July 30, 2015

#365 Quote, Manifesto

July 29, 2015

Gah. This is the first time I'm staring at a blank TinyLetter composition window and feeling a bit stalled. I think it's because I have an agenda. I think it's because I have something I want to say. And that means that I am afraid I'm going to get it wrong, or not get it all down, and that leads to procrastination. Which is exactly what this opening paragraph is.

So here's the thing friends. It's been a big week. There has been a lot of exploding and discovering and fear-smashing, and it's a little bit exhausting. (You know, in that first-world problem exhausting sort of way). It might be the moving of the galaxies (as I reference last night). It may be the Dare to Excel from Tracking Wonder. It may just be that RIGHT NOW is the time in the calendar year that everything starts to get ripe and seedy and ready - including me. Because it's all a cycle, right? But everything really does seem to be herding me along down some road, and I just can't help but follow. But I think I'm getting close to the end of the road - and I see a nap in a hammock and a visit to the county fair in my future.

There is a confluence here. It makes me think of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers meeting in Pittsburgh. Have you been to this place? This is the place where I caught my stride on our cross-country bike ride. It's also the place where I shaved my head. Or, to be more accurate, where three new friends enthusiastically shaved my head in the kitchen of their med-school-student apartment.

There is a power in this sort of joining. How did we all end up here together? And where will we all flow next? I am trying to strike that balance between going with the flow, steered by stars and serendipity - and finding some inner intentionality.

+ Brenna Layne shared some words. Really helpful words. Really generous words. The kind of words that make you cry a little, in the good way, because they are so kind and generous (and because sometimes big compliments are just what you need, and the power is multiplied when it comes from someone you respect and admire so much). But more than being kind, her words launched me over the precipice. I may have done a lot of climbing on my own this week, but her words pushed me the final altitude to learn the lesson I really need to feel right now. She wrote about this TinyLetter:

Her unedited, unproofread thoughts are more inspirational than most people’s most carefully-considered pronouncements.

Thank you Brenna, for helping me see that these imperfect things are precisely the things that make me me. That make me authentic. That make this all real. This helps me see that my authenticity, and my sense of self, and my strength are imbedded in my acceptance of imperfection. Instead of worrying about that apostrophe that ended up in the wrong place, or the sentence that got too wordy to hold water - and the judgement that may come with it - I can just be raw and wrong and grammatically incorrect - and embrace it - and that will suffice. That is perfectly enough. That our biggest weaknesses and failures are just a thin line away from our strengths and victories. (Brenna also said the most delightful and appropriate thing: She called this daily letter to you "like healthy candy for your brain." I can't even tell you how perfect this is. I have a sweet tooth. Like a serious sweet tooth. And I can't put my finger on this, but I love every single thing about it. Thank you B!)

+ There's a word in here that has been popping up A LOT lately. Imperfection. I'm not using it as an insult. Quite the opposite. I'm using it as a compliment. A show of strength. I've decided to label myself as an imperfectionist. I will let you define it how you will. For me, it includes the idea of an intentionality to not have to be perfect. To accept life as is. That there is strength in letting things be how they are. That the freedom of imperfection is the expansiveness (of space and time and thought) allowed when we don't linger on making everything the best. That sometimes good enough is OK. Because good enough means you get to move on to something else. The next adventure awaits. It means not being trapped. It means setting yourself free.

+ Daring. I've mentioned before the Dare To Excel Challenge from Jeffrey Davis and the team at Tracking Wonder. For the month of July, as a mid-year check in, we have received a question/prompt/nudge every other day to move us in the direction of embracing our best business artists. Much like everything Jeffrey coordinates, this Dare was the map that urged me onto the path toward the precipice. Dang. Two nudges are part of the confluence here, pulling me closer to some destination I have not yet defined.

Dare to Excel Challenge #12: Signature Style of Excellence
Examine this one small project through the lens of your signature style of excellence. Here are three queries to help you consider one way to make this project - its focus, its execution, its impact - possess your signature imprint.

I really needed this line of questioning. As I approach a lot of new things that require design and style and thought: new websites (the farm, the quote project, just write food), a new house, and (quite frankly) a reclamation of who I am - the first thing I recognize is that coherence is not my strong suit. I am a mish-mash. I am a crock pot. I am all over the place. So if I had to do it, how do I define my style.

