My year of yes in 2018 was a year of doing things that scared the hell out of me. And I’m proud of myself for getting through it. I pitched creative projects more often than I ever have in my life. I went places and did things that I never imagined I would have the courage to do. I met amazing people who inspire me and raise my spirits and sense of hope. I kicked rejection to the curb after some serious self-doubt every single day. I’ve built up a powerful immunity to rejection that I know is going to serve me well. It was hard-won and not easy, but I’m glad I dedicated myself to it. Sure, rejection still hurts but the sting isn’t quite as strong and it doesn’t last as long. And for that, I’m grateful.
And if I’m honest with myself, I also did a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily want to do or need to do in 2018. There was definitely some time wasted saying yes that I wish I could get back. Some of the things I did I absolutely didn’t enjoy. I did run myself a little ragged, which is my natural tendency. I don’t rest easily nor often. It’s against my nature. I wish it weren’t but this is the raw material of me I have to work with, and so I work it.
Some time in November, my friend, Ashley Semrick, put up a post on Instagram in which she asked people to send her their favorite words. Mine: brilliant and joyous. And as soon as I articulated that second word—joyous—I started seeing joy everywhere from the grocery store to outdoor advertisements. It was everywhere I looked. Now, you could argue that the last couple months of the year are all about the joy of the holidays. And that’s true but I also think there’s something more. I think that word kept showing up persistently for me as a sign. Joy is a filter I can use in this coming year to do what my friend, John Bucher, calls focusing on the great rather than being distracted by the good.
My best days are ahead of me. They’re ahead of you, too. I’m proud of the work I’ve done up to this point; I’ve gotten so much further in life than I ever dared to dream possible not that long ago. And. And. In 2019, I’m going to press my luck on the joy meter even further. If something (or someone) doesn’t bring me joy, then I can’t focus my time or energy or talent there. We have a very short amount of time on this very strange third rock from the sun, and that time has to be used wisely, now more so than ever.
So that’s the promise I’m making to myself in this new year: to look for, seek out, create, and celebrate joy. I’ll be talking about the joys of my life, big and small, right here on this blog, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’m looking forward to this journey of joy more than I’ve ever looked forward to any journey before. My hope is that I will find what I seek, and that by this time next year I’ll be a little less tired and that my life will have more joy. That’s the goal.
What are you looking forward to in 2019? Happy New Year!
200-600 octillion microbes live a mile underground and thrive in 250°F water. Some breathe rocks, specifically uranium. Others eat leftover plants that are hundreds of millions of years old. And they can wait to reproduce for thousands of years when conditions are favorable. Add up all these wild subterranean microbes and they weigh as much as 200 million blue whales, much more than all 7.5 billion humans. And you know what? They’re related to us far less immutable surface dwellers. Bats hear shapes. Songbirds see UV light. Most animals are bioluminescent (including us!) but our eyes are too weak to see it without visual aids. Wonder is everywhere, a gift for all of us. Stay curious, friends. We have so many discoveries to look forward to.
This week is perfect for establishing goals. This week I’ve been writing a business plan that uses science and biomimicry as a basis to develop sustainable products, systems, and processes while helping at-risk youth, reducing recidivism, and providing training and jobs to people with low incomes. I’m working hard to roll everything I love into one endeavor without compromising and helping as many people as possible. You’d think I’d be scared to start my own company again, to try my hand at entrepreneurship knowing how hard it is and having suffered my fair share of hard knocks the last time. But I’m not. I’m not afraid at all. On the contrary, nothing fills me with more hope.
See the little blue light in this photo? That’s hope. That’s the magic of the light returning to us today, the Winter Solstice. I didn’t see it when I first took the photo, only once I reflected on it.
The essay “Winter” by Nina Zolotow always reminds me what a gift winter is – a time we have to pause, reflect, and dream. I’ve re-read it dozens of times and it’s so powerful that I tear up every single time. I hope it gives you the same peace and relaxation it gives me in this long, cold, dark, and restful season of winter. Rest, my beautiful friends, and treasure the break from busy-ness that winter provides.
“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.” ~Nina Zolotow, “Winter”
I’m very excited to be chatting about the ancient history of Winter Solstice celebrations this Saturday at Caveat with several other fantastic storytellers. If you’re in town in NYC and looking for a good nerdy holiday time, come on down and hang out with us. Doors at 6:30, show at 7. Grab your tickets on Eventbrite by clicking here.
It’s cold & rainy today – perfect weather for diving into a new book and online shopping for gifts. My wonderful publisher, Possibilities Publishing Company, is running a limited sale on my Emerson Page Kindle book on Amazon.com. All that adventure under & through NYC for just $0.99! Sale ends January 3rd!
This is adulting at its finest: what opportunities we don’t see in the world we must make for ourselves. Grad school round 2 starts in less than a month – this time getting a Masters of Science in Biomimicry. In the past week, I’ve registered for classes, ordered my books for those classes, and applied for scholarships (waiting to hear back). Honestly, this gift to myself is what I’ve wanted for many years and is only now possible with this new program at ASU and my clear-eyed view of the next chapter of my career to combine my work in product development, business, storytelling, invention, history, and sustainability with my passion for science and endless sense of curiosity. Like all the best gifts, it’s one that gets better with time.
When people ask me if I have a writing partner, I say yes. And its name is sleep. They laugh even though I’m very serious.
When writing books, you must plant seeds early in the story that won’t take root until much later. Like a thoroughly knotted necklace chain, these seeds and how they come to life can be incredibly gnarly problems to untangle. Some seem completely impossible.
Whenever I hit a snag, I try to write my way through it or I make lists of solutions. Most of the time neither of these two actions work.
Then I’ll try research. That doesn’t usually provide a solution to my plot challenge at-hand either though it often leads me to interesting discoveries that I use elsewhere in the book.
You know what really helps? Going to sleep and not thinking about the problem. I go to sleep imagining myself in one of three scenarios: diving off a cliff in the Grand Canyon and flying instead of falling, swimming up to a whale in the deep sea (for years this whale has shown up in my dreams whenever I’m feeling particularly in need of comfort), or scuba diving through a kelp forest meeting all kinds of friendly sea creatures.
This happened to me last night (and it was the kelp forest for the win!) I’ve had a looming problem in my second Emerson Page book that I just couldn’t solve. It’s actually THE looming problem: the explanation of the key action that drives Emerson’s entire journey in the second book which leads to the basis for the third, and final, book in the series. It’s been a frustrating problem to solve because none of the resolutions I wrote felt right nor good enough because honestly, they were all terrible.
I woke up much too early this morning. Looking at the ceiling, there was the answer seated comfortably in my mind as if it had been there the whole time just waiting for me to see it. It was so much simpler than I realized. I wrote it down in three short paragraphs in the early light of morning just now.
The relief I feel this morning is immense, like dropping a heavy weight that’s been on my shoulders for years. It’s like solving a terrible problem in a relationship that’s prevented the relationship from moving forward. Finally lifted when I least expected it, I can just get back to the joy of living in this world I made and writing my way through it.
It’s the week of the NYC’s Secrets & Lies show. Thursday, December 6th at 7pm at Caveat! I can’t wait for you to hear these stories – Christmas traditions in NYC and their dark backstories, alien objects finding their way to Earth and choosing NYC as their final destination, and secrets of some of our most-storied cultural institutions. Plus, art as activism in the face of controversial government policies. Whew! That’s a lot. So we’re prepping prizes for you. A lot of prizes. And candy. See you there! Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-york-citys-secrets-and-lies-tickets-52038003068?aff=erelexpmlt