Originally published Jan 31 2020
When I was in high school, I created a huge “mural” in my bedroom that was at least as big as my bedroom door. On it were pictures I cut and pasted from magazines. Hundreds of pictures, all slammed together into this huge piece of paper. Seriously, there was no clear space anywhere on it!
And that was how I lived my life until I started coming to my senses in my early 40s. No clear space in my life, just every single moment crammed together, sort of like a run-on sentence.
I would give anything to be able to go back in time and see that window into my life. It would give me insight to who I was back then. I wonder what pictures I chose and what they said about what mattered to me at that stage of my life.
Last week, I did get a chance to go back in time. Since April, I’ve been writing a book. Someday, I’ll tell more about the inspiration of it, and I’ll be announcing the title and what it’s about soon as well. But let me just say this: writing a book is a hell of a lot more difficult than writing a blog!
I’ve spent a lot of the past year vacillating between insight and deep confusion. Oh yeah, and quitting. You won’t believe the ways I’ve been prompted to keep going when I felt like quitting.
As part of my “book research”, I went into the storage cabinets I never touch in search of my morning pages from the late 90’s. Doing morning pages was one of the exercises found in “The Artist Way”, by Julia Cameron. It’s 3 pages of long hand, every morning. It’s a painful, wonderful, agonizing way to get all the thoughts rattling around in your brain onto paper.
Somewhere in those notebooks were also other assignments and thought experiments from The Artist Way. With some digging, I finally found the notebooks and sat on my office floor reading them for hours. In them was a window into the life of Lynn in her early 40’s.
Reading those pages, I found the seeds and soil and water of the life I live now. I also found the despair of a woman making lots of money and a debilitating fear of failure to show for it. One of the tasks was to remember yourself at 8 years old. Then write a letter to your current self from your 8-year-old self. Here was mine:
Wow. I had forgotten just how physically (and mentally) out of shape, lacking fun and driven by perfection I was in those days.
One of the other exercises was to really, really, really stretch to get clarity on the life you want to be living.
I had completely forgotten this list. At the time, I had not written anything but morning pages, not touched a paint brush or clay and my idea of being an athlete was walking around the block. Yet if you know my life, you know that I live the first 4 things on the list every day plus some. The last thing on the list, Broadway actress, was definitely a stretch! And when I look at this list today, I have no regrets. Even when we create clarity, we are not going to be perfect.
Somehow, some way in the intervening 20 years, I found the courage to keep the sun shining on those seeds, to keep them fed and watered so they could grow, even though I forgot exactly what would come bursting through the soil.
Here’s the thing: It wasn’t the clarity that cultivated my vision, although without it, there would have been no direction. It was the many friends, coaches, and mentors who helped me along the way, who reminded me of who I was, what mattered most and helped me see past my limited thinking to open up to a different way of doing things.
And it was accidentally following a process to get over the resistance to change. Believe me, in those days I could not see a how anything could change in my life. A lot of people do “vision boards” to get clarity and it’s a great first step in setting a new direction in your life, IF you are willing to cultivate the seeds you are planting. I don’t recommend anyone make a promise like that to themselves only to break it.
My journals are also filled with those moments where I lived far out of integrity with my promises to myself. Painful!
What seeds are you cultivating in your life right now? What would your 8-year-old self want your current self to know today? What dreams do you have that have not yet been realized? What would you want if you really stretched? Really, really stretched?
As always, please let me know how you are creating your own dreams and how you are cultivating the seeds in your life.