically had the time, but I could probably find better ways to use it than writing about myself. I could go to the gym or volunteer or work more hours. Where’s the value in spending my time writing?

Needless to say, whenever I had the thought to start a blog, I quickly talked myself out of it.

Then I signed up for a course that happened to require a blog. To earn my certificate, I needed to blog. It could be about absolutely anything we wanted – the point was to create and maintain it.

I officially had permission to blog.

And it all came together quite quickly. The concept of “choosing butterflies” tapped me on the shoulder while driving home from work one day. Then ideas for posts came faster than I could get them down. While my classmates talked about how they struggled to find things to write about to hit the minimum 16 posts in eight weeks, I struggled to find time to write about all the things that were floating in my head.

And so, I kept it going. Two years after that course was finished and it was no longer required, I’m still here. I never received “permission” to keep blogging, but I was hooked.

When I look back, I realize those four thoughts were, in fact, lies. I wholeheartedly believed them – but that’s all they were. Lies.

And here on the other side, and with beautiful words from Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, I see these new truths.

1. We are all creative beings, therefore we are allowed to create.
“…you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own”
Creating isn’t always about the final product. We don’t need to be the best painter, singer, dancer, writer to participate. Simply by existing, we’re entitled to have a voice and a vision…whatever that looks like to us.

2. I don’t have to be original, but I do have to be authentic.
“Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has a quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.”
As soon as I stopped trying to do something no one had done, it became easier. Instead, I look to those smart people writing about doing hard things as inspiration. And often, I use that inspiration to write my own post or posts. I never claim these concepts as my own, I just authentically share my experience with them.

3. A goal of helping people through my creativity can actually stifle creativity.
“At the end of the day, I do what I do because I like doing it.”
This has been incredibly true. As soon as I make my motive to help others, the words come out awkward, preachy and insincere. But when I write to help myself through something, or write about something that I think is fun to write about, it flows. It’s easier to write and I think this is when I’m the most genuine.

4. Writing isn’t essential, which actually makes it essential.
“Creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable.”
When the world is ending and they’re looking for people to help, they’re certainly not going to say, “can we have all the bloggers step forward?”

But maybe that’s just it.

Maybe the fact that I don’t have to write makes me feel like I need to write. It’s a weird paradox, but as Liz says, “I think we can handle it”.

There are so many things in life that we have to do. I have to go to work, I have to clean my condo, I have to pay my bills, I have to be kind to people that aren’t kind to me, I have to visit my parents (okay, I do enjoy that last one).

With so many things that we have to do, doesn’t it make sense to leave room for those things we don’t have to do? That that becomes essential for our sanity?

creativity-is-magnificent-expressly-because-it-is-the-opposite-of-everything-else-in-life-thats-essential-or-inescapable

So if you need permission to be creative, start here. Consider this your permission slip. If it’s still not enough, read Big Magic. Because if you have any desire to be any kind of creative, Big Magic will have you rip up the permission slip and create anyway.

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Ideas that are bigger than I can figure out

This is a post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the Intro and Courage.

Have you heard of Hamilton? No, not the city – the musical.

If not, please consider this the eviction notice from the rock you’ve been living under.

To sum up (and this won’t be easy for me), Hamilton is a musical about the American founding fathers told in modern day music (mostly rap and hip hop) and language, and is also completely colour-blind casted – meaning African Americans and Latinos are playing the roles of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and everyone else.

It sounds crazy. But it is also absolutely brilliant. I’ve truly never heard acclaim like this for a show. Ever. I really could gush for a long time about this show (and I’m sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end of that), but in the interest of time, please read this and watch this.

And let me say this. I’m a Canadian who has no interest in American history, or really rap and hip hop music. So there’s absolutely no reason I should like Hamilton. But I can’t get enough of the cast recording and I’ve actually momentarily contemplated paying the equivalent of two plane tickets to NYC to see it. I’ve never heard music this dense or intricate before.

Lin Manuel Miranda is the genius behind the creation of Hamilton. He is now the guy that everyone is talking about, and the general consensus is not only is he other-wordly brilliant, he’s also humble and very very kind.

But let’s talk about this “other-wordly” brilliance. He got the idea on vacation when he randomly picked up a biography of Hamilton. He started reading and thought “surely someone has written a hip-hop musical about this guy.”

Well no. The idea of a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers is weird. Can you imagine him pitching this to the people that had the money to bring it to life?

But what if the idea of a hip hop musical wasn’t Lin’s idea? I’m not saying he stole it, I’m saying what if the idea is an entity in itself, looking for someone to manifest it?

I know this sounds nuts, but stay with me here.

Here’s how Liz Gilbert describes ideas.