I started with this blank piece of white paper.
I wrote IMPERFECTIONIST along the top.
Then I put it down.
I intended to fill it with words to describe my style. And just my style.
But then I went to the monthly township zoning meeting.
And then it dawned on me that I am afraid of my own power
And then I had a beer and fried mushrooms for dinner at the Ding-a-Ling.
And I filled the whole page.
And then I found myself writing MANIFESTO on the top of the paper, and I knew I had exploded far beyond just style.
And suddenly I felt like I was holding all of myself on this piece of paper, scrawled in a tiny Wisconsin supper club after a zoning meeting with a pint of beer.
I just drew the map that carried me to this point and that will carry me forward.

So, when you get there...the words surrounded by the orange scrolls, those are my style. When I hone in on the things that are most innate, most natural when I am in my flow, acting as myself  - those are the characteristics that I observe. When I am not striving. When I am not trying too hard. These come up most when I am pushing to make it through, in the way I know how, the way I know best. It's a little scattered. But I love it. The way the people I love see me and recognize the me-ness in how I create, delegate, facilitate and anything else that ends in -ate. I want to dig deeper to find the essence and the unifying features among this style, and how to bring about the best of these...in some coherent sort of way.
And then I went to bed.

This morning I woke up to a white page full with thin black letters. Full, but not complete. I also woke up to the Dare to Excel Challenge #15. The final challenge. The culminating challenge. And as I read through our final nudge, I knew that I had already answered it last night. The Challenge question reads (bold emphasis mine):

Yeah, superhero. You did it. For 30 days, you have dared to excel. You have shown up for what matters. Despite the active client load or sick child or unbidden surprise or computer meltdown, you stuck with it. Maybe you didn’t get to spend as much time as you’d like finessing parts of the challenge. I get that. True excellence takes time. But my team and I wanted to give you an experience where you could be free to be your best.
 
So what is the New Story you are living and creating into this year?
 
Your Story has a theme, a big idea. What is that big theme or idea? Go back to your big question and to whom it’s for and your young genius. That gives you clues. When you put those together, you see that you are living a Story. Stand up and own your new Story. Dare you.

Claim your story and howl-out.

What is the greater-than-you Story? Maybe there's a word or phrase that helps you start to shape and define what that Story is that you are only a part of but starting to shape and lead. Don't shy away from that Story's magnitude and magnificence. When you lead, you cannot hide behind anyone else. Dare to go toward it. As far as I know, this is it, baby - this one brief creative life. Let's make the most of it. Together.
 
Bonus howl-out:
Look back again on these past 30 days. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? How are you starting to feel free to be your best again?

I read this and just knew, just knew that the little manifesto I wrote last night was actually a big manifesto. It's not How am I starting to feel free?...I am free to be my best self again. And I am. 

As part of my afternoon off today (other than spending time with my favorite farming family and a baby cow and baby goats and turkeys and pigs with big black ears that flop over their eyes and amazing cheese) I let myself get lost in adding color to my manifesto.

And here. Here is what I can not hide. Here is what I want to bring forth. Here is my best self.

I'm pretty sure I'm out of words for a while. I'm empty, but for the deep pool of gratitude for all of you. ALL OF YOU and EVERYTHING. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
 
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Things that caught my attention today
  • Song-A-Day TinyLetter: Bowie and Vulnerability
  • There was a duck egg in the middle of the road in front of the house this morning. Cracked, as if it had been dropped from a height (those shells are tough). The albumin was splayed out on the ground. It was green. Since the ducks have taken shelter under the pine, camouflaged but vulnerable - I was worried a bird of prey foraged their nest. But that was not the case. Someone must have found an old lost egg from an old lost nest.
  • We open our Township Zoning Meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. When was the last time you said that pledge? What is your pledge of late?
  • The garlic is out of the ground, and in the garage. This simple pleasure brings me much joy.
  • The best cat and puppy video of the day thanks to Bloom Hollow Flowers
  • Today's Archive
Who's ready for a nap?!
Hugs of genuineness. Hugs of gratitude.
vanessa
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From the archives, so they don't get lonely...
No date. No more words. Just these words. xoxoxoxoxoxo!!!!!!
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