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A Year of Yes: The only work you have to do

The only work you have to do is find and do the work you’re meant to do. That’s enough; that’s always been enough. Just do that.

A Year of Yes: Think of yourself as a bow

A bow is made strong by being pulled back. I know many are worried about the state of our nation this 4th of July. I am, too. And I also believe that the immense challenges we now face will make us better, stronger, more resilient. The struggle may be long but I believe in us.

A Year of Yes: Your life as a blank page

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” ~Jack Kerouac

No matter you age, your past choices, or your current situation, every day is a blank page. You can see it as empty, or you can see it as an opportunity. It’s the same page, just a different perspective. Your move.

I was walking home from a memorial service yesterday. The person being honored at the service poured his love into the universe, into every person he met, and it came back to him many times over when he needed it most. Even in the depths of his incurable illness, he found the light that every day offered. Right to the end. His life is a powerful example of the glow that comes from the blank page. He could do anything he wanted, and he chose to be of service, to create community, to welcome love into his life with wide open arms. And because of those choices, his impact will far outlast his much-too-short life. We should all be so lucky, and we can be, if we choose to be.

A Year of Yes: Don’t take yourself out of the running—a lesson from author Jodi Picoult

“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” ~Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Sometimes we don’t know what we’re driving toward. We just have the insatiable desire to try something new, to explore, to discover. Don’t worry that it won’t work, that you won’t be right for an opportunity. Leave yourself in the running to have a new experience. Trust that who you are in this moment is enough to become who you want to be in the next moment. Take a chance. Be an explorer. That’s the only choice that fosters change and creates a new reality out of dreams.

A Year of Yes: March for Our Lives

220px-March_for_Our_Lives_logoBecause my travel plans were derailed this week, I’m in New York City instead of D.C. today. I’ll be joining March for Our Lives in my hometown, standing up for an end to gun violence and safer world for all of us, especially our young people. They are our future and I want them to have every opportunity to build a life they’re happy to live. This video by Veterans for Gun Reform articulates exactly the message we need to send to all of our policy makers.

 

 

 

 

A Year of Yes: Don’t apologize for hearing the music

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

It can be hard to see the future so clearly while living in the present. We see change marching in our direction, and we want to adapt, we need to adapt. Others refuse to recognize it, and do everything we can to help others see what we see, hear what we hear, and they can’t or won’t.

That’s okay.

Years ago, Brian told me that I see what I see and I know what I know, and that’s what’s made all the difference in my life. That’s the basis from which I had to make my decisions, and so I did. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about my choices. I stopped worrying about being judged or criticized or misunderstood. I just decided to do the best I could with what I had and what I knew.

And you know what? It was the best decision I ever made. I chose to be free.

So you go right on dancing and believing and creating. Let your life be a beautiful expression of exactly who you are.

A Year of Yes: Native American culture sets aside time and space for reflection

As I think about my own storytelling projects, I am reminded of my introduction to it when I was a young child.

I grew up in a rural area where Native American culture is still very much alive. We had a family friend who was a Mohawk chief, Chief Black Bear. We would often go to visit his trading post. He was a very tall, solid, regal man. I was fascinated by him. I remember the jewelry, items fashioned from animal skins, the art, and the tobacco pipes carved from natural items. I have no Native American heritage in my blood, but I somehow felt very much at home in his culture. I still do.

One year for Christmas, my mom bought me several books about Native American history. The way they live and what they believe makes complete sense to me. They take care of the planet and each other. They believe in the connectedness of the heavens above and the Earth below. And their storytelling—that’s what captivates me the most. They make deep wisdom palpable, even to a child.

Yesterday I learned about how some members of some tribes welcome people back from war. There is a recognition that they must have transition time. They go with the medicine man for a number of days to literally and figuratively have the blood washed away. The trauma of war is recognized and processed. They deal with this in the light so that it doesn’t get subsumed into the shadows. They grieve. They’re cleaned. They’re healed so that they can return whole.

Setting war aside, if we just look at our own grieving process today with any lens, we often don’t allow space or time for it. We are supposed to move on quickly and in earnest to sunny skies and smiles. We are told to let it go as quickly and cleanly as possible. Though truthfully we hang onto things inside of us. We don’t always give ourselves time to adequately mourn our losses and reflect on what we’ve learned. And so it piles up, and up and up and up until we literally collapse under it. We do ourselves a disservice all in an effort to get on with it. Except we haven’t gotten on with anything. We are playing a role, and eventually we will have to leave the stage and all of our grief will be there waiting in the wings. And we will feel alone and isolated and ashamed of it. And we will bear it until we can’t.

Our society is dealing with massive public issues now, issues that have been ignored and swept under the rug for too long by too many. Of course they now seem unwieldy. Look how much time they’ve had to grow unattended. We cannot and should not shrink away from dealing with them now, no matter how large they loom. If we don’t recognize and set ourselves on a course to solve them, that task will fall to the next generation and the generation after that. Bringing them into the light is painful, but it is the only way to create a better tomorrow. Have faith, and let’s get to work. We can do hard things, together.

A Year of Yes: The best lesson from Maya Angelou—I’m with you, kid.

“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I’m with you, kid. Let’s go.’ ~Maya Angelou

I’m so glad Maya Angelou got her stories down, that she left us with such a legacy of hope, encouragement, and the unbridled belief that ordinary people can chase down extraordinary dreams. This quote that she tossed out onto Twitter about a year before she passed continues to inspire me. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s the only place where she ever wrote it down.

It conjures up a mental image for me that’s empowering and action-oriented. The very best helping hands we have are at the ends of our own arms. Use them. Build the life you want. Yes, you can do this.

A Year of Yes: Take the next step

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Photo by Me 🙂

The first step of a new project is hard, but there’s a lot of encouragement out there about taking it. What’s just as hard, if not harder, and what rarely gets the encouragement it needs and deserves is the next step.

Maybe your first step was more like a stumble. Maybe the first step was greeted with joy, congratulations, and that often twinge-worthy question of “what’s next for you?” Whether your first step was successful or not, what you do next has a lot of expectation behind it. I’ve always found it takes even more energy and gumption to take that next step. Too few people take it. A lot of people start things; far fewer people continue something, and even fewer actually finish what they started.

All I want you to do is take one more step toward something you want to do. Make it a leap, or make it a baby step. Just do it. I believe in you.

A Year of Yes: It’s never too late

I saw this list over the weekend:

  • At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
  • At age 24, Stephen King was working as a Janitor and living in a trailer.
  • At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
  • At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
  • At 40, Vera Wang designed her first dress after a career in which she failed to make the Olympic figure skating team and didn’t get the Editor-in Chief position at Vogue.
  • At 42, Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting.
  • At 52, Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role.
  • At 62, Louise Hay launch her publishing company, Hay House.
  • At 101, the artist Carmen Herrera finally got the show the art world should have given her 40 or 50 years ago before: a solo exhibition at the Whitney in New York City, where she has been living and working since 1954.

Know this: it is never too late to do what you love. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve all of our dreams at an increasingly younger age. We beat ourselves up because we aren’t a 30 Under 30 or a 40 Under 40. Here’s my advice: forget about your age. Stop tracking your life’s milestones against someone else’s. 

Life is about the long game; it’s about being a little bit better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. That’s the greatest win of all. Your life could change at any moment, at any age. Do something you’re proud of doing. Celebrate your wins, learn from your losses, and most importantly, keep going. You’re going to find your way. You’re going to find what you’re meant to do, who you’re meant to be with, and where you’re meant to be. I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you that if you keep looking and trying new things, you will find your best life.

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