“Ideas are disembodied, energetic life form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us – albeit strangely…Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest is our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”

That got me thinking about how God shows up as ideas.

Often we’re too distracted to hear the idea, to hear God, because we’re making too much noise. But sometimes we quiet ourselves and hear that whisper, that nudge. Other times that idea is louder than our noise, and we can’t help but pay attention. It follows us around until we do something about it, or until it moves on to someone else.

Here’s the thing. Lin probably wasn’t the only one that could write Hamilton. But the idea came to him and he worked like crazy to manifest it. He worked for six years. And it wasn’t all inspired work. I bet he had days where he wanted to give up, where he wondered if what he was doing was crazy because he was struggling to figure it out. But he kept working.

And I bet he also had days where the words flowed out of him faster than he could write them. Where he wrote something, then looked back at those words and wondered where they came from.

If Lin had only written in those inspired moments, I don’t think he would’ve written Hamilton. Because those inspired moments of creating are rare. But the more we write, the more we try, we’re playing the odds. If he had inspired moments once every ten times he sat down to create, he’s going to have way more inspired moments if he sits down 100 times than if he sits down ten times.

I need to remember this. Because I certainly have experienced that “where are these words coming from” moments. Not to the level of Hamilton obviously, but in my own way. Those moments feel awesome, but they are rare. I got into a mindset where I only wanted to write when I had those moments. And when I struggled, I thought why bother? I’m clearly bad at this.

But the more I work at it, the more inspired moments I have. The more I quiet myself and listen, the more clearly I hear the idea.

Honestly, I don’t always understand how this all works. The concept of ideas and inspiration and creativity are way bigger than I can wrap my head around.

And that has God’s fingerprints all over it.

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Curiosity and courage

This is a post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the intro.

I was terrified of roller coasters when I was a kid.

Each year, my family would go to Six Flags on our annual trip to New Jersey. I’d sit on the bench outside of each roller coaster with my mom while my dad and little brother waited in a long line to ride the roller coaster. They’d walk out, say “it was awesome!” then we’d move along to the next one. Sure, they’d patiently wait in line with me for the tamer rides – the spinning swings, the gentle parachute drops, the log ride – but any ride that went fast, upside down or had the word “screamer” in it, and I took my spot on the bench.

Until the day I decided I was going to ride a roller coaster.

And no, I didn’t love it. But it wasn’t really all that scary.

As a kid, I made so many decisions based on fear. And my life was boring because of it.

I ate inside while my family enjoyed summer dinners in our backyard because I was afraid of bees.

I stayed on the beach because I was afraid of fish in the water.

I missed out on sleepovers because I was afraid of being away from home.

I lived my life inside, on the beach and in my own bed because I was afraid.

And like the day I decided to ride the roller coaster, eventually curiosity won out. I wanted to know what it felt like to go upside down or hear what my family was laughing at while I ate alone in the kitchen. I wanted to know what it was like to swim in the waves, and what the appeal was in staying up all night giggling with my friends (spoiler: it’s super fun until you have to function the next day).

And while today those fears no longer stop me from participating in life, there are still fears that stop me from participating in a creative life.

I’m afraid I’m not good at writing. I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings or say something offensive. I’m afraid people will judge me or think I’m self-centered or disagree with me. I’m afraid I really don’t have any right to write.

In Big Magic, Liz Gilbert describes a creative life as “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

I think curiosity is a strong force. It was the first step in getting over my fears as I child. I wondered about the experiences I was missing out on, to the point where my curiosity became stronger than my fear.

And this is also true with creative living, in my case – with writing. I’m curious. What can I do if I write? What can I figure out? How can I take these ideas floating around in my head and get them onto the paper?

But the fear is there. Hovering, doubting, mocking me. Fear shows up alongside creativity because creativity has uncertain outcomes, and fear’s job is to protect you from uncertain outcomes. And because fear and creativity often come as a package deal, when you try to get rid of fear altogether, creativity often disappears along with it.

So we have to make space for fear, we have to welcome it onto the trip with you and creativity, but we have to give it some rules.

dear-fear

It doesn’t get to be part of the decision-making process. Sure, let your fear warn you about all the things that can go wrong if you create – that people might judge you or that you’re bad at it. You know it’s going to happen, so make some room for it. But when it comes down to deciding what to create, how to create, if to create, don’t let fear make your decisions.

Fear doesn’t get a vote.

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Big Magic-Inspired: The Ingredients

When I think about the phenomenon that was the book Eat Pray Love, I think about the pizza paragraph. It was the most vivid imagery I’d ever read.

“The dough it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughty. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing of course. You try to take a bit off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslides, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.” – Liz Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

And while we can all agree pizza is awesome, I think we can also agree that this really wasn’t Liz Gilbert’s desired takeaway for her readers…or maybe it was? In which case, success, Liz. Pizza has never been the same.

When she released Big Magic last year, I didn’t pay too much attention. Then a friend texted me a photo of it, asking if I had read it and that if I hadn’t, I needed to. I looked it up, saw it was by the same author as Eat Pray Love. I remembered the pizza scene, smiled, then moved on.

Then a few more people told me to read it. A co-worker, another friend, another co-worker. It came up over and over again.

I can take a hint. Especially when there are flashing arrows pointing to it.

This summer, I took two blissful weeks of vacation with no big plans. The perfect time to read this book.

But I didn’t read it. I devoured it. In fact, I finished it and closed the back cover, turned it over and started again. But with a pen and a notebook.

I so desperately wanted to impress a book into my heart and into my soul.

This book is a game changer for me. It’s finally allowing me to admit I’m creative. I am. Because creativity doesn’t mean “good at art”. In fact, “creativity” doesn’t have any qualitative aspect – creativity can’t be good or bad. It is just the act of making. Of creating.

I love creating. I love thinking and imagining and visioning. I love making and experimenting and appreciating creativity.

I am creative. I want to be creative.

My favourite form to express creativity is through words. It’s also how I process. And when I wondered how the heck I would process this book, it felt overwhelming and too big. I got crazy butterflies.

And I try to always choose butterflies.

Ingredients

And I also break overwhelming things into parts. Thankfully, Liz did that in this book with those essential ingredients. And so, I took it one ingredient at a time.

I made a commitment. I would start a new workday routine. I’d wake up 45 minutes before I needed to and I’d write. I’d write about these ingredients, one at a time. I’d use Liz’s beautiful concepts and words as a launch pad, and write what stirred in me.

I’d write without pressure. Maybe I’d post it, maybe I wouldn’t. But I knew the best way for me to imprint this beautiful collection of words into my heart and soul was to use it as the foundation for my own creativity.

I’ve learned a lot through this. For example, creativity is meant to be shared. Not for the sake of helping others, but for the simple sake of sharing.

So I’ll share what Liz stirred in me, one ingredient at a time. These aren’t summaries of her words. Not at all. In fact, they often drift away from what she intended. And if you’ve read Big Magic, you know she’s okay with this. Because she’s okay with anything that stirs creativity.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve taken away from each ingredient. I’ll expand on each one over the coming weeks.

Courage: Refuse to make decisions based on fear.

Enchantment: Ideas and inspiration are bigger concepts than we can wrap our heads around. And that’s wonderful.

Permission: You don’t need permission to create. Simply by existing, by being a human with a voice, you are entitled to create.

Persistence: Create without the goal of perfection. Perfection creates pressure that stifles creativity.

Trust: Creating is about the process, not the end project. You need to create, even when the outcome isn’t guaranteed. Because the outcome is never guaranteed.

And so I share this. But for me. And if it happens to resonate with you? Then that’s a beautiful side effect.

And I need to say, thank you Liz Gilbert. Thank you for taking my view of creativity and flipping it inside out. Thank you for the words that keep me wanting to create.

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Busy enough

This past month or so has been comfortable.

Painfully comfortable.

My job is plugging away at a manageable pace. Regularly-scheduled activities have taken a hiatus during the summer, so less commitments. People are out of town, so less visiting.

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I’ve had a lot of downtime. A lot of time to spend however I please. So you’d think I’d be productive. I’d write more, I’d read more, I’d get things organized. But do you know what disappears when all that time shows up?

Motivation.

I have so much time, I tell myself. I can work on that later. But later never comes.

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” An old colleague used to say that. But isn’t it true? When I’m busy, I’m in motion and can knock off to-dos like a rockstar. Once I’m in motion, it’s easy to keep going.

This is not news, really. In fact, this is Newton’s Frist Law of Motion:
Objects that are in motion, stay in motion.
Objects that are at rest, stay at rest.
(Thank you high school science!)

It takes more energy to start moving than it does to keep moving.

And lately, I’ve been that object at rest. And, oh boy, do I ever want to stay at rest. Even pulling out the computer to type out this – something that I’ve been thinking about for days – felt like the biggest challenge. But now here I am, typing away and wondering why it took me so long to do this. I’ve pulled out my computer to do other things…like check Facebook and watch Michelle Obama sing in a car a few times. But typing out these thoughts? That felt like a mountain of a task.

So I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to be that object in motion, that busy person. Not crazy busy, I’m over that, but busy enough. Busy enough to stay a bit uncomfortable and stay motivated. Busy enough to choose creating rather than consuming. Busy enough to choose moving rather than resting. Busy enough to choose butterflies rather than…well…not choosing butterflies.

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